No Arab support for US strike on Iraq
As United States diplomats try to drum up UN support for a military strike against Iraq their closest Arab regional allies oppose the military enforcement of United Nations weapons inspections on Baghdad, and there is little support for further sanctions.
There has also been vocal opposition among Arab politicians and commentators to the continuation of economic sanctions. Observers say unilateral US military action could bring powerful anti-American undercurrents to the surface across the Arab world like that rocking Pakistan and Malaysia.
The Palestinian Legislative Council's political committee said in a statement it ``rejects American and Western threats to carry out a military aggression against Iraq.'' The PLO's ambassador to Iraq, Azzam al-Ahmad said, ``The Palestinian people's backing for Iraq has not changed. There is a general feeling that the United States is hostile to the Arab nation and is biased towards Israel,''
In Gaza demonstrators on Monday gave a U.N. envoy there a letter addressed
to Secretary-General Kofi Annan calling for the lifting of sanctions against
Iraq imposed after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Jordan's Foreign Minister, Mr Fayez Tarawneh, said the Gulf War coalition had ceased to exist. "I don't see a coalition now. We've seen seven years of sanctions - seven years of no results . . . He (Mr Hussein) has outlasted them all - Mitterrand, Bush and Thatcher." Mr Tarawneh said Jordan "categorically opposed" any military action against Iraq. "It is usually the innocent that die first," he said.
In the past few days, almost every Arab state has put on record its
opposition to military action. "The use of force is not appropriate," Egypt's
President, Mr Hosni Mubarak, told the Al-Ahram newspaper.
There is widespread Arab sympathy for Iraq's view that there are too many Americans in the UN weapons inspection teams. "The fact that Washington insists on having its own nationals serving as part of the UN inspection unit suggests the US agenda goes beyond inspection as such," the Jordan Times said this week.
In the same edition, a Jordanian economist, Mr Fahed Fanek, suggested the US objective in the stand-off was "to control and confiscate Arab oil and protect Israel from any chance of a power balance in the Middle East". Several Arab commentators have questioned why Israel, with suspected nuclear and chemical weapons programs, has not been subjected to the same rigorous inspections.
The Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammed Kharrazi, said: "We believe that threats to use force do not solve anything . . . Iran is against any military strike on Iraq." as American warplanes, based at Incirlik in Turkey, are on strike alert and the British aircraft carrier HMS Invincible is steaming towards the Mediterranean from the Caribbean so it can be closer to the crisis area.
Iraqis again took to the streets of Baghdad Thursday shouting anti-American
slogans and waving Iraqi flags.About 1,500 lawyers and teachers marched
through Baghdad to the U.N. Development Program, the main U.N. office in
the Iraqi capital.
The protest, like others in recent days, reflect genuine anger at seven years of sweeping U.N. economic sanctions that have made life miserable in the once-wealthy Arab country. As the protest made its way through Baghdad, hundreds of other Iraqis, now in their fourth day, remained camped out at the Presidental Palace, offering themselves as a human shields should the United States attack.
Late Thursday U.S. efforts to have the UN Security Council condemn the expulsion of US weapons inspectors got bogged down for nearly eight hours over differences about the wisdom of withdrawing all the inspectors and a sudden, unrelated squabble between the United States and China over Tibet. Instead of warning Iraq anew of ``serious consequences'' unless it cooperates with U.N. inspections, the final version simply recalled a statement last month which used the same phrase.
In the US, antiwar groups are calling for national demonstrations to
protest new military action against Iraq as threatened by the US
adminstration. The demonstration will also call for the immediate lifting
of U.S./UN sanctions against Iraq. In New York City a demonstration has
been called for Monday, November 17 in front of the Times Square recruiting
center at 43rd Street and Broadway. Demonstrations have been set for various
cities including San Francisco and Boston.
Israeli settlements under fire
An emergency special session of the U.N. General Assembly condemned again the Israeli Government's failure to comply with previous resolutions, including the call for an end to the construction of Jebal Abu Ghneim, as several leading Israeli Likud figures discussed ways to topple Netanyahu.
The vote on the resolution was 139 to three, with 13 abstentions. Voting against were Israel, the United States and Micronesia.
