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The International Atomic Energy Agency has said in an interview that weapons inspections in Iraq could take a year to complete. Meanwhile, an Iraq daily points out that the intensive and fastidious seven-week search for banned biological, chemical and nuclear weapons by UN inspectors has produced nothing incriminating. (Getty Images)...






US and Britain ‘running short of excuses for war’

Abderrazzak al-Hashemi, commenting in Babil, the Iraqi daily controlled by President Saddam Hussein’s son Odai, says an intensive and fastidious seven-week search for banned biological, chemical and nuclear weapons by UN inspectors has produced nothing incriminating.

This after inspectors scoured “over 300 sites” in the country ­ “most of which were specifically designated” by US CIA and British intelligence “and 46 of which were not even suspect from far or near” ­ and after the said teams exceeded their mandate and carried out “pure intelligence work” by asking questions about Iraqi scientists, army camps and legitimate military production.

Hans Blix, the chief UN weapons inspector, told the UN Security Council that the search for doomsday weapons produced “no smoking gun” so far. Both he and Mohammed al-Baradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), called on the United States to provide more specific intelligence to help in the search for any banned weapons.

Responding to the remarks by Blix that his team has not found a smoking gun in the inspections so far, writes Hashemi, Secretary of State Colin Powell declared (to NBC News) that no smoking gun is required for the United States to attack Iraq. “The lack of a smoking gun does not mean that there is not one there … You don’t really have to have a smoking gun,” according to Powell.

Immediately after the secretary of state made his remarks, Hashemi says, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw declared that while the UN arms inspectors have still to find doomsday weapons in Iraq, the burden of proof remains on Baghdad. Straw, in other words, “feigns ignorance. He knows, and everyone else knows, that such a thing is impossible ­ for how can a person prove he does not possess something that is not in his possession?”

Hashemi says the that “third leader of the gang,” US Vice-President Dick Cheney, went further than Powell and Straw, telling the US Chamber of Commerce: “Iraq could decide on any given day to provide biological or chemical weapons to a terrorist group or individual terrorist, which is why the ‘war on terror’ will not be won until Iraq is completely and verifiably deprived of weapons of mass destruction.”

But, says the Babil leader writer, “Cheney knows, and so does the rest of the world, that there are no links whatsoever between Iraq and any act of terror anywhere in the world. On the contrary, Iraq is the victim of terror, including the state terrorism to which it is subjected by the US administration.”

The UAE daily Al-Khaleej sees the number of Arab countries on America’s hit-list after its war on Iraq as growing.

The Sharjah-based daily was commenting on a report by the CIA submitted to Congress in December and made public last week claiming that Libya, Syria and possibly Sudan are quietly trying to acquire or expand secret arsenals of mass destruction weapons.

According to the document, which features a broad overview of the most pressing proliferation concerns in the second half of 2001, Libya continues to develop a nuclear infrastructure, trying to negotiate with Russia a deal to purchase a nuclear reactor and secure Moscow’s assistance in developing the Tajura Nuclear Research Center.

“Tripoli still appears to be working toward an offensive CW (chemical weapon) capability and eventually indigenous production,” the report stated. “Evidence suggests that Libya also is seeking to acquire the capability to develop and produce BW (biological weapons) agents.” Syria is accused of trying to acquire precursor materials and knowhow for a chemical weapons program.

“Damascus already holds a stockpile of the nerve agent sarin but apparently is trying to develop more toxic and persistent nerve agents,” the CIA said. The agency believes it is “highly probable” Syria is also developing biological weapons.

The CIA said Sudan “has been developing the capability to produce chemical weapons for many years” and “may be interested in a BW program as well.”

Al-Khaleej says US accusations against Libya, Syria and Sudan concerning their purported possession of, or quest for, doomsday weapons are not made flippantly. “The country leveling such charges has its policies, strategies, national interests, alliances, friends and enemies. Any position the US takes vis-a-vis another country is a derivative of all these considerations.

“When the United States insists that Iraq holds weapons of mass destruction and prepares to wage war on it on the basis of suspicion, rather than proof, it simply means that Washington has a set war policy vis-a-vis Baghdad because the current situation in Iraq runs counter to US policy in the region.

“Likewise, when Washington names three Arab countries among scores of others around the world and declares that they stockpile mass destruction weapons, this means that they are also being targeted as potential enemies of the US, such as Iraq. The said countries will therefore be subjected by the US to either direct military action or to political and/or economic pressure via the UN Security Council or other means. In fact, this is exactly what the US has done against other countries, without providing incriminating evidence against them.

“The invariable question is: Why is Israel always exempt from any measure or sanction, even though the whole world knows that it stockpiles all sorts of weapons of mass destruction and engages in state terrorism on a daily basis with impunity? The answer is simple: Israel represents US interests in the region and the world.”
Al-Khaleej expects the number of Arab countries on America’s hit-list to keep growing, “which means that the impending American war will not be limited to Iraq.”

“As usual,” however, the Arabs have prepared “nothing” for the impending confrontation.

Zuhair Qusaibati, writing in the Saudi-run pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat, says one story making the rounds in world diplomatic circles revolves around the search for a way out of the Iraq crisis.

The “tall tale,” he says, “is that  ‘Comrade’ Kim Jong II ­ rather than mate Vladimir Putin ­ will be the one to propose offering Iraqi President Saddam Hussein a safe haven in Pyongyang. ‘Comrade’ Kim is the latest addition to the long list of beneficiaries from the Iraqi crisis. The more Baghdad bows to the arms inspectors’ demands to avoid a devastating war by America and a consequent regime change in Baghdad, the further Kim goes in embarrassing and challenging George W. Bush by moving to unfreeze his nuclear weapons program.”
“Comrade” Kim does not fear for the Iraqi president’s fate despite the fact that North Korea and Iraq are partners in the so-called “axis of evil.” At the same time, Iraq is unable to take advantage of Kim’s defiance of the US president who has clearly elected to use dialogue with Pyongyang and might and fire in dealing with Saddam.

What is certain, according to Qusaibati, is that Saddam will not find his salvation in either Korea or in neighboring Iran, the third side in the axis of evil triangle.

Ali Khamenei promised that the Islamic world would not allow the Americans “to swallow Iraq and its oil wells easily.” But Iran’s spiritual leader, much as the “comrade” in Pyongyang, overlooked the fate of the man at the helm in Baghdad now that most Arab countries accept the impending third Gulf war as an inescapable fact.

Qusaibati says little joins Kim, Saddam and Khamenei except their common hatred of the American “godfather” sitting at the White House, happy to hear his administration’s “dove,” Powell, declare that no smoking gun is required for America to attack Iraq, thus closing ranks with administration hawks Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, who continue tempting Americans with talk of the benefits an invasion of Iraq would have on the drive to win their “war on terror.”

Whereas he has been annoyed by Korea’s defiance, says Qusaibati, Bush is still able to use the intimidation or enticement weapon to neutralize the Arabs and enlist most of them either to prepare for joining the war or for watching it from the sidelines ­ promising money to some of them or special forces to chase terrorists to others; waving the stick in the face of some or CIA reports on their endeavors to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

According to Basem Sakkijha, writing in the Jordanian daily Ad-Dustour, “North Korea pulls out from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), moves to unfreeze its nuclear weapons program, blocks IAEA monitors, declares that any economic blockade against it would mean war, parades intercontinental ballistic missiles and hundreds of thousands of troops in Pyongyang, and raises the tone of its voice against Washington and the Americans reply that they would be addressing the problem by diplomatic means.”
“Israel is shocked and shaken by a case of corruption involving Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, his speech to the Israeli public is blacked out by the Central Election Committee chairman for using official media to engage in election propaganda, the High Court of Justice lifts the election ban imposed on Ahmed Tibi and Azmi Bishara by a right-wing-dominated Knesset panel, Sharon’s tanks keep shelling Palestinian towns and refugee camps, his troops continue their daily killings of Palestinian civilians and the US administration does not cease repeating that he is the democratically elected prime minister of a democratic country.

“Iraq opens all sites to UN arms inspections teams, allows them to interview its scientists, does not miss any opportunity to show its goodwill, sends diplomats all over the world to explain its position, meets tough deadlines set by the UN Security Council and remains silent in the face of provocation, and yet the drums of war continue beating around it and hundreds of thousands of troops, missiles and tanks keep pouring into the region together with a flood of statements hostile to Iraq.

“The Palestinian Authority (PA) condemns so-called ‘terrorist operations’ and appeals for peaceful solutions, irrespective of the political concessions involved; it announces elections, conditions permitting, together with a program to fight corruption, introduce a new constitution and shuffle the government, and yet no one objects when Sharon prevents PA members from traveling for a quasi-international conference to discuss the Palestinian reforms.”

After all this, Sakkijha adds, the Americans ask us naively: “Why are you so critical of US policy?” The depth of Arab hatred for Americans   surprises them. They introduce one initiative after another to bring us democracy and leak all sorts of news about the new face they’ll bring to the region. “In fact, they won’t mind seeing us dead with a grin on our faces expressing our elation with US policy. Where else can they find as unproblematic an enemy?”

Hashem Abdulaziz asks on the front page of the Yemeni daily Ath-Thawra: “Why are the American shouting?”He says Powell’s statement that the US doesn’t really have to have a smoking gun to invade Iraq is not surprising. “It’s several years since the American-British alliance has been waging war on Iraq on an almost daily basis ­ a war that is about to culminate in the destruction and occupation of Iraq in defiance of UN principles and the UN Charter that prohibit meddling in the internal affairs of a UN member state or in undermining its unity and territorial integrity.”

Abdulaziz attributes Powell’s statement to US frustration at Iraq’s full cooperation with UN arms inspectors. “Even provocations by some inspection teams went unanswered” by Iraq, he writes.

The Americans “thought that the inspection episode would provide them with the ideal opportunity to obtain all sorts of reasons to mobilize opinion for war on Iraq ­ except that Iraq’s positive response to the UN Security Council’s disarmament resolution turned things on their head, which in turn explains Powell’s insolent declaration,” Abdulaziz says.

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