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News, 19-26/03/03 (7) UNWILLING TURKS * Turkish leader rules out U.S. use of air bases * Transatlantic rivalry has put the Turks in a bind their allies * Turkey gives U.S. military airspace use * US "furious" with Turkey over stalled overflight permission: officials * Turkey, US deadlocked over overflights * High tension as Turks mass on Iraq border ENIGMATIC IRANIANS * The man behind the new Iran-US entente on Iraq * War sirens herald Iran's hour of revenge * Mujahedin-E Khalq explores options UNWILLING SHIA * Shia group refuses to support US * Iraqi Shiite opposition will not fight alongside US against Baghdad: leader UNWILLING TURKS http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/story.hts/world/1827005 * TURKISH LEADER RULES OUT U.S. USE OF AIR BASES Houston Chronicle, 19th March ANKARA, Turkey -- Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked parliament Wednesday night to open Turkish airspace to the U.S. military. But he turned down a Pentagon request to let American warplanes use Turkish air bases and postponed any consideration of a U.S. ground deployment in Turkey indefinitely. Erdogan also asked parliament to authorize him to send Turkish troops into northern Iraq, a move that the United States and its Iraqi Kurd allies have warned could lead to clashes with their forces. Under Erdogan's proposal, expected to go to a vote today, the United States will not be able to use Incirlik air base in southeastern Turkey in a war against Iraq, making it more difficult and expensive for the U.S. military to conduct its air campaign. The Pentagon had counted on using Incirlik both to launch missions into Iraq and as a key supply and refueling station. For months, the United States had been asking Turkey, a NATO member and longtime ally, for much more than overflight and air base rights. But parliament on March 1 narrowly rejected a proposal from Erdogan to allow up to 62,000 U.S. troops into the country to open a northern front against Iraq, and the relatively new prime minister moved slowly on U.S. requests to try again to win approval. In the past few days, as it became clear the Bush administration was preparing to go to war without Turkey's help and withdraw its offer of $6 billion in economic aid, Erodgan rushed to put together a new resolution that would approve the U.S. deployment. But because U.S. officials refused to revive the $6-billion aid package, Erdogan changed course during a late night Cabinet meeting and decided to act only on the U.S. request for the use of airspace, Turkish officials said. U.S. officials said permission to use Turkish territory for a ground deployment was no longer a priority, because it would take weeks for the Army's 4th Infantry Division to unload its heavy equipment from ships waiting offshore and move into position -- a delay the Bush administration was not willing to accept. Instead, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell pressed Erdogan to grant the overflight rights as soon as possible. The United States also asked Turkey for permission to use Incirlik and other air bases, which it granted during the 1991 Gulf War. Erdogan's decision to reject the U.S. use of the air bases further complicates U.S. war plans that had already been changed because of Turkey's refusal to allow the ground deployment. U.S. military officials have said a war in Iraq without the ability to open a northern front from Turkey would be riskier, longer and result in more casualties. Another problem is the possible Turkish military movement into northern Iraq. The United States had originally agreed to let Turkey set up a buffer zone to help refugees and maintain its security. However, the Bush administration changed its position after Turkey failed to approve the U.S. deployment and is now urging Turkey to keep its troops out of the region. The Turks fear a repeat of the refugee crisis that followed the 1991 Persian Gulf War, when up to 500,000 people flooded across the Turkish border and had to sleep outside in near freezing weather for days. They also worry that separatist Kurdish guerrillas will use Iraqi territory to attack Turkey, and that the Iraqi Kurds will declare an independent Kurdish state. http://www.dailystar.com.lb/opinion/20_03_03_d.htm * TRANSATLANTIC RIVALRY HAS PUT THE TURKS IN A BIND THEIR ALLIES by Mohammad Noureddine Lebanon Daily Star, 20th March Under normal circumstances, Recep Tayyip Erdogan's elevation to the post of prime minister would have been seen as a significant political event in Turkey. After all, the leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) overcame all the barriers and obstacles put in his path since 1997. But in recent days, Turkey has had more important concerns to contend with. The country has become a stage for an international tug-of-war between Europe (France and Germany) and the United States. Both sides have been competing to win over Turkey. The problem is that neither side has been trying to persuade Turkey by way of offers and favors, but rather by means of coercion and pressures that have touched upon issues Turkey considers sacrosanct. Turkey has never been subjected to such intense pressures in all its history. Its only consolation is that such intense pressure from different directions proves how important the country's role is in the future of Iraq and the Middle East. It sometimes seems that the keys to war and peace are in Ankara's hands rather than in those of Washington and Baghdad! Turkey is confused. It cannot seem to choose between Europe, the US and the Muslim world. In fact, it has never been as