By Stephen White


Military spending by the American government has now risen to a massive £237billion a year.

And a glance at a map of the Middle East, right, will show you where a huge chunk of that is spent.

According to defence experts, 20 per cent goes towards defending oil reserves - and two thirds of the world's supplies are in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran.

The US maintains a presence in almost every country that either has oil or borders an oil producing nation.

The Persian Gulf is a mass of US troop deployment, and the major oil pipelines are within reach of its air bases.

And yesterday in Kuwait, 10 miles from the Iraqi border, the American 3rd Infantry division was lining up tanks and artillery. In the next two weeks another 16,000 US troops will arrive. And an estimated 20,000 British troops are scheduled to be deployed in the area in mid-January.

The Pentagon says 60,000 troops are already in the Persian Gulf region. This number could double in coming weeks - the biggest build up since the Gulf War in 1991.

The roots of this build-up can, perhaps, be traced back to ex-President George Bush Snr, after his 1991 victory in the Gulf.

Only months after turning from "wimp to winner" in the eyes of his country, his presidency was undermined when US motorists faced a 15p per gallon rise in petrol prices. His days in the White House were numbered.

Is George Bush Jnr now desperate to avoid such a "defeat in victory"?

Does the world's most powerful oilman want to secure the world's most important energy source for his country, for ever?

In old mines under Mexico, Texas and Louisiana, millions of gallons of crude oil have been pumped into vast caverns.

They will now be full to their 700 million barrel capacity, helping to keep oil prices high - above $30 a barrel.

And if there is a war, these reserves could stop the price of oil rocketing and protect the economy.

But is Iraq the only target?

The Rand corporation has briefed the Pentagon on its concerns about Saudi Arabia, the holder of the world's largest oil reserves at almost 300 billion barrels. If radical Islam should oust the Saudi royal family, who would take control? The nightmare for America - the biggest oil consumer - would be a fundamental regime which simply turned the stop-cocks off.

US vice-president Dick Cheney came close to the oil question when he voiced his objections to Saddam's regime.

He said: "He sits on 10 per cent of the world's oil reserves. He has enormous wealth generated by that. And, left to his own devices, it's the judgment of many that he will soon acquire nuclear weapons."

If America had access, or friendly control of Iraq's oilfields, it would be less dependent on Saudi oil.

Today, Saudi Arabia dictates world oil policy. It can supply oil when prices start to rise - controlling inflation - and cut production if prices slump, helping America.

It is a position that neither George W Bush or his advisers appreciate.

And while there is a fear that Iraq will strike at America, there would be comfort knowing control of Iraq's resources means less dependence on others.

A victory for radicals in the Middle East has already been considered by American intellectuals. S Fred Singer, of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, said: "The affected world community may feel compelled to 'liberate' the wells of Arabia."

And in Britain ex-government minister Mo Mowlam says preparations for war are a smokescreen to keep Saudi Arabia from falling into the hands of a militant Islamic government.

She wrote: "The key country in the Middle East, as far as the US is concerned, is Saudi Arabia.

"With US support it has been believed the regime can be protected, and so will do what is necessary to secure a supply of oil to the West at stable prices."

South Africa's Nelson Mandela said of US policy: "It is motivated by George W Bush's desire to please the arms and oil industries." Sara Flounders, of the American International Action Center, said: "Mobil, Exxon, Texaco and Shell have headquarters in the US and Britain. They want unfettered access to this oil so they can monopolise the vast profits from pumping, delivering and refining oil."



Straw tells of threat by 'rogues'

By Bob Roberts


WAR against rogue states like Iraq could last for 10 years, Jack Straw says today.

The Foreign Secretary will tell 150 British ambassadors that regimes possessing weapons of mass destruction and terrorists seeking such weapons are "part of the same picture", and must be tackled.

Disarming Iraq, whether by force or peaceful means, will be a "litmus test" of world determination to take on rogue powers.

But defeating Saddam Hussein will not end the threat from those who defy international law.

Mr Straw will say: "Over the next decade, the battle to prevent the spread of the world's most dangerous weapons will be as much about disruption of supplies and intelligence sharing as the international legal framework."

