Iraq: October 24, 1999

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The US (and the West) are using a new weapon against Saddam Hussein: war crimes charges for the massacres of Iraqi Kurds in the north during the 80s in the infamous "Anfal" campaign. The Iraqis kept meticulous records of Kurds they killed, and extensive military files and orders exist directing commanders to shell villages and to select targets "in order to kill the largest number of persons". These documents were captured by Kurdish armed guerrillas during the 1991 revolt and are now in the hands of the US State Dept. The US is seeking indictments on most top Iraqi leaders and commanders, but there is a catch. No permanent war crimes tribunal exists, and to get a UN indictment, the UN must first create a court or expand the existing courts originally designed to deal with the Rwanda-Burundi massacres. The only alternative is to get a judge in some country to indict Iraqi leaders as the Spanish indicted Chilean ex-Dictator Pinochet. The problem there, however, is that Pinochet was indicted by Spain for ordering the execution of Spanish college students who went to Chile for the grand adventure of joining the communist effort to topple the government. Spain could not, under its own laws, indict an Iraqi officer for killing an Iraqi citizen, and no other country has such laws either. The effectiveness of the effort is doubtful, as Saddam and most of his top officials never leave the country and hence could not be arrested. Deputy PM Tariq Aziz, however, canceled a planned trip to Rome because he feared being arrested.--Stephen V Cole


October 24; Iraq is apparently trying to rebuild its chemical weapons arsenal with new and incredibly deadly weapons. At the pesticide plant in the desolate western Al-Saklawiyah region of al-Anbar Province, two Russian "civilian agricultural advisors" are busily surveying the plant for a major expansion. Pesticides are chemically close to nerve gas and most pesticide plants, with minor changes, could produce at least some types of nerve gas. The two men are, in fact, former Russian Army officers from the Chemical Weapons Corps, and key deputies to General Anatoly Kuntsevich. Kuntsevich tried to ship chemical weapons materials and equipment to Syria and/or Iraq in 1994, but was stopped by Russian police. Even worse, the two men are known to be experts in an entirely new class of nerve gases known as the "Novichok Agents". These new gasses, developed by the Russians during the Cold War, are five times as deadly as the VX nerve gas Iraq had before the Kuwait War, cannot be detected by existing chemical monitors, and there is no known antidote or treatment for its victims. --Stephen V Cole

October 23; Iraq continues it's media war, issuing a steady stream of press releases and dramatic TV and radio announcements. Topics include; reports of Iraqi troops repulsing US warplanes, the suffering of the Iraqi under the illegal UN embargo, the complicity of other Arab nations in the air raids and embargo, and so on. Taken individually, each of these media volleys is ridiculous, but over time, more and more people in the Middle East, and elsewhere, believe them. Over time, and nine years is nothing in a part of the world where plans are made in terms of generations, Iraq expects to be rid of the embargo and American influence in the Persian Gulf.

 

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