confused, despite suffering from an identity crisis since the modern republic was founded back in 1923. It is certainly in Ankara's interests for the current state of peace to continue; this would put Turkey in the same camp as France, Germany, Russia and Turkish public opinion. On the other hand, Turkey cannot remain aloof if war breaks out, since that would deprive it of a role in post-war arrangements and marginalize it in the region. Turkey is therefore also part of the pro-war US and British camp. That is why Turkey is so confused. How can it take part in a war that is not sanctioned by the UN? How can it go to war without coordinating with Washington, risking clashes with US and Iraqi Kurdish forces in northern Iraq? How can it coordinate with the US after the Turkish Parliament rejected a bill calling for just that? How can the new Erdogan government push the same bill through Parliament when the circumstances that led to its rejection the first time are unchanged (the Turks have still not received "adequate" American guarantees about the future of Iraqi Kurdistan, Mosul, Kirkuk and the Turcomans)? Many crucial and sensitive questions remain unanswered. In the midst of this confusion and perhaps because of it, Turkey has taken center stage in the current "game of nations." Under the pretext that the Parliament agreed last month for the Americans to upgrade military bases in the country, the US has been moving heavy equipment from ships anchored in the Mediterranean off Iskenderun to towns near the Iraqi border. Southeastern Turkey began to appear like it was under foreign occupation, which prompted Speaker Bulent Arinc to protest. To reinforce this fait accompli, US President George W. Bush sent Erdogan a letter that was more of an ultimatum than anything else. Bush reminded the Turkish premier of the dangers to US interests of Turkish non-cooperation. He asked that Ankara "at least" allow the military to use Turkish airspace, making the point that Turkey was the only NATO member not to have done that as yet. America's impatience to secure overflight rights was stressed by US Ambassador to Turkey Robert Pearson, who said after meeting with Erdogan that Bush wanted Turkish airspace opened "immediately," a word he repeated four times. American diplomatic pressure on Turkey has been unrelenting. US diplomats including Pearson have been busy visiting and hosting Turkish MPs around the clock. Washington has also been pressuring Turkey economically. Moody's investment services declared that if the Parliament failed to approve a second bill authorizing the deployment of US forces, the promised $30 billion aid package would evaporate and Turkey's credit rating would be downgraded. On the other hand, Europe has been exerting pressure on Ankara to dissuade it from taking part in the war. The Europeans know that Turkish non-participation would at least cause Washington to postpone its plans, if not call them off completely. The Europeans have thus been prodding Turkey where it really hurts: on Cyprus, on accession to the EU and on the Kurdish issue. Cyprus was never a foreign policy issue for the Turks; it has always been an integral part of Turkish national security. The proposals announced by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan last November were mainly seen in Ankara, especially by the National Security Council from the viewpoint of their possible effects on the future of the Turkish Cypriots and on Turkish national security. The Turkish military concluded that Annan's proposals would undermine the future of the Turkish Cypriots in favor of their Greek compatriots, and would remove Ankara's role (guaranteed by the 1959 treaty of Zurich) as guardian of the Turkish Cypriot community. The talks of March 11 thus failed, and Annan announced that they had arrived at a dead end. There was nothing really surprising about that. What made this occasion particularly ominous was the statement by EU Commissioner for Expansion Gunter Verheugen that if a settlement were not forthcoming by 2004, the Turkish Army on Cyprus would be seen as an occupying force. Needless to say, Ankara can then kiss EU membership goodbye. To add to the pressure on Ankara, the European Court of Human Rights announced in Strasbourg the very next day (March 12) that the Ankara State Security Court, which convicted PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, "had not been an independent and impartial tribunal." Turkey interpreted this ruling as encouraging the Kurds to secede. In order to deprive its own 12 million Turkish Kurds of the opportunity to gain from the ruling, the Turkish Constitutional Court hurriedly took the steps necessary to close down the (Kurdish) People's Democracy Party (HADEP) and ban its leaders from political activity. Attorney General Sabih Kanadoglu then initiated proceedings against HADEP's successor, DEMAP, in what was seen as a direct response to European pressure. Turkey thus finds itself in an extremely difficult position, between an American rock and a European hard place. Following the arguments raging in Turkey, one would be excused for believing that the Tower of Babel is not in Iraq but in Turkey. It was not therefore strange that forming a new government in which there were only two new ministers should have taken three days, or indeed that Erdogan should have chosen March 23 as a date for a confidence vote in Parliament in his new cabinet, nine whole days after its formation. It is a given that a new bill on US troop deployment (albeit only for using Turkish airspace) could only be submitted to Parliament after a vote of confidence, if at all. All these delaying