The resolution condemned Israel's failure to comply with repeated Assembly demands for a halt to the construction of 6,500 homes on a site south of Jerusalem, called "Har Homa" in Hebrew and "Jabal Abu Ghneim" in Arabic. Israel captured it from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war.
Further, the Assembly called for re-injecting momentum into the stalled Middle East peace process and for the implementation of all agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and the upholding of the "land for peace" principle.
The Assembly also reiterated its recommendation that the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in time of war convene a conference on measures to enforce the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem.Switzerland was recommended to "undertake necessary steps, including the convening of a meeting of experts" by the end of February 1998, to follow up on the recommendation for a conference to enforce the convention "in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem."
AHMAD KAMAL (Pakistan) said measures aimed at changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure or status of the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, had no legal validity and must be rescinded. The deportation of local inhabitants from the occupied territories constituted a serious violation of international conventions. It was also a flagrant and unacceptable violation of The Hague resolutions of 1907, the relevant resolutions of the Security Council and the General Assembly, the Declaration of Principles, as well as the subsequent agreements concluded between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Pakistan strongly condemned all those actions and policies.
He said his country had steadfastly supported the just struggle for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. It believed that Al-Quds Al-Sharif, occupied since 1967 by Israel, was the core issue of the Arab- Israeli conflict. It remained central to any comprehensive settlement, and no lasting peace in the region would be possible without the return of Al-Quds and all occupied territories to the Palestinian people. "It was now incumbent upon the Assembly to do what the Security Council had failed to do, and ensure that the process was not undermined because of the provocative and irresponsible actions of Israel " , Mr Kamal said.
CARIDAD YAMIRA CUETO MILIAN (Cuba) said the constant in Israel's policy was the violation of the people and territory of Palestine. Cuba supported a lasting peace in the Middle East and was in favour of a return of all the Arab territories by Israel. The international community must condemn Israel for its flagrant violations of all decisions and resolutions by the international community.
She said Israel must put an end to its policies of expanding the illegal settlements which led to the destruction and demolition of many Palestinian homes. It must also cease detentions and economic policies that violated the principles of international law. It was necessary to take measures to protect the Palestinian people, international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. Her country supported the Conference of the High Contracting Parties of the Convention, which was a source of international law, coexistence of nations and human dignity, and must be respected.
Peace negotiations with the Palestinians and Israel's relations with Arab states have slid steadily into crisis since last year, largely due to Netanyahu's policy of expanding Jewish settlements in disputed areas and refusing to give up more occupied land.
In Israel former rival politicians from the left and right mulled ways to topple Netanyahu. Foreign Minister David Levy, whose centrist Gesher party accounts for five of the government's six-seat majority in parliament, met privately with Labor Party chief Ehud Barak on Thursday for the first time since the Netanyahu coalition came to power in May 1996.
"The Likud today is being run by a group of power-hungry, power-drunk, unrestrained people headed by a man who misled and deceived his colleagues,'' said Begin, son of late Prime Minister Menachem Begin, the Likud Party's founder on Thursday.
Meanwhile the Israeli Prime Minister arrived in the United Kingdom on Thursday to find himself under indirect, posthumous attack in the Guardian newspaper from Jewish philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin, an opponent of the Israeli leader's hard-line stance on the Palestinian issue. Berlin died last week.
Libyan rally against UN sanctions
A Libyan rally headed to Tunisia to support unity among the Arab peoples and to condemn toughening the sanctions against Libya for its refusal to hand over two Libyan citizens suspected of exploding a Pan American plane over Lockerbie. The demonstrators also expressed anger at the UN sanctions imposed on Iraq.
Libya had confirmed its commitment with continuing work for achieving the comprehensive Arab unity from the Atlantic Ocean to the Arab Gulf as a necessity to encounter the dangers and challenges faced by the Arab nation in its presence and its future.
A celebration was held on the Libyan-Tunisian borders on the occasion
of the passage of the Libyan rally to Tunisia, during which a popular meeting
was also held in the Ras Gadid region in Libya.
On Monday The African Group of States at the United Nations has formally requested an open debate in the Security Council on the dispute between Libya and the United States and the United Kingdom over the Lockerbie affair. The meeting should take place "when the United Nations sanctions over the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya next come up for review and discussion", according to a letter submitted by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) committee designated to deal with the matter.
