TRIBUTE series



The threat of US plans to invade Iraq is creating panic around the world

The world is suspended in breathless anxiety as it waits to see whether the US will launch an attack on Iraq because it is a decision that’s bound to impact the globe negatively both economically and politically.

Therefore, the international community is in the throes of a dilemma over the likely outcome of the prevailing confrontation between US President George W. Bush and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Bush’s relentless tirade against Saddam, accusing him of violating the United Nations Security Council resolution and demanding a full report from Bagdad on its weapons, has been accompanied by preparations for a US invasion of Iraq.

Britain is expected to participate in this effort with an amphibious landing operation aimed at capturing the Port of Basra. Speculation is that such an invasion would have to be carried out in February when weather conditions are favourable.

Meanwhile, UN inspectors are engaged in investigating potential sites of arms manufacture. Their efforts include visits to a variety of industrial sites such as chemical plants in accordance with a mandate to find evidence of chemical, biological and nuclear arms. The inspection teams include around 100 personnel from IAEA, which is concerned with the activities of Iraq’s military industries following the exclusion of certain banned items such as Scud missiles, biological warheads, missile fuel, mustard gas shells and chemical bombs.

So far, no adverse reports have been submitted by the team and nor is there evidence of obstruction. It seems that the Iraqi authorities have cooperated in accordance with the terms of the resolution, which obliges Iraq to make an accurate, full and complete declaration of all aspects of its banned weapons programme.

For its part Iraq, has submitted a 12,000 page declaration on its weapons programme but it has been condemned for failing to answer many questions about its chemical, biological and nuclear arsenal.

Head of the UN inspection team Dr. Hans Blix had reported to the UN Security Council in January and it’s possible that the invasion buildup is await-ing a subsequent decision.

As expected, Saddam and the Iraqis have expressed indignation over this undeclared war on Iraq. There is speculation not only about whether the US would actually strike but also the objective of such action and whether it’s simply to overthrow the Iraqi dictator through a show of force.

On the other hand, it’s not easy for Bush to back down at this stage from his commitment to overthrow Saddam. His final decision will eventually depend on the verdict of the UN Security Council and it’s hoped that there will be a face-saving formula for all concerned.

Ironically, a problem similar to that posed by Iraq has arisen in North Korea. Pyongyang has disclosed the presence of a secret nuclear weapons programme that can produce weapons-grade plutonium.

Like Iraq in the past, it has expelled UN inspectors monitoring its programme – and announced that it would no longer abide by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. This declaration in the context of the US confrontation with Iraq is certainly a blow aimed at Washington.

The revelation exploits the US’ current problem with Iraq and poses a challenge to the world’s only superpower. In fact, the Supreme Leader of North Korea Kim Jong-il has described this action as an act of self-defence and called the US an “aggressor.”

South Korea is at the forefront of initiatives to find a solution to the North Korean nuclear threat and Beijing has shown an unusual interest in playing a negotiating role along with Seoul. In fact, Bush has pointedly referred to China as a vital diplomatic partner in achieving a nuclear weapon-free peninsula.

Meanwhile, a noteworthy event has taken place in Kenya with the overthrow of its ruling party, which had held power for almost 40 years. This change could mean the beginning of a new era for the country and perhaps herald the dawn of a new Africa.

President Mwai Kibaki replaced Daniel arap Moi who had been in office for almost 25 years and was the last of the old style African autocrats. This change has introduced a new political order to Kenya.

Moi and his associates had plundered the resources of the country in a regime marked by corruption and graft. And Kibaki has announced his intention to frame charges against those responsible for plundering billions of state funds.

Needless to say, its principal victims are the people of Kenya who have been reduced to levels of want and poverty – this, in a land that was once rich in tea and coffee plantations.

BY  The late Deshamanya Dr. Vernon L. B. Mendis