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[casi] News, 23-30/4/03 (1)

News, 23-30/4/03 (1)


*  Marsh Arabs ambivalent about returning to their lost paradise
*  Garner enjoys burger and Cola at Saddam's palace
*  Iraqi exiles meet in Spain
*  Pentagon Sending a Team of Exiles to Help Run Iraq
*  Chalabi Hated Because of His Political Vision
*  Iraqi oil officials undertake planning, oil flowing
*  Iraq Delegates Agree to Meet In a Month
*  Chalabi: Iraq Agents Work at Al-Jazeera
*  Iraq's borders may be a work in progress
*  Bush Chooses Iraq Civilian Administrator


*  Puzzle pieces fit to reveal US fundamentalism
*  Using new ways to kill
*  Partners in imperialism
*  U.S. Military Will Leave Saudi Arabia This Year

NEW IRAQI ORDER,3604,943909,00.html

by Ewen MacAskill in Qurna
The Guardian, 24th April

Resting by the green river bank at Qurna, which was reputed to be the Garden
of Eden, Qassim Khalaf voiced his sorrow at the paradise lost, the land of
the marsh Arabs.

"The marshes were a source of fish, reeds and birds," he said wistfully,
adding: "There are no marshes left. The water has dried up."

The riverside at Qurna is one of the few green and fertile places left in
this part of southern Iraq.

Elsewhere, the marshes have been reduced to parched earth, the result of
environmental vandalism on a grand scale by Saddam Hussein designed to quell
the rebellious marsh Arabs.

He destroyed a 5,000-year-old way of life, killing or displacing most of the
population of the marshes.

Mr Khalaf, 35, a schoolteacher, described the destruction as vengeance by
Saddam Hussien, a Sunni, for the Shia uprising against him after the 1991
Gulf war.

"Saddam destroyed the marshes because we are Shia Muslim," he said. Like
many other residents of Qurna, he predicts that, with Saddam gone, most of
the displaced marsh Arabs will agitate to return. That will present the next
Iraqi government with a dilemma.

Iraqi experts say the challenge of returning water to the marshes is

Salah Bader, 32, a water engineer who lives in Qurna, is sceptical, but
reluctantly admitted: "It is possible to put the water back: to close the
barriers and let the water flow again. It would not be easy, but it could be
done. It would be costly."

Standing by Adam's Tree at Qurna, supposedly where Adam gave in to Eve's
temptation, Mr Bader said that one of the biggest problems lay outside
Iraq's borders.

Turkey has dammed the Tigris, and it was taking so much water that the flow
was not as strong as it used to be, he said. Even if Saddam's drainage
system was reversed, there might not be enough water in the Tigris to flood
the marshes again.

Turkey's dam programme is internationally controversial, but the chance of a
diplomatic with Ankara on water at this point looks remote.

The land of the marsh Arabs covered more than 15,000 sq km (6,000 sq miles)
around Qurna, where Iraq's two main rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris,
join, stretching from Basra in the south to Nassiriya in the west and Amara
in the north.

Its inhabitants had a unique lifestyle, living on floating islands made from
reeds and in cathedral-like houses, also built from reeds. They were
self-sustaining, living mainly on fish and birds.

In a habitat which provided good cover, they sustained a long guerrilla
campaign against Saddam, who took his revenge by digging a third river in
1991 to drain the marshes. The last of the big marshes disappeared in 1994.

Human Rights Watch, in a report published in January, said the population
had fallen from 250,000 to 40,000. Thousands had been killed, an estimated
40,000 fled as refugees to camps in Iran, and 100,000 were displaced to
elsewhere in Iraq.

Many can be found living in hovels by the roadsides of southern Iraq. At
Dera, south of Qurna, there is a string of such homes, a few made from
brick, but most from mud.

One of the residents, Katem Muhsen, 23, a former army officer, was among the
last to leave the marshes. He lived in Hammar, one of the two bigger
marshes, until 1997, when he moved to Dera.

"In Saddam's time all our rights were lost and he closed our marshes.
Everything died. We are the lowest form of life in Iraq," he said.

Signalling problems ahead for the next Iraqi government, Mr Muhsen said that
many of the marsh Arabs wanted to return to their old lives.

"If the water returns to the marshes, they would like to go. But not as it

But it may be too late to recreate the old ways. Some of the marsh Arabs,
like Mr Muhsen himself, have got used to a more modern existence and think
even the squalor of Dera is preferable to the old ways.

He will not return to the marshes. "I have got used to living here," he
said. "We can reach the city and it is better, and we have roads and that is

"Here we have livestock. Some will go back and others will stay.",0005.htm

Hindustani Times, from Reuters, 24th April

Baghdad, April 24: Hamburgers, hot dogs and Coca Cola came to the backyard
of Saddam Hussein's palace on Thursday as the new man in charge staked out
his territory with an American-style barbecue.

Retired US general Jay Garner, head of the Office of Reconstruction and
Humanitarian Aid, enjoyed a relaxing lunch in the once-gracious palace
grounds as giant sculptures of Saddam's head looked on.

Garner and his entourage, winding up a damage-assessment tour of Baghdad and
the Kurdish-controlled north, munched on food cooked on two oversize grills
set up among the rose gardens and orange orchards where Saddam once

About 100 people attended the barbecue, which followed a meeting with
Baghdad academics and community leaders where Garner urged Iraqis to get to
work on rebuilding their country.

The palace appears to have escaped major damage in the three-week war to
oust Saddam, whose fate since American forces rolled into Baghdad two weeks
ago remains a mystery.

Asked if he was planning to set up his new headquarters in the palace, one
of several presidential homes in the capital, Garner joked: "I rented this
from Saddam."

CNN, 26th April

MADRID, Spain (Reuters) -- More than 100 Iraqis in exile from across the
opposition political spectrum gathered in Madrid for a weekend of talks on
the future democracy in Iraq.

Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and Foreign Minister Ana Palacio, firm
supporters of the U.S.-led war to topple President Saddam Hussein,
inaugurated the conference and offered support in the rebuilding of Iraq.

Members of the long-exiled, pro-U.S. Iraqi National Congress, the Shi'ite
Muslim party Al Dawa, the Iraqi Communist Party, Kurdish parties and other
groups will take part in the meeting.

U.S. administrator in Iraq Jay Garner has said the process of forming a
government run by Iraqis would begin by the end of next week.

Iraqi Communist Party leader Subhi Al Gumaily told Reuters he was optimistic
about the conference outcome. Pre-war meetings of Iraqi opposition groups
often ended in disagreement.

"There are different approaches and different interests but we can talk to
each other in a civilized way," Al Gumaily said.

"It's about discussion and guaranteeing democracy."

Spain raised its international profile by backing the United States in the
war in Iraq and earlier this week Palacio signaled Spain might hold a Middle
East peace conference.

Madrid hosted historic U.S.-brokered talks in 1991, when Israel sat down for
the first time with its Arab neighbors.

by Douglas Jehl with Jane Perlez
Yahoo, from The New York Times, 26th April

WASHINGTON, April 25 The Pentagon has begun sending a team of Iraqi exiles
to Baghdad to be part of a temporary American-led government there, senior
administration officials said today.