The Security Council imposed sanctions against Libya for failing to turn over two Libyan nationals suspected of involvement with the 1988 crash of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland as well as the 1989 crash of a UTA DC-10 over Niger.
In its most recent communication to the Security Council, Libya requested that the Council lift the sanctions against it. Libya has also asked that the review of sanctions take account of resolutions adopted by the OAU, the League of Arab States, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Non-Aligned Movement which request that sanctions be lifted and that the two suspects be tried in a neutral country. The Security Council is also requested to send a representative of the Secretary-General to Libya to evaluate the impact of the embargo and "to ascertain that there are no links between Libya and terrorism".
Shin Bet agent urged killing of Rabin
A secret report on the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin reveals that an agent of the Shin Bet security service urged the killer to carry out the shooting, Israel TV reported Monday.
People who have read the report say Avishai Raviv, an extreme-right activist who worked with the security agency, was a close friend of convicted assassin Yigal Amir and told him that Rabin should be killed, Israel TV said.
Parts of the report are expected to be published Wednesday, Israel TV said. The Israeli Cabinet recommended Monday that the report be opened, but the decision awaits approval of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Last week, Cabinet ministers were allowed to read the report, an addendum to the conclusions of a state inquiry commission that investigated the November 1995 assassination. Only a few officials had seen it previously.
Raviv was the leader of the radical group Eyal and was known for leading some of the most virulent protests against Rabin's policies. He is said to have been a Shin Bet agent whose job was to keep the agency informed on ultranationalist circles. Whether he was on salary is unclear. The TV report said the addendum could raise questions about whether Raviv should have known about Amir's plans, and even about whether he helped drive Amir to the shooting.
It also describes Raviv's recruitment and his activities while working
for the Shin Bet, such as inciting right-wingers, beating Arabs, burning
tires on Arab-owned cars and distributing posters of Rabin in a Nazi S.S.
uniform, Israel TV said.
U.S. Sanctions Stiffen Mass Resistance
By Gloria La Riva Baghdad, Iraq
Noted international human-rights attorney Ramsey Clark visited Iraq Nov. 5 to Nov. 10 with a delegation from the International Action Center. Our group came here to expose the genocidal effects of the sanctions imposed primarily by the U.S. military, and to express solidarity with the Iraqi people as they face new war threats from Washington.
Just getting here was a challenge. Because the U.S. prohibits any plane flights to Iraq, we had to drive 12 hours from Amman, Jordan, to Baghdad.
In trips to hospitals and in travel throughout Iraq we witnessed suffering of devastating proportions caused by the lack of basic medicines, food and clean drinking water--all brought about by the sanctions.
The U.S. government claims its latest military threat against Iraq is part of a campaign to uncover Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction." But its real objective remains what it has been since the end of the U.S. bombing of Iraq in 1991: to justify the continued use of United Nations sanctions.
These sanctions are the real weapons of mass destruction. Sanctions are a vicious and genocidal means of warfare that the U.S. increasingly employs against any country that does not bend to its will. In the case of Iraq, the blockade has now killed 1.4 million people since March 1991, including 560,000 children under the age of five.
SANCTIONS STILL KILL
According to the nation's Ministry of Health, 6,000 Iraqi people died in October and the numbers are growing. Health Minister Umeed Madhat Mubarak said, however, that the country's health care providers are engaging in remarkable efforts to try to save as many people as they can.
"Doctors are using many different alternatives," said Mubarak. "We have had very good results from a national rationing card system for the 700,000 people with chronic illness, diabetes and malignancies who should take drugs monthly. We can't provide them full doses but it is a successful method."
But even these creative measures are limited attempts to overcome the extreme shortages caused by the total blockade. Before sanctions, Iraq imported $500 million worth of medicines from Jordan. Last year it could only afford $7 million worth.
At Basra's General Hospital we saw a 15-year-old boy in a coma near death. The doctors can only give him one of the six pints of intravenous fluids needed to sustain his life because more is not available. A 34-year-old man lay in pain, unable to have kidney dialysis because there are no catheters to administer his treatment. He awaits a slow but certain death.
At Qaddisiyah hospital in Baghdad, a 9-month-old baby with a swollen belly was shrieking in pain. The doctors told the visitors they cannot diagnose his illness because no diagnostic tests or reagents remain, even for simple tests. Everywhere the delegation traveled we saw the heroic efforts of doctors and nurses who struggled to clean and reuse IV bags, catheters and syringes. The sanctions have thrown Iraq, once renowned throughout the Middle East for its modern health care system, back to 17th-century levels. People are dying of preventable and curable diseases.
The UN sanctions created a "661 Committee," which decides what food or medical products Iraq will be allowed to import. These very restricted imports amount to only $1.6 billion every six months, not nearly enough for a country of 22 million people. The director of the Red Crescent Society of Iraq said Iraq's recent request for 100 ambulances was denied by the 661 Committee. He said the vehicles represent only 1 percent of the country's needs. "Now, if someone needs help, we can transport them only by bus or private taxi."
IRAQ COMPLIES, THEN FACES NEW DEMANDS
Iraq has complied with every UN resolution, only to find more demands and resolutions placed on it by the UN Security Council, under the direction of the U.S. Just as the debate on lifting the sanctions takes place, the U.S. government has managed to create a new crisis. On Oct. 23 Washington pushed a new resolution, 1134, through the Security Council despite five abstentions. Due to go into effect in six months, this resolution bans certain Iraqi officials from traveling.
Iraq announced shortly thereafter that U.S. inspectors would no longer be allowed on the UN Special Inspection (UNSCOM) teams that conduct weapons searches throughout Iraq. The U.S. news media claim that the UN teams are being denied access, but Iraq says only the U.S. members cannot be on the teams. The whole teams have refused to inspect.
Richard Butler, head of UNSCOM, said U-2 reconnaissance flights would be resumed Nov. 10, which they were. Iraq moved various equipment out of sight of possible U.S. military attack. Then the U.S. accused Iraq of hiding weapons of mass destruction.
In a special meeting in Baghdad on Nov. 9, Dr. Al-Muktar, director of the Iraqi Organization for Friendshipment, Peace and Solidarity, explained Iraq's position to Clark and the IAC members.
"After six and a half years, and big sacrifices made by Iraq, Iraq did not see any hope for the lifting of the embargo, even partially. On the contrary, the U.S. has imposed a new resolution 1134, calling for more sanctions on Iraq.
"We have to look for another option to free our people >from the genocidal plan of the U.S. We have now lost one and a half million human beings who died because of the shortage of food and medicines. And every year, we're losing hundreds of thousands of people, besides the suffering of our people, every day, every hour.
"Your visit at this time is very important to us, to inform the public opinion of the U.S. of the reality of Iraq. We have no other option but to resist the U.S. intention to destroy our society, to ignite civil wars, to dismantle the Iraqi state into smaller states, as they have done in Yugoslavia and Rwanda."
CLARK SUPPORTS IRAQI DEMAND
Ramsey Clark responded, "It was never right that any Americans should be on the inspection team. Not only are they not neutral but their nation, their government has the direct policy and commitment to continue the sanctions."
Iraq's stance of calling for the removal of the U.S. inspectors, and of demanding an end to the sanctions, is a courageous act, given the overwhelming power and military presence of the U.S. Pentagon in the region.
It is hoping for international support to end the blockade, whose only objective is the disintegration of Iraq. As of Nov. 11, France, Russia, India and the Arab League have called for no U.S. military action against Iraq.
Unity among the Iraqi people is evident, and programs such as the country's national food rationing and distribution system, which guarantees a minimum diet, have created a sense of unified struggle.
The IAC group visited the massive distribution warehouse for the 1.3-million Saddam City district of Baghdad. Workers are busy 24 hours a day loading and delivering flour, rice, infant formula, tea, cooking oil, sugar and salt to every person through neighborhood stores at greatly subsidized prices.
"The International Action Center stands with the people of Iraq against this genocide," said delegation member Deirdre Sinnott. "All progressive people must recognize this crisis for what it is--an attempt by the U.S. to crush Iraq."
Arab-American accuses Butler of racism
In a letter to the editor published in the New York Times, Nov.
12, 1997 media spokesman of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
accused Richard Butler, executive chairman of the United Nations Special
Commission to disarm Iraq of racist comments against Arab people. The letter
Are we really to believe that the presumed deviousness of the Iraqi leadership is a result of Arab culture? Is the double-talking of politicians in this country the result of Western culture?
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
Mr Husseini called for people to send protests to: