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[casi] News, 25/6-2/7/03 (2)

News, 25/6-2/7/03 (2)


*  Last stand at Majar al-Kabir
*  Six British troops killed in separate attacks
*  Marsh Arabs threaten to resist 'army of occupation'
*  Iraqis step up attacks against US-led forces     
*  Hell starts now
*  U.S. soldier killed in Iraq attack
*  Thousands flee sulphur clouds
*  U.S. Troops Prodding New Iraqi Police
*  Iraqi official says Baghdad fires "acts of sabotage"
*  Two missing US soldiers found dead in Iraq
*   U.S. Forces Grab 180 in Latest Iraq Raids
*  30 looters are killed
*  Blast sets U.S. vehicle on fire in Baghdad
*  Two US army vehicles hit by RPGs south of Baghdad, RPG hits troop base
*  Chief of Saddam's tribe gunned down in Tikrit


*  Iraq donors' conference planned
*  UN appeals to donor countries to make up shortfall
*  Indian troop deployment in Iraq: Need for caution


*  US troops wound Syrians in border clash
*  Islamist, Marxist ... terrorist


by David Blair
Daily Telegraph, 26th June


No British troops patrolled the town yesterday. In Iraq's second city of
Basra, 100 miles to the south, soldiers had abandoned their berets, the
symbol of a relaxed approach to patrolling, and donned helmets instead.

The assault on the police station was launched after a sweep through Majar
al-Kabir by soldiers from the 1st Battalion the Parachute Regiment.

The town's inhabitants, who express no sorrow about the murders, are
infuriated by the Paras' behaviour. They accuse them of breaking an
agreement to end house-to-house searches and deliberately humiliating them.

The chain of events leading to the murderous attack can be traced to Monday,
when British officers met Iraqi community leaders in the town.

The British wanted to clear the town of weapons. Many homes are miniature
arsenals and coalition forces have accepted that depriving families of their
AK-47 assault rifles, which are kept in almost every house, is an impossible

Instead, the Paras wanted the people to surrender their rocket-propelled
grenade launchers, anti-aircraft guns, mortars and other heavy weapons.

Talal Abid Ahmed Zubeidi, a tribal leader, said that people were willing to
co-operate and a pact was signed. Weapons would be handed over to a security
committee in return for a guarantee that troops would stay out of Majar
al-Kabir and that no homes would be searched.

A copy of the agreement, signed illegibly by a British officer, reads:
"There is no necessity that the coalition and its different people be there
[in the town]."

But at about 7.30am on Tuesday, less than 24 hours later, a patrol of Paras
entered Majar al-Kabir. Iraqis offer wildly varying accounts of what
followed. The only common thread is that the soldiers are said to have shown
intolerable aggression.

Mr Zubeidi, 31, said he accosted a soldier who was threatening a child with
a gun. "I put my hand on his shoulder and he threatened me. I just gave him
a sign not to shoot me."

Mohammed Karrar, 25, claimed to have seen a soldier shoot a boy with a
rubber bullet. He also said that a tribal leader who remonstrated with a
para was punched in the face.

Mr Zubeidi accused the troops of violating the traditional sanctity of the
Arab home by searching houses in breach of the agreement. Worse, the
soldiers were seeing wives and daughters unveiled, breaking the taboo of
this deeply traditional Shi'ite area.

"We asked [the Paras] to go but they did not listen," Mr Zubeidi said.

The Paras then started to come under fire. Mr Zubeidi said that thousands of
people came out of their homes, many of them armed with AK-47s. Children
joined the general fury and hurled stones at the troops.

The Paras retreated and shot back at the mob, wounding several people. One
para was injured.

A Chinook helicopter was called in to evacuate the patrol and was engulfed
in a storm of fire, some from rocket-propelled grenades. Six men aboard were

By about 11am the Paras managed to extricate themselves. But they seem to
have forgotten about the six soldiers from the Royal Military Police, who
must have heard the shooting as turmoil gripped the town.

The policemen had been visiting the police station every day to train Iraqi
officers. They were popular with the local police and commanded by a man
known universally as "Sgt Tim", although the only sergeant in the team was
Simon Hamilton-Jewell, 41.

On Monday "Sgt Tim" had faced a crowd of hundreds who were demonstrating
against house-to-house searches. With the Paras gone and the people's fury
unabated, the military policemen were obvious targets.

Shortly after the Paras left, thousands of people gathered around the shabby
building, roaring their anger.

Abbas Baiphy, 25, was one of about 15 Iraqi policemen in the station with
the Britons. He said the crowd was armed with AK-47s and heavy machineguns.
The noise it made was so deafening that no individual cry or chant could be

Fearing that they would be killed as "collaborators" with the British, Mr
Baiphy and the other Iraqi police fled.

"I said to Sgt Tim: 'Please come with us. You will be safe with us.' I
begged him."

The British insisted on staying, perhaps believing that their chances of
survival were greatest under cover of the police station.

But they were already cut off from help. Ringleaders in the mob had stolen
their Land Rover containing their radios. The vehicle was driven about half
a mile to a bridge, where it was looted, burned and tipped into the river.

Sgt Tim's last words to Mr Baiphy have a vivid ring of desperation. "He
asked me for a radio to talk to his superiors," Mr Baiphy said. "He said:
'Our radio has been burned in the Land Rover.' "

But the Iraqis had no functioning radio to offer and jumped out of a rear
window and escaped by scrambling over a wall. The Britons were left to face
the chanting mob alone, armed only with their SA 80 rifles.

Outnumbered by perhaps 1,000 to one, they mounted a desperate last stand in
the baking heat.

Shattered windows, rooms pockmarked with bullet holes and the pulverised
brickwork of the wall surrounding the police station show how fiercely they

According to several Iraqi accounts, two of the Britons took cover behind
sandbags on the roof of the building. Others manned firing positions in the
front rooms. Besides the four Iraqis killed, about 16 were wounded.

Dr Hassan Jabar, from the town's hospital, named the dead as Ghazi Moussa
Hassan, 50, an ambulance driver, and Tayseer Abd-ul Wahid, Abbas Qassem and
Hazim Sabhan, all in their twenties.

Stains, chips and scars covering the police station, all overlaid by an
overpowering smell of burning, tell the story of the Britons' last moments.

Bloodstains on the floor show that one soldier was killed or wounded in the
corridor then dragged 10 yards towards the entrance of the building. Every
fragment of glass has been blown out of the barred window of one front room.

Ten heavy calibre bullet holes scar the wall, perhaps showing where another
military policeman died.

On the other side of a small courtyard, two small rooms have been gutted.
More than 24 hours after the fire started, blasts of heat were still
overpowering and acrid smoke curled from the doorway to the rooms. This
might have been where the last Britons were smoked out of their hiding

The violence has not had a sobering effect on the town. People are braced
for British retaliation and give warning of more bloodshed.

"The same thing will happen again," said Mohammed Hassan, 24, a nurse at the
hospital. "We are Muslims. We do not accept any foreigner in our land except
as a guest."


RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT, Vol. 6, No. 28, 27 June 2003

British troops on duty in southern Iraq were attacked in two separate
incidents on 24 June, leaving six soldiers dead and eight wounded, British
Defense Minister Geoff Hoon announced in a statement to Parliament the same
day that was subsequently posted on the Defense Ministry website

The first incident occurred when two vehicles on a routine patrol in the
Shi'ite town of Al Majar al-Kabir, located some 25 kilometers south of
Al-Amarah and 290 kilometers southeast of Baghdad, were attacked with
rocket-propelled grenades, heavy machine guns, and rifle fire "from a large
number of Iraqi gunmen." A Chinook CH-47 helicopter that was dispatched to
provide backup also came under fire. One soldier on the ground and seven on
board the helicopter sustained serious injuries.

A second incident reportedly occurred a few hours later at the local police
station in the same town, in which six Royal Military Police officers were
killed, Hoon stated.

According to a 25 June report by Reuters, the six Royal Military Police
officers were killed by residents of Al-Majar al-Kabir following a
demonstration by "thousands" of Iraqis protesting house-to-house weapons
searches by British troops, aided by dogs. Muslims consider dogs unclean,
and residents considered the entry of dogs into their homes extremely
offensive. "These British soldiers came with their dogs and pointed weapons
at women and children. As Muslims, we can't accept dogs at our homes," Rabee
al-Malki is quoted as saying. Residents said the searches began on 21 June.
Local residents protested and British troops agreed to halt the searches
after locals promised to hand over their weapons within two months,
unidentified residents said. But the U.K. police officers returned two days
later. Local resident Faleh Saleem told the news agency that during one
search, "a British soldier held the underwear of a woman and stretched it.
How can we accept this as Muslims and as Shi'ites?" he asked.

Meanwhile, AP reported on 25 June that British troops shot and killed four
Iraqi civilians at the Al-Majar al-Kabir demonstration, leading townspeople
to chase down the police officers and kill them. Two U.K. soldiers were
killed at the scene of the demonstration, while the other four were chased
to a police station and killed after a two-hour gun battle, local policeman
Abbas Faddhel told AP. Some two dozen Iraqi policemen holed up inside the
police station fled through a window during the gun battle, according to
Faddhel. The British troops refused to flee with their counterparts.

Local vendor Abu Zahraa said the British had formally agreed just one day
earlier to let Iraqi police patrol the city. British military spokesman
Captain Adam Marchant-Wincott conceded that it was possible that British
forces had made such an agreement. "It's normally very quiet down here,"
British Army Lieutenant Colonel Ronnie McCourt told reporters in Al-Basrah,
adding, "We've been here nearly two months now and this is the first time
people have been deliberately, consciously shooting at us." One day later,
McCourt told reporters: "This attack was unprovoked. It was murder," Reuters
reported on 25 June.

British troops have been recognized for their nonconventional approach
towards administering southern Iraq. Soon after major hostilities ceased,
U.K. soldiers took to the streets of southern Iraq, dropping their helmets
and flak jackets, as part of a campaign to win the hearts and minds of
Iraqis through their nonconfrontational stance. The tactic appeared to
contribute to the relative calm in southern Iraq, as U.S. forces manning the
north faced increasing hostility. The U.S. military reported on 24 June that
25 attacks against coalition forces had occurred in the previous 24 hours.
(Kathleen Ridolfo)

by Patrick Cockburn in Majar al-Kabir
The Independent, 27th June

On the edge of the Iraqi marshlands, guerrillas who fought Saddam Hussein's
regime for years say they fear that Britain and the United States want to
take away their weapons so that they can occupy Iraq for many years.

Al Sayyid Kadum al-Hashimi is a leader in the town of Majar al-Kabir, south
of Amara, where six British soldiers were killed on Tuesday. He said
yesterday: "It is the belief of people here, and it is believed by all other
Iraqis, that the British want to disarm us so they can stay for a long

Guerrillas who resisted the Iraqi army for almost two decades, hiding out in
the great reed beds of the Iraqi marshes, which Saddam tried to dry up by
cutting drainage canals, say they are also prepared to fight against a
permanent occupation by the US and Britain.

Abu Hatem Qarim Mahoud, famed in Iraq as a guerrilla leader and known as the
"lord of the marshes", told The Independent yesterday that he hoped an
agreement could be reached with the Allies about weapons. Intrusive searches
by British troops had led to Tuesday's deadly four-hour gun battle, he said.

But Abu Hatem warned that Iraqis must not be excluded from power and "any
programme for reconstruction without an interim Iraqi government will fail".

If there is further fighting around Amara, which is controlled by Abu Hatem,
it will be embarrassing for the Allies because the Iraqi guerrillas, given
their resistance record, cannot be portrayed as remnants of Saddam's regime.
"Ours is the only city which liberated itself through its own efforts," said
Ali al-Atiyah, one of Abu Hatem's aides.

Some of the guerrillas are more forthright than their leader about how they
see the future. "We will put an end to this occupation with our weapons,"
said Maythem al-Mohammed Dawi, a lean-faced man with a submachine-gun who
had been fighting in the marshes since 1998. "If we give up our arms how can
we fight them?"

He said that Abu Hatem's men had always been pursued by the Iraqi army. They
hid in reed shelters, always short of drinkable water and ammunition. As
Saddam drained the marshes, destroying a culture that had existed for
thousands of years, the guerrillas dug bunkers in the sides of dried up
water courses.

Abu Hatem, a tall, impassive-looking 45-year-old dressed in a brown
camel-hair cloak and a white headdress, is modest about his own power. Asked
if he had an army of 8,000 men, he pointed to the table in front of him and
said: "I just have this book and this pen."

After serving in the Iraqi army as a non-commissioned officer he was jailed
in 1980 for seven years and on his release started his guerrilla
organisation called Hizbollah (which is unrelated to the Lebanese "Party of

He captured Amara on 7 April - two days before the fall of Baghdad - but
then received a call on his satellite phone from a CIA agent in Kuwait whom
he called Dawud. He said: "When we were speaking, he gave me the order to
leave the city within one hour."

Abu Hatem then called Kanan Makiya, an Iraqi writer, living in Washington
who has many contacts within the US administration, asking him to use his
influence to try to get the order reversed. By the time this happened, Amara
had been thoroughly looted.

Firmly under Abu Hatem's control, life in the city is much more normal than
elsewhere in Iraq, with no curfew - people and cars are allowed on the
streets at night.

When the British soldiers were killed in Majar al-Kabir on Tuesday, Abu
Hatem was in Baghdad seeing Paul Bremer, the head of the US administration
in Iraq. He believed that the friction over searches between British troops
and local people had been resolved by an agreement the day before the

According to other sources, Abu Hatem rushed back to Majar al-Kabir where
local leaders told him they feared the confiscation of weapons meant that
the US and Britain would occupy Iraq for a long time. He told them that they
should wait to see if the Americans and British made good on their promise
of democracy. But he added that if there was a prolonged occupation, he
would fight it and he asked them if they would support him. They said they

The atmosphere in Majar al-Kabir was tense yesterday. A crowd had gathered
outside the police station where the four British soldiers died. A guard,
provided by Abu Hatem's organisation, said: "It looks dangerous. Let's get
out of here. We can't control the situation because our people are angry."

At the local council office, Mr Hashimi, speaking for the other leaders,
said they were returning a burnt-out British vehicle and had been asked to
hand over the suspected killers. But he added: "We don't know who they are
because so many people were shooting."

Jordan Times, 27th June
BAGHDAD (AP) ‹ American troops in Baghdad on Thursday searched for two
missing US soldiers and their Humvee on a day of deadly back-to-back attacks
on US forces in Iraq.

Officials continued to play down the violence, saying there's no nationally
coordinated insurgency. But shattered glass, bloodstains and mangled
vehicles may speak to a different reality.

US military officials said two US soldiers and their Humvee had gone missing
in Baghdad. American forces searched the city for hours to find them.

Also Thursday, one special operations soldier was killed and eight others
were injured in a hostile fire incident in southwest Baghdad, said a US
Central Command statement, offering no further details.

Between Wednesday and Thursday, assailants blew up a US military vehicle
with a roadside bomb, dropped grenades from an overpass, destroyed a
civilian SUV travelling with US troops, blew up an oil pipeline and fired an
apparent rocket-propelled grenade at a US Army truck.

Two American soldiers and two Iraqi civilians were killed and at least six
US soldiers were wounded, in addition to the two who went missing.

Reports of attacks on US troops appeared almost hourly ‹ too frequent for
military press officers to keep up with.

Most of the information came from witnesses at the attack scenes.

Even before the latest violence began, US intelligence officers had warned
ground commanders to expect an increase in attacks against US forces between
June 25 and July 10.

It was not clear what intelligence the warning was based on.

The attacks have now spread to Shiite areas south of Baghdad that had been
largely free of the violence plaguing the Sunni areas north and west of the
capital ‹ where Saddam Hussein had enjoyed a degree of support.

On Tuesday, gunmen furious over the killing of five civilians during a
demonstration, allegedly at the hand of British troops, shot dead six UK
troops in the southern town of Majar Al Kabir.

A day later, an ambush wounded three Marines in Hilla, 70 kilometres south
of Baghdad.

A Marine was killed and two were injured when their vehicle ‹ part of a
quick reaction force dispatched in response to the Hilla ambush ‹ rolled
over on the soft shoulder on the way to the scene.

The surge in ambushes came despite assurances that the troops are mopping up
resistance. A US military official said the intensifying attacks on US and
British troops could be a response to almost two weeks of raids targeting
loyalists of Saddam's Baath Party.

Arab Satellite station Al Jazeera aired statements Thursday from two groups
urging attacks on US-led forces in Iraq, with one claiming responsibility
for recent attacks and the other pressing for "revenge" against America.

The first statement ‹ from a previously unknown group calling itself
Mujahedeen of the Victorious Sect ‹ warned Iraqis away from "places where
the American forces are deployed" and promised more "painful attacks against
the occupation forces in the near future."

The station aired a second statement from another unknown group calling
itself the Popular Resistance for the Liberation of Iraq. It called on
intellectuals, explosive experts, liberation movements and "all those who
wish to take revenge on America" to come to Iraq.

Al Jazeera's correspondent in Baghdad, Wadah Khanfar, said the groups are
believed to be armed organisations but noted that the station could not
verify the statements.

A US military spokesman, Maj. William Thurmond, played down recent days'
attacks as a "spike" and not a trend.

Thurmond said the spate of ambushes could be a response to recent US raids
on Baath Party strongholds.

"There have been more attacks recently but it's probably premature to say
this is part of a pattern," Thurmond said. "We've kicked open the nests of
some of these bad guys."

Another military spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, reiterated
earlier US statements that the attacks were "militarily insignificant" and
followed "no regional or national coordination."

An Iraqi police official, Brig. Ahmed Khazem, called the ambushes "isolated
actions ... carried out by individual mercenaries."

Yet the upsurge in violence is causing concern that the US-led occupation of
Iraq is turning into a guerrilla war.

The most recent attacks include:

‹ a bomb that exploded Thursday by a US military vehicle on the road leading
to Baghdad's airport, killing one US soldier and injuring another, according
to US soldiers at the scene.

‹ a grenade attack on a US-led convoy in Baghdad that killed two Iraqi
employees of the national electricity authority. US troops evacuated the two
bodies from the badly damaged vehicle, which was covered with blood and
broken glass.

‹ the destruction of a US Army truck on a highway 30 kilometres south of
Baghdad Thursday afternoon.

Witnesses at the scene said it exploded in a fireball as if it had been hit
by a rocket propelled grenade. There were no immediate reports of

‹ the dropping of grenades Wednesday from a Baghdad overpass onto a passing
convoy of Army Humvees, said Marine Corps Maj. Sean Gibson. There were no
serious injuries.

‹ an explosion at an oil pipeline near Ishaqi, 70 kilometres northwest of
Baghdad, according to Al Jazeera, which showed footage of flames shooting
into the sky.

Responding to the violence, US forces pressed ahead with aggressive patrols
throughout Iraq, conducting 1,185 day patrols and 975 night patrols, a US
military statement said. They also conducted 199 day patrols and 122 night
patrols jointly with Iraqi police, the statement said.

US soldiers in Khaldiyah, 60 kilometres west of Baghdad, raided three homes
and arrested four suspects after an informant provided them the names of six
men allegedly involved in ambushes against US forces.

Backed up by Bradley fighting vehicles, a platoon of about 35 soldiers from
A Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division
rushed towards the homes.

An old women in one of the houses shouted "Dogs! Dogs!" at the troops.

by Pepe Escobar
Asia Times, 27th June

Winning the war was easy. Winning the peace will be a nightmare. The war on
Iraq was "officially" over on May 1. But almost two months later, British
Premier Tony Blair has been forced to admit that the security situation in
Iraq is "serious". He missed the point though: there's no "security" (for
Westerners) because of the widespread hostility of the Iraqi population
towards the Anglo-American occupiers. And for most Iraqis, the occupiers are

According to news reports, popular anger in Majar al-Kabir, in Shi'ite
southern Iraq, was responsible for the death of six British military
policemen on Tuesday (four Iraqis were killed and 17 wounded). The locals
were reacting against British methods employed in the search for weapons -
invading homes with dogs, disrespecting women and pointing guns towards

The British still don't get the point. Minister of Defense Geoff Hoon
stressed that his priority was "the security of British forces" - so more
reinforcements ultimately will be sent to Iraq. But since the "official" end
of the war, security for Westerners has only been translated into insecurity
for the locals. An expert from the Royal United Forces Institute [sic - PB],
quoted by Agence France Presse, admitted that the "honeymoon" between the
British and the Shi'ite population in the south was over: among other
reasons because their aspirations have not been met and there has been no
improvement in their lives.

The Americans - with 19 soldiers killed in armed attacks since May 1 - are
facing daily acts of sabotage: on Wednesday, a pipeline 250 kilometers
northwest of Baghdad was hit by an explosion, the fifth in two weeks. Paul
Bremer, the American proconsul in Baghdad, said on Wednesday that areas of
the city had been plunged into darkness since Monday because of "a sabotage
act perpetrated by elements from the Ba'ath Party".

It's never enough to stress that the Iraqi resistance simply does not
distinguish between Americans and British: the British at best have been
regarded as lackeys of the American occupiers. As the Americans became
entrenched in a bunker mentality and adopted tougher tactics in the face of
attacks on their troops, the "softer" British were bound to become a target
of Iraqi anger.

Former Iraqi army officers - who are trying to play a clever balancing act,
since their leadership was bought out by American cash and green cards
before the fall of Baghdad - say that the resistance will go on as long as
important members of the former regime are still on the loose. This would
mean that Saddam Hussein and his sons (who were not killed in a raid on a
convoy near the Syrian border last week), and "Chemical Ali" (who survived
an April bombing in Basra) must be found. General Ali Hassan al-Majeed, a
cousin of Saddam and former commander of Iraqi forces in southern Iraq, is
widely known as "Chemical Ali" for ordering Iraqi forces to use chemical
weapons on Kurds in northern Iraq in 1988.

The former Iraqi officers also confirm the widespread influence of fliers
bearing the signature of the Iraqi Liberation Army, the Army of Mohammed,
according to which Saddam is still alive and he will be back. Virtually all
Arab media agree that Saddam's recently-broadcast letters are authentic.
He's been issuing repeated calls for unity and resistance, minimizing any
splits between Sunnis and Shi'ites and between his partisans and opponents.
In one of his letters, Saddam asks Iraqis to "use mosques, marriages and
burials as occasions to oppose the American occupation".

The Americans simply don't have enough surveillance teams to monitor the
whole desert boogie of the resistance. And even if they did, guns will be
pointed at them. Iraqis remain armed to the teeth - justifying it because of
the climate of insecurity. According to the official American military
count, only 123 pistols, 76 semi-automatic rifles, 435 automatic rifles, 46
machine guns, 11 surface-to-air missiles and 381 grenades have been
collected in an appeal for the citizens of the country to hand over their
weapons. Compare with the fact that 6 million weapons were distributed by
the Ba'ath Party among the population before the war, and a made-in-Romania
Kalashnikov can be bought on the Baghdad black market, any time, anywhere,
for less than US$20.

Iraq is a perfect replay of Afghanistan. In both cases there was no mass
capitulation, but a sort of strategic retreat. The Taliban did not
surrender: they retreated from Kandahar with most of their weapons intact.
Saddam's Ba'athist regime also did not surrender: it retreated from Baghdad
with many of its best weapons intact.

To understand what is happening in Iraq, it is instructive to listen to
Mohammed Hasan, an Afro-Arab specialist on the Middle East based in Belgium.
Hasan correctly assesses that today "there are two governments in Iraq. One
of them controls the country by day, by the occupation and the military and
psychological terror it seeks to impose. But it does not know what is really
happening. This occupation government does not really have a police. It
tried to build it, based on the previous one, but in vain: the police is
infiltrated by elements from the Ba'ath Party, loyal to Saddam Hussein - the
communal base of the administration has disappeared. And this government
also has no Iraqi army, which has disappeared. The Iraqi army was composed
by officers recruited among the brightest students in Iraqi universities.
But they are not collaborating with the reconstruction of the army."

So as in many a rap song, the "man" (the American forces) may control the
day, but "we" (the Iraqi people) control the night. The Saudi-owned al-Quds
al-Arabi daily has reported how the Americans spend their days cleaning
anti-occupation graffiti and being forced to destroy Saddam portraits over
and over.

For the past two months there have been many indications that the Ba'ath
Party leadership did indeed opt for a strategic retreat when Baghdad "fell"
(or was handed over by army commanders: see The Baghdad deal of April 25),
and is now fully reorganizing its structure. Observers of Iraqi society are
adamant: there's no way the Americans will achieve any progress by outlawing
the Ba'ath Party, which is part of the fabric of society. Hasan adds that
"even the closest Iraqi allies to the US, like [Ahmed] Chalabi [leader of
the Iraqi National Congress], are denouncing the Americans as following a
purely colonial policy. Probably these Washington valets understand better
than anyone that a new tactical approach is necessary. But the Americans are
blinded by their chauvinism. Their military have even violated and killed
Iraqi women."

Asia Times Online has reported on how the Iraqi national resistance is
diversified - but with a single objective: the end of the occupation.
Anything else is secondary. The insistent absence of weapons of mass
destruction - the "bureaucratic" (copyright Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul
Wolfowitz) reason for the invasion - has led to the Bush administration
being questioned from Europe to the Middle East, while the American
corporate media so far have not demonstrated much interest in investigating
what has already been dubbed "weaponsgate". Hasan, like most Arab
commentators, sustains that the US has already lost the peace in Iraq. "They
tried to incite tensions between Shi'tes and Sunnis to provoke a civil war,
and this has failed. Iraqi national sentiment has prevailed." Hasan also
mentions the crucial class division of the US Army: for officers in the
air-conditioned comfort of the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, everything may be
under control. But for the young and poor sons of the working class hailing
from Kansas, Texas or North Carolina, frying their brains under 45 degrees
in the shade and harassed by angry and determined Iraqis, this is hell: "In
South Vietnam, the Americans had a supporter army of 1 million Vietnamese, a
network of Vietnamese agents and policemen and a certain social base,
limited but existant. In Iraq, there is no such base."

For many Americans it may be hard to understand that for the average Iraqi
the key preoccupation now is daily survival. Most of the population regards
the fall of Saddam's regime from the point of view of material difficulties
and insecurity. It's impossible to require from this population to be
convinced of a noble and principled American intervention when they see
absolutely no tangible benefits. The general sentiment is that the Americans
are doing nothing - except obsessing about their own security. So American
inertia, in the popular mind, inevitably is coming to be associated with
Saddam's regime: both were and are illegitimate, living in a bunker,
exclusively dedicated to their own selfish interests and when faced with
dissidence, react with brute force.

Iraqis nowadays are nearly unanimous. For them, the Bush administration
wants to perpetuate the military occupation by maintaining chaos,
exacerbating violence and instrumentalizing divisions among Iraqis. The
facts seem to confirm their interpretation. Less than two months after the
"official" end of the war, at least one American achievement is undeniable:
for much of the "liberated" Iraqi population, George W Bush is viewed in as
bad a light as Saddam Hussein.

Reuters, 28th June

BAGHDAD: One U.S. Army soldier has been killed and four others wounded in an
attack in the north of Baghdad, military officials say.

An Army interpreter was also wounded in the latest of a series of
guerrilla-style attacks against the occupying forces, a spokeswoman reported
on Saturday.

The soldiers were from a regiment of the First Armoured Division in the Sadr
City district of Baghdad, she said.

One military officer said the incident on Friday night was a grenade attack
but no official confirmation was available.

Another U.S. soldier was shot in the head and critically wounded while
shopping in a Baghdad store for digital video disks on Friday.

The latest death brings to 22 the number of U.S. military personnel killed
by hostile fire in Iraq since President George W. Bush declared major combat
over on May 1.


>From correspondents in Arbil, Iraq
The Australian, 28th June

ARBIL: RESIDENTS of the Iraqi Kurdish village of Mahmur, 50km southwest of
this Kurdish regional capital, fled their homes today following an explosion
of a stock of sulphur attributed to sabotage.

"Gas clouds hanging over Mahmur have prompted around 4,000 residents to flee
the village to Arbil since Thursday," Ghafur Mahmuri, a Kurdish official
from Mahmur, said.

The gas polluting the village came from "a large quantity of sulphur on fire
in nearby Hammam al-Alil", 20km south of the main northern Iraqi city of
Mosul, Mahmuri said.

"It was an act of sabotage. Unknown elements on Wednesday fired
rocket-propelled grenades at a stock of sulphur that had been unguarded"
since the US-led war that toppled Saddam Hussein in April, setting it on
fire, he said.

A cab driver who came to Arbil said the village was "very polluted" and he
had suffered respiratory problems there.

Residents of the village, which is home to 20,000 people, blamed loyalists
of Saddam's deposed Baath regime for the alleged sabotage.

by Borzou Daragahi
Yahoo, 28th June

KHALIS, Iraq (AP): Police were just doing their jobs when they arrested four
men for shooting at a vegetable store owner in this dusty town near the
Iranian border. But for the men of Charlie Company, the arrests were

"For once, the local police began acting like cops," said Army Capt. John
Wrann, who commands the platoons and tanks stationed at the former offices
of Saddam Hussein's deposed Baath Party in this town of 60,000.

Wrann's troops ‹ Charlie Company, 588th Engineer Battalion of the Fourth
Infantry Division ‹ are working with police in Khalis to try to restore
order, but they must work around deep ethnic traditions as well as

Many police in the new Iraqi force took jobs for the steady salary, and
getting them to clamp down has not been easy, Wrann said. In a heavily
tribal society, the new police officers were apparently worried that if they
shot a suspect, the man's family would seek retribution.

"For the last seven weeks, anytime there was any crime we had to go with
them," Wrann said. "They kept wanting us to go on simple calls."

A few days ago, after the Iraqi cops refused to search cars at a checkpoint
aggressively, Sgt. Greg Rockhill, using colorful vocabulary, questioned the
police officers' courage. He brought in the best translator he could find to
make sure they understood.

On Friday, when the four men rolled into town and began shooting at the
vegetable store owner, the police acted, wounding one of them in the knee
and capturing all of them.

"That's the end game," said Wrann. "If these guys start maintaining their
own security, I can go home."

The job has been especially difficult because Wrann's men have been trying
to do what even Saddam's dictatorship couldn't: control an area that is
extremely volatile, both ethnically and religiously. It is home to
anti-Saddam militiamen backed by Iran, pro-Saddam warriors who seek the
overthrow of Iran's government, and pro-American Kurdish guerrillas.

"You've got tribal relations laid on top of religious affiliations, and
you've got the former regime elements," said Lt. Col. Mark Young, a 4th
Infantry Division battalion commander charged with overseeing a part of the
Diala province that includes Khalis. "On top of that, you've got elements
from other countries."

There are also mysterious armed men possibly linked to the former regime who
have fired rocket-propelled grenades and launched mortars at U.S. troops.

Security has improved here since the first days after Saddam was ousted. The
number of gunshot and stabbing victims treated at Khalis' hospital has
dropped from about 10 a day to about two, said Ahmad Muhammad, a general

But Charlie Company has been plagued by attacks recently. On Wednesday
night, a rocket propelled grenade barely missed their building, hitting a
nearby school.

And neighbors and families often settle their disputes with weaponry. On
Thursday, soldiers sorted through the police log: an aunt reported that her
nephews threw hand grenades at her home, and a man reported that his brother
launched a rocket-propelled grenade at him, injuring his daughter.

Hoover's (Financial Times), 28th June
Source: Al-Jazeera TV, Doha, in Arabic 1300 gmt 28 Jun 03

New fires have broken out in a number of government buildings in the centre
of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. The fiercest fire was that which destroyed
the warehouses of the Ministry of Education. It is noteworthy that these
warehouses had been used for printing Iraqi, 10,000-dinar notes, which have
been causing troubles in daily transactions after a large amount of them was
stolen from banks following the fall of the former regime. Another fire
broke out in a government department specialized in fixing electric
equipment. Eyewitnesses said that persons set the building ablaze after
failing in their attempt to steal power generators.

The Civil Defence director-general said the fires were the outcome of acts
of sabotage.

Jordan Times, 28th June

BAGHDAD (AFP) ‹ US forces Saturday faced mounting casualties in Iraq as
troops recovered the bodies of two US soldiers who have been missing after
an apparent abduction and one soldier was killed and four wounded in a
separate attack.

The rising death toll prompted US Secretary of State Colin Powell to urge
Americans to be patient as US forces attempt to secure Iraq and start
rebuilding the country.


The bodies of the two soldiers were found around 35 kilometres northwest of
Baghdad, near where they went missing on Wednesday, Lieutenant Colonel
Martin Compton told AFP, without elaborating.

Reuters, 30th June

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. forces in Iraq said on Monday they had detained 180
people in two ongoing operations to crack down on armed resistance to their

Troops from the 1st Armored Division detained 148 people in Baghdad as part
of Operation Desert Scorpion, an effort to stamp out guerrilla attacks
launched several weeks ago, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

In Desert Sidewinder, a new mission which began on Sunday, soldiers detained
32 people and confiscated weapons including 10 AK-47 automatic rifles and a
mortar, the military said.

Soldiers from the army's 4th Infantry Division are conducting that
operation, which aims to crack down on opponents of the occupation to the
north and east of Baghdad.

Witnesses said the area appeared quiet on Monday afternoon, with no sign of
major military activity.


The Sun, 30th June

AT least 30 Iraqis were killed and scores injured when an ammo dump they
were looting blew up.

Locals in Haditha north-east of Baghdad said the looters had been trying to
seize abandoned Iraqi artillery shells they could sell.

It was not known what caused the blast. They said American forces arrested
several people.

Yahoo, 1st July

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A U.S. military vehicle blew up in central Baghdad on
Tuesday, and one witness said U.S. troops pulled four badly wounded soldiers
from the burning car.

The armored car exploded near al-Mustansiriyah University in the heart of
the capital.

A Reuters reporter who arrived on the scene shortly after the 9.55 a.m.
(1:55 a.m. EDT) attack said an American and an Iraqi car were on fire.

The cause of the blast was not immediately clear. Some witnesses said the
Iraqi car blew up next to the U.S. vehicle while others said a
rocket-propelled grenade was used in the attack.

"We were sitting at a cafeteria near the university when we heard a large
explosion. We rushed to the site and found two cars burning, one American
and one Iraqi," Ya'aroub Abdulillah, a resident, told Reuters. "U.S. troops
pulled out from the vehicle four soldiers."

U.S. soldiers cordoned off the area and began to investigate. They refused
to comment on the incident.

Earlier in the day, a U.S. soldier was lightly wounded when a military
convoy was attacked by a rocket-propelled grenade near Baghdad airport, the
U.S. military said.


Yahoo, 1st July

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Two US military vehicles were hit by rocket-propelled
grenade fire on a road south of Baghdad Tuesday, according to an AFP
photographer at the scene.

There was no word of casualties as US troops cordoned off the area,
preventing reporters from approaching the site of the attack on the southern
highway near al-Yusifiyah, about 20 kilometers (13 miles) from Baghdad.

An armoured carrier was burnt and a Humvee light multi-wheeled vehicle lay
overturned on the side of the road, said the AFP photographer.

The main US military base in Fallujah west of Baghdad came under
rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) attack following overnight blasts in the town
that left four Iraqis killed, witnesses said.

A single RPG was fired on the US troops at the main government office in
Fallujah at 3:50 am (2350 GMT Monday), residents told AFP.

There was no word on casualties or damage from the attack, which prompted US
troops to return fire and comb areas around the base.

Two cars passing near the area were stopped by the troops who detained their
passengers, including an eight-year-old boy, witnesses said.

US forces have imposed an overnight curfew on Fallujah, but residents do not
respect the order.

Three explosions rocked Fallujah late Monday, including one at the al-Hassan
mosque of the town's al-Askari neighborhood that left four Iraqis believed
to be theology students killed and 15 injured.

Witnesses reported that a ball of fire ripped through the mosque, destroying
two rooms and gouging a hole in its dome.

Among the wounded was Sheikh Laith, the imam of the mosque, whose leg was
amputated, they said.

Fallujah, 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Baghdad, has been tense since US
troops shot dead at least 16 people during protests in late April.

US-led coalition forces occupying Iraq, with more than 20 US and six British
soldiers killed since May 1, when US President George W. Bush declared major
combat in the war launched to oust Saddam Hussein's regime to be over.,4386,197589,00.html?

Straits Times, 2nd July

TIKRIT (Iraq) - Unidentified assailants gunned down the head of Saddam
Hussein's tribe while he was riding in a car, the regional governor said

Mr Abdullah Mahmoud al-Khattab, leader of Saddam's Bani al-Nasiri tribe, was
killed in the attack on Sunday in the ousted dictator's hometown of Tikrit.

His son was wounded in the incident, said governor Hussein al-Jubouri.

Saddam had appointed Mr al-Khattab as tribal chief. He remained close to the
dictator during his 35-year rule.

However, several weeks ago and after the US-led invasion, he disavowed
Saddam publicly in the presence of local leaders and American troops,
residents said.

The governor said Mr al-Khattab 'had many enemies and he had confiscated a
lot of properties and killed many people'. 'The person who killed him could
have taken revenge,' he added.

After killing Mr al-Khattab and wounding his son, the gunmen fled.

No arrests have been made. The assailants were in a pickup truck when they
fired at him, residents said.

Saddam grew up in Tikrit and maintained close ties to the town throughout
his life. He lavished largesse on Tikrit and many here owed him favours.

Unlike other places in Iraq, the ousted dictator still enjoys a degree of
popularity here and pro-Saddam graffiti can still be seen.

Sunday's assassination is a likely indication of a deeply divided town.

Town residents said some people were angry with Mr al-Khattab for being
close to Saddam, but others were upset over his decision to disavow the
former dictator.

News of the attack came after that of a US-appointed governor being arrested
on charges of kidnapping and theft, in an embarrassing blow to American
efforts to rebuild the country.

Senior coalition spokesman Charles Heatley said Abu Haidar Abdul Munim,
governor of the southern city of Najaf, was removed from office on Monday.

'He faces a multitude of charges which include kidnapping and holding
hostages, pressurising government employees to perform financial crimes,
attacking a bank official and stealing funds.' -- AP, AFP


By Greg Barrow
BBC, 25th June

United Nations aid agencies, the occupying powers in Iraq and Iraqi civil
servants have announced plans for an international donors' conference this
autumn to lay out a blueprint for reconstruction and recovery in Iraq.

The announcement came after a two-day conference at the UN headquarters in
New York attended by representatives of more than 50 member states.

Delegates gave a positive assessment of the meeting, which provided them
with an opportunity to meet Iraqi civilians who are now working with the
occupying powers, or Coalition Provisional Authority, the name they have

The gathering was partly an international public relations exercise - a
chance for the occupying powers to introduce some of the senior Iraqi civil
servants they have hand-picked to act as a focal point for donor nations and
UN aid agencies.

In that respect, it seems to have gone reasonably well.

One senior UN official described it as an extraordinary meeting of minds.

But beyond the feel good factor, everyone here is aware of the scale of the
challenges ahead, not least those who made up the small Iraqi delegation of
12 civil servants.

Nasreem Sideek Barwari, a regional minister for reconstruction and
development from the Kurdish areas of Iraq, was among them.

"They were a positive, forward-looking two days. We will go back with great
hopes that we will tell our people, our communities.

"But also that's a commitment for the future so definitely we are looking
forward to see the next step, the following step, and being heavily engaged
in the process of planning for the rebuilding of our country," he said.

And that next step will be an international donors' meeting this October.

Despite Iraq's vast potential oil wealth, those involved in this process
believe that more money will be needed from donor nations.

A better idea of the cost may be clear by then as the UN development
programme and the World Bank will carry out assessments of the funds
required to reconstruct Iraq's shattered infrastructure and economy.


RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT, Vol. 6, No. 28, 27 June 2003

The United Nations launched a $259 million appeal to donor countries, asking
them to help close a gap in humanitarian funding for relief operations in
Iraq this year, a UN press release stated on 23 June
( The amount includes the remainder of the $2.2
billion flash appeal launched in March.

According to the UN, donor support and some $1.1 billion from the
oil-for-food program have accounted for 88 percent of the total amount
needed. The remaining $259 million will cover key sectors including health,
land-mine removal, water and sewage repair, and the resettlement of refugees
and internally displaced persons. "As the Coalition Provisional [Authority]
had the primary responsibility for providing services to the Iraqi people,
UN activities would complement its efforts until the end of the year, when
most, if not all, of UN humanitarian activities were expected to be phased
out," the press release stated. (Kathleen Ridolfo),001300180038.htm

by JN Dixit (IANS)
Hindustani Times, 28th June

New Delhi, June 28: The US has asked India to depute a large Indian military
unit (approximately one division) to Iraq to restore law and order. India's
Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), which discussed the proposal in early
June, could not come to an agreement because non-BJP members of the CCS were
opposed to it. The decision was deferred pending Deputy Prime Minister LK
Advani's visit to the US (June 8-17).

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and President George W Bush repeated
the request to Advani and implied that India's response to the US request
would be a fairly substantive test of how meaningful an equation India
wishes to have with the US. Rumsfeld sent a military mission led by
Assistant Defence Secretary Peter Rodman to New Delhi to give required
clarifications about the conditions which would govern the deployment of
Indian troops in Iraq.

The Indian government is examining these and has raised three specific
questions - what would be the command structure under which Indian troops
would function; what is the likelihood of a legitimate and effective interim
government coming into being in Iraq and, thirdly, what would be the role of
UN in overseeing activities carried out to restore peace in Iraq?

Congress party president Sonia Gandhi, in a letter to Prime Minister Atal
Bihari Vajpayee, objected to Indian troops being deployed in Iraq without
the UN umbrella. She also suggested that India should finalise its decision
on the issue in consultation with Iraq's neighbours.

The government has since then announced that a final decision about the
deployment and details thereof would be announced only after Vajpayee's
return from China. A CCS meeting held on June 21 left the decision to the
Prime Minister.

There are reports that the armed forces headquarters has been asked to
initiate preparations for sending one division of Indian troops with
requisite armour and air support as well as for deputing two field hospitals
with necessary equipment and medical personnel. These initial steps were the
result of clarifications given by the Pentagon team.

Although details of the US clarifications have not been made public,
indications are that the US will deploy Indian troops in different parts of
Iraq, subject to Indian consent. Second, Indian personnel will function
under the control of Indian commanding officers. Third, the senior-most
Indian commander will be a member of the Coordinating Committee of Security
and Military Affairs in Iraq.

While these assurances are considered adequate by Vajpayee's Bharatiya
Janata Party (BJP), the NDA government has taken other steps to follow
through the assurances given that the final decision will be based on
discussions with Iraq's neighbours and on the basis of consultations within
the country leading to a national consensus. Senior external affairs
ministry officials have proceeded to Jordan, perhaps even to Syria and Iraq,
for consultations.

The visit to Iraq would be to see if an invitation for Indian troops could
be obtained from Iraq's interim authority, which is being put in place. Iran
and Gulf countries are being consulted through diplomatic channels.

A decision, one way or the other, would be announced by the end of June or
the first week of July. Nevertheless, it is necessary to take note of
certain considerations, which should influence the government's decision in
this matter.

Public opinion in India views the issues related to deputing of Indian
troops in Iraq as a matter of national concern above party politics, and
that whatever decision is taken by India should be based on national

The Congress opposition to sending troops to Iraq is based on the fact that
there is no UN umbrella. Other reasons are: a majority of people of Iraq are
resentful of the American military presence; no major power apart from the
US is sending troops for "peace-making operations" in Iraq; the terms of
reference under which Indian troops will be deployed are not clear; and the
US-led interim authority in Iraq may delegate the controversial aspects of
work related to maintaining law and order to Indian troops, subjecting India
to criticism by the Iraqi people.

Parliament and the Indian people would like to be fully informed about the
framework and terms of reference, details of the command and control
structure of possible Indian troops deployment; whom the Indian commanders
would report to; where in Iraq the Indian troops would be deployed; and the
extent of autonomy and freedom of action Indian troops would have in
discharging their functions.

Would the Indian troops be engaged in "peace-making", coercive action, or in
"peace keeping" tasks?

There is general acknowledgement of the high importance of India's relations
with the US, but policy decisions on this issue and other such issues have
to be primarily based on considerations of India's supreme national
interests and the country's international credibility.

The US government's attempt at establishing a credible interim government in
Iraq has not succeeded so far. None of the political figures projected as
possible heads of Iraqi are acceptable to the Iraqi people. The Shia
population under the leadership of the clergy is expressing incremental
opposition to the US and western military presence in their country. The
Sunnis and Kurds have their own reasons for being disappointed with the
political dispensation orchestrated by the US, which has not been able to
find an 'Iraqi Karzai' to repeat its success in Afghanistan.

Prospects, therefore, are of political uncertainty and internal instability
for some months to come.

India has to take a decision on the issue with caution and deliberation. It
is important to keep in mind that there is growing resentment among the
people of Iraq over the manner in which the US is managing the affairs in
that country since the removal of Saddam Hussein. India should not find
itself in a position where its credibility with the people of Iraq stands

India can play an important role in reviving the education system of Iraq,
having assisted Baghdad in the field for decades. Wherever possible or
feasible, India can contribute to reviving the infrastructural spheres of
Iraq's social and economic development programmes. The guiding principle for
India's involvement in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Iraq should
be how it would benefit the people of Iraq, taking into account their
sensitivities and aspirations resulting from the trauma of war.

(The writer is a former foreign secretary and a foreign policy adviser to
the Congress Party)


by David Rennie in Washington
Daily Telegraph, 24th June

United States special forces wounded at least five Syrian border guards as
they pursued a convoy thought to be carrying senior members of Saddam
Hussein's regime, it emerged yesterday.

The commandos launched an air and ground assault on convoy of six or seven
vehicles speeding towards the Syrian border last week.

The attack initially raised speculation that Saddam Hussein or his sons
might have been killed.

Five Syrian border guards are reported to remain in US military hands in
Iraq, where they are receiving medical treatment.

Pentagon officials said US authorities were trying to arrange for their safe
return to Syria, which has been under intense American pressure to close its
borders to remnants of Saddam's regime.

It was not immediately clear who opened fire first, nor on which side of the
border the gun battle took place, though the Pentagon admitted that the
convoy may have been attacked inside Syria.

Syrian diplomats were keen to play down the clash, telling reporters that it
was an "isolated incident" and saying Syrian border guards were not trying
to be provocative.

Dr Imad Mustapha, Syria's deputy ambassador in Washington, said the wounded
border guards were not in US custody. "We hope they will be returned very
soon," he said, adding that he hoped use of deadly force was not a policy
"endorsed by either country".

The clash was triggered when a vehicle or person from the convoy made a
sudden run for Syria, near the border town of Qaim, a smuggling hotspot that
has seen previous clashes with fleeing Iraqis. A number of former Iraqi
regime members were killed and captured, defence officials said.

One Bush administration official said US special forces crossed the frontier
rather than let their prey escape.

American forces were "in hot pursuit and wound up crossing the Syrian
border", the unnamed official said.

Amid a cloak of tight secrecy, officials disagreed on whether DNA tests were
being carried out on the human remains found in the convoy.

They confirmed that the convoy was attacked by members of Task Force 20, a
commando unit hunting Saddam, backed up by air strikes from a slow-flying
AC-130 gunship. They attempted to play down expectations that the dead might
include the dictator, steering reporters towards unspecified "leadership

The convoy strike was based on intelligence gained as a result of last
week's capture of Saddam's right hand man, Gen Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti.

Mahmud is reported to have said he and Saddam's two sons, Qusay and Uday,
escaped into Syria after the US invasion of Iraq, but were later forced to

He has also told his captors that Saddam survived the two huge bomb strikes
directly aimed at him in Baghdad.

The American public remains broadly indifferent to the failure to find
Saddam or weapons of mass destruction, with the majority of voters
continuing to express support for the war.

A greater threat to domestic support comes from continued guerrilla attacks
on US forces, which are costing American lives daily.

A delegation of senior US senators visiting Baghdad urged President George W
Bush to be honest with Americans about the scale of the US commitment that
would be required in Iraq, predicting that US forces would be needed for at
least five years.

Senator Richard Lugar, Republican chairman of the Senate foreign relations
committee, said the occupation required "at least a five-year plan" and
added: "There needs to be real truth telling by the president and each of

Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, said it was "too soon" to say how
long the occupation would last. "The president's instructions are that we
will stay as long as necessary but not a day longer," he said.

by Amir Taheri
National Post, from The Wall Street Journal, 26th June

Art lovers know Auver-sur-Oise, north of Paris, as the backdrop of Van
Gogh's most famous paintings. The French anti-terrorist police, however, see
it as the nerve centre of the Iranian Mujahedin Khalq -- or "People's
Combatants" -- an Islamic-Marxist sect. Last week, the picturesque village
was encircled by troops backed by helicopter gunships. In scenes out of a
war movie, special forces raided 40 houses and rounded up 150 people. "The
group was creating a terrorist base north of Paris," said Jean-Louis
Bruguiθre, the judge in charge of counterterrorism. Among those arrested was
Maryam Rajavi, whose ex-husband, Massoud Rajavi, is the sect's "Supreme
Guide." (Mrs. Rajavi is regarded by the sect as "President of the Republic
of Iran," although she never won an election and has not set foot in Iran
since she fled into exile in 1981.)

Better known by its acronym, MEK, the group has been trying to topple the
Iranian regime since 1981. It was classified as a terrorist organization by
President Clinton in 1997, part of his forlorn attempt at fence-mending with
Tehran's mullahs. Last year the European Union, yielding to U.S. pressure,
put the MEK on its terrorist list.

The Auver-sur-Oise raids are the latest in a recent series of MEK setbacks.
U.S. forces in Iraq captured 20 bases used by the MEK for operations against
Iran, and more than 5,000 MEK guerrillas were placed in "protective
custody." Coalition forces also captured 100 tanks and 80 pieces of
long-range artillery.

Now the MEK has lost its oldest sanctuary, France. Rajavi fled Tehran for
Paris in 1981 by hijacking an Iranian aircraft. Among those with him was
Abol-Hassan Bani-Sadr, the first president of the Islamic Republic who had
just broken with Ayatollah Khomeini. Instead of arresting Rajavi and
Bani-Sadr as hijackers, the French rolled out the red carpet. Claude
Cheysson, then foreign minister, persuaded them to work with Iraq -- then at
war against Iran -- to topple Khomeini. At a meeting arranged by Mr.
Cheysson, Rajavi and Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz signed a deal in
which the MEK would receive cash and backing from Baghdad in exchange for
help in the war against Iran. Between 1982 and 1985 Rajavi visited Baghdad
six times and formed a relationship with Saddam Hussein, who helped the MEK
set up camps in Iraq to train Iranians for sabotage. In 1988 Iran and Iraq
agreed to a cease fire, but Rajavi received the nod he needed from Saddam to
continue a low-intensity war against Iran from Iraqi territory.

The MEK was founded in 1965 after a split in a Marxist-Leninist movement
that had waged a guerrilla action in northern Iran. Its ideology emerged as
a mix of Islam and Marx, with ingredients from the Iranian religious
sociologist Ali Shariati, who advocated an "Islam without a clergy." The
MEK, with KGB help, engaged in a campaign against the Shah, and sent cadres
to Cuba, East Germany, South Yemen and Palestinian camps in Lebanon to train
as guerrillas.

Vladimir Kuzishkin, a former KGB head in Tehran, reveals in his memoirs that
the MEK became a major source of information on Iran for Moscow. It also
helped Moscow in its efforts to thwart U.S. influence in Iran. In 1970 and
1971 the MEK murdered five American military technicians working with the
Iranian army. An MEK team tried to kidnap U.S. Ambassador Douglas MacArthur
III in Tehran. The attempt failed and their leader, Rajavi, was handed a
death sentence, later commuted thanks to a plea to the Shah from Soviet
President Nikolai Podgorny.

During Iran's 1978-79 turmoil, the MEK played an active role in helping
Khomeini to power. Its squads burned cinemas, restaurants, hotels and
bookshops, and murdered policemen. After Khomeini seized the reins, it did
all it could to radicalize the regime, supporting the seizure of the U.S.
Embassy in Tehran. Yet within a year the MEK -- now led by Rajavi, who had
come out of prison during the revolution -- decided that the Khomeinist
regime was not revolutionary. It had to be toppled; so there ensued a
terrorist operation against the regime, that still continues.

Support for the MEK remained a bipartisan policy of France until this week.
In 1987, Jacques Chirac, then prime minister, signed an accord with the MEK
granting them protection in exchange for a promise not to kill Iranian
officials on French soil. Over the years the MEK organized an asylum
seekers' racket -- 40,000 Iranians to Europe on bogus claims and in exchange
for "voluntary contributions" of up to $10,000 each. Now a personality cult
built around blind devotion to Rajavi, it has recruited its adepts mainly
from relatives of people executed by the Khomeinist regime. Individuals are
brainwashed, and not allowed to develop normal relationships outside the
organization. They refuse to send their children to school, insisting that
they be educated at home.

By 1988, the MEK had created a 10,000-strong fighting force in Iraq, which
helped Saddam in his genocidal campaign against the Kurds, and also to crush
the Iraqi Shiites in the south in 1991. Many Iraqi Kurds and Shiites want
MEK leaders tried for crimes against humanity. But the MEK has support in
Congress. More than 300 U.S. legislators from both parties have at one time
or other signed petitions in support of the MEK, and MEK spokesmen say they
have offered the sect's services to the U.S. in case of war with Iran. But
there is little possibility of the U.S. accepting the services of an
organization that it classifies as "terrorist." The French, however, seem to
have additional reasons. With Saddam gone, France has no friends left in the
Middle East and seems to have decided to score points with Tehran by
dismantling the MEK. That may well encourage the mullahs to warm to France,
especially as the prospect of a direct clash with the U.S. begins to take

Amir Taheri's L'Irak: Le Dessous Des Cartes was just published by Editions
Complexe, Paris.

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