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12 September 2002 Edition

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Iraq invasion feared imminent


A year after 9/11 and the language of the US administration is still that of war. It now seems probable that whatever the international position in relation to President Bush's "war on terrorism", the decision to attack Iraq has already being taken.

The West has been waging a war against the Iraqi population for the last 12 years. Since the Gulf War, air strikes against the country have been continuous. To the terror caused by these so called "incursions", it is important to add the pain, death and suffering imposed by UN-sponsored sanctions, a series of measures we were told were directed to eradicate the threat of a possible Iraqi attack against the West or its friends. No one ever bothers to tell us about the ban on chlorine to purify water, medical equipment, medicines, etc, that would effectively cause the deaths of more than 500,000 children in the country. Those figures are provided by UNICEF and not by the Iraqi regime.

It seems that, after all, the sanctions - still so strongly advocated by British and US administrations - and bombings have not served their purpose. When announcing their intention to wage "real" war against Iraq, US President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair argued that the "rogue" President Saddam Hussein of the "rogue" state Iraq has developed arms of mass destruction and is planning to acquire nuclear bombs.

Both Bush and Blair have also signalled that Iraq's refusal to allow UN arms inspectors to visit the country further proves that the arms are there. What they do not mention is that Iraq says it allowed UN arms inspectors entry until they discovered that the US had planted military intelligence officers in the inspection groups, a move that further undermined the UN.

It was only last week that the Iraqi government expressed a willingness to open a dialogue with the UN to allow arms inspectors to re-enter the country. But British and US government officials immediately rejected an offer that may have avoided a new bloody war.

On 6 September - the day after 100 US and British planes bombed Iraq (remember this is not war, but "incursions") Mr Bush, speaking in Louisville, Kentucky, said that he was a "patient man", but obviously not patient enough to wait when oil is in the equation.

US worries about the stability of Saudi Arabia and its valuable oilfields have made more urgent the need of secure the oilfields of Iraq, holder of the world's second biggest oil reserves, which at the moment, with Saddam in power, are not available to US companies. At the beginning of September, while on a visit to California, Cheney bluntly described his objection to Saddam: "He sits on top of 10% of the world's oil reserves... Left to his own devices, it is the judgment of many of us that in the not too distant future he will acquire nuclear weapons."

It is obvious that between judgment and evidence there is a big difference. The only evidence presented by US and British sources is based on judgments by their intelligence agencies. However, the judgment of those who have visited and continue to visit Iraq has been repeatedly ignored, as they are considered friends of the enemy.

Scott Ritter, a former US Marine intelligence officer who once was on the inspection teams and who has become a sharp critic of US policy on Iraq, said recently that Iraq is incapable of producing weapons of mass destruction and should prove it by allowing in UN weapon inspectors.

Ritter spoke to members of parliament and to journalists on his third trip to Iraq since he resigned from the UN inspection team in 1998. As in the past, his trip was organised by the Iraqi government. He resigned from the UN inspection team in August 1998 after several years as a member, denouncing the Clinton administration for having withdrawn support for the UN agency and undermining weapons inspections. He has since accused Washington of using the inspectors to spy on Iraq and of manipulating the United Nations to provoke a confrontation with Saddam as a pretext for US air strikes on Iraq.

Should the US and the British embark on this war with or without UN support, the crucial question remains: Who will replace Saddam as head of Iraq? This question persuaded previous American Presidents Clinton and George Bush Snr. not to overthrow Saddam, because the alternative could well be an even more dangerous power vacuum. If Iraq were to split into three parts, as many expect, the oil regions in the South might be become still less reliable, in a region dominated by Shia Muslims who have links with the Shia in Iran.

For the last few weeks, a group of Iraqi exiles have been meeting in London to draw up plans for the new Iraqi regime. These meetings, sponsored by the US and British administrations, are closer to what any analyst would call "the dictatorship of the elite" than any form of representative democracy. Most reports from Washington suggest that Bush wants another tyrant and Blair will concur.

SF urges government to oppose war on Iraq

Dáil standing orders haveonce again denied Sinn Féin time to have a motion debated in 'Private Members' (Opposition) time. On this occasion, the party's motion called on the Dublin government to "strongly oppose" a new war against Iraq by the United States administration and the British government.

The motion, which reiterates the "continuing sympathy for all victims of 11 September", asked the Dáil to strongly oppose the launching of a new war against Iraq, as this conflict "has the potential to escalate far beyond Iraq with catastrophic consequences throughout the region and worldwide".

The Sinn Féin motion called on the government to "cease immediately the practice of giving permission to foreign states to refuel,

resupply and train military aircraft in Irish airports and Irish airspace and to use Irish seaports for their naval vessels".

"Governments around the world, including some within the EU, have been expressing their opposition to the launching of a war against Iraq. The Irish government has remained silent," said Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin. "We need to hear from the government what they are doing to help prevent a disastrous escalation of conflict in the Gulf region and the Middle East. We also need to know if the decision of the Minister for Foreign Affairs to allow US military aircraft to use Irish airports and to train in Irish airspace will be continued if the US and Britain attack Iraq.

"The Dáil should express its strong opposition to what now seems like an imminent escalation of conflict. I urge the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs to come into the Dáil to outline their position and not to allow the Dáil to adjourn for three weeks in the face of this international crisis."

The motion also voiced Sinn Féin's concern "at the worsening situation in Palestine and Israel" and called on Israel's government to comply with United Nations resolutions and to end the military occupation of Palestine. Sinn Féin called on the Dublin government to use all political and diplomatic resources to promote a peaceful solution.

Spain proposes permanent borders within EU

The Spanish Popular Party in the Spanish government is so set on discouraging any form of Basque secessionism that in its efforts it may damage the future of a united Ireland, Corsica or any other nationality aspiring to a new and independent statehood. And they are counting on Fine Gael's help.

The Spanish Popular party has initiated moves to include an article in the future European Constitution stating that the current European borders would be unchangeable. The Spanish Popular Party MEP, Iñigo Méndez de Vigo, claimed "immutable frontiers will send a message of stability to the world".

With this move, the Spanish Popular Party is attempting to close the door to the acceptance of a future independent Basque Country as a separate entity in international forums, but it also wants to obtain tacit support for a continuous Spanish control over its colonies on North Africa - Ceuta and Melilla. In the case of Gibraltar, the Spanish PP wants to introduce an exception that would allow for it to be included as part of Spain in case of an agreement with Britain in relation to the Rock's sovereignty.

Méndez is the main man for the Spanish and European PP group at the so-called "Convention", a forum that is debating European Union reform and enlargement. The Spanish PP's objective is to get all parties that are members of the European Popular Party at the European Parliament to support a change in the Treaty for the creation of a new European Constitution. "So far", explained Méndez, "I have presented the proposal to all members and there hasn't been any opposition. I believe that the EPP will approve this proposal at its next meeting in Estoril".

The European Popular Party group is meeting in Portugal on 18-19 October. Seven right-wing prime ministers will be in attendance. Fine Gael, as part of the European Popular Group, is supposed to be aware of these proposals, and according to Mendez they have not shown any disagreement.

The Spanish Popular Party wants to diminish the idea of a self-determination referendum proposed by the moderate Basque Nationalist Party. To this end it is seeking to copper fasten EU borders as they stand.

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