Addendum to Iraqi use of WMD

More thoughts on the Iraqi’s possession of WMD.

Previously, I metioned a report from MEMRI that quoted an “unidentified senior Iraqi official” as saying that Iraq would use chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction to repel the Yankee invaders. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this at the time, but hasn’t Iraq told the UNMOVIC folks it has zero, zero, zero WMD? Granted, this story is out of Al-Quds Al-Arabi, a London-based, pro-Saddam Arabic language paper, but still… This is very weird.
In related news, U.S. president George W. Bush warned Iraq again that it was in danger of being shitcanned if it didn’t cooperate with UNMOVIC. The signs from Iraq are “not encouraging,” Bush said. The signs? Cameras and gear tagged by inspectors in 1998 have been removed from the Karamah misslile site. This might be serious or it might indicate that desperate Iraqi soldiers had stripped the gear and sold it for extra money.
But Bush’s war mongering is more upsetting. The inspectors have been there, what? A week? Five days? And the deadline for accounting for all weapons isn’t until Dec. 8. Bush says he wants an international coalition to disarm Saddam, but he seems a twee impatient to get the shooting started now, Now, NOW. His constant warnings are unlikely to convince anyone except Britain, and his insistent sabre-rattling and undercutting of the inspectors will do little but convince the rest of the world of America’s bad intentions. Bush needs to shut the hell up and let the inspectors at least pretend to do their jobs.

Russian coups and World War III

ArabicNews.com has picked up Stratfor’s theory that the Russians are plotting a coup in Iraq, hoping to steal the United States’ thunder, preempt an American invasion and protect Russian oil interests. The United Stats is also stepping up its courtship of Turkey, asking for help against Iraq and even trying to invoke Article V of the NATO charter, which provides for mutual defense if a member country is attacked. …And if that doesn’t scare the bejeezus out of you, a former assistant secretary general of the United Nations worries that a war with Iraq would start a “third world war” with “more Mombasas, more Balis.”

Wow, I take a few days off and all news happens. I’m going to have to get a staff at this rate. Keep those donations coming!
Anyway, ArabicNews.com has picked up Stratfor’s theory that the Russians are plotting a coup in Iraq, hoping to steal the United States’ thunder, preempt an American invasion and protect Russia’s oil interests. There’s more and more chatter about this on various news sources. The obvious question is, is it true? Russia did sign off on UNSCR 1441 rather easily considering how critical oil prices are to Russia’s economy. Granted, Bush has assured Russian president Vladimir Putin that Russia’s interests will be taken care of. But honestly, does anyone really think American oil companies will give the Russians and the French serious consideration?
So here’s my theory: The Russians are buzzing about with some kind of coup plan that would install either a pro-Western or pro-Russian government. Washington has agreed to this plan in exchange for solid support on UNSCR 1441. If the coup plan works, the American forces will move in and help restore order. If it doesn’t, American soldiers are on standby to start shooting.
Of course, it could be wrong, too.
What is without doubt, however, is the United States’ efforts to step up its courtship of Turkey, asking for help against Iraq and even trying to invoke Article V of the NATO charter, which provides for mutual defense if a member country is attacked. Whether the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which won the parliamentary elections in November will agree to this remains to be seen, since the United States is trying to enlist both the Iraqi Kurds and Turkey. (By the way, Turkey lifted the state of emergency — after 15 years — in the southeast part of the country.)
Across the frontier, in Iraqi Kurdistan, the chairman of the KDP, Massoud Barzani, said he has received no assurances about the form of rule in Iraq after Saddam is toppled. “(The United States) has decided what it will do in Iraq without briefing precisely the Iraqi opposition about it,” he told the BBC. “If the U.S. wants to ensure the security (of the country) it has to listen to us.” He added American military rule is unacceptable and hinted darkly that the Kurds might — might — react badly to an American viceroy. “The role of the soldiers is to defend the territories,” he said.
(The Kurds introduced drafts of a federal constitution into their regional parliament in October. Frankly, they’re asking for trouble with the Turks. And they seem to have found it. Turkey has shut down the illegal fuel sales that were a big source of revenue for the KDP and PUK, an effort to starve the Kurdish authorities of revenue in northern Iraq so they have less of an ability to agitate for independence or autonomy.)
In the event of a war, the Natal Witness, South Africa’s oldest newspaper (it says so on the Web page, so it must be true!) reports that Americans will not get a warm welcome in the streets of Baghdad. “It’s really a question of sovereignty and pride,” a taxi driver told reporter Fred Kockott. And American war planners are kidding themselves if this report is true. Al-Quds Al-Arabi, a pro-Saddam newspaper in London, quoted a “senior Iraqi official” thusly:

“When the regime was under intense attack in Al-Fau and began to be under threat, it did not hesitate to use all the weapons of mass destruction in its possession. Similarly, when the people of Halabja, or some of them, became guides for the Iranian forces that tried to breach the northeast [front], the regime did not hesitate to use chemical weapons. … Do not expect us to stand idly by in the face of any aggression that seeks to destroy and banish us not only from the regime but also from life.”

Well, that seems clear enough. U.S. soldiers should expect to confront chemical weapons. If that happens, I fear the United States will retaliate with nuclear weapons, as James Baker threatened it would do in 1991 if Iraq used weapons of mass destruction. The threat of deterrence worked then, but will it this time?
And if that doesn’t scare the bejeezus out of you, a former assistant secretary general of the United Nations worries that a war with Iraq would start “a third world war.” Hans von Sponeck, the U.N.’s humanitarian aid coordinator for Iraq from 1998 to 2000, warned that there would be “more Mombasas, more Balis.”
“I shiver when I hear the extreme views some people have in the region,” he says.
Now, Herr von Sponeck is German, and they haven’t been the most reliable of NATO allies when it comes to war with Iraq, so take his comments with grains of salt. (I happen to agree with him, that it will be very bad and dangerous after the Battle for Baghdad, but draw your own conclusions. I can point you to a lot of writings by Paul Wolfowitz, who says everything will be hunky-dory.)
There was a slight lessening of war drums over the holiday weekend, but look for them to start up again on Monday. We’ve got about three months to go.

Who is Reuel Marc Gerecht and why is he full of it?

In an op-ed in today’s New York Times, Reuel Marc Gerecht of the American Enterprise Institute claims that “An Iraq War Won’t Destabilize the Mideast.” Forgive me my skepticism.

In an op-ed in today’s New York Times, Reuel Marc Gerecht of the American Enterprise Institute claims that “An Iraq War Won’t Destabilize the Mideast.” He argues that Hosni Mubarak of Egypt has so thoroughly co-opted religious leaders that there is no threat to from raging mobs in the street angry over American bellicosity. And Saudi Arabia is sound as a pound, too. The maligned Shi’ites of the eastern provinces “aren’t going to riot on behalf of Saddam Hussein, who has brutally oppressed his own Shiite majority.” Tellingly, though:

“Saudi militancy is mainly financial and expressed through proxies. The Saudis held a telethon to support Palestinian militants. They spend millions of dollars to support organizations that spread hatred of the United States and Israel. Yet they have not once rioted in significant numbers for the Palestinians or against the royal family’s American protectors. This is as true for the fundamentalist heartland in the Najd region as it is for the more cosmopolitan Hijaz. Remember, Osama bin Laden stands out among both rich and poor because he is a Saudi who actually did something himself.”

This is supposed to reassure me? Forgive me my skepticism. While the House of Saud may not fall to Islamists in the wake of a U.S. invasion of Iraq, I infer from Gerecht’s statement that militants and financiers will step up their efforts to fund people like bin Laden. That makes me feel so much better, thanks. And just because Saddam has oppressed his Shi’ite minority, that doesn’t mean the United States will be seen in a favorable light. While the Saudi Shi’ites may not like Saddam, they like America even less.
He then goes on to reassure his readers that Turkey and Jordan aren’t in threat of revolution from angry Islamists. Well, who the hell thought they were? I mean, this is a strawman argument if there ever was one.
Left out of this mix is Pakistan, which in my opinion is the closest to falling to Islamists of any of the United States’ allies in its war on whoever the hell pisses it off next. President Pervez Musharraf’s candidate for prime minister, Zafarullah Khan Jamali of Baluchistan province, won in Paliament by a one-vote whisker in a contest in which the rigging was only thinly disguised. And radical Islamist candidates won big in October’s parliamentary elections. The country is ready to fall at any moment — and they’ve got nukes.
Gerecht’s column is no doubt part of a public relations campaign to reassure people here and abroad that things are under control. But his attempts are undermined, for me, by his ties to the American Enterprise Institute, a noted right-wing think tank peopled with with conservative cognoscenti with deep ties to the Bush Administration. Lynne Cheney, the veep’s wife, is one of its scholars, along with Robert Bork, Newt Gingrich, Jean Kirkpatrick and (drum roll, please) Richard Perle, the bombastic hawk who’s been itching to invade Iraq since before Bush ever got into office.
War is never anything but unsettling and destabilizing. And certainly don’t believe a new war with Iraq will leave the sands of the Middle East undisturbed.

Al Qa’ida group threatens Iraqi Kurdistan

Bush threatens Saddam (again), Turky threatens to move into Iraqi Kurdistan (again) and Russia threatened by financial meltdown (again.)

PUK peshmergas.JPG
Peshmergas at their posts in July (© 2002 Christopher Allbritton)

Mulla Sdeeq.JPG The Christian Science Monitor has a terrific article on the troubles that Ansar al-Islam is giving to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan on the Shinirwe Front, on the border between Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran. While I was there in July, I interviewed Mullah Sdeek (left), deputy chairman of the Islamic Movement, which controls one of the territories abutting ‘s. “We have been working as a mediator between [] and the government to try to change their idea and to convince them to come down to the negotiating table,” Sdeek said at the time. Well, that hasn’t been working. Since the recent capture of ‘s leader, Mullah Krekar, in the Netherlands after his dismissal from Tehran, the group has threatened to capture foreigners such as U.N. and human rights workers as bargaining chips to win the release of Krekar. Note: This group bargains hard; it beheaded 42 PUK peshmergas it captured in October of last year and made all the inhabitants — including the children — of the small village of Kheli Hama watch. (By the way, an Iraqi Kurd was arrested in Kabul for plotting to kill the Afghan president and defense minister. This is likely the work of Ansar al-Islam, so these guys aren’t sitting around.)
The full interview with Mullah Sdeek can be read here.


Map courtesy of the Christian Science Monitor

From the Dept. of Hypocrisy:

So let me get this straight: After a congressional inquiry looks into whether the FBI and CIA are to be faulted for not following leads of a possible money trail between the Saudi government and two of the 9/11 hijackers, the Bush administration cautions against jumping to conclusions. But when it comes to going to war in Iraq and killing lots of people, based on a lot of “might possess”, “could use” or “possibly hand over to terrorists” various forms of weapons of mass destruction, we’re supposed to just, I don’t know, take Bush’s word for it?

Continue reading “Al Qa’ida group threatens Iraqi Kurdistan”

Much news and catching up… (LONG POST)

Hi all. Sorry for the delay in posting. Not only have we seemed to enter a “phony war” period regarding impending hostilities with Iraq without anything definite happening, but I also needed to take a little break. Be that as it may, there have been some interesting stories to show in the last few days.

Hi all. Sorry for the delay in posting. Not only have we seemed to enter a “phony war” period regarding impending hostilities with Iraq without anything definite happening, but I also needed to take a little break.
Be that as it may, there have been some interesting stories show up in the last few days. First off, United Nations weapons inspectors have gone … back to Iraq. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) Hans Blix, the chief of the inspectors, holds the fate of Iraq in his hands and he has said he will asses the intent of any delays on the part of the Iraqis as to whether foot-dragging is obfuscation or simple foul-ups. Considering that much of my time in Iraq was characterized by hurrying up and waiting — and I was in friendly territory! — I wonder if the, ah, “flexible” concept of time in societies other than northern European ones will be taken into account. Blix is Swedish after all; I hear they frown on tardiness. At any rate, Iraq has until Dec. 8 to present UNMOVIC with a full accounting of its weapons of mass destruction programs or it will be in “material breach” of UNSCR 1441. We’ll see what happens. (P.S. When the Iraqis fire on Allied aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones in the south and the north, does that constitute a “material breach”? Some in the Bush administration want it to be so. Please note, Operations Northern Watch and Southern Watch have never been sanctioned by the UN and Iraq has never accepted them.)

Continue reading “Much news and catching up… (LONG POST)”

Can’t keep a bad man down

Bin Ladin’s back, showing up the failures of American intelligence. And all the White House can do is talk about Iraq. Why?

Whoa! Who would have thought that Osama Bin Laden was really alive and hiding out for all this time? Apparently not the U.S. intelligence community which has fervently hoped that bin Ladin was toasted in the bombing of Tora Bora. That seems increasingly to be wishful thinking on the part of the United States. Astonishingly, the tape that has come to light, in which someone who sounds an awful lot like the Napoleon of Terror praises recent attacks and threatens more violence against the West if Iraq is attacked, was met with resounding indifference by the White House and the Pentagon. Sec. of Defense (and in-house funny man) Donald Rumsfeld quipped that Bin Laden was “alive or dead” when asked about the terror leader’s condition. Apparently, Schrödinger’s terrorist is a paradox they know well at the Defense Department.
But seriously folks, shouldn’t the news of bin Ladin’s survival be taken a little more, well, seriously? Senate Majority leader (for the moment) Tom Daschle, D-S.D., thinks so and valiantly questioned whether the U.S. is winning the war on terror yesterday, asking, in effect, if we didn’t declare victory in Afghanistan a wee bit early.
So if bin Ladin is alive, as is likely, and al Qa’ida is preparing to strike again, as is likely, the obvious course of action is to focus on … Saddam Hussein!
Argh. I tear my hair out over this. I’m convinced that the reason given by the left for the U.S.’s drive to topple Saddam — mainly control of Iraq’s oil fields — is much too simplistic to give the whole picture. And I don’t trust the Bush Administration that Iraq poses a clear and present danger, with Saddam being thisclose to fielding nukes on magic unmanned drones that could take out American cities. And the Butcher of Baghdad isn’t sostupid that he would give weapons of mass destruction to an element that he couldn’t control, such as al Qa’ida. So what gives? Why the push on Iraq when al Qa’ida poses a clear and present threat and Pakistan has been helping North Korea with its nuke program. (The implication is that if Pakistan has elements that would help the North Koreans, there are likely elements in the government that would help al Qa’ida in a similar manner.)
This report from the Institute for National Strategic Studies’ National Defense University might offer some clues. The main thrust of the report is that America has long realized the strategic value of the Persian Gulf, and fully intends to keep a military presence there regardless of any outcome in Iraq. “The United States will need to diversify its dependence on regional basing and forward presence, as well as reduce the visibility and predictability of its forward-deployed forces,” reads the report.
Why is this necessary? Because way back in 1990, the the Bush White House, part first, announced a defense posture that called for “adult supervision” of the world. And the most recent iteration of the National Security Strategy of the United States calls for the globe’s sole superpower to suffer no rivals militarily or economically, imposing a pax americana. So the United States is in the Gulf to guarantee the supply of oil not for itself, but for Europe and Japan, which get most of their oil from the Middle East. (Surprisingly, the United States gets most of its oil from Canada, Venezuela and Mexico; Persian Gulf sources supplied only 11 percent of America’s oil in 2000, according to the Department of Energy.) The United States Marines safeguard the Persian Gulf because Europe and Japan might re-arm and secure the oil sources for themselves if we didn’t. And as I said, the United States does not intend to suffer rivals gladly.
So we are going to be in the Gulf for a long time. As the INSS report says, “There is no escaping the U.S. role as a guarantor of Gulf stability. Thus, the United States needs a viable concept for its future forward presence that can be sustained over the long haul.” Saudi Arabia is not the secure base that we need for such a presence, as the presence of infidel troops so close to the holy sites of Mecca and Medina directly undermines the legitimacy of the House of Saud, which came to power in the 1920s as the family that would protect Islam’s holiest shrines. The presence of the troops inflames the faithful, such as bin Ladin, and leads the Saudi royal family to pay off the radical clerics that wield much influence in the kingdom. In essence this is the reason radical Islamists with possible access to nukes are “funded” by Saudi Arabia — the Saudis are buying them off and pointing a loaded gun away from their own head and toward someone else’s. If the House of Saud falls, which it could do at any time, a big reason will be resentment over its invitation of American GIs.
The solution is to get the 5,000 or so American off the Arabian peninsula. But the United States can’t pull out with Saddam in power; the troops are there to contain Saddam. So the solution to the solution is to remove Saddam from power, in the process diversifying the distribution of American troops in the region and removing a provocation to radicals. (Once they get over being pissed at the subjugation of Iraq, that is.)
Some would argue that this will just preserve Saudi legitimacy. Others may argue that a friendly regime in Iraq would undercut the Saudis and bring oil prices down as the two countries (which control the largest and second-largest known reserves of oil on the planet) compete for markets. There is evidence that the Saudis are hewing to the second view, doing everything in their power to impede the United States’ war planning, including a massive loan to Russia — interest free! — if the Bear had only vetoed UNSCR 1441. Alas for the Saudis, this didn’t happen, and they are caught between Iraq and a hard place.
So the goal of the United States is to maintain a presence in the Persian Gulf so that Europe and Japan don’t re-arm. In order to maintain a presence and decrease dependency on an unreliable ally, Saudi Arabia, Washington has to lighten the military footprint in the region by removing the cause for the heavy footprint — Saddam Hussein. Once that is accomplished, the forward forces can be distributed out of Saudi Arabia and a friendly Iraq can help pressure the Saudis to keep oil prices low. As a bonus, Washington would no longer have to easy on the Saudis in its war against al Qa’ida since Iraq would be the bulwark in the Gulf.
Could this be the strategy after all, part an elaborate chess game played on several boards at once? Winning such a game demands cool heads, clear minds and accurate intelligence — especially in a shooting war. The fact that bin Ladin has probably reëmerged right now means that the latter — since well before Sept. 11, 2001 — has been woefully lacking.

U.N. resolution a fig leaf for the U.S.

Today’s unanimous vote by the United Nations Security Council to enforce the numerous prior resolutions flouted by Iraq was little more than a fig leaf providing the flimsiest of cover for the United States to wage war when it feels like it.
The myriad reasons given by the Bush administration — Saddam was behind Sept. 11; no, wait, he’s harboring terrorists; no, wait, he’s building weapons of mass destructions, yeah, that’s it — for slipping the leash from the dogs of war finally convinced reluctant allies France and Russia to sign on to the latest dictat from the Security Council. (No doubt the guarantees that Iraq’s oil contracts with these two major trading partners of Saddam would be honored had nothing to do with their acquiescence in New York.) No, UNSCR 1441 purports to lay out a legal framework for inspecting and disarming Iraq, but President Bush’s own words immediately following the vote give lie to the legalese.
The relevant paragraphs, 11 and 12, of the resolution run thusly:

The Security Council, …
Directs the Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC and the Director-General of the IAEA to report immediately to the Council any interference by Iraq with inspection activities, as well as any failure by Iraq to comply with its disarmament obligations, including its obligations regarding inspections under this resolution;
Decides to convene immediately upon receipt of a report in accordance with paragraphs 4 or 11 above, in order to consider the situation and the need for full compliance with all of the relevant Council resolutions in order to secure international peace and security; …

The second paragraph is the sop to France and Russia they demanded, requiring the United States to consult the Security Council before bombs begin falling and people dying. But George W. Bush, bestriding the narrow world like a Colossus, shall not be constrained by the shrill harpings of lawyers and knaves. Speaking in absolute and moral tones, the Lecturer in Chief warned the Iraqi strongman that “Any Iraqi noncompliance is serious, because such bad faith will show that Iraq has no intention of disarming.”
“America will be making only one determination: Is Iraq meeting the terms of the Security Council resolution or not?” he continued. Then he added, with the munificence of a nuclear-armed superpower, “The United States has agreed to discuss any material breach with the Security Council, but without jeopardizing our freedom of action to defend our country. If Iraq fails to fully comply, the United States and other nations will disarm Saddam Hussein.”
Debate all you want, ye chattering diplomats and feckless advisors, Bush II proclaimed. I got my resolution, as predicted, and diplomatic cover. It is I who shall decide when and where to strike. With Bush’s proclamations, the United States says it will talk to the sheriff, but it refuses to allow itself to become the United Nation’s deputy. As Afonso Bedoya said in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre when he attempts to shake down Humphrey Bogart, “Badges? We ain’t got no badges! We don’t need no badges!”
But this is real life, not a movie. Nothing can disguise that this vote was appeasement by the United Nations of the highest order. The United States’ overwhelming power has led to overweening hubris, and the belief that we can do no wrong. Might makes right, after all, so be right.
“In confronting this threat, America seeks the support of the world. If action becomes necessary, we will act in the interests of the world.” No doubt the world wonders just in whose interest it serves to attack another country that hasn’t been tied to Sept. 11, is diametrically opposed to the worldview of al Qa’ida and would be unlikely to threaten the United States with mass terrorism, unless it government felt its survival was at stake.
“The outcome of the current crisis is already determined: The full disarmament of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq will occur,” blusters Bush. “The only question for the Iraqi regime is to decide how.” (Removal by the Army or by the Marines? Which would you prefer, President Hussein?) I think most people on the Security Council know the outcome of that question, too, for the trap has been set and so tightly wound that the slightest tension on the legalistic tripwires contained in UNSCR 1441 will set the gears of war machines to grinding.
And while the diplomats talk, the warriors will fight. What good the pause for debate if it’s just for show? When the Bush Administration chides the United Nations for “unproductive debate,” how can the organization not become irrelevant when the United States — not Iraq — decides to brush aside the niceties of diplomacy and will of the world in favor of muscular chest beating followed by a solid thumping?
For while the people of Europe and the United States are not opposed to war, provided it has the backing of the United Nations, this resolution does not give the United States the authority to wage war pell-mell while the Security Council engages in “unproductive debate” as Bush II so dismissively put it today, surrounded by imperial roses. If the United States picks a fight while the adults are talking, there might literally be hell to pay.
Indeed, Mr. President: I feel you have already determined the outcome of this crisis. And the will of the American people — and the world — be damned.