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News, 18-25/06/03 (3) IRAQI MILITARY RESISTANCE * [Two US soldiers attacked in Baghdad] from U.S. Captures Key Hussein Aide * Sniper adds to US toll in Iraq * Mortar Hits Coalition Office in Iraq * Soldier Killed in Iraq Ambulance Attack * Soldier killed and pipeline burns as tension runs high in country * Militant fires at U.S. convoy, reportedly hits Iraqi civilian bus * Car bombs explode in Baghdad * Six British soldiers killed in Iraq IRAQI POLITICAL RESISTANCE * Iraq democratizing Iran? * US Restrictions on Iraqi Media Spark Criticism * Weekly column on fatwas introduced by Baghdad newspaper * Iraqis protest in Al-Hillah * U.S. troops open fire as Iraqi military protests turn violent NEIGHBOURS * French raid throws exiled Iranian militants into spotlight * Turkey Shuts Iraq Crossing to Commercial Traffic * U.S. Using U.N. to Thwart Iran's Nuclear Program * Cheney highlights 'Middle East Partnership' IRAQI MILITARY RESISTANCE http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A10858 2003Jun18.html?nav=hptop_tb * [TWO US SOLDIERS ATTACKED IN BAGHDAD] FROM U.S. CAPTURES KEY HUSSEIN AIDE by Rajiv Chandrasekaran Washington Post, 19th June [.....] The latest act of violence that U.S. military officials attribute to Hussein loyalists was today's shooting of two soldiers outside the propane station. Details of the incident varied. A U.S. Army spokesman said one soldier was killed and another wounded when gunmen walked up to a squad of troops guarding the station. But an employee at the station, Salam Mohammed, said a lone gunman fired at the soldiers from a moving car. The name of the slain soldier was not immediately released. He was the second American killed this week in Baghdad. Since major combat was declared over by President Bush on May 1, 49 members of the U.S. military have died in attacks or accidents in Iraq. A few hours before the attack, military police shot dead two Iraqi demonstrators after a protest over the U.S. failure to pay military salaries erupted into a stone-throwing riot in front of the main gate to the grounds of the Republican Palace, where the occupation authority is based. About 2,000 former army officers and soldiers gathered there, some believing that the money would be paid today. They said they were angered by the authority's decision not to pay salaries to former soldiers or give them "emergency payments," as other government employees have received. Converging on razor-wire barricades under a blazing sun, they shouted and waved Arabic language banners that read, "We Demand Our Rights" and "Please Keep Your Promises." Although a U.S. officer greeted the demonstrators and listened to their grievances, they grew incensed after he told them they would not be paid. They began shouting and throwing stones at military police officers guarding the gate, leading the officers and other soldiers to put bayonets on the ends of their rifles and move toward the protesters in an attempt to disperse them. Accounts of what happened next varied widely. Some Iraqi witnesses and participants said the situation grew out of control when a U.S. Army interpreter loudly told the protesters to step aside to allow visitors from Kuwait to enter the coalition complex. Incensed that the Kuwaitis -- former enemies of Iraq -- were receiving deferential treatment, the protesters surrounded the Kuwaitis' car and shook it, then surrounded a military Humvee that was leaving the complex. "As the convoy came out, the demonstrators surrounded the car and began throwing stones and shaking it," said Pvt. Claudio Beas, 21, who was standing guard at the entrance. A soldier in the Humvee became angry "and started shooting," Beas said. "I guess he felt threatened." Maj. John Washburn of the 1st Armored Division, which is responsible for protecting the palace, told the Associated Press that a soldier in a convoy approaching the gate opened fire after the convoy came under a barrage of stones. But in a statement, the Army said U.S. forces opened fire in self-defense only after "one demonstrator pulled out a weapon and began shooting." Two Iraqis struck by bullets later died, and several others were wounded. U.S. officials said soldiers administered medical assistance. The organizer of the demonstration, Sabih Azzawi, said U.S. soldiers mishandled the confrontation. "The security situation in Iraq is bad," he said. "Military people have no money. They have nothing in their houses. For four months they've had no salary." A U.S. official said tonight that the decision not to pay salaries to former soldiers was "under review." Correspondent Daniel Williams, staff writer Sharon Waxman and special correspondent Khalid Saffar in Iraq and staff writer Bradley Graham in Washington contributed to this report. http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,979553,00.html * SNIPER ADDS TO US TOLL IN IRAQ by Rory McCarthy in Baghdad The Guardian, 18th June Scores of American troops mounted new searches through Baghdad yesterday after a sniper shot dead a US solider on patrol. The soldier, from the 1st Armoured Division, was shot in the back around midnight as he sat in a Humvee vehicle in north-west Baghdad. He died 40 minutes later. The gunman was not captured. Hours earlier, there were two blasts in the capital, a car bomb and a land mine. The attacks highlight the increasing sophistication of guerrilla fighters intent on confronting the US army, even in Baghdad. Nearly 50 US soldiers have been killed in shootings and accidents since the war ended in April. [.....] http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20030619/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ir aq_attack&cid=540&ncid=1480 * MORTAR HITS COALITION OFFICE IN IRAQ Yahoo, 19th June BAGHDAD, Iraq - A mortar shell hit a coalition office in the city of Samarra north of Baghdad, killing one Iraqi and injuring 12, a U.S. military statement said Thursday. The 82 mm mortar round crashed into the Civil Military Operations center, an office that coordinates military and civilian humanitarian aid, on Wednesday. U.S. soldiers said they contacted local police after hearing three explosions. Police arrived at the scene and found the dead and wounded, the statement said. "Soldiers were unable to respond or find the perpetrators," said the statement, from U.S. Central Command. "This is one of numerous incidents recently where Iraqi resistors have attacked coalition forces or Coalition Provisional Authority locations and injured or killed Iraqi citizens," it said. http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20030620/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ir aq&cid=540&ncid=1480 * SOLDIER KILLED IN IRAQ AMBULANCE ATTACK by Arthur Max Yahoo, 20th June BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP): A rocket-propelled grenade slammed into a U.S. military ambulance Thursday, killing one American soldier and wounding two others, the latest in a series of attacks on U.S. personnel or their offices. The ambulance was transporting a wounded American soldier to a medical facility when it came under fire on a highway about 20 miles south of Baghdad. The wounded soldier being transported was not the one killed, said Capt. John Morgan, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad. The casualties were members of the 804th Medical Brigade and their identities were being withheld pending notification of relatives. The wounded were taken to the 28th Combat Army Support Hospital in southwest Baghdad. It was not immediately clear if the ambulance was traveling as part of a convoy or if fire was returned. Three mortar shells exploded Tuesday outside a coalition-run humanitarian aid office in the town of Samarra, north of Baghdad, killing an Iraqi bystander and wounding 12 