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Baghdad undeterred

Published : Feb 14, 2003 00:00 IST


Sadoon Hammadi, Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament.-

Sadoon Hammadi, Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament.-

DESPITE the widespread international criticism, the Bush administration seems intent on mounting a full-scale military attack on Iraq. Senior American officials have indicated that they are thinking of a war in the coming weeks. This could be part of the psychological warfare waged by the State Department and the Pentagon. However, the government and people of Iraq are prepared for any eventuality. This was made clear by Sadoon Hammadi, Speaker of the Iraqi National Assembly, in New Delhi in the last week of January. The Iraqi dignitary was in the capital to attend the golden jubilee celebrations of Indian Parliament.

Refusing to be drawn into a conversation about the inevitability of war, Hammadi stressed that there was no rationale for the Bush administration to start a new aggression against his country. He pointed out that Iraq had been extending all cooperation to the United Nations weapons inspectors. French Foreign Ministry officials recently praised Baghdad for its cooperation while criticising the Bush administration's attempts to accelerate the war plans. However, Hammadi was critical of the weapons inspectors' previous record in his country.

He said that during the eight years that United Nations Special Commission (Unscom) had been in Iraq after the Gulf war, 276 inspection teams were deployed. In all 3,845 inspectors were employed to search for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and 3,912 sites were inspected. Unscom had also put in place a permanent monitoring system with 138 sophisticated cameras and sensors. Hammadi recalled that it was U.N.'s Chief Weapons Inspector Richard Butler, who withdrew the team in 1998 so that the U.S.could launch a massive air attack (Operation Desert Fox) without endangering the lives of the inspectors.

Hammadi reiterated that many of the inspectors at that time had also acted as spies for the U.S. and Israel. "We had a very bitter experience before as some of them were doing intelligence work. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has admitted this in an interview to the BBC. Rolf Eckeus, a former Unscom head, and Scott Ritter, another senior Unscom official at that time, have all said the same thing. It is an established fact.''

Despite the unpleasant experiences, Iraq had agreed in late 2002 to allow new teams of weapons inspectors. Hammadi said that his country acquiesced in deference to the wishes of the international community. He said that 230 inspectors were already in Iraq and around 280 sites had been inspected. "We want them to conduct their work in a professional manner. They should not interfere in the internal affairs of Iraq," said Hammadi.

In recent weeks, the Iraqi government has signalled its displeasure over the methods adopted by the weapons inspectors. Many Iraqis feel that some of the inspectors are again spying for the U.S., providing information on Iraq's military installations and other such relevant details, as war clouds loom.

Hammadi stressed that the conflict with the U.S. was not on the question of WMDs. "As far as WMDs are concerned, it is a categoric `no'. We have not had WMDs for many years. The U.S. has not been able to present any evidence whatsoever to the U.N. Security Council." Hammadi said that one of the main reasons for the U.S.' aggressive war design was its desire to obtain full control of the oil resources in the region. Hammadi said that the area has 75 per cent of the proven oil resources. "They control all of it, except the energy resources of Iraq."

Iraq also has an independent policy towards Israel, unlike most of its neighbours. "The Jewish lobby is behind the Bush administration. They want to liquidate the Palestinian problem, once and for all. Under the guise of the war, they want to grab all Palestinian land and crush the Palestinians." Hammadi adds that a war will also help Bush win re-election and warned that the U.S. military's moves constitute a threat to all countries. "They want to control all the economies, including that of Europe and Japan."

Hammadi described the consequences of the economic blockade on Iraq as "catastrophic". He said that the U.N.special agencies had themselves estimated that 1.7 million Iraqis had perished as a result of the economic sanctions imposed on the country in the wake of the Gulf war in 1991. Some 7,000 children die every month either owing to malnutrition or for lack of medical supplies.

As the U.N. inspectors continue with their work, American planes have increased their daily bombing runs in the "no-fly zones" of Iraq. Hammadi pointed out that the U.N. had clarified as early as on January 7, 1993, that these zones had no legal basis. As per the U.S. dictates, Iraqi planes and helicopters are prohibited from flying in the "no-fly zones", which virtually covers two-thirds of the country.

"If the U.S. wages war, we have no other choice but to stand up and fight. We are not going to turn the other cheek," Hammadi said. According to him, the spirits are "very high" among the Iraqis, and the military and the civilian administration are well organised. "Every single Iraqi will fight. We will use every method to inflict damage on the enemy. There will be some problems but we are sure that the aggressor will fail."

(This story was published in the print edition of Frontline magazine dated Feb 14, 2003.)



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