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[casi] News, 12-18/5/02 (1)

News, 12-18/5/02 (1)


*  Iraq Sanctions Overhaul Postponed [Syria tries, unsuccessfully, to
establish the point that Iraq has a right, guaranteed by the UN Charter, to
defend itself.]
*  Iraq has been offered a chance to rejoin the international community
[Idiot level editorial from The Independent which has fallen hook, line and
sinker for the idea that a measure which continues to prevent Iraqi oil
money from being spent on Iraqi produced goods, thereby stimulating the
Iraqi economy, is good for Iraqi civilians. Of course they¹re all just Arabs
so The Independent probably thinks that living off foreign goods doled out
in handouts by the government is good enough for them. The Independent also
believes that, because a terrible evil has been slightly moderated, the
Iraqis are under a moral obligation to reciprocate by opening the entire
country up to minute inspection by enemy spies.]
*  U.N. panel votes to revise Iraq sanctions [It appears from this account
that the US has failed to secure the tougher enforcement of sanctions by
neighbours (Syria, Jordan, Iran) which at one point seemed to be the whole
raison d¹être of the exercise, leaving us feeling that the Americans are
only going through the motions on this one. It isn¹t necessarily a
comforting thought, since tougher measures against smuggling was touted as
Colin Powell¹s alternative to war.]
*  Sanctions altered to aid Iraqi civilians [Extracts giving the views of
Ari Fleischer, Jack Straw and Richard Perle.]
*  Iraq Accepts U.N. Sanctions Reforms [Curious remark from the Arab League
Secretary General, Amr Moussa, that "the sanctions issue is gradually
heading toward being solved."]
*  Revised Iraq sanctions still US policy tool [Thoughtful review from MERIP
member of the latest initiatives.]


*  US has little reason to feel triumphant [Not much about Iraq but a useful
summary of the present state of the ŒWar against Terror¹, surprising from
the normally quite belligerent Bangkok Post. Thanks to Felicity for sending
it to me.]
*  A question of faith [Nick Cohen is a supporter of Œuniversal human
rights¹ who believes that the US ­ after Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Korea,
Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Panama, not to mention the road to Basra - has the
moral right to enforce them. Here he gives an account of a new book, a novel
about the Dome of the Rock by Kanan Makiya, who wrote The Republic of Fear,
a pre-Gulf War expose of the evils of the Iraqi regime. Cohen remarks that
although the Israelis (with US support) only destroyed 400 Palestinian
villages, Saddam (with US support) destroyed 3,000 Kurdish villages. A more
interesting comparison might be with the number of Kurdish villages
destroyed by the Turks (with US support). Difficult to see how it amounts to
an argument for a US right to intervene in Iraq ...Extract on Iraq, leaving
out Mr Cohen¹s views on the foolishness of religion in general and Islam in
particular (Mr Cohen is also a believer in Œthe enlightenment¹.]
*  On Atta, Prague and Iraq [Mainly notable for D.Rumsfeld¹s implicit
admission that there is no evidence for the Atta/al-Ani meeting in Prague.]
*  'Start Wars' poster aims to highlight opposition to Iraq attack


*  Iraq sends minister to S. Arabia
*  Iraq gives priority to Saudi Arabia to trade cooperation [The article
also refers to Iraq opening to the import of goods from Kuwait.]
*  Saudi importers allowed to re-export to Iraq
*  Spell out the goals for Iraq [Proposed constitutional arrangements for a
post Saddam Iraq aimed at the difficult job of reconciling the aspirations
of the Kurds and of the Turks.]


Las Vegas Sun, 13th May

United Nations: The U.N. Security Council delayed a vote on overhauling
sanctions against Iraq until Tuesday in hopes of getting Syria on board for
a united show of support.

The five veto-wielding council members - including the United States and
Russia - had pressed for a vote on Monday. But Syria's U.N. Ambassador
Mikhail Wehbe said he asked for voting to be postponed until Tuesday to
consult his government.

U.S. deputy ambassador James Cunningham said Wehbe told the council that he
hoped the extra day would result in Syrian support for the resolution,
putting all 15 council members in favor.

"We've always made clear we want to have consensus where we can have it,"
Cunningham said.

Council experts met Monday morning to consider amendments to the sanctions
overhaul proposed by Syria - which would have favored Saddam Hussein's
government - and rejected all of them, diplomats said. Syria then indicated
it was likely to abstain in the vote, but asked for an extra day Monday

One amendment would have included a reference to Article 51 of the U.N.
Charter, which gives countries the right to self-defense "if an armed attack
occurs against a member of the United Nations."

The proposal appeared aimed at responding to U.S. threats to topple Saddam.
Syria's Wehbe said it was also aimed at the so-called "no-fly" zones over
northern and southern Iraq enforced by U.S. and British aircraft.


Independent, 15th May

Yesterday's United Nations Security Council resolution updating the
sanctions regime against Iraq is one of those rare products of international
diplomacy that manages to combine sound common sense with tangible benefits
for all but the chief villain of the piece ­ the leadership of Saddam
Hussein. Hard-fought and hard-won, the agreement aims to toughen the
restrictions on military goods reaching Iraq, while increasing the quantity
of food, medicine and other goods that reach ordinary Iraqis.

The wonder is less that so seemingly uncontroversial a resolution was passed
by the Security Council than that it took so long. As the past 11 years have
shown, however, very little that relates to Iraq is without controversy.
Iraq's few remaining friends viewed the proposed new regulations as too
harsh. Russia feared the loss of what it maintained were non-military
contracts already signed. And the United States was concerned, especially
after 11 September, that it would appear "soft" on a regime it demonises as
the founder of its "axis of evil". Classic diplomacy ­ persistent and
discreet ­ finally produced a resolution that was agreed unanimously.
Britain's so far untrumpeted contribution to reconciling the apparently
irreconcilable deserves recognition and praise.

