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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 67/No. 5February 10, 2003


Contribute to the Books for Cuba Fund

lead article
U.S. threatens Iraq with
war in ‘weeks not months’
UN ‘inspections’ report
brings brutal assault closer
U.S. plane fuels up over Turkish-Iraqi border. Washington is preparing to expand near-daily bombing into "largest air war in history," reported one newspaper.

President George Bush underlined Washington’s accelerating drive to war against Iraq in his State of the Union speech on January 28. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has shown "utter contempt for the United Nations, and for the opinion of the world," he said.

Bush placed the drive to war under the banner both of combating "weapons of mass destruction" and the "war on terrorism" --a phrase that has been used to justify such acts as the establishment of a concentration camp at the U.S. Naval Base in Guatánamo Bay, Cuba; the detention and deportation of hundreds of immigrants, and the jailing of a number of U.S. citizens without charges or legal rights.

The air war that has already begun, with near-daily bombing raids in the south and north of Iraq, will be expanded to "the largest air war in military history in the opening stages" of the assault, reported the January 24 New York Post. In the first day alone pilots will fly 1,500 missions and hundreds of cruise missiles will be unleashed.

A key target of invading troops will be raq’s vast oil wealth. U.S. officials told the Guardian newspaper that special forces will "secure key installations at the start of any ground campaign."

Bush, however, did not mention Iraq’s oil wealth, instead sticking to Washington’s stock justification for war against the Middle Eastern country of 24 million people--that it has developed and stockpiled "weapons of mass destruction."

"The dictator of Iraq is not disarming. To the contrary, he is deceiving," he said. Bush said he would put the issue of Iraq’s alleged "material breaches" of UN resolutions before the Security Council on February 5.

The State of the Union speech came a day after Hans Blix, the chief United Nations weapons inspector, presented a report on 60 days of "inspections." Blix assumed a "tough stance" against Baghdad, reported the Wall Street Journal.

"Overall, the presentation added to the momentum for conflict," the Journal approvingly noted.

U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell cited the report a number of times to buttress his argument that Iraq’s "time is running out." Asked by a reporter, "does this report move the administration closer to a showdown with Iraq?" he said that Washington would "not allow the process of inspections to string us out forever."

U.S. officials had telegraphed their stance toward the inspectors’ findings well ahead of Blix’s report. In an Op-ed piece published in the January 23 New York Times, for example National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice argued that "it is Iraq’s obligation to provide answers" about its alleged weapons programs. "It should know that time is running out."  
‘War within weeks’
"The message from the Bush camp: ‘It’s war within weeks,’" ran a headline in the Guardian. The January 24 article quoted a European official who said, "They’re talking about weeks, not months. Months is a banned word now."

The British government "was alarmed by the Bush administration’s sudden haste in moving toward a climax," reported the London-based daily. "It was adamant that the decision to go to war should not be declared before Tony Blair flies to Camp David for talks with Mr. Bush" on January 31. The paper reported the reassurances of an "informed source" in Washington: "Blair is a good guy. They won’t want to do that to him. They want it to look like he played a part in the policy-making but the decision has been made."

"We continue to reserve our sovereign right to take military action against Iraq alone or in a coalition of the willing," warned Powell before an audience of representatives of imperialist powers at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Through such statements Washington has made it plain to its imperialist rivals--in particular the largest European powers of France and Germany--that their backing is not decisive in setting the date to begin the invasion.  
Clashes with France, Germany
"It is the Security Council that must decide," said French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin at a meeting of EU ministers on January 27. "There is nothing that justifies" a council motion authorizing war, he said.

Villepin’s German counterpart, Joschka Fischer, was more sweeping in his comments. "War is no alternative," he said. "The inspectors have done an excellent job and have to continue."

British foreign secretary Jack Straw reaffirmed London’s status as Washington’s principal ally, telling the conference that Baghdad was "making a charade of inspection," and that its "time has almost run out. If this failure to comply continues, then Iraq will have to face serious consequences."

Associated Press reporter Paul Ames wrote in his report on the meeting that "the EU is split down the middle on the issue, with Spain, Italy, Portugal and others leaning toward the British view, while Belgium, Sweden, and Finland are in a group closer to the Franco-German position."

"I think that’s old Europe," U.S. defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld said of France and Germany the previous week, as the debate sharpened. "If you look at the entire NATO Europe today, the center of gravity is shifting to the east, and there are a lot of new members." A number of workers states, including Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, along with Malta, will become formal members of NATO in May 2004.

"This ‘old Europe’ has resilience, and is capable of bouncing back," said French Finance Minister Francis Mer.

At a January 24 joint press conference with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Powell dismissed French and German opposition. "I don’t think we’ll have to worry about going it alone," he said.

"We can already count on a substantial coalition," senior New York Times writer William Keller confirmed in the newspaper’s January 25 issue. His article, entitled, "Why Bush Won’t Wait," listed a number of U.S. allies, including the Gulf oil states, the Eastern European countries, the Turkish government, along with "the Brits, the Aussies, Italians, Spanish.... The Russians and French might even jump on the train once it’s moving, to protect their investments. Where’s the unilateral in that?"

The Turkish government’s agreement to allow the U.S. military to use its airfields and station tens of thousands of troops in the south of the country gives the U.S. war planners more options in their attack on Iraq, particularly in the north. A U.S. official said that Washington will pay Turkey $4 billion "to help...with the economic consequences of its role in that war."

The air assault in preparation will involve 500 to 700 U.S. Navy and air force planes, reported the New York Post. In its opening days, read the article, the air war will be the "largest...in military history."

CBS Television reported that the air attacks laid out by Pentagon officials will eclipse their assault in their war on Iraq of a decade ago: "If the Pentagon sticks to its current war plan, one day in March, the Air Force and Navy will launch between three and four hundred cruise missiles at targets in Iraq--more than were launched during the entire 40 days of the first Gulf War."  
Oil fields: target for ‘occupying power’
The U.S. troops in Turkey, like those invading from Kuwait, will have a specific target as they roll over the border, noted the Guardian newspaper on January 23. "The U.S. military has drawn up detailed plans to secure and protect Iraq’s oilfields," reported the British paper.

One official told reporters that "a plan to protect the multibillion pound oil wells was ‘already in place,’ hinting that special forces will secure key installations at the start of any ground campaign."

Iraq has the world’s biggest known oil reserves after Saudi Arabia, producing about 1.5 million barrels a day. That figure "could rise to 6 million barrels a day within five years with the right investment and control," predicted the Guardian.

The big-business paper claimed that U.S. forces were motivated by "immediate concern about the environmental impact of having Iraqi wells on fire as happened in 1991 when Iraqi troops set Kuwait’s oil wells ablaze. In addition, it noted, "U.S., British, Russian, French and other international oil companies are already taking soundings about Iraq’s multibillion pound oil supply."

British Foreign Office minister Michael O’Brien said on January 22 that "the charge that the motive is greed--to control Iraq’s oil supply--is nonsense, pure and simple."

Asked by a Boston Globe reporter if U.S. companies would operate the oil fields, Secretary of State Powell said, "I don’t have an answer to that question. If we are the occupying power, it will be held for the benefit of the Iraqi people and it will be operated for the benefit of the Iraqi people."

Vice-president Richard Cheney and Pentagon officials want to commandeer "revenues from the oil fields to pay for the daily costs of the occupation force until a democratic government can be installed," reported the Guardian.
Related articles:
London: 40,000 troops for Iraq war
U.S. prepares bloody assault
Why antiwar protests don’t stop wars

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