The Foreign Secretary will deliver his grim warning as 20,000 British troops prepare to mobilise for operations in Iraq.

UK special forces were already inside Iraq, it was claimed yesterday. Military and international aid experts said one in three allied troops could die in a street war to take Baghdad.

British ambassadors from across the globe have been recalled to London to be addressed by Mr Straw and Tony Blair.

The Foreign Secretary will tell them: "September 11 showed that al-Qaeda would stop at nothing to inflict mass slaughter.

"If they were to manage to acquire weapons of mass destruction, I'm certain they'd use them.

"The most likely sources of know-how for such organisations are rogue regimes. That is why terrorism and rogue regimes are part of the same picture.

"Our immediate aim must be the development of effective techniques to disrupt and eliminate terrorist groups which might attempt to acquire weapons of mass destruction. But we will also have to deter and remove the threat posed by hostile or unstable states which possess, or are pursuing, WMD."

British and US special forces are already in Iraq searching for Scud missile launchers, monitoring oil fields and marking minefield sites, a US newspaper said yesterday.

The report, in the Boston Globe, said other US officials are trying to identify potential leaders in Iraq to work with the US.

Meanwhile, experts warned that a ground war could lead to thousands of military and civilian deaths and a huge refugee crisis.

Former US general Joseph Hoar said Saddam's diehard Republican Guard will disguise themselves as civilians, turning Baghdad into a giant human shield.

This would deny the allies the use of aerial bombing and mean vicious house to house fighting.

General Hoar, who served in the Gulf War, told a German newspaper: "Saddam won't fight in the desert but in the streets of Baghdad. It will be a bloodbath."

Captain Glenn Kozelka, training soldiers at Fort Polk, Louisiana, said: "We must reckon with 30 per cent casualties in such combat."

Medact, an international doctor's organisation, agreed one in three Allied troops could die in house-to-house fighting. But it added the Iraqi death toll could reach 250,000.

Many could die because of the madness of their leader who has drawn up a "scorched earth" policy to wreck his own country, according to the CIA.

It calls for the destruction of all infrastructure including water plants, power lines and oil wells.

The UN Refugee Commission says 110,000 Iraqis are already preparing to try to flee to Britain. The Middle East is bracing itself for at least a million more.

Mr Blair was condemned by Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu yesterday for his "mind-boggling" support for the US over Iraq.

As the Premier returned from holiday in Egypt, the archbishop told LWT: "Many are saddened to see a great country such as the US aided and abetted, extraordinarily, by Britain."

Saddam is expected to rouse his troops and rant at the West in his annual Army Day speech today. The words will be broadcast by the state-run media.,2763,869577,00.html


War is not inevitable, says Straw

Staff and agencies

11.30am update
Monday January 6, 2003


The chances of war with Iraq have tipped to roughly 60-40 against, the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, confirmed today.

Mr Straw did not deny being the source of the assessment, attributed to an unnamed cabinet minister over the weekend.

He said: "That is a reasonably accurate description - but the situation changes from day to day."

The foreign secretary was speaking amid reports that the US has been won round to Britain's preference for a fresh UN resolution ahead of any strike against Iraq.

"We have always made it clear explicitly our preference is for a second resolution," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. "I believe that is also the position of the United States."

But he dismissed the Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's claims, made on TV today, that the inspection process was simply spying. "We have heard this sort of stuff before," Mr Straw said.

The foreign secretary was speaking ahead of a gathering of 150 British diplomats for a two-day conference in London, many of whom are believed to be counselling caution over an attack on Iraq.

Mr Straw was also faced this morning with an outright snub for the prime minister's proposed peace conference on the Middle East, after the Isreali government said it would not permit Palestinian leaders to come to London after the weekend's suicide bombing attacks in Tel Aviv.

Mr Straw said he regretted the Israeli government's decision and called on it to think again.

He told the Today programme: " I greatly regret the announcement which I heard earlier on your programme.

"We are seeking clarification in respect of it. And I hope very much the Israeli government will think again, because it is important that these people are able to travel and that we are able to engage in a process of reform, which I may say has already had a significant impact."

Mr Straw said he had spoken to the British ambassador in Israel.

