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Iraq, Saddam and the Gulf War

January 17, 2001


It was 10 years ago yesterday that the U.S. unleashed the power of the Empire against the country of Iraq after created the regional conditions that lead to the Iraq-Iran and then the Iraq-Kuwait-Saudi wars. In that period of time somewhere in the number of 1.5 million Iraqis have been killed, the history of the Middle East altered, the future of the region more uncertain and dangerous than ever. The "mother of all battles" is not over. Saddam remains in power now to face another George Bush, Commander in Chief; this time with the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff wearing a suit as Secretary of State. Saddam is no hero. And the Middle East is far more complicated than it is usually portrayed. These two articles were published in The Independent yesterday.


Ten years ago today, Patrick Cockburn was one of just a handful of journalists to stay on at Baghdad's al-Rashid hotel as the first allied planes flew in. Here, he recalls the terrifying night the air war in the Gulf began

[The Independent - 16 January 2001]
As the allied planes flew towards Iraq on the first day of the Gulf air war, I sat waiting for them by the open window of my room on the fifth floor of Baghdad's landmark al-Rashid hotel. The UN ultimatum to Saddam Hussein to pull his army out of Kuwait had expired on 15 January - and now, down in the lobby, expectation was turning to panic as people realised that after months of waiting the bombing was finally about to begin. Some American TV crews, fearing Iraqi retaliations, had decided to flee at the last minute to Jordan, and were hurriedly loading their equipment on to trucks.

The al-Rashid, a tall, modern building used by the Iraqi government to house official guests, had double-glazed bullet-proof windows. This was comforting in a way, but as I waited for the bombs to fall, I worried that an explosion close to the hotel would shatter the heavy glass, turning the shards into lethal pieces of shrapnel. I decided to keep the window open that night, though it was bitterly cold outside. Kneeling on the floor, wrapped in a blanket for warmth, I gazed out over the silent city, gripped by a mixture of fear and exhilaration.

I got used to the whooping of the air-raid sirens in the coming weeks, but on that first night they sounded peculiarly menacing. A few minutes after their first warning note, at about 3am, anti-aircraft guns opened up across the city, sending streams of yellow tracer into the night. Shells from other guns sparkled like white daisy-chains as they exploded overhead. The Iraqis were clearly not short of ammunition. Then, from behind the hotel, there began the staccato roar of a battery of anti-aircraft guns perched on earth mounds above the river Tigris.

At first I mistook the Iraqi AA missiles exploding on the horizon for the first US bombs or Tomahawk missiles. But then a huge pillar of flame seemed to erupt from the top of a telecommunications building a mile or so away, on the other side of the park that housed Baghdad zoo. More bombs and missiles followed, silhouetting buildings against the explosions. My windows survived the attack, but a few seconds after each blast I felt a gentle puff of air against my face.

I was in Baghdad covering the crisis for The Independent - and I recall worrying that elsewhere in the al-Rashid, Peter Arnett of CNN was giving a blow-by-blow account of the bombing to viewers around the world. This meant that whatever I wrote might seem old hat to readers who had stayed up into the night when it was published the following morning. And I was eager to find out more about the damage, in case the Iraqis locked the remaining Western journalists in the hotel or kicked us out of the country.

So, in the early dawn, with Baghdad still shrouded in a chill white mist, I set off from the al-Rashid with Maggie O'Kane, then of the Irish Times, and headed first for the telecommunications tower on the opposite side of the river from the Mansour Melia hotel, where British hostages had been held after the invasion of Kuwait the previous August. From a distance, the building looked undamaged, but as we got closer we could see that its outline was more jagged than usual. Laser-guided bombs had blown holes in the third and fifth floors and had melted the satellite dishes on the roof.

Elsewhere in the city, the smart bombs and cruise missiles had hit ministries and security headquarters. The building housing the ruling Baath Party had a large bite taken out of its roof. The Ministry of Justice looked normal but a missile had ripped apart its insides. There was smoke rising from Saddam Hussein's presidential compound and the military intelligence headquarters looked as if it too had been hit.

But the destruction had less impact on the Iraqi government than appeared from television pictures. This was not the first time Baghdad had been attacked in recent history. The Iranians bombarded the city during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, and ever since government institutions had alternative locations to which they had already transferred.

I later asked an Iraqi intelligence officer in exile where Saddam and his key officials had been during the bombing. "I can tell you where we weren't," he replied. "We didn't hide in any underground command bunkers. We assumed the Americans knew about them and had the bombs to penetrate through the reinforced concrete." Saddam himself turned out to be living mainly in a middle-class suburb called al-Tafiya, moving house every few days. He travelled in cheap, inconspicuous cars, sometimes accompanied by only a single bodyguard - a colonel who himself wore no insignia of rank.

But though the government had survived the first day of the bombing largely intact, ordinary Iraqis were in a state of collective shock. Six months earlier, many had favoured Saddam's invasion of Kuwait (on 2 August). But the last thing they wanted was another war. Several hundred thousand Iraqis, from a population of only 18 million, had died or been wounded fighting Iran. As the allied armies assembled in Saudi Arabia, they knew they could not fight the whole world. "We didn't expect a war," an Iraqi general sent to Kuwait later recalled. "We thought it was all a political manoeuvre."

On the last day of peace I had toured Baghdad. There was an ill-attended protest rally of school children outside the British embassy organised by the Baath party. Horses were still being exercised by their trainers near the al-Mansur race-track. The largest public gathering I could find turned out to be a meeting of pigeon fanciers.

It was not that the Iraqis were ill-informed about what was happening There was little on Iraqi television and radio but people spent hours listening to foreign radios in Arabic, switching from the BBC to Radio Monte Carlo to Voice of America. "Our main hobby is listening to the radio," said one.

But if people in Baghdad did have qualms about Saddam's refusal to pull out of Kuwait, there was nothing they could say or do about it, apart from voting with their feet. There was a pervasive fear that Saddam would fire a Scud missile, armed with a biological or chemical warhead, at Israel - and that the Israelis would respond with a nuclear strike on the Iraqi capital.

Among those who stayed in Baghdad, mostly too poor to leave, on the first day of the war the mood was fatalistic. Some made formal declarations of defiance towards the US, probably thinking this was the only safe course when talking to a foreign journalist. But in a dilapidated cafe near Nasr Square, one old man stopped drinking tea to relate a story about how divine intervention might yet save good Muslims.

He repeated the old tale from the Koran of how the Abyssians once "brought elephants to conquer Mecca. At first the Bedouin warriors were frightened by the beasts, but God sent birds to Mecca who dropped stones on the elephants and killed them". Saddam had recently told the same story, adding the significant fact that he had recently learned that the elephant was the symbol of President Bush's Republican Party.

But the way the old man told the story, with exaggerated gestures and to the sound of giggles of others in cafe, it suggested a different, more dissident, message: unless God could come up with magical birds, Iraq had no hope against the allied elephants.

Over the next few weeks, the decline in the living conditions of our small band of journalists in the al-Rashid reflected the collapse of civil life in Baghdad. The previous year, the menu had boasted lobster cooked three different ways. By the first week in February, breakfast consisted of a fried egg sitting in a pool of jam.

But it seemed tasteless to complain, since everyone else in Iraq was so much worse off. The hotel at least had a small generator, not powerful enough to work the lifts, but it provided a flickering light on the stairs. In the rest of Baghdad, after the first bombs fell on the morning of 17 January, there was no electricity at all. Many wealthier Iraqis had prepared for war by stocking their deep freezes with meat.

But without power, the meat was rotting, producing a penetrating stench which hung over entire districts.

In poorer districts, garbage collectors noticed a sinister change. Before the war a third of all garbage consisted of food scraps. Now, thanks to the war and sanctions, these had disappeared; food was too precious to throw away. Everything, even melon skins, was being eaten.

This abrupt return to the living standards of the Middle Ages came about because of an astonishing oversight by the Iraqi leadership. It should have been obvious to them that their oil refineries would be high up on the allied target list. Despite this - and the fact that Iraq was entirely dependent on motorised transport - they had not stockpiled any petrol. In a few days the fuel started to run out. I bought a bottle in what was known as "the thieves market" in a vast working class slum on the far side of the Tigris. It turned out to have been laced with water, so my car periodically ground to a halt. The petrol famine crippled Iraq far more effectively than the allied destruction of roads and bridges.

It had been obvious from the start of the war that any journalist who stayed in Baghdad was going to be portrayed as a catspaw of Iraqi propaganda. The White House and the Pentagon believed they had lost in Vietnam because of a hostile media - and they were not going to let it happen again. Peter Arnett was pilloried for querying the official line that all bombs and missiles hit their targets. The British journalists who stayed in Baghdad were less vulnerable. But the Iraqis had introduced a lackadaisical censorship, whereby an official - often with an uncertain grasp of English - would stand beside us as we dictated our copy over a satellite telephone. Not unreasonably, italicised health warnings began to appear at the bottom of articles, saying they had been censored by the Iraqis.

I did not quite realise that the US and its allies were presenting the air campaign as an entirely new type of war in which only military and government targets were being hit. It was true that the laser-guided bombs and cruise missiles were very accurate, but videofilm showing them demolishing large buildings rather missed the point. Accuracy only matters if you know your target. Armies and security forces are good at hiding themselves. General Wafiq al-Samarrai, the former head of Iraqi intelligence, now in exile, told me later that in the entire air war "the Iraqi army didn't lose a single officer over the rank of brigadier".

On the ground in Baghdad, one could sense as the days went by that the allied airforces were getting to the bottom of their target list. They hit the ruins of the Baath party headquarters half a dozen times. Iraqi Information Ministry officials took us to see the bombed-out remains of a factory. The Pentagon claimed it was a biological warfare plant while the Iraqis said it produced baby milk. It seemed likely the Iraqis were telling the truth. Drifts of milk powder were heaped against the walls. In a desk in an office in the factory, I found detailed letters from foreign consultants about the financial problems of producing powdered milk.

The drama of the air war over Iraq masked a simple truth. The allied elephant, as the old man in the Baghdad café had hinted, was always, barring divine intervention, going to crush little Iraq. This would have happened even without the air campaign, which destroyed much of what the Iraqis had built over the previous 50 years. The only real surprise of this war was that Saddam Hussein survived his defeat.

Patrick Cockburn is the co-author with Andrew Cockburn of 'Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein', published by Verso (£17)

By Robert Fisk

[The Independent - 30 December 2000]
When the Egyptian journalist Mohamed Heikal visited Iraq during the early years of Saddam's rule, he met the minister for industry. Heikal was impressed by the intense, hard-working, intellectual man running Iraq's dynamic industrial output. So on his next visit, Heikal asked to meet him again. Officials explained that they had no information about the minister and all enquiries should be addressed to His Excellency the President. So when at last Heikal turned up for his interview with the dictator of Iraq, he asked about the minister for industry.

"He's gone," Saddam said. "Gone?", asked Heikal There was a pause. "We scissored his neck - he was suspected of being a traitor." But was there any evidence of this, the appalled Heikal asked. Was there any proof? "In Iraq, we don't need proof," Saddam replied, "suspicion is enough." In Cairo, he went on, Egyptians might have a white revolution. "In Iraq we have a red revolution." Heikal was horrified. But should he have been surprised?

There is about Saddam Hussein a peculiar ruthlessness, an almost calculated cruelty, perhaps even an interest in pain. It wasn't enough to order the murder of his sons-in-law after their return from exile in Jordan. They had to be dragged away with meat hooks through their eyes. It wasn't enough to order the hanging of the Observer journalist Farzad Bazoft in 1990; Bazoft was to be left unaware of his fate until a British embassy official turned up at the Abu Ghorraib prison to say goodbye. At Abu Ghorraib, women prisoners are allowed a party the night before one of them is to be hanged.

Women are dispatched on Thursdays. Families are asked to bring their own coffin when a relative has been executed.

