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[casi] News, 25/5-1/6/02 (2)

News, 25/5-1/6/02 (2)


*  US Drone Crashes in Return From Iraq
*  18 Iraqis Hurt in Allied Airstrike
*  US jets strike air defence sites in southern Iraq
*  Iraq says it 'Forced down' Spy drone
*  Wisdom of Aerial ŒGameı With Hussein Comes Into Question [Interesting to
note that the Turks too, like the Saudis, impose limitations on the
behaviour of US patrols from their territory.]
*  Iraq Says Over 1,140 Killed in US, British Air Raids
*  U.S. Planes Bomb Radar Site in Iraq


*  Report: Iraq Earned $6B Illegally [Best news of the week. We may be
getting back to the pre-September 11th pattern in which with painful
slowness and considerable skill on the part of the Iraqi administration
sanctions fall away of their own accord as Iraqıs neighbours summon up the
political courage to break them discreetly. If only they could summon up the
political courage to break them openly ...]
*  Iraq-U.N. Oil Price Dispute Bankrupts UN Goods Plan [This was forwarded
to the list by Drew Hamre who tells us that the full text of the document
referred to can be found at]
*  U.N., Iraq to Focus on Inspections


*  Iraqis end hunger strike in Denmark


*  Battle of SAS Gulf patrol gets bloody [Battle over veracity or otherwise
of A.McNab.]
*  British MP predicts revolution in Middle East [Very outspoken views from
G.Galloway, who makes clear his belief that to a large extent the Arab
leaders are to blame for the present mess: ³Once you allow the elephant
through the door, you are no longer in a position to tell the elephant where
to sit.²] 
*  Navy frigate stops Iraqi smugglers [Mighty victory by Œcrack teamı of
Œspecialist Royal Marinesı over Œshabby tankerı. And all in spite of the


*  Indonesian, Indian cos to carry out gas exploration in Iraq


*  Saddamıs men kill 40 in mosque fight [There has been some dispute about
this on the list, but it seems to me a perfectly possible consequence of the
state of paranoia which is being deliberately and irresponsibly fostered in
Iraq by the US and UK governments.]
*  Saddam cries victory [Further to the list dispute over whether the
Schneider (Washington Post, 17th May) is US propaganda or not. Schneider
quoted the CIA World Factbook as saying that Œper capita income  in Iraq now
stands at around $2,500 annually -- double that of Egyptı. And here is
Saddam saying that that proves what a good government Iraq has got, to
achieve this under such difficult circumstances.]


The Associated Press, 25th May

WASHINGTON: An unmanned Air Force aircraft returning from a routine
surveillance mission in Iraq crashed Saturday as it was preparing to land at
an airfield in Kuwait, the military said.

The cause of the drone's crash was under investigation, said Lt. Cmdr. Bruce
Erickson of U.S. Central Command, based in Tampa, Fla. The crash was not the
result of enemy fire, he said.

The Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, which crashed at about 8:30 a.m. EDT,
had been on a mission in support of Operation Southern Watch, part of the
international response to Iraqi noncompliance with a U.N. Security Council
resolution passed after the Gulf War. U.S. and British warplanes have been
monitoring ``no fly'' zones over southern and northern Iraq since shortly
after the war to protect Kurdish and other minority and opposition groups.

The Predator is an unmanned reconnaissance and surveillance system designed
to provide military commanders with high-resolution, real-time imagery.
Erickson said ground support personnel had retrieved the drone that crashed.

At least six of the propeller-powered Predators now have crashed since the
United States began its anti-terror campaign in Afghanistan in October.

Baltimore Sun, 25th May

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Eighteen civilians were injured in a U.S. and British
aircraft bombing run in southern Iraq, Iraq said Saturday.

An unidentified Iraqi military spokesman said allied warplanes bombed "civil
and service installations" late Friday in Dhi Qar province, 210 miles south
of Baghdad, the official Iraqi News Agency reported.

No official U.S. comment was immediately available.

The Iraqi spokesman said 18 civilians were wounded, but did not elaborate on
the extent of their injuries.

Iraq challenged the planes with its "courageous ground resistance" and the
planes left the area, the report added without giving the time of the


Daily Star, Bangladesh (from AFP), 26th May

US warplanes struck air defence sites in southern Iraq Friday in retaliation
for "recent Iraqi hostile acts" against aircraft patrolling a no-fly zone,
the US military said.

The strike was the second in southern Iraq this week, following a US air
attack Wednesday on a surface-to-air missile site and a communications

The US Central Command said precision guided weapons were used in the
strikes on "three components of an offensive integrated air defence system
in southern Iraq." 

It followed "the fourth verified attempt by Iraq to destroy a coalition
aircraft in the last 17 days," the command said.

It gave no details but said the raid was "in response to recent Iraqi
hostile acts against coalition aircraft monitoring the southern no-fly

US and British warplanes enforce the no-fly zones that were imposed over
southern and northern after the 1991 Gulf War.

Times of India (from AFP), 27th May

BAGHDAD: Iraq said on Monday it forced down a pilotless "enemy"
reconnaissance plane in the north of the country on Sunday.

"The drone was forced down in our territory by our own means," at 0930 GMT
in northern Iraq, a military spokesman said, without further explanation.

Iraq reported that it shot down three unmanned US spy planes in 2001,
confirming official US fears that Baghdad had upgraded its
previously-ineffectual air defence systems.

Kuwait's Arab Times newspaper reported Sunday that an unmanned US drone had
crashed Saturday in the emirate as it was flying back from a "surveillance

by Craig Gordon
Newsday, 27th May

Incirlik Air Base, Turkey -- Slicing through the sky over northern Iraq in
his F-15E fighter jet, Air Force Capt. Wayne Straw never saw just how close
he came to being hit by Saddam Hussein's artillery on a recent mission. A
fellow pilot spotted the explosive bursts barely 500 feet beneath Straw's
Strike Eagle -- "uncomfortably close,² Straw acknowledged dryly.

Hussein's forces play a cat-and-mouse game virtually every time U.S. or
British air crews patrol northern Iraq, as part of a mission to keep the
Iraqi military from flying there. Iraqis fleck the skies with artillery fire
-- "popcorn,² the pilots call it -- then tow their guns away almost before
the pilots know what happened.

Straw scrambled to get his jet away from the fire, but no retaliatory strike
was possible, for the U.S. pilots couldn't spot the artillery piece that
menaced him. Rules demanded by Turkey, which hosts the pilots and planes at
this air base, strictly bar U.S. and British fliers from retaliating against
anything but the weapon or site that shot at them.

While the 11-year-old mission called Operation Northern Watch has never lost
a plane to Iraqi fire, Straw's close call underscores the continued risk to
U.S. pilots. The challenges facing this little-known operation highlight the
difficulties that U.S. forces would face in any invasion to topple Hussein.

President George W. Bush said last week he had no plans on his desk to
invade Iraq.

Some U.S. officers, active and retired, have called for an end to, or a
scaling-back of, the no fly zone patrols, saying they risk too much, gain
too little and help Iraq hone its defenses against any eventual real U.S.

Straw, 35, of Altamonte Springs, Fla., also patrolled the no-fly zone in
1999 and said of the Iraqi gunners, "If anything, they're more accurate²
now. "They're getting a lot of practice in what they're trying to do.²

Northern Watch's home at this air base in southern Turkey, about 570 miles
from Iraq's capital, Baghdad, would be essential for launching any invasion
of Iraq, say analysts, particularly if Saudi Arabia withholds use of its
bases, a possibility that Pentagon officials have included in their

Yet Turkish leaders publicly have urged the Bush administration not to make
war on Iraq, and commanders say the United States could not count on winning
Turkish support.

Commanders of the northern Iraq patrols say Hussein is adept at placing
anti-aircraft guns and missiles near mosques and playgrounds, hoping to draw
U.S. forces into a strike that might kill civilians and play to Arab
sympathies. U.S. pilots frequently forgo strikes on approved targets because
a town, a farm or a moving car is too close by and could be hit
accidentally, said the Northern Watch commander, Brig. Gen. Edward Ellis.

"No innocent Iraqi citizen deserves to die because they have a knucklehead
leader,² Ellis said.

In April, Hussein made his biggest shift of missiles to the north in several
years, U.S. officials say. U.S. warplanes patrolling a similar no-fly zone
in southern Iraq bombed three air defense sites there in the past week after
coming under attack by surface-to-air missiles.

Hussein has made a standing offer of $14,000 to the man who brings down an
American or British flier. Still, Hussein seems to be preserving his limited
resources in case of a U.S. attack, withholding his best anti-aircraft
equipment, which he keeps closer to Baghdad.

To be sure, many military analysts believe an invasion of Iraq would
devastate Hussein's anti-aircraft weaponry in less than the five weeks
needed during the Persian Gulf War. Hussein's remaining weapons are aging
and lack spare parts, due to United Nations sanctions that block military

Yet pilots and commanders at Incirlik voice respect for a man they call a
wily foe. They worry about what they call Hussein's "science projects,²
experiments to push the accuracy and lethality of his limited weaponry.
Artillery cannons are kept mobile, towed behind trucks. Iraqis have tried
firing air-to-air missiles from the ground, or surface-to-air missiles with
their guiding radars turned off. That tactic is meant to evade U.S. missiles
that can track the radar beams back to the missile launchers.

Those experiments increase the dangers to U.S. fliers in Northern Watch, or
any new mission that may come their way. "If it does escalate at all,² said
Capt. Sean Gustafson, an F-16 pilot, "it could get real ugly, real quick.²

Patrols of a no-fly zone north of the 36th parallel in Iraq began after the
Gulf War ended in 1991, and the southern no-fly zone was added the following
year. The two cover about 60 percent of the nation. The northern patrols
were designed to monitor Hussein's efforts to acquire weapons of mass
destruction and to protect the ethnic Kurds, whose rebellion against Baghdad
after the Gulf War was brutally crushed by Hussein.

Northern Watch officials would not release the number of sorties, but
missions comprising several dozen fighters, tankers, communications planes
and other aircraft fly on average 12 times a month, at a cost of $750,000
per mission, Ellis said. More than 1,200 U.S. service personnel run Northern

If Northern Watch gives Hussein's troops practice, it does the same for U.S.
forces. On one recent mission, F-15 and F-16 fighter jets going into Iraqi
airspace refueled from KC-135R tankers over eastern Turkey. The crews danced
their aerial ballet of multiton machines at 400 mph, flying in tandem just
50 feet apart, but said the repetition could make it feel routine.

"There's always a risk, but this runs smoother than the day-to-day stuff
back home when we do practice missions,² said Tech. Sgt. Matthew Rose, 32,
of Riverside, Calif., a boom operator on the tanker, nicknamed Sweet

After more steady and serious attacks on patrolling aircraft in 1999 and
2000, Iraq appears content these days to harass Northern Watch crews with
anti-aircraft fire. Ellis said pilots are fired upon an average of once an
hour while on patrol, yet Northern Watch has reported just four strikes
against Iraqi installations so far this year, compared with four dozen
reported in 2000, a decline also attributable to Turkey's tight restrictions
on attacks.

A Turkish diplomat in Washington said, on condition of anonymity, that if
strikes by Northern Watch "went beyond self-defense and initiated bombing
from Turkish territory, that will cause trouble for Turkey.²

"We have our red lines, and we believe U.S. authorities share the same with
us,² the diplomat said.

The Northern Watch mission has grown complicated in other ways. For one
thing, the no-fly zone is no longer airtight. Two commercial flights, from
Baghdad to Mosul, and several international flights enter the zone
regularly. The Iraqis even flew a crop-dusting helicopter over northern Iraq
last year without incident.

The head of the military's European Command, Air Force Gen. Joseph Ralston,
recommended last May that routine patrols be scrapped in favor of a standing
alert on the ground, to reduce the risk to U.S. pilots.

Beyond the immediate risks, one retired top Air Force general, Richard
Hawley, the former head of the Air Combat Command, shares the pilots'
concerns that the no-fly patrols are giving Hussein's forces a dangerous leg
up for whatever might lie ahead.

"We're providing for them a great adversary force, so they can make sure
they're on a sharper edge, their procedures are well-honed, their people are
well-trained,² Hawley said. "If we had to do something [against Iraq], my
view is... that we are doing things that will make them a more credible air
defense system on day one of that fight than they otherwise might be, and I
don't think the political gains adequately offset the price we might pay if
we have to go back into Iraq.²

Peoples Daily. 30th June

U.S. and British air raids on the two no-fly zones in northern and southern
Iraq since their setup have left 1,142 Iraqis killed and 1,261 others
wounded, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri Ahmed said in a letter to United
Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Wednesday.

U.S. and British air raids on the two no-fly zones in northern and southern
Iraq since their setup have left 1,142 Iraqis killed and 1,261 others
wounded, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri Ahmed said in a letter to United
Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Wednesday.

Ahmed accused the United States and Britain of violating the U. N. Charter
and the International Law, and practising "state terrorism" against Iraq,
the official Iraqi News Agency (INA) reported.

Ahmed affirmed Iraq's rights of self defense against "the continuous and
hostile terrorist acts" by the United States and Britain, the INA said.

The two no-fly zones were set up by the U.S.-led Western allies after the
1991 Gulf War to allegedly protect the Kurds in the north and Shiite Muslims
in the south from the persecution of the Iraqi government.

Iraq has never recognized the two air exclusion zones for lack of clear
authorization from the U.N. Security Council and has regularly opened fire
at the patrolling Western planes.

U.S. and Britain have intensified attacks on the two air exclusion zones
recently. Iraq said five civilians were injured when its northern part was
bombed on Tuesday. 

This was the fourth time in the past 10 days that U.S. and British jets
raided the two no-fly zones.

Four civilians were injured when U.S. and British jets bombed the southern
Muthana Province on May 20. Iraq said two were killed and two others injured
when the Western planes bombed Thi-Qar Province on May 23. U.S. and British
air strikes in southern Iraq on May 25 left 18 people wounded, according to
Iraqi sources.

Las Vegas Sun, 31st May

WASHINGTON- U.S. warplanes bombed an air defense radar site in southern Iraq
Friday after coming under attack by Iraqi surface-to-air missiles, U.S.
military officials said.

It was the fifth U.S. airstrike against Iraq in less than two weeks.

The latest incident happened early Friday, Iraq time. U.S. Central Command,
which is responsible for military operations in the Persian Gulf area, said
allied aircraft responded immediately after reporting that three
surface-to-air missiles were fired in their direction. The planes were not

The attack was in Nasiriyah, about 170 miles southeast of Baghdad, Central
Command said. 

In Baghdad, the official Iraqi News Agency said three Iraqis were injured in
the airstrikes. It said "civil and service installations" were attacked.

U.S. planes attacked air defense sites in the vicinity of Nasiriyah or
elsewhere in southern Iraq on May 20, 22 and 24. Each time Central Command
said the attacks were in self defense. On May 28 U.S. planes came under fire
by anti-aircraft artillery in northern Iraq and responded by attacking an
air defense site. 

U.S. and British warplanes have been monitoring no-fly zones over southern
and northern Iraq since shortly after the 1991 Gulf War to protect Kurdish
and other minority and opposition groups.

Iraq frequently tries to shoot down the allied planes; it considers the
zones illegitimate violations of its sovereignty.


The Associated Press, 29th May

WASHINGTON: Iraq earned more than $6 billion in illegal revenue from oil
smuggling and surcharges on commodity imports from 1997 to 2001, a
congressional agency said Wednesday.

President Saddam Hussein's government uses the money to buy goods prohibited
by U.N. Security Council sanctions, said a report by the General Accounting
Office, the watchdog arm of Congress.

The world body imposed the economic sanctions in 1990 after Iraq invaded

Illicit items are smuggled into Iraq from neighboring states or through the
Persian Gulf, the report said. It did not specify what goods.

The United States and Britain have sought to stop Iraqi oil smuggling,
contending that it helps finance Saddam's efforts to rebuild his military
and banned weapons programs.

Iraq forced U.N. weapons inspectors to withdraw from the country in 1998. In
their absence, the ``United Nations cannot ensure that Iraq has stopped
developing weapons of mass destruction, and there are indications from
multiple sources that it continues to do so,'' the GAO report said.

The Security Council allows Iraq to sell oil legally, provided the revenue
goes into a U.N. escrow account to buy food and other humanitarian supplies
for civilians. The GAO said this program produced $51 billion in revenue
from 1997-2001. 

``We conservatively estimate that Iraq has illegally earned at least $6.6
billion since 1997 ‹ $4.3 billion from smuggling and $2.3 billion in illegal
surcharges on oil and commissions from its commodities contracts,'' the
report said. 

For example, in 2001, the GAO estimated that Iraq earned $1.5 billion by
smuggling oil through Jordan, Syria and the Persian Gulf.

``Oil industry experts estimate that Iraq smuggled out as much as 480,000
barrels of oil per day in March 2002,'' the report said.

Syria, a Security Council member, repeatedly has denied it is importing
Iraqi oil through a pipeline that has been closed for 18 years.

In addition to revenues from oil smuggling, the GAO report quoted Security
Council and U.S. officials as saying the Iraqi government has been levying a
surcharge against oil purchases and commissions against commodity suppliers
participating in the oil for food program.

by Evelyn Leopold 
Yahoo, 29th May

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - With a new overhaul of U.N. sanctions about to
begin, a senior U.N. official said on Wednesday the Iraq-U.N. humanitarian
program was nearly bankrupt because of an oil-pricing dispute with the
United States and Britain.

"Without funds, the whole exercise will be meaningless," said Benon Sevan,
the U.N. undersecretary-general in charge of the program after briefing the
U.N. Security Council. He said at least $2 billion more in revenue was

Under the oil-for-food program, which includes the new sanctions
regulations, Iraq can sell oil in order to buy food, medicine and a host of
supplies to ease the impact of the embargoes, imposed when Baghdad invaded
Kuwait in August 1990.

Iraq stopped shipping oil for a month earlier this year to protest
Israeli-Palestinian violence, costing the program $1.2 billion in oil
revenues. Iraq's oil revenues are put in a U.N. escrow account out of which
suppliers of goods are paid.

But still ongoing is Iraq's dispute with Britain and the United States on
setting the price of crude oil, resulting in an average reduction in exports
of some 500,000 barrels a day or another $1.2 billion over the past six
months, Sevan said.

The United States and Britain want to reduce the number of small trading
firms buying Iraqi oil, contending they are making illegal payments of 20-30
cents a barrel directly to the Iraqi government, outside the U.N. program.

Consequently, both nations insist Iraq set prices retroactively to ensure
they conform to world rates. Iraq, which denies it imposes a surcharge, says
this system is scaring away customers.

"Unless the question of the pricing mechanism ... is resolved urgently, all
other efforts and decisions taken to expedite the approval of humanitarian
supplies for Iraq may unfortunately remain academic," Sevan told the

The new sanctions regulations, approved by the Security Council earlier this
month, take effect on Thursday but will not be totally in place until July
15. They aim to expedite civilian goods to Baghdad but at the same time
require reviews by U.N. officials and Security Council members of supplies
on a 300-page list that could have military uses.

But Sevan raised apprehensions that some of the goods on the list could
endanger the program if the council did not approve them, such as laboratory
equipment used in hospitals.

"It is not enough to say medicines will flow in freely if certain items for
hospitals are kept out," he told reporters. "We will not be able to achieve
our objectives unless all parties approach it with the proper spirit."

Baghdad objects to the new sanctions procedures or any change in the
complicated program it said has inflicted untold harm on its population. But
it implicitly accepted the new regulations by renewing on Tuesday the 1996
oil-for-food program for another six months, until Nov. 25, Sevan said.

Sevan briefed the council on the new procedures, which require all contracts
to go to two U.N. disarmament commissions to see if they are banned outright
or are on the new list. If they are on the list, the council's sanctions
committee reviews them. If they are not, Sevan's department expedites the

Previously, the United States was virtually the sole guardian of blocking
supplies it suspected of having military uses, with a council committee
having control over a large variety of contracts. The new system gives more
power to U.N. officials and disarmament agencies.

Ideally, these procedures are to be completed within 30 days, providing
suppliers have submitted required information. Currently, the United States
has blocked $1.3 billion worth of contracts, some of them for years. A
number of them will have to be released under the new system.

The Associated Press, 31st May

UNITED NATIONS: A new round of U.N.-Iraq talks seeking the return of U.N.
weapons inspectors to the Mideast nation will be held in Vienna on July 4-5,
a U.N. spokesman said Friday.

Since March, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri and U.N. Secretary-General
Kofi Annan have held two rounds of talks at U.N. headquarters in New York on
the return of the inspectors, who left Baghdad before U.S.-British strikes
in December 1998 and have been barred from going back.

The return of the inspectors is a key demand of the U.N. Security Council
and especially of the United States, which has accused Iraq of trying to
rebuild its banned weapons programs and of supporting terrorism.

U.N. sanctions imposed by the Security Council against Iraq after its 1990
invasion of Kuwait cannot be lifted until U.N. inspectors certify that
Iraq's programs to build nuclear, chemical and biological weapons have been
dismantled, along with the missiles to deliver them.

Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan and U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard
announced the site for the third round of talks last week and the time
frame, but the dates were not disclosed.

President Bush has warned Iraqi President Saddam Hussein that he faces
unspecified consequences if he fails to heed American demands that
inspectors be allowed into Iraq to verify whether it has dismantled its
weapons of mass destruction. Bush has also made clear that the United States
wants Saddam removed from power.

When the last round of talks ended on May 3, Annan reported progress but no
breakthrough and said he hoped that in the next round of talks Iraq would
have ``some positive news.''

Iraq wants sanctions lifted, saying it has complied with all U.N.

``Iraq will continue holding talks with the U.N. secretary-general in order
to reach a working mechanism aimed at lifting the unjust embargo and ending
the suffering of the Iraqi people,'' Iraq's Ramadan said in comments aired
by Iraqi satellite television late Sunday.

During the second round of talks, Annan was accompanied by chief U.N.
weapons inspector Hans Blix and the director general of the International
Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei. Eckhard said they will also take
part in the upcoming Vienna talks.


BBC, 30th May
A group of 27 Iraqi refugees in Denmark have ended a week-long hunger strike
after being told their claims for political asylum will be given serious

The Iraqis, who are staying in Copenhagen's cathedral, began the hunger
strike after their asylum requests were turned down.

A church spokesman said the refugees called off the action after receiving
assurances that their claims will be looked at again and handled fairly.

On Tuesday, the Danish immigration minister, Bertel Haarder, said those
refugees whose requests were rejected would not be forced to leave.

"If they want to stay in the country, we will provide them with bed and
board but they will not receive any money or be allowed to work," Mr Haarder

Danish aid organisations have offered to help move the Iraqis to refugee
holding centres throughout the country.

The hunger strike began on 23 May. Cathedral authorities allowed the group
to stay inside provided they did not disturb church activities.

The refugees came from the government-controlled part of Iraq.

Correspondents say that in past years, they would have been granted asylum
because of fears that they might face persecution at home.

But earlier this month, Denmark's new centre-right government approved a
bill aimed at restricting immigration and reducing public assistance to

The legislation also includes plans to abolish de facto refugee status, thus
giving asylum to refugees only in accordance with international conventions

The bill is due to be discussed in Parliament shortly.

In the past five years, Iraqis have been one of the largest groups of asylum
seekers in Denmark.

More than 4,000 Iraqi refugees have arrived there in the past two years.

IRAQI/UK RELATIONS,6903,722590,00.html

by Jason Burke 
Observer, 26th May

It is one of the most famous episodes of recent British military history. An
eight-man SAS patrol nearly 200 miles behind enemy lines fighting its way,
if not to safety, then at least to glory, killing scores along the way.

But for the survivors of the SAS's Bravo Two Zero patrol the battles did not
stop when the Gulf war ended in 1991. First came the struggle to tell their
stories. Then the campaign to defend their reputations in the face of

This weekend troopers on the famed patrol launched a counter-attack on
another SAS member who questioned their accounts. Michael Asher, a former
Territorial SAS man and desert explorer, claimed that interviews with
eyewitnesses in Iraq had shown that the stories recounted by men such as
Andy McNab, who led the Bravo Two Zero patrol, or Chris Ryan, the only one
of its members to reach safety in Syria after the patrol was 'compromised',
were flawed. 

Asher, in a film broadcast last week on Channel 4, accused the pair of
vastly exaggerating the number of Iraqis they killed and 'embellishing'
their accounts. 

Others - including SAS members in the Gulf at the time - have joined Asher
to accuse McNab and others of 'embellishing' their stories. 'I'd have been
very happy to find that they were all true, but rigorous investigation
showed they were not,' Asher said at his home in Morocco.

Last week Ryan, who is working as a bodyguard, expressed 'contempt and
disgust' for 'what Asher had said about [him]'. He went on: 'If he wants to
come and meet me face to face, alone somewhere, we can sort this out in the
way that SAS men do. All I will say now is that I know I killed a number of
Iraqi soldiers. I am not proud of having killed - it still gives me
nightmares - but I am proud of having... evaded capture.'

Ryan, who was decorated for his role in the mission, said Asher had been
naive and had handed the Iraqis a 'propaganda victory'.

Friends of McNab, who is in America working on the film of his second book,
said that he had found Asher's allegations 'infuriating'.

One point of argument is how many men the patrol killed. Asher says that,
despite accounts of a series of bloody firefights with Iraqi troops, the SAS
troopers did not come up against substantial numbers of soldiers and claims
that 250 Iraqi soldiers were killed are false. McNab's allies say the figure
came from US military intelligence.

Mark Lucas, McNab's agent, said: 'The great British public set a great deal
more store by accounts by men who were there than by the evidence of highly
unreliable Iraqis with extraordinarily clear memories.'

The Bravo Two Zero patrol was one of several SAS teams sent deep into Iraq
on 22 January 1991 to target Scud missile launchers. But things went wrong
very early on. Faulty intelligence meant the eight-man patrol was dropped in
the middle of 3,000 Iraqi troops. McNab says the team marched through the
night to an observation post near a key road. Asher says they walked, with
200lb loads, only a few hundred yards.

Within 48 hours McNab's men were spotted by a shepherd boy. However, where
the SAS men claim there was a vicious firefight with Iraqi troops, Asher,
having interviewed Bedouin tribesmen who remember the events, says the
patrol was merely challenged by a small group of lightly armed locals. Asher
also points out that the patrol members' accounts of the action diverge

The patrol split into two groups. Two men died of exposure, and one was
killed in a firefight. Four, including McNab, were captured and tortured by
the Iraqis. Ryan was 'the one who got away'.

McNab had tried to get to Syria by hijacking a taxi. He describes fighting
his way through a checkpoint. But Asher, who says he interviewed the
policemen who stopped the car, gave a very different account. 'The policemen
later knew McNab's real name, not his pseudonym. There were many, many
similar details that backed up what I heard from the Iraqis,' said Asher,
who speaks fluent Arabic and has twice received awards from the Royal
Geographic Society in a 22-year career exploring deserts. 'I won't meet Ryan
for a punch-up. That's just being childish. I will meet him for a debate.'
Supporters of McNab and Ryan point out that Asher, 49, was accompanied by
Iraqi minders during his inquiries and lacks combat experience.

But a further attack on McNab's credibility may come from a former comrade.
The British Government has failed to stop Mike Coburn, a New Zealand-born
member of the patrol, publishing his own account. It is expected to accuse
McNab of exaggeration. Bravo Two Zero's battles are clearly not over yet.

by Rime Allaf
Daily Star, Labanon, 27th May

LONDON: George Galloway does not chew his words and leaves few people
indifferent: They either love him or hate him - so much, in fact, that
American actor John Malkovich wishes he could kill him.

In an interview with The Daily Star following his return from Iraq and
Palestine at the head of a delegation of British and Canadian MPs and
journalists, the Labor MP discussed the recent events in the Occupied
Territories and his prospects for the future of the region.

Known for his outspoken condemnations of British foreign policy, especially
in the Arab world, Galloway is undeterred by accusations of sympathy to some
Arab regimes, which he is the first to criticize.

Galloway has always campaigned against the 12-year old ³sanctions of the
Anglo-American axis² on Iraq, but does he think that the new deal is better?

³Itıs old wine in new bottles and will fool no one,² he said, arguing itıs a
vindication of what heıs been saying, an admission that the existing
sanctions were stupid, although he finds the new ones no smarter. ³Itıs a
pity that a million people had to die needlessly to prove it,² he said.

Conferring criticism on both partners in this ³axis,² he reserves the lionıs
share for America. ³We have an extremely dangerous world in which America
roams around like a giant with the mind of a small child. A giant with the
mind of a small child is a danger not only to everyone else, but also to
himself, and you donıt get a mind much smaller than (US President) George W.

Bush represents ³small-town Christian fundamentalist right-wing Republican
values, ignorant, and boastful about their ignorance, brutal, prejudiced,
bigoted.² And Gallowayıs depiction of Bushıs election to the presidency
illustrates the MPıs intolerance of the regimes some have accused him of

³Itıs a very Arab event when your brother, the governor of a state, steals
the presidency of the country for you by fraudulent means, when you win in a
court packed by your fatherıs judicial appointments,² he said.

Tony Blairıs association with Bush does not fare well with Galloway. ³For a
prime minister of a great country to be described as the ambassador of a
foreign country is a deeply insulting and demeaning characterization,²
watching ³Mr. Blair being passed grinning from one right-wing Republican
figure to another, rolling around the jungle of the American right from Bush
to Bush.²

As for Blairıs alleged disclosure to some Labor MPs that he would seek UN
approval before committing Britain to an invasion of Iraq, Galloway replied:
³I have yet to find a Labor MP to whom he told it.²

For Galloway, the war on Afghanistan is no different from one on Iraq. ³Itıs
not an a la carte menu, you canıt pick and mix which imperialist wars youıre
going to support, and which youıre not Š Once itıs established that in the
name of anti-terrorism America can get away with killing thousands of
Afghans who had nothing whatsoever to do with Sept. 11, then youıve already
conceded the principle that America can use its vast military might against
civilian populations wherever it likes. You canıt say I supported you last
time but Iım opposing you this time.²

Galloway argued at length about the sheer folly of invading Iraq, but would
the Arabs allow this anyway? He thinks they donıt have much choice: ³Once
you allow the elephant through the door, you are no longer in a position to
tell the elephant where to sit.² Still, an invasion of this scale is easier
said than done when considering local, regional and international
dimensions, and Galloway feels it is not inevitable.

³What will it do if the entire region boils over with rage, having already
pocketed its rage over the intifada and the systemic failure of the Arab
regimes? Is there only a regime change in Baghdad, or are there other
regimes which now have to change because of popular anger in Arab countries?
And if they change, will they be replaced by Nassers, free officers, or will
they be replaced by Khomeinis and bin Ladens?²

Arab people have finally had enough and there is eventually going to be a
revolution, says Galloway, quoting Lenin to explain that ³there are decades
when nothing happens, but there are weeks when decades happen, and I think
that in these weeks decades have happened,² he said.

The last straw would be an attack on Iraq: ³From the Atlantic to the Gulf,
Arab public opinion can now see that despite 50 years of independence in
most cases, despite a bounty of uncountable billions of dollars, despite
having built up armed forces which aggregated are amongst the worldıs most
significant, their system is incapable or unwilling or both of fulfilling
even the minimum national duties.²

Israelıs latest assault on the Palestinians had only given the latter more
resolve. While Galloway had seen bigger crimes in Lebanon, he felt Jenin was
distinctive, describing the bravery of the defenders ³who fought until they
could fight no more, not because they ran out of courage or ran out of men,
but because they ran out of ammunition. And they ran out of ammunition
because the Arab regimes sealed and double-sealed their borders to stop a
single bullet, or a single weapon, or a single volunteer from the millions
that were on the streets of the Arab cities demanding of their governments
that if you canıt do anything to save the Palestinians, open your borders
and let us go.²

Galloway feels that the Palestinian people, far from defeated, are even more
committed than before. ³I liken it to a woman who enters upon a process of
labor. Once labor has begun, it must go forward, it canıt be reversed. It
either goes forward to death or to new life. And thatıs the process on which
the Palestinian millions are embarked. It may lead to death, they may never
have their state, because nothing in history is guaranteed, but I am
absolutely convinced that they will go forward trying until death if

But how did he find the Palestinian people felt about the circumstances
which ended the siege of Bethlehem and (Palestinian President) Yasser
Arafatıs own in Ramallah? Despite his friendship with him, Galloway could
not possibly support ³his recent decisions of handing over the heroes of the
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who in the gloriest operation
of the intifada, no suicide bomb, no pizza parlor, no collateral damage,
cleanly executed a criminal fascist on occupied land, who was part of a
Cabinet who had just murdered in cold blood their leader, Abu Ali Mustafa.²

While handing these men over to British and American jailers had created
bitterness, the decision on the Church of the Nativity was even more
resented. ³This is the first time Palestinians themselves have negotiated
the deportation from their own land of people whose only Œcrime,ı and I use
the word crime in quotes, was to defend their little town of Bethlehem and
the birthplace of Jesus from an illegal, overwhelming violent occupation by
foreign soldiers.²

For Galloway, this now legitimized Israelıs deportation of captured
Palestinian fighters.

Such views seem to have irked John Malkovich, who decided he wanted to kill
Galloway (and The Independentıs Mideast correspondent, Robert Fisk).
Gallowayıs reaction was to pass the matter over to the Speaker of the House
of Parliamnent and wonder whether Malkovich had been questioned by the

³It is remarkable that in the middle of a war on terrorism, an American
citizen can get a visa to come to Britain, go to one of our ancient
institutions, the Cambridge Union, and threaten to murder a member of
British Parliament.² Such a threat will not make him any less outspoken, for
³it is a sine qua non of this democracy that members of Parliament must be
free to speak their minds without fear of being killed,² a freedom that
Galloway will surely continue using as long as he has causes to defend.

BBC, 30th May
Navy frigate HMS Portland has stopped an Iraqi ship trying to smuggle
illegal oil supplies out of the country.

It is the second such seizure by the warship in just over a month, while
patrolling the Persian Gulf.

During Wednesday night's operation Royal Marines boarded the Iraqi vessel
hunting for weapons of mass destruction.

They immediately took control, with the smugglers putting up "passive
resistance", said the Ministry of Defence.

Speaking on the BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, Commanding Officer Jonathan
Handley of HMS Portland, said intelligence information first revealed the
suspected smuggler was at large.

He said: "I am really thrilled that we have a crack team on board and a very
good intelligence network to detect these vessels leaving."

A team of specialist Royal Marines went on board the "shabby tanker" first.

It was their job to check for "arms, parts and weapons of mass destruction",
said Mr Handley. 

They were followed by a second Royal Navy boarding team who conducted a full
search and verified the occupants were smugglers.

The vessel, MV Devo, had 3,100 tons of contraband diesel oil on board, the
MoD said. 

It had broken the UN embargo which prohibits Iraq from selling its oil on
the open market. 

Mr Handley said Iraqi smugglers were "trying to get some money for Saddam
Hussein's private use".

The seizure is the second the warship has made in just over a month while on
patrols part of the International Maritime Intervention Force.

In April it stopped a vessel carrying 1,500 tons of diesel fuel.

Mr Handley told the Today programme he believed "very few" smugglers were
now getting through, thanks to his teams' detection and intervention.

"This is routine stuff but tiring, given the intense heat that they are
experiencing," he added.

An MOD spokesman said the vessel captured on Wednesday night would be handed
over to the UN who would sell it for scrap and also sell its cargo to cover
its costs.


Daily Star (Bangladesh), 28th May

Reuters, Baghdad: Iraq has signed contracts with Indian and Indonesian
companies to carry out gas exploration in the country, Iraq's Oil Minister
Amir Muhammed Rasheed said in remarks published on Sunday.

"India's ONGC (Videsh Ltd) and Indonesia's Pertamina will start exploration
work of natural gas in an area near the Iraqi border with Saudi Arabia and
the area between Najaf and Kerbala in southern Iraq," Rasheed told the local
weekly newspaper al-Raee.

He said the two companies had already signed contracts with Iraq under an
oil-for-food deal with the United Nations.

The deal allows Iraq to sell oil to buy food, medicine and other
humanitarian needs for the Iraqi people suffering from 12-year-old sanctions
imposed on Iraq for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Rasheed gave no further details on the value and size of the two contracts.

Last year an Indian industry official said that ONGC would sign a contract
with Iraq for exploration of Block No. 8 in Iraq's western desert.

INSIDE IRAQ,,176-307392,00.html?gavalidate

by Marie Colvin
Sunday Times, 26th May

IRAQIS worshipping at one of Islamıs holiest shrines were attacked by Saddam
Husseinıs security forces earlier this month in one of the worst recent
examples of the oppression suffered daily by civilians living under his

While international attention remains largely focused on Saddamıs chemical,
biological and nuclear weapons programmes, which threaten those outside his
borders, little is known of the suffering of his population because the
Iraqi president controls the countryıs media with his characteristic iron

However, news of his forcesı onslaught against worshippers at the shrine of
Imam Hussein in Karbala, which left up to 40 people dead, has filtered out
because some survivors escaped to the relative freedom of Kurdistan, the
no-fly zone patrolled by American and British planes in northern Iraq.

The attack happened on the anniversary of the death of Hussein, the grandson
of the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam. Hussein was killed in the
city of Karbala in the 7th century with 72 of his followers. He is
particularly revered by followers of the Shiıite branch of Islam, who mark
the anniversary with mourning rites that include beating themselves publicly
to show their sorrow.

Thousands of Iraqis travel each year to the blue-tiled mosque in Karbala,
where Hussein is buried. This year, security forces were out in strength as
worshippers converged on the city, which Iraqi observers believe is a sign
of Saddamıs increasing worry about his restive Shiıite population.

Saddam and his regime are Sunni, the minority branch of Islam in Iraq. In
1991, after Iraqıs defeat in the Gulf war, the Shiıite Muslims, who
predominate in the south, led a revolt that was brutally crushed by the
Republican Guard. 

Abu Fadi, whose full name is being withheld for fear of reprisals against
his family, said by satellite telephone from Kurdistan that the security
forces had made the journey to Karbala difficult before the violence at the
mosque. Other Iraqi sources independently confirmed the events he described.

He left his neighbourhood of Baghdad, a poor, largely Shiıite area, at 6am
with his two sons, aged seven and five, and joined other men packed into a
private minibus that was to travel to Karbala.

The bus was twice stopped at checkpoints manned by a mixture of regular
soldiers, members of the ruling Baıath party in their distinctive uniform
and plainclothes security officials. Everyone in the bus was searched, as
were others in the flood of vehicles heading south to Karbala, a journey
that usually takes about an hour.

Abu Fadi and his sons got as far as Aoun, seven miles short of Karbala, when
they reached a barricade made with barrels and a long pole. It was manned by
security forces, who barred the vehicles and told passengers they would
³continue at their own risk².

³I thought maybe I should turn back, because I had my two young sons with
me,² Abu Fadi said. ³But we had already travelled so far, and I wanted to
touch the shrine of Imam Hussein, so I said, ŒLet us continue walking.ı
Thousands of people did the same. The road was very crowded.²

After little more than half a mile, the road became difficult to walk upon ‹
security forces had spread a thick layer of sand sprayed with water.
Military vehicles drove by on the edge of the road, but did not turn people

Abu Fadi and his sons finally reached the mosque at 1pm, after stopping to
rest several times. As he neared the shrine, he grew frightened. Inside the
mosque, soldiers were stationed with guns, a sacrilege that angered many in
the crowd. When young men began beating their chests as a sign of the
emotion they felt at nearing the burial place of Hussein, the soldiers

³They began beating the people with the butts of their Kalashnikovs and
megwaor (sticks with nails embedded at the end),² Abu Fadi said. ³Everyone
panicked. It seemed to me there was blood everywhere ‹ screams and blood.²

He said he managed to crouch in an alcove where men leave their shoes when
they enter the mosque. He saw at least seven people who he believes had been

³One young man looked like he was sitting with his back to the wall but you
could tell he was dead,² said Abu Fadi, whose shocked sons escaped with him.
³His head was bloodied and his eyes were staring open. He was not

Not a word of the incident was officially reported, but several sources in
Karbala and Baghdad put the death toll at 40, based on reports from the
hospitals in the city.

³The whole country has to celebrate the birthday of Saddam Hussein whether
we want to or not,² said Abu Fadi. ³Why should I be prohibited from
celebrating the death of my Imam Hussein, this holy man?²

Iraqi sources said hit-and-run attacks on Saddamıs forces in the south had
now increased to the point where even heavily armed Iraqi military convoys
had stopped travelling at night. Opposition groups such as the Iraqi
National Congress are working in exile to unseat Saddam. However, they
believe that the population will need a firm sign of American military
support before risking a general revolt.

Hindustani Times (from AFP), 26th May

THE United Statesı policy on Iraq has failed and Baghdad has succeeded in
rebuilding its infrastructure damaged in the 1991 Gulf War, President Saddam
Hussein said in remarks published on Sunday.

The United States "is starting to recognise its defeat because it wants, in
fact, to finish off not only the economy but also the spirit of endurance of
the Iraqis" by maintaining the embargo slapped on Baghdad for invading
Kuwait in 1990, Saddam told the official press.

Saddam, who was speaking on Saturday during a reception of navy officers and
experts from the military industrialisation authority, added that the US
"wanted to destroy this spirit, but it has failed."

"All that has been destroyed has been rebuilt with our own means," he said
in reference to the infrastructure damaged in bombing by the US-led
international coalition during the 1991 Gulf War.

This was recognised in the "leading American and British media," Saddam
claimed, referring to articles which, according to him, put the standard of
living in Iraq higher than that in Egypt.

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