The exiles, most of whom are said by officials to have a background in
administration, are supposed to take up positions at each of 23 Iraqi
ministries, where they will work closely with American and British officials
under Jay Garner, the retired lieutenant general who is serving as Iraq's
day-to-day administrator.

The group of technocrats was assembled two months ago and has been working
from an office in suburban Virginia.

>From Baghdad, General Garner has just begun to convene meetings of Iraqi
notables to meet what senior administration officials described today as
their longer-term goal of forming an interim Iraqi authority by the end of
May faster than at first planned.

But that process is proving fractious, with the largest group of Shiite
Muslim exiles boycotting the talks so far and other exiles deeply suspicious
of Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi National Congress official who is seen as a
Pentagon favorite.

As that effort unfolds, the task of the exiles, organized as an Iraqi
Reconstruction and Development Council, will be to rebuild the structures of
a government that would then be handed over to the new Iraqi authority,
administration officials said.

General Garner said on Thursday that an interim Iraqi authority would be in
place next week, but other senior American officials, including Defense
Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, said the general's comments had been
misinterpreted. A meeting of Iraqi notables is to be held in Baghdad on
Monday, but American officials said the new goal agreed on at White House
meetings this week for putting an interim Iraqi authority in place set the
deadline as late May.

A consensus within the administration favors "moving faster rather than
slower," a senior administration official said, in part `'because we want to
remove the appearance of this being an American operation."

The team of Iraqi technocrats was selected by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul
D. Wolfowitz but is officially employed by a defense contractor, SAIC, the
officials said. The team is headed by Emad Dhia, an engineer who left Iraq
21 years ago and who will become the top Iraqi adviser to General Garner. As
head of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, General
Garner is functioning as Iraq's civil administrator.

Victor Rostow, a Pentagon policy official who is serving as a liaison to the
Iraqi team, said its task would be to help General Garner "turn over
functioning ministries to the new Iraqi interim authority after a period of

Among the 150 Iraqi exiles on the team, at least 10, including Mr. Dhia,
left for Kuwait today on their way to Baghdad. By the end of next week, at
least 25 are expected to be in Baghdad, including officials designated by
the Pentagon to be in charge of the ministries of oil, planning and

Among those identified by Pentagon officials were Muhammad al-Hakim, who is
to become the senior Iraqi at the Ministry of Planning and to supervise
provincial affairs, and Muhammad Ali Zainy, an engineer and former senior
official of Iraq's Ministry of Oil who is to become the senior Iraqi at that

Mr. Dhia was chosen by Mr. Wolfowitz because of his role as the leader of a
group called the Forum for Democracy in Iraq, whose members span the full
spectrum of Iraq's Sunni and Shiite Muslims and Kurdish and Christian
minorities, administration officials said. They said that members of that
group played a leading role last year in a State Department project on the
future of Iraq.

Mr. Dhia, who is on a leave of absence from the Pfizer pharmaceutical
company in Ann Arbor, Mich., worked with the Pentagon to select other
members of the team, many of whom were drawn from his organization, the
officials said.

They include engineers, civil administrators and other professionals, some
of whom served in Iraqi ministries in the 1970's and 1980's before fleeing
the country, the officials said.

In a telephone interview before he left for Kuwait today, Mr. Dhia described
the team's mission as a huge task. "It's something we have always dreamed
of," he said, "that we go back and we establish democracy in Iraq, and help
our people recover from 34 years of brutal dictatorship."

The officials said they did not have details of Mr. Hakim's background. They
described Mr. Zainy as an American citizen whose previous work has included
posts with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and with a
London-based energy publication.

Mr. Dhia and Mr. Rostow provided the names of just seven Iraqis among the
team of exiles, some of whom are now citizens of the United States or
European countries where they have made their homes in exile. Mr. Rostow
said that only a handful had agreed to be identified by name. "Most of these
people believe that if they are seen as agents of America, they will be
killed," he said.

By setting up office outside of the Pentagon, with telephone numbers and
e-mail addresses that gave no hint of their government ties, he said, "they
have gone to some lengths not to be seen that way."

According to Mr. Rostow, other members of the Iraqi team who left for
Baghdad today, with the offices to which they will be assigned, include: Sam
Kareem, transportation and telecommunication; Sid Hakky, health; Muhyi
al-Kateeb, foreign ministry; Ramsey Jiddou, industry; Khidhir Hamza, atomic
energy; Adam Sheroza, youth ministry; and Ali Alzurufi, Najaf Province.

General Garner's team is still taking shape. In his first week in Iraq, he
has spent part of his time trying to sideline Iraqis who appointed
themselves to positions of power, including Muhammad al-Zubeidi, the
self-declared governor of Baghdad.

But in the last few days, the administration has begun to make public the
names of Americans who will fill senior roles on General Garner's staff,
including Peter McPherson, a former banker who is now president of Michigan
State University, and who the Treasury Department said today would function
as the principal financial and economic policy adviser to the team.

The end of May is now a target hand-over date, senior administration
officials said, in part because the current United Nations arrangement
allowing Iraq to export its oil and use proceeds to buy food is due to
expire in early June.

Among the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, France,
Russia and China have all made clear that want to see any future arrangement
for oil exports in Iraqi hands, not American ones.

"The idea is that you want to have a legitimate Iraqi interim authority in
place because it makes all the issues move forward more quickly, including
the pumping of oil," a State Department official said.

A second State Department official involved in the process said today that
it was possible, though not highly likely, that after Monday's gathering, a
national conference would be called for May 2 and that that gathering would
choose delegates for the interim Iraqi authority.

According to State Department and Pentagon officials, Mr. Chalabi, head of
the Iraqi National Congress, has argued that he should head the interim
authority. But several senior officials said that was unlikely.

At a Pentagon briefing today, Mr. Rumsfeld said that General Garner had
clarified Thursday's statement during a secure video conference this morning
with Mr. Bush.

"What he was talking about was the fact that there was a meeting next week,
the second of the series of meetings that very likely will proceed as a
buildup to the establishment of an Iraqi interim authority," Mr. Rumsfeld

The meeting that General Garner will head on Monday is to include about 100
Iraqis, about double the number at the last conference, held in Nasiriyah
earlier this month. It will include representatives from the Kurdish groups,
the Iraqi National Accord, and those who represent Mr. Chalabi. Two
delegates will be sent by Adnan Pachachi, the foreign minister before Saddam
Hussein took power in 1979.

But representatives of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a
Shiite group based in Iran, have said they will boycott the meeting because
Iraqis should be in charge of inviting participants. That group is to take
part in a meeting in Spain this weekend that includes most Iraqi political

In Baghdad today, General Garner was huddled inside the opulent Republican
palace preparing for the conference. Some of his senior staff members former
and current American ambassadors who are supposed to be reorganizing the
ministries wandered the marbled halls of the palace looking for office

They had no e-mail function, no way for outsiders to reach them by
telephone. Several laughed when asked if they had cars and drivers to get
them around the city. They are yet to receive interpreters. Two weeks after
the end of the fighting, they seemed as ill-equipped as the Iraqis they had
come to help.

by Ali Al-Ridha
Arab News (Saudi Arabia), 24th April

"Chalabi is an American agent, and a master thief who is trying to sell-out
Iraq," exclaimed an Egyptian enjoying a meal of Persian kebab and rice.