Yet the misjudgments and errors that necessitated such a fundamental
overhaul of the sanctions regime five years after the oil-for-food programme
was introduced should also be learned from. The original reason for
overhauling the sanctions provisions was twofold. On the one hand, evasion
was rife. Iraq was exporting oil over and above the quotas set by the UN,
while also receiving banned goods in return. On the other hand, however ­ in
a perverse triumph of public relations ­ the defeated invader of Kuwait was
able to present itself as the injured party, flaunting stories and pictures
of ill and dying children and successfully blaming the heartless West for
its plight.

If they have the desired effect, the "smart" sanctions now agreed should
help to banish some of that adverse publicity and improve conditions for the
many civilians who have experienced intolerable hardship. The new
arrangements should also benefit the many foreign companies ­ British ones
included, but above all, Russian ­ which have an estimated $5bn (£3.5bn)
worth of orders destined for Iraq that are currently on hold.

The new sanctions can only be accounted a success, however, if they also
make it much more difficult for the Iraqi regime to evade restrictions on
its oil exports (and profit from their evasion), and genuinely tighten the
prohibition on imports that could be put to military use.

Potentially, however, it is not only the West and Russia and the credibility
of the UN that stand to benefit from yesterday's resolution. Baghdad, too,
gains its first real chance for many a year to reassess its stance towards
the outside world. By easing restrictions on imports of non-military goods,
the UN has recognised at least some of Iraq's long-standing complaints.
Baghdad should respond by reconsidering its intransigence towards UN weapons

By coincidence or design, both the US and Britain have recently toned down
their threats of military action against Iraq. Just hours before yesterday's
UN resolution was adopted, they stated that no attack was imminent. But
Baghdad's leaders should know that this ceasefire, rhetorical or real, will
not last forever ­ and they should bring their country into conformity with
all UN resolutions while they still can.

by Ben Barber
The Washington Times, 15th May

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously yesterday to revise U.N.
oil-for-food sanctions on Iraq, making it easier for Baghdad to import
consumer goods but keeping a block on weapons materials.

Russia had blocked the measure for more than a year but supported the final
version yesterday after it was significantly weakened from the original
American proposal.

"This will make the process move more speedily" in approving imports of
civilian goods, said John Wolf, assistant secretary for nonproliferation, at
the State Department yesterday.

"This program will create a transparent process ‹ contracts destined for
civilians will go forward."

After the 15-0 vote, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte
told reporters, "We believe it will facilitate greatly the movement of
humanitarian and purely civilian goods to the Iraqi economy."

But the so-called "smart sanctions" lack a key element sought by Secretary
of State Colin L. Powell ‹ a tightening of the noose around Iraq by getting
front-line states, such as Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Iran and the Persian Gulf
states, to stop smuggling.

Mr. Powell's plan, announced last year, would have ended oil sales that put
cash directly into Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's control. The aim was to
prevent him from rebuilding his military and acquiring weapons of mass

Mr. Powell also wanted to beef up border patrols to block imports of
materials to build nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and missiles to
deliver them.

"None of these elements are there" in the final resolution approved
yesterday, said Russia's U.N. Ambassador Sergei Lavrov in New York.

Russia had blocked the smart sanctions for more than a year, favoring a more
liberal approach to Iraq that would let it repay billions of dollars owed to

Syria, Iraq's neighbor and the only Arab member of the 15-nation Security
Council, decided at the last moment to vote in favor of the revision, after
having delayed the vote for several days, criticizing the resolution and
sanctions against Iraq.

In his response to the resolution, Iraqi Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri said,
"We see the American political goals in this exercise." He did not say
whether Baghdad would honor the measure and would continue oil exports
through the U.N. program, estimated at about $10 billion a year.

The system approved yesterday renews the sanctions for six months and takes
effect at the end of the month.

U.N. sanctions on Iraqi oil sales were imposed after Iraq's defeat in the
1991 Persian Gulf war. The oil-for-food program was set up in 1996, allowing
Iraqi oil to be sold through a U.N. system that allocated cash for
humanitarian and other civilian goods.

Cash also went to reparations for Kuwait, which was invaded in 1990 and saw
its oil fields set ablaze by retreating Iraqi troops.

The system had bogged down with $5 billion in contracts blocked by U.S. and
some British objections to items with likely dual use by Iraq's military and

Mr. Powell proposed the smart sanctions during his first official Middle
East visit in February 2001 after irate Arab diplomats and reporters
complained to him that suffering Iraqi children were malnourished because of
the U.N. sanctions.

U.S. officials told reporters that Saddam was responsible for any
malnutrition and lack of medicines because he diverted resources from needy
Iraqi people to his Republican Guards and other allies.

While foreign visitors were brought on tours of hospitals with sickly
children, Saddam built a series of spectacular palaces, U.S. officials said.

But the Iraqis won the propaganda war, said U.S. and congressional leaders,
and Mr. Powell feared a collapse of the U.S.-Arab coalition that defeated

Mr. Powell proposed to make it easier for humanitarian goods to enter Iraq
while tightening controls on smuggled imports of weapons materials and
smuggled exports of Iraqi oil.

"We didn't do as well as we could in explaining how the food programs worked
‹ diversion by Baghdad led to people suffering," said a senior State
Department official speaking on the condition of anonymity yesterday.

"This [new system] makes clear there are no impediments to the sale of food
to the Iraqi economy."

The system approved yesterday has no provision to prevent Saddam from
diverting food and medicine from needy children.

It will speed approvals of requests by Iraq to import food, medicine and
even industrial equipment such as oil drills and power plants, the official

But it also will include a 300-page list of items that could have dual use ‹
civilian and military ‹ and will require special scrutiny to ensure they are
intended for civilian projects.

The senior official, however, said that without the return of U.N. weapons
monitors to Iraq it will be impossible to be certain that dual-use equipment
is not diverted to military use.

Iraq continues to seek to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons,
as well as the missiles to deliver them, the official said. However, he
cited the need to preserve intelligence secrecy and would not divulge
details of the programs.

The system will end the U.S. role of blocking contracts. And objections to
individual items in a contract would not prevent the rest of the contract
from going forward.

Vendors also would be required to give clear information with each contract,
proving that items to be imported are destined for civilian use.

by Mark Matthews
Baltimore Sun, 15th May


"For this new system to be effective in bringing help to the people of Iraq,
there must be a real commitment by the government of Iraq to the same goal,"
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "Now Iraq's government has an
opportunity to prove that it seeks the same benefits for all its citizens."

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, whose country is the strongest U.S.
ally on the Security Council, said the council action "removes Saddam's
spurious excuses for the suffering he inflicts on the Iraqi people and puts
more pressure on the regime."


But Richard Perle, a leading voice among Washington hawks who are determined
to oust Hussein, was not impressed by the U.N. vote, calling the new import
system for Iraq "trivial." He said it would have "no bearing ... whatsoever"
on efforts to topple the Baghdad regime. Whether Iraq allows its people to
continue suffering despite the relaxed sanctions is a side issue, he said.
"The reason why the regime has to go is that it's a threat to the United

Las Vegas Sun, 16th May

BAGHDAD, Iraq- Iraq begrudgingly accepted a new U.N. resolution that makes
sweeping changes to the current sanctions program, but still criticized the
new measures Thursday, saying they exposed America's "tendency toward
harming Iraq."

The comments come two days after the U.N. Security Council revamped the
sanctions to speed the delivery of food and medicine and also strengthen an
11-year-old military embargo. It extends a humanitarian program under which
Iraq can sell oil for things like food, medicine and educational services.

Tuesday's vote was the greatest change in the humanitarian program since its
launch in 1996 to help Iraq's people cope with sanctions imposed after
President Saddam Hussein sent troops into Kuwait in 1990.

Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf told the official Iraqi News
Agency that "Iraq will reluctantly accept Resolution 1409 regarding the
renewal of the oil-for-food deal for another six months."

But in a separate statement released to the agency, the Iraqi leadership
described the new U.N. sanctions plan as a U.S. manipulation of the Security

"Once again the Security Council ... exposes its weakness and inability to
face the American tendency toward harming Iraq," INA quoted a statement
issued in a joint meeting of the Revolutionary Command Council and the
Regional Command of the ruling Baath party as saying.

To what extent Iraq would work with the resolution beyond agreeing to an
extension under its terms for the humanitarian oil-for-food program wasn't
clear. Baghdad has yet to agree to the U.N.'s chief demand - permitting
weapons inspectors to return to Iraq.

Tough U.N. sanctions were imposed on Iraq following its invasion of Kuwait,
which led to the 1991 Gulf War. To lift the sanctions, international
inspectors must certify Iraq has eliminated its weapons of mass destruction.
Baghdad claims it has done this, but has not let inspectors into Iraq since
1998, saying sanctions must be lifted first.

In Cairo, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said the Iraqi approval
was "a positive step" and said "the sanctions issue is gradually heading
toward being solved."

The new sanctions regime capped yearlong U.S. and British efforts to both
get more humanitarian goods to Iraqis and tighten the military embargo on
Baghdad. Under the program, most civilian goods are to be allowed into Iraq,
but a 332-page checklist spells out civilian items with potential military
use that require approval of the United Nations.

Iraq's U.N. ambassador, Mohammad Al-Douri, had said earlier that the new
goods review list will complicate, not simplify, delivery of humanitarian
items and harm Iraq's economy by blocking agricultural, electrical and
sanitation imports. He said Baghdad was "unhappy" with any resolution that
didn't lift sanctions.

The influential state-run Babil newspaper called the revamped sanctions a
U.S. attempt to prolong the economic embargo rather than to ease Iraqis'

"Changing the U.N. party responsible for monitoring the flow of goods to
Iraq will not end the evil and negative impact of the ongoing embargo
imposed on our country since 1990," the daily owned by President Saddam
Hussein's eldest son Odai said in a front-page editorial.

Babil also said the Security Council resolution "is a breach to the U.N.
charter because it neglects Iraq's right to self defense against any
external attack."

Also Thursday, the ruling Baath party newspaper al-Thawra labeled British
Defense Minister, Geoffrey Hoon "another evil liar."

Hoon, referring to calls for the return of U.N. weapons inspectors, told
reporters Tuesday in Kuwait that it was important for the sake of
international security to know "what is happening in Iraq as far as the
development of weapons of mass destruction are concerned."

Al-Thawra said Iraq has no intention of threatening neighboring countries or
world security.

by Sarah Graham-Brown (Middle East Research and Information Project)
Daily Star (Lebanon), 16th May

Concluding almost a year of diplomatic wrangling, the United Nations
Security Council (UNSC) has agreed to revise UN sanctions on Iraq when the
11th phase of the ³oil-for food² program ends on May 29. Under the oil for
food program, Iraq is allowed to sell its oil on the world market to import
needed civilian goods.

The changes to the sanctions system, passed by a unanimous vote on Tuesday,
are more modest than the range of ³smart sanctions² proposed by the the
United States and the United Kingdom in 2001. Russian backing for the
proposal will be presented as a triumph for the United States, which has
sought to fine-tune the sanctions regime over the objections of Russia and
other countries that only lifting sanctions entirely can revitalize an Iraqi
economy sapped by 12 years of international isolation. Since Sept. 11,
however, the maintenance of sanctions has become something of a sideshow for
the Bush administration¹s policy toward Iraq.

The key element in the new arrangements is the Goods Review List provided
for in paragraph 2 of UNSC Resolution 1382, passed in November 2001. Items
specified on this list, defined as for military or dual use, are to be
separated from humanitarian goods. Russia¹s agreement to accept this list,
after protracted negotiations, cleared the way for implementation of the new
³smarter² sanctions. The United States sweetened the pot for Russia by
removing holds on more than $200 million of Russian contracts with Iraq in
late March. By the rules of the 661 Committee which presently scrutinizes
orders for humanitarian goods, all Security Council members are allowed to
query and hold up such orders. About 90 percent of the $5 billion worth of
contracts currently on hold are being blocked by the United States and Great

The new proposals are expected to end this system of 661 Committee scrutiny
of humanitarian goods. Under the new system, contracts containing goods on
the Goods Review List will be reviewed by the UN Office of the Iraq Program
(OIP) - which administers oil for food. This office would then send the
contracts to the UN Monitoring and Verification Commission (UNMOVIC) and the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which head up efforts to prevent
Iraq from obtaining banned weapons. In turn, these offices can refer
contracts considered objectionable to the 661 Committee for rejection or

A proposal to tighten up on regional smuggling - key to earlier drafts of
the ³smart sanctions² resolution - has been dropped. Neighboring states,
including Syria, which is currently a Security Council member, are unlikely
to give up their expanded commercial contacts with Baghdad and resisted any
attempts to restrict this trade. The State Department estimates that Iraq
reaps $2.5 billion a year from smuggling oil outside the oil for food

In the last few years, the US has become frustrated that sanctions had come
to share the blame in international opinion for Iraq¹s public health and
malnutrition crises throughout the 1990s. The motive of the United States
and United Kingdom for promoting ³smarter² sanctions in mid-2001 was not
just to regain the higher moral ground by claiming that they would improve
humanitarian conditions but, more critically, to ensure that the sanctions
regime remained in place.

In March 2001, early in the Bush administration¹s term, Secretary of State
Colin Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee of his concern to
³rescue² the sanctions policy that was ³falling apart.² He later claimed
that the United States had ³snapped back the consensus in the Permanent Five
and Security Council as a whole on the continued need for sanctions.²

Powell¹s push for smart sanctions was seen as the State Department¹s riposte
to the strident arguments of hawks in the Defense Department that regime
change - toppling Saddam Hussein¹s government - should be the centerpiece of
US policy in the Middle East. Before Sept. 11, those who advocated regime
change ahead of all other policy priorities were still a minority voice in
the Bush administration. But since that time, regime change has become the
focus of presidential policy, and speculation in Washington has focused on
when rather than whether the United States will move militarily against

In this context, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan¹s discussions with Iraqi
Foreign Minister Naji Sabri in March and early May on the renewal of weapons
inspections highlight a new ambiguity in US policy. At the previous round of
talks held in New York on March 7, Sabri posed a series of questions to
Annan, including whether US threats of military action for Iraqi
non-compliance with inspections were legal under UN resolutions. In the
second, still inconclusive, round, Iraq also raised broader issues,
including the lifting of sanctions, the US-UK no-fly zones and US
saber-rattling. Sabri said Iraq wants inspections to be time limited, and to
lead to the lifting of sanctions. Annan called for an early resumption of
talks, to avoid spinning out the discussions.

Previously the ambiguity in US policy was that key players would not say
that if Iraq complied with inspections and was given a clean bill of health,
sanctions would be lifted. When Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee in March 2001 that if Iraq let weapons inspectors in, the United
States ³may look at lifting sanctions,² he continued the Clinton
administration¹s strategy of using sanctions as a form of punitive control
and containment, rather than enforcement of specific requirements on Iraq.

Today the Bush administration, while not identifying one particular
strategy, clearly speaks of action - unilateral if necessary - to end Saddam
Hussein¹s regime, without further reference to the United Nations. It is not
clear whether Iraq¹s compliance with weapons inspections would be sufficient
to trigger a withdrawal of the threat of military action. Recent comments
suggest not.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has predictably reiterated his
skepticism, first expressed in 1998 during the Clinton administration, as to
whether weapons inspections in Iraq can ever be effective under Hussein. On
May 5, Powell perpetuated the ambiguity, saying that the issue of inspectors
is a ³separate and distinct and different² matter from the US position on
Saddam¹s leadership.

³The United States reserves its option to do whatever it believes might be
appropriate to see if there can be a regime change,² Powell said. ³US policy
is that, regardless of what the inspectors do, the people of Iraq and the
people of the region would be better off with a different regime in

In the early months of the Bush administration, the issue of Iraqi weapons
of mass destruction (WMD) was not near the top of the foreign policy agenda.
Revival of the issue after Sept. 11 appeared primarily to be a pretext for
settling unfinished business. Iraq¹s links to Al-Qaeda have proved too
tenuous to include Iraq directly in the ³war on terrorism.² Most recently,
the FBI itself has raised doubts about the veracity of the story that
Muhammed Atta met an Iraqi intelligence official in Prague. Hence the
weapons issue has now taken center stage, with the US invoking UN
resolutions and hoping to rally international support on this basis.

The lack of clarity in Bush administration pronouncements inevitably signals
to the Iraqi leadership that even if they were to comply with WMD
inspections, the United States would still try to oust them. As in the past,
moving the goalposts on sanctions and arms control leaves the Iraqi
government with a reason not to comply - citing a ³no-win² situation.
Furthermore, the leadership¹s long-held belief in the usefulness of chemical
and biological weapons would suggest they would be even more likely to
conceal and try to retain them if they were faced with a major attack.

For the United States, the worst-case scenario would be for the UN
inspectors to declare Iraq free of banned weapons and therefore call for the
lifting of sanctions. Fear of this eventuality may be behind recent attacks
on the arms control record of Hans Blix, formerly head of the IAEA and now

Asked to investigate him by Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, doyen
of the regime change crowd, the CIA found that Blix had conducted
inspections within the IAEA¹s parameters. But Wolfowitz¹s approach fits with
the Bush administration policy of attacking or removing unwelcome
chairpersons of international bodies - working on human rights, climate
change or chemical weapons - with which the United States has disagreements.
Blix, for his part, has presented a firm view of UNMOVIC¹s work, stating
that Iraq would need to give the inspectors hard proof that its WMD had been
destroyed. At the same time, he has held out the possibility that if Iraq
cooperated fully, sanctions could be lifted within a year.

If the Iraqis agree to the return of weapons inspectors, the United States
will have a still more difficult task in convincing either Arab states or
Europe to go along with or actively support an attack. The Palestinian
crisis seems to be hardening popular attitudes in the Middle East against
the US, spooking Arab regimes about appearing too close to US priorities.
Crown Prince Abdullah stated explicitly that if Iraq accepted the
inspectors, then Saudi Arabia would not ³see any reason for any attacks.²
Such a confluence of events would reveal how far the unilateralists in the
Bush administration will go to put their theories to a practical test.

Sarah Graham-Brown is author of Sanctioning Saddam (I.B. Tauris, 1999).
MERIP, a non profit, non-governmental organization based in Washington DC,
is the publisher of Middle East Report


Bangkok Post, 10th May 10, 2002

Over eight months after the launching of the global war against terror, it
is becoming increasingly clear that the United States is caught in a
relentlessly expanding conflict from which there is no easy withdrawal.

Trying to keep up the momentum of its war against terror after it declared
``victory'' in Afghanistan in early January, America sent troops to the
Philippines that same month to help hunt down members of the Abu Sayyaf
bandit group that it alleged had ties with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda

The Philippines, a former colony, seemed to be a convenient choice as a site
for expanding the war against terror as Washington debated from January to
March a far more important question: whether or not to take out Saddam
Hussein. But just as the faction favouring an invasion of Iraq appeared to
have gained the upper hand, the brutal Israeli sweep into the West Bank
threw a spanner into US calculations, which had rested on the assumption of
political support from the pro-US Arab states.

Meanwhile, nearly three months after Washington designated the Philippines a
``second front'', some 60 to 80 Abu Sayyaf bandits continue to elude 6,000
Filipino troops coached by 160 American advisers on the small island of

Moreover, the realities of the Afghanistan campaign that filtered out after
the ouster of the Taliban have punctured the triumphalist mood that reigned
last December.

The idea that Afghanistan vindicated a new strategy of fighting based on the
employment of massive, precision-guided airpower with little commitment of
ground troops is now less persuasive. Thousands of civilians apparently died
owing to less than precise bombing, and scores of people allied to the
United States were targeted and killed by US forces acting on bad

Relying on Afghan mercenaries to do the fighting on the ground for the
United States is now acknowledged by some in the Pentagon to have resulted
in Osama bin Laden's escape from the Tora Bora mountains. And when US troops
did engage in close-quarters fighting with the Taliban/al-Qaeda forces in
the Shah-i-kot area near Pakistan in early March, they were bloodied by an
enemy that was supposed to be on the run.

Although it has not achieved its prime objective of capturing bin Laden or
dismantling the al-Qaeda network, Washington still thinks it has the
strategic initiative. It seems to be the case, however, that it has launched
itself into a multi-front war of attrition where it cannot consolidate
victory on any front.

The momentum is also being lost on the political front. As the military
campaign lessened in intensity in Afghanistan, the United Nations was
brought in to broker a political settlement that would usher in
representative democracy while the European Union was dragged in to police
the peace.

It has become clear, however, that the centralised authority that had been
forged by the Taliban has given way to the return of warlord hegemony in
different parts of the country, and the role of the security force is
increasingly to keep the ex-partners in the Northern Alliance from cutting
each other's throats.

As Afghanistan slides into anarchy, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has
been destabilised and delegitimised by American pressure to take sides in
the war against terror. The prestige of Islamic fundamentalists among the
population is now probably greater than before Sept 11. Saudi Arabia is
seething with discontent, and Washington faces the unpleasant prospect of
having to serve ultimately as a police force between an increasingly
isolated Saudi elite and a restive youthful population that regards bin
Laden as a hero.

Washington's tilt towards Israel has not helped in shoring up the legitimacy
of its Arab allies among their peoples. Israel is the great spoiler of the
American effort to manage the Middle East, and it can get away with it
because it can rely on its massive support in the US congress to blunt
pressure from the US executive, as the brazen Israeli moves to destroy the
Palestinian Authority in defiance of Washington recently demonstrated.

Indeed, the Afghan fiasco and Israeli intransigence, it can be argued, have
combined to make Washington's strategic situation in the Middle East worse
rather than better. Nor have there been any political or military gains in
Southeast Asia, with Indonesia maintaining its distance from Washington and
the US build-up in the Philippines turning out to be an open ended

Not surprisingly, there are voices in Washington that now question if
America has the troops and resources to engage in a multi-front war of
attrition. An invasion of Iraq, even if it does oust Saddam Hussein, would
merely exacerbate the dilemma of over-extension, since once one goes into
Iraq, there is, as in Afghanistan, no easy extrication from the massive
political mess that would create.

One is tempted to say, in fact, that there is a historical parallel to
America's indiscriminate creation of new fronts against terror, and that is
the Japanese rampage through the Southeast Asia and the Pacific in the first
six months of 1942. Large swathes of territory were gained, but at the price
of over-extending Japanese imperial power. By creating so many fronts, Japan
ended up unable to concentrate its forces and attention on the few really
strategic sectors.

There are no clear winners so far in the so-called war against terror. But
there are clear losers. The Taliban is one. The other big loser is liberal
democracy in the United States.

Not even the Cold War was presented in such totalistic terms as the ``War
against Terror''. Laws and executive orders restricting the rights to
privacy and free movement have been passed with a speed and in a manner that
would have turned Joe McCarthy green with envy.

The US was scarcely three months into the war when legislation had already
been passed and executive orders signed that established secret military
tribunals to try non-US citizens; imposed guilt by association on
immigrants; authorised the attorney-general to lock up indefinitely aliens
on mere suspicion; expanded the use of wiretaps and secret searches; allowed
the use of secret evidence in immigration proceedings that aliens cannot
confront or rebut; destroyed the secrecy of the client-lawyer relationship
by allowing the government to listen in; and institutionalised racial and
ethnic profiling.

Americans have often prided themselves with having a political system whose
role is to maximise and protect individual liberty along the lines
propounded by the 17th century English thinker John Locke and the third US
president Thomas Jefferson. That Lockean Jeffersonian tradition has been
rudely overturned in the last few months, as Americans have been stampeded
into giving government vast new powers over the individual in the name of
guaranteeing order and security.

The extent to which assaults on traditional liberties can now take place
with impunity was illustrated during a memorable Senate hearing when
Attorney-General John Ashcroft said that critics of the Bush
administration's security measures were fear-mongers ``who scare
peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty [and] aid terrorists''.

The fact that liberal, Democrat senators against whom these remarks were
directed dared not respond shows how skilfully the conservatives have used
the struggle against terrorism to win the real war at home, which is the war
against liberals and progressives. It is only recently that significant
Democrats have moved to speak against curtailment of civil liberties, and
rather timidly at that.

To conclude, over six months after Sept 11, the US has failed to achieve a
decisive victory in the war against terror and may now find itself in a
situation of strategic over-extension. The alienation that has fuelled
fundamentalism has, in contrast, gained in strength in the Middle East,
greatly assisted in the last few months by Israel's acts of impunity against
Palestinians. Southeast Asia is turning up into a strategic black hole
swallowing up more and more American military manpower.

But if there are no clear winners, there is, aside from the Taliban, a clear
loser: civil liberties and democracy in the United States. And that is a

- Walden Bello is executive director of the Bangkok-based Focus on the
Global South, a programme of Chulalongkorn University's Social Research

by Nick Cohen
The Observer, 12th May

Kanan Makiya has a good claim to be the Solzhenitsyn of Saddam's Iraq, if
such a grand title can be given to a modest scholar who offers you coffee
and digestives in his London flat. In the mid 1980s, he wrote Republic of
Fear, a remorseless chronicle of murder and torture in a prison state.
Seventy publishers returned the manuscript before the University of
California Press accepted it.

One of the best descriptions of state terror from the crowded
twentieth-century field was met with silence. The West and the Arab
dictatorships and monarchies supported Saddam and the Western Left was
afflicted with a kind of Orientalism which indulged, and continues to
indulge, Arab despotism. Very few outsiders wanted to know about Saddam's
crimes until he suddenly grew horns when his troops invaded Kuwait.

A consequence of the Gulf War was that Republic of Fear became a bestseller
and turned Makiya from an obscure exile working for his father's
architecture practice into something of a star. Makiya, who had once called
himself a socialist, found new friends but was hated by many of his former
comrades for insisting that America forces shouldn't leave Iraq with the
worst of both worlds - bombed but with Saddam still in power - but carry on
to Baghdad.

He dates the schism between supporters of universal human rights and those
on the Left and Right who regard any Western intervention as imperialism to
the moment when the opponents of Saddam were denounced. Israel was built on
the destruction of 400 Palestinian villages, Makiya says; Saddam destroyed
at least 3,000 Kurdish villages. Makiya, like every other Iraqi democrat you
meet in London, has lost patience with those who will oppose the former but
not the latter and is desperate for America to support a democratic

All in all, we have a man whose been on Saddam's death-list for years and
has more than enough enemies. He has still found the time and courage to
pierce the thin skins of religious fundamentalists.

by Robert Novak
Baltimore Sun, 13th May

Seated next to Donald Rumsfeld last Tuesday as he drank coffee at the
Pentagon with reporters in the Godfrey Sperling group, I asked the secretary
of defense to confirm or deny whether suicide hijacker Mohamed Atta met an
Iraqi secret service operative in Prague and then returned to the United
States to die in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. ''I don't know whether he
did or didn't,'' Rumsfeld replied.

In those eight words, the defense chief confirmed published reports that
there is no evidence placing the presumed leader of the terrorist attacks in
the Czech capital--with or without Iraqi spymaster Ahmed al-Ani. His alleged
presence in Prague is the solitary piece of evidence that could link Saddam
Hussein's dictatorial regime to the carnage at the World Trade Center.

Rumsfeld followed his terse response to my Atta question with an explanation
of why it really doesn't matter. A connection with the Sept. 11 attacks, he
made clear, is not necessary to justify U.S. military action against Iraq to
remove Saddam from power. The cause for war is alleged development of
weapons of mass destruction by the Baghdad regime.

Why, then, do ardent attack-Iraq advocates outside the government--William
Safire, Kenneth Adelman, James Woolsey--cling to the reality of the imagined
meeting in Prague? Because President Bush would be alone in the world if he
ordered the attack without an Iraqi connection to Sept. 11.

It is impossible to prove whether Atta was or was not in Prague in April
2001 as first claimed last October by Czech Interior Minister Stanislav
Gross, but these are the facts: Atta definitely did not travel under his own
name back and forth from the Czech Republic. The 9/11 terrorists always
traveled in the open. For Atta to have used an assumed name would be a
radically different method of operation. The sole evidence for the Prague
meeting is the word of Czech officials, who are now divided and confused.

The CIA does not want to be dragged into public debate with New York Times
columnist Safire, and its officials insist that ''we don't have a dog in
that fight.'' In truth, however, cool headed analysts at Langley see no
evidence whatever of the Prague meeting and in their gut believe it did not
take place.

Is there evidence of any other Iraqi connection to 9/11? ''I don't discuss
intelligence information,'' Rumsfeld replied. In fact, there is none.

Responding to my question whether it made any difference to U.S. policy on
Iraq, he said, ''I don't know how to answer it.'' He then depicted terrorist
nations--''Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, I suppose North Korea''--working
together to develop weapons of mass destruction. This could mean the death
of ''potentially hundreds of thousands of people.''

Responding to another reporter's question, Rumsfeld said ''the nuclear
weapon . . . is somewhat more difficult to develop, maintain and use than,
for example, biological weapons,'' adding, ''I would elevate the biological

Indeed, nobody in the U.S. government takes seriously statements by former
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his recent visit to Washington
that Iraq can deliver a nuclear bomb here in a suitcase.

Whether the Iraqis possess biological capability is unknown and debatable.
Former UN arms inspector Scott Ritter contends Iraq's biowar factories and
their equipment were destroyed. Without ''acquisition of a large amount of
new technology,'' Ritter has said, ''I don't see Iraq being able to do
high-quality production on a large scale of bioweapons.'' While Ritter's
detractors are many, his allegations never have been contradicted.

There is justifiable belief in the White House, the Pentagon and even the
State Department that the world--not to mention Iraq--will be better and
safer without Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. But that does not justify to the
world the overthrowing of a government.

That is why ace reporter Bill Safire writes column after column insisting
that the Prague meeting took place. That is also why national security
expert Ken Adelman insisted April 29 on CNN's ''Crossfire'' that Atta ''went
7,000 miles to meet with one of the Iraq intelligence officers in Prague.''
Even if it never happened, the meeting is essential to justify a U.S. attack
on Iraq.

Ananova, 15th May

Campaigners opposed to military action against Iraq have launched a poster
parodying the new Star Wars movie.

Stop the War Coalition's poster, entitled Start Wars, features Tony Blair
and George W Bush holding light sabres.

It's been launched to coincide with the nationwide release of the new Star
Wars film, Episode II: Attack Of The Clones.

The Coalition is hoping the poster will raise publicity for its "Don't
Attack Iraq" petition campaign, which is aiming for 100,000 names.

Among those helping to officially launch the poster will be Labour MP George
Galloway and journalist Yvonne Ridley. Both have just returned from visits
to Iraq.

The STWC and CND are also backing a recent call from former MP Tony Benn,
who called for peaceful one-hour general strike protests in the wake of any
UK action against Iraq.

A spokeswoman for the STWC told Ananova they want people to come onto the
streets where they live and block traffic the evening after any British

She also said she hoped people would download the petition from its website
and take it to their workplaces, clubs and schools.


Dawn, 12th May, 28 Safar 1423

BAGHDAD (Reusters), May 11: Iraq sent its industry and minerals minister to
Saudi Arabia on Saturday in another sign of thawing relations between the
two countries, Iraqi newspapers reported.

They said Maissar Rija Shlah would attend an Arab meeting in Riyadh, the
first time an Iraqi minister has led an official delegation to Saudi Arabia
since the 1991 Gulf war.

The government newspaper al-Jumhouriya said the visit follows an invitation
by Saudi Minister of Industry and Electricity Hashem bin Abdullah bin Hashem
bin Yamani.

Iraqi and Saudi leaders shook hands and embraced each other at an Arab
summit in Beirut in March. Saudi Arabia, the launch pad for the US-led Gulf
war, has previously refused to have direct dealings with Iraq under
President Saddam Hussein.

"This is the first high-level contact between Iraq and Saudi Arabia since
the two Arab brotherly states started to normalize relations," Al Jumhouriya

Iraqi newspapers have also reported in the last few days that an exhibition
of Saudi products will be held in Baghdad for the first time.

The papers quoted Iraq's Trade Minister Mohammed Mehdi Saleh as saying that
the volume of Iraq's purchases from Saudi Arabia had reached one billion
dollars under the United Nations' oil-for-food programme.

Arabic News, 16th May

In the context of the detente realized during the Beirut's summit, Iraq has
for the first time offered a licensing for Saudi investors to establish a
project for processing irrigation systems, giving Saudi Arabia the priority
to trade relations and welcoming any relations with Kuwait. These are in
line with presidential directives in Iraq to revitalize Iraq's relations
with the Arab states on the ground of solidarity and a message of
appreciation carried by an Iraqi minister to the Saudi leadership.

Muyassar Raja Shallah, the Iraqi minister of industry, currently visiting
Riyadh to take part in the meetings of the 7th session of the Arab ministers
of industry said that trade with Saudi Arabia exceeds USD one billion,
expressing his hope that this number will increase.

Shallah said in a statement to the Saudi daily al-Watan that his ministry
issued its consent to found the project that is 100% Saudi capital. He
stressed that Baghdad, following the positive developments that took place
at Beirut's Arab summit gave its directives to give Saudi Arabia the
priority in trade relations.

The Iraqi minister of industry also stressed his country's welcome to trade
dealing with Kuwait. He indicated that Kuwaiti goods had recently arrived to
the Iraqi markets, but he gave no more details.

Daily Star (Bangladesh), 17th May

AFP, Riyadh: Saudi importers have been allowed to re-export non-Saudi
products to Iraq in a bid to boost trade between the two Arab states, the
chairman of the Saudi Export Development Center was quoted as saying

The decision, taken by Saudi Commerce Minister Osama Faqih, would benefit
Saudi importers and the Iraqi market, Abdulrahman al-Zamel told
Al-Iqtissadia business daily.

Zamel made the announcement after meeting Wednesday with Iraqi Minister of
Industry and Minerals Muyasser Shallah, who visited Riyadh to attend a
conference of Arab industry ministers.

Baghdad will post customs officers at the Iraqi side of the Arar border
crossing with Saudi Arabia in preparation for opening the post, closed since
Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, Zamel quoted Shallah as saying during the

by David L. Phillips
International Herald Tribune, 16th May
[Proposed constitutional arrangements for a post Saddam Iraq aimed at the
difficult job of reconciling the aspirations of the Kurds and of the Turks.]

ISTANBUL: Recent negotiations between the United Nations and Iraq ended
inconclusively. In the past three years the Baghdad regime has repeatedly
obstructed efforts to resume monitoring of its program to produce weapons of
mass destruction. As a result, military action led by the United States
seems inevitable.

While U.S. allies, including Turkey, have so far resisted plans to invade
Iraq, they would welcome a role in developing political and security
arrangements for Iraq after its dictator Saddam Hussein is overthrown.
Defining the end-state would encourage potential coalition partners to
participate, when called upon. It would also help assuage countries like
Turkey, by signaling America's commitment to stability. States bordering
Iraq will resist efforts to depose Saddam until their concerns about chaos
and fragmentation are addressed.

The Bush administration places special value on relations with Turkey. As a
secular, democratic, majority Muslim country, Turkey is a key partner in the
global war on terror. It is slated to assume command of the multinational
force in Afghanistan. Should military action be required against Saddam,
Turkish bases would be an essential staging ground for an air campaign and
humanitarian intervention.

But Ankara has stated publicly that it opposes a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
It worries that military action would create a power vacuum, destabilize the
region and encourage separatism among Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin.
Turkey is also concerned about the economic consequences of conflict with
Iraq. As a result of sanctions imposed after the Gulf War, Turkey estimates
that it may have lost as much as $40 billion in trade and revenue. The Bush
administration's position is clear. By whatever means, it will seek removal
of Saddam and establishment of a federal democratic republic in Iraq. But
such objectives cannot be achieved without Turkey's participation. The
United States must satisfy Turkey's demand not to undermine the territorial
integrity of Iraq. On the other hand, America wants to help Iraqis fulfill
their long-suppressed democratic aspirations. Iraqi Kurds and others have
suffered terrible abuses under Saddam's tyrannical rule. Kurds will not
easily relinquish their dream of independence unless they are assured a
secure and prosperous future in a unified Iraq.

Establishing a federal democratic republic represents a structural solution,
which can help reconcile Turkish concerns with Kurdish aspirations. To this
end, Iraq could be divided into three entities: a Kurdish, Turkmen and
Assyrian region in the North, a Shiite Arab area in the South and a Sunni
Arab belt in the middle. There would be a clear demarcation of boundaries
between the entities. For example, Iraqi Kurdistan would encompass Kirkuk as
well as other traditional tribal lands north of the 36th parallel.

While the central government in Baghdad would retain jurisdiction over
defense and foreign policy, a highly decentralized system of governance
would include a local executive, assembly and a security apparatus
controlled by regional authorities. Local government institutions in Iraqi
Kurdistan would reflect power-sharing provisions between the Kurdistan
Democratic Party of Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of
Kurdistan; Turkmen and other minority groups would also be fairly
represented. In addition to local self-rule, Kurds would be allocated key
central government ministries and share responsibility for border control
and customs collection. Baghdad would continue to manage the country's
energy sector. The Kurdish entity would be allocated a predetermined
percentage of the country's overall oil income at least equal to the 13
percent of oil revenues it currently receives via the UN Oil for Food
Program. Central government control of the national oil industry would
discourage Kurdish nationalism, as well as separatism among the Shiite
population of Basra, a rich resource region near Iran.

Such constitutional arrangements would simultaneously meet Kurdish
aspirations and address Turkey's primary requirements.

A buffer zone between Turkey and Iraq would help deter incursions by armed
groups. A commercial agreement could expedite cross-border transport and
trade. And provisions would need to be enacted to protect the rights of
ethnic minorities, including 2 million ethnic Turks in Northern Iraq.

There is widespread agreement that the world would be safer without Saddam,
but debate persists on how to achieve this goal. Focusing on the end-state
would advance cooperation and help harmonize the ambitions of stakeholders
in the region.

The writer, a senior fellow and deputy director of the Center for Preventive
Action at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, contributed this
comment to the International Herald Tribune.

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