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U.S. Bent on Attacking Iraq, Mideast Experts Say
Published on Thursday, September 19, 2002 by Inter Press Service
U.S. Bent on Attacking Iraq, Mideast Experts Say
by Thalif Deen
 

UNITED NATIONS - The United States is likely to launch a military attack on Iraq despite President Saddam Hussein's decision to invite U.N. arms inspectors into his country, Middle East experts and legal scholars predicted Wednesday.

'It appears that the U.S. administration is dead-set on a war against Iraq no matter what,'' Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois in Chicago, told IPS.

Boyle said that U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney has already made it clear that inspections were really not the issue. The United States is bent on ''regime change'' in Iraq, which Boyle points out, ''is prohibited under the terms of the United Nations charter''.

Inspections, not war
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld goes over his notes on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2002 as Capitol Hill police escort protestors against President Bush' Iraq policy during a hearing Iraq before the House Armed Services Committee. The two protesters, chanting ``Inspections, not war,'' briefly interrupted Rumsfeld's testimony. (AP Photo/J.Scott Applewhite)
Chris Toensing, editor of the Washington-based Middle East Report, said the administration had invested too much political capital in ''regime change'' to give up its hard-line.

''Administration officials have a history of saying that arms inspections cannot be trusted to contain the 'mortal threat' of the Iraqi regime's putative weapons of mass destruction,'' he added.

Ironically, Toensing argued, the United States may now try to delay the return of inspectors in order to give Saddam the opportunity to change his mind.

Fearing that U.N. inspectors would declare their readiness to move into Iraq immediately, the United States and Britain Wednesday played for time while trying to strengthen their case for a military attack on Baghdad.

At the U.N. Security Council, the two veto-wielding permanent members wanted to postpone a briefing by Hans Blix, head of the arms inspection team, the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC).

''The last thing that the United States and Britain want is for Blix to come before the Security Council and say that his team is ready to leave for Iraq in the next two weeks,'' a Third World diplomat told IPS.

He said the countries do not want movement until they can push through a resolution laying down tough new conditions on Iraq.

U.S. President George Bush said Wednesday that Iraq's invitation is ''a ploy, a tactic. (Saddam) is not going to fool anybody,'' Bush added.

He also reaffirmed that Washington would seek a new Security Council resolution before U.N. inspectors are sent to Baghdad.

On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov publicly disagreed with the United States, arguing there is no need for a new resolution.

The Security Council, he said, should send the inspection team as soon as possible to determine the key issue in dispute: whether or not Iraq still possesses weapons of mass destruction.

While the United States and Britain wanted Blix to appear before the Council on Monday, the other 13 members wanted the meeting held immediately. As a compromise, the Council decided to summon Blix on Thursday.

Ali Abunimah of the Chicago-based Arab-American Action Network said the issue of inspections is a test of the intentions and sincerity of the United States - as it is of Iraq.

After all, he said, Iraq did for the most part cooperate with nine years of arms inspections, resulting in the destruction of the vast majority of its weapons by 1998.

''We shall see whether, as many people in the world suspect, the United States had simply used the demand for renewed inspections as a pretext for war, calculating that Iraq would not go along with them, or whether the United States is prepared to seek a genuine solution to the crisis in partnership with the international community,'' he added.

Hans von Sponeck, a former U.N. assistant secretary-general who headed the U.N. ''oil-for-food'' humanitarian program, said the worst thing that could happen to the U.S./UK plans to attack Iraq is for U.N. inspectors to conclude that there is no 'imminent threat' from Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

''The two governments will therefore retain a tough line and look for any opportunity to disrupt the inspection process,'' von Sponeck told IPS.

When U.N. inspectors left Iraq in December 1998, there were charges that the United States had planted its own intelligence agents in the former inspection team - the U.N. Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) - in order to gather politically and militarily sensitive information on Iraq.

Since then, the country has insisted that no Americans or Britons should be part of the team.

But Von Sponeck said the new team should include U.S. and UK members as a matter of balance.

Blix and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan  will have ''a formidable responsibility to ensure that the days of UNSCOM spying will not return'', he added.

''They must be prepared to deal with firmness and total impartiality with any signs of misuse of the inspectors' mandate. Such misuse could make the difference between peaceful resolution of this conflict or war,'' he added.

But Boyle insisted that U.S. and UK nationals be excluded from the inspections team because of the previous history of spying and of the countries using inspections as a cloak to select targets for bombing.

''Right now, the United States and Britain are bombing Iraq as we speak here, clearly in violation of the terms of the United Nations Charter,'' he added.

© 2002 IPS

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