SYDNEY, Australia

Australian Financial Review

The charging of one of Saddam Hussein's former military henchmen with war crimes would seem a welcome step as Australia prepares to commit troops to the overthrow of the Iraqi dictator. The only trouble is the defendant, Nizar Khazraji, had been widely tipped to be installed as the new Iraqi leader following Hussein's defeat. Gen. Khazraji commanded the Iraqi armed forces during the later stages of the 1980-88 war against Iran and during the 1990 invasion of Kuwait. After falling out with Hussein, he sought refugee status in Denmark in 1996. On Tuesday, Danish authorities arrested him on charges which include the use of nerve gas against Kurdish civilians in the village of Halabja in 1988. Although the attack attracted little condemnation from the West -- Hussein was a de facto ally at the time -- it is now rightly condemned as one of the most heinous of the Iraqi regime's crimes. In these circumstances, replacing Hussein with the general allegedly responsible for the attacks would not constitute one of the more obvious benefits of "regime change." . . . Other potential leaders do not seem all that attractive either.

One of the squabbling opposition groups' civilian leaders, Ahmed Chalabi, has been sentenced in absentia to 22 years in jail for embezzlement and fraud allegedly involving more than $130 million missing from the Petra Bank in Jordan. (Nov. 23)

-- Brian Toohey


The News

. . . It has been several months now since President Bush announced his desire to go after Saddam, a desire all too clearly an imperialistic one, with little if anything to do with Bush's stated reasons: Saddam is, for him, a demon, a darkness, the worst thing to happen to the world since Hitler, Osama's cousin and the like. But the silence in response to Bush's mostly wild allegations seems more disturbing still. It seems to represent the most dangerous confluence of factors: American nationalism, coupled with right-wing religious rhetoric (more often soft on the religion and hard on rhetoric, tinged with meaningless Islam-bashing extremism), hardcore military hardware and lack of political, economic and ideological contenders to the American behemoth. This is true even in America, as the Republicans' opposition, the Democratic Party, is simply unable to produce any meaningful alternative to Bush's policies. . . .

The problem with the Muslim and Arab world, as well as much of the rest of the world, lies in its inability to formulate a constructive agenda to deal with the threats against it. Rather, the inconsistency of American foreign policy is denied, ignored or condoned.

That Saddam Hussein is being charged with building weapons of mass destruction by the very same country that holds the world's largest stockpile of them is the height of hypocrisy. . . .

America sold Saddam Hussein his deadly weapons because it was in America's interest to resist Iran. Now, America will increasingly ally with the people of Iran, many of whom are fed up with their government (often for good reason) against the people of Iraq. Ignoring all patterns of the past, some will accept this. Regional governments will promote this. And the people who understand will sit on the sidelines, dumbfounded. . . . (Nov. 20)

-- Haroon Moghul


The Guardian

All the players in the current quarrel can agree on one thing -- Iraq has the potential to become a great oil nation again. There is a huge gap between the trickle of oil coming out of Iraq today and its capabilities. According to OPEC, the entire world's known oil reserves run to 1,000 billion barrels. Iraq claims a 10th of this, just over 100 billion barrels. However, in an interview before the current conflict, Taha Hmud Moussa, then Iraq's deputy oil minister, said the oil "will exceed 300 billion barrels when all Iraq's regions are explored." If true, this means Iraq has a quarter of the world's oil. The U.K.'s North Sea reserves are 5 billion barrels and we are the EU's largest oil producer. Iraq's oil is not miles offshore under a treacherous sea. This makes it cheaper than the $3 to $4 barrel oil Britain produces -- much cheaper. John Teeling, head of one of the few Western companies to admit to working in Iraq, is exultant. His Dublin-based company Petrel is keen to develop unexplored oil fields. This oil could cost as little as 97 cents a barrel. "Ninety cents a barrel for oil that sells for $30 -- that's the kind of business anyone would want to be in," he says. "A 97 percent profit margin -- you can live with that."

Last month, behind the closed doors of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, leading oilmen, exiled Iraqis and lawyers held a meeting entitled "Invading Iraq: dangers and opportunities for the energy sector." One delegate said the entire day could be summarised with: "Who gets the oil?" (Nov. 22)


Iran Daily

To say that Saddam is a self-satisfied despot who even deceives himself would not be an overstatement. The Iraqi embrace of [U.N. Security Council Resolution] 1441 is rather reminiscent of Japan's surrender in 1945. The difference being that the then Japanese emperor surrendered on behalf of his countrymen while the Iraqi regime accepted the U.N. resolution largely because it has long been alienated from its own people. . . .

Time, like so many other things in Saddam's Iraq, is in short supply. The Ba'ath Party chief could have bought himself more time if he had treated his people with decency. He missed out on many opportunities in the past and now has only surrender as the last . . . . (Nov. 19)

-- Jalal Khoshchehreh