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CAIRO - Washington will go to war against Iraq with a coalition of the willing in the event that it decides to bypass the United Nations. Some are calling it the coalition of the wanting. Others are calling it the coalition of the bribed and the bludgeoned. And now an independent Washington think tank has... Read More
CAIRO - US Secretary of State Colin Powell said the United States may have "nine or 10 votes" to pass the US-UK-Spanish-sponsored second United Nations resolution setting March 17 as the last deadline for Iraq to disarm - or else. It's not true, though. The key is Africa. If two of the three African nations... Read More
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt - One can't help but wonder whether Saddam Hussein, with 300,000 armed-to-the-teeth Dirty Harrys pointing their Magnums - and Tomahawks - at his head at this very moment, is feeling lucky. Even more than Clint Eastwood taking the law into his own hands, Saddam's favorite movie character is Marlon Brando in Francis Ford... Read More
CAIRO - Cynicism. Hypocrisy. Orwellian newspeak. As photo-ops of political theater go, the Azores micro-summit was somber. How apt a metaphor: three isolated men in a remote island in the middle of the Atlantic - the American behaving like a bully and the two Europeans trying to bridge the unbridgeable. As a show of unity,... Read More
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt - They've won. They got their war against Afghanistan (planned before September 11). They're getting their war against Iraq (planned slightly after September 11). After Iraq, they plan to get their wars against Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Last Sunday, one of them, Vice President Dick Cheney, said that President George W... Read More
AMMAN - It may come as quite a shock, but thunderous silence does not mean that all's quiet on the Iraqi western front. "The surprise is not the attack on Baghdad or the advance from Kuwait. The surprise will come from Jordan," a top Jordanian source who requested anonymity told Asia Times Online. The source... Read More
RUWEISHED, eastern Jordan - Saddam Hussein has called on Iraqi television for a jihad against the Anglo-American invasion of his country. And the jihad is already on. Saddam's complex amalgam of militantly secular Arab leader, devout believer and bold warrior of Islam is now total. From the depths of his bunker-cum-television studio, Saddam is promising... Read More
AMMAN - American tanks are now ripping at the heart of Mesopotamia, the "land between the rivers" and the cradle of civilization; the US 5th Corps is already engaging the Medina division of the Republican Guards as B52s increase their bombing raids of the "red line" in the outer ring of defenses of Baghdad, over... Read More
AMMAN - Najaf and Karbala are the holiest sites of Shi'ite Islam. Najaf - where Ayatollah Khomeini lived before returning to lead the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 - is the site of Imam Ali's tomb, the Prophet Mohammed's cousin and revered 14th century founder of the Shi'ite branch of Islam. Karbala is the... Read More
AMMAN - In more ways than one, we're back to the Middle Ages. In Medieval wars, the desert was an abandoned battlefield and the cities were fortified castles (like today's Basra and Baghdad). Even if the 3rd Infantry Division and the 5th Corps secure the symbols of Saddam Hussein's regime, the Iraqi guerrilla war -... Read More
BAGHDAD - The Godfather's black box with the three-part Francis Ford Coppola saga lies under the sun in front of former deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz's house facing the Tigris River, not far from the discarded cover of Bob Marley and the Wailers' Uprising. The (Shi'ite) uprising didn't happen in Baghdad, but the (Iraqi) Godfather... Read More
HILLA - Mr Iskander, a lawyer and former officer in the Iraqi air force, married with four sons and five daughters, sits behind his desk in a nondescript building formerly used for religious meetings for Sunni and Shi'ite alike, now guarded by five Marines. He receives a non-stop string of visitors, juggling between as many... Read More
NAJAF and KARBALA - The Shi'ite armies are on the move. They have no tanks, no stealth bombers, no night vision devices. Their sole weapon of mass persuasion is the power of the word - deep religious fervor inscribed in green, black and red flags waved under the sandy winds of Mesopotamia. But the political... Read More
BAGHDAD - While the buildup to the war on Iraq was convulsing world capitals, world opinion and the United Nations, the Mukhabarat - the feared Saddam Hussein secret service machine - was still living in its own Thousand and One Nights bubble. This is what is revealed by a document found by Asia Times Online,... Read More
BAGHDAD - Much of the world was surprised. After the spirited resistance in the south of Iraq, how could Baghdad possibly have fallen in only two days? An Asia Times Online investigation in Baghdad, Tikrit and Najaf has yielded a clear certainty among Iraqis, both Sunni and Shi'ite, as to the answer: The Pentagon and... Read More
BABYLON - Hussein Sahab, a frail, gentle man in his late 50s, married, two sons and two daughters, has had the same job for the past 27 years. His salary: 24,000 Iraqi dinars a month (less than US$8). Sahab is one of the caretakers of Babylon, the mythical Bab Ilou (God's gate), founded in the... Read More
BRUSSELS - Is al-Qaeda really back in business? The three simultaneous bombings in three housing compounds for foreigners in Riyadh that left 29 dead, according to the Saudi Interior Ministry, as well as the nine suicide bombers, have at least shattered a sort of consensus that had been emerging among Western intelligence services. Until the... Read More
BRUSSELS and GENEVA - At the height of the war on Iraq, the paradox in al-Qaeda's strategy became apparent: in fighting American imperialism, al-Qaeda in the end just managed to reinforce it. The fighting machine set in motion by September 11 ultimately drove home the awesome omnipotence of Washington and the world now has to... Read More
The Iraqi Intifada already has a starting date: July 27. And guess who's the rebel with a cause in charge? None other than Saddam Hussein. He seems to be alive, well and in hiding. This is the crux of an intelligence report received by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and confirmed by a number of... Read More
Things are getting interesting in Iraq. In the right corner, we find the American occupation forces. In the left corner, at least 70 brand new Iraqi political parties. The man-in-charge is America's proconsul, Paul Bremer. And now steps into the ring someone who in theory could be the referee: Brazilian diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello,... Read More
Qui a tue Daniel Pearl?, by Bernard-Henri Levy The subject was not breached when "courageous leader" Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf was received by George W Bush at Camp David this week. They talked of the Hizb-i-Islami leading the anti-American jihad in Afghanistan, they talked of jihadis not crossing the Line of Control in Kashmir,... Read More
It didn't have to be this way. But because of heavy-handedness and cultural insensitivity, the American occupation force has now lost the support of the three key Shi'ite leaders in Iraq - allies through circumstance until now. The Grand Ayatollah Ali Husseini al-Sistani announced last Saturday the issuing of a fatwa against an "illegitimate" constitution... Read More
"We are going to fight them and impose our will on them and we will capture or ... kill them until we have imposed law and order on this country. We dominate the scene and we will continue to impose our will on this country." This is US proconsul in Iraq Paul Bremer, speaking from... Read More
PHNOM PENH - Sam was born in 1963. He was only 12 on April 17, 1975, when Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge invaded and evacuated Phnom Penh at the start of the infamous "Year Zero" - a demented mix of Stalinism, Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution all rolled into a unique, grotesque rural... Read More
SIEM REAP, Cambodia - After a peaceful Sunday electoral day, it is widely expected that the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) of Prime Minister Hun Sen will get the largest number of votes in the third democratic elections in Cambodia since 1993. The leaders of the royalist Funcinpec and the main opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SFR)... Read More
PHNOM PENH - The final results will be available only on August 8, but political deadlock is the name of the game after the third general election of the 10-year-old Cambodian democracy. Once again it's prime minister Hun Sen against both of his most bitter rivals, Funcinpec leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh and the leader of... Read More
BANGKOK - Pentagon spin, via Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, has it that "Iraq now is the central battle in the war on terrorism." Al-Qaeda's No 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, aka The Surgeon, has proved Wolfowitz, the Pentagon's No 2, wrong. Al-Zawahiri had warned "the American people" that what they had seen so far were only... Read More
HO CHI MINH CITY - A Vietnamese TV crew is shooting a soap opera in a park behind the late 19th-century Notre Dame cathedral. The leading lady, clad in a beautiful crimson ao dai, sobs uncontrollably despite the efforts of her partner, against the background of the city's usual non-stop parade of motorbikes. Nguyen Phuoc... Read More
HO CHI MINH CITY - Wheeling and dealing is the name of the game in go-go Saigon. The city of Uncle Ho remains a motorbike hell, although Vietnam may be on its way to becoming a country where the middle class buys cheap sedans to replace them. In the lovely characterization of a communist party... Read More
HANOI - Just as it took a few years for the Americans to lose the hearts and minds of the South Vietnamese, it took them only a few weeks to lose the hearts and minds of the majority of Iraqis - which ultimately means losing the war, whatever the strategic final result. Topographic denials -... Read More
HANOI - Ahmad Chalabi, the Pentagon erstwhile protege, leader of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), member of the American-appointed Iraqi interim government in Iraq and a convicted criminal in Jordan, went on record in Baghdad saying that he had received intelligence on Thursday, August 14, that "a large-scale act would take place ... against a... Read More
HANOI - The remains of a B-52 shot down by North Vietnamese anti-aircraft artillery lie in the middle of Huu Tiep Lake in northern Hanoi, by the side of a busy back road. For old residents of Ba Dinh district, it's a powerful reminder of what the country fought for: during the American War -... Read More
PARIS - Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim, ripped to pieces by the Volkswagen car bomb in front of the sacred Imam Ali Shrine in Najaf which killed 125 and left more than 230 wounded after last Friday's prayers, was the quintessential martyr of the current Iraqi jihad. All that was left of him was a... Read More
PARIS - Two years after September 11, 2001, the Washington neo-conservative dream of a rainbow of democracy shining from Israel to Afghanistan and traversing Iraq has vanished into thin air. From Kabul to Baghdad, the vision is being wiped out by the truth of hard facts. 1) The American army does not have the resources... Read More
PARIS - "I wonder whether there can be a future for the UN in Iraq," asks an European diplomat. Some Iraqis recognize that the United Nations' humanitarian aid, in the shape of the oil for food program, may have saved lives during the embargo. But many hate the UN exactly because of the embargo: for... Read More
BAGHDAD - "Saddam is in Baghdad." The former University of Baghdad student, recently graduated, is adamant. "Here he is very well connected, and as he has so much money, he can bribe anybody," adds another. This exchange takes place as the satellite network al-Arabiya receives the latest (purported) Saddam Hussein audio tape at its office... Read More
BAGHDAD - Ahmad, a 23-year-old Jordanian student, stepped out of his apartment in Haifa Street this past Saturday morning to hail a taxi, but he was confronted by a US checkpoint. "Move your ass from here," a GI ordered him. "Don't talk to me like that. I'm not your slave," answered Ahmad. "Aren't you? taunted... Read More
BAGHDAD - Abdo Satar al-Chaalan, chairman of the weekly newspaper al-Mustaki (The Independent) - the self-described "spokesman of the Iraqi resistance" - proudly recalls the five times that he was arrested by Saddam Hussein's regime in the 1970s, as a member of an opposition party. He has already been arrested once by the Americans, and... Read More
FALLUJAH - This is the heart of the Iraqi resistance. Fallujah, with a population of almost 500,000 people, traditionally "the city of mosques", is now called "the city of heroes" as it is at the core of the Sunni triangle (Baghdad-Ramadi-Tikrit) where most of the resistance to the US occupation is taking place. President George... Read More
RAMADI - Sheikh Khaled from the al-Halabsa family, established in the outskirts of Fallujah on the road to Ramadi, is one of the most powerful men in the Sunni triangle (Baghdad-Ramadi-Tikrit). Relaxed in his dishdash robe, drinking tea on the porch of his house, facing an immaculate garden and his own black Mercedes in the... Read More
OWJA and TIKRIT - Saddam Hussein's birthplace, Owja, near Tikrit, used to be the ultimate Middle East gated community. One could only get inside if one knew someone from the ruling elite - and he had to personally fetch you at the gates. Now Owja is semi-deserted. Most residents were Ba'ath Party members. Many fled... Read More
BAGHDAD - The Iraqi resistance against the US occupation - in the form of the first, free popular demonstration in the country since the 1960s - was born on April 18 in front of the Abu Hanifa mosque in the middle-class district of Aadhamiya, the site of a fierce battle on April 7, two days... Read More
BAGHDAD and AMMAN - Chief United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix knew it. Former weapons inspector Scott Ritter knew it. French, German and Russian intelligence knew it. Sultan Hashim Ahmad - Iraq's former minister of defense, now safe after a cosy deal with the Americans - knew it. In 1995, Hussein Kamel, married to one... Read More
The 25-member American-appointed Iraqi Governing Council is widely described in the Sunni triangle as the "imported government". But just as the Turkish parliament - by 358 votes against 183 - backed its government's decision to send up to 10,000 Turkish troops to Iraq, the Governing Council, in a flagrant clash with US proconsul L Paul... Read More
NAJAF, Iraq - Ammar Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, white-turbaned, with horn-rimmed glasses, is polished, soft-spoken, as he sits on a cushion in a secluded chamber to receive Asia Times Online at the Najaf office of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Across the blinding-white compound where, under ultra-strict security, streams of clerics,... Read More
SHANGHAI - Right now no destination, except perhaps Bangkok, can even dream of rivaling Shanghai as the most exciting city in Asia. If "to get rich is glorious", according to Little Helmsman Deng Xiaoping's unforgettable war cry, nowhere is getting rich more glorious than in Shanghai. The city has discarded its Mao suit in favor... Read More
BAKU - The Christmas blockbuster from the Pentagon studios was a dream. This was the new Roman Empire at its peak - better than Ridleys Scott's Gladiator: a real, captive barbarian emperor, paraded on the Circus Maximus of world television. The barbarian was not a valiant warrior - but a bum. He was not hiding... Read More
BAKU - Former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) asset Saddam Hussein is - already was - totally beside the point. Only in the past few months have we learned the extent to which the Saddam system sub-contracted a great deal of decision-making to different Iraqi elite - from tribal sheikhs to businessmen and Sunni and Wahhabi... Read More
PARIS - Khawar Mehdi Rizvi is a Pakistani journalist. For almost a month he has been languishing - and most probably being tortured - in a Pakistani jail or safehouse somewhere in Pakistan. Nobody knows where he is. The co-director of the Federal Investigation Agency - which deals with white-collar crimes and passport and visa... Read More
Much more than George W Bush vs the-yet-unknown-Democrat-who-would-be-king, this is the ultimate confrontation of 2004. In one corner, the military might of United States power. In the other, the white-bearded, black-turbaned Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, 74, three wives, three sons and spiritual leader of 15 million Iraqi Shi'ites. As things stand, the Bush re-election scenario... Read More