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.)