No Smoking Gun but US keeps up the pressure
12 January 2003
As count down to an American led war in Iraq began, conflicting signals
were coming form every
While the United States kept the pressure on the Iraqi
Hussein, with almost daily announcements of more troops
going to the Gulf, weapons inspectors
chief Hans Blix and International Atomic Energy boss Mohammed
Elbaradei told the UN on January
9 they found no smoking guns in Iraq. But before
the anti-war campaigners had the chance to
rejoice, Blix quickly said the 12,000 page dossier handed
by the Iraqis to the inspectors left
many questions unanswered. Many materials which the old
inspectors team UNSCOM listed before
the left Iraq in 1998, remained an accounted for.
Although not letting Saddam of the hook, Blix's and Elbaradei's
report left the Bush
Administration without a trigger for war compelling enough
overcome global scepticism.
Instead the report triggered a world wide call for
giving the inspectors more time, until they
find and destroy Iraq's WMD, since UN Security Council
Resolution 1441 was
built on disarming Saddam not toppling him.
'' Inspectors should continue and for that reason there
are no grounds for military action,''
said Gunter Pleuger, the UN ambassador of Germany, which
will chair the Security Council next
month [ Feb 2003].
Now the inspections were under way '' there is no
reason to give a
time-limit,'' Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, France's ambassador
to the UN said.The Russians too
called for more time. `` This is part of very professional
work which should continue, which is
in very early stages,'' Sergei Lavrov, the Russian envoy
told reporters. ‘’ It should be
allowed to continue.’’
Dr Elbaradei promised to demand a fuller list of Iraqi
biological scientists and to begin interviewing them within
inspectors would start using helicopters and high-altitude
surveillance planes, according to Dr
Meanwhile US Secretary of State Colin Powell, one of the
Administration doves who supports the
UN road and sees war as the latest resort, confirmed that
Washington has already started
passing ' significant' intelligence this week It was a
long standing demand by Mr Blix. However
Secretary Powell cautioned that the details were '' carefully
selected'' and that his nation
was holding on to its most sensitive information and incriminating
details, waiting to see
whether inspectors '' are able to handle it an exploit
A senior America intelligence source told the MIDEAST
News that Iraqi
intelligence were eves dropping on the inspectors and
could hear every word they say in their
hotel rooms. He added that most of intelligence file came
from Iraqi officials and Iraqi
technicians, and it could enable Saddam's intelligence
to figure out the source and punish the
technicians who were still in Iraq, or the families of
those who have already left.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair told the cabinet that
UN inspectors must be given more space
and more time. How long is a piece of string?
Downing Street spokesman had no definite answer during
the cat and mouse game of daily briefing
to lobby reporters, '' we have to be patients,'' he said.
It was interpreted by cynical
reporters as '' to be patients in our wait for the Americans
to tell us what to do next.''
Others mumbled some doubts about the state of readiness
of British forces for deployment, the
way it was ready in 1990. Especially after the seasoned
political editor of the London daily
Evening Standard, which is not too friendly to New Labour,
drew the spokesman's attention to
an extraordinary attack on the `` myth of Britain's military
strength`` from the German daily
Die Suddeutsche Zeitung. The paper mocked Mr Blair's
``pathetic tremolo voice`` when he speaks
of Britain's forces as among the best in the world.``
Even without any new triumphs, the myth lives on'' said
the German paper.
But the spokesman, `` happened'' to have his very positive
quote from the German rag arguing
that the paper concluded its lengthy article on a positive
note. Do you read the Suddeutsche
Zeitung, every morning?
The spokesman ditched the question.
Reports in British papers of Mr Blair '' pressing America
to delay the war until the Autumn''
in order to give the UN inspectors more time.
Was refuted as '' Totally untrue and misinterpretation
of what the Prime Minister said,'' by
Downing Street Spokesman .
By another coincidence Secretary Powell happened
to sing from the same hymn sheet as Mr
Blair. The latter told the cabinet that January 27th,
the date at which Mr Blix and his team
would present their report to the UN must not be seen
as a deadline or a decision making day.
Downing Street Spokesman had Secretary Powell's quote
-handy `` January 27th is not a D day to
take a decision on Iraq,'' said Mr Powell in an
interview with the Washington Post, '' the
report will give us a chance to further judge the situation``.
Great minds think alike; although Downing Street sources
refused to ''
speculate '' when asked, whether the Prime Minister would
remain patient and give the
inspectors more time if the Americans decided to launch
a war soon after January 27th if Hans
Blix still hadn't found the smoking gun by then?
However, the noise coming from Washington, as always,
embarrassment to Downing Street leaks about London's pressure
on America to delay war. The
White House insisted that Mr Blix's January 9 interim
report had changed nothing.
`` The problem with guns that are hidden is you can't
see their smoke,'' said Ari Fleischer,
the White House Spokesman. `` We know for fact that there
are weapons there.''
Richard Perle, chairman of the Pentagon's Defence Policy
Board and a hawk whose views carry
considerable weight, rejected suggestions from the British
ministers and senior Foreign Office
officials that plans for an early war should be put on
Mr Perle, who is close to Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence
secretary, said on January 9 he did
not expect the UN Security Council to reach agreement
on the use of force but had little doubt
that President Bush would press ahead regardless
and lead a coalition to victory.
"It would be a great mistake to become dependent on it
[ UN Security
Council] and take the view that we can't act separately,’’
Mr Perle said.
At the same time the long, and at times bitter,
struggle to enlist
Baghdad's reluctant neighbours in the American campaign
was already nearing its close.
Ten months after Dick Cheney, the US Vice-President, was
greeted by an angry barrage of
resistance as he toured the region trying to rally support
for the overthrow of the Iraqi
regime, one by one the opponents of the war have gradually
shifted their positions and by last
months were, reluctantly though, ready to do Washington's
``If hostilities do break out,'' said a seniour western
diplomat in the Gulf,`` it is hard to
imagine any country in the region, including stubborn
holdouts such as Syria and Saudi Arabia,
choosing to stand up to the Americans and risk being seen
to side with President Saddam Hussein
in his final hour.''
There is even a possibility that when the countdown
begins for war, a
mini-stampede of latecomers will send their troops to
join the Americans and the British, he
The considerable US diplomatic victory was achieved quietly,
using a mixture of threats and
inducements that no country, least of all the weakened
Arab states, could resist.
Kuwait, after its invasion and brutal occupation by Iraq
a decade ago, is probably the most
strongly in favour of Saddam's removal, along with Iran,
which suffered ever greater losses
during its war with Iraq. Kuwait will be the launch pad
for the ground offensive.
Even Saudi Arabia, diplomats say, is likely to swallow
its pride and allow the US military to
use the key Prince Sultan airbase to run the air campaign,
the first phase of the war.
Jordan, which shares a small but strategic border with
western Iraq, has made its choice.
Despite public opposition to the war from native Jordanians
and the large Palestinian
population, King Abdullah II has made clear that he will
not stand in the way of any US-led
Only Turkey was still left struggling with how to
deal with the Iraqi
issue, especially when the ruling Islamic party won election
on anti war ticket. But the
powerful Turkish military, the force that really matters
in Turkey, has told Washington that
its support is solid.
In Washington, Mr Perle was critical of the inspectors
for mainly visiting previously known
"They are the last place you would expect Saddam to put
something," Mr Perle said. "You would
have to be a complete idiot to do that. The inspectors
returning to known sites makes Blix look
Mr Perle doubted that Mr Blair had asked or would
ask Mr Bush to delay war until the autumn
and accused those who sought such a delay of being opposed
to ousting Saddam in any event.
The new year started with two British cabinet ministers
contradicting each others on Iraq.
Asked on BBC current affair programme Today, British
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was firm
in expressing the belief that war was not inevitable and
that UN inspectors are likely to
succeed in disarming Mr Hussein thus averting the war.
He gave such scenario a 60:40 success
Confronted by reporters a few hours later, Defence Secretary
Geoff Hoone described Mr Straw's
60:40 statement as `` unhelpful.''
However the Prime Minister and Downing Street officials
insisted that there was no split. Such
insistence raised observers' suspicion that British government
was telling different audiences
what would they like to hear.
Over 100 labour MPs echoed the opinion of grass
roots of Mr Blair's labour party in refusing
to support an American war on Iraq without a fresh mandate
from the UN after Mr Blix has given
his report on January 27th.
Meanwhile different signals were coming from the Middle
East. Philippines foreign minister Blas
Ople confirmed to journalists the whispers they heard
in several Middle Eastern capitals of an
11th hour attempt to avert war.
There was mounting Arab diplomatic moves urging
Saddam Hussein to resign and go into a
comfortable exile to avert the war, he told reporters
in Manila Early this week.
As reported in the Middle East in October 2002, Qatari
and other Arab
diplomats have hinted, last summer, to the Iraqi leader
that there would be a possibility that
he could leave the country, but Saddam, then ignored the
American sources said Saudi Arabia was pressing
the Bush administration to allow one last
attempt at a diplomatic solution if United Nations weapons
inspectors find Iraq in violation of
resolution 1441, and safe exit to Saddam might be arranged.
Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi Foreign Minister, said
recently that if war becomes inevitable
"we hope that there would be an opportunity given to the
Arab countries to mitigate the
Arab diplomats in the Gulf said one option was for Saddam
to depart, `` He [ Saddam] is not
thinking about it now,'' one Gulf official told Mideast
News, `` but it could be different when
the Americans are serious about the alternative of war.''
A group of prominent Iraqi and other Middle Eastern
writers and lawyers appealed to the Arabic
speaking nations to put pressure on the Iraqi leader to
step down to avert a war.
"We call upon public opinion in the Arab world to exercise
pressure for the dismissal from
power of Saddam Hussein and his close aides in order to
stop a war that threatens catastrophe
for the people of the region," said the appeal by about
a dozen intellectuals that was
published this month
According to western diplomats in the Gulf, Prince Saud
informed visiting western
parliamentarians in December that he had been exploring
the idea with British and American
diplomats, whether the Bush Administration can leave a
way out for Saddam to leave Iraq.
Prince Saud was vague when asked, during attending the
GCC summit in Doha whether Arab leaders
had urged the Iraqi president to
accept political asylum elsewhere. "Communication is continuing
on levels announced and
unannounced," he said.
The idea of asylum for Saddam in return for his resignation
has surfaced before. It was put
forward last year in an open letter from Ghassan Tueini,
a former Lebanese statesman and
publisher of Beirut's influential An-Nahar newspaper.
The letter was titled "resignation is
Dr Mudhar Shawkat, the head of the Iraqi National Movement
told the Mideast news last
October that a number of Iraqi opposition leaders
would prefer to see Saddam go and take `` a
large booty with him'' as a way out to avoid war and end
his rule, which has been the bloodiest
period in Iraq's history.
Quoting Iranian diplomatic sources last December Teheran
daily Entekhab reported that the
German Foreign Minister informed his Iranian counterpart,
Kamal Kharrazi, during a telephone
exchange that America was seeking a bloodless
coup in Iraq with the help of Vladimir Putin,
the Russian President. Predictably, the German Foreign
Ministry denied the report.
Western diplomats in Washington believe America
would welcome Saddam's departure but
acknowledged that it would be hard to guarantee his immunity
from any prosecution for
atrocities. Richard Boucher, a State Department spokesman,
has said Saddam must either "change
his ways or change his venue".
However, spokesman Richard Boucher noted that Secretary
Powell and Mr
Rumsfeld, have spoken in favour of Saddam resigning.
"If he has the option, he ought to take it ... I'm not
aware of any active efforts to promote
such proposals," he added.
"If the Iraqi leadership should decide to abandon its
aims or abandon the country or if we have
to force him to abandon the country, one way or the other,
Iraq is going to disarm."
Western diplomats said Middle Eastern countries
such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia - and perhaps
some Third World countries - were expected to call
for Saddam to go into exile on the eve of
A few years ago amid a similar crisis, Egyptian officials
publicly suggested giving Saddam
asylum in Cairo. Egyptian officials, denied that Egypt
would offer the Iraqi dictator an asylum
this time, however they did not denying reports about
persuading the Iraqi leader to go to
Saddam took refuge in Egypt in 1959 after escaping Iraq
following his failed attempt on the
life of the Iraqi Prime Minister General Abdel Karim Qasim.
He lived on handouts from the
Intelligence of Egypt's autocratic ruler Colonel Gamal
Russia, Belarus, Libya and Mauritania have all been suggested
as possible countries of refuge.
Other countries have taken in fallen dictators. Ethiopia's
former military ruler, Mengistu
Haile Mariam, is living in exile in Zimbabwe, while Uganda's
crazed former dictator, Idi Amin,
is in Saudi Arabia. A spokesman for President Alexander
Lukashenko of Belarus did not confirm
or deny the possibility. "For now, there are no facts
to talk about. Let conjecture be
The readiness of any country to give refuge to Saddam
may depend on the size of the booty he is
able to offer as a bribe and, crucially, on the secret
assurances that will be given by
Psychology experts say Saddam's volatile personality would
difficult to even approach with such a proposal.
During the Iran Iraq war, when the Late Ayatollah Khomeini
announced that he was fighting
Saddam not the fellow Muslims in Iraq, Saddam asked, during
a cabinet meeting, whether he
should tactically resign to expose the Iranian claim.
As all ministers put their heads down,
his eyes met those of the health minister who smiled and
acknowledged Saddam's nod with a nod
of his own. Sadadm personally shot him in a room next
British officials see important propaganda points to be
won if neighbouring countries call for
Saddam to step down.
It would increase his isolation, and a refusal to heed
the call would be held up as further
evidence of his obduracy, one British official said. Some
London based Arab journalists and
commentators, believed to be on Saddam's pay-roll keep
repeating that Saddam would fight to the
last drop of blood. And that he would create a mythology
of defiance by his ' martyrdom'
However, this writer believes that Saddam, despite his
brutality, is a coward. He is obsessed with Mafia
style gangsters' loyalty. His first aim is
to survive on daily basis, followed by his second objective
which is to stay in power. But he
will never make staying in power an objective that overrides
his own safety. He might not trust
any one not to betray him. If he can't arrange a 100%
safe exile, that no one would find him,
he would then disappear quietly and go under ground, leaving
myth similar to that surrounding
Hitler's death after WW2 according to which die-hard Nazis,
for years, kept believing that
Hitler would return to conquer his enemies with the secret
weapon hidden in silo No 13.
The raid *. Iraqi
Official Statement *. The View from
Britian * American
policy on Iraq in disarray * Sorting
*.Saddam, the popular dictator among Arabs.
Iraqi Mission in the UN.
British Ministry of Defence
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