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Latest postings on news of the war with Iraq

Blair says no attack on Iraq without UN assent
(Andrew Grice and David Usborne, The Independent, 10 May 2002)
Tony Blair has privately reassured his Labour Party critics that Britain will not back US military action against Iraq unless it wins the backing of the United Nations Security Council. . . . Despite Mr Blair's solid public support for President George Bush's threats to take military action, there is evidence that London and Washington are pursuing diverging strategies behind the scenes. . . . Blair aides admit privately that widespread concern in the party about the Prime Minister's hawkish stance is not confined to "the usual left-wing suspects". Yesterday 10 MPs tabled a Commons motion saying that "any offensive military action against Iraq can only be morally justified if it carries a new and specific mandate from the United Nations Security Council".

 

Inside Saddam's World
(Johanna Mcgeary, Time.com, April 4, 2002)
The U.S. likes to portray Iraq's regime as shaky. But TIME's reporting inside Iraq suggests Saddam isn't losing his grip. . . . The White House has concluded that Saddam poses a clear and present danger that must be eliminated. "He is a dangerous man possessing the world's most dangerous weapons," President Bush has said. . . . As Bush repeatedly telegraphs his intention to finish Saddam, the Iraqi leader is not exactly sitting on his hands. "He's not so naive as to ignore the seriousness of this threat," . . . There are signs Saddam is bracing for attack: beefing up his personal security, bucking up the ruling Baath Party and repositioning his military while playing at diplomatic delay with the U.N. . . . Saddam has limited knowledge of the West and surrounds himself with yes-men who tell him only what he wants to hear. But he shows an eager appetite for certain kinds of information. He constantly monitors CNN and BBC news programs, likes American thriller movies and admires Stalin and Machiavelli. He writes romance novels, supposedly without assistance . . . All the capital's buildings, bridges and roads damaged in the 1991 war and in follow-up American attacks in 1998 have been rebuilt. Fancy shops selling the goods of globalization line the posh streets of the al-Mansur neighborhood, and even the poor man's market in the Washash neighborhood peddles plentiful fruit and cheap Chinese TVs. . . . For years, Saddam ruthlessly milked the suffering of the Iraqi people to erode the global determination on maintaining the U.N. sanctions. Now he has shifted gears to meet a different objective: to keep those same long-suffering Iraqis from rebelling against him. So the taps have opened: more of the money from his legal oil sales and illicit oil smuggling, once reserved for the purpose of bribing regime loyalists, is now being spread around to the populace. . . . If Saddam's hold on power is as tenuous as some officials in Washington claim, that is not visible in Baghdad. . . . Saddam appears to be preparing for war. . . . Like his hero Stalin, Saddam sees weapons of mass destruction as the great equalizers that give him the global position he craves. A nuke plus a long-range missile make you a world power. Deadly spores and poisonous gases make you a feared one. These are the crown jewels of his regime. He sacrificed the well-being of the Iraqi people and billions of dollars in oil revenues to keep the unconventional weapons he had before the Gulf War and to engage in an open-ended process of acquiring new ones. . . . He appears to have not so much a strategy as a concept of grandeur.

 

U.S. Envisions Blueprint on Iraq Including Big Invasion Next Year
(Thom Shanker and David E. Sanger, t r u t h o u t, April 28, 2002)
The Bush administration, in developing a potential approach for toppling President Saddam Hussein of Iraq, is concentrating its attention on a major air campaign and ground invasion, with initial estimates contemplating the use of 70,000 to 250,000 troops. . . . The administration is turning to that approach after concluding that a coup in Iraq would be unlikely to succeed and that a proxy battle using local forces there would be insufficient to bring a change in power. . . . senior officials now acknowledge that any offensive would probably be delayed until early next year, allowing time to create the right military, economic and diplomatic conditions. These include avoiding summer combat in bulky chemical suits, preparing for a global oil price shock, and waiting until there is progress toward ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. . . . Even before Mr. Bush's tense meeting with Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on Thursday, the Pentagon was working on the assumption that it might have to carry out any military action without the use of bases in the kingdom. . . . The planning now anticipates the possible extensive use of bases for American forces in Turkey and Kuwait, with Qatar as the replacement for the sophisticated air operations center in Saudi Arabia, and with Oman and Bahrain playing important roles. . . . Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and their senior aides contend that Arab leaders would publicly protest but secretly celebrate Mr. Hussein's downfall - as long as the operation were decisive - and that ousting him would actually ease the job of calming violence between Israel and the Palestinians. They believe that warnings of uprisings among Arab populations are overblown and compare them to similar warnings before the gulf war, which proved unfounded.

 

U.S. has completed 'basics' of plan to attack Iraq
(World Tribune.com, April 19, 2002)
"Component commanders of each service are now at their forward headquarters in the region with more than 1,000 war planners, logistics experts and support specialists. This operations plan is being refined regularly and the target list is being validated and updated daily." . . . The center said in its report that the United States will probably launch an offensive against Iraq in the spring of 2003. The earliest the U.S. military would be ready for an attack would be the "mid-fall of 2002." . . . Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Turkey would be the most likely staging grounds for an offensive . . . "The general expectation among U.S. military planners - but not a given - is that Iraqi air defenses, command and control facilities, the Iraqi army and Republican Guard would be rapidly overwhelmed and defeated swiftly," the report said. "The threat of biological or chemical weapons targeting Israel, neighboring countries, or U.S. troops will be a major concern. Handling this threat will be one of the hardest, most challenging missions in Iraq."

Oil is the reason America wants to be rid of Saddam
(Adrian Hamilton, The Independent, 12 April 2002)
US reach for secure oil supplies is as much behind Washington's determination to overthrow Saddam Hussein now as any question of Saddam's danger to the world. . . . a country as dependent on imports as America is bound to take a strategic view of its interests, all the more so when it is headed by a president from an oil state who has earned most of his personal fortune from the commodity. It would be astonishing if America didn't plan to tie up oil reserves for itself. It always has in the past, which is why it (and the British and French) supported Saddam Hussein for so long, when he was using chemical weapons against his own people. . . . as an oil producer, Saudi Arabia has nevertheless reached its peak. Its finances, thanks to gross overspending and endemic corruption, are in a mess. The balance of power within the royal family has shifted to the isolationists away from the pro-westerners. The US must look to alternative sources at the very least to secure its future increase in imports and to keep a lid on prices which threaten its economic recovery. . . . There are only two unexploited sources with anything like the potential reserves of Saudi Arabia. [Editor's Note: These areas are Iraq and the Caspian Sea area, which requires a pipeline through Afghanistan.] . . . The demand for security of oil supplies almost invariably leads to support for the more unpleasant regimes of the world. There can be few more unsavoury than our new ally Uzbekistan, for example. Yet that is where America is heading. Where oil is concerned, Washington has its own interests.

 

US paves way for war on Iraq - Attack base to be moved into Qatar to bypass Saudi objections
(Julian Borger, The Guardian, March 27, 2002)
The US Air Force has begun preparations to move its Gulf headquarters from Saudi Arabia to Qatar, to bypass Saudi objections to military action against Iraq . . . The independent Saudi Information Agency, based in Washington, reported that US military trucks had been seen leaving the base at al Kharj, 50 miles south of Riyadh, and arriving at the border with Qatar in the second week of March. . . . The move to Qatar, which has been the subject of speculation in Washington for the past few weeks, would allow the US to conduct an air campaign against Iraq in the face of Saudi refusal to collaborate . . . the Saudi contractor said his company had been invited to make a bid for a "multimillion dollar contract" to move the Prince Sultan base's equipment over the border to Qatar. "That is what we've been asked to estimate. The bid process is open for three to four weeks, so now it is about two weeks to the deadline," . . . The apparent preparations to evacuate the Prince Sultan base are the latest in a series of US moves preparing the ground for a US military operation: central command has moved its service headquarters to the Gulf; and special forces have set up a base in Oman and, according to Turkish sources, have moved into Kurdish-run areas in northern Iraq. . . . There have also been unconfirmed reports, in the US press and from Iraqi opposition groups, of a quiet US military build up in Kuwait to between 25,000 and 35,000 troops.

 

Arab states united in rejecting attack on Saddam
(Robert Fisk, The Independent, 18 March 2002)
Rarely can an American vice-president have met such a rebuff from America's Arab allies. Not a single Arab king, prince or president has been prepared to endorse a US attack on Iraq. . . . In every Arab capital, Mr Cheney has been politely but firmly told to turn his attention to the Palestinian-Israeli war, and forget the "axis of evil'' until the US brings its Israeli allies into line. All Mr Cheney's efforts to pretend that the conflict in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel is separate from Iraq have failed. . . . One newspaper carried a front-page article condemning US policy in the region - almost unheard of in the kingdom - while editorials in other Gulf papers uniformly condemned any assault on Iraq. . . . Even the small United Arab Emirates had no time for the Cheney argument. . . . If America wishes to pursue its "war on terror'', what has Iraq got to do with it? Where is the evidence that Saddam was involved in 11 September? None exists . . . Since Mr bin Laden hates President Saddam and has gone on record to say as much, just how the Iraqi weapons, if they exist, would reach America's nemesis is unclear. And the Arabs have been asking who is threatening genocide in the Middle East? Who is being attacked?

UK warns Saddam of nuclear retaliation
(George Jones, and Anton La Guardia, News Telegraph, 21/03/2002)
BRITAIN would be ready to make a nuclear strike against states such as Iraq if they used weapons of mass destruction against British forces, Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, told MPs yesterday. . . . He issued his warning as officials in Washington and London privately predicted that military action to try to topple Saddam Hussein was likely to be launched at the end of the year. . . . Although Mr Hoon later denied in the Commons that any decision had been taken on military action against Iraq, his comments about the nuclear deterrent will add to Labour MPs' concern that such preparations are being actively considered. . . . His forthrightness was unexpected, because many Labour MPs are opposed to retaining nuclear weapons. . . . The Foreign Office, in particular, is deeply worried about the impact that a war in Iraq would have on the Middle East. But it appears to have been overruled by Mr Blair. . . . This week America said Anaconda had been successful, but British officials privately spoke of "a near disaster" and said many guerrillas appeared to have slipped away despite American claims . . . Dick Cheney, the American vice-president, headed home yesterday after an 11-day tour of the Middle East in which he received little support for an attack on Iraq.

War on Iraq Draws Near - U.S. Troops leaving Saudi Arabia
From STRATFOR.com - Situation reports March 19, 2002

     U.S. military forces are moving out of Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia, according to an unconfirmed report from the Saudi Information Agency, a Washington, D.C.-based dissident group. The equipment is allegedly being moved to a military base in neighboring Qatar, which also hosts U.S. forces. The report comes after a Washington Post story in January that quoted an unnamed Saudi embassy official as saying the kingdom would ask Washington to move its forces out. If true, the move may also be related to a possible U.S. military campaign against Iraq. 1450 GMT

Does Blair know what he's getting into?
(Christopher Hitchens, The Guardian, March 20, 2002)
[Editor's note: Since the events of September 11th, Christopher Hitchens has been sounding more like a right-wing fanatic than the progressive he once was. Thankfully, the following article has a little bit of the old Hitchens in it, but overall we remain skeptical of Hitches' opinions these days.]
The truth of the matter is that, by speaking plainly and with intelligence, the British government could make an actual difference not just to the way that Washington decides what to do about Iraq, but also to what Washington decides to do. . . . Can any attack on Iraq be justified without a parallel settlement for the Palestinians? . . . Many Arab governments fear that if the US attacks Iraq, and if Iraq responds by hitting Israel, and if Palestinians are again shown applauding the attack, then the Israeli right will seize the moment to reoccupy or even ethnically cleanse the West Bank. In other words, Blair and Straw are failing in their duty if they do not insist that any drastic action in Iraq comes as part of a regional settlement. What is the point of the US being a superpower if it cannot discipline a government for which it is the armourer and paymaster? The current pseudo-Augustinian answer - that we all wish for a Palestinian homeland, but not yet - is utterly inadequate. . . . but he [a member of the U.S. security establishment] said quite calmly, "Yes. We would be bringing it [Iraq's attack on Israel] on." . . . the fact is the US is currently readying an invasion and occupation force, and running the risk of dire consequences, without revealing any of its political or strategic aims to Congress, or to its formal military allies, or to the Iraqi opposition, or to the Kurds, or to the neighbouring states. It is doing so, moreover, without much evident regard for the unfolding calamity, for which it bears some direct responsibility, in Palestine and Israel. . . . The danger now is that the Bush administration will go ahead anyway because of some concept of "credibility": in other words because it dare not risk looking weak.

Mr Blair must climb out of President Bush's pocket
Echoing the US mantras on Iraq will only weaken Britain's influence
(Hugo Young, The Guardian, March 21, 2002)
Blair came away from Barcelona without securing wider support for military action against Iraq, for which he has been trying to get the world prepared. . . . Most EU leaders now watch Blair with incredulity. They see him climbing every day into Bush's pocket. He will deny that this is what he's doing. But it's the common perception of his peer-group. Is it his vanity, they ask? A desire to be at the centre of the action? An unquenchable passion to be close to Big Power? Even if his conduct derives from none of these things, and reflects a serious conviction about global strategy, the other leaders do not warm to it. In fact they feel ever chillier. . . . The pattern began last year, after his first meeting with Bush. On returning from Camp David, the PM sent his then private secretary, John Sawers, to convene a meeting of the EU ambassadors in London to tell them this man was going to be a great president. They found it as hard to credit the message as to purge their annoyance at being required to hear it. Since then, Blair has slipped from being the half-envied special connector with Washington, able to get access on behalf of Europe as well as Britain, to the apparent status of a minor cog in the American machine. . . . For Mr Blair, in these circumstances, to go to Texas and do no more than sooth ingly echo Bush's mantras about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction would be a serious political error.

Bush wants 25,000 UK troops for Iraq war; Britain considers joint invasion plan
(Kamal Ahmed, Jason Burke and Peter Beaumont, The Observer, Sunday March 10, 2002)
"America has asked Britain to draw up plans for 25,000 of this country's troops to join a US task force to overthrow Saddam Hussein. . . . The request for such a large number of British troops shows the high stakes America is now playing for. . . . The Government is already facing a split on the issue of military action against Iraq. One Minister described those who had questioned Blair's policy of fully backing a US military campaign as 'appeasers'. . . . British troops would be part of a 250,000-strong ground force to invade Iraq in an operation similar to Desert Storm in 1991. . . . America has already begun a discreet military build-up in preparation for a ground war in Iraq. US special forces are training Iraqi militia to be ready for a strike against Saddam in the coming months.

[NOTE: The link below will take you to an audio in RealPlayer format.]
Tim Sebastian interviews Robert Baer, Former CIA Agent
(BBC Hardtalk 2002-3-4)
[TS] When America's vast intelligence networks failed to prevent the September 11th attack, was it incompetence or bad luck? My guest today [Robert Baer] has his own views. For more than 20 years he belonged to the CIA as directorate of operations. He helped organise an abortive coup against Saddam Hussein in 1995.
“Arab friends in the Middle East, said that inside Saudi Arabia there was a terrorist plot being organised probably against American targets or against the Saudi government. They were non-specific but everybody seemed to know that bin Laden was preparing something big. The rumours were out there, and I had picked this up in Beirut actually. . . . I sent it to the CIA. . . . I never got a response. Whether or not they followed up on it or not I don't know. They never came back and asked me any questions. . . . They're not listening. They'd made up their mind before September 11th that no terrorism was going to reach US shores. . . . It's a cultural problem. It's not just the CIA. It's Immigration, it's the FBI, State Department, they're all broke. The federal buerocracy in the United States is broke. Why did those fifteen Saudis have visas, without interviews, were wandering around the United States going to flight schools. They could never go back and get jobs. No one kept track of them. . . . The Clinton administration didn't send me there to overthrow Saddam. I was sent there to get sources inside the army . . . It terrifies me if the Unites States attacks Iraq, destroys Saddams army, which is what really holds the country together, it's gonna break up into ethnic and religious groups, different groups. And you got, you got Christian groups are against Saddam, you got Shiia in the south, the Sunni Kurds in the north. If you destroy the army, what happens to Iraq? Since Ottoman times it's always been the Sunni Arabs who've controlled the country, for better or worse. . . . And I don't think anybody's got an endgame for this, that I've seen. I mean I'm outside though, what do I know. But if you destroy the army, the chances of Iran invading the south are very high. And this is what I think scared the Clinton administration in 1995 with that March coup. Because there was no endgame. The status quo is much more important to the Clinton administration than getting rid of Saddam. And I don't think anybody knows what's gonna happen, if they destroy his army now.”


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