And yet we loved him. In the days when Saddam clawed his way to power, personally shot members of his own cabinet, or used gas for the first time on his recalcitrant Kurds, we loved him. When he invaded Iran in 1980, we gave him Bailey bridges and Mirage jets and radio sets and poison gas - the Mirages from France, the poison gas, of course, from Germany - and US satellite reconnaissance pictures of the Iranian front lines. I once met the Cologne arms dealer who personally took the photos from Washington DC to Baghdad. The Russians poured in their new T-72 tanks. Saddam's war against Iran - the greatest mass killing in modern Middle Eastern history until the UN sanctions of the last decade - was designed to appeal to both Arabs and the West. For the Arabs who tamely poured their millions into his armoury, Kuwait among the most prominent, his Iraqi sons were wading through anharr al-damm - literally "rivers of blood" - to defend the al-bawwabah al-sharqiyah, the "Eastern Gateway" to the Arab world and Saudi Arabia. To the West, he was fighting off Khomeini's Islamic hordes. Asked why the Iraqis used gas against their enemies, one of his senior confidants replied: "When you weed the lawn, you have to use weed-killer."

Blundering, ignorant of Western (though not Arab) history, largely uneducated, an original Tikriti corner-boy whose first political act was an attempted assassination and an escape, wounded, into the desert; how did he do it? How come the man who defied George Bush senior is still there to defy George Bush junior? How come, 10 years after the "mother of all battles" - a phrase typical of Saddam - and 10 years after UN sanctions that have killed at least a million Iraqis, Saddam is still enjoying his palaces and cigars?

The French are a clue. They idolised Saddam in the late Seventies. He was feted on his arrival at Orly, dined out by the Mayor of Paris (a certain M Chirac), swamped with champagne as he watched a bull-running circus in central France. For the French, he was a kind of Jacobin, the reformer-turned-extremist whose reign of terror had a power all its own. Saddam's "red revolution" was always rubber-stamped by the democratic mockeries of Iraq - he asked the Kurds of a northern Iraqi town if he should hang Bazoft and their cries of affirmation doomed the correspondent - but somehow, in a crazed way, it was modern and progressive. Iraq's hospitals and medical care were on a par with Europe, women's rights were rigorously enforced, religious insurrection was suppressed in blood.

And he was - and is - a very intelligent man. When I first saw him, in 1978, he was espousing the merits of nuclear power, of binary fission (technology courtesy of his beloved France). Self-confident, quoting from Arab poets and writers, replying to foreign journalists who snapped at him, with humour and history. Asked, in view of his little speech, about the danger of nuclear weapons proliferation, he replied: "Ah, you must not ask me about Israel's 250 warheads in the Negev desert - you must ask the Israelis!" He always wore a massive wrap-around jacket with too many buttons, but his shirts and shoes were always the latest in Paris fashion.

I visited his abandoned palace in Kurdistan in 1991, one of the series of massive, fortified royal residences he continues to build across Iraq, evidence, according to Madeleine Albright, that sanctions haven't yet brought him low and thus must continue. In truth, they are evidence that sanctions clearly do not work - because they don't touch Saddam - and thus should not continue. But what was so evident about his northern palace was its tawdry nature, the poor quality of the concrete round the swimming pool, the cracked pseudo-Grecian columns in the dining-room, the under-weeded flower beds. In Baghdad, the palace lawns are better tended, but the same sense of spent taste and vulgarity pervades the president's imagery. Saddam on horseback, in Kurdish clothes, embracing babies and war heroes, riding on a charger in medieval armour to confront the Persians at the Battle of Qaddasiyeh, dressed as Nebuchadnezzar, he who conquered Syria and Palestine, sacked Ashkelon and subdued all the tribes of the Arabs. Like the king of Babylonia, Saddam decided to rebuild Babylon; and so the ancient city was ripped apart and reconstructed, Disney-style, in the image of the great man.

Even the giant egg-shell monument to the Iraqi war dead of 1980-88 is a personal museum to Saddam's family. Visit the crypt and beside the names of half a million dead you find a photograph of the young, revolutionary Saddam, on the run from the royal family, of Saddam studying in Cairo (his hero was not Hitler but Stalin), of Saddam with his first wife. Now there is a second wife - the feuding between the wives' two families is one of the causes of the ferocious bloodletting within the family. His son Oday, partly crippled in an assassination attempt while on his way to a nightclub, murdered a bodyguard at a party. "My son must be tried like any other Iraqi," Saddam announced. Then the family of the dead man - surprise, surprise - forgave Oday. Unpunished, he continued to run the highest security apparatus of the state, all the while enjoying the title of head of the Iraqi Olympic committee.

Greatness, for Saddam, is a simple affair. Victorious in war, the people love you. Strength is all. In an Arab world that sadly admires power more than compassion, he was a hero for millions of Egyptians, Saudis, Kuwaitis, Lebanese, even Syrians. "He may be ruthless," a Lebanese journalist remarked to me in 1990, "but you have to admit he's strong. He stands up to people." In reality, Saddam walks tall when his enemies are beaten. He dreams like a sleepwalker. I recall huddling with Iraqi commandos in a shell-smashed city in southern Iran in 1980 when an officer announced a personal message from Saddam to all his fighting forces. They were participating, he announced, in "the lightning war". There was even a song that played continuously on Iraqi television: "The Lightning War". Like the "Mother of All Battles", it was a mockery of the truth.

There were other hints in his war with Iran, had we but known it, of Saddam's behaviour in Kuwait. In 1983, after proclaiming the Iraqi-occupied Iranian city of Khorramshahr a bastion to be defended to the last man - Saddam's personal Stalingrad - he simply ordered his thousands of troops to abandon the fortress and march back to Iraq, just as he ordered his men to abandon Kuwait the moment the Western armies broke into Iraq in 1991. If his behaviour seems irrational, it is certainly consistent. He believed that a strong Iraq must be self-sufficient. It must make its own weapons, its own tanks, its own bullets.

A year to the day after his 1990 invasion of Kuwait, I was prowling through the wreckage of the Iraqi army along the Basra highway when I came upon an upturned ammunition truck whose cargo of battalion and brigade notebooks had been scattered across the desert, partly buried in sand. "Message from the Supreme Commander," it said in one. And there, page after page, was the text of a secret Saddam speech to his high command. Iraq, he said, must abandon its traditional confidence in other nations; it must set up its own arms factories, invent its own secret weapons. There it all was, in blue Biro, the authentic voice of Saddam speaking from beneath the very floor of the desert.

It is not so difficult to struggle into the mind of Saddam when you read this. He had invaded Iran and the West loved him. Why should they object - or fight him - when, threatened by Kuwaiti demands for the billions of dollars in "loans" used to pay off the Iran war and with the Kuwaitis apparently "stealing" Iraqi oil from beneath the Rumailah field, he invaded Kuwait? Only four months earlier, just after Bazoft's hanging, a group of American senators visited Saddam in Baghdad and assured him that "democracy is a very confusing issue - I believe that your problems lie with the Western media and not with the US government" (this from Senator Alan Simpson). Senator Howard Metzenbaum, announcing himself "a Jew and a staunch supporter of Israel", went on to tell Saddam that "I have been sitting here and listening to you for about an hour, and I am now aware that you are a strong and intelligent man and that you want peace."

So what had Saddam to fear from the US? In that last fateful interview with US ambassador April Glaspie, less than a month before the invasion of Kuwait, Saddam told Ms Glaspie that Kuwait's borders were drawn in colonial days. Saddam had always been an anti-colonialist. "We studied history at school," the luckless Glaspie replies. "They taught us to say freedom or death. I think you know well that we... have our experience with the colonialists. We have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait." In a post-war press interview, as the writer Christopher Hitchens has pointed out, Glaspie gave the game away. "We never expected they would take all of Kuwait," she said.

The Americans were going to let Saddam bite a chunk out of the Kuwaiti border. Saddam thought he had permission to gobble up all of Kuwait. And so we went to war with the Hitler of the Euphrates. And so he lives on in his palaces and bunkers while his people die for lack of clean water and medicines under the UN sanctions that are supposed to harm Saddam. We still bomb him every day - our war with Saddam has lasted 10 years now - and slowly, the Arabs, dismayed by the bloodshed in the Palestine-Israel war, are warming once more to the man who never gave in. Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia - almost all of them America's allies in 1991 - are now breaking the air embargo by flying into Baghdad. Saddam lives.

January 2001


Leila Khalid - refugee from Haifa, fighter for Palestine
(January 31, 2001)
When Palestinian liberation fighter Leila Khaled hijacked her first plane in 1969, she became the international pin-up of armed struggle. Then she underwent cosmetic surgery so she could do it again. Thirty years on, she talks to Katharine Viner about being a woman at war.

The end of Israel?
(January 30, 2001)
At a time with rampant current events breaking daily, often hourly, there is much need to remember the importance of sometimes taking time for reflection, of sometimes stepping back to contemplate both the past and the future.

Sharon - the REAL legacy of Clinton and Barak
(January 30, 2001)
As the Barak era fades from view -- more short-lived than anyone predicted just a long year and a half ago -- his epitaph is already being written and Ariel Sharon's government and policies are already being debated.

Looming civil war in Palestine
(January 29, 2001)
Fears are growing in the international community that Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority (PA) is heading for collapse.

Arafat blasts, Peres maneuvers, Barak sinks
(January 29, 2001)
For all practical purposes Ehud Barak is gone and Yasser Arafat is now desperately trying to save his own skin.

Barak's 3 no's, and Bush's 7 minute call
(January 28, 2001)
The Americans leaked it, a 7-minute Saturday call from the new U.S. Pres to the sinking Israeli PM -- leaked its brevity that is.

The Bomb and Iraq
(January 28, 2001)
As war clouds gather in the Middle East public opinion is being prepared for a possible regional war that could likely include a combined Western/Israeli effort to take out the weapons of mass destruction in Syria, Iraq and Iran.

The "nuts" in the next room
(January 27, 2001)
In recent years Israel's most important and serious newspaper, Ha'aretz, has taken to not only reporting Palestinian affairs much more deeply but to interviewing major Palestinian personalities abroad.

Get ready for Prime Minister Sharon
(January 27, 2001)
The new Ma'ariv-Gallop poll questioned a particularly large sample of 1,100 people, putting special emphasis on the Arab population and new immigrants.

Panic in the Barak camp
(January 27, 2001)
All the tricks and lies of the Israeli Labor Party have now come back to haunt it. Barak, never a politician, bears the brunt of popular blame for all the political deceptions and tricks that have for so long accumulated.

War alert in Europe and Middle East
(January 27, 2001)
We've noted the "war fever" growing in the region for some months now. There's considerable anxiety about who may now strike first.

Israeli and Jewish soul-searching
(January 26, 2001)
The Intifada, coupled with Israeli brutality and recognition that the term "Apartheid Peace" is in fact applicable after all, are having an effect on at least some Israelis and some Jews; even while Ariel Sharon marches to the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem (and maybe because of this).

"Disastrous" American intervention
(January 26, 2001)
ou've got to wonder about these Palestinian "negotiators". What others saw decades ago those who have been most involved are apparently beginning to see only now.

Sharon marches on, Barak stumbles on
(January 25, 2001)
The 554,000 Arabs eligible to vote represent 12.3 percent of the electorate. The Arab turnout in 1999 was 76%, and 95% voted for Barak.

An alliance of the outcasts? Iran, Iraq and Syria
(January 24, 2001)
So the Israelis are going to elect war-criminal tough-guy General Ariel Sharon to be Prime Minister. This after the most top-heavy military-intelligence government in peacetime history for Israel -- that of General Ehud Barak.

General Powell says no to sanctions on behalf of Corporate America
(January 23, 2001)
Hamas has struck again and the "negotiations" are "suspended" again. Two Israelis were assassinated by masked men while eating at a restaurant in Tulkarm. Though this time it was Israelis who were killed it was another warning to Yasser Arafat. Last week similarly masked men in Gaza killed a close Arafat friend, the head of Palestinian TV in Gaza, just as it was rumored Arafat was about to sign some kind of new deal with the Israelis.

EyeWitness Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa
(January 23, 2001)
The depressing element of this entire struggle is that the Arafat regime survives and...will be the one to ultimately determine the fate of the Palestinian people.

War Fever - Israel and Syria
(January 23, 2001)
Tensions continue to grow in the Middle East region, armies continue to prepare, public opinion continues to be manipulated. Though Ehud Barak too is a militarist -- a former commando, General, and Chief of Staff of the Army -- Ariel Sharon brings with him historical baggage and war-criminal image which could easily contribute to a clash of armies sooner rather than later, even if not fully intended by either side.

EyeWitness Gaza
(January 22, 2001)
A year or so ago, I visited the Mouwasi area in Gaza. It was a green paradise, on top, and in the midst, of white sand dunes. I particularly remember this Guava grove, where the guavas hanging from the trees were the size of large oranges; I hadn't seen anything like that ever before.

Reaping what they have sown
(January 22, 2001)
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak abruptly cut short a radio interview on Sunday after being asked about his poor showing in opinion polls, prompting speculation he was buckling under pressure of a February 6 election.

Israel's president departs
(January 21, 2001)
There has never been, and there probably never will be, a president who had such fantastic relations with the State of Israel. It's unbelievable.

Ross officially join Israeli lobby
(January 19, 2001)
During the Lebanon War of 1982 -- some think of it as Sharon's war -- the Israelis and their American Jewish friends felt they had a difficult time when it came to public relations. And when the American Marines pulled out, symbolizing the failure of the Israelis to force Lebanon into the American-Israeli orbit and out of the Syrian-Arab one, the Israelis realized that they had much power in Washington on Capitol Hill, but not enough power with the media, intellectuals, and think-tanks.

War preparations in Israel
(January 19, 2001)
It's always called "The Peace Process" but more behind-the-scenes the whole Middle East region continues to be an arms bazaar with more weapons being sold to the countries in the area than ever before, most by American arms merchants and allies.

Palestinian TV Head killed
(January 17, 2001)
It may have been a warning to Arafat not to dare sign any new agreements, as has been rumored in the past few days he was planning to do tomorrow in fact. It may have been another Israeli assassination - though usually they don't take such risks and use such methods, strongly preferring instead to use high-technology and long-distance means.

Iraq, Saddam and the Gulf War
(January 17, 2001)
It was 10 years ago yesterday that the U.S. unleashed the power of the Empire against the country of Iraq after created the regional conditions that lead to the Iraq-Iran and then the Iraq-Kuwait-Saudi wars. In that period of time somewhere in the number of 1.5 million Iraqis have been killed, the history of the Middle East altered, the future of the region more uncertain and dangerous than ever.

Last night in Gaza ghetto
(January 16, 2001)
It's quite a game of international political brinkmanship. At the same time that Yasser Arafat is being tremendously pressured, and quite possibly further tricked, to sign some kind of "framework agreement" with Clinton and Barak before it is too late -- his regime is also being threatened with extinction both from within and without.

Generals Sharon and Barak as politicians
(January 16, 2001)
With Jan 20 (Clinton leaves office) and Feb 6 (Barak likely to be defeated by Sharon) fast approaching, desperation and near panic are evident in the traditional power centers, including various Arab capitals.

"Unilateral separation" one way or another
(January 15, 2001)
The separation plan would go into the event of one of the following three scenarios: as a response to a unilateral declaration of statehood on the part of the Palestinians; under a severe security threat; or as part of an agreement with the Palestinian Authority

Up in arms against Apartheid
(January 13, 2001)
At the end of the second millennium, three million Palestinians are imprisoned in ghettoes by the very man whom the Palestinian leadership hailed as the saviour of peace. Netanyahu had driven the peace ship off course. Barak scuttled it.

Locking in Oslo
(January 12, 2001)
The Americans and the Israelis continue to try to twist the screws. Their minimum goal now is to "lock in" the "Oslo Peace Process" approach to the conflict. It may be an "Apartheid Peace", and it may have resulted in considerable bloodshed, but even so it is leading to a form of "Palestinian Statehood" and "separation" that the Israelis strongly desire as the best alternative for themselves.

Sharon charges on
(January 12, 2001)
he long-serving (now recalled to Cairo) Egyptian Ambassador to Israel was quoted saying last week that if an Israeli-Palestinian agreement isn't reached in the next two weeks there won't be an agreement for the next two decades.

"Sharon leads to peace"
(January 11, 2001)
The last time the Israeli "Arab vote" was pushed toward Shimon Peres for Prime Minister -- back in 1996 -- there was much resistance. Then Peres was acting Prime Minister after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Army had just committed the Qana massacre in Southern Lebanon, and Peres was busy trying to cover it up.

Grandfather Sharon
(January 10, 2001)
If the polls remain as disastrous as they now are for Ehud Barak, expect him to be pushed out and Shimon Peres substituted. Barak has no chance; Peres has some, especially with the "Arab vote".

The Dangerous weeks, months ahead
(January 10, 2001)
Guys like Commando-General-Prime Minster Ehud Barak don't go easily from the scene. Barak's daring-do was lavishly praised just a few years ago; now it has even the military types fretting. No telling just what Barak and friends might try in the next few weeks.

Assissination, siege and war crimes
(January 9, 2001)
The Israeli government, both as a group and as individuals, bears full responsibility for the crimes that were committed. We will do everything possible, including declaring members of this government war criminals who are eligible for trial by the world tribunal." Palestinian Authority "Minister"

Soul-searching Israelis
(January 9, 2001)
The "liberals" among them, the most cosmopolitan and internationally-oriented of the Israelis, are now getting extra nervous. Not only is Ariel Sharon coming to power, not only is regional war possible, not only are the cold treaties with Egypt and Jordan in jeopardy, but even Israel's future has come into question

Israel acts while Arafat talks
(January 8, 2001)
srael continues to take major steps designed to shrink, isolate and control the Palestinian areas forever. The policy is termed "unilateral separation" and it is linked to bringing about a so-called "Palestinian State" that serves Israeli interests, making everything worse than ever for the Palestinian "natives".

Clinton's Israel speech
(January 8, 2001)
On his way out the Presidential door Bill Clinton went to New York City to speak to his American Jewish supporters and further grease his way toward his future. This is the Bill Clinton that turned the U.S. government over to the Israeli/Jewish lobby in his years in office; of course pretending otherwise.

Specter of an "ugly future"
(January 5, 2001)
Lofty, humanitarian goals like 'peace and democracy'? No, America's primary interest in the Middle East is effective control of the world's most important energy reserves, Noam Chomsky tells Ha'aretz

Prime Minister Sharon
(January 5, 2001)
Did President Hindenburg and the German intelligentsia feel this way in 1930s when they saw that Adolf Hitler, and his brownshirt thugs, were about to be elected to power?

Barak and Sharon
(January 5, 2001)
While the Labor "Doves" are busy running ads in Arab papers showing dismembered corpses in Palestinian Refugee Camps -- with the caption "Sharon" -- the reality is that Generals Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon are more two of a kind than anything else.

Arab nations add their voices to the chorus of despair
(January 4, 2001)
All chance of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians in the near future is vanishing, destroyed by hardening opinions on both sides, continuing violence, the precarious position of the political leaders involved and disagreements over key issues.

Darling of American Jewry
(January 4, 2001)
Over the years, most of the strongest advocates of Israel have usually been people who are not Jewish....[I] look forward to working with him...

Barak publicly warns of regional war
(January 4, 2001)
Amid veiled threats from the Israelis to start targeting even more senior Arafat Regime persons, and even to bring the Arafat "Palestinian Authority" to an end, Ehud Barak has also started publicly talking about the possibility of regional war.

No deal for Arafat
(January 3, 2001)
In particular, the Palestinians are concerned that the proposed settlement would create Palestinian territorial islands separated from each other by Israeli territory and therefore not viable as a nation. They object to a proposed land swap that would allow some Israeli settlers to remain on the West Bank in exchange for land that the Palestinians claim is desert and a toxic waste dump.

Arafat rushes to Washington
(January 2, 2001)
Clinton and the Israelis have set the stage for the last act of their multi-year drama attempting to trap the Palestinians on controlled reservations and calling it "an end to the conflict". But like a modern-day computer game the users can interact and change the outcome to various scenarios.

Top Palestinian Leader in the Arafat Regime
(January 2, 2001)
The whole house of political quicksand built by Bill Clinton at the behest of the Israelis (and popularly known as the "Peace Process") is bubbling, steaming, and swallowing many of its key participants.

Arafat hangs up on threatening Clinton
(January 1, 2001)
The coming issue of TIME magazine reports that Arafat hung up the phone receiver on Clinton a few days ago, turning to an aide and saying: "He's threatening me!

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