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[casi] NEWS, 30/3-6/4/02 (2)

NEWS, 30/3-6/4/02 (2)


*  Iraqi Kurdish leader evades assassins
*  Jude Wanniski's Genocide Denial ['Wherein the
supply-side guru disputes, against all evidence,
Saddam's gassing of the Kurds.']
*  U.S. Envoy Visits Kurds in Iraq
*  Kurdish leader survives Saddam assassination


*  Defector: I Bought Iraq Nukes [Yes, indeed,
another one pops up just when he's needed.]
*  Gulf War POWs Accuse Iraq of Torture


*  IRAQ DIARY, Part 2: The vanishing middle class
[Series by Pepe Escobar]
*  IRAQ DIARY, Part 3: Baghdad and Ramallah - the
same struggle
*  IRAQ DIARY, Part 4: Sorry, your credit is no
good [Interview with Iraqi minister of trade,
Mohamed Mamdi Salim]
*  IRAQ DIARY, Part 5: What is terrorism?


*  Teachers make a stand on Iraq sanctions
*  Short 'carpeted' over Iraq
*  Overthrow Saddam But don't Harm His People,
Urge Protesters [Yasser Alaskary advocating the
rather difficult trick of toppling Saddam without
hurting anyone else].
*  'Saddam land war is vital' [In-depth analysis
by SAS Major Peter Ratcliffe, writing in The Sun]


*  Iraqi Kurdish leader evades assassins
BBC, 3rd April

The head of the Iraqi Kurdish Patriotic Union of
Kurdistan (PUK) regional government, Barham
Salih, escaped an assassination attempt outside
his house in Sulaymaniyah on Tuesday.

Two gunmen opened fire at Mr Salih while he was
leaving his house in the afternoon.

His bodyguards returned fire and the shootout
resulted in the killing of the two gunmen and
five of the bodyguards.

In an interview with BBC News Online after the
incident, Mr Salih said that the assailants, who
posed as taxi drivers of a red Volkswagen car
were on "a suicide mission" and that their car
was "full of bombs and grenades".

He said that he was not accusing anybody "at this
stage" but added: "We have obtained very useful
leads about the identity of the assailants."

He also said: "There are unconfirmed reports that
there were three assailants, we are looking into
this matter and investigation is underway."

Salih refused to disclose any further
information: "Because we do not want to
jeopardise the outcome of the investigation."

Barham Salih was representative for his party in
Washington for almost 10 years before he became
the Prime Minister of the PUK-led Kurdish
regional government in Sulaymaniyah last year.

The PUK has been in control of the Kurdish region
together with the Kurdistan Democratic Party
since 1991.

In September 2001, a newly established Islamist
group, Jund al-Islam, which is suspected of
having links with Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda
organisation, seized control of an area of the
Kurdish region near the Iranian border.

Trying to oust them from their area, the PUK
entered into an armed conflict with the group.

Jund al-Islam, alongside a number of other
Islamist groups, has merged into a new group,
Supporters of Islam.

Despite a few negotiation rounds - with Iranian
mediation - tension between the PUK and the
Islamist group remains unsolved.

Asked about the PUK's response to the attack, Mr
Salih said: "I do not want to prejudge any course
of action that we may take. When the
investigation concludes, we will decide

Terrorism is alien to our society," said Dr

But we will not be swayed foreign-inspired
terrorists who seek to undermine the civil and
democratic institutions that we are trying to
build in Iraqi Kurdistan."

*  Jude Wanniski's Genocide Denial Wherein the
supply-side guru disputes, against all evidence,
Saddam's gassing of the Kurds.
by Timothy Noah (Chatterbox column)
Slate [Whatever that is], 1st April

Jude Wanniski, the former Wall Street Journal
editorialist whose book The Way the World Works
popularized supply-side economics (and therefore
helped create the deficit crisis that paralyzed
domestic policy-making during the 1980s and
1990s), has a gift for forging screwball

A decade ago, he romanced Jerry Brown, even
though Wanniski himself was a conservative
Reaganite. A few years later, Wanniski cozied up
to Louis Farrakhan. He's even tried
(unsuccessfully) to find common ground with
Lyndon LaRouche.

 Now Wanniski has developed his most improbable
crush of all. He's fallen for Saddam Hussein. On
March 26, Wanniski sent out an urgent e-mail
message to his followers expressing distress that
President Bush and Vice President Cheney had both
recently "repeated the charge that Saddam Hussein
had used poison gas to kill his own citizens. I
believe the charge is without merit." Wanniski
urged readers to eyeball two memos (click here
and here) that he'd sent about the matter to Karl
Rove, "the one counselor who has only one job,
looking after the President's interests." The
first memo elaborates: "There is no possibility
that Saddam gassed his own people and no evidence
that he did. None. Forget Iraq's protests that he
never did, as I would not base any conclusion
on "not guilty" pleas from Saddam or his team.
But all the evidence is that whatever bad stuff
he has done as Iraq's political leader, he has
never presided over troops who dropped poison gas
on his own Iraqi citizens."

Weirdly, this assertion contradicts not only a
mountain of evidence accumulated by the United
Nations, journalists, and various human rights
groups (more on that below), but also the
testimony of Stephen Pelletiere, former chief of
the CIA's Iraq desk and Wanniski's main
information source on the matter. Last year,
Pelletiere published a book that Wanniski seems
to think argued that Iraq never gassed Iraqi
citizens. But as one can plainly see by scrolling
down to the portion of Wanniski's memo that
quotes Pelletiere at length, Pelletiere's claim
is that in March 1988, both Iran and Iraq gassed
the Kurdish city of Halabja, which they were
fighting over. Pelletiere's viewwhich is not
widely shared by othersis that the Iraqis used
mustard gas, while the Iranians used a much
deadlier cyanide-based gas, and that it was this
cyanide gas that killed most or all of the
thousands of Kurdish civilians who died at
Halabja. Pelletiere further suggests that Israel
conned the world into thinking that Iraq was a
gas-wielding demon, and that it did so because
Iraq posed a much greater menace to Israel than
did Iran.

Joost Hiltermann of Human Rights Watch is writing
a book about Halabja and other incidents in which
the Kurds were gassed. He says that he's seen no
evidence that Iran used chemical warfare during
the Iran-Iraq war and plenty of evidence that
Iraq did. Much of the latter is available online.

Here, for example, is a description of the
chemical attack on Halabja from the 1993 Human
Rights Watch report, Genocide in Iraq: "Those
outside in the streets could see clearly that
these were Iraqi, not Iranian aircraft, since
they flew low enough for their markings to be
legible. In the afternoon, at about 3:00, those
who remained in the shelters became aware of an
unusual smell. Like the villagers in the Balisan
Valley the previous spring, they compared it most
often to sweet apples, or to perfume, or
cucumbers, although one man says that it
smelled "very bad, like snake poison." No one
needed to be told what the smell was. … Some
tried to plug the cracks around the entrance with
damp towels, or pressed wet cloths to their
faces, or set fires. But in the end they had no
alternative but to emerge into the streets. It
was growing dark and there were no streetlights;
the power had been knocked out the day before by
artillery fire. In the dim light, the people of
Halabja could see nightmarish scenes. Dead
bodieshuman and animallittered the streets,
huddled in doorways, slumped over the steering
wheels of their cars. Survivors stumbled around,
laughing hysterically, before collapsing."

United Nations reports from 1986, 1987, and 1988
confirm (based in part on reports from Iraqi
soldiers who had been taken prisoner) that Iraq
used mustard gas and nerve agents in the Iran-
Iraq war and that these killed a growing number
of civilians. In 1993, Physicians for Human
Rights found evidence of nerve agents in soil
samples in the Kurdish village of Birjinni and
cited Kurdish eyewitnesses who said that one day
in August 1988, they saw Iraqi warplanes drop
bombs emitting "a plume of black, then yellowish
smoke" and that shortly thereafter
villagers "began to have trouble breathing, their
eyes watered, their skin blistered, and many
vomitedsome of whom died. All of these symptoms
are consistent with a poison gas attack."

The March 24 New Yorker carries a lengthy account
by Jeffrey Goldberg of Iraq's systematic gassing
of the Kurdish population, based on extensive
eyewitness interviews that Goldberg recently
conducted in Halabja and other Kurdish-controlled
areas in Northern Iraq. None of those interviewed
seem to doubt that it was Saddam Hussein's army
that gassed them.

If one does not wish to take the word of
journalists, human rights groups, and the United
Nations that Iraq conducted a deliberate campaign
to eradicate the Kurdish population, there's
always the word of the Iraqis themselves.
Goldberg's New Yorker piece cites an audiotape
from the 1980s of Saddam's cousin Ali Hassan al-
Majid, discussing the Kurds in an address to
members of Saddam's Baath Party: "I will kill
them all with chemical weapons! Who is going to
say anything? The international community? Fuck
them! The international community and those who
listen to them."

Human Rights Watch has a cache of documents that
the Kurds captured from the Iraqis during the
war. Search for the word "chemical" or the
word "special" (the Iraqi euphemism for gas
attacks was "special attacks"), and you'll see
the Baath Party was as good as its word.

Chatterbox can't understand why Wanniski chooses
to ignore all this evidence. Wanniski is clearly
opposed to extending the war on terrorism to
Iraq. But to deny that Iraq is a bloody and
vicious regime just makes the dove position look
idiotic. Chatterbox himself is inclined to
dovishness about Iraq, not because he's deceived
about Saddam but because he wants to keep the
international get-Osama coalition together.
(There is further, of course, the small practical
matter that with Israel now having declared war
on Yasser Arafat, it would be unwise to further
inflame the Middle East.) For Wanniski to deny
what Iraq has done to the Kurds requires a depth
of fanaticism approaching that of Holocaust

*  U.S. Envoy Visits Kurds in Iraq The Associated
Press, 4th April

WASHINGTON (AP) — A top U.S. official completed a
four-day visit Thursday to the Kurdish region of
Iraq, which included talks with groups opposed to
Saddam Hussein, the State Department said.

Ryan Crocker, a deputy assistant secretary of
state, met with leaders of the Kurdish Democratic
Party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and other
groups, spokesman Philip Reeker said.

He said the visit reflected continued U.S.
engagement with the Iraqi opposition.

He added that Crocker will visit neighboring
Turkey on Friday and Saturday.

*  Kurdish leader survives Saddam assassination
by Patrick Cockburn
Independent, 5th April

A pro-American leader in Iraqi Kurdistan was the
target of a failed assassination plot this week,
believed to have been ordered by President Saddam
Hussein. Three gunmen killed five of Dr Barham
Salih's bodyguards before they were shot down
themselves. The attack is a sign that President
Saddam is determined to prevent the Kurdish
region, which enjoys de facto independence, being
used by the United States as a base to overthrow

Dr Salih, the prime minister of the Kurdish
regional government in the city of Sulaimaniyah,
is known to favour close co-operation with
America. For many years he was a Kurdish
representative in Washington. He was uninjured in
the attack.

He was returning to his house on Tuesday
afternoon when the three gunmen opened fire. They
killed the head of his private office and four
bodyguards before two of them were shot dead and
a third was wounded and captured, according to
reports from the region.

Threats by President George Bush and senior
members of his administration to overthrow
President Saddam by armed force are already
beginning to destabilise Iraqi Kurdistan, where
leaders have tried to strike a balance between
the Iraqi dictator and his enemies. The Iraqi
government is anxious that America might use the
Kurds as its local allies against Baghdad, just
as it used the Northern Alliance so successfully
in Afghanistan last year.

Earlier this year the CIA appeared to give
credibility to those fears when its agents were
reported to have inspected three airfields in
Iraqi Kurdistan that could be used by an American
force. America and Britain currently fly patrols
over the region to deter Iraqi military

Dr Salih, an affable, cultivated man who speaks
excellent English, is a member of the Patriotic
Union of Kurdistan, which controls the eastern
part of Iraqi Kurdistan.

The party, led by its founder, Jalal al-Talabani,
is more sympathetic to joining an American
crusade against Saddam than its rival, the
Kurdistan Democratic Party, which controls the
western part of Iraqi Kurdistan. The KDP fears
that the Kurds will once again be used as cannon
fodder against Baghdad.

The attempt to kill Dr Salih is in keeping with
Saddam Hussein's past record of assassinating
leaders, notably those of the Shia Muslim
community in southern Iraq, before they can
become a threat.

One Iraqi analyst suggests that the Iraqi leader
might have been angered by an interview given by
Dr Salih in a US publication in which he
suggested that Baghdad had links with al-Qa'ida.
It is also possible that Kurdish Islamist groups,
who dislike Dr Salih because of his secular
outlook, might have been involved in the
assassination attempt.



*  Defector: I Bought Iraq Nukes
New York Daily News, 3rd April

An Iraqi defector has given Pentagon officials a
detailed inside look at Iraqi strongman Saddam
Hussein's biological and chemical weapons
programs — and told of buying nuclear materials
with a briefcase full of $100 bills.

The defector, whose story is recounted in the new
edition of Vanity Fair magazine, says he was
involved in the most sensitive of Iraq's secret
arms programs before fleeing a year and a half

Presented to U.S. officials by the Iraqi National
Congress, a London-based exile group pushing for
an American attack on Iraq, the defector says
Saddam is close to finishing a long-range
ballistic missile that could hit Cairo; Ankara;
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Nicosia, Cyprus, or Tehran.

The defector said he helped run a network of
shell corporations that smuggled missile parts
hidden inside TV sets and refrigerators.

He claims also to have worked on weapons
programs, saying he came up with the idea to
house eight mobile germ labs in meat and dairy

The defector told Vanity Fair he also was
involved in Saddam's nuke program, saying he and
two colleagues were sent on a clandestine trip to
Tanzania in 1994.

He says they met with five Eastern Europeans and
traded a briefcase stuffed with $100 bills for a
heavy metal trunk of "what looked like pieces of
black rock, glittery."

The description could match pieces of spent
nuclear reactor fuel rods — the type of material
that could be used in a radiological, or dirty,

The defector was one of 29 suspected conspirators
arrested in 1998. He says he was tortured,
interrogated and sexually abused for six months,
then freed when it was clear he was innocent. He
said such treatment normally serves to frighten
Iraqis into line, but he resolved to escape.

The defector also said Iraq is backing and
training the Hamas leaders who are sending
suicide bombers into Israel — even showing them
how to build bombs.

*  Gulf War POWs Accuse Iraq of Torture
Las Vegas Sun, 5th April

WASHINGTON (AP) - Seventeen U.S. servicemen held
prisoner during the Gulf War have filed a lawsuit
against Iraq alleging torture and seeking $910
million in damages for themselves and their

The prisoners of war endured severe beatings,
starvation, electric shock, threats of amputation
and dismemberment and continual death threats,
according to Stephen Fennell, lead attorney
representing them.

The suit was filed Thursday in U.S. District
Court and also names Iraqi President Saddam
Hussein and the Iraqi Intelligence Service.

"The individuals involved have suffered enormous
injuries and enduring injuries. These are not
things that went away several months after
leaving captivity," said Fennell of the D.C.-
based law firm Steptoe & Johnson.

The plaintiffs, nine of them still in active
service, are each seeking $25 million in
compensatory damages, plus $5 million each for 37
family members. The suit also asks for $300
million in punitive damages.

A hearing date has not yet been set, Fennell

Nearly 125 pages of the complaint chronicle the
soldiers' stories, including those of Marine Maj.
Michael Craig Berryman, who said his legs were
beaten with a metal pipe and a wooden ax handle;
Marine Col. Clifford Acree, who said he was so
near starvation he could "feel his body consuming
itself;" and Navy Cmdr. Lawrence Slade, whose
body was described as so blue from bruises that
it was "as if he had been dipped in indigo dye."

The POWs were all captured between mid-January
and the end of February 1991, most after being
shot down over Iraq or Kuwait, said Fennell. They
were sent to the Persian Gulf as part of the
United Nations' military response to the Iraqi
invasion of Kuwait in August 1990.


*  IRAQ DIARY, Part 2: The vanishing middle class
by Pepe Escobar
 Asia Times, 30th March

Part 1: Baghdad glued to Beirut
BAGHDAD - Tahir (not his real name) used to be a
teacher in Baghdad. He can be found at the
traditional streetwalk book souk (market) in
Moutanabi street, perusing dusty copies of
biographies and dictionaries.

A made-in-Iraq pirated copy of the Complete
Idiot's Guide to Windows 98 sells briskly for the
equivalent of about US$3. The vendor, Abil, used
to be a civil engineer. He's been jobless for the
past nine years. Now these pirated computer
manuals and English dictionaries help him feed
his family of five.

Tahir, speaking faultless Spanish, reminisces
about his days in southern Europe in the 1980s.
He once worked for the Ministry of Culture, but
the pay was too low, so he quit to support his
family of four. Now he is an occasional
driver, "My wife is also a teacher," he says. "Do
you know how much she makes? Six dollars a

Shown a remarkable war-photography book by Iraqi
lensman Rahim Hasan, published in 1987, both Abil
and Tahir are reminded of the "forgotten" - at
least in the Western press - Iran-Iraq war. "I
fought in that war," says Tahir. "There were one
million and a half dead. It was the elite of the
population - doctors, engineers."

Abil and Tahir are survivors. They are now part
of a vanishing group: the Iraqi middle class.
They cannot exercise their chosen profession.
They don't have the "connections" to obtain an
exit visa and try a new life, maybe in Jordan,
maybe in the Gulf, maybe in Europe. They are
bewildered when told that Iraq is going to be
attacked - again - by the United States, and they
ask, "Has the decision been made? Is it

Dr Humam Al Shamaa, professor of economy and
finance at Baghdad University, explains the
progressive impoverishment of Iraq. "The state
made a tremendous effort to rebuild the
infrastructure of the country after the war ended
[in 1988]. With no financial resources, it was
forced to resort to emission of currency, which
accelerated the rhythm of inflation four and a
half times a year until 1995. Wealth disappeared
under the inflationary pressure. The currency
deteriorated. People depending on salaries were
gradually impoverished. Tens of thousands of
Iraqi families now rely only on government
rations to survive. Iraq's riches disappeared
under the pressure of inflation on one side and
the embargo - which is the cause of this
inflation. The value of the Iraqi currency fell
6,000 times compared to the 1980s. Poverty is

The rations supplied by the state are at least
sufficient to prevent a famine, according to
Shamaa. "They're enough to assure the survival of
the Iraqi people. The rations are calculated
according to basic necessities: wheat, oil, rice,
tea, sugar, soap. It's impossible to raise the
amount of ration tickets because we cannot
support a people that does not work. That was the
aim of the 'oil for food' program. We think that
if we import everything we need to feed
ourselves, we will forget the agriculture sector -
 and that would instigate a crisis in all other
economic activities in Iraq. The agricultural
sector employs 50 percent of the population. Iraq
cannot be turned into a country that eats without
producing anything."

According to the United Nations' Food and
Agriculture Organization, had Iraq not organized
a rationing and distribution system, the country
would certainly have faced a terrible famine.
Apart from any political considerations, this is
an Iraqi merit that is never acknowledged in the
West. Denis Halliday, former assistant secretary
general of the UN, the man who started the oil-
for-food program in Iraq - and later resigned
from the UN, calling the US-inspired embargo "a
genocide" - has never stropped criticizing the
United States and Britain for blocking the
shipping of humanitarian supplies to Iraq. As
much as US and British politicians and the media
accuse the Iraqi regime of "punishing" Iraqis,
the US and Britain themselves increase the
punishment by withholding humanitarian shipments
of vaccines and painkillers.

Shamaa says that unlike in most developing
countries, there is no migration in Iraq from the
countryside to the urban centers - rather the
reverse. "There are no jobs in the cities. Jobs
are in agriculture. Many people left the cities
to work in the countryside, raising cattle and
poultry." But in the bazaars of Baghdad, some
people who agree to talk stress that there is no
work in the provinces: workers have to migrate to
Baghdad. And in Baghdad, there are no jobs even
for qualified people such as Abil and Tahir.

According to Shamaa, "The industrial sector in
Iraq also faced enormous difficulties. Access to
raw materials and intermediate materials was
assured by income from the oil industry. But with
the embargo, we could not import these materials
anymore. Seventy percent of the industrial sector
is practically paralyzed. We try to start things
over by providing at least some materials allowed
by the oil-for-food program. We have managed to
reactivate 50 percent of the private industrial

Yet Iraq has very few pockets of excellence in
the industrial sector: cement and the chemical
and petrochemical industries. "But they are
handicapped. They work at a maximum 30 percent
capacity. The embargo prohibits the import of
almost any heavy machines. Only spare parts are
allowed." And even if Iraq managed to bypass the
hellish UN bureaucratic machine - controlled and
vetoed by the US and Great Britain - it would not
have enough means to pay for these parts as it
does not have enough foreign currency.

Baghdad now displays the same floating population
of street kids that can be found in Jakarta or
Rio de Janeiro. Signs of impoverishment are
everywhere, contrasting with the bland and
usually gray intimations of Islamist-Stalinist

Madinat-es-Salam ("The city of peace"), the dream
of its founder, the caliph Al-Mansur, in the 8th
century, has seen it all in terms of misery and
massacre. Yet it remains defiant. It's
historically a city of survivors. Everybody
mentions with pride how the destruction caused by
the Gulf War has been rebuilt. There's even a
Challenge Museum - painstakingly detailing the
reconstruction of telecom centers, bridges or
schools bombed during the war.

After the Gulf War, only a "minority that
practices commerce", according to Shamaa, managed
to maintain their standard of living. "There are
no official statistics, but they are not more
than 10 percent of the population". So would it
be fair to say that the middle class simply
vanished? "There is no more middle class in Iraq.
Before they were rich, then they became semi-
rich, but now the majority is poor."

In Baghdad's two or three relatively upscale
streets are a cluster of "investment banks".
Shamaa dismisses them outright. "They call
themselves investment banks but they are in
reality commercial banks, of a very mediocre
level. Capital does not surpass 1 billion or 2
billion Iraqi dinars [the current exchange rate
is $1 to 1,960 dinars; it used to be about $1 to
three dinars before the Gulf War]. There is not a
lot of investment in Iraq. There is no Arab
investment to speak of. Everything is frozen
because of the embargo. There is only one
authorized investor, a Lebanese. That's it."

Iraq's national budget for 2002 is about 1
trillion dinars. Unemployment is officially
estimated at 17 percent, but Shamaa says actual
unemployment is closer to 30 percent, including
disguised unemployment.

But among informal opinions in the bazaar,
unemployment is placed at almost 50 percent. At a
Chinese restaurant in the relatively upscale
Masba quarter, a lawyer behind his Yamaha
synthesizer singing Que Sera Sera allows himself
a smile: He may be living a surreal life staring
at empty tables, but at least he's got a job.

*  IRAQ DIARY, Part 3: Baghdad and Ramallah - the
same struggle
by Pepe Escobar

Part 2: The vanishing middle class
BAGHDAD - Just like anywhere else in the Arab
world, pro-Palestinian rallies take place
practically every day in Baghdad. Strictly
organized and highly choreographed by the ruling
Baath Party, they always include a large number
of Palestinians living in Iraq.

Palestinian women usually don't deliver the
inevitably passionate speeches, as do Iraqi women
affiliated with the party. Everybody is ready
to "fight the Zionist state". And linking the
Palestinian fate with the American menace over
Iraq, the crowds repeatedly chant "We will
sacrifice ourselves for Saddam."

With or without a party directive, in the minds
of the Iraqi population the Palestinian struggle
to get rid of Israeli occupation is equivalent to
the Iraqi struggle to get rid of the embargo
imposed on Iraq by the US.

At Almustansyria University, photos are
prohibited, even in the courtyard, even in the
presence of the ubiquitous guide from the
Ministry of Information. Nothing happens without
a letter of authorization, signed by a battery
of "high-level authorities". But some of the
uniformed students in white shirts and black
trousers or skirts at least manage to talk. One
of them, an economics major, says, "The whole
world must know that the intifada is not a
terrorist act as the US calls it, but on the
contrary, it is a popular movement for
independence, human rights and basic principles
of justice and freedom."

The Beirut Declaration, adopted unanimously last
Thursday at the Arab summit in Beirut,
represents - at least on paper - an unprecedented
display of Arab unity and solidarity. It has set
in no uncertain terms the parameters for any
future Arab negotiation with the Jewish state.

The next day, Israel occupied and practically
razed Ramallah in the Palestinian Authority.

Israel will never agree to Beirut's parameters -
especially the future of Jerusalem and the fate
of Palestinian refugees. But the real key to
decode Beirut is the new agreement between Iraq
and Kuwait, which is intimately linked to the
unanimous Arab refusal to support an American
attack against Iraq.

Essentially, through the powerful No 2 of the
regime, vice chairman of the Revolution Command
Council Izzat Ibrahim, Iraq has stated that it
will not invade Kuwait as it did in 1990. Iraq
and Kuwait should from now on be engaged in
a "normal relation based on mutual respect of
security, dignity and territorial integrity" for
both countries, according to the Iraqi Ministry
of Foreign Relations.

Arab diplomats admit off the record that to
maintain its control of the oil flow from the
Middle East, the US has been manipulating Saudi
and Kuwaiti fears of Iraq for too long: more than
11 years.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, present in
Beirut, has repeatedly made the point that the
summit "considered any threat against any Arab
country, especially Iraq, as against national
Arab security". Sabri stressed the "very positive
atmosphere" when Izzat Ibrahim met Saudi Crown
Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, whose "land for
peace" proposition was unanimously adopted in

After Beirut, it would be politically and morally
impossible for any Arab state to offer its bases
to the US military in the event of an attack
against Iraq.

But Asia Times Online has learned from an
European diplomatic source in the Middle East -
who insisted on remaining anonymous - that this
is all talk. US Vice President Dick Cheney, in
his recent 11-stop Middle East trip, may have
cajoled a host of Arab countries to give the US
the green light for an attack.

In Baghdad as well as Damascus, Beirut and Cairo,
the US response to the Arab unity in Beirut has
been interpreted as approval for Israel to
destroy the Palestinian infrastructure. This
would be the first step. The next would be to
destroy Iraq's crumbling infrastructure - again.

According to the Iraqi daily al-Joumhouriya,
destroying Iraq's capacity to develop is
essential for the US because "this is the only
Arab and Islamic force which actively opposes the
expansion of Zionism". The "Zionist entity" is
unanimously accused in Iraq of being "based on
military terrorism, religious fundamentalism and
expansionist policies". The "terrorist" Ariel
Sharon (as the Israeli premier is known in Iraq)
in ordering his tanks to destroy the West Bank
does not exactly contradict the Iraqi perception.

Nasra al-Sadoon, editor of the Iraq Daily,
accuses the United Nations of "ignoring the
Zionist occupation of Arab lands of three states,
the right of return to all Palestinian refugees,
and the right to a safe life for the population
living in the occupied land".

For al-Ahram Weekly Online, "the goal of
eliminating weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq
was used to maintain and prolong sanctions. After
years of inspection and destruction, the
elimination of the no longer existing weapons,
together with unfounded accusations of
international terrorism, "are now used to wreak
further destruction on Iraq and install a puppet
regime that will conclude a peace treaty with
Israel". It's fair to say that this is the
consensus in Baghdad - even among people who are
not affiliated to the Baath Party.

For the daily Babil, the US target is "the
installation of an American military base in
Iraq". But the US supreme interest, viewed from
Iraq, is of course oil. According to al-
Joumhouriya, "if the embargo was lifted, Iraq
would double its oil production, from 3.3 million
to 6.6 million barrels a day". This would force
other oil-producing countries to reduce their
level of production to prevent lower prices. "And
so the Arab oil market would evade the control of
the Americans."

Iraq is unanimously accusing the US of "naked
imperialism". It's unlikely that the US will
remain silent for too long.

*  IRAQ DIARY, Part 4: Sorry, your credit is no
by Pepe Escobar
Asia Times, 3rd April
  BAGHDAD - The United States consistently
accuses Iraq of being a country incapable of
development, and under a "merciless Stalinist
dictatorship". Iraq consistently accuses the US
of enforcing an inhuman embargo which has caused
hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths. Some
voices in the West recognize that the United
Nations embargo and sanctions are not only
playing against the interests of Iraq, but
against the interests of the international
community as well.

Mohamed Mamdi Salim, Iraq's Minister of Trade,
received Asia Times Online in his office, dressed
in military uniform, to talk about the UN

 Asia Times Online: What kind of trade is Iraq
still allowed, considering the country is
subjected to an array of UN sanctions?   Mohamed
Mamdi Salim: As you know, Iraq is allowed
the "oil for food" program, in certain limited
quantities: food, medicine, and other
requirements for education, sanitation,
agricultural equipment, etc. But there are severe
difficulties in the process of approval of
contracts, and consequently opening letters of
credit and delivering the commodities.

Asia Times Online: How many contracts are blocked
at the moment?   Mohamed Mamdi Salim: More than
US$8 billion worth of contracts.

Asia Times Online: Most of them are with
European, Arab or Asian companies?   Mohamed
Mamdi Salim: With Arabian countries, Russia,
France ...

Asia Times Online: Who blocks these contracts?
Mohamed Mamdi Salim: The United States, of
course, and the British. There's no objection at
all from other members of the Security Council.
Only the United States and Britain, since the
beginning of "oil for food" in 1996. Sometimes
Japan supports the United States, although the
support is limited. The United States and Britain
have a political attitude, rather than [an
attitude] relating to the procedure of "oil for

Asia Times Online: In the Iraqi government's
view, what could be done to circumvent this dead-
end situation? Is there a way out?   Mohamed
Mamdi Salim: No, unless they change their
position. The situation of approval runs through
the veto system. [If] any country rejects any
contract, or has any complaints on any contract,
then that contract will be on hold. They have the
power over the Security Council 661 Committee. So
they are doing their job efficiently, rejecting
contracts for the Iraqi people. The
implementation of "oil for food" has reflected
that policy and has become a project for meeting
the requirements of United Nations compensation,
United Nations expenses, balancing of oil prices,
and not for the Iraqi people, due to the fact
that Iraq received, from the US$52 billion during
this program, only US$17 billion worth of
commodities. US$10 billion was deducted by the
United Nations for compensation and their
expenses, and the remaining contracts are on

Asia Times Online: So who is benefiting from the
embargo and the "oil for food" program?   Mohamed
Mamdi Salim: The United Nations. And those who
import oil.

Asia Times Online: What kind of contracts are
blocked?   Mohamed Mamdi Salim: Even food and
medicine, they are blocking it. Basically the
humanitarian side, which is related to water
supply and purification of water. We are not
allowed imports of pipes for supplying water to
houses, for example. They have actually a policy
of selecting any contract at random. Sometimes
they approve a contract to import a commodity
from certain countries, and reject one [for
importing] from others.

Asia Times Online: Is there a fixed list of what
you cannot import?   Mohamed Mamdi Salim: They
don't say, "We are not allowing you to buy." So
we have to decide what kind of items to buy, we
put them on the list, then we submit this list to
the Sanctions Committee, and the committee
decides whether to allow it or not.

Asia Times Online: Hospital doctors in Baghdad
say they cannot import incubators, for instance.
And you cannot import computers as well.
Mohamed Mamdi Salim: Yes. We are not allowed.
Everything is 100 percent politically

Asia Times Online: Diplomatically and
politically, would Iraq be able to change the
situation with more support from other parts of
the world?   Mohamed Mamdi Salim: Europe itself
has benefited from the contracts. "Oil for food"
reflects the reality of the policy of the United
States for the international community - using
the blockade policy against their contracts with
Iraq. They [the Europeans] know what is the real
intention of the United States and Britain
against Iraq. They [the Europeans] are trying but
they cannot do much.

Asia Times Online: Is this all oil motivated?
Mohamed Mamdi Salim: Of course it is oil, to
stabilize the supply of oil rather than deliver
food and medicine to the Iraqi people. This is
entirely for the United States and United Nations
compensation and expenses. The United Nations has
been saved by this program, which has financed it
significantly. Who works in this program? The
richest people in the United Nations.

Asia Times Online: Wouldn't Iraq be able to get
the medicines it needs by evading the blockade?
Mohamed Mamdi Salim: No. The important thing is
how to pay. And we can pay only through an escrow
account. The money is under United Nations
approval. If you have the money controlled by the
United Nations no one can sell you anything
unless he gets the money.

Asia Times Online: Is Iraq part of an "axis of
evil"?   Mohamed Mamdi Salim: The "axis of evil"
is the United States and Britain. Not Iraq, Iran
or other Muslim countries.

Asia Times Online: So there are other motives for
demonizing Iraq?   Mohamed Mamdi Salim: Now
Israel is destroying the Palestinian people, the
Palestinian state, and Palestinian entities which
are approved by the international community
through the Oslo agreement supervised by the
United States. The terrorist Sharon and the
terrorist state Israel are destroying everything,
even hijacking President Arafat. And the United
States is supporting this policy.

Asia Times Online: Will the Arab world finally
unite, politically and economically?   Mohamed
Mamdi Salim: Well, they should. And they must.
Because the United States will never look to
their interests, even those who are under [the
greatest] control of the United States. But the
Arab people, even in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, are
rejecting United States policy toward Arabs and
toward Palestinians.

*  IRAQ DIARY, Part 5: What is terrorism?
by Pepe Escobar
Asia Times, 6th April

BAGHDAD - The 57-country Organization of the
Islamic Conference (OIC), in a meeting of foreign
ministers in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur
this week, could not manage to define what is
terrorism. But at least the gathering managed to
define what is not terrorism: and that applies in
full to the Palestinian struggle against Israeli

The OIC firmly stressed support for last week's
Beirut declaration of Arab leaders to establish
peace and normal relations with Israel in
exchange for withdrawal from all Arab lands
occupied in 1967.

This was all happening while Washington was
accusing three OIC member nations - Iran, Iraq
and Syria - of using terror in a "war against
civilization". Baghdad took no time to react.
Foreign Minister Naji Sabri branded the
allegations, made by Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld, as part of a US campaign aimed at
deflecting attention from Washington's support
for Israel, "These are lies. It's an excuse to
promote American policies, which are completely
biased in favor of the Zionist entity."

Washington's tirade, though, managed to
accomplish a miracle: to unite Iran and Iraq -
and not in an axis of evil mode. Iranian Foreign
Minister Kamal Kharrazi not only rebuffed
Rumsfeld, but also voiced strong support for an
Iraqi proposal for Muslim nations to restrict oil
supplies to pressure the United States and
Israel. This probable replay of the 1973 oil
shock might be the only way out for Muslim
nations to counteract what their public opinions
consider an ongoing, pervasive process of
humiliation by the West.

The hawkish, isolationist American right,
Rumsfeld-style, loves to deride "resentful
foreigners" for criticizing the contours of the
global American Empire. But now even the New York
Times has picked up on an Asia Times Online
article published last October on "The New
Imperialism". Solid scholars such as Yale's Paul
Kennedy or would-be scholars like journalist-
turned think tank cheerleader Robert Kaplan are
now examining or theorizing the benefits of an
empire. Part of the American intelligentsia is
trying to sell itself the concept of
an "attractive empire", as if imperial
domination - military, political, economic,
cultural - could be condensed into a one-size-
fits-all centerfold bunny.

A visit to an Iraqi university classroom is
always instructive. Here, the concept of an
attractive empire is a non-starter. After a
lively lecture on European History at the
Almustansyria University - where the students
eagerly intervene with lots of questions and
comments - the answers to questions posed by the
foreign visitor quickly turn into questions
themselves, and sharp comments on American and
Western foreign policy. "Is Europe a slave of
America?" "Does Europe have as many prejudices
against Muslims as America?" "Why does the West
does not react to what the Israelis are doing to
the Palestinians?"

A dead-serious bespectacled girl has a message
for Donald Rumsfeld, "The real axis of evil is
the US and Britain." An overweight girl, with a
smile on her face, says, "Look at me. I'm strong.
We will defend our country against an attack the
best we can."

In three of the four authorized, official Iraqi
TV channels - Al-Iraq, The Youth Channel and
Iraqi Satellite Chain - the only news is
Palestine tragedy news. But these students were
not told by the ruling Baath Party what to say.
They buy Backstreet Boys pirate cassettes for
less than US$1 in stalls in front of the
university, and they cruise the Internet
searching for English editions of Muslim explorer
Ibn Batutta's travels or the writings of

And they theorize about the Empire - on the
receiving end - more sharply than many a self-
satisfied scholar.

Trying to understand the point of view expressed
by young people in Baghdad, one can also figure
out the impossibility for the West to comprehend
what it means for the Arab world to watch every
day on their TVs the abominable humiliations
suffered by the Palestinians.

This "voice of the Arab university", represented
by Baghdad students, has understood too well that
the Bush administration is not remotely
interested in a peace agreement in the Middle
East. They have understood that a world leader
mentally in perpetual holidays in a cowboy ranch
has got a single obsession: to blame all the
evils of the world on terrorism - and terrorism

But "terrorism" - undefinable even by a
congregation of Muslim nations essentially on the
receiving end of the American accusations - does
not explain the war going on in Palestine.

The latest Palestinian war has happened because
of an American leadership void. The White House
Middle East "policy" since the beginning of 2002
has been reduced to announcing an attack on
Saddam Hussein, probably between June and
October. There has been absolutely no effort to
prevent an escalation of violence between
Israelis and Palestinians.

A Washington-based scholar has told Asia Times
Online that as far as the Arab world was
concerned, it all boiled down to an image
problem. Washington had to polish its extremely
tarnished image in the Arab world before
attacking a controversial and still crucial Arab
nationalist leader. Washington pressed pliable
Saudi Arabia for an opening. Saudi Arabia
delivered - in the form of Saudi Crown Prince
Abdullah's "land for peace" proposal, unanimously
adopted at the Beirut summit last week.

It was too little, too late. The void had turned
into a deep black hole. George W Bush is under a
terror of doing anything that the hard-worker and
aspiring Middle East peacemaker Bill Clinton did.
And he is also under a terror of doing anything
his father George did that might alienate the
hardcore Republican right. Ariel Sharon at the
same time knew his government would implode if
compelled to a peace negotiation. The Bush
administration had been giving him the green
light to invade the West Bank for weeks - since
George W Bush refused to even shake hands with
Yasser Arafat at the United Nations.

The Washington-based scholar says that the hawks
in control of the Bush administration would never
admit to it. But the facts are, for them, as
follows. Arafat is over. Israeli colonies in
Palestinian land are OK. A Palestine state is not
a viable option.

But life is slightly more complicated than a
Texas holiday. There's only one interlocutor for
a peace process in Palestine: Yasser Arafat. A
delegation of the Brazilian Movement of Landless
Peasants has just offered one of their flags to
Arafat. He is considered by many to be the number
one landless person in the world. "Terrorist"
Iraqi university students could not agree more.


*  Teachers make a stand on Iraq sanctions
Ananova, 1st April

Far Left teachers say the sanctions on Iraq which
are supported by Britain - are just as bad an
atrocity as the September 11 attacks.

They are trying to commit their union to a
declaration that the deaths of thousands of Iraqi
children are down to the West's sanctions.

The extreme left wing of the NUT is also calling
for Palestinian refugees to have the right of
return to Israel written into official union

The Iraq call said: "The UN reported death toll
of up to 5,000 Iraqi children aged up to five
each month are just as significant an atrocity as
the deaths of the 5,000 in the USA."


*  Short 'carpeted' over Iraq
BBC, date unknown

Mr Blair faces opposition to military action

A Cabinet split over military action in Iraq has
re-emerged ahead of Tony Blair's weekend meeting
with US President George Bush.

Mr Blair is reported to have "carpeted"
International Development Secretary Clare Short
after she expressed reservations about a possible

The government is insisting no decision has been
made on whether to launch a new offensive against
Iraq's leader Saddam Hussein.

But according to the Guardian newspaper, Mr Blair
is "privately reconciled" to British involvement
in any military action.

Blind action'

The newspaper says Mr Blair has told Ms Short to
speak to him before airing her views in public,
after she appeared to question the government's

In an interview with the BBC's On The Record
programme last month, she hit out at "blind
military action".

And in a remark widely interpreted as a
resignation threat, she said everyone had "a
bottom line".

Ms Short quit Labour's front bench 10 years ago
in protest at the Gulf War.

Her views on Iraq are believed to be shared by
Home Secretary David Blunkett and Robin Cook, the
leader of the House.

Meanwhile, a Commons motion expressing "deep
unease" over the prospect of British support for
US action against Iraq has now been signed by 141
MPs, many of them Labour backbenchers.


*  Overthrow Saddam But don't Harm His People,
Urge Protesters
by Danny Kemp, PA News
The Scotsman, 6th April

Thousands of protesters were today calling for
action to overthrow Iraqi president Saddam
Hussein – so long as it does not harm his
country's people.

The march from Marble Arch to Whitehall in
central London will appeal for an end to non-
military sanctions against the country.

The demonstrators were also urging Tony Blair and
US President George W Bush not to take any
military action that would harm civilians.

Instead they want Saddam and his regime to be
charged with war crimes so that they would be
arrested if they left Iraq.

The rally was being organised by the Iraqi Human
Rights Division and involves a coalition of Iraqi
groups from across the UK.

"The Iraqi people have been neglected for far too
long," said organiser Yasser Alaskary.

"We are not against any sort of military action
that would be targeted directly at Saddam
"But we oppose any aggression against the Iraqi
people, such as during the 1991 Gulf War.

"We are also calling for the formation of a free
Iraq. In the Gulf War, 14 out of 18 Iraqi regions
revolted but received no support from America.
The rebellions were then crushed."

Protesters were leaving from Marble Arch at
3.30pm and arriving at Whitehall Place by 5pm.,,5-

*  'Saddam land war is vital'
The Sun, 4th April

THE SAS soldier who led a raid on one of Saddam
Hussein's key bases during the Gulf War has
launched a blistering attack on Britain's "war

Major Peter Ratcliffe, who won the Distinguished
Conduct Medal for his role in the Scud base
attack, believes Britain should support any
American military action in Iraq.

And he describes anti-war critics in Tony Blair's
Government as "traitors".

Ratcliffe, 51, also fought terrorists in Northern
Ireland, the Middle East and Oman during his 25-
year career.

He told The Sun: "There's no doubt that Saddam
Hussein is one of the most dangerous terrorists
in the world. He was dangerous when we fought him
during the Gulf War and he's even more dangerous

"Tony Blair vowed to support America in the war
on terrorism. He said: ‘Whatever it takes'. I see
no reason why he should go back on that.

"And I believe Britain should continue to support
the war on terrorism if that means US military
action in Iraq.

"Those who now say otherwise — old Labour lefties
like Clare Short and Tam Dalyell, the pacifists,
those now turning on Blair — they're traitors."

Ratcliffe, a regimental sergeant major sent to
relieve a major of his command when the attack on
the Scud base during the Gulf War stalled, led
the crack Alpha One Zero squad behind enemy

His team escaped amid a hail of bullets fired by
Iraqi guards.

Ratcliffe later wrote a best-selling book, Eye Of
The Storm, based on the incident.

He now believes a land war with Iraq is the only
way to break Hussein's grip on power.

He says: "There's no point in thinking a covert
operation could remove Hussein. The SAS are not
assassins — soldiers are not assassins. Only
terrorists are assassins.

"Few doubted at the time of the Gulf War that
Saddam's true goal was to become a ruler of the
Muslim world in the Middle East.

"There is no reason to believe that goal has
changed. He is a megalomaniac.

"I feel no doubt that he has stockpiled some of
the most vile weapons known to man. They include
nuclear material.

"Saddam wants to dominate the Middle East, he
wants to terrorise the world. His own people
revile him.

"I would lay my life savings in a bet that
information will emerge which proves Iraq helped
al-Qa'ida in the orchestration of September 11.

"Hussein has always vowed to avenge himself on

"His people suffer more, not less, because Saddam
Hussein is allowed to remain in power. And they
will continue to do so until he is removed.

"And no amount of hand-wringing, no amount of
international aid, no amount of windy wobbling
will change that fact."

Ratcliffe, who left the SAS with the rank of
Major in 1997, does not believe Hussein would be
brought to justice as a result of war.

"It is very likely he would go on the run. But,
effectively, he would be neutered, his life
constantly under threat.

"He would always be prey.

"Most importantly, the Iraqis would be saved from
his tyranny and be able to form a government of
the people.

"Nobody likes war. Nobody enters a war
recklessly, without deadly serious consideration
of all the facts.

"Everyone would prefer to stay at home and hope
for a political solution. But the fact is that
there isn't one.

"Saddam Hussein has been butchering his own
people — thousands of them — for 20 years.

"He continues to do that today, despite
sanctions, despite the air exclusion zone.

"He is hellbent on building a nuclear bomb and
world experts estimate that Iraq will be a
nuclear power within a few years if we sit back
and do nothing.

"Anybody who says they are concerned for the
civilians in Iraq — and the rest of the world —
should support Tony Blair and any American action
on those facts alone."

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