Pipeline Sabotage, Baghdad Bombing
Ten people were killed and 11 kidnapped in Iraq on Saturday. The current Marine offensive against guerrillas in Ramadi killed 3 and wounded 15. Al-Hayat reports this as a major US campaign in Anbar province.
Guerrillas blew up a northern pipeline on Saturday. Other guerrillas exploded a bomb in Baghdad, while in Mosul the body of a kidnapped female television presenter showed up.
James Glanz of the NYT discusses separatist or autonomist inclinations in the southern Basra province of Iraq.
Dan Murphy of the Christian Science Monitor reports on the quiet disappearance of most neighborhood “governing councils” in Iraq, the establishment of which had been touted as a Bush administration achievement in Iraq early on. The members no longe meet and many are in hiding, for fear of assassination.
Ash-Sharq al-Awsat conducted an interview with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the victorious United Iraqi Alliance list. It seems to me really odd that no major Western media has conducted an interview with him. He doesn’t probably speak English, but surely there are translators. Putin doesn’t speak English at news conferences either.
Al-Hakim, who heads the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, emphasized that he will stand vigorously against any state that attempts to interfere in internal Iraqi affairs. Sensitive to accusations that he might be a cat’s paw of Iran, he pointed out that the al-Hakims opposed the Baath party for 10 years before the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
He said no Iraqi wanted to see US troops in Iraq, and that when he consulted with the UN Security Council about a withdrawal of US troops, the UNSC told him that was a bilateral issue between the US and Iraq.
Colin Powell was pushed out as secretary of state because he sought to rein in Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, according to the Daily Telegraph. In another part of the interview, Powell criticized Rumsfeld for sending so few troops into Iraq:
‘ What went wrong for Iraq was not the military campaign, which was “brilliantly fought”, but the transition to “nation-building” that followed. In Powell’s view, there were “enough troops for war but not for peace, for establishing order. My own preference would have been for more forces after the conflict.”
Why did you make the mistake, I ask, of putting so much weight on weapons of mass destruction? Originally, the United States had happily advocated regime change. When it began to contemplate war, was it forced to abandon this line on legal and diplomatic advice, and use WMD as the casus belli?
Not really, says Powell, because the two were linked. President Clinton and Congress had a policy of regime change, but when Clinton’s Operation Desert Fox bombed Iraq for four days in December 1998, it was because of WMD. “It was intelligence over those years, including your own secret intelligence service [MI6], which said Saddam had WMD.”
So, in Resolution 1441 at the United Nations, “we gave Saddam an entry-level test: give us a declaration that answers all the outstanding questions. He failed the test of the resolution. It became a question that he was hiding something, that he was going to drag this out until the international community lost interest. “There’s no doubt in our mind that it would have lost interest. After his false declaration in response to 1441, it seemed likely he could return to his old ways. That was a gamble that the President and Tony Blair were not prepared to take.” Hence the attempt at the second resolution and Powell’s famous presentation of the WMD evidence to the Security Council.
And now Colin Powell becomes more direct: “I’m very sore. I’m the one who made the television moment. I was mightily disappointed when the sourcing of it all became very suspect and everything started to fall apart. “The problem was stockpiles. None have been found. I don’t think any will be found. There may not have been any at the time. It was the best judgment of the intelligence community, not something I made up. Clinton had been told the same thing.”
Matter-of-factly, he adds: “I will forever be known as the one who made the case.”
With five days’ notice from the President, Powell worked it up: “Every single word in that presentation was screened and approved by the intelligence community.” He cites the case of the aluminium tubes, which he presented to the world as being, probably, for centrifuges intended for nuclear weapons: “We sat down with a roomful, of analysts. The Director of Central Intelligence [George Tenet] — he’s essentially the referee on these occasions — sits down and says: ‘We have concluded that they’re not rocket bodies: it’s our judgment that these are for centrifuges’. “So that’s what I said, though I mentioned signs of differences of opinion. To this day, the CIA has not said that they aren’t for centrifuges.”
Another example was the mobile laboratories, supposedly intended for biological weapons. “I did not qualify that because they were very sure of their four sources, but the sources fell like straw men in seven months, including the famous German source [codenamed Curveball]. I don’t think the CIA has disposed definitively of that either.”
How on earth did it come about that intelligence could be so wrong? Were they guilty of telling President Bush what he wanted to hear? “I can’t say that. What I can say is that there was a little too much inferential judgment. Too much resting on assumptions and worst-case scenarios. “With intelligence, sometimes you are talking to people who are perhaps selling you lies.”
It seems that Colin Powell, the victim of weak intelligence, was also the victim of other people’s politics. He is conscious that the whole business of the aborted second UN resolution, intended to authorise attack, invites derision. “What I’m going to say will sound like spin, but think it through. We didn’t think there was a need for a second resolution, and we were quite sure of very serious problems with the French, but the UK needed and very badly wanted a second resolution. “It became clear that we were not going to get it, so we did not take it to a vote. However, a week or two later, Tony Blair was able to get the support he needed in Parliament. So my spin is that the second resolution served its purpose. The UK could say: we’ve tried but now we have to go forward.” ‘