"The people who were dancing after Saddam's statue fell were all Shiite,
they don't love Saddam because he is Arab and they are Persian. Saddam is a
good man," declared the Egyptian's Tunisian friend.

The rest of the table's four occupants nodded in agreement and it was agreed
that Iraq is the land of the Arabs, and that the Shiites must return to
their "native" Iran, and the Kurds are a menace.

I sat across from this group of North African Arabs, and wondered how many
of my fellow Iraqi "Persian" Shiites would be able to understand this
group's ethnocentric discussion conducted primarily in French.

You see, unlike this group of North African Arabs, the "Persian" Shiites of
Southern Iraq do not speak French; they prefer Arabic.

To the casual bystander, the two statements quoted above might not seem
related at all, but to those who are part of the Iraqi opposition, the
statements above highlight the plight and very complexity of our struggle.
Our struggle has not just been against our own dictator, it has also been
against our fellow-Arabs and Muslims and their "sympathizers" in Washington.

It is not surprising that some of Saddam's greatest supporters were
non-Iraqi Arabs. For them, Saddam is the embodiment of a strong and defiant
Arab standing tall in front of a bullying United States and Israel. It is
easy for non-Iraqis to love Saddam and dismiss the Iraqi opposition as a
gang of Persian and Kurdish thieves.

Their leader, Saddam, is perfect, so those who oppose him must be corrupt
and deceitful. Never does it occur to them that Saddam has killed more Arabs
and Muslims than Israel and Sharon put together. It seems as if they are
incapable of internal reflection.

One by one, every nation of the world chose to skillfully forget the
defiance of hundreds of thousands of martyred Iraqis. The Western allies
quickly pointed out that it wasn't their mandate to take out Saddam in 1991,
and the rest of the Arabs/Muslims shamefully declared that the 1991 uprising
was an internal matter of Iraq. No one, neither Arab nor Muslim, cared while
Iraqis wept alone in the dark silence of the desert. Where were the
crowd-filled streets of Damascus, Cairo, Beirut, Amman, Rabat, Gaza, Ankara,
Islamabad, and Jakarta when Saddam was butchering the people of Iraq?

Was the scene of thousands of dead Iraqi Kurds clutching their dead infants
and the slogan "La Shiite Ba'd Al Youm" (No more Shiite after today) painted
on Iraqi tanks cruising by the rotting dead bodies of Iraqis that
forgettable? Was that not gruesome and compelling enough?

I painfully recall watching a Jordanian man cover his face, and an Egyptian
weeping as the statue of Saddam came crashing down. I couldn't decide
whether I should be happy or angry: Here I am, an Iraqi, witnessing the fall
of my brutal oppressor and there are my Arab brothers weeping and hiding
their face on our moment of triumph and victory. Would they have rather seen
Iraq under the continued rule of a man who killed Iraqis for over three
decades? Why? Are we, the people of Iraq, not their brothers anymore?

The hypocrisy doesn't quite end here, but also includes the use of targeted
and shameful character assassinations. In a recent interview with Larry King
Live on CNN, Abu Dhabi TV's Jasim Al-Azzawi called Dr. Ahmed Chalabi a
"felon and convict". It is almost as if Azzawi was pre-programmed to
short-circuit once Chalabi's name was mentioned. He sounded more like the
ex-Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahaf, than a journalist
providing an insightful perspective.

Does Azzawi even know the facts behind Petra Bank, or is he just ecstatic to
hear something negative about one of Saddam's most vocal opponents? Does he
know that the verdict was that of a pro-Saddam Jordanian Military Court, and
was reached after just one day of examining the "merits" of the case? Hasn't
Azzawi, in his career as a journalist, ever heard of political sabotage?

Or is it that Azzawi, like Sahaf, thinks that his audience are a bunch of
incompetent Arabs who just don't deserve to know the truth? Sahaf clearly
thought so when he lied to the entire Arab world by proclaiming that the
Americans were not even remotely close to Baghdad.

It is categorically and conclusively wrong to prejudge Chalabi as being
corrupt and a tool of the US. Such are the accusations of those who hate
Chalabi, not of those who are objective and able to employ logic and reason
in their perspectives. Chalabi is hated because he represents secular
democracy and a staunch commitment toward political equality for all. To
Chalabi's critics, anyone desiring political equality for all, and the rule
of law is an enemy and an American puppet. They excel at functioning in
political junkyards and are incompatible with change. After all, rallying
around an 80-year- old sectarian Adnan Pachachi to be Iraq's next leader
doesn't exactly qualify as appreciating change.

Or is it because they think that the Arabs do not deserve political freedom
and change?

The Arab world desperately needs to change, it needs to accept and value its
own people. The region is governed by many regimes that do not represent,
listen to or have any regard for their own people. The region has become
sharply divided between those who govern and those who are governed, the
rich and the poor.

This great internal divide is precisely what Chalabi wants to bridge. His
vision, and that of many other Iraqi secular democrats, is about building an
Iraq of the people for the people. His vision for Iraq rests on the rule of
law, an independent judiciary, respect for human rights, equality for all
before law and state, and the establishment of a transparent and pluralistic
democracy. This vision should be welcomed as a breath of fresh air and an
opportunity to bring about positive and lasting change.

(The author is a member of the Iraqi National Congress.)

RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT Vol. 6, No. 19, 26 April 2003

by Kathleen Ridolfo

A number of senior Iraqi oil officials have been meeting regularly with U.S.
military officials to discuss the reactivation of Iraq's oil refineries,
"The Wall Street Journal" reported on 22 April. The officials are expected
to later meet with senior U.S. officials, including retired U.S. oil
executive Phillip J. Carroll, who has been appointed to lead a U.S. team of
advisers that will facilitate the reactivation of Iraq's oil industry.
According to "The Wall Street Journal," the Iraqi group includes eight
ministry officials and top oil company executives and is reportedly being
coordinated by Thamir Abbas Ghadhban, an Oil Ministry official from the
Hussein regime. Ghadhban has said that the Daura refinery has been
reactivated and is producing about half of its normal capacity of 100,000
barrels a day.

Meanwhile, U.S. Colonel Michael Morrow, adviser to General Tommy Franks at
CENTCOM, has said that oil coming from four wells in the Rumaylah oil field
will be used for power generation and domestic consumption, Reuters reported
on 23 April. "We're pumping much quicker than our six-week target," Morrow
said, referring to an initial plan to reactivate the wells six to nine weeks
from 6 April.

"We had [a] first pumping of 50,000 barrels yesterday and repairs will
continue until we hit our target of 800,000 [barrels per day]," Morrow said.
In addition, output from wells in northern Iraq is expected to hit 800,000
barrels per day in two to six weeks from 21 April, according to Morrow. He
added that the 140,000-barrel per day Basra refinery could be running in one
week. He noted that many Iraqis had returned to work, including 400
employees of the South Oil Company.

by Charles J. Hanley
Las Vegas Sun, 28th April

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP): An all-day meeting of U.S. administrators and delegates
from Iraq's political factions agreed Monday to convene a larger conference
within a month that will select an interim government for the war-torn

Zalmay Khalilzad, envoy to President Bush, said he hoped the meeting would
take place within that period.

"Hopefully we will have this national meeting which will select or elect
this interim authority," Khalilzad said.

The meeting was attended by 300 people from groups from inside and outside

It was the second such meeting to plant the seeds of a new Iraqi government.
The first was held earlier this month in the ancient city of Ur in southern

Shiite and Sunni Muslim clerics in robes, Kurds from the north, tribal
chiefs in Arab headdresses and Westernized exiles in expensive suits came
together for the conference.

The meeting took place in the heart of the capital, in Saddam Hussein's
convention center, three weeks after U.S. forces took Baghdad and sent
Saddam packing - or possibly left him dead.

Since then, members of opposition groups long banned under Saddam's regime
have been streaming back to Baghdad, hoping to play a part in the process of
forming a new leadership foundation.

Clear differences among the delegates emerged on the United States'
involvement, with exiles generally seeking a diminished role for Washington.


The meeting in Baghdad coincided with Saddam's 66th birthday. For years,
April 28 was a national holiday filled with official celebration and
enforced adulation of the authoritarian leader, who was "unanimously"
endorsed by voters over the years in unopposed "elections."

After an opening reading from the Quran, the 250 delegates, including a few
women, were welcomed by the U.S. civil administrator for Iraq.

"Today, on the birthday of Saddam Hussein, let us start the democratic
process for the children of Iraq," retired U.S. Lt. Gen. Jay Garner told the

"We hope we can form a unified government, one that reflects the entire
spectrum of Iraq," said Ahmad Jaber al-Awadi, a representative of the newly
formed Iraqi Independent Democrats Movement.

One prominent exile, Saad al-Bazzaz, said many delegates had discussed the
possibility of a presidential council rather than naming a single leader for

"I'm not expecting one person as president. I'm expecting a presidential
council" of three to six members, he said. "We have been discussing this,
many of us."

But many focused on the immediate need for security in a country where the
ouster of the Saddam government three weeks ago touched off a rampage of
looting, arson and general lawlessness.

"The lack of security threatens our newborn democracy. Security must be
restored for this experience to survive," Saadoun Dulaimi, a returned exiled
politician, told fellow delegates.

In a sign of new cooperation, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution
in Iraq, an Iran based group of Shiite Muslim exiles, sent a low-level
delegation to the Baghdad conference. The council had boycotted the first
meeting on April 15, and high-ranking members refused to attend Monday's
conference in protest of its U.S. sponsorship, said Hamid al-Bayati, a
London spokesman for the group.

Those from outside the country generally said only Iraqis should rule Iraq.

"We are having healthy discussions between people inside Iraq and who were
outside Iraq," said Mustapha Qazwin, a sheikh and doctor who lives in the
United States. "This is a democratic process, and we are still debating the
best route forward."

Non-exiles generally want the Americans to have a direct role in the interim
period to prepare for elections. "We are not ready to handle this yet," said
Suheil al-Suheil, a Baghdad lawyer. "Saddam's orphans are still alive."

Coming home after years abroad, Iraqis hugged and kissed as the gathering
began. "In Baghdad?" one delegate asked another in disbelief. "Yes, in
Baghdad," the other replied.

In the streets, thousands of demonstrators marched through the sun-baked
capital calling for unity of Shiite and Sunni Muslims, of Iraqi Arabs and
Iraqi Kurds.

But in a symptom of the disorganization and communications problems that
have plagued the U.S. occupation, dozens of delegates couldn't reach the
hall immediately. Instead, they drove in circles around traffic-choked
central Baghdad, repeatedly blocked by Army checkpoints. The opening was
delayed by two hours.

On a downtown street, an Iraqi air force colonel, Hussein al-Khafaji, took
note of how different Saddam's birthday was this year.

"Whenever we had those elections for president, everyone voted for him 100
percent," he told a reporter. "And today nothing will happen, and this will
prove that none of us liked him, not a one."

On central Saddoun Street, a ragged man carried a placard aloft depicting
Saddam with horns and a noose around his neck. "This is your birthday. Shame
on you," it read.

In southern Iraq, on the main road north out of Basra, about 50 marchers
appeared bearing an effigy of Saddam fashioned from rags. As a crowd
gathered, they threw the effigy to the ground, stomped on it and set it on

"No, no, Saddam. Yes, yes, Islam," shouted members of the group.



The Associated Press, 29th April

DOHA, Qatar - Iraqi intelligence agents of Saddam Hussein's regime
infiltrated the Arabic language news station Al-Jazeera television,  the
head of a major Iraqi opposition group claimed Tuesday.

"Al-Jazeera is completely infiltrated by Iraqi intelligence," Ahmad
Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress, said in an interview  aired
live by Abu Dhabi Television, an Al-Jazeera competitor.

"We got the information from the files of Iraqi intelligence,"  Chalabi

An employee for Al-Jazeera, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said  it
was unlikely that the station would respond to Chalabi's  allegations,
adding, "Of course what he says is not true."

Chalabi claimed the files also said Al-Jazeera wanted to buy a gift  for
someone who provided the station with two letters from terrorist  mastermind
Osama bin Laden.

The allegations were broadcast shortly after Al-Jazeera reported -
incorrectly - that Chalabi had been arrested by U.S. troops for
embezzlement. The U.S. Central Command in Doha, Qatar, said the  report was

Abu Dhabi Television said it sought the interview with Chalabi to  talk
about reports of his arrest. The station issued a disclaimer,  saying that
his views about Al-Jazeera were his own and not those of  Abu Dhabi

by George Jonas
National Post, 30th April

Now that the shooting war in Iraq is over, at least for the time being, we
can start thinking about the long run -- the one of which Lord Keynes
famously remarked that we will all be dead in. Still, the long run does
permit us one luxury: When turning our eyes to distant horizons, we can do
so without hypocrisy, and with all options on the table.

It's easy to be sympathetic to the view -- voiced last week by U.S. Defence
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, even if not in so many words -- that the
coalition didn't fight a war to depose Saddam Hussein only to anoint some
ayatollah in his place. The Bush administration has no wish to stand by
while Iraqis substitute some hostile and hideous theocracy for Saddam's
hostile and hideous secular regime. Nor did the coalition risk lives,
billions of dollars and considerable political capital to throw Iraq into
chaos and possible dissolution.

Yet if the coalition is serious about one of its war aims, also voiced last
week, namely that the people of Iraq must decide their own future, it
doesn't really matter what future we envisaged for Iraq. Should Iraqis wish
to substitute some ayatollah for Saddam, or rupture their fragile federation
of ethnic and religious groups, we must remember that we fought a war, at
least in part, to enable them to do so.

The Bush administration's vision is of a free Arab society, a first in the
Middle East, possibly sparking freedom and democracy throughout the region.
Again, it's easy to sympathize. There's an attractive school of thought that
puts its trust in the power of freedom. Recently Nathan Sharansky, once a
well-known Soviet dissident, and now Israel's Minister of Diaspora Affairs,
has given expression to it in the Jerusalem Post.

Mr. Sharansky suggests that "realists" who used to promote détente because
they couldn't believe that the march of freedom was inexorable and it would
cause the Soviet empire to implode, now feel that Arabs aren't ready for
democracy. "Promoting democracy among the Arabs," writes Mr. Sharansky, "is
again cast as naive adventurism. The Arabs, we are told, have never lived
under democracy. Their culture and religion, we are assured, are inimical to
the idea of liberty. The realists dangle the 'pragmatic' alternatives before
us: Cut a deal with 'friendly' dictators. They will fight terror. They will
preserve order. They will make peace."

Mr. Sharansky argues the so-called realists are wrong because "the
overwhelming power of freedom" will prove as contagious in the Middle East
as it was in the Soviet Union. "Iranians, Saudis, Syrians, Egyptians,
Palestinians and all who live in fear will envy those who no longer do. And
they will increasingly find the courage to stand up and say so."

One certainly wishes for Mr. Sharansky's prediction to come true, but
meanwhile thousand of Iraqis have been chanting "No to America, No to
Saddam, Yes to Islam" during a pilgrimage to the holy city of Karbala. As
Daniel Pipes pointed out in these pages this week, " 'Yes to Islam' in
effect means 'Yes to Iranian-style militant Islam.' " Mr. Pipes reasons
that, considering that democracy took six centuries to develop in England,
we can't expect it to develop overnight in Iraq. For the interim, he
recommends "a democratically-minded Iraqi strongman" to hold the country
together and keep it from sliding into either anarchy or the lap of a
theocratic tyrant. After all, strongmen such as Kemal Atatürk and Chang
Kai-shek paved the way to democracy in Turkey and Taiwan.

One can see Mr. Pipes's point as readily as Mr. Sharansky's. The fact is
that when people are free to choose they often make wrong choices -- and
some wrong choices preclude people from making the right choices later, at
least not without another bloody conflict.

What complicates matters further is that we seem committed to the unity of a
country whose people may not wish to stay united. It may require a strongman
just to prevent Iraq from splitting into its constituent Shia, Sunni and
Kurdish pieces. The question is, what price unity? Why do we, or the Iraqis,
benefit from maintaining -- possibly as forcefully as Saddam had to -- a
national construct, artificially created in the 1920s under a different set
of geopolitical circumstances? Why must we oppose, for instance, the
emergence of a friendly, democratic Kurdistan, even if it may in time evolve
into a Greater Kurdistan carved out of current Iraqi, Iranian, Syrian and
Turkish territory?

An obvious reason is not to upset friendly Turkey -- or even unfriendly Iran
or Syria -- worried about their own Kurdish minorities. But more than our
concern for regional stability, we've become so committed to multicultural
ideals that we consider all other models of nationhood anathema. For this
we're ready to prop up an artificial entity created 80 years ago that may
need a tyrant to function.

But what's sacrosanct about existing countries, in the Mideast or elsewhere,
if they lack natural cohesion and need to be held together by force? Why
spill blood in the 21st century to preserve an entity, such as Iraq, carved
out of the Ottoman empire in the early 20th century, primarily for the
former British empire's reasons of state? There would be nothing wrong, of
course, with such a country, however it came about, if it had internal
coherence and viability -- but if it can't breathe on its own, why put it on
a respirator?

I think our abhorrence of the ethnically (or religiously) based nation-state
is a mistake. Worshipping "multiculturalism" as an overriding concept --
i.e., as the only legitimate way for a modern state to be organized -- is as
erroneous as worshipping tribalism would be. History records many organizing
principles. What works, works; what doesn't, doesn't. What's so big about a
country that doesn't want to be one?

War is focused, which is why the ancients coined their oft-quoted phrase
about the law or the Muses falling silent during combat.

The silenced Muses include Clio, the Muse of History -- but once the din of
arms fades, Zeus's daughter begins to speak again. Admittedly, her voice is
distant and it's all in Greek, but listening is worth the bother. We'll
stumble blindly from war to war unless we decipher her oracles.

Yahoo, 30th April

WASHINGTON (AP): The Bush administration has chosen L. Paul Bremer, a former
head of the State Department's counterterrorism office, to become civilian
administrator in Iraq and oversee the country's transition to democratic

Bremer's selection, disclosed Wednesday by a senior U.S. official, will put
him in charge of a transition team that includes retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay
Garner and Zalmay Khalilzad, the special White House envoy in the Persian
Gulf region.

Bremer left the State Department, where he was an assistant to former
secretaries William P. Rogers and Henry Kissinger, to join Kissinger
Associates, a consulting firm studded with both Democrats and Republicans
that held top U.S. government posts. Currently, Bremer serves as chairman
and chief executive of Marsh Crisis Consulting company.

Overseeing the transition from rule by Saddam Hussein to Iraqi opponents of
the deposed president is a tricky assignment in which the Bush
administration is playing an aggressive role while also declaring it is up
to a wide diversity of Iraqi groups to choose a new government.

Newsweek first reported Bremer's selection on its Web site Wednesday. The
report was confirmed by a senior U.S. official who declined otherwise to be


During a 23-year State Department career, Bremer served as special assistant
or executive assistant to six secretaries of state. In 1999, Bremer was
appointed chairman of the National Commission on Terrorism by House Speaker
Dennis Hastert.


*  Puzzle pieces fit to reveal US fundamentalism
by Jamil Ali Hammoud
Lebanon Daily Star, 23rd April

Today, as the first aggression of the 21st century continues to unfold,
there seems to be a consensus emerging among analysts, writers, journalists,
observers and others interested in politics, foreign policy and
international relations. The pieces of the puzzle, it looks like, are
gradually fitting in place to give an image of an American administration
religious in inspiration, ideological in orientation, dogmatic in speech and
categorically simplistic in perspective of friend and foe. We may add that
this image is beginning also to crystallize for segments of American society
as evidenced by a tendency of reflection on and opposition to American
foreign as well as domestic policy. Manifestations of this tendency may be
seen in an anti-war movement which divided American society, editorials of
well respected publications such as the New York Times and Newsweek, and the
speech of some public officials such as Congresswoman Barbara Lee of

By the way, I can't help but point out that this image is precisely the same
I would use to describe bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. In other terms, the faces of
fundamentalism may change but the essence remains the same: a claim to moral
and cultural superiority, prejudgment of everything in terms of good and
evil, divine mission to eradicate evil, and legitimacy of all means to
arrive at the end. Yet, this is not our preoccupation at least not in this
discussion. We are more interested in contemplating a question that seems to
have escaped the observers or the overwhelming majority of them. If we treat
our description of the current American administration as a given, we must
ask the following question: How was a group of ideologues able to arrive at
the helm of power and governance in a nation with long and well-established
traditions of pragmatism, flexibility and diversity? Let's elaborate the
context of this question.

The historical experience of Western societies in terms of societal progress
and evolution seems to suggest that once a society reaches a certain level
of maturity, stability and rationalization, it will no longer have the
appetite for extremism and radical change. Its tolerance will only
accommodate slow, gradual and evolutionary processes of change that work
their way out through a complex of bureaucratic institutions checked and
balanced against each other. Stability in this sense is assured by a large
and dominant middle class which is often referred to as the mainstream.
Accordingly, the key to society's immunity system against extremism is a
mainstream content with the present and hope about the future.

So, how does all this relate to the main question of this discussion? It is
fair and reasonable to assume that American society is mature and stable
enough to have developed an effective self-defense mechanism against radical
ideologies. In fact, we have, for long and correctly so, defined America as
a pragmatic nation free from the burden of ideological thought which
characterizes its grandmother Europe. But if this is all true, then the
group of ideologues governing America should not have been able in the first
place to reach the helm of power. Consequently, America's break away from
its traditions begs for some explanation. The American mainstream had in the
past repeatedly proved its immunity to extreme elements whether they came
from the right or the left. On the left, leaders like Jesse Jackson and
Ralph Nader continue to remain on the margin while they enjoy limited
influence. As for the right, the same goes for figures like Pat Buchanon and
David Duke. The presidency of Ronald Reagan stands out as an exception
resulting from a broad reaction to a series of political and economic
crises. In other words, Reagan made America feel good about itself again at
a moment when it desperately needed to do so Š Yet even Reagan did not go as
far as Bush and his group of ideologues are willing to go.

If political and economic crises combined to pave the way toward governance
for the ideologue in Reagan, a social stability crisis is in fact at the
core of the conditions that made it possible for George W. Bush to lead
America at the dawn of the 21st century. Yes, we dare suggest that the
stability of American society is deceiving.  On the surface, America goes
the way it should go. But underneath it all, the nation hides several
clashes, struggles and confrontations. This assertion should not be
misunderstood as a subscription to the proposal of an "empire in decline."
We don't believe that's the case. We suggest that America's main problem of
instability is a serious gap between technology and social values, a
distance between the openness of globalization and the traditionalism of a
conservative society. It appears that technological progress and
globalization have been too much and too fast for a society neither
accustomed to nor able to absorb radical and revolutionary change. So in
this sense, America is a victim of its own success.

This explanation may sound surprising. Yet, it is the most plausible one.
America made a rapid technological and economic transformation toward
globalization during the 1990s with impressive performance in almost all
economic indicators. Yet, social values, habits and traditions lagged
behind. They did not evolve as fast for social change is always slow. The
end result is a society threatened in its core values, a state of social
insecurity. People outside the US usually have in mind a stereotype of the
sophisticated and cosmopolitan resident of New York when they think of
America. However, this resident is by no means representative of anything
other than an elite easily "technologized" and "globalized." The average
American is Joe Six Pack, the resident of Iowa or North Carolina. Joe Six
Pack is generally conservative, geographically isolated from the rest of the
world, economically hopeful of achieving the American dream of success and
socially individualistic. To him, the news is half an hour of sound bites
and the newspaper is the sports section.

Faced with rapid globalization and revolutionary technological progress, Joe
Six Pack who is accustomed to easing into change must have balked. Indeed,
globalization is more than internet and finance. It is also reformulation of
social values. In the sense of a famous American proverb, it is teaching an
old dog news tricks. That's exactly what throws the average American into a
state of turmoil and confusion.

Turmoil, confusion, instability, sounds like a ripe environment for an
ideologue  to reclaim moral superiority, to preach the inner peace of basic
values, to sing the virtues of good old days all be it to a modern melody,
to resimplify things in terms of black and white, to make his way to the
helm of power and governance.

Jamil Ali Hammoud is a Paris-based economist and research analyst. He wrote
this commentary for The Daily Star

by Mike O'Callaghan
Las Vegas Sun, 24th April

Mike O'Callaghan is the Las Vegas Sun executive editor.

AMERICAN TROOPS LEARN QUICKLY and several bits of information have been
gleaned from their experiences in Iraq. What they have learned on the ground
in combat is rapidly being brought back home for basic training and military
school use. Although our next war may be entirely different than Iraq, and
that would be the case if we tangle with North Korea, all ground combat has
some similarities and many differences. Remember World War I was trench
warfare and World War II was fast and furious mechanized ground warfare with
heavy air support. The last half of the following war in Korea was fought
from trenches.

Our troops in Iraq are now familiar with suicide bombers and car bombs.
There is good reason to believe these tactics may become even more prevalent
during the coming weeks and months. Car bombs have been a weapon in Iraq and
the entire Middle East for many years. I can recall their use by Saddam's
agents in northern Iraq when I was with the Kurds in 1992. The suicide
bombings have been developed into a fine art by the Palestinians during the
past three years. Last year this tactic had progressed to the point where
even women joined their ranks. Israeli schoolchildren, teenagers, family and
religious gatherings and shoppers have all felt the pain of these killers.

So what's next on the list of terrorist groups in the Middle East and
eventually around the world? We already had a preview of some of their plans
last November in Mombasa, Kenya. That's when terrorists launched two Soviet
SA-7 shoulder-fired missiles in an attempt to bring down an Israeli Boeing
757 charter jet loaded with vacationers. This was a close but failed attempt
to bring down the aircraft. What didn't fail was the car bomb exploded
minutes before in the nearby Paradise Hotel where 13 people were killed and
dozens were seriously injured.

Our world is loaded with deadly weapons now in the hands of terrorists. U.S.
News & World Report magazine in a recent article tells readers: "A thriving
black market for some 700,000 surface-to-air missiles has made it relatively
cheap for terrorist groups, including al Qaeda and Hezbollah, to stockpile
the weapons. The United States has contributed marginally to the supply of
missiles, having sold more than 900 U.S.-made Stingers to Afghan militias
fighting the Soviets between 1979 and 1988."

In Iraq, American troops are scrambling to retrieve even more weapons and
explosives before they reach the terrorists through the black market. The
weapons are extremely valuable and some are only seized after a firefight
with Saddam's supporters. Large numbers of the SA-7 anti-aircraft weapons
are scattered in arsenals all over Iraq. One of our military units has
picked up and destroyed almost 300 tons of weapons the terrorists want and
will purchase.

What is amazing is that a civilian airline tragedy, resulting from a plane
being hit by shoulder-fired missiles, hasn't happened. At least we haven't
had such an attack being given credit for any downed airliner. However, we
know for certain that plans have been made for such a strike.

Last November, before the attempt to down the Israeli aircraft in Kenya, the
Jerusalem Report magazine did reveal some important information. "A few
months ago, three Baghdad-trained Palestinian terrorists were caught trying
to cross the border through Jordan: they were reportedly planning to fire
shoulder-held anti-aircraft missiles at planes leaving or landing at
Ben-Gurion Airport," reported the magazine.

We do know that other attempts have been made, but sharp intelligence
agencies have stopped them before they succeeded in shooting down a civilian
passenger airliner. Actually shooting down scheduled aircraft is made easier
because of known times of departure and landing. For this very reason,
Israel's El Al planes do change schedules unannounced publicly. We have come
to understand that some of the El Al planes already have systems to identify
and deflect missiles. Because of the expense for such systems, the U.S.
government and commercial airlines are debating who should pay for their
installation. This debate will only end when a commercial airliner is shot
from the sky by a shoulder-fired weapon.

One constant in today's world is that terrorists will continue to seek out
and use the most efficient weapons to, indiscriminately, kill the maximum
number of people.

by Mark Curtis
Frontline, 28th April

An adapted extract from Mark Curtis' new book, Web of Deceit: Britain's Real
Role in the World, published by Vintage, London


U.S. advisers have also been sent to Nepal to aid the government defeat an
insurgency by Maoist guerillas who declared a "people's war" in 1996.
Britain is also providing helicopters, communications equipment and training
in setting up a "military intelligence support group" with the Nepalese
Army. British aid is in effect covert, bypassing parliamentary scrutiny and
using an obscure government "global conflict prevention" fund.

London's support comes during a massive increase in violence by the Army,
with widespread torture, "disappearances", the suspension of civil rights,
the censorship of newspapers and arrests of hundreds of people without
trial. Most killings have been perpetrated by government forces. Nepal
government figures show that from 1996 to 2002, 3,290 rebels were killed by
government forces while 1,360 police and army personnel and civilians were
killed by the rebels. The root of the insurgency is the failure of
successive Nepalese governments to alleviate the grinding poverty of the
country's rural population and to introduce land reforms, long demanded by
the poor. These factors explain the Maoists' popular support in many rural

The British government argues that the Nepal government's struggle should be
seen as part of the wider "war against terrorism"; at the same time, London
admits there is no evidence linking the Maoists to Al Qaeda or any other
external terrorist group. As in the Cold War, no evidence is required to
support elite assertions.

U.S. leaders now say that "our best defence is a good offence" and speak of
"destroying the threat before it reaches our borders". The U.S. will
continue to develop "long-range precision strike capabilities and
transformed manoeuvre and expeditionary forces". The U.S. strategy is "to
project military power over long distances" with forces "capable of
insertion far from traditional ports and air bases". U.S. forces need to be
able "to impose the will of the United States and its coalition partners on
any adversaries", including by "occupation of foreign territory until U.S.
strategic objectives are met". The U.S. "targeted killings" of six "Al Qaeda
suspects" in Yemen by an unmanned Central Intelligence Agency plane and a
new NATO rapid response force that would operate without the permission of
the host nation, are part of the same imperial strategy.

The junior partner's forces have also been quietly reconfigured from an
ostensibly defensive role to an overtly offensive one. With no major threats
to the homeland, Britain now has a "new focus on expeditionary warfare", an
all-party parliamentary Defence Committee comments approvingly. This
emphasis on power projection overseas was occurring well before September 11
and was already the major feature of the government's "strategic defence
review" (SDR), concluded in 1998. September 11 has made an overt focus on
military intervention overseas - a key feature of Blair's outlaw state -
easier to justify.

Indeed, Britain is ahead of the U.S. when it comes to acting
"pre-emptively". The SDR stated that "in the post-Cold War world, we must be
prepared to go to the crisis, rather than have the crisis come to us".
"Long-range air attack" will continue to be important "as an integral part
of war fighting and as a coercive instrument to support political

This "coercive instrument" is the modern version of imperial "gunboat
diplomacy", a polite way of saying that Britain will issue military threats
to countries failing to do what we (probably really meaning the U.S.) want.
Foreign Office Minister Denis MacShane similarly said in 2002 that "foreign
policy and military capability go hand in hand" so that it "reinforces what
our Ambassador says". The use of force to back up "what our Ambassador says"
is surely a strategy that Saddam Hussein (or Hitler) would well understand.
It would be interesting to see the reaction of planners and commentators if,
say, Iran were to announce that in future its foreign policy were to be
backed up by "military capability".

British aircraft carriers "can also offer a coercive presence which may
forestall the need for war fighting", according to the SDR. "All ten attack
submarines will . . . be equipped to fire Tomahawk land attack missiles to
increase their utility in force projection operations". Tomahawk cruise
missiles entered service in 1998, representing "a major step forward in
capability, enabling precision attacks to be undertaken at long range
against selected targets, with a minimal risk to our own forces", former
Defence Minister John Spellar explained.

The SDR goes on to outline the "new generation of military equipment" that
will be needed for this enhanced power projection, including attack
helicopters, long-range precision munitions, digitised command and control
systems, a new generation of aircraft carriers, submarines and escorts, the
Euro-fighter multi-role warplane and the development of a successor to the
Tornado bomber.

Note that this is all before September 11. By then, Blair's military
interventionism had already been quite extraordinary. Post-September 11, a
Foreign Office minister refers to "an effective doctrine of early warning
and where necessary early intervention". The parliamentary Committee notes
that "we must... be free to deploy significant forces overseas rapidly", and
calls for "pre-emptive military action". Similar to the U.S. view, almost
all areas of the world could be the focus of British intervention. The
committee states that:

"The implications of an open-ended war on terrorism - particularly one that
will address the problems of collapsing and failed states which create the
political space for terror and crime networks to operate - suggest that
operations in central Asia, East Africa, perhaps the Indian subcontinent and
elsewhere, will become necessary as part of an integrated political and
military strategy to address terrorism and the basis on which it

In similar vein, Blair's envoy Robert Cooper argues for "a new kind of
imperialism, one acceptable to a world of human rights and cosmopolitan
values" which "aims to bring order and organisation". It should be directed
principally at "failed states", countries where governments no longer have
the monopoly on the use of force, or where this risk is high. Examples
include Chechnya, other areas of the former Soviet Union, all of the world's
major drug-producing areas, "upcountry Burma", some parts of South America,
and all of Africa. "No area of the world is without its dangerous cases",
Cooper states.

There is also a key role for nuclear weapons. Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon
has stated that Britain should be prepared to use nuclear weapons even
against non-nuclear states, and if British forces were attacked with
chemical or biological weapons. Britain also continues to refuse to adopt a
"no first use" pledge on nuclear weapons, Labour quietly dropping this
previous manifesto commitment after the 1997 general elections.

The Blair government apparently sees nuclear forces as war fighting weapons,
not simply as a deterrent, as the myth has it. The Trident nuclear system
has a "sub-strategic" role, meaning it is intended for use on the
battlefield as well as to deter all-out nuclear war. Malcolm Rifkind,
Defence Secretary in the Margaret Thatcher government of the 1980s, asserted
that because the threat of an all-out nuclear assault might not be
"credible", it was important to "undertake a more limited nuclear strike" to
deliver "an unmistakeable message of our willingness to defend our vital
interests to the utmost".

The Blair government similarly says that "the credibility of deterrence...
depends on retaining the option for a limited nuclear strike". Geoff Hoon
said in March 2002 that "I am absolutely confident, in the right conditions,
we would be willing to use our nuclear weapons". He publicly repeated
Britain's willingness to use nuclear weapons three times in one month in
early 2002.

The British government even says in the SDR that nuclear weapons are to
deter "any threat to our vital interests". Such "vital interests" include
not only Britain's survival but its international trade and dependence on
"foreign countries for supplies of raw materials, including oil".

Britain keeps one nuclear submarine on patrol at all times, with 48 nuclear
warheads. This is called the "minimum necessary" to provide for Britain's
"security". It is an argument that anyone - perhaps Saddam Hussein - might
use to acquire nuclear weapons, in fact with a better reason, given a
greater likelihood of being attacked.

Britain has no intention whatsoever of abolishing its nuclear weapons, even
though nuclear weapons states are required to move towards disarmament under
the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. While paying lip service to this
treaty, Britain is actively defying it. In late 1998, a draft resolution was
under discussion at the U.N., called "Towards a nuclear weapons free world:
The need for a new agenda". The government said that "we oppose the current
draft of this resolution... since it is inconsistent with maintaining a
credible nuclear deterrent". Meanwhile, it says it wants Trident to remain
in service for 30 years, and that "we intend to... design and produce a
successor to Trident should this prove necessary". And it is also developing
a new generation of "mini-nukes" in a massive £2 billion project.

We live in dangerous times, and would be wise to see such dangers as
emanating from political elites on both sides, not just one, of the

by Vernon Loeb
Washington Post, 30th April

PRINCE SULTAN AIR BASE, Saudi Arabia, April 29 -- Having removed the
government of Saddam Hussein from Iraq, the U.S. military will end
operations in Saudi Arabia later this year, freeing the kingdom of a major
political problem caused by the visible presence of U.S. forces in the land
of Islam's two holiest shrines, defense officials announced today.

Shutting down U.S. flights from Prince Sultan air base and moving the U.S.
Combined Air Operations Center from here to nearby Qatar mark the beginning
of what Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has described as a major
realignment of U.S. military forces, not only in the Persian Gulf, but also
in Europe and the Far East. Meeting this morning with service members here
inside a giant aircraft hangar, Rumsfeld said he is attempting "to refashion
and rebalance those arrangements so that we're organized for the future."

Marine Gen. James L. Jones, NATO's top commander, is reviewing U.S. military
installations in Germany with an eye toward moving at least some of them to
new NATO members in Eastern Europe. "NATO is a different place now, and the
center of gravity has in fact shifted from where it was when it was a
relatively small organization of 15 countries to a much larger organization
of some 26 countries," Rumsfeld told the troops here. NATO has 19 members
and seven more countries have been invited to join.

The Pentagon is also considering reductions in the 38,000 military personnel
stationed in South Korea and moving those that remain away from the
Demilitarized Zone with North Korea. And in Central Asia, Rumsfeld and Gen.
Tommy R. Franks, head of the U.S. Central Command, must decide what to do
with bases in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan that were opened in 2001
and 2002 to support the war in Afghanistan.

But the Persian Gulf seems to be the most immediate candidate for change.

A month ago, at the height of the Iraq war, 10,000 U.S. military personnel
and 200 fighters, tankers and surveillance aircraft were based at Prince
Sultan, a sprawling, 250-square-mile compound in the flat Saudi desert 70
miles southeast of Riyadh, the capital. Even before the war, U.S. warplanes
flew from here to patrol the no-fly zone over southern Iraq. Since 1992, the
U.S. Air Force has flown 286,000 such sorties, straining budgets, aircraft
and personnel.

U.S. planes patrolling a second no-fly zone, over northern Iraq, were based
at Incirlik air base in Turkey. The Air Force also plans to withdraw most of
those planes, U.S. officials said, after basing them at Incirlik since 1991
to fly patrols designed to protect Iraq's Kurdish minority in a
17,000-square-mile autonomous zone in the northeastern corner of the

"Needless to say, the Saudis here have been enormously hospitable to us,"
Rumsfeld said today. "Now that the Iraqi regime has changed, we're able to
discontinue [patrolling the no fly zones] and those forces will be able to
be moved to other assignments and other requirements around the world."

The withdrawal began in earnest Monday when all functions at a high-tech
operations center here used to command the air war over Iraq were
transferred to a similar facility at Al Udeid air base in Qatar. All
aircraft and virtually all military personnel will be gone from this base by
the end of the summer, although infrastructure to reactivate the operations
center will be left in place, according to Rear Adm. Dave Nichols, the air
war's deputy commander.

In addition, two small training missions will remain in the kingdom.

Rumsfeld, on a tour of the Persian Gulf region, and Prince Sultan, Saudi
Arabia's defense minister, said the transfer of forces from Saudi Arabia was
mutually agreed on. The two countries will continue close military
relations, they stressed, particularly training and joint exercises.

Since the fall of Hussein has done away with the need for U.S. aircraft to
patrol the southern no-fly zone, Sultan said at a joint news conference with
Rumsfeld after talks at his palace in Riyadh, "there is obviously no need
for them to remain. This does not mean, having said that, that we requested
them to move from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."

Saudi Arabia's royal family, which regards custody of the shrines at Mecca
and Medina as a sacred mission, long has been uneasy at the visible U.S.
presence, which is resented by many Saudis and other Arabs as intrusion on
holy soil. The basing of U.S. troops here has been denounced repeatedly by
Osama bin Laden, a Saudi, who has demanded their withdrawal since the end of
the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

While Saudi Arabia balked at assuming the same high-profile role in the
latest Iraq war that it did in the 1991 Gulf War, the royal family quietly
agreed in February to virtually every U.S. request for military and
logistical support, including use of the operations center here and the
staging of Special Operations forces from bases in the country. Saudi Arabia
also boosted oil production before the war to help stabilize world oil

Despite this cooperation, the Saudis remained highly sensitive about the
presence of U.S. military forces in the kingdom, both before and during the
war in Iraq, which was unpopular among the Saudi people.

A senior defense official said the decision to leave Saudi Arabia was made
in part to help relieve internal political pressure on the royal family. But
the official stressed that neither U.S. nor Saudi defense officials have any
interest in terminating close military relations.

"The Saudis will be happy when we leave," the U.S. official said. "But
they're concerned that it not look as if it's precipitous, because it will
look like bin Laden won."

The Pentagon, for its part, will be freed from a burden associated with
patrolling the southern no-fly zone to protect Iraq's Shiite population and
prevent Hussein's government from threatening its southern neighbors.

During the Iraq war, air missions were flown from 38 bases, stretching from
Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean to Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri,
home of the B-2 stealth bombers, which flew half of their sorties over Iraq
directly from the United States. A dozen of those bases in the region were
quickly built specifically for the war. But a year or two from now, the
Pentagon expects to have far fewer bases in the region, depending upon the
requirements for supporting continuing military operations in Iraq and

For the foreseeable future, the U.S. military presence in the region will
remain high, with 135,000 military personnel now in Iraq. Some inside and
outside the Pentagon, including Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, the Army's chief of
staff, believe stability operations could require several hundred thousand
U.S. and allied forces for some time. But Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul D.
Wolfowitz, have said they believe the mission will require far fewer troops.

Rumsfeld said in an interview Monday on al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based
satellite television network, that he has no intention of establishing
permanent military bases inside Iraq. But the U.S. military is currently
using Baghdad's airport and five other military airfields to support
stability operations and deliver humanitarian supplies.

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