others, hospital officials and U.S. officers in the town said Thursday. No American forces were hurt. The military initially said the attack happened Wednesday. Attackers also fired a rocket-propelled grenade that struck a U.S. tank in Samarra, said Sgt. Steven Stoddard with the Army's 4th Infantry Division. Another tank fired back, killing one attacker, while the second was captured, Stoddard said. There were no American casualties. In west Baghdad, an Army truck was hit by what witnesses said was a rocket-propelled grenade. The torn-apart truck sat burning on the edge of the highway. Witnesses said there were casualties, but U.S. military police at the scene said the vehicle broke down earlier and was set on fire after being left alone while soldiers prepared to remove it. The mortar rounds in Samarra, 75 miles north of Baghdad, exploded outside the Civil Military Operations Center. U.S. soldiers heard three explosions and asked local police to investigate, said a U.S. Central Command statement. Samarra police found the injured and killed and that soldiers were unable to find the attackers, the statement said. The office coordinates between the military and civilian agencies in the area. Meanwhile, scores of angry mourners fired Kalashnikov assault rifles into the air and shouted curses at the United States during a procession Thursday for two Iraqis who were shot dead by U.S. troops at a protest by disgruntled former army officers. Shouting "Death to Bush!" and "Revenge!," mourners marched with the body of 32-year-old former Iraqi army officer Tareq Hussein Mohammed, killed by U.S. troops, from his house in northern Baghdad to a mosque. Mohammed was one of two men shot outside the gate of the coalition headquarters in Baghdad during a demonstration of ex-soldiers demanding their salaries. The men were shot after the protest turned violent, the U.S. military said. "Abu Soheib, come back to us," wailed his wife Soheir, using his nickname. "Now there is no salary, and no man." As neighbors saw the coffin arriving at his house from the morgue, they fired their weapons into the air for more than 15 minutes at a time in a deafening, frenzied display of defiance. U.S. troops have prohibited people from shooting their weapons in the streets. In Iraq, shooting into the air is also a sign of respect for the dead. "Iraqis are going to kill Americans. We are going to take revenge for Tareq's blood," said Salwa Mohammed, a relative of the slain man. Black-clad women at the house sat on the floor and wailed. As the U.S. military grappled with an increase in guerrilla attacks, the United Nations reported that an increase in power outages in the capital of Baghdad was caused by sabotage to Iraqi power lines. The United Nations also reported that humanitarian assistance vehicles were being fired upon, along with those of the American military. Meanwhile, the U.S. Army's Baghdad radio station began broadcasting appeals for Iraqis ‹ including ex-military personnel ‹ to join the civilian police force in Baghdad and Fallujah. Some say the upsurge in violence is at least partly due to the huge number of former soldiers and officers of the ousted regime who lost their jobs. Iraqi cities have been on edge since Sunday, when coalition forces began house-to-house searches in Baghdad for banned weapons and suspected activists trying to undermine the U.S.-led occupation. [.....] http://news.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=686492003 * SOLDIER KILLED AND PIPELINE BURNS AS TENSION RUNS HIGH IN COUNTRY The Scotsman, 23rd June A GRENADE attack killed a United States soldier in Iraq yesterday as a pipeline fire blazed following an overnight explosion described by an oil ministry official as sabotage. The US military said a second soldier was wounded in the attack on a military convoy at Khan Azad, 20km south of Baghdad. The first was dead on arrival at hospital. It was the latest in a spate of deadly assaults on US troops. Nineteen soldiers have been killed since the US president, George Bush, declared major combat in Iraq over on 1 May, nine of them this month. Two US soldiers were wounded on Saturday afternoon in the town of Hit (about 140km north-west of Baghdad) when their vehicle ran over a land-mine. About an hour before midnight, a US patrol reported a fire at an Iraqi fuel pipeline in the desert near Hit. "This incident is an act of sabotage. The pipeline was blown up deliberately," said one oil ministry official. He did not elaborate and asked not to be named. A Reuters correspondent at the scene said orange fireballs and thick, black smoke were billowing from the damaged pipeline more than 12 hours after the blast. He said no US troops or Iraqi officials were on the spot and no attempt was being made to extinguish the blaze. A US military spokesman said earlier that efforts were under way to put out the fire. He had no word on its cause. It was the second major fire to damage Iraqi pipelines this month. US officials blamed the first on gas leaking from the main export pipeline from the Kirkuk oilfields to Turkey. The oil pipeline at Hit, with a gas pipeline alongside it, was built in the 1980s to connect Iraq's southern and northern oilfields, enabling exports to flow smoothly. An oil ministry official said any disruption to the pipeline could hit Baghdad's main refinery, forcing it to rely on crude from the south, where oil facilities are in bad shape. The refinery at al-Doura serves a city whose five million people have barely had time to forget the misery of petrol queues that snaked through sweltering streets for weeks after US led forces toppled Saddam Hussein's regime on 9 April. Iraq, which exported around two million barrels per day before the US-led war, relaunched oil sales yesterday from eight million barrels stored in Turkey. A Turkish tanker loaded a million barrels of oil bound for Turkish refineries from the Mediterranean terminal of Ceyhan. De facto oil minister Thamir Ghadhban said on Saturday it would take 18 months to restore pre-war production capacity of three million barrels per day. Post-war looting and sabotage at oil facilities have delayed the resumption of Iraq's oil exports and will keep shipments well below pre-war levels for several months, officials have said. Iraqi oil pipelines and installations are spread over vast swathes of sparsely populated desert that is extremely hard to patrol. RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC * MILITANT FIRES AT U.S. CONVOY, REPORTEDLY HITS IRAQI CIVILIAN BUS RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT Vol. 6, No. 27, 21 June 2003 An unidentified assailant fired a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) at 4th Infantry Division soldiers on 15 June near the town of Al-Mushahidah, instead hitting a civilian bus that was passing the U.S. convoy, according to a 16 June press release on CENTCOM's website. Task Force Ironhorse units returned fire to protect the convoy and bus, it said. "Supporting units from Task Force Ironhorse responded to assist the people on the bus; however, the bus was moved while the soldiers were traveling to its location. The soldiers searched the ambush location but did not find the bus," CENTCOM reported. The number of casualties on the bus remained unknown, according to CENTCOM. U.S. forces also came under attack by Iraqi militants firing RPGs at a military convoy near Al-Dujayl, located some 60 kilometers northwest of Baghdad, CENTCOM noted in the same statement. (Kathleen Ridolfo) RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC * CAR BOMBS EXPLODE IN BAGHDAD RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT Vol. 6, No. 27, 21 June 2003 A civilian vehicle exploded in a neighborhood in northwest Baghdad on 16 June, killing one woman and a young girl, Reuters reported