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News, 24/9-1/10/03 (4) STATE OF THE PRETEXT * US intelligence on Iraqi weapons 'flawed' * Butcher Buffaloed * Iraqi defectors' weapons claims were 'false' STATE OF THE US * "Marshall Plan to Bush Iraqi Plan: No Comparison" * CPA head addresses Senate on U.S. supplemental aid package for Iraq * The Bush Assault on the World Order STATE OF THE MIDDLE EAST * Syria proposes changes to US draft resolution on Iraq * Iraqi tribal delegation meets with Syrian President * U.S. Transfers Border Patrol to Iraqis * Iraqis report being trapped in Syria * Tehran putting its spies in Iraq * Kuwait MPs reject call to drop Iraq debt demands STATE OF BRITAIN * Blow to Blair as majority say war not justified * Thousands in Asia, Europe protest over Iraq war * Emotions dominate Iraq debate * Blair's conference speech on 29th September STATE OF THE PRETEXT http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1051757,00.html * US INTELLIGENCE ON IRAQI WEAPONS 'FLAWED' by Gary Younge, New York The Guardian, 27th September America's intelligence community used outdated, "circumstantial" and "fragmentary" information with "too many uncertainties" to conclude that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and ties to al-Qaida, according to the intelligence committee of the US House of Representatives. After four months of poring over 19 volumes of classified material used by the White House to justify its case for war, senior members of the committee concluded that there were "significant deficiencies" in the community's ability to collect fresh intelligence on Iraq. They said it had to rely on past assessments, dating to when UN inspectors left Iraq in 1998, and on "some new 'piecemeal' intelligence", both of which "were not challenged as a routine matter". In a letter to the CIA director, George Tenet, that was leaked to the Washington Post, two committee members claimed: "The absence of proof that chemical and biological weapons and their related development programs had been destroyed was considered proof that they continued to exist. The assessment that Iraq continued to pursue chemical and biological weapons remained constant and static over the past 10 years." The letter is all the more damaging because it comes from a committee controlled by Republicans and is signed by the committee chairman, Congressman Porter Goss, a Republican from Florida who is a former CIA agent and a long-time supporter of Mr Tenet and the intelligence agencies. Their findings echoed claims made by the United Nations chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, two weeks ago that most of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were destroyed 10 years ago. "I'm certainly more and more to the conclusion that Iraq has, as they maintained, destroyed all, almost, of what they had in the summer of 1991," said Mr Blix. "The more time that has passed, the more I think it's unlikely that anything will be found." The committee's conclusions also have striking parallels in much of the evidence that has emerged from the Hutton inquiry in London, that the intelligence agencies came up with evidence to support the political demands the government to go to war. Regarding Iraq's alleged ties to al-Qaida, the letter argues that the agencies had a "low threshold" or "no threshold" on using the information they gathered. "As a result, intelligence reports that might have been screened out by a more rigorous vetting process made their way to the analysts' desks, providing ample room for vagary to intrude," the letter states. "The agencies did not clarify which of their reports were from sources that were credible and which were from sources that would otherwise be dismissed in the absence of any other corroborating intelligence." "To attempt to make such a determination so quickly and without all the facts is premature and wrong," Bill Harlow, an agency spokesman, told the Washington Post. "Iraq was an intractable and difficult subject. The tradecraft of intelligence rarely has the luxury of having black-and-white facts. The judgments reached, and the tradecraft used, were honest and professional - based on many years of effort and experience." The national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, yesterday also disputed the claims. She told Fox News Sunday: "There was enrichment of the intelligence from 1998 over the period leading up to the war. And nothing pointed to a reversal of Saddam Hussein's very active efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction ... it was very clear that this continued, and it was a gathering danger." News of the criticism comes at a difficult time for President George Bush, who came away from a week of trying to persuade foreign leaders to give financial and military assistance to maintain security in Iraq empty handed and with his approval ratings plummeting. The first lady, Laura Bush, set out to soften America's image abroad this week with a European tour to France and Russia. "There's a great benefit for our country if we can really let people around the world know what we are really like and what our values are really like," she said yesterday. http://www.nypost.com/news/worldnews/6772.htm * BUTCHER BUFFALOED by DEBORAH ORIN New York Post, 29th September September 29, 2003 -- Saddam Hussein's own scientists may have fooled him - and the world - into thinking he had weapons of mass destruction that he no longer possessed, it was reported yesterday. A Time magazine report claims Iraq's mass murder weapons may have been destroyed or dismantled in the 1990s and never rebuilt, but Saddam's scientists lied so that they could keep millions of dollars flowing, often to line their own pockets. But Secretary of State Colin Powell said it's "naive" to think that Saddam gave up chemical and biological weapons, although they have yet to be found. The new report offers one possible answer to the growing mystery of why Saddam's weapons haven't been found as David Kay, the former U.N. weapons inspector now in charge of the hunt, gets ready to make an interim report. It also comes at a time when even loyal Republicans, such as House Intelligence chairman Porter Goss (R-Fla.), charge there were "significant deficiencies" in the CIA intelligence about Saddam's weapons leading up to the Iraq war. But Powell yesterday noted Saddam used his mass weapons in 1988 to put down Iraqi Kurdish rebels and killed 5,000. "Now, if you want to believe that he suddenly gave up that weapon and had no further interest in those sorts of weapons, whether it be chemical, biological or nuclear then I think you're - it's a bit naive," Powell told ABC. U.N. inspectors, effectively kicked out by Saddam in 1998, reported vast stocks of Iraqi chemical and biological weapons materials, and Saddam had used chemical weapons against Iran and the Kurds in the 1980s. Time notes that it is possible that Iraqi scientists and intelligence officials are lying when they now claim Saddam's weapons program had become a mirage by the time the war began last March. But a captain in Iraq's Special Security Organization is quoted as saying, "Trust me. If we had [weapons of mass destruction], we would have used them, especially in the battle for [Baghdad] airport. We wanted them but didn't have any." The report also claims that Saddam was such a "sucker" for new gadgets and weapons that he believed his scientists' lies about new programs and "may not have known what he actually had, or, more to the point, didn't have." http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1052291,00.html * IRAQI DEFECTORS' WEAPONS CLAIMS WERE 'FALSE' by Julian Borger, Washington The Guardian, 30th September US military intelligence has concluded that almost all the claims made by Iraqi defectors about Saddam Hussein's alleged secret weapons were either useless or false, it was reported yesterday. The assessment by the Pentagon defence intelligence agency (DIA), leaked to US journalists, amounts to an indictment of the Iraqi National Congress, which brought the defectors to Washington's attention, adding to the momentum towards invasion. A DIA official would not confirm or deny the report's existence yesterday, saying any such document would be classified, but adding: "Any intelligence we get from an individual we never use as a sole source but we add it to our database. "We don't make decisions or take action based on sole sources." The leak reflects a growing backlash by the US intelligence agencies - principally the CIA, DIA and the state department's intelligence arm - whose findings and recommendations on Iraq were overruled before the war in favour of far more sensational assessments made by ideologically driven groups in the Pentagon and the vice-president's office. "All this is coming out now, because they didn't have the political spine to do it before," said Vincent Cannistraro, a former head of CIA counter-intelligence operations. "Now the tide has turned internally in terms of the use of intelligence before the war." In another sign of that turning tide, the CIA director, George Tenet, has asked the justice department to investigate allegations that one or more administration officials leaked the name of a CIA analyst married to a prominent critic of the administration's Iraq policy, Joseph Wilson. Mr Wilson, a former ambassador and a member of the national security council, has said he believes the leak came direct from the White House, and has hinted that one of the sources could have been President Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove. The White House spokesman Scott McClellan said: "There has been absolutely nothing brought to our attention that suggests White House involvement." The DIA report strikes at the heart of administration's justification for going to war: that the Iraqi regime represented an imminent danger to the US because of its development of weapons of mass destruction. A report by a CIA-led search team, the Iraqi Survey Group, due to be delivered to Congress this week, is expected to confirm that no stockpiles of such weapons have been found after a six-month hunt. Much of the US and British case against Saddam was built on the testimony of defectors, and in Washingtonat least, most of those defectors were shepherded out of Iraq by the INC. DIA officials interviewed about half a dozen defectors in European capitals and in the Kurdish-run northern city of Irbil in late 2002 and 2003. They brought with them claims that Saddam was continuing to build biological, chemical and nuclear weapons underground and undetected by UN inspectors. But according to the DIA report, only a third of the information they provided was of any interest, and most of the leads arising from the rest proved groundless. The INC defectors were largely spurned by the CIA and state department, who believed they were concocting stories in the hope of being resettled in the US. But they won an enthusiastic audience in the Pentagon's office of special plans (OSP), set up after September 11, which became a parallel civilian channel for intelligence on Iraq, operating independently of the uniformed officers running the DIA. According to yesterday's edition of Time magazine, the INC's American representative in Washington, Francis Brooke, was in weekly contact with the head of the OSP, William Luti, in the build-up to the war. Neither Mr Brooke nor the INC office in Washington returned calls yesterday. The OSP has been disbanded since the war, but its staff remains at work under different titles in the Pentagon. STATE OF THE US http://truthout.org/docs_03/092603E.shtml * "MARSHALL PLAN TO BUSH IRAQI PLAN: NO COMPARISON" Statement from West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd Truthout, 24th September Opening remarks to the Senate Appropriations Committee considering Bush Administration request for 87B additional dollars in funding for the Iraqi occupation. The American people want to know more about what the Administration has planned for Iraq, and it is the responsibility of Congress to help inform our public. But rather than explanations of the Administration's long-term plan for Iraq, we only hear comparisons to the Marshall Plan. I can understand the Administration's desire to equate in the minds of the American public Saddam Hussein's Iraq to Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan. World War II invokes images of the "Greatest Generation" -- the entire country united to defeat the Axis powers, and then, after victory, stayed behind to rebuild the cities of their conquered foes. But with World War II, Japan had attacked us. The Axis Powers had declared war on us. The U.S. occupation of Germany and Japan took place in the wake of a widely supported defensive war, under a commitment to internationalism and multilateralism. We're seeing none of this in Iraq. For one, the war in Iraq was not defensive. It was a preemptive attack. Secondly, we have alienated most of the international community in fighting the war. Third, the Germans and Japanese did not resist the U.S. occupation through sabotage, assassinations, and guerilla warfare. The Marshall Plan was not a huge bill presented to Congress for its rubber-stamp approval. It was a comprehensive strategy to provide $13.3 billion to 16 countries over four years to aid in reconstruction. In current dollars, the U.S. share would be about $88.2 billion spread over four years - very nearly the same amount that has been requested by the President for one country for a period of mere months. Moreover, the total amount of aid that the President will ultimately request for Iraq is anyone's guess. When the Congress considered the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe, the Foreign Relations Committee held one-month of hearings, from January 8 to February 5, 1948, with the Chairman calling ninety witnesses to testify. After the Foreign Relations Committee reported legislation, the Senate further debated it for an additional two weeks. Senator Arthur Vandenberg, the Republican Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, called the aid plan reported by his committee "the final product of eight months of more intensive study by more devoted minds than I have ever known to concentrate upon any one objective in all my twenty years in Congress." The Congressional Research Service states that the Marshall Plan was opened to "perhaps the most thorough examination prior to launching of any program." If only we had the patience and desire to hold more hearings and devote more study to this huge spending request for Iraq before we rush to approve it. If only this Administration would be more open to working with Congress before committing vast sums for foreign aid, as was done half a century ago. The reconstruction of Europe was undertaken in the context of spirit of internationalism, multilaterialism, and collective security that led to the formation of the United Nations, NATO, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. The same can hardly be said today. And who received aid under the Marshall Plan? West Germany managed to rebuild its economy and restore its once-functioning democracy with $9.2 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars; or just 10.6 percent of all Marshall Plan funds. Great Britain, with undeniable cultural and political similarities to America, alone received 24.7 percent of the Marshall Plan funds over the course of four years, the equivalent of $21.1 billion in 1997 dollars. Yet today, we are asked to appropriate $20.3 billion for the reconstruction of Iraq for the next year alone. Moreover, these funds are not just for rebuilding bridges, but an attempt to transform a political culture very different from our own into a democracy - a form of government never before seen in those ancient lands. At least one of our intelligence agencies has grave doubts about democratizing Iraq, stating in one unclassified report, "Western-style democracy will be difficult to achieve." The $87 billion package that the President is seeking has little in common with the Marshall Plan. We should not learn our history through sound bites. Congress has an obligation to understand what this $87 billion is supposed to do for Iraq, and whether those goals can ever be achieved. We need to retain the support of the people as we face the harsh realities of post-war Iraq. Let us ask ourselves: years in the future, will the people look back and applaud the rush to pass this funding package? Perhaps the answer lies in another question: do the people, today, curse the memory of Senator Vandenburg and others for acting with such deliberation half a century ago? The President's $87 billion request is larger than the Gross Domestic Product of 166 nations. It is the beginning of a potentially enormous commitment to Iraq. We have the duty to understand the enormity of the potential consequences before we act. * CPA HEAD ADDRESSES SENATE ON U.S. SUPPLEMENTAL AID PACKAGE FOR IRAQ RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT, Vol. 6, No. 40, 25 September 2003 Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) head Bremer addressed the Senate Appropriations Committee on 22 September asking committee members to support President Bush's $87 billion supplemental request package for reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The package, which includes $20.3 billion in grants for work in Iraq, would be the United States' most ambitious aid package since the Marshall Plan that funded European reconstruction after World War II, Bremer told committee members. Bremer encouraged the committee to approve the "urgent" package, saying, "No one part of the supplemental package is dispensable." The package, he said, includes $5.1 billion to enhance security. Some $2 billion will go to fund and train the police, border enforcement, fire and civil defense, public safety training, and the establishment of a communications network to link the above-mentioned security departments. Another $2 billion would go to national defense forces, including the three-division New Iraqi Army and a civil-defense corps. Some $1 billion would fund the justice system -- to investigate war crimes; "security for witnesses, judges, and prosecutors"; and prison construction. Regarding infrastructure, Bremer told the Senate committee that $5.7 billion would be used to rebuild Iraq's electrical system, $2.1 billion for the oil infrastructure, $3.7 billion for potable water and sewer and public works systems, and another $3.7 billion to develop water resources, housing and construction, transportation and communications, health care, and private-sector development. The text of Bremer's address to the Senate Appropriations Committee is available on the U.S. State Department's website (http://usinfo.state.gov). Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and CENTCOM chief John Abizaid are also testifying before the committee this week. (Kathleen Ridolfo) http://www.arabnews.com/?page=9§ion=0&article=32568&d=25&m=9&y=2003&pix= community.jpg&category=Features%22 * THE BUSH ASSAULT ON THE WORLD ORDER by Peter Hitchens Arab News (Saudi Arabia), 25th September Source: The Washington Post The strange condition of postwar Iraq makes the visitor wonder what America's remarkable military victory was for. On the lawless roads, in dangerous, power-starved Baghdad, among the newly opened mass graves of Saddam Hussein's victims or outside the great mosques of Najaf and Karbala, there is no sign of a bold new order. Here is no nascent Arab democracy giving light to a dark region, nor even a province in a new American empire. Here is just a mess, growing messier by the day. The liberal and the conservative can agree, if they have eyes to see, that thought did not play much part in this venture. John Newhouse makes a brave attempt to explain and understand how this happened, how an American president devoid of curiosity about the world, allied with some leathery old pseudo-conservatives in search of an enemy whose evil would emphasize their virtue, attacked and invaded a country that was no threat to the United States and that nobody now knows how to manage. This useful book is packed with compelling little details showing just how many wise and experienced people warned others at one time or another that Iraqi regime change was needless at best, dangerous at worst. Perhaps the most persuasive warning of all came from Dick Cheney, before he became vice president, who in February 1992 wondered: "You're faced with the question of what kind of government are you going to establish in Iraq. Is it going to be a Kurdish government or a Shia government or a Sunni government? How many forces are you going to have to leave there to keep it propped up, how many casualties are you going to take through the course of the operation?" Newhouse details the urgent tasks that faced President Bush after September 2001 ‹ in the Middle East, North Korea and Iran, not to mention Pakistan and India ‹ and explains how the preoccupation with Saddam Hussein got in the way of tackling them, which it undoubtedly did. Newhouse is persuasive and thorough here, though some would challenge his optimism about Iran's unconvincing reformers, and many would be more pessimistic about Tehran's nuclear weapons and missile programs, especially in the light of recent revelations. His conventional belief that Israel rather than the PLO is the obstacle to a compromise in the Middle East can also be wearing. Most important of all, he does not quite grasp ‹ as I suspect only conservatives can ‹ the real nature of the neo-conservative or pseudo-conservative impulse. He almost does. "'Conservative' is the term normally applied to members of the Republican Party's hard right. 'Radical' would be far more appropriate," he says. Regrettably, he does not follow this through, rapidly switching to standard default mode and speaking of the president as belonging to the "hard right." Had he followed his instincts, he might have seen that the ideological drive for the Iraq war was something entirely new among the supposed right. Many conservative Americans have accepted without question the support of Britain's Labor government for the Iraq war, and have likewise welcomed the unexpected endorsement that regime change has won from a number of the more intelligent radical leftists in the United States. It is as if a group of well-known arsonists had joined the Fire Department, and everyone was too polite to comment on it. Newhouse frequently and rightly puzzles over what precisely drove Blair to behave as he did. If he is mystified by what the British prime minister hoped to gain, he can see the disadvantages of his position easily enough. He characterizes Blair's loyalty to the war plan as an "overcommitment to the role of Washington's junior partner." He also believes that "Blair ran a serious risk of sacrificing himself to Bush's war and becoming a tragic figure." He may well prove right about the tragedy, given the damaging aftereffects of the apparent suicide of the British weapons expert David Kelly. But what drove Blair was probably as ideological as the forces behind neo- or pseudo-conservatism. Blair's government is a domestic failure in every field in which it pledged to be a reforming success. It is, by the way, a conservative's nightmare, taxing and spending at unprecedented levels, politically correct, weak on crime and soft on terror when it is close to home. It has neglected the armed forces. Blair is frighteningly keen to dissolve British national sovereignty in the European Union, a passion that has survived the recent disagreements with France and Germany. During the Kosovo affair, he made a speech in Chicago in which he pledged himself to a sort of global liberal imperialism at Washington's side. That the president then was Bill Clinton, and the president now is George W. Bush, has not altered that commitment at all. What Blair has in common with the pseudo-conservative White House is a need for an ethical justification for their existence, and a contempt for the national sovereignty of countries other than the United States. American pseudo-conservatives, having lost or preferred not to fight the great cultural and moral battles over marriage, education and morality, and robbed of a genuinely evil empire by Mikhail Gorbachev, scan the globe for replacement Kremlins to confront and overthrow. In this they are egged on by ex-Marxist secular globalists who despise national sovereignty and conceal a loathing for all faiths in a scorn for Islam, and by liberal imperialists such as Blair, who view the non-European, non American world as a kind of park where they can exercise their atrophied consciences. (Peter Hitchens is a columnist for the London Mail on Sunday. He recently visited Iraq.) STATE OF THE MIDDLE EAST NO URL * SYRIA PROPOSES CHANGES TO US DRAFT RESOLUTION ON IRAQ al Hayat, 12th September France, Germany, Russia and Syria have proposed amendments to a US draft resolution on Iraq calling for giving the UN a pivotal role in rebuilding Iraq politically and economically. The French and German amendments call for withdrawing the powers of US administrator of Iraq Paul Bremer, while the Russian proposals cancel the basic concept on which Washington insists: the concept that the resolution is part of efforts to fight terrorism. Damascus, Moscow, Paris and Berlin proposed amendments to the US draft resolution on Iraq in three separate papers to be discussed by the [UN] Security Council members before the foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the Security Council - the USA, Britain, Russia, France and China - meet with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Geneva tomorrow. At that meeting, the conferees are expected to discuss the draft resolution and moves to lay down new bases for operations in Iraq. The Syrian amendments and observations which Al-Hayat learned about object to placing the Iraq issue in the framework of the "war on terrorism". They indicated that Resolution 1373, to which the US draft resolution refers, does not apply to the situation in Iraq. The amendments state: "The threat to world peace and security does not emanate from terrorist acts, as the draft resolution indicates, but from mistakes made by the occupation authority, and mainly the dissolution of Iraqi institutions, primarily the military and security establishments. The threat also emanates from the lack of a clear and definitive timetable assuring Iraqi citizens that the occupation will end and from the delay in drafting a constitution and electing a national government." The Syrian amendments call for: - Allowing the UN to participate in rebuilding Iraqi economy, not only to support the occupation authority's activity; - "Welcoming", not "endorsing" or "supporting", the interim Iraqi Governing Council; - Cancelling the US draft resolution's paragraph which calls on the region's states, namely Iraq's neighbours, to "prevent terrorists from crossing into Iraq and ensure that terrorists receive no weapons and funding that may support terrorism" on the grounds that this paragraph implicitly accuses the neighbouring states of exporting terrorism to Iraq to undermine its security; - Adding a paragraph under which the Security Council calls on "the occupation authority to draw up a clear timetable to end the occupation"; and - Replacing the phrase "deploying multinational forces" with the phrase "deploying UN forces under a unified command appointed by the secretary-general and calling on the secretary-general to submit a report on the formation, tasks and leadership of this force". The Syrian proposals differ from the Russian, French and German ones with regard to the multinational force and drawing up a timetable to end the occupation, but agree with them on the status of the neighbouring states and key role of the region's states. [Passage omitted] * IRAQI TRIBAL DELEGATION MEETS WITH SYRIAN PRESIDENT RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT, Vol. 6, No. 40, 25 September 2003 A delegation of the National Council of Iraqi Tribes headed by Chairman Shaykh Husayn Ali al-Sha'lan met with Syrian President Bashar al-Asad on 22 September, SANA news agency reported the same day. During the meeting, al-Asad expressed a desire to continue social and economic relations between the two neighboring states, and pledged his nation's help in securing Iraq's independence and territorial integrity. Meanwhile, Syrian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Bouthaina Sha'ban told London's "The Times" that "Syria would be willing [to send troops] and all Arab countries would be willing, including all Iraq's neighbors," if the UN were put in charge of Iraq and the United States set a clear timetable for withdrawal, the daily reported on 22 September. "If these two points are addressed, all the Arabs will be willing to help to restore security and to help in the reconstruction of Iraq," she said. "This is the only way to send [peacekeeping] troops to Iraq." (Kathleen Ridolfo) http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=540&ncid=736&e=2&u=/ap/20030 927/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq_taking_control * U.S. TRANSFERS BORDER PATROL TO IRAQIS by PATRICK QUINN Yahoo, 27th September MUNTHERIA BORDER CROSSING, Iraq - The U.S. Army for the first time Saturday gave Iraq's provisional government responsibility for patrolling a stretch of the country's borders ‹ a sensitive, 210-mile region of forbidding desert frontier between Iraq and Iran. The transfer was significant because it comes as the U.S.-led coalition faces pressure to give Iraqis more control over their affairs. And security here is crucial: The border is a popular crossing point for illegal Iranian pilgrims en route to Shiite holy sites, raising fears that al Qaida or other terrorists could sneak through in disguise. Calling it an "important day for the Iraqi people," Col. Michael Moody, commander of the 4th Infantry's 4th Brigade, formally handed patrol duties in area to Iraqi Col. Nazim Shareef Mohammed. Part of an American drive to ease the burden on thinly stretched U.S. soldiers, the switch marked the first time since the fall of Saddam Hussein that Iraqis have been given policing authority over an entire border region. The American occupation forces now have only an advisory role. "This is a great example of new Iraqi security forces taking control," Moody said. "Each day the border becomes more secure. This is good news for the Iraqi people and the coalition." The frontier includes a craggy, mountainous region ‹ some of the most treacherous terrain in Iraq ‹ and temperatures often surpass 122 degrees. It runs from the edges of Kurdish controlled territory in northern Iraq to a point just southeast of Baghdad, encompassing nearly all of Diyalia province, one of three under 4th Infantry control. "If this experiment is successful in Diyalia province, then it is an example for all of Iraq," declared Lt. Col. Reggie Allen, commanding officer of the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry, standing just near the border. Mohammed's 1,178-strong force is made up of Arabs, Kurds and Turks. "We are unique," said Mohammed, a Kurd. "This is an important day for us because we officially take over this highly sensitive border." U.S. soldiers started training the Iraqi border forces in May, in sessions that touched on human rights of detainees as well as searches for Islamic militants or suicide bombers of the Iraqi resistance, trying to blend in with pilgrims. With no diplomatic relations between Iran and Iraq, many Iranians try to cross at a point about 75 miles east of Baghdad on their way to Najaf and Karbala ‹ the most sacred cities for Shiites after Mecca and Medina. Allen said his 4th Infantry forces, equipped with armored vehicles and scout helicopters, have stopped more than 14,000 illegal pilgrims since the end of August. The pilgrims often trek for two or three days through the wasteland to reach a highway just inside Iraq, hoping to hook up with smugglers who charge up to $30 to drive them south to the two cities. They are often robbed by the people offering to drive them. "The word is out in Iran that Iraq is free," Allen said. "For years, Saddam Hussein did not allow them into the country. Now, they mass themselves in groups sometimes as large as 1,000 and cross. Some die of dehydration as they cross." When border forces catch them, the Iranians are held in a collection facility, screened and returned home. Lt. Col. Vince Price, who runs part of the border with Allen, said border guards recently stopped two Afghans with Taliban identification cards. The Afghans were released, but Price said it was a sign of the close cooperation between the Iraqi border police and U.S. Army. * IRAQIS REPORT BEING TRAPPED IN SYRIA RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT, Vol. 6, No. 40, 25 September 2003 Iraqi citizens that have crossed into Syria are reportedly finding it difficult to return home after the U.S. banned individuals between the ages of 18 and 45 from entering Iraq, Beirut's "Daily Star" reported on 23 September. "Nobody told me this when I drove from Baghdad to Damascus. I only found out when I entered Syria," one such person, identified as Muhammad, told the newspaper. He, like many Iraqis, sought shelter in Syria from the regime of now-deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in the last three decades. Muhammad returned to Iraq following the downfall of the regime, but was apparently earning a living transporting passengers in his taxi back and forth to Damascus. Taxi drivers told the "Daily Star" that security measures at the Al-Tanf, Al-Yarubiyah, and Abu Kamal crossings were tightened following U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's visit to Iraq on 13 September. The drivers claim, however, that U.S. troops at the border crossings are taking bribes, in particular from truckers wishing to cross the border. Another Iraqi told the daily that Iraqis hired by the U.S. military to man the border crossings accept the bribes "under the watchful eyes" of U.S. troops. "The Iraqis act as middlemen for the American soldiers," he said, adding, "Anything you want can cross into Iraq if you are prepared to pay the money." The drivers' claims have not been substantiated by independent sources. A Baghdad newspaper, "Al-Ittijah al-Akhar" reported on 13 September that Syrian authorities had opened the northern border crossing near Mosul, allowing citizens from that city to cross into Syria using only identification cards and an authorized letter from the Mosul Governorate. (Kathleen Ridolfo) http://www.washtimes.com/world/20030928-123420-6964r.htm * TEHRAN PUTTING ITS SPIES IN IRAQ by Philip Sherwell Washington Times, 28th September Source: LONDON SUNDAY TELEGRAPH NAJAF, Iraq ‹ Iran has dispatched hundreds of agents posing as pilgrims and traders to Iraq to foment unrest in the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, and the lawless frontier areas. Tehran's hard-line regime has also allowed extremist fighters from Ansar al-Islam, a terror faction with close links to al Qaeda, to cross back into Iraq from its territory to join the anti American resistance. The Pentagon believes that Iran is building a bridgehead of activists inside Iraq, ready to destabilize the country if that serves its future interests. "They are provoking sectarian divisions, inciting people against the Americans and trying to foment conflict and anarchy," said Abdulaziz al-Kubaisi, a former Iraqi major who was jailed by Saddam Hussein and is now a senior official in the Iraqi National Congress. "The last thing that certain elements in the regime want is to see a stable democratic and pluralistic Iraq next door, so they are trying to export trouble here," said a leading official in another Iraqi party. Although Iran's president is a political moderate, true power remains in the hands of the fundamentalist clergy. At a time when Iran is facing domestic discontent over the slow progress of democratic reform and mounting international pressure over its nuclear program, hard-line elements believe that instability in Iraq will distract attention from the regime's problems. The National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), an opposition group, claims that some translators working for the U.S. forces are reporting back to Tehran. It also says that its informants within the regime have supplied details of senior Iranian intelligence commanders who are operating inside Iraq. "The Iranian agents have melted into the population and are just waiting until the moment is right," said one NCRI official. L. Paul Bremer, the American head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, has already accused Iran of "meddling" in Iraq's internal affairs and backing some attacks on American forces. On Friday, he confirmed that several hundred members of Ansar, which set up a Taliban style ministate in Kurdish-controlled territory in 2001, had re-entered Iraq. "They are a very dangerous group," he said in Washington. "The flow of terrorists into Iraq is the biggest obstacle to the reconstruction of the country." Mr. Bremer said that U.S. forces are holding 248 non-Iraqi fighters captured in Iraq. Most came from Syria, but the second-largest group was Iranians. At the start of the war to topple Saddam, Kurdish militia and U.S. Special Forces had crushed Ansar's 750-strong force of Arabs, Pakistanis, Chechens and Kurds. About 250 Ansar fighters were killed and another 100 captured, but Iran's military turned a blind eye as the rest escaped across the mountainous border. Most have returned to the violent flash points west and north of Baghdad, according to U.S. military officials, Kurdish political leaders and former mukhabarat officers. Ansar adheres to the same extremist Sunni Muslim interpretation of Islam as al Qaeda. Although Iran follows the alternative Shi'ite version of Islam, its hard-line military rulers have allowed Ansar to regroup and return to Iraq because they share its anti-American cause. Iran has also taken advantage of its largely unpoliced border with Iraq ‹ a 210-mile stretch of which was turned over Friday to an American-trained police force by the U.S. Army ‹ to deploy agents who are building networks of spies and sympathizers. One Iraqi of ethnic Iranian origin, who returned to Najaf after 23 years in Iran and who has contacts with Tehran's intelligence services, told the Sunday Telegraph that he has seen many Iranian agents mingling with visitors to the city of golden-domed mosques and shrines. Najaf, an ancient seat of Shi'ite learning, is fertile ground for the Iranian agents. Last week, many of the visiting pilgrims were speaking Farsi (Persian). Long-banned pictures of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979, are once again on sale in the markets of the town where he spent part of his early exile before moving to Paris. The returning Iraqi exile said that several agents from the political wing of the Revolutionary Guards had been deployed to Najaf, some operating within the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), one of the five political parties represented in the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council. "They are gathering information on the Americans and establishing their contacts with anti U.S. groups," he said. Iran denies interference or sending agents to Iraq, saying that it has already recognized the Governing Council. The Iranian opposition, however, says that the Quds force of the regime's Revolutionary Guards, which specializes in foreign operations, commands the loyalty of key commanders within the Badr Brigade, the Iranian-trained militia army of the SCIRI. http://www.jordantimes.com/Mon/news/news6.htm * KUWAIT MPS REJECT CALL TO DROP IRAQ DEBT DEMANDS Jordan Times, 29th September KUWAIT (Reuters) ‹ Kuwaiti parliamentarians reacted angrily to a US suggestion the oil rich emirate drop demands for billions of dollars in war reparations owed by former foe Iraq, newpapers said on Sunday. US civil administrator for Iraq Paul Bremer said on Friday that out of Iraq's total debt of $200 billion, Baghdad owed $98 billion in reparations to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia for losses during the 1990-91 Iraqi occupation of Kuwait and the Gulf War. "This is some kind of (US) pressure on Kuwait .. the issue of the reparations is something that concerns the impacted countries and the United Nations," said MP Yousef Al Zalzalah in remarks carried by Al Watan daily on Sunday. "Demanding that Kuwait of its own accord give up its rights is something unacceptable because the reparations are part of the big losses of the tyrannical (Iraqi) invasion." Bremer said "it is curious to me to have a country whose (annual) per capita income GDP is about $800 ... pay reparations to countries whose per-capitaGDP is a factor of 10 times that," for a war which all Iraqis now in power opposed. Saddam's forces invaded Kuwait in 1990 and were driven out by US-led multinational coalition in 1991. Iraq also launched missiles into Saudi territory. Baghdad subsequently agreed to pay compensation for damage it caused, and some revenue from Iraq's UN oil-for food deal went for payment of reparations. STATE OF BRITAIN http://www.guardian.co.uk/guardianpolitics/story/0,3605,1047817,00.html * BLOW TO BLAIR AS MAJORITY SAY WAR NOT JUSTIFIED by Alan Travis The Guardian, 23rd September Tony Blair has decisively lost the debate over Iraq with a clear majority of voters now saying that the war was unjustified, according to the results of this month's Guardian/ICM poll published today. The survey shows that British public opinion on Iraq has moved sharply over the summer in the face of the Hutton inquiry, the failure to find weapons of mass destruction and the continuing instability in Baghdad. In the immediate aftermath of the war in April public support for the war peaked at 63%. By July it had slipped to 51% but a majority still said the war was justified. Now for the first time a clear majority are saying the war was unjustified (53%), and only 38% believe it was right to invade Iraq. The survey also shows that the Brent East byelection has provided a dramatic boost to the Liberal Democrats, who are now only two points behind the Tories and enjoying a 28% share of the vote, their highest poll rating for 14 years. The ICM poll shows Labour maintaining a five-point lead over the Conservatives but reveals serious erosion in the government's reputation for economic competence in the last six months. On Iraq, the poll signals that the public is no longer giving Mr Blair the benefit of the doubt on the war. The detailed results show some significant swings. Among men, the net justified/unjustified feeling about the war has moved from minus one in July to minus 29. Even Tory voters no longer support the war, moving from plus 20 in July to minus 12 now. Among Labour voters, sentiment is still pro-war but the gap has narrowed sharply from plus 30 to plus 16. Liberal Democrat voters are most hostile with a rating of minus 45 points. The boost to the Lib Dems' poll position - up six points on the month to 28% - follows their byelection triumph but also reflects an underlying strengthening of their rating since the general election. It confirms that it has been Charles Kennedy's party rather than the Tories who are benefiting most from the government's troubles. If the Liberal Democrats produced this kind of performance in the next general election they would have no trouble in achieving the 3.8% swing needed to implement their "decapitation strategy", which would see shadow cabinet members Oliver Letwin, Theresa May and David Davies losing their marginal seats. The advance of the Liberal Democrats this month appears to have been at the equal expense of Labour and Tories. Labour's 35-point rating is its lowest on the Guardian/ICM poll for 11 years. Mr Blair's failure to convince the public on Iraq may be one big factor in eroding Labour's poll rating but the September ICM survey also uncovers a more subterranean shift. The party's reputation for economic competence, which has been crucial to its landslide election successes since 1993, is showing signs of erosion. In March this year 47% of voters named Labour as the party with the best policies for dealing with the economy. This month's ICM poll shows that has fallen to 29% of voters. The Tories are doing no better: their economic competence rating has also fallen, from 28 to 18 points. · ICM interviewed a random sample of 1,002 adults aged 18 and over by telephone from September 19-21. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results weighted to the profile of all adults. http://www.jordantimes.com/Sun/news/news12.htm * THOUSANDS IN ASIA, EUROPE PROTEST OVER IRAQ WAR Jordan Times, 28th September LONDON (AP) ‹ More than 10,000 protesters demanding the pullout of coalition troops from Iraq marched in central London on Saturday, chanting "No more war" and "Bush and Blair have got to go" while thousands more in other countries raised their voices against the occupation of Iraq. "War in Iraq ‹ Illegal, Immoral and Illogical" read one banner as people of all ages strode out of Hyde Park in central London and through the streets towards Trafalgar Square, banging drums and whistling. Police estimated the orderly crowd had reached 10,000 and was still growing as more demonstrators joined in the first major national protest in Britain since Iraqi regime fell. A major theme was criticism of Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George W. Bush, partners in the military coalition that drove Saddam Hussein out. "George Bush, Uncle Sam, Iraq will be your Vietnam," chanted some young marchers. Demonstration organisers reject the justification Blair's government used for war ‹ the threat of Iraqi biological and chemical weapons. No such weapons have yet been found by occupation forces in Iraq. In Greece, Cyprus, South Korea and Turkey thousands more demonstrators took to the streets. Outside the US embassy in Athens, demonstrators hurled bottles at riot police during a rally to protest the occupation of Iraq and the Palestinian territories. Chanting "Occupiers out" and "Freedom for Palestine," about 3,000 protesters joined the rally after attending an open-air concert in central Athens. Police deployed hundreds of officers in riot gear along the route of the rally, but there were no reports of arrests or injury. Protests were also staged in other parts of Greece and on island of Crete, outside an American naval base at Souda Bay. The base supports the US 6th Fleet and spy planes. In Seoul, thousands of activists protested a US request to send South Korean troops to Iraq. Protesters chanted "No war!" and carried banners saying "End the occupation in Iraq" and "Oppose a plan to dispatch S. Korean combat troops to Iraq." Some 4,000 protesters in the Turkish capital, Ankara, shouted slogans and unfurled banners to support the Palestinian cause and demand an end to the US-led occupation of Iraq. Rock bands played at the rally and celebrities demanded that Turkey not deploy peacekeepers. Hundreds more gathered at a similar rally in Istanbul and burned American and Israeli flags. Protests against Israeli policy towards Palestinians were also part of the London march, where the Muslim Association of Britain was one of the organisers. Opposition to the war has always been strong in Britain. Several large peace protests were held during the war, though none matched the vast rally Feb. 15, before the conflict began, when between 750,000 and two million people marched through central London. Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, another organiser of Saturday's march, said a big demonstration would send a strong message to the government that the public did not condone what it called "lies" used to justify the war. "The British people have the right to know the truth about the events leading to the illegal war on Iraq, which is causing untold suffering to the people of that country," group chairwoman Kate Hudson said. Allegations that the Blair government exaggerated the threat of Iraqi weapons to make a case for war have plunged the Blair government into its worst crisis, and opinion polls show a steady decline in public faith in the prime minister. As Blair's Labour Party prepares for its annual conference next week, a new poll taken Sept. 11-16 and published Saturday in The Financial Times found 50 per cent of those questioned said he should step aside and let someone else in the party lead the country. The newspaper did not give the sample size or margin of error. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3156372.stm * EMOTIONS DOMINATE IRAQ DEBATE by Jackie Storer BBC News Online, 1st October You could sense that the horrific images were flickering through her mind as she tried to hold it together in front of the Labour party conference. The machines used to crush the chests and stomachs of Saddam Hussein's victims. His chemical attack on Halabja, which killed 5,000 Kurds. Ms Clwyd received a warm ovation Events no human should have known about. But it was as she described a visit to some of Iraq's so-called "killing fields", that Ann Clwyd, a human rights campaigner and MP, was reduced to tears. "You never forget when a woman pushes a dead baby into your arms," she said grimly. "I saw the skeletons of men, women and children being dug up in one mass grave ..." The people of Iraq could not have toppled this regime on their own. They tried and they failed Ms Clwyd, the government's Iraq envoy, had been taking part in a debate on Britain and the world, which was dominated by passionate speeches on the rights and wrongs of the second Gulf war. The MP, who supported military intervention, said she had three minutes to distil 25 years of human rights campaigning into three minutes. Her moving account received a hearty standing ovation from the Bournemouth conference. Ms Clwyd's voice wavered as she told how during a recent visit to Baghdad, she met ex political prisoners, some with amputated hands and ears, along with "men, as well as women, who were systematically raped". For over 20 years she had believed in regime change. "The people of Iraq could not have toppled this regime on their own. They tried and they failed," she said. "They, the victims, needed our help. I believe, as do most of the Iraqi people ... that for the sake of their human rights alone that Tony Blair did the moral and courageous thing in destroying the evil and the terror of Saddam Hussein." As she emotionally explained her support for the war, her colleague and friend, the Halifax MP Alice Mahon, accused ministers of "lying" to the country about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, adding that there was no other "delicate way of putting it". She said the world was now a more dangerous place to live in, following the removal of Saddam Hussein. "We were seriously misled," she insisted. The UK had been told WMD could be activated in 45 minutes. There had been "dodgy" dossiers. She claimed al-Qaeda "were never in Iraq, but I bet they are now". The fact the conference did not have a vote on Iraq was "a disgrace". Mick Hogg, from the RMT, drew applause when he argued: "It's a tragedy and a shame that a government of Labour, the party of peace and justice, has taken us to war for reasons that have been exposed as untrue. "The British people were misled about WMD and the whole world knows that Iraq's oil reserves are the second biggest in the world." Hecklers were out for Jimmy Elsby, of the TGWU, when he argued that if the US and UK had listened to the millions who demonstrated against the war, "Iraq would not be denied the right of human life ..." The audience then had their heart strings tugged another way, when Mary Chapple, from Amicus/AEU, told how her son helped to liberate the people of Kuwait during the first Gulf war. "Whatever your views, they are your views. But let me tell you this: my son will do his duty and no way will my son walk away from the people of Iraq." Ms Chapple said her son and daughter-in-law will be going out to Iraq later this year, along with many other men and women "belonging to mothers like me". "Please think. Support the troops. Tony Blair made a difficult decision. We can't walk away now. We are there." http://politics.guardian.co.uk/labour2003/story/0,13803,1052752,00.html * BLAIR'S CONFERENCE SPEECH ON 29TH SEPTEMBER The Guardian, 30th September [.....] Iraq has divided the international community. It has divided the party, the country, families, friends. I know many people are disappointed, hurt, angry. I know many profoundly believe the action we took was wrong . I do not at all disrespect anyone who disagrees with me. I ask just one thing: attack my decision but at least understand why I took it and why I would take the same decision again. Imagine you are PM. And you receive this intelligence. And not just about Iraq. But about the whole murky trade in WMD. And one thing we know. Not from intelligence. But from historical fact. That Saddam's regime has not just developed but used such weapons gassing thousands of his own people. And has lied about it consistently, concealing it for years even under the noses of the UN Inspectors. And I see the terrorism and the trade in WMD growing. And I look at Saddam's country and I see its people in torment ground underfoot by his and his sons' brutality and wickedness. So what do I do? Say "I've got the intelligence but I've a hunch its wrong?" Leave Saddam in place but now with the world's democracies humiliated and him emboldened? You see, I believe the security threat of the 21st century is not countries waging conventional war. I believe that in today's interdependent world the threat is chaos. It is fanaticism defeating reason. Suppose the terrorists repeated September 11th or worse. Suppose they got hold of a chemical or biological or nuclear dirty bomb; and if they could, they would. What then? And if it is the threat of the 21st century, Britain should be in there helping confront it, not because we are America's poodle, but because dealing with it will make Britain safer. There was no easy choice. So whatever we each of us thought, let us agree on this. We who started the war must finish the peace. Those British soldiers who died are heroes. We didn't regret the fall of Milosovic, the removal of the Taliban or the liberation of Sierra Leone and whatever the disagreement Iraq is a better country without Saddam. And why do I stay fighting to keep in there with America on the one hand and Europe on the other? Because I know terrorism can't be defeated unless America and Europe work together. And it's not so much American unilateralism I fear. It's isolation. It's walking away when we need America there engaged. Fighting to get world trade opened up. Fighting to give hope to Africa. Changing its position for the future of the world, on climate change. And staying with it in the Middle East, telling Israel and the Palestinians: don't let the extremists decide the fate of the peace process, when the only hope is two states living side by side in peace. [.....] During the past months on Iraq, I have received letter from parents whose sons have died as soldiers. One believing their son had died in vain and hating me for my decision. Another, a beautiful letter, said they thought Iraq was the right thing to do and though their son was dead, whom they loved dearly, they still thought it was right. And don't believe anyone who tells you when they receive letters like that they don't suffer any doubt. All you can do in a modern world, so confusing with its opportunities and its hazards, is to decide what is the right way and try to walk in it. [.....] _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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