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News, 8-14/10/03 (2) NEIGHBOURS * Uproar Over Turk Troop Deployment * U.S. faces Iraqi opposition over Turkish troop deployment * Turkey Says Troops to Respond to Attack OPPOSITIONS(S) * Parallel 'government' finds support * Mahdi's Birthday Celebrated by 1 Million Shiites in Iraq; Muqtada promises shadow government * Inside the resistance * Iraq Council Member: Iraq to Back Syria PRETEXT * Don't bother them with facts * No Weapons Doesn't Mean No Threat * What Kay Found * The Iraq weapons report: a review RIVER'S CORNER * Baghdad Burning NEIGHBOURS http://www.arabnews.com/?page=4§ion=0&article=33292&d=9&m=10&y=2003&pix= world.jpg&category=World * UPROAR OVER TURK TROOP DEPLOYMENT Arab News (Saudi Arabia), 9th October [.....] In Istanbul, meanwhile, protesters chained themselves to the wire fencing of an American school and shouted "We will not allow our soldiers to be killed," as others gathered separately on Taksim central square and in front of the offices of the governing Justice and Development Party. In the Turkish capital Ankara, dozens of members of trade unions, political parties and civic groups gathered in front of the Parliament, where legislators on Tuesday voted for a government motion to dispatch troops to neighboring Iraq. "Turkey should take its hands off Iraq," the group chanted. "Turkey has been dragged by the $8.5 billion carrot," opposition MP Haluk Koc, who joined the demonstrators, said in reference to the $8.5 billion that Washington agreed to loan Ankara last month in return for its "cooperation" in Iraq. "Don't send our sons to the Iraqi hell. Don't make them shields for American soldiers," protestors chanted in the northern city of Trabzon, the news agency reported. Turkey's press offered a mixed reaction, with the Vatan daily calling it a "gamble" that might cost Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan his political future. Turkey's main Kurdish party, the Democratic People's Party, also denounced the decision describing it has having "brought Turkey to the edge of war." [.....] * U.S. FACES IRAQI OPPOSITION OVER TURKISH TROOP DEPLOYMENT by Kathleen Ridolfo RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT, Vol. 6, No. 42, 9 October 2003 The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq may have to contend with more than the Iraqi Governing Council's opposition to the presence of Turkish troops on Iraqi soil. Both Kurdish leaders and citizens have vehemently opposed the idea of foreign troops, even if those troops were stationed outside of Kurdish-dominated northern Iraq. Iraqis from across the religious and ethnic spectrum have largely opposed the presence of any foreign troops on their soil, particularly the Turks, because of Iraq's longstanding historical and political relationship with its northern neighbor. Although the U.S. request for Turkish troops was made in July, the Turkish cabinet only sent a motion to its National Assembly on 6 October. The motion called for the dispatch of 10,000 Turkish troops to contribute to stabilization efforts in Iraq. The four-page motion sought parliamentary approval to send troops to Iraq at some point during the next year and stipulated that Turkish troops would operate under a Turkish national command structure. "Turkish armed forces will also perform the tasks of restoring public order and regulating and improving humanitarian aid and the economic [infra]structure," the motion stated. The parliament approved the motion a day later -- after just three hours of debate -- by a vote of 358 to 183. Press reports indicated that the Iraqi Governing Council, upon hearing of the approval, unanimously rejected the possible deployment. But Governing Council member Sungul Chabuk, a Turkoman, appeared to support the Turkish deployment. "Turkey wants to help the Iraqi people preserve security and stability and rebuild Iraq...God willing, the Turkish troops, who are Muslim troops, will be welcomed by the Iraqi people," she told Reuters on 6 October. However, Governing Council member Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i said that the council is opposed to Turkish troops in Iraq because members fear the troops might undermine stability in Iraq. "The overriding opinion among the [Governing Council] members is that there are fears and apprehension with regard to bringing any foreign troops to Iraq," he told Al-Jazeera on 7 October. "This is because we...seek to end the occupation and not to increase the number of foreign troops, particularly from regional countries which will not be neutral in Iraq." Al Rubay'i noted that the Governing Council wants the United States to guarantee that the Turkish troops would operate under coalition or UN control, and that they would depart Iraq ahead of U.S. forces. Governing Council member Mahmud Uthman echoed al-Rubay'i, telling Radio Free Iraq (RFI) on 8 October, "In general, we don't want any neighboring countries to bring troops to Iraq, because, contrary to what the Americans believe, that cannot help solve security problems." KDP head and Governing Council member Mas'ud Barzani's representative, Rosh Noori Shawais, told RFI that the council would prefer that Iraq's neighbors contribute to reconstruction efforts in Iraq, rather than send forces. "The other point is that the duty and goal of the Iraqi [Governing] Council is trying to fulfill is the gradual establishment of control over the country. Increasing the number of troops or bringing in new troops will complicate the achievement of this goal," he added. Meanwhile, rumors circulated of a possible compromise between the U.S. and the Governing Council on 8 October. CPA head L. Paul Bremer met with Governing Council members to discuss the issue, as officials in Washington dismissed the council's opposition as a stumbling block. The Iraqi Governing Council president for October, Iyad Allawi, told Al Jazeera ahead of the 8 October meeting that the council's opposition to the deployment should not be seen as its final decision on the matter. Sources told Al-Jazeera that a compromise would be reached and issued through a Governing Council statement saying that the council "does not prefer" troops from neighboring countries to participate in Iraqi peacekeeping efforts. Governing Council member Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i told Reuters that council members "know very well that Iraq is occupied and the [CPA] is our partner, and we do not want to enter [into] a confrontation.... So we will definitely reach a compromise that will protect our interests and the interests of our partner." Meanwhile, Governing Council member Mahmud Uthman told RFI: "Eventually, if we don't succeed in convincing the American side and they continue to insist on bringing in these [Turkish] troops because they consider security issues [in Iraq] their responsibility, then we have to sit down with the American side and with the Turkish side, if possible, and discuss and agree on the number of troops, where they will be deployed, and for how long they will stay. All this is needed to reduce the harm that can be done as a result of the deployment of these troops." And that is just what appears to be happening. Iyad Allawi met with Turkish Ambassador Osman Paksut on 8 October. Although much of the meeting was not disclosed to the press, Paksut acknowledged, "We are having regular contact with the Iraqi Governing Council," adding, "I don't know how many [Governing Council] members are against or how many members are for" the deployment of Turkish troops, Reuters reported. In Ankara, Turkey announced that its Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Ugur Ziyal would hold initial talks with U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman on 9 October to discuss the terms of the deployment. "What will be talked about, when the discussions will start, where, who will head the talks will be clear when we officially inform the American side [of parliament's decision] tomorrow," Reuters quoted a Foreign Ministry official as saying on 8 October. In Washington, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed the notion that Iraqis would reject the Turkish deployment en masse, saying: "You have Iraqis all across the spectrum -- some who will be very happy, some who will be worried, some who will be neutral. Some won't have an opinion." U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher also played down the Governing Council's opposition, telling reporters: "We believe these things can be worked out [and] should be worked out...we will be working on all the details to make sure that the Iraqis agree with us on that." While it is expected that an agreement satisfactory to all parties will be reached, selling the deployment to the Iraqi people may meet with some difficulty. Iraqi Kurds in northern Iraq were vociferously airing their opinions to international media on 8 October, with many citing Turkey's oppression of its ethnic Kurdish population, it's 400-year "occupation" of Iraq during the Ottoman Empire, and suspicions that Turkey would seek to benefit from Iraq's vast oil reserves once inside the country. Such suspicions are not implausible, given statements earlier this year by then Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis. He told "Hurriyet" on 6 January that his country was examining whether or not it had any legitimate historical claims to the northern Iraqi oil-rich cities of Mosul and Kirkuk (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 13 and 20 January 2003). Turkey's long insistence that it wanted to enter northern Iraq to protect the Turkomans -- who are ethnically related to Turks -- and to maintain order, i.e., prevent any attempts by the Kurds to separate from the central government -- have also contributed to Iraqis' suspicions of their northern neighbor. The U.S. tried earlier this year to smooth Turkish Kurdish relations over when it was seeking permission to launch Operation Iraqi Freedom from Turkish soil (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 21 March 2003), but it appears it will need to restart its diplomacy campaign in order to prevent an escalation of tensions ahead of any Turkish deployment to Iraq. http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/w-me/2003/oct/13/101307551.html * TURKEY SAYS TROOPS TO RESPOND TO ATTACKS by SUZAN FRASER Las Vegas Sun, 13th October ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - Turkey's military said Monday that if Turkish peacekeepers are sent to Iraq, they would be deployed in the center of the country, in areas dominated by Sunni Muslims. The military also warned that its soldiers would respond if their supply convoys came under attack from Iraqi Kurdish groups. Those groups have not threatened any attacks against Turks, but there are deep tensions between Iraqi Kurds and Turkey. Turkey battled Turkish Kurdish separatist guerrillas in its southeast for some 15 years and has said it won't tolerate Kurdish independence in northern Iraq. Iraqi Kurds have strongly opposed a possible Turkish peacekeeper deployment and control the sector of northern Iraq that Turkish convoys would have to cross before reaching central Iraq. Last week, Turkey's parliament gave permission for the government to send troops to Iraq, but Iraqi Kurdish groups and members of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council have spoken out against troops from Turkey, saying that peacekeepers from neighboring countries may interfere in Iraq's postwar development. "If there is a situation in which Kurdish groups in the region attack our convoys while crossing through northern Iraq, then the necessary response will be given," Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Ilker Basbug told reporters. "It's something that they need to think about." "We have the capacity to protect ourselves," he added. Basbug also said that Turkey "would expect the interim government in Iraq to adopt a more positive stance." The Turkish Ottoman Empire ruled what is now Iraq for about 400 years until World War I. Basbug said Turkish and U.S. officials were discussing the possibility of deploying Turkish peacekeepers in one of three regions. The first region would be Saddam Hussein's home province of Salahaddin. The second area would be to the west of Salahaddin and would include the hotspot of Fallujah, the site of frequent clashes with U.S. troops and the desert area up to the Syrian border. The third district, which the military hinted is less likely to be approved, would be a more limited area to the west of Salahaddin not including the desert area. The areas are all dominated by Sunni Muslims. Turks are overwhelmingly Sunni. Talks on the location with the United States were ongoing, Basbug said. "We have not reached a result," he added. Basbug gave no timeframe as to when troops could be sent and added that the government would make the final decision as to whether to send troops. "It is the duty of the government to determine the location of duty," said Gen. Metin Yavuz Yalcin, the head of planning. Yalcin warned of the risks to the soldiers. "No matter where the region is, there are risks," Yalcin said. "Even in an atmosphere that seems calm, no matter how our intelligence is, there's always the possibility of an instant terror attack like Sept. 11." Parliament's vote to send troops came after a U.S. official gave assurances to Turkey that Washington would remove the threat posed to Turkey by some 5,000 Turkish Kurdish rebels that have bases in northern Iraq. Turkey and the United States consider the rebel group to be a terrorist organization. OPPOSITIONS(S) http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/62D93B71-232E-414F-B111-D8BF9511A34E. htm * PARALLEL 'GOVERNMENT' FINDS SUPPORT Aljazeera, 12th October Hundreds of Iraqis have taken to the streets in support of the parallel government that Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has announced for the country. A day after al-Sadr announced the formation of his "Iraqi government" in defiance of the US-led occupation, a large crowd gathered in the city of Najaf, pledging their whole-hearted support. "We are ready to sacrifice our souls for you, Sadr," chanted the demonstrators as they roamed the streets of the city. A firebrand cleric, al-Sadr had announced the formation of the government during his weekly sermon in the town of Kufa. "I have decided and I have formed a government made up of several ministries, including ministries of justice, finance, information, interior, foreign affairs, endowments and the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice," the young cleric had said. "If you agree, I ask you to demonstrate peacefully in order to express you support," al-Sadr had exhorted. Responding to his call, the crowd in Najaf registered their noisy support. "We are against the American occupation forces and we back everything that Moqtada al Sadr says," one of the demonstrators said. The day's show of solidarity for al-Sadr coincided with more resistance attacks in the troubled country. An Iraqi police officer was killed and six policemen wounded in a hand grenade attack near the town of Karbala, south of Baghdad. Meanwhile, thousands of Iraqi Shias have begun to converge on the city of Karbala to celebrate the birthday of the 12th Imam. They travelled from across the country to participate in the celebration of the birth of the ninth-century Imam al-Mahdi. The authorities expected as many as five million Shias to make their way into the city for the occasion. http://www.juancole.com/ * MAHDI'S BIRTHDAY CELEBRATED BY 1 MILLION SHIITES IN IRAQ; MUQTADA PROMISES SHADOW GOVERNMENT Juan Cole - Informed Comment Sunday, October 12, 2003 Hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million and a half Shiite worshippers crowded into the shrine city of Karbala on Saturday, to begin commemorating the birth of the Twelfth Imam (in the Western calendar it was 2 August 869 AD). The Polish commander of the region expects as many as three million on Sunday. Iraqi police and Muqtada al-Sadr's Army of the Mahdi were providing security, according to al-Hayat newspaper. Shiite Muslims believe that the 12th Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi (a lineal descendant of the Prophet Muhammad) went into a supernatural and invisible realm as a small child, from which he secretly rules the world, and that he will one day return to restore the world to justice. (The belief is similar to Christian ideas about the ascent and ultimate return of Christ). Pious Shiites interpret the recent Iraq war not as a victory of American arms but as the expression of the divine wrath with Saddam Hussein's wicked government. That young Shiite sectarian leader Muqtada al-Sadr has chosen this anniversary to announce that he will form an Iraqi government points to the millenarian beliefs of the Sadrists. (Milleniarian movements typically believe that the world as we know it is about to end through divine intervention.) Many Iraqis assume that the bewildering events of the past 6 months indicate that the return of the Mahdi is near. Some may think that Muqtada is the Mahdi. Mahdist movements in Islam have often turned violent, and several have fought against Western imperialism. Most Americans have heard of the Sudanese Mahdi, if only via the film Khartoum, who opposed British expansion into Egypt and the Sudan. But there were millenarian overtones to some Algerian revolts against the French, and among Muslims who revolted against the British in India in 1857. Also the Shiites produced the Babi movement, which threw Iran into turmoil in the 1840s and 1850s and had an anti-Western cast. Some of Khomeini's following was from millenarian Shiites. The Sadrists don't need millenarian ideas to be militantly anti-Western, but such beliefs can bolster reckless violence. After all, if the world as we know it is about to be turned upside down by God, then what have we got to lose? Muqtada has instructed his followers to organize marches and processions in Baghdad and other cities in support of the new "government" once it is announced, according to al-Hayat. As it is, hundreds of believers came out on Saturday in Najaf for Muqtada's announcement (-AFP). The Western press keeps saying that the extent of Muqtada's influence is unknown. I'd guess he has about 2 million followers in Iraq. It is a guess, but an educated one. The reporters are confused that they are told by mainstream Shiites that Muqtada is too young and inexperienced to have such influence. But he leads a sectarian movement, not a mainstream one. In American terms, Muqtada is more like David Koreish, and Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani is more like an Episcopalian bishop. Except that Muqtada has a huge following compared to any American sect I know of. Muqtada's forces clashed with US troops Thursday night, producing casualties on both sides. A spokesman for Muqtada in Baghdad announced Saturday that the US military command had apologized to the Sadrists for the incident and expressed regret for the loss of life (two Iraqis had died, as well as two US troops). (-AFP) Muqtada al-Sadr's proposed cabinet, according to Abdul Hadi Daraji, will include a ministry for the "prevention of vice and promotion of virtue." (- Washington Post). This is the same sort of ministry that was in charge of so much repression by the Taliban in Afghanistan. "You know very well that there is a connection between the military and the political," said Daraji, who called the United States "a terrorist organization" during Friday prayers outside Sadr's headquarters in Baghdad. "The imam's army is the military side," Daraji said, "and the cabinet is the political side." (WP) Muqtada also plans to name ministers of Foreign Affairs, Finance, etc. He calls on his followers to support this 'government' with "peaceful" demonstrations. Al-Hayat newspaper says that Muqtada has claimed that his government would represent the Iraqi people, whereas the Interim Governing Council was merely appointed by a foreign power, the US, and was not elected in accordance with Muslim law. (Muqtada doesn't seem to realize the irony that his own proposed government is also appointed, only by him, rather than elected; though perhaps there has been informal consultation (shura) with his lieutenants). A cyber-friend wrote me of Iraq, "I talked to a friend at a 15th of Sha'ban celebration today and he said he was going to pick up his in-laws at the airport tomorrow who are returning from ziarat to Karbala and Najaf. He claimed that seven million people had attended 15th of Sha'ban in Karbala! Surely an exaggeration but indicative that a lot of people were there, and that people from all over the world were pouring into Iraq for religious observance. One wonders who is controlling the border, issuing visas and what not. Also, there was very little notice of this in any media that I perused. But people translates to money, and increased power for the Hawza [Shiite religious establishment in Najaf]. The Hawza doesn't need to back a guerilla war, as they've got people power. Khomeini certainly didn't need a guerilla war. Unless the U.S. military institutes a Saddam like slaughter and oppression, the Shia' are going to be very difficult to control. Looks to me like they've got a tiger by the tail, as they are expending blood and money putting down the Sunni/Baathist rebellion, while the Hawza is quietly strengthening and consolidating it's position." http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1061660,00.html * INSIDE THE RESISTANCE by Zaki Chehab The Guardian, 13th October The suicide bomber who yesterday attacked the US-frequented Baghdad Hotel was the fourth member of the Iraqi resistance to kill themselves for the cause. The bombing came only three days after last week's suicide attack on a Baghdad police station that left at least eight people dead. From the meetings I have had with resistance fighters in different parts of Iraq, there is no doubt that there will be many more such attacks to come. The use of suicide bombing in Iraq - the first announced target was the UN in August - signals a clear change of tactics by the growing resistance movement. The US-led coalition forces, frustrated by their inability to control the situation, blame foreign infiltrators for these attacks, emphasising the similarity between these new tactics and those of al-Qaida and other militant groups in the Middle East. Few seem to grasp the fact that Iraqis, who are well-trained militarily, have simply learned from others' experiences, and carried out the attacks themselves. I first met Iraqi resistance fighters at a farm in the suburbs of Ramadi, north of Baghdad. It was several months after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, and on that day the people of Ramadi were gathering at a mosque to grieve the death of a young Iraqi killed by US forces. The man - unarmed, and driving a civilian car - had failed to stop at a checkpoint. There had been no signs warning him or other drivers of the danger they were approaching. I was taken aback by the strength of the anger felt by the local people - such deaths (this young man was not the first to die at the checkpoint, nor the last) were clearly galvanising local people to fight back against the occupation forces. After the funeral, with the dreaded 10pm curfew fast approaching, my new Iraqi companions invited me to go with them to a nearby place of safety. As we made the dangerous journey along the road from Ramadi to Baghdad - the site of daily attacks by the resistance and street gangs - the conversation turned to the nature of the Iraqi resistance movement. I was very keen to find out why it was spreading throughout Iraq so quickly, and what motivated its members. My companions - ordinary Iraqis - immediately offered to introduce me to the fighters they knew. The fighters wore civilian clothes but their faces were covered, and they held a range of small arms and light weapons - AK-47s, RPG-7s to shoulder-mounted rocket propellers and hand grenades. What struck me most, though, was their intense commitment to their cause: the liberation of Iraq from its current occupiers. These were no "Ba'athist remnants". On the contrary, they blamed Saddam Hussein for bringing the Americans into Iraq. They went so far as to say the capture of Saddam by allied forces would sever the links between Saddam and the resistance movement once and for all. They defined themselves as nationalists. One said: "We do not want to see our country occupied by forces clearly pursuing their own interests, rather than being poised to return Iraq to the Iraqis." Later, I met members of a different strand of the resistance: Saddam Hussein loyalists in Tikrit. We were filming in the main street there when two young, well-built Iraqis approached us. While they were asking us who we were working for, a US convoy passed by and the two men shouted abuse at the American soldiers, threatening to turn Iraq into their graveyard. Then they turned to us, boasting that they had attacked the Americans the night before at Saddam's palace in the town, and would carry out daily attacks until the Americans were driven out of the country. One of the two men introduced himself as Nabil, and declared that there was no support locally for the Americans, who would never be safe, even in their thousands. These were not empty threats. I spent that night with an Iraqi family in the town. While sitting in the back garden, we witnessed eight explosions within minutes of each other. My host, a university professor, explained that they were mortar attacks targeting the US headquarters in Tikrit. In Mosul and Falluja, the resistance groups are different again. Here, most identify themselves with Islamist organisations such as the Muslim Brotherhood. Recently, there have been reports of meetings in the Jordanian capital between high-ranking members of Hamas and this section of the resistance, which has sought to learn from the experience of Hamas and its military wing, well-known for its suicide bomb attacks against Israeli targets. This development was entirely predictable. When Mosul fell to American forces on April 11, terror and chaos spread over the city. The Pentagon promised that thousands of its soldiers would secure Mosul and prevent mass looting. I entered the city that day. By the time praying started, dozens of worshippers had gathered to hear one of Mosul's leading Sunni clerics calling for patience, but warning that if peace and security were not restored, then "the inhabitants of Mosul still have the means to resist, as this is not the promised liberation but an occupation. We will never accept Iraq becoming a second Palestine." Iraq is a country which has faced more than 20 years of war, and more than a decade of sanctions. The motivations of each strand of Iraqi resistance vary: the loyalists are driven by the loss of power; the nationalists by the desire to establish independence and security; the Islamists by their dream of returning political Islam to the Iraqi nation. These aspirations may be incompatible, but the focus of each group now is to fight together against the common enemy of Iraq - the occupying forces. In some areas at least, this common interest has a structural expression. In the back streets of Mosul, soon after the fall of the city, I came face to face with a group of armed men, shouting and firing shots in different directions. I asked who they were: some introduced themselves as former Ba'athists, others said they belonged to Islamist organisations. Though ideologically worlds apart, they explained that they all took their orders from the same committee in the city, which was headed by a group of religious leaders. I later found there were similar relationships in Falluja and Samarra. The resolve and ferocity of the Iraqi resistance has been amplified by the blunders of the American soldiers in Iraq. Coalition commanders have dealt ineptly with ground operations, and neither the British nor the Americans have come up with a clear road map for the political reconstruction of Iraq that would enable Iraqis to rule themselves. Random road checks and house-to-house searches, often based on inaccurate information, make a bad situation worse. Culturally inappropriate behaviour - male soldiers body searching women, for example - and collective punishments have further alienated the population and helped entrench popular support for resistance. Given the growing number of Iraqis joining the resistance, there is a strong need for Washington and London to revise their military and political plans for post-conflict Iraq. The occupation forces are in a fragile position. If they strengthen their military presence in the face of increasing resistance, they will only alienate Iraqis yet further from their attempts to redraw the political future of Iraq - and the resistance will continue to spread. Unless there is an early withdrawal, the currently sporadic attacks in the Shia-dominated south can be expected to mushroom. Britain and the US are currently setting the stage for a new phase of Iraqi resistance. Its members are learning fast from the experience of the region, and are already adopting new tactics. The latest of these is suicide bombing - a weapon which even the strongest counter terrorism forces struggle to cope with. Zaki Chehab is the political editor of the Arabic TV station al-Hayat-LBC, and was the first journalist to broadcast an interview with members of the Iraqi resistance http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=540&ncid=736&e=1&u=/ap/20031 013/ap_on_re_mi_ea/syria_iraq * IRAQ COUNCIL MEMBER: IRAQ TO BACK SYRIA by BASSEM MROUE, Associated Press Writer Yahoo, 13th October DAMASCUS, Syria - A member of Iraq's U.S.-appointed Governing Council said Monday that any attack against Syria was considered an attack against Iraq. Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, who heads the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shiite Muslim group, also said sending Turkish peacekeepers to Iraq will not solve the country's security crisis. American troops should "leave as soon as possible because there are no people who believe in occupation and accepts occupiers," said Al-Hakim, whose elder brother and Shiite leader, Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, was killed in an August bombing in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf. Al-Hakim's three-day visit to Syria, which for a long time was a close ally of his group, comes a week after Israeli warplanes attacked a camp near Damascus that Israel claimed was a training center for the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad. Syria denied the allegations and said Palestinian militants abandoned the camp years ago. "Iraq and Syria, people and states, are brotherly, and their fate is the same. Therefore, we stand by their side," al-Hakim told reporters. "When there is an aggression against Syria, it is an aggression against Iraq." Syria, which is ruled by a rival faction of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, had close relations with Iraqi groups that opposed the ousted leader, and most Iraqi opposition groups had offices in Damascus. Asked if he considers attacks against U.S. troops to be terrorist acts, al-Hakim said, "We believe that many of these operations are terrorist acts because they target civilians, scholars, oil and water installations and public establishments. "We consider these operations terrorist acts and increase instability in Iraq. They are harmful and are rejected by Iraqi people," he said. Although anti-American attacks have left 96 U.S. soldiers dead since May 1, when President Bush declared major combat over, bombings have also killed scores of civilians and saboteurs have targeted the country's infrastructure. Al-Hakim, who is scheduled to meet Syrian President Bashar Assad on Tuesday, said he does not think sending Turkish peacekeepers to Iraq will help in easing the bad security situation. "We are not for the entrance of any forces," he said. "We believe that the severe security problem in Iraq is because of the wrong policies of American forces and occupation forces. The only treatment for this problem is to depend on the Iraqi people." Turkey's parliament gave permission last week for the government to send troops to Iraq, but Iraqi Kurdish groups and Governing Council members have opposed the move, saying peacekeepers from neighboring countries could interfere with Iraq's postwar development. PRETEXT http://www.washtimes.com/commentary/20031006-085848-3932r.htm * DON'T BOTHER THEM WITH FACTS by Frank J. Gaffney Jr. Washington Times, 6th October To hear a number of leading Democrats tell it, the report issued last week by David Kay, chairman of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), was proof positive President Bush had effectively committed a war crime: He launched a war of aggression on the pretext Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and now, thanks to Mr. Kay, we know that wasn't true. There is only one problem with this highly partisan attack, and the parallel media reporting that has taken a similarly pollyannish line about the Kay report: No responsible reader could take any comfort from its findings, let alone construe them as an indictment of the Bush administration and its decision to liberate Iraq. While the president's critics may not wish to be bothered by the facts, they are, as the saying goes, "stubborn things." And those laid out by Mr. Kay and his colleagues paint a picture of Saddam Hussein as despot relentlessly engaged in the pursuit of the most devastating weapons known to man. The Iraq Survey Group's inability to date to locate the weapons the United Nations previously determined were in Saddam's hands should be a matter of grave concern - and redoubled effort. Its report certainly is not cause for, as some have suggested, shutting down the ISG and reallocating its resources elsewhere. Consider, for example, the following facts that belie the conclusion Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction: The Kay team has thus far been able to examine only 10 of the 130 known ammo depots in Iraq, some of which are as large as 50 square miles. It would be folly to say on the basis of a less-than-10-percent sample whether WMD are to be found in the remainder. These depots are filled with immense quantities of ordnance. Since the regime made no appreciable effort to distinguish which contained high explosives and which were loaded with chemical or biological agents, establishing exactly what is in such facilities is time consuming and dangerous. In addition to the known depots, there are untold numbers of covert weapons caches around the country. These caches have been the source of much of the ordnance used in improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to attack American and coalition forces. Whether any of these contain WMD remains unknown at this juncture. But if they do, IEDs could, in the future, be vastly more devastating - especially to unprotected Iraqis in proximity to the attack. The task is further complicated by the relatively small size of the objects of the search. Mr. Kay has noted that all of Saddam Hussein's as yet unaccounted for WMD could be stored in a space the size of a two-car garage. According to former Clinton CIA Director R. James Woolsey, his entire suspected inventory of the biological agent anthrax would fill roughly half a standard semi's tractor trailer. Taken together with the assiduous efforts of Saddam to conceal and otherwise to obscure his weapons of mass destruction program (also documented by Mr. Kay and his team), these factors give rise to an ineluctable reality: If the ISG is having a hard time ferreting out the truth about Iraq's WMD, U.N. inspectors would likely never have found dispositive evidence of Iraqi WMD given the additional constraints they labored under that no longer apply (notably, those imposed on freedom of travel and inquiry by Saddam's totalitarian system and the attendant lack of cooperation from Iraqi scientists). The really bad news in the Kay report are its revelations about the role being played in WMD-related activities by Saddam's dreaded Iraqi Intelligence Service (known as the IIS, or Mukhabarat). According to Mr. Kay, the Mukhabarat had more than two-dozen secret laboratories - and more are still being found - that "at a minimum kept alive Iraq's capability to produce both biological and chemical weapons." In addition to discovering work aimed at weaponizing various deadly diseases, the Iraq Survey Group received from an Iraqi scientist "reference strains" for one of the most lethal substances known to man: Botulinum toxin. In short order, with the right equipment and growth material - items Saddam was able to acquire and retain since they were inherently "dual use" and could also be used for commercial purposes - such strains could translate into large quantities of biological agents. Lest we forget, it was this sort of capability that President Bush cited as grounds for war. He warned of the possibility that weapons of mass destruction could be made available to terrorists. It would not take large quantities to inflict immense damage. And it would likely be the Iraqi Intelligence Services, rather than the regular army or even the Republican Guard, who would be responsible for providing such support to the regime's terrorist proxies. In a little-noted aspect of his recent "Meet the Press" interview, Vice President Richard Cheney for the first time offered official confirmation that Iraqi agents appeared to have played such a catalytic role in the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. It is one thing to ignore the facts available, and their ominous implications. It is, however, another thing altogether to pretend David Kay has shown there is no danger from Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, when the facts are otherwise, and bothersome indeed. Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A48562-2003Oct5.html * NO WEAPONS DOESN'T MEAN NO THREAT by Charles Duelfer Washington Post, 6th October The Iraq Survey Group headed by David Kay has now made an interim report. Ironically, this group has inherited the obligation previously levied by the United Nations upon Saddam Hussein -- namely, to credibly and verifiably detail Iraq's program of weapons of mass destruction to a skeptical international audience. The group has had far more access and resources than the U.N. inspectors under Hans Blix and it has been in Iraq longer. How is it faring and what does the interim report tell us? Particularly, does the absence of a major weapons discovery mean that U.N. inspections were working and the war was unnecessary? Kay states that while no ready-to-use weapons have been found, Iraq is a big country and many depots and other locations are yet to be inspected. However, the Kay report does list evidence of continuing research and development (though not production) in each weapon category. It also describes activities and equipment that Iraq failed to declare to the United Nations and that were not discovered by the inspectors. Future reports will have to show in verifiable detail the extent of these prohibited programs, but these findings will not greatly surprise experienced U.N. inspectors. Hussein had long differentiated between retaining weapons and sustaining the capability to produce weapons. Experience has also shown that Iraq tended to pursue whatever relevant research was allowed or was deemed undetectable. The apparent absence of existing weapons stocks, therefore, does not mean Hussein did not pose a WMD threat. In fact, fragments of evidence in Kay's report about ongoing biological weapons research suggest that Hussein may have had a quick "break-out" capacity to threaten his neighbors and, indeed, the United States with biological agents (possibly including infectious agents). But clearly this is not the immediate threat many assumed before the war. Large stocks of chemical and biological munitions have not been found. The WMD threat appears to have been longer term. Assuming this finding does not change, it will be very important for the Iraq Survey Group to establish when all agents and weapons were eliminated. It will also be important to analyze why the picture Secretary of State Colin Powell presented to the Security Council in February was so far off the mark. Future reports will also have to demonstrate what facts about the Iraq WMD program the U.N. teams missed and how Hussein's regime acted to thwart the efforts of the United Nations. This latter issue is vital. Kay makes mention of the Iraqi concealment and deception as one reason why he has found so little. The first U.N. inspection team (UNSCOM) pursued a controversial program to investigate what we termed the Iraqi concealment mechanism. The goal was to show how the enormous resources of Iraq's security and intelligence apparatus undermined the inspection teams. We accumulated evidence that presidential secretary Abed Hamid Mahmoud, now in U.S. custody, directed a government-wide effort to contain inspection activity. This included penetrating the U.N. inspection teams and even obtaining assistance from other prominent countries to fend off the inspectors. Conducting surprise inspections had become almost impossible. The Iraq Survey Group should now have access to the records and participants of the former regime. Future reports must provide a clear description of the Iraqi system for containing inspector activity. This is necessary to inform judgments about the effectiveness of the U.N. inspections. The argument is made that if no weapons were found in Iraq, then maybe the U.N. inspection process was successfully containing Hussein and, therefore, the war was unnecessary. This will be proven wrong if the Iraq Survey Group can show that Hussein could outlast and outwit the efforts of the Security Council to keep him from ever obtaining WMD. While the inspection system may have appeared to be successful at a given point, it was not sustainable and eventually the U.N. Security Council would lose focus. Kay's group needs to document the strategy that Hussein's regime was pursuing to counter and erode the U.N. disarmament measures. The Bush administration appears committed to developing a full picture of the Iraqi weapons program, even if it turns out to be less than was forecast. This task in Iraq, like so many others, is made much more difficult because of early mistakes. Key sites were left unsecured and looters destroyed much evidence. Tons of documents were collected haphazardly, and now they have to be sorted out by experts and linguists -- an extremely time-consuming process. Finally, the Iraqis who are most knowledgeable have been living in fear of arrest by the Americans or death from various internal Iraqi threats. Most of the WMD program leaders have spent the summer in jail. The second-tier scientists and engineers fear the night when U.S. military surround their homes and take them away to face an unknown future. They do not find much incentive to cooperate. Kay appears to be making necessary course corrections, and a full verifiable description of Hussein's programs and policies should be forthcoming. It will have to be meticulous. There are many very knowledgeable people in the audience, including U.N. inspectors and former Iraqi officials, who will ultimately pass judgment on its veracity. The writer, a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center, was deputy chairman of UNSCOM, the first U.N. Iraq inspection organization, from 1993 to 2000. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A53173-2003Oct6.html * WHAT KAY FOUND by Colin L. Powell Washington Post, 7th October The interim findings of David Kay and the Iraq Survey Group make two things abundantly clear: Saddam Hussein's Iraq was in material breach of its United Nations obligations before the Security Council passed Resolution 1441 last November, and Iraq went further into breach after the resolution was passed. Kay's interim findings offer detailed evidence of Hussein's efforts to defy the international community to the last. The report describes a host of activities related to weapons of mass destruction that "should have been declared to the U.N." It reaffirms that Iraq's forbidden programs spanned more than two decades, involving thousands of people and billions of dollars. What the world knew last November about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs was enough to justify the threat of serious consequences under Resolution 1441. What we now know as a result of David Kay's efforts confirms that Hussein had every intention of continuing his work on banned weapons despite the U.N. inspectors, and that we and our coalition partners were right to eliminate the danger that his regime posed to the world. Although Kay and his team have not yet discovered stocks of the weapons themselves, they will press on in the months ahead with their important and painstaking work. All indications are that they will uncover still more evidence of Hussein's dangerous designs. Before the war, our intelligence had detected a calculated campaign to prevent any meaningful inspections. We knew that Iraqi officials, members of the ruling Baath Party and scientists had hidden prohibited items in their homes. Lo and behold, Kay and his team found strains of organisms concealed in a scientist's home, and they report that one of the strains could be used to produce biological agents. Kay and his team also discovered documents and equipment in scientists' homes that would have been useful for resuming uranium enrichment efforts. Kay and his team have "discovered dozens of WMD-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002. The discovery . . . has come about both through the admissions of Iraqi scientists and officials concerning information they deliberately withheld and through physical evidence of equipment and activities that the Iraq Survey Group has discovered that should have been declared to the U.N." The Kay Report also addresses the issue of suspected mobile biological agent laboratories: "Investigation into the origin of and intended use for the two trailers found in northern Iraq in April has yielded a number of explanations, including hydrogen, missile propellant and BW [biological warfare] production, but technical limitations would prevent any of these processes from being ideally suited to these trailers. That said, nothing . . . rules out their potential use in BW production." Here Kay's findings are inconclusive. He is continuing to work this issue. Kay and his team have, however, found this: "A clandestine network of laboratories and safe houses within the Iraqi Intelligence Service that contained equipment subject to U.N. monitoring and suitable for continuing CBW [chemical-biological weapons] research." They also discovered: "a prison laboratory complex, possibly used in human testing of BW agents, that Iraqi officials working to prepare for U.N. inspections were explicitly ordered not to declare to the U.N." The Kay Report confirms that our intelligence was correct to suspect the al-Kindi Co. of being involved in prohibited activity. Missile designers at al-Kindi told Kay and his team that Iraq had resumed work on converting SA-2 surface-to-air missiles into ballistic missiles with a range of about 250 kilometers, and that this work continued even while UNMOVIC inspectors were in Iraq. The U.N.-mandated limit for Iraq was a range of 150 kilometers. The Kay Report also confirmed our prewar intelligence that indicated Iraq was developing missiles with ranges up to 1,000 kilometers. Similarly, Kay substantiated our reports that Iraq had tested an unmanned aerial vehicle to 500 kilometers, also in violation of U.N. resolutions. What's more, he and his team found that elaborate efforts to shield illicit programs from inspection persisted even after the collapse of Hussein's regime. Key evidence was deliberately eliminated or dispersed during the postwar period. In a wide range of offices, laboratories and companies suspected of developing weapons of mass destruction, computer hard drives were destroyed, files were burned and equipment was carefully cleansed of all traces of use -- and done so in a pattern that was clearly deliberate and selective, rather than random. One year ago, when President Bush brought his concerns about Iraq to the United Nations, he made it plain that his principal concern in a post-Sept. 11 world was not just that a rogue regime such as Saddam Hussein's had WMD programs, but that such horrific weapons could find their way out of Iraq into the arms of terrorists who would have even fewer compunctions about using them against innocent people across the globe. In the interim report, Kay and his team record the chilling fact that they "found people, technical information and illicit procurement networks that if allowed to flow to other countries and regions could accelerate global proliferation." Having put an end to that harrowing possibility alone justifies our coalition's action against Hussein's regime. But that is not the only achievement of our brave men and women in uniform and their coalition partners. Three weeks ago I paid my respects at a mass grave in the northern city of Halabja, where on a Friday morning in March 1988, Hussein's forces murdered 5,000 men, women and children with chemical weapons. Saddam Hussein can cause no more Halabjas. His "Republic of Fear" no longer holds sway over the people of Iraq. For the first time in three decades, the Iraqi people have reason to hope for the future. President Bush was right: This was an evil regime, lethal to its own people, in deepening material breach of its Security Council obligations, and a threat to international peace and security. Hussein would have stopped at nothing until something stopped him. It's a good thing that we did. The writer is secretary of state. http://www.opendemocracy.net/debates/article-2-95-1529.jsp * THE IRAQ WEAPONS REPORT: A REVIEW by Ron Manley Open Democracy, 9th October The Iraq Survey Group has just published its interim report on the Saddam regime's weapons programmes and capabilities. Ron Manley, a chemical weapons expert who oversaw the United Nations inspection operations in Iraq in the early 1990s, assesses it. Six months after the end of the war in Iraq, and in the eye of the political storm about whether Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) threat was exaggerated by the United States-led coalition, the interim report by the group currently heading weapons inspections in Iraq, the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), has been published. Both sides of the political battle have been scanning it for arguments that shore up their political case. Those who supported the war highlight Saddam's commitment to continuing chemical weapons production, and the traces of biological agent found by ISG; opponents cleave to the fact that no trace of actual chemical or biological weapons have been found. At this moment I would like as a professional weapons inspector and someone deeply concerned with the complete eradication of chemical and biological weapons from the world stage, someone in short with no stake in the political battles that are raging around this issue to examine the ISG report from a dispassionate, objective position. What new information does it actually provide us about Iraq's chemical and biological weapons and their associated research and development programmes? Needle in the haystack or elephant in the fridge? In 1991, following the first Gulf war, I was in charge of the technical United Nations Special Commission (Unscom) team sent to Iraq to destroy Saddam's chemical weapons arsenal. Between 1991 and 1994 we in Unscom undertook the tough task of scouring the country for chemical weapons, and also faced daunting piles of official documents, and the difficulties with interviewing reluctant personnel. Although we were ultimately very successful at eliminating Saddam's chemical stockpile as the ISG report shows it was, nevertheless, a difficult and time-consuming task. Iraq is a large country and the ISG has been operating there for only about three months. The ISG, with approximately 1,400 personnel, is much larger than either Unscom or the later United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (Unmovic) operations were, but like its predecessors it has to carry out its task under very difficult conditions. Even after his regime has fallen, establishing the extent and details of Saddam's chemical and biological weapon programmes continues to be a complex and painstakingly slow project. Some have made political capital out of the fact that ISG team leader David Kay stresses the interim nature of this report. Such a claim, it is said, favours the pro-war lobby's political agenda by suggesting that there is more to find than has been found. Nevertheless, in my professional judgement, Kay is right to emphasise this point, and we should bear the provisional nature of these findings in mind in what follows. Saddam had intention but no actual chemical weapons The most important and definitive finding in the report is that if there were any significant stocks of chemical weapons in Iraq prior to the 2003 campaign they would have been manufactured before 1991 and, therefore, almost certainly, ineffective because of decomposition. The report says: "Information found to date suggests that Iraq's large-scale capability to develop, produce, and fill new CW [chemical weapons] munitions was reduced if not entirely destroyed during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Fox, 13 years of UN sanctions and UN inspections." Iraq's approach to the production of chemical weapons has historically been to produce and fill the chemical agent into munitions shortly before they were required for use. While Iraq is known to have carried out research into the development of stabilisers for its chemical agents, no evidence has been uncovered that they produced stabilised agent on a large scale and none of the many chemical weapons sampled by Unscom between 1991 and 1998 were found to contain stabilised agent. It therefore follows that with the exception of those containing mustard gas (which has a much longer shelf-life), the chemical agent in any Iraqi chemical weapons, filled before 1991, will have decomposed and ceased to be effective long before 2003. Iraqi mustard gas was of very high quality and, therefore, even unstabilised, it could still have a relatively long shelf-life. Analysis undertaken by Unscom, however, showed that Iraqi mustard gas was prone to undergo polymerisation over time, thus reducing its effectiveness. Even pre-1991 Iraqi chemical munitions that were filled with mustard gas, if used against an armoured and protected force, therefore, were likely to have proved relatively ineffective. While the possibility remains that some chemical munitions may eventually be found in Iraq, the ISG interim report leads to the inevitable conclusion that there were no military significant stocks of chemical weapons in Iraq by 2003. What happened to the weapons? We know that Saddam did have very significant stocks of chemical weapons, and (after the attack on Halabja in 1988) that he was prepared to use them. One of the questions which overhangs this report as it did the reports of Unscom and Unmovic to the UN Security Council which mention (for example) unaccounted-for VX nerve agent and filled chemical munitions is: if these stocks are no longer there, what happened to them? Neither the Unscom nor Unmovic reports claimed that these unaccounted-for items continued to exist: they merely made the point that their respective organisations were unable to confirm what had happened to them. Thus Hans Blix's report to the UN Security Council of 14 February 2003: "These reports do not contend that weapons of mass destruction remain in Iraq, but nor do they exclude that possibility. They point to lack of evidence and inconsistencies, which raise question marks, which must be straightened out, if weapons dossiers are to be closed and confidence is to arise." The preliminary ISG report, then, is not inconsistent with either those of Unscom or Unmovic. It too is unable to say, at this stage, what might have happened to the missing weapons. In recent weeks, Hans Blix himself has stated that he is becoming increasingly convinced that these missing or unaccounted-for weapons, were in fact destroyed and that no significant stocks of chemical weapons remained in Iraq. The development of biological weapons While Iraq did eventually admit to Unscom that it had produced and weaponised some biological agents prior to the 1991 Gulf war, it consistently claimed that these weapons were subsequently destroyed. Although it was not possible to confirm that this destruction had in fact taken place, no munitions filled with biological agents were ever found, either during Unscom's or Unmovic's operations in Iraq. It would appear from the ISG report that, once again, no biological weapons have been found or any evidence that Iraq produced and weaponised biological agents on any significant scale after 1991. That said, this report does contain strong circumstantial evidence that the Saddam regime may have been continuing to undertake research into the development of biological weapons. This includes the discovery of a number of undeclared research laboratories, under the control of the Iraqi security services. While their precise purpose has yet to be established, early indications are that they had the potential to undertake research in support of a biological weapons programme. The report also makes reference to the discovery of a batch of vials containing 'reference strains' (very small quantities of an organism normally used for reference purposes) of a number of biological organisms at the private home of a scientist. One of these vials contained the bacteria Clostridium Botulinum. Is this evidence of a biological weapons programme? It is hard to say. While it is true that, assuming the bacteria remained viable, this reference sample could, theoretically, have been used as a seed culture for the manufacture of large quantities of botulinum toxin, a potent biological agent, it does not automatically follow that this was its purpose. Clostridium Botulinum is a naturally occurring bacterium, which can sometimes be found in improperly canned or uncooked meat. Eating such contaminated products can result in a serious case of food poisoning. Reference samples of this bacteria are, therefore, likely to be maintained, for identification purposes, within the public health laboratories of most developed countries. It would be entirely legitimate, for hospital pathology laboratories and other specialist labs to have such samples. The report, unfortunately, does not provide any information on what was in the other vials recovered, which might have helped to clarify matters, but it does say that only the Clostridium Botulinum sample was capable of being used to produce a biological weapon. The ISG has also uncovered some evidence of research into fermentation and spray drying techniques that could be used equally for either peaceful or military production purposes. The sum total of these findings adds up to the conclusion that during the period from 1991 to the start of the 2003 war, work on Iraq's biological weapons programme was, at most, proceeding at a limited and very low level. Of course these findings are a work in progress, and the Saddam regime was notoriously compartmentalised and secretive, so this may not be the final word on Iraq's biological weapon capabilities. The future of weapons inspections While turning up little in the way of actual weapons, the ISG report does provide comfort of a kind to the pro-war lobby, by restating what Unscom, Unmovic and many of us who have worked on this issue in Iraq have been saying for the past decade: Saddam's regime was serious about developing and using chemical and biological weapons; the programme had a twenty-year history and the regime was committed and likely to remain committed to the continuation of its chemical and biological weapon programmes . This report clears some things up, but leaves many big questions unanswered. For the political combatants the main issue, I would imagine, is to find out to what extent the situation on the ground in Iraq matches or contradicts the intelligence the coalition powers had at their disposal. For those of us operating in the arms control field the key question, however, is: why did the regime not produce stocks of chemical and biological weapons during the period between the 1991 Gulf war and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003? We need to answer this because we need to know how effective the containment policy of sanctions, export controls and the presence of international inspectors was in thwarting Saddam's clear desire to maintain a chemical and biological capability. Irrespective of whether or not war, as a method of addressing the threat Saddam ultimately posed, was right in this case, we must move toward a situation where international systems and organisations with the necessary experience, skill and ability to address the threat of WMD are strengthened. Thus avoiding the need to resort to armed conflict in order to eliminate weapons of mass destruction. RIVER'S CORNER http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/ * Baghdad Burning Monday, October 13, 2003 Palms and Punishment... Everyone has been wondering about the trees being cut down in Dhuluaya area. Dhuluaya is an area near Sammara, north of Baghdad. It's an area popular for its wonderful date palms, citrus trees and grape vines. The majority of the people who live in the area are simple landowners who have been making a living off of the orchards they've been cultivating for decades. Orchards in many areas in Iraq- especially central Iraq- are almost like oases in the desert. From kilometers away, you can see the vivid green of proud date palms shimmering through the waves of heat and smoke, reaching for a sky rarely overcast. Just seeing the orchards brings a sort of peace. There are over 500 different kinds of palm trees in Iraq. They vary in type from short, stocky trees with a shock of haphazard, green fronds to long, slim trees with a collection of leaves that seem almost symmetrical in their perfection. A palm tree is known as a 'nakhla' and never fails to bring a sense of satisfaction and admiration. They are the pride and joy of Iraqi farmers and landowners. A garden isn't complete if there isn't a palm tree gracing it. We locate houses by giving the area, the street and then, "Well, it's the fourth- no, wait the fifth house on the left or was it the right? Oh never mind- it's the house on the street with the tallest palm tree." The palm trees, besides being lovely, are highly useful. In the winter months, they act as 'resorts' for the exotic birds that flock to Iraq. We often see various species of birds roosting between the leaves, picking on the sweet dates and taunting the small boys below who can't reach the nests. In the summer months, the 'female palms' provide hundreds of dates for immediate consumption, storage, or processing. In Iraq, there are over 300 different types of dates- each with its own name, texture and flavor. Some are dark brown, and soft, while others are bright yellow, crunchy and have a certain 'tang' that is particular to dates. It's very difficult to hate dates- if you don't like one type, you are bound to like another. Dates are also used to produce 'dibiss', a dark, smooth, date syrup. This dibiss is eaten in some areas with rice, and in others it is used as a syrup with bread and butter. Often it is used as a main source of sugar in Iraqi sweets. Iraqi 'khal' or vinegar is also produced from dates it is dark and tangy and mixed with olive oil, makes the perfect seasoning to a fresh cucumber and tomato salad. Iraqi 'areg', a drink with very high alcoholic content, is often made with dates. In the summer, families trade baskets and trays of dates- allowing neighbors and friends to sample the fruit growing on their palms with the enthusiasm of proud parents showing off a child's latest accomplishment... Every bit of a palm is an investment. The fronds and leaves are dried and used to make beautiful, pale-yellow baskets, brooms, mats, bags, hats, wall hangings and even used for roofing. The fronds are often composed of thick, heavy wood at their ends and are used to make lovely, seemingly-delicate furniture- similar to the bamboo chairs and tables of the Far East. The low-quality dates and the date pits are used as animal feed for cows and sheep. Some of the date pits are the source of a sort of 'date oil' that can be used for cooking. The palm itself, should it be cut down, is used as firewood, or for building. My favorite use for date pits is beads. Each pit is smoothed and polished by hand, pierced in its center and made into necklaces, belts and rosaries. The finished product is rough, yet graceful, and wholly unique. Palm trees are often planted alongside citrus trees in orchards for more than just decoration or economy. Palm trees tower above all other trees and provide shade for citrus trees, which whither under the Iraqi sun. Depending on the type, it takes some palm trees an average of 5 10 years to reach their final height (some never actually stop growing), and it takes an average of 5 -7 years for most palms to bear fruit. The death of a palm tree is taken very seriously. Farmers consider it devastating and take the loss very personally. Each tree is so unique, it feels like a member of the family... I remember watching scenes from the war a couple of days after the bombing began- one image that stuck in my mind was that of a palm tree broken in half, the majestic fronds wilting and dragging on the ground. The sight affected me almost as much as the corpses. Historically, palm trees have represented the rugged, stoic beauty of Iraq and its people. They are a reminder that no matter how difficult the circumstances, there is hope for life and productivity. The palm trees in the orchards have always stood lofty and resolute- oblivious of heat, political strife or war until today. One of the most famous streets in Baghdad is 'shari3 il mattar' or 'The Airport Street'. It is actually two streets- one leading to Baghdad Airport and the other leading from it, into Baghdad. The streets are very simple and plain. Their magnificence lay in the palm trees growing on either side, and in the isle separating them. Entering Baghdad from the airport, and seeing the palm trees enclosing you from both sides, is a reminder that you have entered the country of 30 million palms. Soon after the occupation, many of the palms on these streets were hacked down by troops for 'security reasons'. We watched, horrified, as they were chopped down and dragged away to be laid side by side in mass graves overflowing with brown and wilting green. Although these trees were beautiful, no one considered them their livelihood. Unlike the trees Patrick Cockburn describes in Dhuluaya. Several orchards in Dhuluaya are being cut down except it's not only Dhuluaya it's also Ba'aquba, the outskirts of Baghdad and several other areas. The trees are bulldozed and trampled beneath heavy machinery. We see the residents and keepers of these orchards begging the troops to spare the trees, holding up crushed branches, leaves and fruit- not yet ripe- from the ground littered with a green massacre. The faces of the farmers are crushed and amazed at the atrocity. I remember one wrinkled face holding up 4 oranges from the ground, still green (our citrus fruit ripens in the winter) and screaming at the camera- "Is this freedom? Is this democracy?!" And his son, who was about 10, stood there with tears of rage streaming down his cheeks and quietly said, "We want 5 troops dead for each tree they cut down five troops." A "terrorist", perhaps? Or a terrorized child who had to watch his family's future hacked down in the name of democracy and freedom? Patrick Cockburn says that Dhuluaya is a Sunni area- which is true. Sunnis dominate Dhuluaya. What he doesn't mention is that the Khazraji tribe, whose orchards were assaulted, are a prominent Shi'a tribe in Iraq. For those not interested in reading the article, the first line summarizes it perfectly, "US soldiers driving bulldozers, with jazz blaring from loudspeakers, have uprooted ancient groves of date palms as well as orange and lemon trees in central Iraq as part of a new policy of collective punishment of farmers who do not give information about guerrillas attacking US troops." which reminds me of another line from an article brought to my attention yesterday "A dozen years after Saddam Hussein ordered the vast marshes of southeastern Iraq drained, transforming idyllic wetlands into a barren moonscape to eliminate a hiding place for Shiite Muslim political opponents" Déjà vu, perhaps? Or maybe the orchards differ from the marshlands in that Saddam wasn't playing jazz when he dried up the marshlands Thursday, October 09, 2003 Jewelry and Raids... Yesterday afternoon we went to visit a relative who had recently come home from London. He wasn't a political refugee there, nor was he a double-agent or anything glamorous just a man who had decided to live his life in England. He came to visit every year, usually during December. He was in a state of shock at what he saw around him. Every few minutes he would get up in disbelief, trailing off in mid-sentence, to stand in the window- looking out at the garden like he could perhaps see beyond the garden wall and into the streets of Baghdad. "We watch it on television over there but it's nothing like THIS" And I knew what he meant. Seeing it on the various networks covering the war is nothing like living in its midst. Watching the 7 o'clock news and hearing about 'a car bomb in Baghdad' is nothing like standing in the street, wary of the moving vehicles, wondering if one of them is going to burst into a flying ball of flames and shrapnel. Seeing the checkpoints on Al-Jazeera, CNN or BBC is nothing like driving solemnly up to them, easing the car to a stop and praying that the soldier on the other side doesn't think you look decidedly suspicious or that his gun doesn't accidentally go off. The relative had some interesting gossip on a few of our new 'elite', "Oh HIM?! He had shares in a club in London didn't know he was into politics." And, "Oh hiiiiiiiiiiiiiim his house WAS a club - smashing parties!" When we asked him why in the world he had moved up his trip to October when it would have been better to wait a couple of months for security reasons, he dismissed us with a wave of the hand, "I saw the nine-member presidential council maybe I'll run for president." We took my aunt and her daughter home with us, after the brief family gathering. E. was in a big hurry to get us home before it darkened. Luckily, our relative's house wasn't all that far from our own and we made it to our area just as the sun was setting over some distant palms. The tension during the brief journey eased up somewhat as we turned into the main road that led to our street, and then we all tensed up again. There, pulled up to the side of the road, with one armored car in front and one behind, was a huge, beige-green tank. My aunt moaned and clutched at her handbag possessively, "Is this a checkpoint? What are they searching for? Are they going to check us?" She was carrying all of her gold jewelry in the black, leather bag which, every time she reached inside to rummage for something, I imagined would swallow her up into its depths. Iraqi people don't own gold because they are either spectacularly wealthy, or they have recently been on a looting spree... Gold is a part of our culture and the roll it plays in 'family savings' has increased since 1990 when the Iraqi Dinar (which was $3) began fluctuating crazily. People began converting their money to gold- earrings, bracelets, necklaces- because the value of gold didn't change. People pulled their money out of banks before the war, and bought gold instead. Women here call gold "zeeneh ou 7'azeeneh (khazeeneh)" which means, "ornaments and savings". Gold can be shown off and worn, but in times of economical trouble, a few pieces can be sold to tide the family over. Many troops claimed that they took gold from houses because they couldn't believe people like THAT could own gold... what they don't know is that when two Iraqis get married- regardless of religion- the man often gives the woman a 'mahar' or dowry, composed of gold jewelry. When a couple has a child, the gifts are often little gold trinkets that the parents can sell or keep... this was especially popular before the blockade. "They might be checking houses" E. said. We traveled the last kilometer home in a thoughtful silence, each lost in their own worries. I was worried about the computer. In areas where they claimed to have gotten a 'tip', the computers were often confiscated for checking, never to be seen again. I practiced various phrases in my head, "Take the money, gold and gun, leave the computer" At home, my mother was anxiously clearing up the kitchen. We told her about the tank 'parked' on the main road, "I know," she said, rubbing at a stubborn stain on the counter, "It's been there for the last hour they might check the area tonight." My aunt went into a tirade against raids, troops, and looting, then calmed down and decided that she wouldn't hide her gold tonight: her daughter and I would wear it. I stood there with my mouth hanging open- who is to stop anyone from taking it off of us? Was she crazy? No, she wasn't crazy. We would wear the necklaces, tucking them in under our shirts and the rest would go into our pockets. There would be 'abayas' or robes on standby- if they decided to check the house, we would throw on the abayas and leave the house calmly, waiting for the raid to end. My mother had hidden our not-particularly-impressive valuables in a few ingenious places. It was a game for days, during May, when the raids began and we started hearing tales of the 'confiscation' of valuables like gold and dollars during the raids. Everyone started thinking up creative hiding places to hide the money and jewelry. Neighbors and relatives would trade tips on the best hiding places and the ones that were checked right away the guns were a little bit more difficult. They were necessary for protection against gangs and armed militias. People were allowed to have one pistol and one rifle. If the troops walk into your home, armed to the eyeballs, guns pointed and tense with fear, and find an extra rifle or gun, it is considered 'terrorism' and the family may find itself on the evening news as a potential terrorist cell. We went on with our usual evening activities- well, almost. My aunt wanted to bathe, but was worried they'd suddenly decide to raid us while she was in the bathroom. In the end, she decided that she would bathe, but that E. would have to stand on the roof, diligently watching the road, and the moment an armored car or tank found itself on our street, he'd have to give the warning so my aunt would have time to dress. My cousin and I joined him on the roof and debated the degree of 'fun' it would be to run downstairs screaming "Raid! Raid!", and pound on the bathroom door. After a few minutes, we regretfully decided we were all too mature for that. The electricity went out during dinner, which was composed of not-too-sweet watermelon, salty cheese, khubz, cucumber and yoghurt salad and tomatoes. In the pitch dark, while waiting for a candle, I accidentally poked a finger in the cucumber and yoghurt salad (well, ok, a few fingers). I held up my hand, waiting for the light so I could find some tissues. E. walked in with a kerosene lamp and as my eyes adjusted to the light, I saw the box of tissues next my cousin. I pointed to them and as she reached out to hand me a few, the picture of us suddenly made me want to laugh and cry all at once. Here we were, 10 p.m., no electricity and all fully clothed because no one wanted to be caught in a raid in their pajamas. I haven't worn pajamas for the last 6 months. Tonight though, my cousin and I looked particularly funny. She was reaching out to hand me tissues and her fingers flashed the gold ring on her thumb was glittering under the rays of kerosene light. Her hair was piled up in a falling mass on top of her head and the necklaces glinted as she moved on the faded blue t-shirt with the words, "Smile at ME!", in purple. I didn't look much better - I sat in cargo pants and an old shirt, feet bare on the cool tiles, with three necklaces, two rings and a bracelet that kept getting caught on my shirt and in my hair. I told everyone that we looked like maids who were playing dress-up with the mistress's jewelry E. said we actually looked like gypsies ready to make off with the mistress's jewelry. The 'mistress' called out that we could laugh all we wanted but since the jewelry was everything she had saved since 1965, we had better be careful. We went to sleep early except no one slept. E. kept checking for cars or tanks and I sat listening to the night and trying to sleep around the jewelry, thinking of all the pictures I had seen of Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe sleeping in diamonds and emeralds. At 3 am, I decided I wasn't Elizabeth Taylor, took off the rings and bracelet and stuffed them in my pillowcase. The morning eventually came, with no tanks - only some distant shots in the background and something that sounded vaguely like an explosion. E. said that they weren't even on the main road anymore apparently they had left during the night. I returned the jewelry, relieved, but my cousin kept it on, deciding she had grown accustomed to seeing a 'wealthy looking reflection' in the mirror. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk