Onward, unto the material breach

Bush administration will declare iraq in material breach of UNSCR 1441 soon after it presents its declaration to the United Nations Saturday. “It is going to be ‘material breach,’ not as a casus belli [cause for war] but as a basis to begin hammering Unmovic to do more,’ said an administration official familiar with the internal debate.” Yeah. Sure. Whatever.

Inspectors search a suspected weapons site in Iraq

My buddy, George Paine at warblogging.com, alerted me to a report in the Washington Times that the Bush administration will declare Iraq in material breach of UNSCR 1441 immediately after Iraq submits its report on its weapons of mass destruction Saturday.
“‘It is going to be “material breach,” not as a casus belli [cause for war] but as a basis to begin hammering Unmovic to do more,’ said an administration official familiar with the internal debate,” the paper says.
Right. And the United States will be satisfied if UNMOVIC declares to the Security Council the Iraq is complying. Keep dreaming.

U.S. officials said the administration has been withholding detailed intelligence on hidden Iraqi arms programs from U.N. inspectors. The information deals mostly with Iraq’s covert chemical and biological arms.
“We do not want to tip our hand,” the official said.
One piece of intelligence includes details on a cache of more than 1,800 gallons of anthrax spores, the officials said. Even tiny amounts of anthrax can be lethal. Less detailed intelligence has been gathered on Iraq’s efforts to build nuclear weapons, the officials said.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not looking forward to John Negroponte, America’s U.N. representative, pulling an Adlai Stevenson on Iraq. (Stevenson dramatically proved the Soviets were lying about their missiles in Cuba in October 1962. “”Do you, Ambassador Zorin, deny that the U.S.S.R. has placed and is placing medium and intermediate range missiles and sites in Cuba?” he demanded before the world.)
But let’s look at what’s happening here. The United States’ defense posture is to suffer no military rivals. It’s also got a strategic national interest in the oil reserves in the Persian Gulf. Iraq, while not a serious military rival, is bumping up against both of these pillars of the new, muscular American foreign policy. However, if Iraq were to acquire weapons of mass destruction, it would become a military rival not because its weapons would be offensive in nature (they wouldn’t and it’s unlikely Saddam would risk giving them to terrorists) but because he could bully his neighbors (thus, impacting America’s interests there) and deter the United States from countering his actions militarily. So, in the Bush Universe, he must be stopped. And the only reliable way to do that is to take him out.
The United States has become caught in its own escalation of power. It asserts to the world that it will remain a global hyperpower. But in order to do so it must defeat all challengers to the pax Americana, or better yet, discourage other powers from even attempting to challenge it. War against Saddam Hussein, in addition to America’s short term goals, is a demonstration to the world. The United States is telling potential powers, such as China, “Do not attempt to deter our military ability or we will crush you.” America is going to war to prove that it is willing to go to war.
And that’s just crazy! Having the unrestricted ability to wage war has become a major of goal of American foreign policy. This is what I mean by an escalation of power. We have to wage war to ensure we can wage war. Funny, I always thought the point of diplomacy was to avoid wars, not ensure that the option is always open.
This will lead to overextension of our armed forces, a more dangerous world and restlessness among the natives, old chap.
I’m often asked by people I talk to about this, “Do you really think we’ll go to war?” I always answer, yes, I do. Because with our defense posture, we can’t afford not to. Karl von Clausewitz said in “On War,” “War is regarded as nothing but the continuation of state policy with other means.” What happens, though, when state policy becomes the ability to wage unrestrained war?

Saddam to present UN with suicide note

Just what is Saddam’s game? The Independent in London is reporting that the final document Iraq will present to the United Nations on Saturday (Someone’s brown-nosing by turning in homework early!) will declare that the country is “devoid of weapons of mass destruction.” … Oh, boy.

Sigh. Just what is Saddam’s game? The Independent in London is reporting that the final document Iraq will present to the United Nations on Saturday (Someone’s brown-nosing by turning in homework early!) will declare that the country is “devoid of weapons of mass destruction.”
Oh, boy.
Iraq promises to deliver a 7,000-page document describing the state of the country’s biological, chemical, missile and nuclear technologies in both Arabic and English. All the technologies, it claims, are kosher by U.N. standards.
OK. Show of hands. Who believes this? I don’t. And I’m still puzzled by the alleged assertion by the Iraqi official who said the country would protect itself with weapons of mass destruction.
What are they thinking? Has Saddam really entered a suicidal phase? If he thinks the French and the Russians will rein in the United States this time, he’s sorely mistaken. Is he hoping to provoke an armageddon on the banks of the Tigris so he can attempt to lob some chems into Israel? Has he decided, fatalistically, that the United States will attack no matter what so he may as well get the show started?
I’m honestly befuddled by this assertion that Iraq has nothing to declare. This can only lead to trouble, since Saddam must feel he has one or two tricks left to pull out of his hat.
Al this is taking place in an environment of mutual suspicion. An Iraqi vice president accused the inspectors of being spies for the United States and Israel, a not unrealistic charge as the U.S. did exactly that from 1991-1998. And George W. Bush continued to say the weapons inspections were not working. (He says this after a week of work.)
“One of my concerns is that in the past he has shot at our airplanes,” Bush said. “Anybody who shoots at U.S. airplanes or British airplanes is not somebody who looks like he’s interested in complying with disarmament.”
(It should be noted that the no-fly zones aren’t sanctioned by the United Nations and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the targeting and firing by Iraqi anti-aircraft positions aren’t material breaches of UNSCR 1441. That must piss off Bush.
(And in a further sign of the fragmented Bush policy, Secretary of State Colin Powell described the inspections as “off to a good start” and “working as intended.” Guess he didn’t get the memo.)
Well, when — or if, I suppose I should say although I think a war is inevitable — the bombs start falling, at least journalists will be on the ground. (Which might be the Pentagon’s plan all along. Hmm.) Actually, this is just part of the propaganda effort by the brass in the Pentagon to get some Ernie Pyle-like coverage of individual heroism from the front lines. I’m convinced the only stories that get past the military censors will be those that talk up the bravery of “our boys.” But perhaps I’m just cynical. Perhaps the military really is interested in getting honest stories out about combat and the war, stories that show the military in action, warts and all.
Right. And the Bush White House will suddenly drop its obessions with secrecy and controlling the message that have marked its dealings with the press since the start of Bush’s presidential campaign.
(By the way, I’ve applied for the military bootcamp at Fort Benning, but I’ve not heard back from the Army yet.)

Arms inspectors back in Iraq; Perle says ‘so what?’

United Nations arms inspectors, led by Hans Blix, arrived in Baghdad yesterday to start the thankless job of determining whether or not Saddam Hussein has been up to no good since 1998, when the last inspection team left the country. Bush hawk Richard Perle, however, says they don’t matter.

© 2002 Reuters

United Nations arms inspectors, led by Hans Blix, arrived in Baghdad yesterday to start the thankless job of determining whether or not Saddam Hussein has been up to no good since 1998, when the last inspection team left the country. The team has said it will “freeze” sites to prevent evidence from being smuggled out.
“We are fully conscious of the responsibility we have on our shoulders,” said Jacques Baute, head of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Committee (UNMOVIC). “We have an access anywhere and access anywhere is translated into inspections to any type of facilities.
It may not make any difference, however, if this report from the Mirror in the U.K. is to be believed. Richard Perle, chairman of the civilian Defense Policy Board and noted Bush Administration hawk, told British MPs that the United States would attack Iraq even if UNMOVIC comes up empty.
“I cannot see how Hans Blix can state more than he can know,” Perle allegedly said. “All he can know is the results of his own investigations. And that does not prove Saddam does not have weapons of mass destruction.”
Well, hell. You can’t prove a negative, as the logicians say, but Perle seems willing to bet that the U.S. can find someone to finger Saddam as man with his finger on the button. “Suppose we are able to find someone who has been involved in the development of weapons and he says there are stores of nerve agents,” Perle allegedly said.
Former defense minister and Labour Party member Peter Kilfoyle said that the United States would be satisfied with such claims, which is alarming to say the least. Remember the story about the dead Kuwaiti babies in the run-up to the first Gulf War? That bit of media manipulation was brought to you courtesy of PR giant Hilton & Knowlton and the daughter of the Kuwati ambassador to the United States, all in a (successful) attempt to enrage public opinion against Iraq. (For the record, it appears this incident never happened.) If Perle is willing to accept someone’s testimony at face value, the people of Iraq don’t have a prayer.
Of course, it’s quite possible Perle is the public hard-liner who espouses positions so far to the right that they make the Bush administration look reasonable in comparison. I’ve fired off an email to Mr. Perle, but as yet have had no response. I will reprint it in full if and when I hear back from him.

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”

No-fly zones attacks not a material breach

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said yesterday that Iraqi firing on allied planes patrolling the no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq was not a violation of UNSCR 1441, no matter what the United States may say.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said yesterday that Iraqi firing on allied planes patrolling the no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq was not a violation of UNSCR 1441, no matter what the United States may say.
“The United States believes that firing upon our aircraft in the no-fly zone, or British aircraft, is a violation — it is a material breach,” said Scott McClellan, a spokesman for the White House.
Ah, no, said Annan. “Let me say that I don’t think that the Council will say this is in contravention of the resolution of the Security Council.” The Russians agreed with Annan: “Recent claims that Iraq’s actions in the ‘no-fly’ zones can be seen as a violation of the U.N. Security Council resolution 1441, have no legal grounds,” the Russian foreign ministry said.
UNSCR 1441’s eighth paragraph says, “Iraq should not take or threaten hostile acts directed against any representative or personnel of the United Nations or of any member state taking action to uphold any Council resolution.”
The problem with this wording is that there is no Council resolution explicitly setting up the no-fly zones. They were established in 1991 after the Gulf War by the United States, France and the United Kingdom to protect the Kurds and Shi’ite minorities from Saddam’s murderous reprisals after the Gulf War. (France pulled out after 1998’s Desert Fox operation.) I did a search on the legality of the zones and found that the United States usually cites UNSCR 688 in defending the zones. But there’s nothing in the resolution authorizing their set-up. At best, their continued existence is a mark of implicit approval by the Council. Another view, which I’ve come to hold, is that the Council has recognized that there’s not a lot it can do about them anyway and U.K. and U.S. vetoes keep Russia and France from introducing resolutions to end them.
That’s not to say I don’t think they should be there. I was quite happy to have allied war planes high above me when I was in the country, otherwise the Kurds would never have achieved the levels of autonomy they have. Still, they’re a pretty flimsy excuse to try to declare Iraq in material breach, and thankfully the United Nations sees through that ruse.
Of course, now it just means there is more time to move troops and armor into the region.

News from the region…

Saddam gives an interview! The U.S. gets closer to a deal on force in the U.N.! And Ariel Sharon tries to start World War III! All this and more in the latest installment of … Back to Iraq 2.0!

Wow. Lots of stuff today already. In the first instance, ArabicNews.com (and others) reports that Saddam Hussein has shown a new willingness to work with the United Nations and thanked Saudi Arabia for its lack of cooperation with the Americans. The Kuwaitis on the other hand, in a show of Gulf War I gratitude, said it was OK with them for the United States to bivouc on Kuwaiti bases. (This may end up proving more trouble than its worth, perhaps, since the Kuwaiti daily al-Rai al Aam is reporting that a solidier for the emirate was caught trying to sneak into the al-Doha base there for the purpose of attacking Americans. With Kuwaiti army troops and other people attempting mayhem against the United States on a semi-regular basis, Kuwait may prove a shaky ally.)
At the same time, the Washington Post reports that the United States is prepared to tender its final Iraq resolution to the Security Council, possibly as soon as tomorrow, and that it wants a vote by the end of the week. It’s the third such resolution and is aimed at allaying the concerns of Russia and France, since Britain is on board and China has indicated it won’t sign on to such a proposal, but it won’t veto it either. Mexico, which has many of the same concerns as France and Russia, said it was “optimistic” a solution would be found soon, indicating the Americans are getting closer to a deal.
Also, Saddam gives his first interview in 12 years, according to the Egyptian opposition weekly, Al Usbou’. It’s full of juicy little tidbits, including the novel theory that the United States will carve up all Arab lands into countries the size of Yemen (or Israel) so they may be governed better by an American viceroyalty. A highlight of the interview:

Nassar: “Mr. President, I want to ask you something that I already know, but would like your confirmation. Do you have Kuwaiti prisoners that you did not release as yet, knowing that Kuwait is demanding their release as a condition for reconciliation?”
Saddam: “You know, and everyone else knows, that I issued a decision to release all prisoners, political and criminal, Arab and Iraqis. Except for the spies who worked for Israel and the U.S. We released even murderers, on condition that an agreement was reached between the families of the murderers and the families of the victims, and that the amnesty was the will of both sides. The jails in Iraq became the only jails in the world, and in history, without occupants.”
Nassar: “…And the wardens have a problem, Mr. President, they have to look for a job since the jails are empty…”
Saddam: “We shall turn the jails into shelters for orphans, the victims of American daily missile attacks on the country’s south and north, and on Baghdad’s neighborhoods, while the world conscience remains indifferent.” (Ed. — Emphasis added. Orphans!)

Prime minister Ariel Sharon backed up Saddam’s statement that the United States was trying to make the Middle East safe for Israel by saying in an interview with The Times that Britain and America should attack Iran after they’ve finished conquering Iraq. British foreign minister Jack Straw soundly rejected that idea, thank goodness. (You can read the entire interview here. Also, Sharon has agreed to Beyamin Netanyahu’s demands for early elections on Feb. 4, 2003, but grumbled that Israel doesn’t need elections right now. Palestinian officials urged Israelis to vote for “a leadership capable of making peace,” while Islamic Jihad said elections would make no difference.)