tactics were used to give the government, Parliament, and the army more time to decide on the most appropriate way to extricate Turkey from its dilemma. The Turks realize that if they side with the US that would mean the end of their dream to be part of Europe. If they side with the anti-war camp that would spell disaster where Iraq, the Kurds and the Turkish economy are concerned. In short, Ankara is in a bind. Which way is it going to jump? Mohammad Noureddine is a Beirut-based expert on Turkish affairs. He wrote this commentary for The Daily Star http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/w-me/2003/mar/20/032008678.html * TURKEY GIVES U.S. MILITARY AIRSPACE USE by Louis Meixler Las Vegas Sun, 20th March ANKARA, Turkey (AP): Turkey granted the U.S. military permission to use its airspace Thursday, a measure that would make it easier for U.S. heavy bombers based in Europe to strike Iraq and for U.S. transport and supply aircraft to move troops and war material to the region. But the step by parliament fell far short of Washington's original request to send 62,000 soldiers to Turkey to open up a northern front against Iraq that would divide the Iraqi army. The 332-202 vote also allows Turkish troops to enter northern Iraq, a move that U.S. officials have been trying to discourage, fearing that any unilateral entry could lead to friendly-fire incidents or clashes with Iraqi Kurds. The resolution passed in parliament would allow U.S. warplanes or transport aircraft to fly across Turkey. That would also make it easier for strike aircraft on carriers in the Mediterranean to fly more directly into Iraq. The measure, however, will not allow U.S. warplanes to use Turkish air bases or refuel in Turkey. The United States, for example, will not be able to use the 50 warplanes it has at Incirlik air base in southern Turkey. Those aircraft were used to patrol a no-fly zone over Iraq. "May it be good for our country and our people," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after the vote. "The results are what we expected." But when asked when airspace would be opened, Erdogan said: "We will inform you about this later." U.S. flights can only start after details of the overflights are worked out. The vote follows intense U.S. pressure on Turkey to at least open its airspace. Polls show Turks overwhelmingly oppose a war, but political leaders feared seriously harming relations with the United States if they did not allow overflight rights. "There is no reason to cancel all our relations with the United States, so the minimum we could do is open the airspace," said Emin Sirin, a lawmaker from the governing Justice and Development Party. The United States for months had been pushing Turkey, NATO's only Muslim member, to allow in 62,000 soldiers to open the northern front. But a resolution that would have let in the troops failed by just four votes earlier this month and Justice party members were apparently afraid that if the motion were reintroduced, it could fail again. Some 90 legislators from the party rebuffed party leaders and voted against the troop motion, and Sirin said there was fear that a second vote could lead to a split within the ruling party. Just before Thursday's vote, Erdogan addressed his party, which has an overwhelming majority in parliament, and urged them to vote in favor of the airspace resolution. "It is important that our party's unity is not disrupted," the Anatolia news agency quoted Erdogan as telling legislators. President Ahmet Necdet Sezer spoke out Thursday against the U.S. strikes against Iraq. "I don't find the United States' unilateral behavior right before the U.N. process is completed," Sezer said. Sezer, whose position is largely ceremonial, has long said that any military action should have U.N. approval. He does not, however, have the power to veto the airspace resolution. The United States had offered Turkey a package of US$15 billion in loans and grants if it let in U.S. troops for a ground war. But the United States withdrew the aid package as war drew closer and it became clear that even if Turkey voted in favor, the U.S. army would not have time to bring in the army units. http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/afp/20030321/pl_afp/iraq_war_ us_turkey_fury_1 * US "FURIOUS" WITH TURKEY OVER STALLED OVERFLIGHT PERMISSION: OFFICIALS Yahoo, 21st March WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States is "furious" with Turkey over continued delays in opening Turkish airspace to US warplanes as the war against Iraq prepares to enter a key phase, senior officials said. The officials, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, accused the Turkish government and its powerful military of "obstructionism" and said Ankara was severely testing Washington's goodwill. "Everyone is just furious at the Turks today," one official said. "We are beyond frustration with Turkey for its obstructionism at what is a critical point in the war," the official said. "We really need to get these overflights to drop our guys into northern Iraq." With the ground war in Iraq now underway and troops advancing toward Baghdad from the south, Washington badly wants to open a northern front, the logistics for which will require soldiers to be airlifted over Turkish territory. "The need (to open the airspace), from our point of view, is urgent. But that doesn't seem to be the case for Turkish negotiators," an Ankara-based diplomat said. Although the Turkish parliament voted to allow overflight rights on Thursday, just hours after the war got underway, actual permission has been held up over Turkey's demand to send troops into northern Iraq, where it fears local Kurds want to set up an independent state. The United States, sensitive to Kurdish fears of such a presence, is vehemently opposed to the Turks sending troops into Iraqi Kurdistan unless it is coordinated with the US-led coalition and under its control. "Basically, they don't want to give us the overflights unless we come out publicly and say it's OK for their military to go in," a second official said. "That is just not going to happen." On Thursday, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Washington would "oppose any military actions that are not under coalition control." In response, Turkish Justice Minister Cemil Cicek said that developments in northern Iraq were too important for Turkey to ignore. "Any development in Iraq is important with respect to Turkey's security. Our security needs to be guaranteed," he told the Anatolia news agency. "This is our priority demand from the United States." Coming on top of the Turkish parliament's March 1 refusal to allow 62,000 US troops to be deployed on its territory, the hitches in the overflight rights are threatening to cause deep damage to ties between the NATO allies, the officials said. "All this goodwill and years of help we have given them, pushing for them to get into the European Union, and now this," the second official said with exasperation. "This is just going down the tubes now." Turkey has made clear it wants to pour troops into northern Iraq to control local Kurds, who have been beyond Baghdad's control since the 1991 Gulf War and who Ankara fears could declare independence once Saddam Hussein's regime is ousted. Turkey is afraid that such a state could reignite insurgency among its own sizeable Kurdish community in the southeast, which is only just recovering from a 15-year bloody rebellion for self-rule. Iraqi Kurds have threatened to fight the Turkish Army. http://www.jordantimes.com/Sat/news/news12.htm * TURKEY, US DEADLOCKED OVER OVERFLIGHTS Jordan Times, 22nd March ANKARA (R) ‹ Turkey delayed opening its airspace to US military aircraft as war raged in neighbouring Iraq on Friday, demanding greater freedom to dispatch its own troops over the border, sources said. Parliament held a long-awaited vote on Thursday, the day war broke out, granting permission for US warplanes to cross Turkish territory for operations in northern Iraq. But missions Washington hoped could go-ahead immediately, easing pressure on a main invasion force pressing up from the south, became bogged down in all-night talks over terms. "We've taken a break in talks with the US because there are snags both concerning airspace use and movement of Turkish troops into north Iraq," a Turkish foreign mnistry source said. Washington opposes any unilateral dispatch of Turkish troops to northern Iraq, fearing a "war within a war" ‹ clashes between Turkish troops and local Kurds and disruption of the US war campaign. Ankara sees the region as of vital strategic importance and seeks freer action beyond the US-led command. "Turkey... through its parliament approved overflights the night before last and we are having difficulty operationalising that," US Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters. "I hope we can clear it up." Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's armed forces chief and other senior officials were due to meet to discuss the overflights in Ankara later on Friday. Turkey would inform Washington of its position following the meeting, sources at the prime ministry told Reuters. Three weeks ago Turkish deputies rejected a motion allowing 62,000 US troops to set up a front on Iraq from its borders. Turkey thus forfeited a multibillion dollar US financial aid package to guard a frail economy against the impact of war. Thursday's vote appeared to have finally sealed some form of cooperation with Washington, however limited, and raised hopes on markets for broader military agreements and financial aid. But news of the snags over airspace helped drive down the Istanbul stock market by up to seven per cent as well as depressing the Turkish lira and bond prices. Diplomatic sources said Turkey was demanding detailed information of every overflight, its timing and nature of the aircraft and its load. The United States considered the degree of detail went beyond the demands of safety. Other diplomats said Turkey wanted a joint memorandum of understanding linking the overflights to broad Turkish freedom to operate in northern Iraq. Deputy Prime Minister Abdullatif Sener said there was nothing automatic about extension of air transit rights. "You have to prepare the political and military foundation," he said. Britain also seeks overflight rights under Thursday's parliamentary motion. British Defence Minister Geoff Hoon said Turkey was being "positive and helpful" in talks. The delay appeared ultimately to rest on disagreements between the Turkish and US sides about the terms under which Turkish troops would cross their southern frontier into Iraq. Turkish troops have been present in northern Iraq in smaller numbers since the 1990s, operating against rebel Turkish Kurds who have retreated to mountains there from southeastern Turkey. The troops have coexisted uneasily with Iraqi Kurdish groups who have governed the area since the 1991 Gulf War. Eyewitnesses near the border said at least 50 Turkish military vehicles, including at least two tanks, were waiting just on the Turkish side, ready to enter Iraq. Turkey fears Iraqi Kurds may use the chaos of war to proclaim a state that could reignite separatism on Turkish soil. "Turkey simply wants to have some control over events on its borders. Wouldn't any country want that in circumstances like this?" a Turkish official said. Kurds, for their part, fear tens of thousands of Turkish troops, dispatched with the declared mandate of marshalling refugees, could yet move to smother the autonomy they enjoy. "If Turkish soldiers try to enter Iraq, all the people will stand against them, but if they come as part of an international alliance that is something else," Akher Jamal, mayor of the northern Iraqi town of Zakho, told Reuters. "If they come alone there will be a big war that will last for a long time." http://observer.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,920246,00.html * HIGH TENSION AS TURKS MASS ON IRAQ BORDER by Helena Smith in Cizre, Turkey and Jason Burke in Sulaimania The Observer' 23rd March The potentially nightmarish scenario of a 'war within a war' loomed last night as high tension gripped the length and breadth of the Turkish-Iraqi border, where tens of thousands of troops have amassed, somewhat frantically, in recent weeks. Despite fierce denials by Turkey's General Staff that 1,000 soldiers had already been dispatched to Northern Iraq to stem 'terrorist activity' there, confusion prevailed as Ankara continued to insist it had every intention of making the incendiary move to protect its national interests. One Iraqi Kurdish commander in the autonomous zone was yesterday quoted as saying he had ordered his men to fire 'instantaneously' upon sight of a Turkish soldier crossing the 250-mile frontier. There were unconfirmed reports that Iraqi Kurds had begun laying mines along the border in anticipation of the incursion. Western diplomats said US officials in Ankara and Washington were engaged in 'sensitive' talks to try and convince the Turks not to take any unilateral action in northern Iraq. Clashes between armed Kurdish rebels and Turkish forces would automatically disrupt the campaign to topple Saddam. US officials last night said they had scrapped plans to move troops through Turkey into northern Iraq and instead will send the 4th Infantry Division from Texas to Kuwait to join a thrust into embattled Iraq from the south. Abandonment of the use of Turkey to open a planned northern front in the war follows its refusal to provide transit rights for as many as 62,000 American troops. But US troops will almost certainly have to be relocated to stand between the Turk and Kurd forces and the US has repeatedly urged Turkey not to send any troops unilaterally into northern Iraq. Details of the military moves remained confused yesterday. Abdullah Gul, the Turkish foreign minister, said late on Friday: 'Turkish troops will go in,' although he refused to be drawn on when or how. 'A vacuum was formed in northern Iraq [after the 1991 Gulf war],' he said, 'and that vacuum became practically a camp for terrorist activity. This time we do not want such a vacuum.' Hours later military sources said a small force of commandos had crossed the border. Other reports spoke of a 1,000 strong mechanised infantry unit. But yesterday a military spokesman, denied any Turkish soldiers had crossed into northern Iraq. Iraqi Kurdish officials also denied the reports. 'I can confirm to you that no [new] Turkish troops so far have entered or been deployed into our areas,' Hoshyar Zebari, foreign affairs chief for the Kurdish democratic party which co-rules the autonomous Kurdish areas established after the 1991 Gulf war, told a news conference in Arbil. Turkey's fears of a bid for independence by Iraqi Kurds had made it determined to act before the 12 million strong Turkish Kurd population in the impoverished southeast were whipped up into a nationalist frenzy. 'They may have denied they have sent troops now but they are not denying they will be sending them in the future,' said one diplomat in the Turkish capital. An evidently irritated Colin Powell said on Friday: 'We don't see any need for any Turkish incursions into Northern Iraq.' The Kurds say they fear the Turks as much, if not more, than Saddam. Inhabitants of the north-eastern city of Dohuk have evacuated their homes, as much in fear of the Turkish army as in fear of any Iraqi bombardment. 'Of course we will fight them if they invade,' said one senior Kurdish military commander. 'We are a free people and they will be trying to occupy us.' ENIGMATIC IRANIANS http://www.dailystar.com.lb/opinion/22_03_03_b.htm * THE MAN BEHIND THE NEW IRAN-US ENTENTE ON IRAQ by Ali Nourizadeh Lebanon Daily Star, 22nd March On the eve of his recent trip to Tehran to attend an Iraqi Shiite conference, Iraqi National Congress (INC) leader Ahmed Chalabi contacted the Iranian Embassy in London. Chalabi spoke with the embassy's adviser for relations with Iraqi opposition groups, Hossein Niknan, who used to be Iran's charge d'affaires in Beirut. The INC leader asked the Iranian diplomat to issue a multiple entry visa for his public relations consultant whom he said would be traveling with him to Iraqi Kurdistan through Iran and back again. Under strict orders from Tehran to comply with all Chalabi's requests, Niknan did not hesitate to accede to this one even though the PR man in question was not Iraqi but American, Francis Brooke by name. Brooke, who was traveling with Chalabi, is a well-known American Middle East specialist and is rumored to be close to US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. Chalabi was surprised to see Niknan take such an interest in Brooke's case; the American was granted a special multiple entry visa similar to the one issued to Chalabi himself. When the pair arrived at Tehran's Mehrabad airport, the Iranian authorities not only waived the newly introduced fingerprinting rule - introduced in response to a US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) decision to fingerprint all Iranians entering the US - as far as Brooke was concerned, Chalabi felt that his companion was being made even more welcome by immigration officers and Iranian Foreign Ministry officials than he was. Brooke was so warmly received wherever he went in Tehran that journalists who met with Chalabi were intrigued. They noted that Iranian officials - from the departments of security and foreign affairs, the Revolutionary Guards and the presidency - were even more interested in Brooke than in the INC leader himself. A young Iranian journalist who asked a Foreign Ministry official just back from a meeting between Brooke and a senior Iranian National Security official whether Chalabi's PR consultant had indeed delivered a letter from the US administration to the Iranian leadership said that the Foreign Ministry man replied: "All I can say is that he (Brooke) is an important person who knows many secrets. We believe he is in contact with Washington decision-making circles. We therefore have to use the opportunity of his being in Tehran to convey our point of view to the Bush administration vis-a-vis the war on Iraq - especially since the US government has closed off all other avenues open to us." A few hours later, two reporters - Omid Memarian and Hossein Barmaki from Yas-e-no (a reformist newspaper published by prominent reformist MP and Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF) politburo member Mohammad Reza Naimipour) - met with Brooke in clear violation of instructions by the Iranian authorities not to publicize his visit to Tehran and his meetings with senior officials. The contents of this interview revealed that Brooke's visit to Iran was not simply that of a PR consultant Chalabi had hired to embellish his reputation in the West. Brooke was on a mission; and the effects of his mission quickly became apparent in Iranian policy vis-a-vis the United States in general and the way Tehran began viewing the war on Iraq. In his interview with Yas-e-no, Brooke said: "After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US no longer felt threatened with nuclear annihilation. It became no longer necessary for America to maintain relations with corrupt dictatorships just because of their hostility to communism. "The Soviet foe has been replaced by a friendly Russia; China is not perceived by Washington as a threat but as a potential strategic partner. In fact, the gravest threat facing the West is that posed by Islamic fundamentalism. Sept. 11 brought home to us the magnitude of this threat to Western civilization. "We understand that there are two factors that have encouraged the spread of fundamentalism in the Middle East and the Muslim world: the Palestine question and lack of democracy," Brooke continued. "America's most important strategic goals at the moment are to help Arab and Muslim peoples achieve democracy, and to find a just settlement for the Palestine question through the establishment of an independent and democratic Palestinian state. "The overthrow of Saddam Hussein will be just the beginning of this process. A glance at America's traditional allies in the region shows that they do not enjoy the trust of their peoples. That is why we have decided to rethink our alliances. "There is a vast gulf between us and the Europeans. America is a country built on revolutionary principles; one of these is helping oppressed peoples and fighting colonialism. No country is more justified in talking about democracy than the United States," Brooke said. "It is essential that the peoples of the Middle East enjoy the fruits of democracy. "Europe's experience is different to ours. European history is full of political and religious conflicts. Look at Europe now; in America, we proved that it is possible for people of different religious and ethnic backgrounds to live together. There are no racial and religious barriers preventing people in America from reaching the top in any field of human endeavor. In Europe, by contrast, laws are still in effect that distinguish between indigenous and immigrant populations. In America, once you are naturalized, you will be exactly the same as anyone whose ancestors came there centuries ago. "We have an open society and a free press; we are not afraid to discuss our weaknesses openly. "We are currently in the process of trying to overthrow the Iraqi regime and helping the Iraqi people establish democracy. This is part of our new strategy in this region." But what about Iran? he was asked. Brooke said: "Iraq is the common denominator between Iran - which was attacked by the Saddam Hussein regime - and the United States, which wants to unseat the Iraqi leader. Iran has extended valuable help to the Iraqi opposition, and enjoys excellent relations with many opposition leaders such as (Kurdistan Democratic Party leader) Masoud Barzani and Ahmed Chalabi. We cannot deny that Iran enjoys a semblance of democracy, but we hope that this will be further developed into true democracy." In private meetings, Brooke reassured Iranian officials that the Bush administration is not thinking of attacking Iran or of changing its regime - so long as Iran acts responsibly and cooperates with the United States in effecting a smooth transition to democracy in the region. On March 16, just two days after Iran officially rejected America's war on Iraq, the Iranian National Security Council decided to adopt a position that tallies with US strategy. It quietly decided to participate in American efforts to effect "regime change" in Baghdad. That was how the enigmatic Francis Brooke succeeded in laying the groundwork for a new Iranian-American relationship in the post-Saddam era. Ali Nourizadeh, one-time political editor of the Tehran daily Ettelaat, is an Iranian researcher at the London-based Center for Arab-Iranian Studies and the editor of its Arabic language newsletter, Al-Mujes an-Iran http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c =StoryFT&cid=1048313065244&p=1012571727102 * WAR SIRENS HERALD IRAN'S HOUR OF REVENGE by Khairallah Khairallah Financial Times, 23rd March It may be part of George W. Bush's axis of evil; some predict it will be next on the list for US pre- emptive action; but Iran is the only one of Iraq's neighbours that wholeheartedly supports regime change in Baghdad, even if via a US-led invasion. Getting rid of Saddam Hussein and his government is one of the few objectives on which the various factions of the Tehran regime agree. Since becoming convinced that the Bush administration is indeed determined to effect forcible change in Iraq, Tehran has been egging on Washington, albeit in private. Whenever the US has needed Tehran's help, the Iranians have been more than happy to oblige. Take last December's London conference of Iraqi opposition groups. That gathering would not have been possible had Iran not encouraged its Shia cats-paw, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri), to attend. Iran strong-armed Abdulaziz al-Hakim, the Sciri representative, to adopt positions similar to those espoused by Zalmay Khalilzad, the US government representative. In exchange for its efforts, Iran was rewarded with a political statement from the conference that - for the first time in modern Iraqi history - spoke of a "Shia majority" in Iraq. This meant the US was no longer able to ignore the sectarian reality of Iraq. Iran, keen for change in Iraq, realised early on that this could be achieved only with US military involvement. Iranian interference angered many liberal Shia who warned Washington that, by supporting Sciri, they would be committing the same mistake they made when they encouraged Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to back the Taliban not that many years ago. They warned the Americans that Sciri would cause even more damage to Iraq's relatively open, multicultural and multi ethnic society than the Taliban managed to inflict on Afghanistan. America, they predicted, would regret having backed Sciri, just as it now regrets helping the Taliban. Liberal Iraqi Sunnis, meanwhile, protested that the Iranians had succeeded in hijacking the Iraqi opposition by entering into a secret alliance with the Kurds and the Americans. One of the main reasons Tehran wants the Hussein regime out of the way is because it has realised it is the biggest obstacle standing in the way of Iran's attempts to increase its influence in the region; especially in Iraq proper, which cannot conceivably retain its old character after the US is done with it. Any new regime in Iraq - whatever its character - will have to take the country's Shia majority into consideration. Should the US fail to reshape Iraq into a prototype for neighbouring countries, Iran (which would in this case become one of the biggest operators in Iraq) would then succeed in sowing more confusion and forcing Washington to involve itself even more in Iraq. As a result, the Americans would increasingly need Iran. Even the hardline conservative faction in Iran believes there are benefits in the US war on Iraq. This faction calculates that by having the US army on Iran's border, it would be able to justify its repressive domestic policies. What better reason for maintaining a hardline stance than having the "Great Satan" on your doorstep? Overthrowing the Ba'athist regime in Iraq has been an Iranian objective since the days of the Shah. Yet Iran's attempts to change the regime have failed despite its support for various Iraqi opposition movements, including the Kurds, for more than 30 years, the 1980-1988 war between the two countries and more than 12 years of sanctions. Tehran therefore came to the conclusion that the only way it could get rid of its old enemy would be through a third party - in this case, the US. Contrary to popular belief, the Iranians have learnt how to co-exist with the Americans, as the experience of Afghanistan has demonstrated. Whether Iraq manages to remain whole, or civil war breaks out, Iran has been preparing itself for some time to play a role in both the US-led war and in post-Hussein Iraq. In fact, the only unanswered question is whether Iranian military intervention will be direct or indirect. Will the Badr brigade, Sciri's military arm, which includes large numbers of Iranian Revolutionary Guards, cross over into Iraq in military or civilian garb? In either case, it seems that the hour of revenge is at hand for the Iranians. Tehran believes it is time to redraw the political map of the Middle East, giving the Shias a bigger role everywhere, from Afghanistan to the Gulf to south Lebanon. The writer is a London-based Lebanese political analyst NO URL * MUJAHEDIN-E KHALQ EXPLORES OPTIONS RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT Vol. 6, No. 12, 21 March 2003 The analyst of Iranian politics Mahan Abedine published a thinkpiece in the Middle East Intelligence Bulletin of February/March 2003 on recent activities of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MKO) as it tries to explore its options in the event of an American invasion of Iraq. In June 2002 the leader of the MKO, Massoud Rajavi, held a secret meeting attended by some 6,000 people at which he spoke of the inevitability of an American invasion. Rajavi said that the MKO had three options: voluntarily withdrawing from Iraq, preemptively attacking Iran, or assisting the Iraqi regime against invading American forces. It is clear that a mass exodus of MKO members from Iraq is not feasible, according to Abedin. While some 200-300 MKO operatives have been exfiltrated from Iraq via Jordan, and several high-ranking MKO officials, such as the head of MKO army intelligence Mahnaz Bazazi, have already fled the country, Abedin says that an MKO delegation recently toured European capitals searching for a safe haven for Rajavi and his family. It is not likely that any European country will offer political asylum to MKO leaders for fear of offending Iran Abedin said that "informed sources" will launch an attack into Iran either just before or after the American invasion. This force of 4,000 soldiers, is expected to be butchered when it tries to cross the border, but it is claimed that this mass "martyrdom" would serve political objectives: in the short term it would deflect attention from the flight of the MKO's senior leaders, and in the long term it could be used by the organization's propagandists to justify the MKO's establishing itself in Iraq in the 1980s. Iraqi Kurdish media have reported that a large MKO force has been deployed around Kirkuk. And Kurdish and Iranian newspapers have reported that MKO units have been deployed in Ba'ath Party facilities in several key Iraqi cities. The MKO has also been implicated in Iraq's concealment of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Abedin cites evidence going back to 1991 on MKO efforts to conceal Saddam's WMD. (David Nissman) UNWILLING SHIA http://www.dawn.com/2003/03/23/int5.htm * SHIA GROUP REFUSES TO SUPPORT US Dawn, 23rd March DOHA, March 22: Iraq's main Shia opposition faction, based in Iran, will not take part in the "aggressive war" being waged by the United States and its allies on Iraq, its leader said on Saturday. "We believe that the method of dealing with (the Baghdad) regime should not be through war. War is harmful," Mohammad Baqir Hakim of the Supreme Assembly for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SAIRI) told the Al Jazeera TV news network. Therefore "we cannot ... be part of the US action since we do not believe in this action", Mr Hakim said. SAIRI's armed wing, the Al Badr Brigade, is believed to number between 10,000 and 15,000 fighters. Many are said to have crossed into Kurdish-held northern Iraq in anticipation of the US-led invasion. Mr Hakim told the Qatari television station that because the war defied international public opinion as well as UN Security Council resolutions, "we can consider it an aggressive war". He also said that his group along with the rest of the Iraqi opposition opposed any Turkish intervention in the north of Iraq, saying that this would "make the situation of the Iraqi issue very serious". Both SAIRI and one of the main Kurdish opposition groups said earlier on Saturday that the Iraqi opposition would be allowed to rule the country immediately after President Saddam is ousted from power.-AFP http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/afp/20030322/wl_mideast_afp/i raq_war_opposition_1 * IRAQI SHIITE OPPOSITION WILL NOT FIGHT ALONGSIDE US AGAINST BAGHDAD: LEADER Yahoo, 22nd March DOHA (AFP) - Iraq's main Shiite opposition faction, based in Iran, will not take part in the "aggressive war" being waged by the United States and its allies on Iraq, its leader said. "We believe that the method of dealing with (the Baghdad) regime should not be through war. War is harmful," Mohammad Baqir Hakim of the Supreme Assembly for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SAIRI) told al-Jazeera TV news network. Therefore "we cannot ... be part of the US action since we do not believe in this action," Hakim said Saturday. SAIRI's armed wing, the Al-Badr Brigade, is believed to number between 10,000 and 15,000 fighters. Many are said to have crossed into Kurdish-held northern Iraq in anticipation of the US-led war aimed at toppling Saddam Hussein. Hakim told the Qatari television station that because the war defied international public opinion as well as UN Security Council resolutions, "we can consider it an aggressive war." He also said that his group along with the rest of the Iraqi opposition opposed any Turkish intervention in the north of Iraq, saying that this would "make the situation of the Iraqi issue very serious." Both SAIRI and one of the main Kurdish opposition groups said earlier Saturday that the Iraqi opposition would be allowed to rule the country immediately after Saddam is ousted from power. They said the United States had had a change of heart and abandoned plans to install a temporary US military administration. SAIRI number two Abdelaziz Hakim told AFP on Saturday that "until now, the al-Badr Brigade has not received orders from their superiors to get fully involved (in the conflict) and we do not know when they will." Shiite soldiers would, he hoped, play a part in ousting Saddam "in due time", but it would neither be with, nor under the command, of US forces, he said. Western diplomatic sources in Tehran say that the United States, which sees SAIRI as too close to the Iranian regime for its liking, has told the Shiite opposition that its armed forces were not authorised to enter Iraq after the start of war. The SAIRI leader was named at a meeting in late February as part of a six-member collective leadership which is set to decide on a post-Saddam interim government. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk