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[casi] News, 15-22/01/03 (1)

News, 15-22/01/03 (1)


*  Confronting Iraq
*  Iraqi exile
*  Iraqi Wild Card
*  TV antennas are mushrooming
*  Hussein's efforts to pacify Shiites may pay off
*  Group Demands Arrest of Envoy for Kurdish Campaign
*  Bush has his 'casus belli' but will war be worth it?
*  Christians Say Saddam's Iraq a Safe Haven
*  Saddam says he's smiling inside despite threats


by Robert Collier, Chronicle Staff Writer
San Francisco Chronicle, 15th January

Baghdad -- To see Iraq's new elite living the fast life, go to Arasat
Street. Well- dressed diners eat steak and kebabs in glittering restaurants
with colonnaded porticos and marbled fountains, while shiny Land Cruisers
and Corvettes glide to and from towering mansions nearby.

In shops down the block, snakeskin spike heels sell for $70 and a Hugo Boss
overcoat goes for $150 -- many times the average Iraqi salary of $5 to $10
per month. To judge by the sometimes bizarrely written labels, many of the
luxury items may be counterfeit, but who cares?

Certainly not the new elite themselves, who are too busy making fortunes as
smugglers, helping sneak oil out of the country and other goods in --
ranging from cigarettes to weapons -- in defiance of the U.N. sanctions.

"They steal, they cheat. A new class of unethical people are doing very
well," said Ghazwan Al-Mukhtar, a member of Iraq's old business elite, which
has fallen on hard times lately.

Just a few blocks away from Arasat Street's luxury, fellow Iraqis are living
in squalor and desperation.

Youssef Al-Hakak stands in line at a government ration distribution center,
pushing a cart with the rations of wheat, sugar, tea, cooking oil and other
staples that will keep his family alive -- "Inshallah" (God willing), he
says. His salary as a schoolteacher, $4 a month, would barely buy him an
entree on Arasat Street.

It's a tableaux that plays well with those in Washington who are pushing for
regime change in Iraq -- Saddam Hussein's enormous palaces and the feasting
of his cronies, cheek-by-jowl with the downtrodden Iraqi masses who
presumably might welcome liberation by U.S. troops.

But the broader picture is more complex and more dysfunctional than that.

It's more like Karl Marx meets Lewis Carroll, where class divisions are
warped in an Alice in Wonderland funhouse.

A shopkeeper makes more than a heart surgeon, a taxi driver makes more in a
day than a teacher makes in a week, and a smuggler makes more than a
government minister.

"Iraq is a country that had a stable middle class before 1990 and a
significant welfare state," said Christopher Klein-Beekman, program
coordinator for UNICEF's $90 million-per-year Iraq mission.

"Now, all that has been liquidated," he added. "The Western-oriented
professional class has left for the United States and Canada, and the ones
who stayed are driving taxis or just barely staying alive. And the smugglers
are gaining."

While many Western observers blame Hussein and his relatives, who they say
control the smuggling and have diverted other resources for their own ends,
others hold the international sanctions at least partly responsible.

The U.N.-run "oil-for-food" program, put into effect in 1996, mandates that
its $4.9 billion per year in oil revenues be spent on imports and explicitly
prohibits spending any funds for domestically produced products or normal
government expenses. As a result, the Iraqi government claims it has
virtually no money for salaries to pay its clerks, school teachers, doctors,
nurses and civil engineers.

The government's only significant cash revenues are earned from clandestine
oil exports, estimated at $2 billion per year, and from equally clandestine

No one seems to know exactly who controls this smuggling, or who owns the
gaudy mansions now being constructed in rich Baghdad neighborhoods such as
Arasat, Kerradeh and Mansour. And in a land where speaking ill of Hussein is
a severe crime, few Iraqis care to speculate.

In a report released in September, however, a Washington-based nonprofit
known as the Coalition for International Justice accused Hussein and his
inner circle of skimming billions of dollars through illegal sales of oil,
smuggling and kickbacks on the trade in oil and humanitarian goods.

The coalition, whose focus is monitoring human rights around the world and
lobbying for war crimes tribunals, projected the rake-off at $2.5 billion
for 2002 -- a sum large enough to significantly alleviate the tough
conditions faced by ordinary Iraqis.

Iraq's new rich themselves don't seem to want to describe the source of
their money to foreign visitors. Brief conversations are more enigmatic than

At one high-fashion boutique, one dyed-blonde, spike-heeled shopper paused
for small talk with a visitor while perusing fake fur coats.

She bemoaned the fact that the Italian and French labels of Iraq's boom
years have been replaced by knockoffs made in China, Egypt and Pakistan.

Her description of herself as a schoolteacher -- a profession that pays
almost nothing -- begged the question: So aren't these goods still too

She demurred silently with a smile. Then her husband, sleek in a long black
leather coat, swooped in from across the store and ushered her away.

The Bush administration and Western media reports frequently point at the
president's eldest son, Uday Hussein, who reportedly drives a Rolls-Royce
Corniche, as the personification of the smuggler elite. Uday has been
identified in various reports as a key figure in the illegal importation of
Western cigarettes.

But Baghdad-based diplomats caution that there is little hard information on
the subject and that much of the smuggling revenue may be used by the
government for normal expenses.

Members of the country's old elite, such as Ghazwan Al-Mukhtar, say the
exact identity of the new upstarts is immaterial.

A gaunt, elegant gentleman in his mid-50s, Al-Mukhtar spoke as he was
sitting in the faded glory of the Alwiya Club, Baghdad's leading upper-class
social club since it was founded 70 years ago, when Iraq was ruled by

Al-Mukhtar, a medical-products entrepreneur who studied engineering at UC
Berkeley and Marquette University in Milwaukee, says all his bank accounts,
amounting to millions of dollars, have been frozen in Britain since the
sanctions went into effect in 1990.

Now, he lives by borrowing from his brother, a lawyer in London.

"My daughter, who is a fifth-year medical student, wants makeup and clothes,
" he says. "She needs money. I used to be able to please her just with a
chocolate bar, but no longer. My son is in his fourth year in medical
school. He needs money too."

Why doesn't he become a smuggler himself? "I can't work under the sanctions.
I work only with reputable companies," Al-Mukhtar replies, haughtily.

As for the poor, the Iraqi government has tried to keep them under wraps.

After a spate of foreign media reports about life in Baghdad's slums, the
Information Ministry "minders" who watch over foreign reporters have barred
them from visiting Saddam City, the sprawling shantytown on the city's
eastern outskirts that is home to about 2 million people. All other Baghdad
slums are also off-limits.

But the poor -- or newly poor -- are easy enough to find. Bedraggled street
children, mothers clutching dirty-faced babies and widows in black hejabs,
or cloaks, are common sights, even though panhandling is illegal. At the
city's markets, small children are often seen scampering amid garbage piles
looking for scraps of food or salvageable items.

Some of the most poignant scenes occur at the book fair that takes place
every Friday on a closed-off street in old downtown Baghdad. Spread out on
sheets are entire family libraries.

"This is our life, but I have no choice but to sell it," said Jawad Al-
Naimi, a government employee who was sadly watching customers pore through
his collection of history books, leather-bound philosophy treatises and
English- language novels -- including two by Agatha Christie.

"It is our life," he said again, slowly.

Abdul Al-Baghdadi, a director of the Federation of Iraqi Chambers of
Commerce, said private citizens have suffered the most over the past several

"The consequences of the sanctions are heavier on the people than on the
government," said Al-Baghdadi, who owns several companies that import
clothing, shoes and food. "In every country, after every war, there are
people who profit. Some people here do the same."

Even some top government cadres feel the personal fallout.

"Just yesterday, my last friend left Iraq," said Nermin Al-Mufti, a
political columnist for the El Thawra newspaper, which is run by the ruling
Ba'ath Party, and an editor of several government publications.

"For the past 12 years, the daily aggression of the situation has caused a
blackness that has isolated educated Iraqis," she said. "Either they die, or
they leave the country, or they withdraw into themselves.

"Our value scale has been turned upside down. Being elegantly dressed is the
most important thing, because tomorrow doesn't exist -- you may die, who

Al-Mufti then described her daily battles to obtain the medicine she needs
for a heart problem.

"I can't hate the smugglers. The pill I put under my tongue every day,
nitroglycerin, is forbidden under the U.N. sanctions," she said, noting that
the drug is also a common explosive with potential military use. "These
smugglers have prolonged my life."

Some observers say the sanctions have strengthened Hussein's regime. By
weakening the private sector and impoverishing the professional class, about
65 percent of the population depends on government rations to survive.

Even in candid conversations with no government officials nearby to snoop,
some Iraqis blame the Americans more than the regime.

"One of my friends, one of Iraq's most prominent pathologists, very well
respected and very wealthy -- he used to be wealthy, anyway -- was recently
forced to start selling his furniture and rugs and family heirlooms," Al-
Mukhtar said, shifting upright in his worn, leather Alwiya Club chair and
stabbing the air with a lit cigarette.

"He only makes his government pension, worth a couple dollars a month, plus
whatever he earns at his private clinic. This wasn't caused by Saddam

"So now I curse the Americans for what has happened to my friend and me, and
I wait for the invasion. And I will curse them again when they come."

by Bill Spindle
Ann Arbor News, from The Associated Press, 15th January

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Azzam Alwash pulled out a large satellite image of
southern Iraq on which splotches of reddish-brown dominate the parched
landscape. He pointed to some tiny dots of blue and rivulets of green. They
are all that's left of the great marshes that once lay between the Tigris
and Euphrates rivers.

"I remember all the green, and that wonderful smell of decaying vegetation,"
says Mr. Alwash, whose father, an Iraqi civil engineer, took his young son
on surveys into the swamps. They rode in a long wooden motor boat with a
canopy in the middle, passing communities of reed huts set among waterways
that wound for miles through the grasses. "I want to do it again with my
kids," he says.

That won't be simple for the 44-year-old Iraqi exile. In an act of
destruction environmental groups compare with the devastation of the
rainforests of the Amazon, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein ordered the swamps
drained in the early 1990s, when the area became a refuge for Shiite rebel
groups. The rebels were destroyed. So were the marshes, once home to the
ancient Sumerians and an area some scholars consider to be the inspiration
for the Garden of Eden.

Turning a teeming swamp bigger than Florida's Everglades into a
salt-encrusted wasteland in less than a decade was no small feat.
Environmentalists are still puzzling over exactly how the Iraqi government,
which shrouded the project in secrecy, accomplished it. Bringing back the
wetlands -- once home to a half-million people and a crucial stop for
migratory birds -- will be considerably more difficult.

"There's virtually no water left," says Hassan Partow, a United Nations
researcher who has done a study on the destruction of the marshes. "It's
absolutely phenomenal to see the destruction of an ecosystem of that scale
in just five to six years."

Mr. Alwash has a plan. He concedes that it's a rough plan, based on
decades-old data. He drafted it in his living room along with his geologist
wife, drawing extensively from the intimate memories of the terrain of his
father and other exiles. Even if it has to be heavily revised later, he
says, some blueprint to revive the swamps is needed if the U.S. is going to
lead an invasion to topple Mr. Hussein.

If dams and waterworks upstream are bombed or rendered useless during or
after the U.S. campaign, the whole area could see an even greater ecological
disaster. In case of quick reflooding, the thick layer of salt left over
from evaporated marshes and polluted by toxins in recent years would
contaminate any new water that rushed in. The only solution, he and
environmentalists say, is to methodically flush out the salts.

Mr. Alwash has lobbied Pentagon officials to avoid bombing dams and to drop
leaflets across southern Iraq urging people not to tear down waterworks. He
recently briefed a dozen officials at the U.S. Department of State. Pentagon
officials and exiled southern Iraqi opponents of Mr. Hussein attended a
presentation he gave last month at a major conference of Iraqi dissidents in

Mr. Alwash also argues that if the U.S. decides to lead an invasion and
occupation of Iraq, some early, visible successes in renewing the marshes
could help convince Iraqis of the benefits of working with the invaders.
"This is one way to sell the idea to Iraqis, especially in the south, that
change brings tangible benefits," he says.

In 1978, Mr. Alwash moved to the U.S., abandoning a promising engineering
career in Iraq when he felt pressured to join a student association
affiliated with Mr. Hussein's ruling Ba'ath Party. He thought little about
the marshes as he married a geologist from a small Texas town, set about
raising two daughters and built a successful career as an engineer in

On a family vacation in London in 1994, Mr. Alwash attended a presentation
about the destruction of the Iraqi marshes. Environmental and human-rights
groups were then only beginning to grasp the extent of the damage. Mr.
Alwash, a kayaking buff who would sometimes muse about his childhood
adventures in the Iraqi marshlands while paddling with his wife, Suzanne,
was shocked. "I'd been telling her, `One day, we'll do this in Iraq,' and
there it was in the pictures, dying," he says.

Mr. Alwash began digging into just how the marshes were drained, relying on
Mr. Partow's U.N. environmental study for the basic outline. Starting in
1992, Iraqi engineers worked around the clock for nine months to build what
became known as the Saddam River. Some 350 miles long, it diverts water from
the Euphrates that would otherwise flow into the main al Hammar marsh.

This project was followed by even larger hydroengineering schemes: the
Mother of Battles River in 1994 and the Fidelity to the Leader Canal in
1997. While the Iraqi government has always insisted that the projects were
aimed at reclaiming swampland for farming, various defectors and
environmental and human-rights groups say the scale of the projects leaves
little doubt that their goal was to destroy a huge refuge for Mr. Hussein's
opponents -- what Mr. Alwash calls Iraq's "Sherwood Forest." The mud, thick
reeds and winding waterways made the area impassible for Mr. Hussein's
soldiers and heavy equipment.

Eventually, Mr. Alwash saw a way he thought he could help. Many of the
environmental and human-rights groups were despairing that the marshlands,
now less than 5 percent of their original size, could ever be restored. That
is in part because new upstream dams in Turkey, Iran and Syria have reduced
the headwaters' flow to a fraction of their old volume. But Mr. Alwash knew
from his father's work that Iraqi rice and barley farmers still use
primitive and inefficient irrigation techniques. If those techniques could
be improved to reduce the amount of water diverted to farming, more water
would make it downstream to the marshes.

Mr. Alwash and his wife began poring over dissertations in the libraries at
the University of California, Los Angeles. But crucial data from the period
before the drainage projects were impossible to obtain -- which is where Mr.
Alwash's father came in.

Jawad Alwash grew up in southern Iraq, studied civil engineering in
Alexandria, Egypt, and then worked for decades in the southern marshes,
monitoring hydrological works and settling water disputes along the two
rivers. He retired in 1983 and was living in Baghdad when he and his wife
visited their son in the U.S. They were there when Iraq invaded Kuwait in
1990, and never went home, eventually settling near Washington.

When his son described what had become of the wetlands, the senior Mr.
Alwash began teasing from his memory the flow data of rivers and channels on
satellite photos. He sketched maps for his son and daughter-in-law on scrap
paper, recalling how dams and regulators had been designed to nudge the flow
in one direction or another over the extraordinarily flat terrain. He called
former colleagues living in exile in California to tap their recollections.
One Thanksgiving at the Alwash household consisted of a turkey dinner that
was then cleared away to make room for special, high-resolution satellite
maps that the younger Mr. Alwash had finagled from U.S. government

Mr. Alwash has used that information to construct a computer model that
simulates various ways to reflood the wetland areas, depending on how much
water makes it downstream from the headwaters to the agricultural zones just
above the marshes.

When Mr. Hussein is no longer in power, Mr. Alwash and Suzanne, who now
spend their time delivering their presentation to any group that will
listen, hope to turn the blueprint and computer models over to Iraqi
engineers. "They know their problems better than anyone," he says. Until
then, he says, "this is the only wetlands-reclamation project to be done
completely by remote control."

by Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Washington Post, 19th January

RASHIDIYA, Iraq -- The sheik gazed left, then right, looking at a half-dozen
farmers in mud speckled robes seated in his vast receiving room. Supplicant
in posture and effusive in flattery, they drank several cups of sweet tea
before a young man named Mohammed summoned the courage to ask the question
that had brought them to their leader at dinnertime. Was their tribe, the
Fudhool, ready for a U.S. attack?

The sheik, Fadhil Abbas Jassim, 69, with a gravelly voice and a
gray-speckled beard, smiled. Then he chortled, causing his gold-fringed
cloak to flap about. The Fudhool recently received a few thousand automatic
rifles from the government, he informed the farmers, and more were on the
way. The guns would be handed out soon. Everyone would be armed.

After the farmers departed into the balmy night, appearing reassured, Jassim
turned to a visitor. "If there is a war, they will fight on my command," he
proclaimed. "They will defend our land against foreign aggression." He added
after a moment's pause, "But if there is a need for peace, of course they
will listen to me."

As Bush administration officials and U.S. military commanders try to predict
how Iraqis would react to a possible U.S. invasion aimed at toppling
President Saddam Hussein, the behavior of the country's armed and
influential tribes has emerged as a wild card. The vast majority of Iraq's
24 million people affiliate themselves with tribal groups, and sociologists
here estimate that more than a third retain some degree of loyalty to their
tribal leaders.

Will the tribal leaders stick by Hussein, who has wooed them since the end
of the 1991 Persian Gulf War by doling out cash, land and cars, as well as
increased authority in rural Iraq? Or will they welcome the Americans and
help them fight the Iraqi army? Or will they sit out the fighting, despite
their bellicose rhetoric, out of fear of choosing the wrong side?

Several prominent sheiks insisted their allegiance is firmly with Hussein, a
man they referred to as "his excellency," "our dear leader" and "the great
president." If there is a war, they said they would mobilize hundreds of
thousands of fighters, from schoolboys to old men ineligible to join the
military, to defend their villages and the roads leading to Baghdad.

"We will fight to the death against any invaders," said Rashash Imarrah,
chief of the Imarrah tribe, most of whose members live near the intersection
of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in southern Iraq. "If the Americans think
they can just march up here, they are sadly mistaken," said the sheik, who
claims to command 4,000 armed fighters. "We will be waiting for them."

The last time a foreign army sought to capture Baghdad, during World War I,
British forces moved up the Tigris from the Persian Gulf to expel the
Ottoman Turks who controlled most of present-day Iraq. Expecting the tribes
to help fight the Ottomans, or at least remain neutral, the British instead
found themselves under attack by several tribes that remained loyal to the

As people here are fond of mentioning, tens of thousands of British soldiers
died, many from disease, before Baghdad finally fell in 1917. "The
Americans," Imarrah said, "should remember this."

Nobody knows for sure when tribes such as the Imarrah were formed, but
historians and tribal leaders say many of the groups predate the start of
Islam on the Arabian Peninsula in the 7th century. The tribes thrived for
centuries, providing order and community in an otherwise lawless desert.
Sheiks settled disputes, dispensed charity and approved marriages.

But in 1958, when Iraq's British-installed monarchy was overthrown, the new
military government set out to eliminate tribal networks, regarding sheiks
as little kings who considered themselves above the law. When the Baath
Party, the political machine through which Hussein rose to power, took over
in 1968, that effort intensified. And when Hussein assumed the presidency in
1979, it accelerated further: Sheiks who represented a threat to his hold on
power were killed or jailed. Tens of thousands of people from tribal areas
were forced to migrate to cities.

The Baathists, whose ideology called for a secular, modern Arab nation,
"regarded the tribal system as a backward system that did not fit in with
modern life," said Ihsan M. Hassan, a sociology professor at Baghdad

But tribalism has remained strong, even in the uppermost echelons of
government. In a practice that continues today, Hussein, a member of the
Al-Bu Nasir tribe, filled almost all the senior posts in his administration,
particularly those concerning security, with fellow tribesmen or those
belonging to allied clans from his home town of Tikrit. At the same time,
Hussein banned the use of tribal names, a move some believe was designed to
mask the predominance of Tikritis in the government.

It was not until the Gulf War that official disapproval of tribalism ended.
With his army facing postwar uprisings by ethnic Kurds in the north and
Shiite Muslims in the south, Hussein decided to revive tribal groups and
co-opt their leaders as a way to prevent future rebellions. Tribal leaders
received money and other emoluments to resume their activities -- if they
pledged to support Hussein. Most readily accepted, using the offer as a way
to reclaim some of their authority.

In much of rural Iraq, functions once performed by the government were
assumed by tribal elders. Here in Jassim's village of Rashidiya, on the
outskirts of Baghdad, the poor and unemployed depend on tribal handouts.
Loans for marriage dowries are handled by the sheik. When villagers want a
new well or to repair a road, they see Jassim, who in turn communicates with
the relevant government agencies.

"For the government, it is easier to have one person talking to them instead
of hundreds," he said.

Jassim also plays the role of local magistrate, settling disputes ranging
from sheep rustling to murder. "If one member of my tribe has killed someone
from another tribe, the prominent figures of this tribe will visit the other
man's tribe," he explained. "We will have a tribal meeting. We will speak
about the incident. And we will give them blood money."

Sometimes, such actions keep a murderer out of jail. In other cases, he
said, "they will receive a much lighter sentence because they settled the
matter" through the tribal system.

Sensing that the campaign to promote tribalism was working to its advantage
in rural areas, the government extended offers of money and gifts to tribal
elders and members of notable families who lived in cities, hoping to shore
up an urban population that was growing restive because of U.N. sanctions.

"The government even came to my family and said, 'We'll give you land,
money, weapons and salaries to reorganize your tribe, but your allegiance
will be for the government, for the Baath Party and President Saddam
Hussein,' " said Hassan, the sociology professor. "They were ready to give
us a tribal seal and a stick and a shroud, and even a monthly salary."

Residents of Baghdad have increasingly begun identifying with their tribal
groups, sometimes choosing the places they shop and eat by the owner's
tribal affiliation. Jassim, whose village is about 25 miles north of
Baghdad, said many members of his tribe live in the city but regularly
return to the village for tribal ceremonies and to resolve disputes.

"If you have a car accident, you don't sort it out in the courts anymore,"
said Wamidh Nadmih, a professor of political science at Baghdad University.
"Even if you live in the city, you sort it out in the tribe."

Nadmih said tribal affiliations can play a big role in determining whether
an applicant gets a job or parents consent to a marriage. Tribal affiliation
can often identify whether Iraqis are Sunni or Shiite Muslims, where they
hail from and whether their extended family has political connections. "It
is a network, just like you have in America with university graduates and
your religious groups," he said.

The highest-profile case of tribal justice occurred in 1996, when Hussein's
two sons-in-law, Hussein Kamel Hassan Majeed and Saddam Kamel Hassan Majeed,
returned to Iraq after defecting to Jordan and disclosing secrets about
Iraq's weapons programs. The brothers were killed during a night-long gun
battle, not with the police or the military, but with members of their own
tribe seeking to redeem the family's honor.

Hussein holds regular meetings with influential tribal leaders, where he
dishes out gifts and receives expressions of fealty. Hussein now appears so
confident about support within many of Iraq's 150 major tribes, which
comprise about 2,000 smaller clans, that he has given them tens of thousands
of light weapons to distribute to their members with the hope they will turn
into a guerrilla army in the event of a U.S. invasion, ambushing American
soldiers in villages and along roads.

Many analysts and diplomats dismiss the notion that tribal fighters will
pose a significant threat to U.S. forces, but they could form pockets of
resistance in areas where American soldiers might not otherwise expect to
encounter armed opposition.

Whether that occurs may depend on which way the sheiks sway. While
government officials expect that tribesmen will heed Hussein's military
directives, others here believe the decision will be made by individual
tribal leaders.

"We've gone back decades, to the ages of darkness, where rural peasants are
under the control of chieftains," Hassan, the sociology professor, said.
"It's a negative phenomenon. It does not coincide with modern society. And
now, subconsciously, a man's allegiance goes to the tribe, not to the

As a consequence, foreign military analysts said, U.S. officials are
plotting a strategy to buy off tribal leaders as they did with some success
in Afghanistan. But for the fence-sitters, the smell of victory might be
more important than money.

Although Iraqi tribes are notoriously fickle, Jassim and other tribal chiefs
sneer at the idea that they could be influenced by money. Hussein's gifts to
them over the years, they insisted, were intended to trickle down to
ordinary people, not to curry their favor. "This is not Afghanistan," Jassim
said. "Our loyalties cannot be purchased."

But if the Americans still want to invade Iraq, he said, they are welcome to
descend upon his village.

"We will greet them," he growled, "with bullets."

by Shakir Al Taee
Hoover's (Financial Times), 19th January

TV antennas are mushrooming atop buildings all over the country,
particularly in Baghdad, nowadays, as people here are eager to know what is
happening around them as American and British troops continue to build up
for a possible attack against Iraq.

This is occurring at a time when there is a government ban on receiving
other than local TV and radio stations transmission.

To get around this without punishment, many Iraqis have resorted to
installing Chinese and Turkish TV antennas on the roofs of their houses to
get access to some TV broadcasts in neighbouring countries.

Observers see the rush for satellite channels as a clear rise in Iraqis'
curiosity to know the news of the Iraqi crisis from other sources, a need
that arose from the rapidly developing tension between Iraq and the United

Hence, Iraqis in the south tune their TV antennas to get programmes
broadcast by the stations in the Gulf countries, while those in the north
switch on to programmes coming from Syria and Turkey. Some others opt to
watch Iranian TV, while others tune in to Jordan, Lebanon or other TV

A recent poll showed that the Iraqis are very keen to follow the news of the
Iraqi crisis. One citizen, Faisal Sa'eed, said he watches some neighbouring
TV programmes to keep informed and updated about the news related to his

University Professor Dr Abdul Salam Lefteh said that people are entitled to
be informed in order to know what is happening .

One clergyman maintained that while people have a right to watch news from
other countries, they must also respect their own laws and not listen to
"what the enemies of their country say."

Ahmed Jebir said he simply listens to news programnmes broadcast by Arab TV
and radio stations, though most of the time he prefers Iraqi TV programmes.

A university student explained that due to the present political crisis he
felt that hearing outside news gives him a better picture of what is
happening around him.

Sa'eed Yaqoub, an Iraqi lawyer, said that watching foreign TV programmes
"widens our horizons and updates us about the world around us."

by Robert Collier
San Francisco Chronicle, 19th January

Kerbala, Iraq -- Gleaming in the sun over the crowds of pilgrims, the new
gold plating on the Abbas shrine carries the very unsubtle message that
rebellion doesn't pay.

"The holy warrior Saddam Hussein donated the gold for these pillars," says
the Arabic script carved into the surface. Hanging from the walls of the
Shiite Muslim shrine and glaring from nearly every direction are portraits
of the Iraqi leader.

Twelve years ago, Hussein's helicopters and artillery blasted huge holes in
the Abbas shrine in a savage campaign to crush a Shiite rebellion at the end
of the Gulf War. Now, whether Iraq's Shiites attempt another rebellion -- or
whether they got Hussein's intended message -- is one of the most crucial
questions for the Bush administration as it calculates whether to invade

Many American analysts are predicting that the long-downtrodden Shiites, who
comprise about 60 percent of the nation's population, would welcome U.S.
troops as liberators. Hussein's regime is dominated by members of the Sunni
Muslim minority.

But a political shift may have taken place. There are strong indications
that Hussein has gained support among Shiites in Kerbala, only 60 miles
southwest of Baghdad, and throughout the Shiite heartland in the south.

"This is not 1991, don't misunderstand us," Mahdi Al-Ghorabi, Kerbala's
chief sayid, or religious leader, said in an interview. "As soon as the war
starts, we Shia will play our role. We are all Muslims, and we will

"It is a jihad, one front to defend the country against any invader. Whoever
the invader is, whether it's Bush or any other, we have to fight him.
Whoever disobeys is not a Muslim," he said.

Al-Ghorabi's authority among believers is considerable because he is keeper
of the Abbas shrine, one of the two holy tombs in Kerbala that, together,
comprise the most revered site in the Shiite world.

Their history is grand yet bloody. Abbas and his half-brother Hussein were
martyred in a battle in A.D. 680 that culminated a power struggle for the
mantle of the Prophet Mohammed and permanently split his followers into
Shiite and Sunni branches.

In March 1991, the Abbas and Hussein shrines were at the heart of a
nationwide, monthlong rebellion by Shiites in the center and south of the
country and the Kurds in the north. Kerbala was taken by local civilians and
Shiite guerrillas, who established their local headquarters in the shrines.
They used an underground prayer room in the Abbas shrine to kill about 50
captured army officers and leaders of the ruling Baath Party.

Within days of the rebel takeover, the government counterattacked
ruthlessly. Its warplanes and helicopters bombed the city center into rubble
and blasted holes in the shrines' domes as troops fought their way into the
sanctuaries. Scores of Muslim clerics who supported the rebels were

Hundreds of civilians and rebels were killed by advancing troops around
Kerbala. Farther south, especially around the city of Basra, the repression
was even more brutal, with many thousands tortured and killed.

Then-President George Bush, who had encouraged the Shiites to revolt,
abandoned them to their fate -- a betrayal that many Iraqi exiles say has
made the Shiites much less willing to risk their necks again.

Since the mid-1990s, in a campaign to gain back the Shiites' support,
Hussein has funneled money into the town, rebuilding entire neighborhoods
and lavishly repairing the Abbas and Hussein shrines. The regime cleared
about 12 square blocks between the two shrines and turned them into a
pleasant, leafy promenade. Now, on the same ground where hundreds were
killed, vendors sell religious trinkets to the crowds of pilgrims from Iraq,
Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and other nations.

Hussein has shown similar generosity elsewhere in Iraq, lavishing support on
Shiite clerics -- as long as they pledge fealty to his rule.

The penalty for disloyalty may be death, according to reports from human-
rights groups and Iraqi exiles that documented a series of incidents in the
1990s in which high-ranking Shiite clerics were assassinated or died in
mysterious auto accidents.

This good-cop, bad-cop strategy appears to have worked. Al-Ghorabi, the
descendant of a legacy whose male relatives have been chiefs of the shrine
for 450 years, has become just as much of a pillar of the regime as the
gold- plated columns.

He spends his days receiving a constant stream of pilgrims and politicians
from far and wide in a reception room at the shrine adorned with huge photos
of him standing with Hussein and his eldest son, Uday.

"This is not a matter of nationality," Al-Ghorabi said. "It's a religious
struggle, to defend the faith."

In September, Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Ali Hussein al-Sistani, issued a
fatwa, or decree, calling on Muslims to defend the government against a
potential U.S. invasion. Al-Sistani had never publicly supported the regime,
and Iraqi Shiites in exile initially questioned whether the fatwa was indeed

Since then, however, it has been accepted as genuine by most observers. Many
Shiite and Sunni clerics in other nations have made similar pronouncements,
giving Hussein a crucial boost in his attempts to portray himself as a
defender of all Islam against the West.

But the clerics' position is challenged by two Shiite guerrilla groups
waiting in the wings. The larger of the two, the Supreme Assembly of the
Islamic Resolution in Iraq, long supported by Iran, is loosely allied with
the U.S.-backed opposition in exile.

Another group, Dawa, presents Washington with an uncomfortable dilemma,
because it rejects the U.S.-backed opposition groups as American puppets and
keeps tight links with Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite movement that is near
the top of the Bush administration's enemies list. Dawa was originally
inspired by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran, who lived in exile in
the nearby city of Najaf during the 1970s.

These rebel groups are believed to have their strongest support among the
Shiite poor, especially those who were displaced by the army's harsh
counterinsurgency tactics elsewhere in the south.

Signs of these refugees are everywhere. Scattered along roads outside of
Kerbala are thatched grass huts of people driven from the country's southern
marshes, which were hotbeds of Shiite guerrilla activity until they were
drained and mostly depopulated in the mid-1990s in a savage
counterinsurgency campaign.

This destruction of thousands of square miles of Iraqi marshes has been
condemned by world environmental groups as one of the great ecological
crimes of the late 20th century.

Getting a fully accurate sense of public opinion in the area is nearly
impossible for foreign journalists. The government "minders" who accompany
all reporters visiting Kerbala do not allow them to interview the rural
poor. Instead, reporters are steered toward areas where support for the
regime is more assured, such as the souk, or market, in central Kerbala.

In a series of random interviews in the souk with a minder in attendance,
vendors and shoppers alike expressed what appeared to be sincere support for
the pro-Hussein Shiite line -- with their own twist.

"What happened in 1991 was just pointless destruction with no logic," said
Mohammed Rahim, the proprietor of a fabrics stall, who said he was in
Kerbala throughout the two week rebel occupation.

"They burned government offices, the documents offices, they looted stores
and everything. The property record for my house was burned, and I still
can't get a copy of it. I want to sell my house, but what can I do?"

Now, he said, "we're all united, this time is different."

As they try to make sense of the Shiite mystery, some diplomats and aid
workers in Baghdad say the official version shouldn't be discounted.

"Don't expect the Shiites to rebel like last time," said a foreign
ambassador in Baghdad. The envoy, who also spent a previous tour of duty in
Iraq right before the Gulf War, said the Iraqi government has increased the
number of Shiites in local government and has assiduously courted tribal

In addition, he noted, Hussein's constant attempts to portray himself as a
defender of the Muslim faith have boosted his image among many Iraqis, who
have become much more pious in recent years amid the country's increasing
isolation and poverty.

"The Americans think that every Shiite shantytown is a nest of resistance or
will just watch passively if there's war," the diplomat said. "But Hussein
has spent the past 12 years consolidating his control. I wouldn't count
anything out, but I wouldn't count it in either."

by Jim Lobe
Yahoo, 20th January

WASHINGTON, Jan 17 (IPS) - A major U.S. human rights group called Friday for
the immediate arrest and prosecution of Iraqi Gen. Hassan al-Majid, the
alleged architect of the notorious 1988 'Anfal' campaign against Iraqi
Kurds, who is currently on a diplomatic tour of neighboring Arab states.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), which has collected some 18 tons of documents
relating to the Anfal campaign, in which tens of thousands of Kurds lost
their lives, said al-Majid arrived in Damascus today for talks with Syrian
President Bashar al-Assad and is expected to travel to Egypt, Jordan and
Lebanon in the coming days.

"Al-Majid is (Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein's hatchet man," said HRW
director Kenneth Roth. "He has been involved in some of Iraq's worst crimes
- including genocide and crimes against humanity. Bringing him to justice is
an essential priority."

The call to arrest and prosecute al-Majid comes amid the intensification of
preparations for a U.S. invasion against Iraq, which most analysts believe
could take place as early as the end of next month.

In addition to getting some 250,000 U.S. troops close to Iraqi borders, U.S.
policymakers are also making detailed plans for a post-Saddam Iraq, which,
at least in the initial phases, will likely be occupied by U.S. and possibly
other military forces.

One of the key issues being discussed is how to deal with the top echelons
of the Ba'ath government, especially those whose role in alleged atrocities,
such as the use of chemical warfare against Iran and the Kurds during the
Anfal campaign, is well documented.

A number of senior policy-makers have called for trials for war crimes and
crimes against humanity, either by occupation forces or possibly by an ad
hoc United Nations tribunal similar to those used in Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
It would prosecute top leaders, including Saddam and as al-Majid, who also
serves as a member of the ruling Revolutionary Command Council (RCC).

Reports have circulated that Washington has put together a list of 14 Iraqis
who should be tried, including Saddam and al-Majid, Saddam's two sons, Uday
and Qusay, his chief deputy on the RCC, Ezzad Ibrahim, and his vice
president, Taha Yassin Ramadan.

But no final decisions have been made, according to knowledgeable U.S.
officials, who also point to recent on-the-record threats by Pentagon
officials, in particular, that any resort by Iraqi officers to weapons of
mass destruction in the event of a U.S. invasion would be considered as war
crimes and punished accordingly.

HRW has called since the early 1990s for Saddam and al-Majeed, in
particular, to be prosecuted by an international court based on the evidence
about the Anfal campaign that it accumulated from Iraqi Kurdistan after the
1991 Gulf War.

That effort had some support within the administration of President Bill
Clinton, but France, Russia, and China - all veto-wielding members of the
U.N. Security Council that would have had to approve such a move as it did
in the case of Yugoslavia's Slobodan Milosevic - opposed the idea.

In 1993, HRW published 'Genocide in Iraq: The Anfal Campaign Against the
Kurds', a full length book that identified al-Majid, who is widely known in
Iraq as "Chemical Ali" for his repeated use of chemical weapons, as the
campaign's mastermind.

He was later placed in charge of Iraq's military occupation of Kuwait from
August 1990, until U.N.-backed, U.S.-led coalition forces expelled the
Iraqis in March 1991.

As secretary general of the northern bureau of the Ba'ath Party, al-Majid
held authority over all state agencies in the Kurdish region from March 1987
to April 1989. Among the documents obtained by HRW and published in the book
was an order dated Jun. 20, 1987 in which he directed army commanders "to
carry out random bombardments to kill the largest number of persons present
in prohibited zones".

HRW says it also has a recording of al-Majid vowing in the presence of other
leading Iraqi officials to use chemical weapons against the Kurds.

The Anfal campaign, which came toward the end of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War,
resulted in the murder and disappearance of some 100,000 civilian
non-combatants, the use of chemical weapons against civilians in dozens of
locations, and the near-total destruction of family and community assets
throughout Kurdish rural areas, according to the book.

All of the actions were under al-Majid's direct supervision, HRW said.

After Iraq's defeat in Kuwait, al-Majid was placed in charge of putting down
uprisings by the largely Shia Muslim population in southern Iraq, a task
marked by summary executions, arbitrary arrests, disappearances, torture and
other atrocities, according to HRW.

"Chemical Ali posing as a peace envoy is like Bosnian Serb war criminal
Ratko Mladic lecturing on human rights," Roth said. "He should be received
by prison guards, not heads of state."

HRW noted that the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman
or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which has been ratified by Egypt,
Jordan and Lebanon, requires state parties to prosecute or extradite for
prosecution all persons on its territory accused of torture, no matter where
the torture was committed.

Similarly, the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime
of Genocide, ratified by Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, requires all
state parties to prevent and punish acts of genocide.

Finally, all four countries have ratified the Geneva Convention, which also
requires them to prosecute alleged war criminals.

The new International Criminal Court (ICC), which is the process of being
established at The Hague, would not be able to prosecute al-Majid for his
actions between 1987 and 1992 because its jurisdiction began only when the
underlying Rome Statute took effect last year.

by Rosie Dimanno
Toronto Star, 20th January

U.S. President George W. Bush may not yet have the smoking gun he needs to
convince potential allies that an attack against Iraq is justifiable and
necessary. But he has, and has long had, the casus belli for doing so.

Casus belli is Latin for "cause for war." As a bumper-sticker slogan, the
term doesn't resonate as simplistically as "smoking gun." Ditto "no war for
oil." another Reader's Digest tagline popular with anti-war activists who
are maddeningly ill-informed and conspiracy minded.

Desert Storm  now that was a war about oil. And not without good reason.
Had Iraqi President Saddam Hussein been permitted to seize Kuwait, and keep
it, he would have controlled 9 per cent of the world's oil resources. That
would have been disastrous for the economies of just about every nation on
the face of the earth.

Had George Bush pater finished the job  and finished off Saddam  with
Iraq's defences in disarray and only five Republican Guard divisions
standing between coalition forces and Baghdad, this remarkably resilient
tyrant would no longer be around to pose an ongoing threat to the stability
of the region, fomenting trouble at his leisure. He would not have been
around to crush the internal Iraqi intifada that followed on the heels of
the Persian Gulf War, wherein another 20,000 Kurds were slain, because using
chemical weapons and high explosives to wipe out 200,000 of them and razing
4,000 of their villages during the '80s apparently wasn't enough. He also
slaughtered up to 60,000 Shiites, as a pre-emptive gesture against that
religious constituency rising up against minority Sunni rule.

But Bush Sr. bought into the argument that a strong Iraq was critical to
balance the regional power scales against Iran. So Saddam survived, with 1.2
million men under arms, constituting the largest military in the Middle East
and the fourth largest in the world. Nor was he greatly discouraged from
further aggressive behaviour. In 1995, he again amassed troops on the Kuwait
border, clearly planning another invasion, until the Americans responded
with a massive military reinforcement (Operation Vigilant Warrior), forcing
Saddam into a humiliating retreat.

Those who argue that Saddam is no ongoing or imminent threat have simply not
been paying attention. Throughout the '90s, he continued to provoke regional
and political crises, always pushing just within a hair's breadth of
international exasperation, greatly emboldened by a United Nations that had
lost its stomach for confrontation with this problematic dictator; that had
lost its commitment to economic sanctions; that had meekly accepted the
eviction of U.N. weapons inspectors from Iraq in 1998 ahead of U.S. and
British air strikes to punish Saddam's government for not co-operating with

The oil-for-food program that the U.N. had established was not affected by
Saddam's belligerence; indeed, the program continued only in name, with
blatant and flagrant violations that have gone unpunished. France, Syria,
Russia, Jordan  all made patently illegal oil deals with Baghdad in
contravention of the U.N. resolutions. That, coupled with a wildly
profitable smuggling operation, is believed to have put at least $3 billion
a year into Saddam's pocket.

Saddam and his family, his extended tribe, may be hugely corrupt and greedy.
But even the Saddam coterie cannot spend all that money. And what do you
think Saddam has been doing with his profits, this past decade? Not spending
it on Iraqis, on hospitals, on rebuilding the country's infrastructure,
that's for sure. This is the man, after all, who was madly anxious to built
at least one, just one, nuclear bomb during the '80s and '90s, pouring
untold resources into the project. This is the man who was developing
chemical weapons as early as 1974, including the lethal nerve agent VX,
which he used extensively against the Kurds and during the 1980-'88 war with

By the end of the '80s, it was believed Iraq had more than 6,000 chemical
munitions, including missile warheads, and even since the Persian Gulf War
has continued to build dual-purpose chemical facilities. Iraq admits to
having produced a cornucopia of biological warfare goodies: anthrax,
botulinum toxin, aflatoxin, clostridium perfringens (which causes gangrene),
ricin and viruses, including the plague. By 1991, Iraq had produced 10
billion doses of biological agents.

All gone now? All destroyed? And we're to believe this ... why? Because
Saddam, a pathological and effective liar, has said so in 20,000 pages of
rambling obfuscation filed with the U.N.? Because his regime has been so
co-operative with chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix and his team, who
last week found a dozen empty chemical warheads and yesterday was
complaining about Saddam's obstructionist behaviour?

Technically, that in itself might be sufficient to launch an attack under
the U.N.'s most recent resolution, with no need for Bush to go back and ask
for permission. But the U.N., of course, is sounding very much like the
appeasement agency it has become  this being the same group that stood down
and did nothing as 800,000 Tutsis were slaughtered by Hutus in Rwanda, who
abandoned East Timor to the brutalities of Indonesian paramilitaries (and
only had its shred of respectability salvaged by unilaterally acting
Australian troops), that was thoroughly marginalized by NATO in Kosovo, and
that may today elect the odious Col. Moammar Gadhafi as chairman of its
Human Rights Commission.

It is to be fervently hoped that Saddam is no longer in possession of
weapons of mass destruction because he will undoubtedly use them if
attacked, probably killing untold numbers of his own people in an attempt to
forestall the sacking of Baghdad. And that's the conundrum: Is the potential
carnage worth the effort to bring down Saddam?

It's both a moral and strategic question. But if the world doesn't rid
itself of Saddam now, then when? Containment hasn't worked. Deterrence
didn't work. In a couple of years time, when he may have ballistic warheads
far more ruinous than the 39 Scuds (Al-Husseins, actually, modified Russian
missiles) that he lobbed at Israel during the Persian Gulf War? When he has
missiles capable of reaching Riyadh or Tehran? When he's acquired the
nuclear warhead he covets, which could be within five years? Just think how
much further ahead Saddam would be today if Israel had not acted
unilaterally, seeking permission from no one, and bombed Iraq's nuclear
reactor at Tuwaitha in 1981. (The Mossad also, most likely, was responsible
for the 1990 assassination of the notorious Gerald Bull, who was helping
Iraq build a "super-gun" that could fire rockets with weapons of mass
destruction warheads.)

Even a conventional war at this moment in time  a war that American forces
could and would win if forced to act alone  would be no walk in the park,
no 43-day campaign like Desert Storm. A devastating air campaign and
precision-guided weapons  war from afar  are nearly useless on urban

As far as can be determined, Iraq has a regular standing army of 300,000
organized into 17 divisions, including three armoured and three mechanized,
with possibly 600 T-72 tanks. The Iraq air force may have up to 300
aircraft, the air defence force comprised of 500 surface-to-air launchers,
with a further 1,500 shoulder-launched SAMs.

And then there's the elite Republican Guard, of course, at least 80,000 of
them, war hardened and fiercely loyal. During the Gulf War, they didn't
fight well but they fought hard and will do so again, probably to the death.
Meanwhile, there are estimates from the Pentagon that, in the worst-case
scenario, American casualties might run as high as 10,000.

Worth it? Some say never, under any circumstances. Many more say not now,
under these circumstances.

As if the day of reckoning will never come.

by Andrew Hammond
Yahoo, 21st January

DEIR MAR MATTA, Iraq (Reuters) - In a bleak rocky outpost of north Iraq,
Christian monk Bihman Samarchy chats about the year he spent recently in the
Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem's old city.

Dressed in the traditional black robes of the eastern Christian churches, he
speaks softly in this lonely monastery perched on a mountainside between the
city of Mosul and the Kurdish enclave in the far north of Iraq.

"I stayed there for a year and right now there are four Iraqis there out of
the six people at our monastery. For me it's just a service," said Samarchy,
an Arab from a country with no relations with Israel and which glorifies
Palestinians fighting Israeli occupation.

But Samarchy is as free to talk about the forbidden land as he is to go
there, indications of the freedom this Christian sect says it has enjoyed in
the modern Iraq run by the Baath party since 1963.

Iraq allows monks to serve time in the church's Mar Morqos monastery in East
Jerusalem, on condition that no Israeli stamps are placed in their

"We had nothing to do with politics," Samarchy said. "As Christians our way
is love and that's what makes us able to go. You know that in the story of
Noah's ark, the snake lived next to the dove. In our own church tradition,
the snake coiled itself around the dove in order to protect it."

After his time in Israel, the church chose Samarchy, 32, as one of its four
monks in residence at Mar Matta, the oldest monastery in Iraq, dating from
the fourth century AD.

Christianity has a long and distinguished history in Iraq, now a mainly
Muslim country of 23 million. Tradition says one of Christ's apostles,
Thomas, visited the ancient land, making it one of the first countries where
the religion spread.

With the spread of Islam after the Arab conquest of the Middle East region
in the seventh century, the number of monasteries eventually fell to today's
four from the dozens noted by medieval Muslim chroniclers.

Today, the Baath regime has opened its doors to Iraq's Christians, and none
of them is showing enthusiasm for a war which could even lead to the
division of the country. The United States is threatening to invade because
its says President Saddam Hussein is hiding weapons of mass destruction.

A federated or divided Iraq could give sway to mainly Muslim Kurds, who
dominate in north Iraq where most of the country's Christians also live.

The Mosul district, where the various Christian denominations make up almost
half of the population, was kept out of the Kurdish self-rule area set up
after the 1991 Gulf war to end Iraq's occupation of Kuwait.

"We have a place in society -- not as a sect, but as citizens. We feel we
are part of this one body. We have one shared (Iraqi) citizenship and the
state has a responsibility to protect everyone," said Archbishop Saliba
Isaac, leader of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Mosul.

Isaac said a significant number of Christians are members of the local Baath
Party, founded by the Syrian Christian Michel Aflaq, who spent his final
years in Baghdad.

The Baath's secular Arab nationalist ideology has done much to keep
religious extremism at bay in Iraq, though analysts say the decimation of
the country's economy during 13 years of U.N. sanctions has led to
heightened religious sentiment among Muslims.

Slogans such as "one Arab nation with an eternal message" and "yes to one
nation" show a strong presence in Mosul and the mainly Christian villages in
the surrounding countryside.

Samarchy said there are occasional problems with local Muslims and Kurds,
who once pillaged furniture from the remote site, but not the authorities,
who have carried out some renovations.

"Our relations with the state are good; there is freedom of worship. Our
fear is from the people, not the government," he said, adding that Saddam
has paid three official visits to the monastery.

Damage to Mosul during the 1991 war seems to have soured any taste among
Christians for American "liberation" from three decades of one-party rule.

The church of Mar Yousef in a Mosul suburb was bombed on the first day of
Operation Desert Storm, killing four people, said Janan Abbo, the wife of
the church's current pastor.

"The shrapnel caused a gas container to ignite in a building next door and
four then died in the fire," she said, standing in the simply-decorated
church. "God knows why they hit us."

"Didn't they know it was a church? Of course they knew," a friend of Abbo's
added angrily. "I hope there will be no war, because it would be a war for

The State, from Reuters, 21st January

BAGHDAD - Iraqi President Saddam Hussein said Tuesday that under his often
serious public demeanor he is all smiles.

Addressing military leaders preparing for a possible war with the United
States, he said: "Even when you don't see me smiling, you should know that I
am actually smiling, and the basis of this smiling is my happiness about the
path we have chosen."

"Yes, I am smiling ... for while Zionism and America have been able to play
around with large and medium-sized countries, they have not managed to play
around with Iraq," he said in comments carried by the Iraqi News Agency.

Saddam seemed unfazed in his latest morale-boosting meetings with senior
military leaders, including son Qusay who supervises the elite Republican

Monday he said he was not losing sleep over the threat of a U.S. invasion.
Friday he said U.S. troops would be routed at the gates of Baghdad if they
tried to attack the Arab country of 23 million.

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