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Inter Press Service


13 July 2004

Arms Suppliers Scramble to Feed Hungry Market
   Thalif Deen   

When the 15-member U.N. Security Council legitimized the U.S.-imposed interim government in Baghdad in June, the five-page unanimous resolution carried a provision little publicized in the media: the lifting of a 14-year arms embargo on Iraq.

The Security Council's decision to end military sanctions on Iraq has triggered a mad scramble by the world's weapons dealers to make a grab for a potentially new multi-million-dollar arms market in the already over-armed Middle East.

The former U.S.-run Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), which handed over power to the new Iraqi government Jun. 28, finalised plans for the purchase of six C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft, 16 Iroquois helicopters and a squadron of 16 low-flying, light reconnaissance aircraft -- all for delivery by April 2005.

The proposed purchases were part of an attempt to rebuild and revitalise Iraq's sanctions-hit, weapons-starved military.

But some experts question the strategy.

''The flow of weapons to Iraq will not improve the security situation in Iraq, nor will it make the country safe from outside threats or an external invasion,'' said Naseer H Aruri, chancellor professor (emeritus) at the University of Massachusetts.

''With 140,000 U.S. military personnel, 20,000 from the so-called coalition of the willing and another 20,000 contracted civilians, Iraq remains occupied and denied effective sovereignty,'' said Aruri, author of 'Dishonest Broker, the U.S. Role in Israel and Palestine'.

''Purchasing weapons at this time, therefore, is more relevant to the needs of the occupier relating to the suppression of armed opposition, and consolidation of U.S. hegemony. Moreover, it is not appropriate for the interim government, a sub-contracting agency for the United States, to go shopping for arms as numerous arms exporting countries compete feverishly for contracts,'' he told IPS.

The United States, Britain and Jordan are providing assistance and training for the creation of a 40,000-person Iraqi army.

With blessings from the U.S. Congress, the former CPA also earmarked about 2.1 billion dollars for national security, including 2.0 billion dollars for the new army and 76 million dollars for a civil defence corps.

Since late last year, Iraq has purchased 50,000 handguns from Austria, 421 UAZ Hunter jeeps from Russia and millions of dollars worth of armoured cars from Brazil and Ukraine, along with AK-47 assault rifles, nine-millimetre pistols, military vehicles, fire control equipment and night vision devices.

The biggest single deal was a 327-million-dollar contract with a U.S. firm to outfit Iraqi troops with body armour, radios and other communications equipment. The contract has been challenged by two non-U.S. firms that lost out on the bidding process.

The decision by the CPA to purchase the handguns from the Austrian gun-maker Glock late last year evoked a strong protest to the Pentagon.

''There are a number of U.S. companies that could easily provide these weapons,'' Representative Jeb Bradley, a member of President George W Bush's Republican Party, said in a letter to U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, ''Why were other firearms companies, namely American companies, passed over?'' he asked.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded two contracts, totalling 2.7 million dollars, to U.S. firms in March this year for transmission, distribution, communications and controls for the Iraqi infrastructure. A third contract valued at 7.8 million dollars -- for a modern, digital cellular, command and control system to link the various sites of the Iraqi armed forces and the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team -- was also awarded to a U.S.-based company.

The United States has also awarded a 150-million-dollar contract for the renovation of four military bases located at Umm Qasr, Al-Kasik, Tadji and Numaniyah in various parts of Iraq. And the Pentagon has plans to expand existing military bases near Mosul, Baghdad and Kut, specifically for the U.S. army. This contract is estimated at about 600 million dollars.

''It does not seem wise to introduce new weaponry and military capability into Iraq's volatile mix of ongoing war and occupation, civil strife and political transition,'' according to Frida Berrigan, senior research associate with the Arms Trade Resource Centre, a project of the World Policy Institute (WPI).

On average, more than two U.S. soldiers are killed each day, she said, and inter-Iraqi violence is taking a deadly toll on civilians and government officials. ''Before Iraq is outfitted with high-tech weaponry, it seems that the low-tech needs of clean water and reliable electricity should be met,'' Berrigan told IPS.

In addition, if experience with the Iraqi police force is any indication of what is to come from a U.S.-armed and trained security force, she said, this is not the right time for the interim leadership to embark on an arms spending spree.

''Instead of aiding the United States in putting down the uprisings, thousands from Iraq's newly trained police force deserted, and many reportedly turned over their U.S.-issued weapons to street fighters. How many of the 135 Americans killed during that month faced American guns and ammunition?'' Berrigan asked.

''It's a well known fact that Iraq is saturated with weapons and ammunition, particularly firearms and light machine guns but also others,'' said Mouin Rabbani, a Middle East analyst based in Jordan and a contributing editor to the Washington-based 'Middle East Report'.

That is one reason why the United States has experienced so much difficulty in its efforts to eradicate the insurgency, he said: the insurgents do not appear to be dependent on a flow of weapons from outside their borders.

At the same time the Iraqi security forces, particularly the Iraqi national army once it is properly reconstituted, does not have -- or has only very few -- weapons systems normally associated with national self-defence, such as combat aircraft, artillery and air defences, Rabbani added.

''One can argue about whether or not investing in such systems constitutes a particularly wise move by the Iraqi national authorities given the numerous and severe challenges facing Iraqi society,'' he told IPS.

But it is a fact that a sovereign Iraqi state has a legitimate right to acquire sophisticated weapons systems and, given the way political and military leaders invariably behave, will seek to acquire them, he added.

Rabbani said Iraq has a long military tradition, some would even say a long tradition of militarism, and the dissolution of the Iraqi armed forces, combined with the destruction of much of the heavy weaponry that was left at the end of a previous war, means the government will have to invest considerably more in developing an effective military than would otherwise have been the case.

But, he added, ''it would be particularly reprehensible if American and other arms exporters exploit their control of Iraq and its government to foist upon it the purchase and acquisition of weapons system that are either prohibitively expensive (including systems marked up in price to make a fast buck) or unnecessary.''
If they do so, Rabbani said, they would be repeating a pattern of weapons sales seen during the past several decades to, for example, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states (part of the system known as petro-dollar recycling).

Overall military spending in the Middle East is estimated to reach about 55 billion dollars annually by 2007, rising from about 52 billion dollars in 2003, according to Forecast International, a U.S.-based defence market research organisation.

The big spenders include Saudi Arabia, which will average more than 18 billion dollars in defence spending annually through 2007, followed by Israel (over nine billion dollars), Iran (4.5 billion), the United Arab Emirates (about 3.7 billion) and Egypt (over 3.0 billion dollars).

A large proportion of the funds is earmarked for weapons purchases, mostly from the United States, Britain, France and Russia.

Iraq's first decisions concerning military acquisitions will be critical, Rabbani said, because they will virtually determine subsequent purchases (in terms of compatibility, for example).

''It therefore seems to me crucial that such decisions be made by a genuinely independent Iraqi government, upon the recommendation of a professional assessment by a genuinely independent Iraqi military high command, on the basis of both the current and future needs of the country and its existing traditions,'' he added.

Even ˛grants˛ of sophisticated weapons by the United States or other states with military export industries will interfere with this process.

''The pattern in Iraq so far is that it is being seen as a financial bonanza -- and where civilian contractors like Halliburton and Bechtel have gone, military contractors such as Lockheed and Raytheon can be expected to follow'', he added. (END/2004)

Copyright © 2004 IPS-Inter Press Service

The Los Angeles Times


14 July 2004

Advocates of war now profit from Iraq's reconstruction
  By Walter F. Roche Jr. and Ken Silverstein

WASHINGTON ‹ In the months and years leading up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, they marched together in the vanguard of those who advocated war.

As lobbyists, public relations counselors and confidential advisors to senior federal officials, they warned against Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, praised exiled leader Ahmad Chalabi, and argued that toppling Saddam Hussein was a matter of national security and moral duty.      

Now, as fighting continues in Iraq, they are collecting tens of thousands of dollars in fees for helping business clients pursue federal contracts and other financial opportunities in Iraq. For instance, a former Senate aide who helped get U.S. funds for anti-Hussein exiles who are now active in Iraqi affairs has a $175,000 deal to advise Romania on winning business in Iraq and other matters.

And the ease with which they have moved from advocating policies and advising high government officials to making money in activities linked to their policies and advice reflects the blurred lines that often exist between public and private interests in Washington. In most cases, federal conflict-of-interest laws do not apply to former officials or to people serving only as advisors.

Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, said the actions of former officials and others who serve on government advisory boards, although not illegal, can raise the appearance of conflicts of interest. "It calls into question whether the advice they give is in their own interests rather than the public interest," Noble said.

Michael Shires, a professor of public policy at Pepperdine University, disagreed. "I don't see an ethical issue there," he said. "I see individuals looking out for their own interests."

Former CIA Director R. James Woolsey is a prominent example of the phenomenon, mixing his business interests with what he contends are the country's strategic interests. He left the CIA in 1995, but he remains a senior government advisor on intelligence and national security issues, including Iraq. Meanwhile, he works for two private companies that do business in Iraq and is a partner in a company that invests in firms that provide security and anti-terrorism services.

Woolsey said in an interview that he was not directly involved with the companies' Iraq-related ventures. But as a vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting firm, he was a featured speaker in May 2003 at a conference co-sponsored by the company at which about 80 corporate executives and others paid up to $1,100 to hear about the economic outlook and business opportunities in Iraq.

Before the war, Woolsey was a founding member of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, an organization set up in 2002 at the request of the White House to help build public backing for war in Iraq. He also wrote about a need for regime change and sat on the CIA advisory board and the Defense Policy Board, whose unpaid members have provided advice on Iraq and other matters to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Woolsey is part of a small group that shows with unusual clarity the interlocking nature of the way the insider system can work. Moving in the same social circles, often sitting together on government panels and working with like-minded think tanks and advocacy groups, they wrote letters to the White House urging military action in Iraq, formed organizations that pressed for invasion and pushed legislation that authorized aid to exile groups.

Since the start of the war, despite the violence and instability in Iraq, they have turned to private enterprise.
The group, in addition to Woolsey, includes:


€  Neil Livingstone, a former Senate aide who has served as a Pentagon and State Department advisor and issued repeated public calls for Hussein's overthrow. He heads a Washington-based firm, GlobalOptions, that provides contacts and consulting services to companies doing business in Iraq.


€  Randy Scheunemann, a former Rumsfeld advisor who helped draft the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 authorizing $98 million in U.S. aid to Iraqi exile groups. He was the founding president of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. Now he's helping former Soviet Bloc states win business there.


€  Margaret Bartel, who managed federal money channeled to Chalabi's exile group, the Iraqi National Congress, including funds for its prewar intelligence program on Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction. She now heads a Washington-area consulting firm helping would-be investors find Iraqi partners.


€  K. Riva Levinson, a Washington lobbyist and public relations specialist who received federal funds to drum up prewar support for the Iraqi National Congress. She has close ties to Bartel and now helps companies open doors in Iraq, in part through her contacts with the Iraqi National Congress.

Other advocates of military action against Hussein are pursuing business opportunities in Iraq. Two ardent supporters of military action, Joe Allbaugh, who managed President Bush's 2000 campaign for the White House and later headed the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Edward Rogers Jr., an aide to the first President Bush, recently helped set up two companies to promote business in postwar Iraq. Rogers' law firm has a $262,500 contract to represent Iraq's Kurdistan Democratic Party.
Neither Rogers nor Allbaugh has Woolsey's high profile, however.

Soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, he wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal saying a foreign state had aided Al Qaeda in preparing the strikes. He named Iraq as the leading suspect. In October 2001, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz sent Woolsey to London, where he hunted for evidence linking Hussein to the attacks.

At the May 2003 Washington conference, titled "Companies on the Ground: The Challenge for Business in Rebuilding Iraq," Woolsey spoke on political and diplomatic issues that might affect economic progress. He also spoke favorably about the Bush administration's decision to tilt reconstruction contracts toward U.S. firms.
In an interview, Woolsey said he saw no conflict between advocating for the war and subsequently advising companies on business in Iraq.

Booz Allen is a subcontractor on a $75-million telecommunications contract in Iraq and also has provided assistance on the administration of federal grants. Woolsey said he had had no involvement in that work.
Woolsey was interviewed at the Washington office of the Paladin Capital Group, a venture capital firm where he is a partner. Paladin invests in companies involved in homeland security and infrastructure protection, Woolsey said.

Woolsey also is a paid advisor to Livingstone's GlobalOptions. He said his own work at the firm did not involve Iraq.

Under Livingstone, Global- Options "offers a wide range of security and risk management services," according to its website.

In a 1993 opinion piece for Newsday, Livingstone wrote that the United States "should launch a massive covert program designed to remove Hussein."

In a recent interview, Livingstone said he had second thoughts about the war, primarily because of the failure to find weapons of mass destruction. But he has been a regular speaker at Iraq investment seminars.
While Livingstone has focused on opportunities for Americans, Scheunemann has concentrated on helping former Soviet Bloc states.

Scheunemann runs a Washington lobbying firm called Orion Strategies, which shares the same address as that of the Iraqi National Congress' Washington spokesman and the now-defunct Committee for the Liberation of Iraq.

Orion's clients include Romania, which signed a nine-month, $175,000 deal earlier this year. Among other things, the contract calls for Orion to promote Romania's "interests in the reconstruction of Iraq."
Scheunemann has also traveled to Latvia, which is a former Orion client, and met with a business group to discuss prospects in Iraq.

Few people advocated for the war as vigorously as Scheunemann. Just a week after Sept. 11, he joined with other conservatives who sent a letter to Bush calling for Hussein's overthrow.

In 2002, Scheunemann became the first president of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which scored its biggest success last year when 10 Eastern European countries endorsed the U.S. invasion. Known as the "Vilnius 10," they showed that "Europe is united by a commitment to end Saddam's bloody regime," Scheunemann said at the time.

He declined to discuss his Iraq-related business activities, saying, "I can't help you out there."

Scheunemann, Livingstone and Woolsey played their roles in promoting war with Iraq largely in public. By contrast, Bartel and Levinson mostly operated out of the public eye.

In early 2003, Bartel became a director of Boxwood Inc., a Virginia firm set up to receive U.S. funds for the intelligence program of the Iraqi National Congress.

Today, critics in Congress say the Iraqi National Congress provided faulty information on Hussein's efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction and his ties to Osama bin Laden.

Bartel began working for the Iraqi National Congress in 2001. She was hired to monitor its use of U.S. funds after several critical government audits. After the war began, Bartel established a Virginia company, Global Positioning. According to Bartel, the firm's primary purpose is to "introduce clients to the Iraqi market, help them find potential Iraqi partners, set up meetings with government officials Š and provide on-the-ground support for their business interests."

Bartel works closely with Levinson, a managing director with the Washington lobbying firm BKSH & Associates. Francis Brooke, a top Chalabi aide, said BKSH received $25,000 a month to promote the Iraqi National Congress, and Levinson "did great work on our behalf."

In 1999, Levinson was hired by the Iraqi National Congress to handle public relations. She said her contract with the congress ended last year. Before the invasion and in the early days of fighting in Iraq, Chalabi and the congress enjoyed close relations with the Bush administration, but the relationship has cooled.
Levinson told The Times: "We see no conflict of interest in using our knowledge and contacts in

Iraq that we developed through our previous work with the INC to support economic development in Iraq. As a matter of fact, we see this as complementary to a shared goal to build a democratic country."

Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times



14 July 2004

GAO Report Criticizes Terror Warnings

    Washington - U.S. government terror warnings to local police and citizens fail to give the specific information many authorities say is needed to protect the public, a report made for Congress said Monday.

    The report followed a series of official warnings about possible attacks - most recently voiced last week by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge - which lacked new intelligence or details on the threat and how to respond.

    The report by the Government Accountability Office, the independent, nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, was based on survey of 28 agencies and 56 states and territories.

    Those responding "generally indicated that they did not receive specific threat information and guidance, which they believe hindered their ability to determine and implement protective measures," the report said.

    Some critics have accused President Bush's administration of using terrorism warnings as a political tool. Bush has made the fight against global terrorism a major theme of his campaign for re-election.

    The administration denies playing politics with terror threats, but a GAO official said the warning system's credibility could be undermined by vague announcements.

    "When the government gives warnings without more information about why they're giving them ... that inevitably leads to people questioning whether the timing is a diversion, or politically motivated," said Randall Yim, head of GAO's homeland security division.

    The report urged the Department of Homeland Security to give "specific information about the nature, location and timing of the threat, and guidance on action to take."

    A failure to deliver specific information in terror warnings can leave agencies unable to gauge risk or develop an effective response, it said.

    It recommended that the department publicize threats quickly and through multiple channels, and said many authorities reported they had first learned about threat warnings from media sources.

    Government officials have said that the nature of terrorist threats and the classified information on which they are often based make it difficult to give more detailed information.

    But Yim said recent warnings may be counterproductive.

    "They didn't say what was new and they didn't suggest any additional measures to be taken other than please be a little bit more vigilant and please go about your shopping. I think that that really attacks the credibility of the government warning system."

    GAO was formerly known as the General Accounting Office. Under recent legislation, it changed its name to the Government Accountability Office.
News That Stays News - 149


A Discipline

Turn toward the holocaust, it approaches
on every side, there is no other place
to turn.  Dawning in your veins
is the light of the blast
that will print your shadow on stone
in a last antic of despair
to survive you in the dark.
Man has put his history to sleep
in the engine of doom.  It flies
over his dreams in the night,
a blazing cocoon.  O gaze into the fire
and be consumed with man's despair,
and be still, and wait.  And then see
the world go on with the patient work
of seasons, embroidering birdsong
upon itself as for a wedding, and feel
your heart set out in the morning
like a young traveler, arguing the world
from the kiss of a pretty girl.
It is the time's discipline to think
of the death of all living, and yet live.


--Wendell Berry




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