the same day. The cause of the explosion was not clear, but it reportedly occurred at an intersection where U.S. troops had dismantled a checkpoint just 30 minutes earlier. Another civilian vehicle was blown up in a tunnel in Baghdad on 16 June, the news agency reported. Early reports indicated that the likely cause of the latter blast was a land mine. Two Iraqis were wounded in that incident. (Kathleen Ridolfo) http://www.nzherald.co.nz/storydisplay.cfm?storyID=3509289&thesection=news&t hesubsection=world * SIX BRITISH SOLDIERS KILLED IN IRAQ by Kim Sengupta Sydney Morning Herald, from The Independent, 25th June Six British soldiers were killed and eight injured in two ferocious ambushes in Iraq today in the biggest losses suffered by coalition forces since the end of the war. Up to 80 Iraqis are also believed to have been killed in the prolonged and fierce firefight. The dead soldiers were members of the Royal Military Police. They were massacred inside a village police station where they had gone for a prearranged meeting. Their bodies were found by local people who alerted the British military. Four and half hours earlier, in a second attack at the same village - Al Majar alkabir- a patrol of around 20 members of the 1st Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, came under withering fire, injuring one soldier and destroying two Pinzgauer troop carriers. An RAF Chinook helicopter, carrying a Quick Reaction Force team, summoned for help also came under sustained attack injuring seven on board, three of them seriously. The attacks, near al-Amarah north of Basra, were the first serious confrontation in the shia south, controlled by the British, and Iraqis, in marked difference to the Sunni north and central areas of the country where the American occupying forces have faced constant attacks. The attacks showed careful planning and coordination. The RMPs, who were working with the 16 Air Assault Brigade based in Basra, had been training local Iraqi polic. Their appointment at the station was obviously known to the attackers, according to defence sources. They were said to be lightly armed and wearing berets rather than helmets when the attack took place. The paratroopers, based at Connaught Barracks in Dover, were on patrol in an area which was part of their regular route when their troop carriers were believed to have been hit by rocket propelled grenades and raked by semi-automatic rifles. The injured were taken to 202 Field Hospital near Basra and two have since been transferred to a US field hospital in Kuwait for " special treatment of a very serious nature". The deaths bring the number of British forces killed since the start of the conflict to 43, and the most lost in combat during one incident. British Prime Minister Tony Blair met Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State for Defence, Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary and Baroness Amos, the Secretary of State for International Development. Afterwards Mr Hoon appeared at the Commons to give details of the casualties to sombre MPs. He said : The two vehicles in which they (the paratroopers) were travelling were attacked with rocket-propelled grenades, heavy machine guns and rifle fire from a large number of Iraqi gunmen. British troops returned fire and called for assistance. A quick reaction force including Scimitar vehicles, additional troops and a Chinook CH-47 helicopter was despatched to provide assistance. They also came under fire. "A total of eight British personnel sustained injuries - one on the ground and seven in the helicopter." "Coalition forces have worked hard to secure Iraq in theaftermath of decisive combat operations. They will not be deflected from their efforts by the enemies of peace." Donald Rumsfeld, the US Secretary of State for Defence, said "Just as they were unable to stop the coalition advance in Baghdad, the death squads will not stop our commitment to create stability and security in postwar Iraq." Mr Rumsfeld claimed the violence was a result of "the global war on terror," and a reminder of the Bush administration's pre-war assertions that Saddam Hussein's regime was tied to al-Qaeda. "Every day in Iraq and Afghanistan, throughout the world, brave men and women risk their lives to defend us all from terror," Mr Rumsfeld said. Tony Blair's official spokesman said " The Prime Minister was informed of this during lunchtime today and heard the news with great sadness and it goes without saying that he believes those who died have died with honour doing a very worthwhile job, serving their country with great distinction." The town of al-Amarah lies near the Iranian border, north of Basra. It was the base of Ali Hassan al-Majid, also known as 'Chemical Ali', a senior member of Saddam Hussein's regime, who had earned his nickname for carrying out chemical attacks on Shia and Kurdish rebels. The US and British governments had claimed that General al-Majid was killed in a missile attack during the war. However, the Pentagon has subsequently acknowledged that he may have survived and could be leading forces loyal to former President Saddam. IRAQI POLITICAL RESISTANCE http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/EF20Ak01.html * IRAQ DEMOCRATIZING IRAN? by Pepe Escobar Asia Times, 19th June Real indigenous democracy does not seem to fit American plans for post-war Iraq - at least for now. Paul Bremer, the American proconsul, has said on the record that elections in Iraq are "premature" - that's how he justified his personal ban, last Saturday, on the election for governor of the holy city of Najaf, which was supposed to take place this coming Saturday and for which local political parties had been preparing for over a month. Bremer invoked technicalities, saying "there's no electoral law", "no ballot boxes" and "no procedure" in place. Bremer, a Pentagon favorite, former Henry Kissinger collaborator and specialist in counter terrorism, has no Middle East - or democratic - experience. The delayed election episode may have brought down his credibility among Iraqis - and especially Shi'ites. Before that, in the new, free Iraqi debating climate, people already knew how Bremer had blamed Libya, Syria and especially Iran as the main backers of terrorism. Such has the situation become in Iraq that China, of all regimes, has called for "free and transparent elections" under the supervision of the United Nations, as well as the formation of a "largely representative" government. Meanwhile, former Iranian president Ali Rafsanjani - the real strongman behind Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - took his cue and predicted that the American forces will eventually have to leave the Middle East whether they like it or not. Among all the misunderstandings, the Shi'ites' overall strategy in Iraq seems to be the one that is really sound. Instead of just playing the demographic card - they comprise more than 60 percent of the population - a substantial part of the Shi'ite leadership is trying to accommodate the Americans. That's the case of crucial characters like Ayatollah Bakr al Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Assembly for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SAIRI), who returned to Iraq after 23 years of exile in Iran. Even while he relishes ironic commentaries on American "democrats" who "refuse the Iraqis to elect their own representatives", he wants no confrontation. In the face of calls in some quarters for various forms of jihad against the Americans, Hakim's reaction was extremely measured, considering Bremer's delaying of the election in Najaf, as Hakim's candidate had a very good chance of winning. The crucial game is being played in Najaf, the holy city of 200,000 where Imam Ali is buried, the cousin of Holy Prophet Mohammed and icon of Shi'ism, assassinated in 661 in Kufa, near Najaf. Najaf is struggling to become the capital of all 120 million Shi'ites in the world, a de facto Shi'ite Vatican. Najaf is already a crucial seat of power in the new Iraq, and its expression par excellence is the powerful al-Hawza, an institution that is a mix of religious authority, political consciousness, guardian of the faith and laboratory of Islamic identity. No wonder that at the entrance of Najaf the banners read "We are all the soldiers of al Hawza". Al-Hawza, created in the year 992 to replace the 12th imam, is the institution that forms the members of the clergy, and also where fatwas - religious decrees - are issued. When Asia Times Online was received in April by Sheikh Adnan Shahmani, the spokesman for Sayyed Al-Sadr (son of the famous imam al-Sadr, assassinated in Najaf in 1999), he was very clear: "Al-Hawza is the word of Allah. To obey al-Hawza is to obey Allah." Al-Hawza dictates the religious rules to obey and the right path to follow. It comprises around 150 schools, universities and seminaries, nowadays with more than 5,000 students. The doctors of the faith at al-Hawza have a reputation of tolerance - and many religious leaders have made clear that they don't want an Islamic Republic in Iraq based on the Iranian model. But one crucial issue will have to be solved one way or another: the opposition between the proponents of a "general vilaya" - the clerics interfering in public matters - and "particular vilaya" - clerics outside of political life. The Grand Ayatollah Sistani - a moderate, and a Najaf icon - has already pronounced himself in favor of a separation between religion and politics. There are no Desert Scorpion-style operations in Shi'ite country. Najaf and the whole Shi'ite south has met the American invasion and occupation with no resistance. Unlike the Sunni triangle around and north of Baghdad, there have been no attacks against the Americans. The extremely influential Shi'ite religious leaders congregated at al-Hawza have not adhered to the calls towards a guerrilla war against the invaders. On Friday prayers, there are no anti-American slogans. Compare this with Baghdad and surrounding areas where US and Iraqi soldiers as well as civilians continue to come under deadly attack, all of which serve to steel the resolve of the Sunni Iraqi resistance against what is widely perceived as an insensitive and heavy-handed American approach. This Tuesday, the "Iraqi Resistance Brigades", an unknown group, has even claimed the authorship of "all combat operations" against the Americans - at the same time dismissing that they are working in tandem with Saddam Hussein: as Asia Times Online reported on May 28 (The Saddam intifada), Saddam has set the official beginning of an anti-American intifada for July 27. In a communique broadcast by Qatar television station al-Jazeera, the Brigades qualify Saddam and his followers as "enemies who have contributed to the loss of the motherland". The Brigades refuse to be regarded as Islamist extremists, and describe themselves as "a group of young Iraqis and Arabs who believe in the unity, freedom and Arabness of Iraq". Shi'ites of the SAIRI mould would be as proud as these Sunnis of their Arabness, but they prefer a more subtle strategy. It's true Americans have recovered by force some of the buildings the SAIRI has occupied when they came back from exile in Iran. And the SAIRI's military wing, the Badr Brigades, has been officially dissolved. But Shi'ite religious leaders are concerned with a much more important matter. They are very much aware that the absolute majority of Iraqis - Shi'ites included - want peace and an opening towards the rest of the world. Whatever violence has occurred has been directed against former Ba'ath Party members and collaborators, and not against the "occuberators" - as Iranians have been referring to the Americans. Virtually all the main Shi'ite religious leaders have prohibited violence as everyone waits for the constitution of a legitimate Iraqi government. Shi'ites are fierce partisans of democracy and the principle of "one person, one vote". And as well as the Kurds, they also want federalism: this, by the way, is the official position of the SAIRI. Whatever American schemes are concocted to minimize Shi'ite participation in a future Iraqi government, they know that ultimately Shi'ites have the demographic majority in their favor. And on top of it there is the deliberate effort not to jeopardize the departure of the Americans - which they believe could happen in a year or two - by any kind of armed offensive. There are of course Shi'ites who want no compromise with the Americans. And the Americans worry about them - but mainly because of disinformation (as Americans still believe that the SAIRI is an agent from Tehran). The SAIRI is only one of six Islamic parties that last Sunday created a "coordination committee" in Najaf, beside five other "secular" Shi'ite parties (there are no Sunnis in Najaf). It's interesting to note that the SAIRI encouraged "peaceful demonstrations" against the cancellation of the Najaf election, unlike the traditional Da'awa Islamic Party, which used to be considered "terrorist" and now is conducting many talks with the Americans. Essentially, the American "occuberators" should know that Shi'ites are traditionally attached to free intellectual debate - so there's no black or-white or "you're with us or against us" here. A few parties may not be on face value as opposed to the Americans as they let it be known, while others may profit to become more radicalized. As for an Iranian point of view, there are fears that the center of gravity for 120 million Shi'ites may be displaced from the holy city of Qom, in Iran - where Ayatollah Khomeini started his campaign to depose the Shah - to the birthplace of Shi'ism in Najaf, Iraq. This is one of the key questions in the complex Iran-Iraq equation: how Iraqi Shi'ism threatens Iranian Shi'ism. The religious flowering in Iraq is already undeniable - but there are many indications it may not follow the Iranian political path. The consequences for Iran may be devastating, because the legitimacy of the theocracy of the mullahs (or "mullarchy") is increasingly defied not only by reformist intellectuals and students but even by some religious clerics and former 1979 revolutionaries. Amir Mohebian, a pro-mullarchy intellectual, pro-Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and journalist at Resalat, an Iranian daily aligned to the interests of right wing bazaaris (traders and merchants), says that "Iran would be happy that an Islamic republic is given birth in Iraq, but it is not willing to impose it. If Iraqis decide to opt for a non-religious political system, this is no problem for us." Compare this to reformist Hamid Jalaeipur, professor of political science at the University of Tehran: "All Iraqi Shi'ites don't want such a system. The role of secular Shi'ites as well as Iraqi clerics - opposed to a political role of the clergy - will have to be examined closely, because it is very probable that we will soon see the emergence in Baghdad of a secular regime." In Najaf, SAIRI cadres are actually hoping that the Iranian Islamic Republic will not influence Iraq; they'd rather see the new Iraqi experiment being able to democratize Iran. Meanwhile in Qom, the Grand Ayatollah Saanei, who talked to Asia Times Online last year, has told French daily Le Monde that "it is out of the question to transfer our system to Iraq. The United States should not interfere politically in Iraq, and this also applies to ourselves." Saanei remarked that all great "sources of imitation" - or marja'a, the highest echelon of the Shi'ite clergy - who have lived in Qom, all of them came from Najaf. For him, Najaf and Qom complement each other. Will Iran and Iraq complement each other? The answer may hinge on the impact of the more than 3,000 Iraqi Shi'ite religious leaders who came back home from exile in Iran. If a separation between religion and politics successfully takes place in Iraq, the road is paved for a secular Shi'ite-dominated Iraqi regime being able to give the Iranian theocracy a democracy lesson. If the Americans allow it, of course. NO URL * US RESTRICTIONS ON IRAQI MEDIA SPARK CRITICISM by Ellen Barry Boston Globe, 19th June (?) NAJAF, Iraq -- Coalition soldiers raided the distribution center for Sadda-al-Auma newspaper last week, seizing extra copies of its second edition and detaining and interrogating its employees, said staff at the newspaper. Nevertheless, Sadda-al-Auma, or The Echo of the Nation, was back on the newsstands with a third edition on Tuesday, selling its pungent brand of postwar analysis: Its front page invited the people of Najaf to join the Ramadi resistance movement; warned that Zionist groups were commandeering some of Baghdad's best real estate; and damned unveiled women for their ''stinking, Western ideas,'' asking, ''Is this liberty, to walk around naked?'' Last week the US-led coalition authority brought a strong hand down on the hurly-burly collection of new voices that have cluttered Iraqi newsstands, virtually absent of any advertising, since Saddam Hussein fell. The new law bans incitement of violence against American troops or against any religious, ethnic, or gender group, and prohibits any publication that promotes a return of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party. US officials insist the law applies only to material that undermines civil order that is necessary for a free and democratic Iraq and that it is meant to prevent violence. ''It's not designed to be restrictive,'' said Charles Heatly, a coalition spokesman. ''We welcome the emergence of a free press, and we have no intention of stifling free speech.'' The act, which carries fines and prison sentences, has spawned resentment among members of the new media class, who argue that newspapers restrained from criticizing the American forces hardly constitute a free press. ''Would you agree to be constrained by a decision of President Bush?'' asked Mohammed Abdul Hadi, whose organization, the Supreme Council to Liberate Iraq, helps publish and distribute Sadda-al-Auma. ''Why do you apply these constraints on Iraq when they are not applied on Americans?'' Not everyone in Najaf complained about the new regulations, though. In Al Nawras Publication House, whose stock has skyrocketed from four newspapers to 140, Adnan al-Sudani said the press freedom has gone too far already, allowing unqualified people to disseminate misinformation. Although his sales have gone up 70 percent, Sudani said the content has begun to worry him. ''Iraq has reached the limits of democracy in journalism,'' he said. The Iraqi reader ''is like a thirsty man in the desert. When he gets water, he starts drinking and drinking and never fills his thirst.'' Until two months ago, Iraqi readers had two print news sources to choose between: Al Thaura, or The Revolution, and Al Jamorriya, which translates as The Republic. Both featured Hussein on the front page every day, and they, like television news, fell under the tyrannical watch of Uday, the president's oldest son. All that control broke suddenly in April, when Hussein's government collapsed under the US-led invasion. In Baghdad, the new regulations infuriated some editors. ''Freedom of expression . . . includes the freedom of a citizen or a journalist to criticize the presence of foreign forces on its land,'' said Shehab al-Tamimi, an official in the Iraqi Journalists' Syndicate. ''It is the right of the Iraqi people to express everything they believe.'' On the front page of yesterday's edition of As'saah, or The Hour, a masthead editorial explained that two articles had been spiked before deadline out of concern about punishment by the Americans. The editorial, headlined ''[Ambassador L. Paul] Bremer is a Ba'athist,'' read, in part: ''Only four months ago, the easiest accusation to make against us was that we were agents for America. Today, with the same ease, they put sacks on our heads and accuse us of being agents for Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath Party.'' The editorial continued: ''There is nothing worse than Saddam Hussein except what we are suffering now, and I hope I will not be surprised tomorrow morning by your soldiers surrounding my building.'' Bremer is the top American administrator in Iraq. The case of Sadda-al-Auma was already well known in Najaf, where the banned edition sold like hotcakes after the American raid. The newspaper is published by the Supreme Council to Liberate Iraq, a political organization which Hadi said developed in the marshes of southern Iraq during the uprising against Saddam Hussein in 1991. Ali Chiad, a 32-year-old guard at the building, said he had been detained, bound, and held for four days while American interrogators asked his superiors questions about the newspaper. He said bags were put over the captives' heads and that troops seized the excess copies of Sadda-al-Auma. Hadi expects the paper to keep publishing unless coalition forces ban the newspaper. At his newsstand where newspapers sell for pennies, Sudani said he doubted that the American penalties were compelling enough to stop the profusion of new messages. ''Already we have an undertaker and an estate broker and a marsh-man publishing newspapers. We are waiting for the butcher to take part,'' said Sudani. ''The butcher and the cab driver.'' RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC * WEEKLY COLUMN ON FATWAS INTRODUCED BY BAGHDAD NEWSPAPER RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT Vol. 6, No. 27, 21 June 2003 The Baghdad-based newspaper "Sawt al-Tali'ah" has introduced a weekly column on the religious rulings (fatwas) of Ayatollah Al-Sayyid Muhammad Taqi al-Mudarrisi. The column will also publish fatwas issued by other "high religious authorities." The 15 June issue carried the rulings of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Asked if it is permissible to punish those former regime members that played a role in the killing of Iraqis, he said: "Punishment is the right of the family of the victim after the crime has been proven in a Shari'a court. It is impermissible for others to mete out a punishment. Moreover, there must not be any punishment before a Shari'a judge has announced the sentence." Al-Sistani added that action may not be taken against former regime members or suspected collaborators until the cases have been ruled on in Shari'a courts. Asked about reports of Shi'ites expelling Sunni clerics from their mosques, he said: "This is completely rejected and must be stopped. The imam must be protected and returned to his mosque in a dignified and honorable manner." As for mixing politics and religion, al-Sistani said: "It is not right to involve men of religion in administrative and executive affairs. Their role must be confined to that of guidance and supervision of the committees formed to run the affairs of the town and insure security and public services for the people." Asked whether it is permissible for Iraqis to purchase weapons for self-defense, he ruled: "Weapons stolen from prisons and other centers remain the property of the state. It is impermissible to deal with them. They must be collected and kept under the supervision of a committee formed by the people of the area so that they will then be returned to the competent authorities." He added that only official security personnel have the right to carry arms. (Kathleen Ridolfo) RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC * IRAQIS PROTEST IN AL-HILLAH RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT Vol. 6, No. 27, 21 June 2003 Iraqi civil servants in the Babil Governorate reportedly protested on 16 June against a U.S. demand that they sign a form stating they will obey U.S. troops or face dismissal, Al Jazeera reported the same day. Hundreds of citizens took to the streets in a peaceful demonstration to protest the U.S. demand, the broadcaster reported. The report has not been independently confirmed. (Kathleen Ridolfo) RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC * U.S. TROOPS OPEN FIRE AS IRAQI MILITARY PROTESTS TURN VIOLENT RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT Vol. 6, No. 27, 21 June 2003 U.S. forces opened fire on former Iraqi soldiers after their protest turned violent outside U.S. headquarters in Baghdad on 18 June, Reuters reported. The former Iraqi soldiers have regularly gathered to protest their dismissal by U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer and to demand three months of back pay (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 6 June and 30 May 2003). U.S. Army Captain Scott Nauman told CNN that violence erupted when protesters attacked a U.S. convoy outside the compound, smashing windows and shaking the vehicle. U.S. troops outside the compound reportedly fired two warning shots into the air before a soldier from within the convoy fired directly into the crowd of protesters. Two Iraqis were subsequently reported to have been killed. U.S. forces reportedly provided medical attention to the injured Iraqis inside the U.S. compound. Meanwhile, Reuters reported that protesters threw rocks at two Iraqi cameramen working for that news agency outside the U.S. compound during the demonstration. UN and television-crew vehicles passing by the demonstration were also attacked. The administration in southern Iraq is being run along very different lines, however. Dismissed Iraqi soldiers living in the British-administered areas of southern Iraq continue to receive paychecks despite a U.S. decision to dissolve the Iraqi Army, the London "Daily Telegraph" website reported on 18 June (http://www.telegraph.co.uk). The payments are part of Britain's "hearts and minds" campaign, aimed at forging good relations with Iraqis rather than stirring up resentment, according to the report. Brigadier Adrian Bradshaw, commander of the 7th Armored Brigade, told the daily that approximately 8,000 of the 10,000 demobilized soldiers in the Al-Basrah Governorate are being paid as "civil servants." Bradshaw said the soldiers are no different from the estimated 70,000 other civil servants currently on the payroll who receive checks but do not report to work. The payments, according to the "Telegraph," amount to a form of unemployment benefits. "At least they have something to tide them over until the employment situation improves," Bradshaw said. In the meantime, the British are actively recruiting former soldiers as security guards for food-storage facilities, and as many as 2,000 might be recruited to serve in the soon-to-be-launched "Basrah River Service" -- policing waterways in search of smugglers. (Kathleen Ridolfo) NEIGHBOURS http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav061803.shtml * FRENCH RAID THROWS EXILED IRANIAN MILITANTS INTO SPOTLIGHT by Ardeshir Moaveni Eurasianet, 18th June On June 17, when French police arrested 165 reported members of exiled Iranian military group Mujaheddin e-Khalq (MEK), including the wife of its charismatic leader, they further convoluted the group's role in regional politics. Some in US President George W. Bush's administration hope to groom the Iraq-based group as a proxy force against the hard-line Iranian government. Others, citing the group's long alliance with Saddam Hussein, mistrust the group as much as the French do. In the roughly two months since the United States signed a ceasefire with the group, divisions within the Bush administration over its usefulness have clarified. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archives]. The State Department, which has officially labeled MEK a terrorist organization, has argued that MEK's reputation and tactics run counter to Bush's desired outcomes in Iran and could subvert deals proposed to the Iranian government in January. But many Bush advisors apparently want to use MEK as a pressure point on the regime. Recent street protests are embattling Iran's ruling clerics, while tensions regarding Iran's purported nuclear arms program figure to make American policy more confrontational. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archives]. Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters on June 17 that the United States would support "peaceful demonstrations" by "the young people of Iran." Meanwhile, many MEK fighters are reportedly interned in Iraq's Camp Ashraf, near Khales, under protection of Americans and their allies, with heavy equipment stored near Fallujah. These fighters could tip Iran's political balance. Formed by Muslim children of clergymen and bazaar merchants in the 1960's, MEK increasingly adopted an ideology mixing radical Islam and Maoism and modeled its activities after the urban guerilla organizations of Latin America. According to Iran-Interlink, a London-based group seeking aid for disaffected former MEK members, the group made its first terror attack in 1971, killing six American civil and military advisors. In the ensuing crackdown, the Shah's secret police caught most members and imposed death sentences on almost the entire central committee. Massoud Rajavi survived the 1979 revolution and rebuilt MEK as a magnet for radical young Muslims. As the new religious government turned more repressive, MEK became a principal platform for protest. In June 1981, Rajavi decreed a nationwide uprising and assassination campaign, which failed. Many observers call the uprising the moment when undemocratic elements conquered Iran's state machinery. In 1986, Rajavi moved his decimated organization to Iraq, which was fighting a bloody war with Iran. The MEK survived by targeting Iranian leaders for assassination, sharing intelligence with Saddam Hussein's regime, and preparing its 6,000-member army for a return to Iran. This turbulent history makes the MEK potentially explosive in regional affairs. Already, reformists in Iran's government have signaled strong distaste for MEK. Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi reportedly said in April that a rumored deal promising American support for the group would "increase our pessimism and qualm towards America." A few weeks later, the Bush administration reportedly decided to press for MEK's surrender, in light of a reported deal offered in January by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. The deal would have made MEK a focus of American antiterrorist efforts in exchange for Iran's blessing of the Iraq invasion. It never happened. Most Iranians despise Rajavi for siding with Saddam Hussein during his nine-year war with Iran. The European Union has also labeled the group a terrorist organization. To Bush administration hawks who see little reason to support President Mohammed Khatami, though, the MEK might look like a potent tool against Iran's fundamentalist rulers. The group has formidable fighting and intelligence-gathering credentials proven in Saddam Hussein's service during the first Gulf War. According to a spokesman from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Iraq used the MEK to brutally suppress uprisings in Iraq's semiautonomous Kurdish north. "These people took their orders from the Mukhabarat [Saddam's feared secret police]," the spokesman told EurasiaNet. "They committed major crimes against our people. They are not welcome in our country." Beyond its links to Iraq