"I understand why people are so angry there, but initial reactions are not sometimes final reactions so let us wait and see," he said.

Addressing the conference of ambassadors itslelf, Mr Straw told them terrorists and rogue states such as Iraq and North Korea are part of the "same picture".

Setting out the priorities for British foreign policy for the next decade, Mr Straw said the greatest threat to national security and world peace was the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and they must help minimise the threat to international and domestic security posed by weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and terrorism.

Key to this must be the sharing of intelligence, and disrupting rogue regimes from supplying weapons to terrorists.

Rogue states which continue to flout international weapons treaties were "likely sources" of technology and know-how for terrorist organisations like al-Qaida, Mr Straw told the diplomats.

"Our overall purpose must be to work for UK interests in a safe, just and prosperous world.

"The challenges I have outlined each have the capacity to damage our national interests and to undermine international peace and security. If we are to confront them, then we will need a clear strategy.

"Today, the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons presents the greatest threat to our national security, and to the peace of the world.

"September 11 showed that the terrorist organisation al-Qaida would stop at nothing to inflict mass slaughter. If they were to manage to acquire WMD, I am certain they would use them.

"The most likely sources of technology and know-how for such terrorist organisations are rogue regimes which continue to flout their obligations under international law not to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

"This is why terrorism and rogue regimes are part of the same picture."

The "immediate aim" of the British government must be to develop effective techniques to disrupt and eliminate terrorist groups which might attempt to acquire weapons of mass destruction, Mr Straw added.

"But we will also have to deter and remove the threat posed by hostile or unstable states which possess or are pursuing WMD."

Iraq has been a "litmus test" of the world's determination to hold states to their non-proliferation commitments, the foreign secretary said.

United Nations Security Council resolution 1441, which orders Baghdad to disarm, sent the strongest possible signal to Saddam Hussein that the UN will meet this test, Mr Straw told conference delegates.

"Iraqi disarmament - whether it is achieved by peaceful means or by force - is essential both for the world's capacity to deal with the threat presented by WMD and for the authority of the UN.

"The lesson from our experience with both North Korea and Iraq is that international non-proliferation law is nothing without effective enforcement.

"Over the next decade, the battle to prevent the spread of the world's most dangerous weapons will be as much about disruption and interdiction of supplies and intelligence sharing, as the application of the international legal framework."

All but a handful of the 150-plus heads of UK diplomatic missions abroad were expected to attend the unprecedented meeting, which will also be addressed by prime minister Tony Blair, international development secretary Clare Short and armed forces minister Adam Ingram.

It is the first time British diplomats have been brought together in this way. Other countries such as France and Germany hold similar gatherings on an annual basis.

Issues to be considered range from the provision of travel advice to new "instant embassies", which could be set up at short notice, and could have been used in places such as the Afghan capital Kabul following the fall of the Taliban.

 If only he would listen, this could be Blair's finest hour

Britain's envoys want the PM to stall Bush's plans for war

Richard Norton-Taylor
Monday January 6, 2003
The Guardian

Telegrams from British embassies and missions around the world are urging Tony Blair to step up pressure on President Bush to pull back from a war against Iraq. In what amounts to a collective cri de coeur, our envoys - congregating in Whitehall today for an unprecedented Foreign Office brainstorming session - are warning of the potentially devastating consequences of such an adventure, including its impact on a greater threat than Saddam Hussein: al-Qaida-inspired terrorism.

The warnings are not just coming from our envoys and defence attaches in Arab capitals. They are also, I am told, coming from Washington. This, our diplomats suggest, could be one of Blair's - and Britain's - finest hours, a unique opportunity to make a constructive contribution to world affairs. They also know, not least from American opinion polls, that the Bush administration needs Britain onside. Our contribution would be a token one in military terms, but significant politically. That gives Britain leverage.

It is hard to find anyone in Whitehall who supports a war against Iraq and who is not deeply concerned about the influence of the hawks around Bush. They cannot say so in public, of course.

Whitehall gives Blair the credit for helping to persuade Bush to go down the UN route - a prime example of what Whitehall describes as Britain "punching above its weight". But this should be put into perspective. Richard Falk, Princeton's emeritus professor of international law, notes in the latest issue of Le Monde Diplomatique: "This belated recourse to the UN does not fool many people outside the US, and is not very persuasive to Americans themselves. It is obvious that Bush is no friend of the UN, and only sought UN approval for US policy to defuse domestic opposition to blatant unilateralism."

Falk addresses a key issue: "For the US to insist in voting for resolution 1441 on 8 November, that the UN act as an enforcement agency by reviving weapons inspection, and in so onerous a form that it almost ensures a breakdown, is to enlist the UN in the dirty work of war-making."

It is a key issue because UN security council backing for military action will be seized on by ministers to convince those, including Labour MPs and bishops, who have grave doubts about a war against Iraq. The fact is that the security council has always considered itself above any tenet of international law.

In his biography, The Politics of Diplomacy, former US secretary of state James Baker shamelessly admits how, before the 1991 Gulf war, he met his security council counterparts "in an intricate process of cajoling, extracting, threatening, and occasionally buying votes". America's relative power, and its willingness to use it, has increased over the past 12 years. James Paul, head of Global Policy Forum, a non-governmental body that monitors the UN, says: "The capacity of the US to bring to heel virtually any country in the world is unbelievable."

The US is corrupting the security council by bribing its permanent members - Russia with dollars, China with trade concessions, France and Britain (if it needs any carrots) with the prospect of oil concessions. And Turkey will be amply rewarded if it allows the US to use its bases for an assault on Iraq. Is this how international relations are going to be conducted among the world's most powerful countries in future? Is it that difficult for Blair to go down in history as the leader who prevented a potentially disastrous war fought, as one Whitehall official puts it, simply to prevent Bush from having egg over his face?

What kind of country meekly succumbs to demands for war dictated by domestic party politics, even those of its closest ally? Where is the evidence that Iraq is lying about its weapons of mass destruction? Worried Whitehall officials ask: even if evidence is found, and Saddam Hussein is discovered to have lied, is it not better to keep the UN inspectors - the best deterrence against the use or development of such weapons - on the ground?

One lie ministers could nail is that put about by elements in Washington and Israel - that there are links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida. British and American intelligence insist there is no evidence of such a link, yet ministers are frightened to say so for fear of upsetting Washington.

Though there is no love lost between the Iraqi regime and Islamist fundamentalists, an Anglo-American attack on Iraq is likely to attract more recruits to al-Qaida, thereby increasing the risk of terrorist strikes against British and American interests, as well as the destabilisation of other secular Arab states and the west's Middle East allies.

So we come to double standards. While the US demands that Baghdad abide by UN resolutions, it ignores Israel's refusal to do so over the occupied territories. While the US pursues a diplomatic course towards North Korea - a country which has thrown out UN nuclear inspectors - it threatens military action against Iraq, where UN inspectors are busy on the ground. And while the US says international inspectors must investigate the rest of the world to ensure they are not producing chemical or biological weapons, Washington rejects such inspections in the US.

We know, too, that the campaign to topple Saddam Hussein has little to do with democracy. Despite public utterances in support of democratic change in Iraq, Richard Haas, former director of Middle East affairs in Washington's national security council, has admitted that US policy "is to get rid of Saddam Hussein, not his regime". There are those in the Israeli government and Bush administration who argue that the fall of Saddam would encourage the populations of other Arab states to get rid of their undemocratic governments, make peace with Israel and embrace pro-western policies.

Our diplomats and military commanders are clinging to the hope that pressure on Iraq from the build-up of American military force in the Gulf will lead to an "implosion" of Saddam Hussein's regime without a war. They want the organs of the Iraqi state, including the Republican Guard, to remain in place, to maintain law and order with the help of American and British forces and prevent the oil-rich nation's disintegration.

But even if that scenario does come off, it will not address the fundamental questions - about the future conduct of relations between states, the role of the UN, international law, peace in the Middle East, disarmament, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction - being asked behind the scenes in Whitehall. Since officials can't talk openly, it is up to MPs to force ministers to give answers.

7 Richard Norton-Taylor is the Guardian's security affairs editor