and reported use of terrorist tactics, the MEK may be too unorthodox for the Bush administration to support. A Wall Street Journal reporter who visited MEK bases in 1994 wrote of forced indoctrination, children being held "hostage" from their parents, beatings and total isolation from the outside world. Ervand Abrahamian, professor of history at Baruch College and author of six books on Iran's fundamentalists and mujaheddin, compares the MEK with personality cults like the Moonies. The MEK "combines the excesses of religious cults with those of personality cults," Abrahamian told EurasiaNet. "It would be enough for Rajavi to say that he had an epiphany in which it was revealed to him that the earth was flat or the tenets of Islam were in desperate need of change for his followers to believe him." One former MEK member, who requested anonymity, has written a 1000-page monograph explaining that MEK members decreed Rajavi's wife Maryam "President-Elect of Iran" because only she could presumably interpret Rajavi's divinely-inspired words correctly. Yet MEK has charmed major politicians in Western countries to a remarkable degree, sometimes powering campaign contributions. In April, US Representative Ileana Ros Lehtinen (R-Florida), who chairs the Central Asia and Middle East Subcommittee of the House of Representatives' Foreign Relations Committee, insisted that the group was "assisting us in the war on terrorism" to the Hill, a Capitol Hill newsletter. She also reportedly showed a letter of support for the group signed by 150 colleagues. This attitude may wane, though. Representative Bob Ney (R-Ohio), a strident Iraq hawk, recently attacked MEK in a letter to the same newsletter. Rajavi may be attempting to seize the chance to posit his group as an American ally. Iran Interlink publicized a June 12 message from Rajavi that he reportedly couched in pro democratic language. "We ask most respectfully of whoever wants to support the Iranian people, their demonstrations, their demands and the struggle of the students, to look again at Iran's recent history and the historical place of Rajavi and his cult in the past twenty years," the report on this message read. Rajavi and two other unidentified leaders are reportedly currently being debriefed by an American-led coalition team somewhere in Iraq. Iran-Interlink head Anne Singleton says there are 300 MEK fighters in Western cities, trying to burnish the group's image. If France sees dangerous signs within its borders, the brewing confrontation between Iran and the United States could touch off broader dangers. http://www.tehrantimes.com/Description.asp?Da=6/19/03&Cat=2&Num=031 * TURKEY SHUTS IRAQ CROSSING TO COMMERCIAL TRAFFIC Tehran Times, 19th June DIYARBAKIR, Turkey - Turkey closed its main border crossing with northern Iraq to commercial traffic on Wednesday, but officials gave no clear reason for the move. The Habur border crossing was shut to all vehicles except those on official United Nations business or those supplying U.S. forces based in northern Iraq, officials said, adding they were acting on an order issued from Ankara late on Tuesday. Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Huseyin Dirioz confirmed the closure, which he said had been sparked by disruptions on the Iraqi side of the border, controlled by a Kurdish group. Dirioz said there had been an unspecified incident on the Iraqi side which had caused a blockage in both directions, but that talks were in progress to open the border. "This blockage will be overcome," he said. Local traders in Turkey's southeast expressed puzzlement and frustration at the move, which they said could stifle trade with northern Iraq, which recently restarted following a shut-down in the wake of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. "The border is closed. If it stays that way then we could have even worse times than in the Gulf crisis," said Adnan Elci, chairman of the chamber of industry in the border town of Cizre. Around 700 cars and trucks make the crossing between southeast Turkey and Kurdish controlled northern Iraq every day. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A21327 2003Jun22.html?nav=hptoc_w * U.S. USING U.N. TO THWART IRAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAM by Michael Dobbs Washington Post, 23rd June Confronted with a set of unattractive choices for dealing with an escalating nuclear threat from Iran, the Bush administration has adopted a policy of working through the United Nations and other international institutions to mobilize world opinion against the Islamic government in Tehran. After disparaging the performance of the United Nations and its nuclear watchdog in dealing with Iraq, administration officials have gone out of their way to praise the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran. A senior State Department official described a report drawn up by the U.N. agency's experts on Iranian nuclear capabilities as "factual" and "devastating," adding that the Iranians have a "lot of explaining to do." U.S. officials and independent experts have long suspected Iran of conducting a largely clandestine program to produce the fissile material for a nuclear weapon through both plutonium separation and uranium enrichment. But public evidence of the scale and sophistication of the Iranian effort has emerged only over the last few weeks as the result of on-the-ground investigations by U.N. experts and Iranian government responses to allegations by exile groups. The report submitted to the IAEA listed numerous anomalies in Iranian reporting of the handling of nuclear materials, including a 1991 shipment of natural uranium from China. More important, it demonstrated that Iran is developing a domestic capability for all stages of the nuclear fuel cycle, from the mining of uranium to the production of highly enriched uranium through centrifuge technology. Exactly when Iran will be able to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon is hotly debated both inside and outside the U.S. government. Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told the Russian newspaper Izvestia that Iran would possess a nuclear bomb "by the end of 2005 or early in 2006," a prediction described as a worst-case scenario by independent experts. U.S. officials are more cautious than the Israelis, saying that the Iranians must resolve a number of complex technical problems before they can build a nuclear weapon. A senior State Department official said the "conservative" estimate of U.S. intelligence agencies is that Iran could have nuclear weapons "toward the end" of the decade. Other officials argue that the Iranians will need significant foreign assistance to meet that target. The Iranian nuclear program began in 1957 under the shah, with significant assistance from the United States, at a time when relations between Washington and Tehran were close. The program was interrupted by the 1979 Islamic revolution, but resumed in the 1990s, with assistance from countries such as Russia, which agreed in 1995 to complete a 1,000 megawatt light water reactor at the Persian Gulf port of Bushehr for the production of electricity. Iranian officials have long said that the nuclear program is for civilian purposes only and that Iran would abide by the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which it ratified in 1970. U.S. officials question why an oil-rich country would want to invest so much in nuclear power. They point out that Iran burns off considerably more energy in natural gas than it is ever likely to produce at Bushehr. Under the terms of Iran's agreement with Russia, Moscow will supply the fuel for the Bushehr reactor, beginning around 2005, and retrieve the spent fuel rods. U.S. experts worry, however, that Iran could break out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, renounce its international obligations and hang on to the fuel rods. Under that scenario, it could use the fuel rods to separate enough plutonium for more than 50 nuclear weapons. A more likely route to an Iranian nuclear weapon, according to many experts, is uranium enrichment. In March, Iranian officials took IAEA experts to visit a centrifuge facility at Natanz, 200 miles south of Tehran, whose existence was first disclosed by an Iranian exile group, the Mujaheddin-e Khalq. The Iranians say that the centrifuges are designed to produce fuel for the Bushehr reactor, but Western experts fear that it could also produce enough highly enriched uranium for two or three nuclear bombs. According to independent experts, the Bush administration's focus on multilateral diplomacy as the preferred method for dealing with Iran reflects the paucity of other options. Administration officials have rejected the idea of negotiating limits to the Iranian nuclear program as part of a grand diplomatic bargain with the country's Islamic government, along the lines of the 1994 agreed framework with North Korea. The fallback option is preemption along the lines of Israel's 1981 attack on an Iraqi nuclear plant at Osirak. But the political, diplomatic and military obstacles to such an approach are much more formidable than those faced by the Israelis two decades ago, according to U.S. officials and independent experts, and there is no guarantee of success. "By disseminating their nuclear program, the Iranians are making it bomb-proof," said David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington based think tank that tracks proliferation issues. "You would need extremely precise and good intelligence to make sure you got everything. The risk is that you would drive them out of the international structures that they are just beginning to engage in." In addition to the Bushehr light water reactor and the uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, preemptive strikes would likely be designed to hit critical bottlenecks in the Iranian nuclear program. These include a uranium hexafluoride plant under construction in Isfahan, in central Iran, where natural uranium is transformed into gas suitable for use in centrifuges. The problem, according to Albright and other experts, is that the Iranians have begun to disperse their nuclear facilities and protect them in underground sites. Last month, the Mujaheddin-e Khalq identified two other pilot gas centrifuge facilities that it said could be used to duplicate some of the operations of the Natanz plant, at Ramandeh and Lashkar Abad. The political difficulties associated with preemption are even greater, according to U.S. officials and independent experts. Popular support in Iran, and among exiled Iranians, for a nuclear program extends far beyond the country's ruling Islamic elite. Many Iranians who are opposed to the government believe that Iran has the right to pursue nuclear weapons in order to balance the military power of three other regional nuclear states -- Russia, Pakistan and Israel. "It is very important for the U.S. not to poison the reservoir of goodwill that exists toward America among the Iranian population," said Michael Eisenstadt, an Iranian expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "This is likely to be the key to a successful political transition in Iran." Some experts argue that successive U.S. administrations have paid little attention to the question of Iranian motivations in pursuing nuclear weapons, which are closely tied to Iran's vision of itself as a major Middle East power, and the perceived threat from Israel. Israel has refused to hold negotiations on nuclear issues in the absence of a permanent Middle East peace settlement. "The [U.S.] obsession has become the Iranian nuclear program and how to get it closed down," said Richard Murphy, a former assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, now with the Council on Foreign Relations. "I would like to think we could eventually find a way to pick up the Iranian and Syrian proposals for a weapons of mass destruction free zone in the Middle East. Instead, the talk is all 'Syria, shut down your chemical weapons program,' 'Iran, shut down your nuclear program.' " U.S. officials say it is premature to put Israeli nuclear weapons on the bargaining table as long as Israel is surrounded by hostile Arab states. Meanwhile, they have claimed some success in persuading Russian President Vladimir Putin to insist on more intrusive international inspections of Iran. "The Russians have moved a long way to recognizing our concerns," a senior administration official said last week. Russian officials, however, have sent conflicting signals about whether they will insist that Iran sign an additional protocol, strengthening its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a condition for completing work on Bushehr. http://www.jordantimes.com/Tue/economy/economy2.htm * CHENEY HIGHLIGHTS 'MIDDLE EAST PARTNERSHIP' by Mustafa Alrawi Jordan Times, 24th June DEAD SEA ‹ The economic aspects of the US "wider initiative" for the Middle East continued to dominate attention at the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Extraordinary Annual meeting. Senior administration members, from Alan Larson to Robert Zoellick have been working hard to explain the potential benefits of the plan. Liz Cheney, a deputy assistant secretary in the US State Department's near east bureau, became on Monday the latest ambassador for the initiative. During a press conference, the daughter of US Vice-President Dick Cheney, discussed the "Middle East Partnership (MEP)." Under the MEP, $100 million has been committed this year to funding smaller programmes and pilot projects in the Arab world, ranging from improving literacy to raising democratic awareness. More investment is in place for the next 10 years. The MEP has been formulated to help facilitate the implementation of a Middle East Free Trade Area (MEFTA). "For too long the US has talked about these things in regards to other parts of the globe apart from the Middle East," Cheney confirmed. Yet Cheney admitted that despite enthusiasm from many of the region's governments, the US is yet to win widespread approval from the Arab public. "Americans have to prove themselves, at the same time we don't always get a fair hearing from the media in the region," she said. Cheney called for the media to be fairer when discussing and debating US efforts in the Middle East. But Cheney is confident that the MEP as well as the overall economic aspects of the initiative will be successful. Input was taken from US investors and institutions regarding what obstacles stood in the way of putting their capital in the Middle East, and this plan has been designed to clear the path for more foreign direct investment to find its way here. The MEP has set up its headquarters in the region to make sure the project runs smoothly. Cheney confirmed that Iraq would not fall under this project's mandate. Neither Libya nor Syria are entitled to share in this funding. Cheney also indicated that projects in Lebanon would be funded under a current USAID agreement. Iran will be entitled to participate in the MEP and Cheney hopes to involve Syrians in another capacity. However, Cheney warned that embarking on free trade with the United States was a big commitment on the part of all countries involved. These agreements are much different from the agreements the Europeans have established across the region. In ours everything goes to zero "all across the economy...tariff and non tariff barriers,"she added. _______________________________________________ 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 firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk