Current Issue

Back Issues

Our Mission

Contact Us



Support Us



About Us

Exit Poll

ISSUE: #. 58. Nov. 4, 2002











By Bill Weinberg
with David Bloom, Special Correspondent

1. Israel Bars New Palestinian Wells in West Bank
2. Israel Wages "War of Thirst"
3. Gaza Strip Running Out of Water
4. Israel Stealing Palestinian Sand from Gaza
5. Amnesty International Accuses Israel of War Crimes
6. Israeli Women Support Palestinian Suit Against Sharon
7. Hezbollah Militant Held In "Balloon Attack" Plot
8. Israeli Bedouin Soldier Charged With Spying For Hezbollah
9. Imprisoned "Refusenik" Yigal Bronner Seeks Support

1. Israel-Lebanon Water War Looms
2. Lebanon Farmers Pine for Hashish
3. Prison for Lebanese Lesbians?
4. Anti-Syrian Protests Re-Emerge in Beirut
5. Security Forces Close Christian Opposition TV
6. Lebanese Relatives to Syria: We Want Our Sons Back
7. Bomb Blast at Suburban Beirut McDonald's
8. Hezbollah and IDF Play Capture the Flag
9. Armitage, Condi: We're Going After Hezbollah
10. Hezbollah Could Strike in US, Says US
11. Hezbollah's Aim: Destroy the "Zionist Entity"
12. Hezbollah Beats Up UNIFIL Troops
13. Israel to Take Out Hezbollah During Iraq Attack?
14. Al-Qaeda in Lebanon?

1. New Battle Group to Persian Gulf
2. US Pilots Practice Bombing Raids in Southern Iraq
3. Iraq War Drive: Shadow Play Against OPEC?
4. Jeremy Rifkin: It's the Oil, Stupid!
5. Felix Rohatyn: It's the Oil, Stupid!
6. Joint US-Israeli Mission to Neutralize Iraq's Missiles?
7. Israel Deploys Anti-Missile Batteries at Nuke Plant
8. Spanish Diplomat Quits in Protest of War Drive
9. Stevie Wonder Speaks Out Against War
10. "Economic Sanctions as a Weapon of Mass Destruction"?
11. Newsweek: Saddam Skimming from Oil-For-Food Program
12. Iran: Saddam Burns Southern Marshlands

1. Syrian Kurds Demand Rights
2. King Fahd: Pray for Rain
3. Hookah Crackdown in Egypt
4. Archeologists Track Ancient Dope Trade

1. Pentagon Plans Military HQ on the Horn

1. Taliban Plan Big Comeback
2. Afghan Women Under Attack--Again
3. Afghanistan Again Leads World in Opium Production
4. Bumper Cannabis Crop in Mazar-i-Sharif
5. Kandahar Drug Czar Pledges Zero Tolerance
6. 30 Nations Pledge Crackdown on Afghan Drug Routes
7. Legalization for Kazakhstan?

1. Central Asia to Revive Soviet Water Diversion Scheme

1. Passaic Jail Detainees Protest Harsh Conditions
2. NYC Network TV Censors ACLU

1. Whales Score Round in Federal Court
2. Pentagon Develops Beam Weapons, "Knock-Out" Gas
3. Pentagon Tested Sarin Gas in Hawaii
4. Pentagon Plans "Secret War"
5. Pentagon to Scale Back Anti-Drug Missions


On Oct. 22, Israeli Infrastructure Minister Effie Eitam, head of the far-right National Religious Party, ordered the Water Commissioner to stop all drilling for water by Palestinians in the West Bank, and announced a freeze on the issue of permits for future drillings. The decision, announced by Eitam at a Jerusalem press conference, holds severe impacts for Palestinian agriculture, which relies mainly on water drilled from the ground. Eitam accused the Palestinian Authority of a "water intifada" against Israel. He said the PA was "enabling Palestinians, mainly in Areas A and B [under Palestinian and Israeli security control, respectively], to carry out unauthorized drillings in order to steal water from the State of Israel."

Eitam said some 250 unauthorized water drillings for agricultural purposes were reported this year in Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank. He added that new illegal connections to water pipes, used by Palestinians to irrigate their land, are reported every day, preventing the water from reaching Jewish settlements. (Haaretz, Oct. 22)

Palestinian Agriculture Minister Rafiq al-Natshah said Eitam's decree was "aimed at dehydrating the Palestinians". Al-Natshah claimed that it is Israel which is stealing the Palestinians' water by pumping from the West Bank's "mountain aquifer," which under international law belongs to the Palestinians. 80% of that water is sent to Israel and only 20% to the Palestinians. Al-Natshah said that the Palestinians' average water consumption is 10 times below the average consumption of the Jewish settlements. "Israel steals 80% of our rights to the water, sells it to us, and then claims we're stealing the water," Al-Natshah said.

Responding to Eitam's accusations that Palestinians are polluting the ground water, Al-Natshah said the source of the pollution is mainly Israeli factories that dump wastes in the West Bank. He added that the Palestinian Authority had approached the Israeli government and international bodies on this issue, but received no response. (Rishon Leziyyon, Oct. 26, via BC Monitoring) [top]

In the Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam Oct. 24, commentator Muhammad Daraghimah accused the Sharon government of waging a "war of thirst" against the Palestinians: "The Palestinians suffer from a chronic water shortage due to Israel's control of all their water resources and its zealous exploitation of these resources. The 1995 interim agreement [Oslo II] gave the Palestinians some hope that their mushrooming thirst problem could be solved. The Israeli side, in the attached protocol on water, recognized, in principle, the Palestinians' right to these resources. However, it kept the door open to other options when it referred agreement on this issue to the final-status negotiations, the fate of which is now uncertain."

He quoted engineer Fadl Ka'wash, deputy chairman of the Palestinian Water Authority, saying that "of the 200 requests submitted by the Palestinians to dig wells with the objective of meeting our needs, as defined by the agreement, the Israelis approved only 14, eleven for drinking water and three for agricultural use." According to Ka'wash, these wells provide us with only 22 million of the 80 million annual cubic meters cited as accruing to the Palestinians in the interim agreement.

Daraghimah breaks down the vast disparity in Israeli and Palestinian water use: "While the average per capita consumption of water on the Palestinian side amounts to only 40 liters per day, the Israeli individual's share reaches 350 liters. The average water consumption jumps to 800 liters per person per day at settlements, where settlers enjoy the pleasure of house gardens and swimming pools." With 177 settlements now in Palestinian territories, Daraghimah writes that many Palestinian villages "are actually on the verge of thirst," like the Tubas area, where the average per capita consumption is 22 liters a day. 240 Palestinian villages, with a population of 350,000, do not have running water. Ka'wash says: "Israel is fully responsible for our thirst. It controls all our water resources and uses 85% of them." (BBC Monitoring, Oct. 26) [top]

A new study by the European Union's FP5 project (the Fifth European Community Framework Program) found that local water resources in the Gaza Strip are gravely overtaxed. According to the study, the Palestinians pump about 140 million cubic meters of water from more than 1,000 wells annually from the southern coastal aquifer. Many of these wells are privately owned, and most of them are not under any sort of supervision. The population of the Gaza Strip, which numbers more than one million, is increasing by 70,000 people a year. The coastal aquifer will not be able to meet rising demand. The quality of the water used by the Gaza residents has already deteriorated and does not meet any international standard. The concentration of chlorides (a gauge of salinity) is above 1,000 milligrams per liter, whereas in Israel the maximum permitted amount in drinking water is 600. The nitrate concentration (a measure of pollution originating in sewerage and fertilizers) has been found to be more than 500 milligrams per liter in some places. The Israeli standard is 70, and Israel is definitely not one of the stricter countries in this regard. (Haartez, Sept. 16) [top]

A report from Gaza in the Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayam Oct. 23 ("National Security: The occupation authorities stole some 1,000 truckloads of sand from the beginning of September") describes how ongoing "hectic thefts of sand" for use in Israeli construction work inside Israel threatens Palestinian well water. Israeli settlements in Gaza are built on sand dunes which serve as natural filters for rainwater that settles in wells. When the sand is removed, a Palestinian security source told Al-Ayyam, these wells become exposed to pollution, and may dry up. The source said long flatbed trucks are being loaded up with sand day and night, taking it inside the Green Line. The source added that a protest had been lodged with the Israeli occupation forces to stop stealing the national natural resources of the Palestinian people. (BBC Monitoring: Al-Ayyam, Oct. 23) (David Bloom) [top]

A new report by Amnesty International accuses Israeli forces of of committing war crimes in Jenin and Nablus this spring during the West Bank invasion. The 76-page report details unlawful killings, blocking medical care, using people as human shields and bulldozing homes with residents inside. It concludes: "The information in this report suggests that the Israeli Defense Forces committed violations of international law during the course of military operations in Jenin and Nablus, including war crimes, for which they must be held accountable." A spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry dismissed the claims, saying "our experience has shown that many Palestinian claims have proven to be unfounded." (NYT, Nov. 4) [top]

A Robert Fisk article in the Sept. 24 UK Independent describes how nine Israeli women's groups told Palestinians in Beirut they supported their efforts to have the Israeli Prime Minister indicted for "war crimes" for his role in the 1982 Sabra and Shatila refugee camps massacres.

"Our hearts ache to recall the terrible massacre that took place in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps 20 years ago, which Israeli leaders allowed to take place," the to survivors of the massacres reads. "We condemn the brutal murderers of your loved ones and we condemn the leaders who must be held accountable for these war crimes, Ariel Sharon above all." The letter, from the Coalition of Women for A Just Peace in Israel, was sent to Beirut via the US. The letter recalled how the Palestinians were forced to flee their homes for Lebanese refugee camps in 1948, and said "We join you in mourning for those who were killed and maimed [in 1982] and we condemn those who are responsible. We hope you will accept the sincerity of our words and allow us to stand in solidarity with you as we strive to build peace with justice between Israel and Palestine." Mohamed abu Rudeina, who at seven years old watched his father and other relatives killed in the massacres, described the letter as a "moving act" which would encourage other survivors to seek justice. Mallat described the letter as the first gesture of support from Israelis to the massacre survivors since the death 20 years ago of Israeli anti-war protestor Emil Grunzweig.

"We regard Mr. Grunzweig as an Israeli who died for Sabra and Shatila," Mallat said. "Now at last, we seem to have got support from Israelis about the terrible crimes against humanity which occurred in Beirut two decades ago." An Israeli commission of inquiry held then-Defense Minister Sharon "indirectly responsible" for the massacres in which up to 1,700 were killed by Lebanese Christian Phalangist militiamen while Israeli troops ringed the camps and did nothing. Phalangist militia leader Elie Hobeika, who said he would testify against Sharon in a war crimes trial, was assassinated Jan. 24 in Beirut (see WW3 REPORT #53) (UK Independent Sept. 24) (David Bloom) [top]

An alleged senior Hezbollah militant is on trial in a Tel Aviv court on charges of "plotting attacks by booby-trapped motorized balloons," wrote the respected Beirut daily An-Nahar on Nov. 2. The indictment says of Fawzi Ayoub, 38, arrested in July: "He has confessed to smuggling in two motorized balloons to booby-trap them for an attack on a densely populated residential district in Jerusalem and on Kiryat Arba." Kiryat Arba is a Jewish settlement in Hebron. When asked how he plead, Ayoub, a Canadian citizen, asked to contact his embassy. "Hezbollah has been declining to comment on the Ayoub affair," An-Nahar stated. (An-Nahar, Nov. 2)

The "motorized balloons" may well be paragliders. Ha'aretz reported July 17 IDF troops found two motorized paragliders during a search of a Palestinian Authority compound in Hebron. In Gaza, a Hamas activist, Mohammed Hussein Karsua, 28, has been indicted for attempting to build a glider last November, allegedly to be used in attacks. But when the men tested the glider, it didn't fly. (Haaretz, July 17) The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) mounted a successful glider attack in 1987. In what was called "the night of the hang gliders," militants on motorized gliders infiltrated Israel from Lebanon, killing six Israeli soldiers before being shot down. (BBC, May 4, 2000) (David Bloom) [top]

An Israeli Bedouin from the village of Zarzir in the Galilee, Lt. Col. Omar al-Hayb, was charged with spying for Hezbollah in exchange for drugs. Col. al-Hayb was the first Israeli Bedouin to volunteer for the paratrooper corps. He served with distinction in Lebanon, was seriously wounded by a Hezbollah bomb, losing an eye and being partially paralyzed. Left disabled, he eventually rejoined the army to recruit Bedouin youth. Two of his brothers are also lieutenant colonels in the army. Fifty-two members of the Hayb clan died in action fighting for Israel. But Israeli authorities say a dozen members of the Hayb clan were part of a Hezbollah network led by Col. Hayb. Two members of the clan were busted in mid-September exchanging money and information with the Hezbollah at the Israeli-Lebanon border. (UK Guardian, Oct. 26) Al-Hayb is reported to have received $24,000 from Hezbollah for his spying. (Ha'aretz, Oct. 24) The prosecution alleges Hayb's information resulted in specific attacks on Israelis. A security source said a cell phone used by Col. Hayb was found at the scene of a cross-border shooting attack March 12 which killed six Israelis. Al-Hayb was indicted with his brother, who compares the plight of the two to Alfred Dreyfus, the French army officer accused of spying for Germany in 1894 in a notorious case of anti-Semitism. (NYT, Oct. 25)

As Arabs, Bedouin are not required to serve in the IDF, but many choose to, often as trackers. Bedouin trackers are known for phenomenal abilities to read terrain, and are valued for their powers of observation. It was on a scouting mission in Lebanon that Col. al-Hayb lost his eye and was partially paralyzed. (LA Times, Oct. 25) Al-Hayb is the highest ranking Bedouin officer in the IDF. Trackers have intimate knowledge of the Israeli-Lebanon border area, information which would be of great use to Hezbollah for cross-border attacks. In January, four Bedouin were killed while serving at the Rafah IDF post in the southern Gaza Strip. (AP, Oct. 24)

Brig. Gen. (res.) Hussein al-Hayb - who started the IDF's Bedouin tracker unit and is the suspect's older brother, expressed his displeasure, screaming, "I'm sorry for the 37 years I gave to this country." (Ha'aretz, Oct. 25) Since the IDF withdrawal from Lebanon two and a half years ago, Israeli security officials have identified about ten efforts by Hezbollah to recruit spies in Israel. Dozens of suspects have been arrested, and some have been brought to trial. (Ha'aretz, Oct. 24) (David Bloom) [top]

On Oct. 28, Yigal Bronner, a professor of Asian Studies at Tel-Aviv University, was jailed by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for refusing to serve in the Occupied Territories--or, in his words, for refusing to participate in "the humiliation, dispossession and starvation of an entire people." He is currently being held in conditions that his supporters call "illegal and unacceptably harsh, apparently intended deliberately to humiliate and to silence him."

Bronner's statement of refusal to serve will be published by the "refuseniks" movement in the Israeli newspaper "Ha'aretz" on Nov. 8, along with a list of sponsors. The letter begins by quoting Bertolt Brecht:

"General, your tank is a powerful vehicle
It smashes down forests and crushes a hundred men.
But it has one defect:
It needs a driver.

"General, man is very useful.
He can fly and he can kill.
But he has one defect:
He can think."

It then states, "I do not intend to heed your call," and explains why:

"During the 1980s, Ariel Sharon erected dozens of settler colonies in the heart of the occupied territories, a strategy whose ultimate goal was the subjugation of the Palestinian people and the expropriation of their land. Today, these colonies control nearly half of the occupied territories and are strangling Palestinian cities and villages as well as obstructing--if not altogether prohibiting--the movement of their residents. Sharon is now prime minister, and in the past year he has been advancing towards the definitive stage of the initiative he began twenty years ago...

"The Chief of Staff has announced that the Palestinians constitute a cancerous threat and has commanded that chemotherapy be applied against them. The brigadier has imposed curfews without time limits, and the colonel has ordered the destruction of Palestinian fields. The division commander has placed tanks on the hills between their houses, and has not allowed ambulances to evacuate their wounded. The lieutenant colonel announced that the open-fire regulations have been amended to an indiscriminate order 'fire!' The tank commander, in turn, spotted a number of people and ordered his artillery-man to launch a missile.

"I am that artillery-man. I am the small screw in the perfect war machine. I am the last and smallest link in the chain of command. I am supposed to simply follow orders--to reduce my existence down to stimulus and reaction, to hear the sound of 'fire' and pull the trigger, to bring the overall plan to completion. And I am supposed to do all this with the simplicity and naturalness of a robot, who--at most--feels the shaking tremor of the tank as the missile is launched towards the target.

"But...I can think. Perhaps I am not capable of much more than that. I confess that I am not an especially gifted or courageous soldier; I am not the best shot, and my technical skills are minimal. I am not even very athletic, and my uniform does not sit comfortably on my body. But I am capable of thinking. I can see where you are leading me. I understand that we will kill, destroy, get hurt and die, and that there is no end in sight... I am therefore forced to disobey your call. I will not pull the trigger.

"I do not delude myself, of course. You will shoo me away. You will find another artillery-man--one who is more obedient and talented than I. There is no dearth of such soldiers. Your tank will continue to roll; a gadfly like me cannot stop a rolling tank, surely not a column of tanks, and definitely not the entire march of folly. But a gadfly can buzz, annoy, nudge, and at times even bite...

"So general, before you shoo me away, perhaps you too should begin to think.

"Sincerely, Yigal Bronner"

The Israeli refuseniks campaign is asking supporters to endorse Prof. Bronner's statement by sending a message to:

State your full name and institutional affiliation (for identification purposes only). To be included in the Ha'aretz ad, messages must be received by Nov. 6, 8 PM EST.

The campaign is also seeking contributions to cover the $8000 cost of the English and Hebrew ads. Checks in dollars should be made out in the name of Assaf Oron and sent to:

Yigal Bronner Campaign, c/o Assaf Oron
POB 95511
Seattle WA 98145-2511

Any funds raised above and beyond the cost of the ad will go to the campaign supporting Israeli conscientious objectors.

Finally, the campaign is asking supporters to contact the Israeli Defense Minister and IDF counsel at the addresses below to demand freedom and humane conditions for Yigal and the other imprisoned resisters. Use the addresses below, and please send a copy sent to:

Mr. Shaul Mofaz
Minister of Defence,
37 Kaplan St.,
Tel-Aviv 61909,
E-mail: or
Fax: ++972-3-696-27-57 / ++972-3-691-69-40 / ++972-3-691-79-15

Brig. Gen. Menachem Finklestein
Chief Military Attorney
Military postal code 9605
Fax: ++972-3-569-43-70

For more information: [top]


Israel and Lebanon seem headed back to the brink of war, with bellicose rhetoric, threats and provocations along the border just a shot away from actual skirmishes. At issue this time is not land, but water--specifically a small river known as the Wazzani--a tributary of the Hasbani, which flows south through some 30 miles of Lebanese territory before passing into Israel and emptying into Lake Kinneret. The crisis was sparked by Lebanese plans to increase the amount of water pumped from the river for local municipal use for the first time since Israeli occupation forces withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000.

On Nov. 3, shortly after Lebanon began pumping drinking water to eight southern villages, Israeli jets thundered overhead--a reminder of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's threat to destroy the Wazzani Springs pumping station if it was determined to be depleting Israel's share of the Hasbani. As Israeli warplanes staged mock air raids in the area, an Israeli navy cruiser and gunboat were spotted patrolling the southern coastline in a show of force that sent fishermen racing back to the shore. (Al-Nahar, Lebanon, Nov. 3)

The $3.5-million Wazzani project will supply drinking water to some 60 villages being repopulated and rebuilt following the Israeli occupation. To avoid a confrontation with Israel, Lebanese authorities backed off from earlier plans to use the water for irrigation as well as municipal supplies. But southern Lebanon clearly needs water for irrigation too. Along the Wazzani, fields are largely barren, with only a few scattered tomato vines and olive orchards. Just across the border, Israeli orchards produce apples and apricots, and houses have lush lawns. During the Israeli occupation, local villagers said anyone venturing near Wazzani Spring was fired on by Israeli troops stationed on an overlooking hill. Residents had to buy water from private wells, or haul jugs on donkeys to distant springs. "Now, we got Wazzani Spring back," said al-Ahmad, 35, a dairy farmer, "and no one is going to take it away from us." (Newsday, Nov. 3)

Israeli authorities have asked why the Lebanese don't pump from the Litani, a much larger river which empties into the Mediterranean north of the Israeli border. But local Lebanese authorities say the Litani is poisoned by industrial effluent from inland factories. (UK Independent, Sept. 26)

The Lebanese plan--carried out by the Southern Council, a government body responsible for infrastructure in the former Israeli occupied zone--would divert some 3.5 million cubic meters of water a year from Lake Kinneret in northern Israel. Experts say this will lower the lake's level by two centimeters. (Haaretz, Sept. 11)

Israeli Prime Minister Sharon insists that Lebanon cannot change "the status of water arrangements" unilaterally. Sharon accused that "the entire operation is aimed at taking water from Israel." Asked by the Jerusalem Post whether the project would be considered a casus belli by Israel, the prime minister responded: "Israel will not allow the Hasbani to be diverted. I want to be very clear on this. And we are ready to deal with this issue." (Lebanon Daily Star, Sept. 27)

The Lebanese Shite militant group Hezbollah has responded in kind to Sharon's threats. Said Hezbollah executive committee member Hashem Safiedin: "We say to Sharon and to all the Zionists that if they even think about using force to stop the Lebanese exploiting the waters of the Wazzani, we will cut their hands off." (AFP, Sept. 10)

Hezbollah has dispatched armed fighters to the border, close to where workers were installing water pipes for the project. Meanwhile, Israel's ambassador to Washington, Danny Ayalon, met with US Secretary of State Colin Powell to complain about the water project. "We will not allow the diversion of the Hasbani," Ayalon told Powell. And Sharon stepped up his warnings that the water diversion would mean war, telling military commanders: "If that happens, we shall have to take measures."

The issue has actually led to war in the past. In 1964, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan launched a scheme to divert the Hasbani and tributaries of the Jordan River away from Israeli territory. Israel responded by bombing the construction works, sparking a series of cross-border skirmishes that eventually culminated in the 1967 Six-Day War. (Daily Star, Sept. 17)

In September, Lebanon's President Emile Lahoud urged the UN Security Council to restrain Israel. A presidential press release quoted Lahoud saying Lebanon was within its rights to carry out the project under international pacts and agreements. It added that Israel's exploitation of the Wazzani River during its 22-year occupation of the South "does not mean, in any way, that this de facto situation should continue by force... Israel does not want to believe that its occupation of South Lebanon is over. Its presence in the Shabaa Farms [Israeli-held contested lands] and its control of Lebanese waters...should be given up." (Daily Star, Sept. 13)

As Sharon went on Israel's Army Radio to accuse Lebanon of using the water diversion as a "pretext for war," Lahoud told reporters that Israel's threats will not "stop us from implementing international laws regarding water and rivers flowing from our territories." (Haaretz, Sept. 15)

A US delegation headed by State Department water expert Chuck Lawson arrived in Beirut to try to mediate the crisis in September, holding talks with Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and Speaker Nabih Berri as well as Lahoud. According to visiting MPs, Berri told Lawson that Lebanon was fully entitled to use the water, and call for drawing a UN "Blue Line" to delineate water resources in the border zone. (Daily Star, Sept. 19)

After US attempts to mediate the crisis broke down in October, Lebanese Information Minister Ghazi Aridi accused Washington of "total bias in favor of Israel." (Daily Star, Oct. 11)

As work was completed on the project, Israeli forces used powerful loudspeakers to blare magnified and prolonged wolf cries along the border with Lebanon every night in a psychological operation against workers at the pumping station. Parachute flares illuminated the night skies for Israeli jets to stage thunderous supersonic flights, and Apache helicopter gunships hovered overhead. But Lebanese officials said work on the project never stopped for a moment. (An-Nahar, Oct. 10)

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah announced that his organization was on the highest alert in anticipation of an Israeli attack. Nasrallah pledged that Hezbollah would respond to any Israeli aggression "within minutes." If Sharon decides to attack the pumping project, it will "open up the northern front and we are prepared for that," he said. "All we need is one telephone call" to respond to any Israeli attack, he said. (Haaretz, Oct. 16)

As Lebanon began pumping from the Wazzani Oct.16, Lahoud made a surprise appearance at the inauguration ceremony, and personally turned on the pumps. Dozens of red balloons were released into the air as the pumps were turned on. "This is not the end, this is just the beginning," Berri told the crowd, asserting Lebanon's right to its water. He again called for UN action to determine Lebanon's water rights and said that Lebanon "will not give up any drop of its water." (Haaretz, Oct. 17)

A group of Muslim clerics performed a ritual washing in the Wazzani River at the ceremony. A banner, along with a sea of Lebanese flags, read: "Ariel Sharon is thirsty for blood and we are thirsty for water." (Toronto Globe & Mail, Oct. 16)

US Embassy officials decided to boycott the ceremony, which was attended by representatives from the UN, the EU and various embassies. The US Embassy explained its decision in a statement protesting Lebanon's "failure" to inform third parties that it intended to carry out the project, calling it a "unilateral action." ( Daily Star, Oct. 17)

An October report by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) said Lebanon had not broken any international agreements, and that the dispute should be resolved diplomatically. "It is a duty of the Lebanese government to supply local residents with water for domestic and other use,'' read the report. "We consider that the Lebanese government has not breached any international agreement and that United Nations mediation is necessary.'' (Reuters, Oct. 16)

Meanwhile, an Israeli official in charge of the Upper Galilee water works accused his own government of distorting the Wazzani dispute. The official, Mickey Simhai, told Israel Radio that the Lebanese plan to siphon less from the Hatzbani River than Israel wastes a year. "I think there is a lot of noise being made here," he said. "I don't think we have to go to war over this." Simhai added that the Lebanese are entitled to use the water, particularly if they need it for drinking purposes, and that the diversion posed no threat to Lake Kinneret. (Jerusalem Post, Sep. 21) [top]

Walid Jumblatt, leader of Lebanon's Druze community, called for legalizing opium cultivation for medicinal purposes. Speaking at a political rally in the Bekaa Valley town of Saadnayel, the Druze leader said he was open to the idea of using opium and hashish--once a mainstay of Lebanon's economy--for "medical" purposes. "I favor reopening the debate on banned crops," Jumblatt said before an audience that included farmers and Agriculture Minister Ali Abdullah. The rally, organized by supporters of Jumblatt's Progressive Socialist Party in the Bekaa, was attended by several local politicians and members of parliament. Jumblatt also warned that ending subsidies on agricultural crops, as required by the World Bank, "would lead to an exodus from rural areas to the cities."( Daily Star, Nov. 4)

Last spring, the New York Times reported on how farmer's in Lebanon Bekaa Valley--once the heartland of hashish and opium production--are pining for the old days, before the Lebanese government and Syrian occupation forces eradicated the drug crops and brought in American cattle as an economic alternative for local farmers. Hussein Jaafar, a cannabis farmer turned dairyman, now struggles to eke out a living from half a dozen Pennsylvania cows--but longs again to grow cannabis. "Let them come and take their cows back wherever they came from," said Jaafar. "I will even forgive them my down payment. I swear if the government would let me grow just 500 square metres of hashish, I would sell them." Another farmer pointed out that in the days of hashish prosperity, the farmers had never heard of secondhand clothes. "Now everybody is buying secondhand clothes," he said, "no more Armani and Versace." (NYT, April 7, 2001) [top]

Two women were referred to a criminal judge for sentencing on charges of theft and lesbianism by a Lebanese magistrate in September. The two women, identified only as Haniya and Ghada, are accused of stealing clothes, $2,000 in cash and $10,000 in jewelry. The accusations ceme from Haniya's mother after her daughter fled home to live her lover, Ghada, "whom she loved more than herself," the Daily Star says. Haniya denies her mother's charges. She left a message saying she wanted to seek her own future and not marry a poor man. Police traced the message to the couple's residence in Zouk Mosbeh. In her testimony, Ghada said her relationship with Haniy was one of mutual consent, and that the two lived together as a "sincere couple." Mount Lebanon investigating magistrate Fawzi Adham requested a three-year sentence for theft, and a one-year sentence for lesbianism. (Daily Star, Sept. 27) (David Bloom) [top]

Despite a ban on such demonstrations, anti-Syrian student activists, spurred on by exiled former prime minister and army leader Gen. Michel Aoun, staged a sit-in protest against the Syrian presence in Lebanon on Oct. 16. The protesters hoped to draw the attention of delegates to the Francophone Countries' Organization's meeting, or Paris-2, to be held in Lebanon on Nov. 23. (Reuters, Oct. 16) On Oct. 30, clashes between Christian student protesters and police resulted in the hospitalization of three students. 11 were arrested. Helmeted police sprayed students with fire hoses to keep the demonstration from spilling into the streets from the campus of the Lebanese University Science Faculty in Al-Fanar. A similar protest at the St. Joseph University campus in Ashrafieh by Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) was cancelled due to heavy police presence. (Al Nahar, Nov. 2)

The demonstrations by FPM supporters mark the first anti-Syrian demonstrations since Aug. 2001. At that time, President Emile Lahoud, who largely owes his position to Syria, ordered security forces to crack down on anti-Syrian protesters in Beirut. Students at St. Joseph were beaten and arrested. In November, security forces showed up at the campus and tore down pictures of the earlier beatings.

Since 2000, opposition to Syria's role in Lebanon has been growing. 25,000 Syrian troops have occupied Lebanon since the end of the Lebanese civil war in 1991. The country's economic and political progress are hampered by Syria's presence, the British-based financial journal Middle East Review said in an Oct. 2 article on Lebanon's economic forecast (poor/improving, they say).

The leader of the country's largest Christian sect, Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, and Gebran Tueni, publisher of Lebanon's most respected daily paper, An-Nahar, called on Syria to abide by the 1989 Taif accord and pull back from the Bekaa Valley along the Syrian border, and eventually back home to Syria. They were joined in their call by 1,400 prominent Lebanese personalities, including Walid Jumblatt, leader of the country's Druze, whose father Kamal was assassinated on Syrian orders in 1977. All signed onto a letter calling for Syria to end its occupation. Several Muslims, mostly Shi'ites, also signed the letter. Syrian troops have largely withdrawn from Beirut, but remain in the Bekaa in eastern Lebanon.

Initially, the protests seemed to pay off. Syrian President Bashir Assad ordered his troops to pull back from Beirut and other highly visible areas of the country, mostly Christian enclaves. The redeployment made international news, but tanks and troops returned to the country after the anti-Syrian student protests in Beirut in Aug. 2001. (UK Middle East Review, Oct. 2) (David Bloom) [top]

Qornet Shehwan, a 10-member bloc of Lebanese parliament with close ties to the Maronite church, accused the government in an Oct. 16 statement of "attempting to finish off what remains of the democratic system" in its closure of MTV, a mouthpiece for Christian opposition to Syria's continued occupation of Lebanon. Authorities closed the station in September after a court ruled MTV violated broadcast rules in its coverage of an election. "Qornet Shehwan...holds the government responsible...and demands its immediate resignation as a step toward forming a new one characterized by a sense of national responsibility," the group said. Syrian troops originally poured into the country in 1975 to spare Christian militias defeat by Palestinian and Muslim militias, but turned on the Christian militias after they supported Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon. (Reuters, Oct. 23) (David Bloom) [top]

A group of 48 relatives of Lebanese prisoners they believe are detained in Syria were rebuffed at the Syrian-Lebanese border on their way to Damascus to meet with Syrian Interior Minister Ali Hammoud. Upon arrival at the border, the were informed Hammoud was "out on a mission" and would not be available "for a month." In a July 22 meeting in Damascus, the relatives handed Hammoud a list of 174 prisoners who remained missing after Syrian President Bashar Assad released dozens of prisoners as a goodwill gesture in February, in the face of mounting Lebanese opposition to Syria's presence in Lebanon. Hammoud told the relatives to come back around this time. "In a way, what happened is a good sign; it means they do have something to hide and were not able to face us with the facts," opined the head of the parents' committee for the Support of Lebanese in Detention and Exile (SOLIDE), Ghazi Aad. "We were very responsive in our talks with both the Lebanese and the Syrian governments, but nothing happened," Aad said, adding that "from now on, the parents would start thinking about new methods to resolve their plight." Aad said taking the issue to local or international courts was possible. "But the matter is first and foremost a humanitarian issue and should not be dragged into any political quarrel," Aad said. Despite Syrian denials, parents say they are certain their sons are in Syrian custody.

Samia Eid, the mother of Jihad Eid, missing since 1990, said: "It has become crystal clear that neither the Lebanese government nor the Syrian government wants anything to do with us." Eid said she knows that her son is in Syria because she has seen him there in custody. "I was able to visit my son once, in 1991," she said. "He did not see me because he was blindfolded, but I saw him. He was there." Others say they saw their loved ones as late as 1997. (An-Nahar, Nov. 2; Daily Star, Nov. 4) (David Bloom) [top]

A bomb placed under a van near a branch of US fast food chain McDonald's exploded with no injuries on the night of Sept. 23 outside Beirut. The blast destroyed the van but caused no damage to the restaurant in Jounieh, 15 miles north of the capital. On May 9, a bomb damaged an outlet of the US fast food chain KFC, slightly injuring a security guard. (AFP, Sept. 23) (David Bloom) [top]

During last April's Operation Defensive Shield, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Nasrallah went to Damascus to consult with Syrian President Bashar Assad, according to an April 18 article in Jane's Foreign Report. Nasrallah was told he had carte blanche to attack Israeli military outposts in the disputed Shabaa Farms region, but not to kill any civilians, and go easy on the military casualties. Nasrallah returned thinking Assad agreed with his assessment that Israel could not start up a second front, and thus would not react to provocations in Shabaa Farms. Soon, the Syrian-financed and based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) came to join the fray, firing obsolete 107mm Katyusha rockets into Israel from Hezbollah-controlled areas around the Lebanese village of Khaim. Hours later, some small Palestinian factions from the Ain al-Hilwah camp near Sidon headed to the south border to fire off a few rounds at Israel. Israel's response--mobilizing some reservists and moving a couple of artillery batteries--did not impress the "Party of God" (Hezbollah) or Syria. Firing then shifted from Shabaa Farms to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Bunker-busting mortars never used before by Hezbollah were introduced, as were SAM-7 missiles. On Apr. 12, it is estimated $800,000 worth of mortars, Katyushas, SAMs and Sagger anti-missiles were directed at six Israeli outposts in the Shabaa Farms-Golan Heights sector, just to film a Hezbollah squad reach an outpost and hoist their flag on it. In 2000, Ha'aretz reported that bored elite IDF Golani troops at the northern border had started to play their own version of capture the flag, sneaking across the border into Hezbollah camps, stealing Hezbollah flags. The fun had to stop when Israeli troops discovered Hezbollah had wised up, booby-trapping their flags.

Iran became worried enough by the possibility of massive Israeli retaliation it sent a minister to tell Hezbollah to chill out. The group complied, laying off targets in the Golan Heights. Attacks on Shabaa Farms continued, up to a dozen a day.

A Hezbollah officer was asked by Jane's: why risk retaliation in a dangerous game that gave a boost to the Syrians but did nothing really useful for the besieged Palestinians? "We know the Syrians think they are using us. But it serves our interests as well. Our cadres are genuinely furious with what the Israelis are doing. It is also our religious indoctrination to liberate Jerusalem no matter how unrealistic it may sound." When asked if it was also a way to keep its restless militants occupied, the officer replied, "That too." (Jane's Foreign Report, Apr. 18) (David Bloom) [top]

The German Weekly Der Speiglal reported Sept. 2 that US National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice wants to pursue other terrorist groups after vanquishing al-Qaeda. "We should not leave the fight against Hezbollah and Hamas out of our sight," said Rice. (IRNA, Sept. 2)

At a September luncheon, US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said "Hezbollah made the A-team of terrorists, maybe al-Qaeda is actually the B-team... We're going to go after them just like a high school wrestler goes after opponents. We're going to take them down one at a time." Hezbollah reacted angrily to Armitage's remarks. "We consider that which has been fabricated by Armitage is no more than a stack of lies designed to mislead and divert public opinion, in an attempt to justify the US administration's hostile actions," said a Hezbollah statement. "These accusations also prove the definite American bias toward the Zionist entity and the total subjugation to its political, security and military conditions." (Daily Star, Sept. 7)

Franco Mistretti, the Italian ambassador to Lebanon, scorned the idea that Hezbollah is a terrorist group and a threat to Israel. "Hezbollah is playing an important political and social role in the South and in Parliament. It has popular support and is a respectable force from the military point of view.... The European Union does not think that Hezbollah is a terrorist group... We condemn any kind of terror, of course, [but] I don't think we should consider Hezbollah a terrorist group. I don't know if there is any evidence that they are a terrorist group. Up to now I haven't seen any." Mistretti claimed there was no evidence to show Hezbollah engages in terrorism. "It cannot be proved from an international point of view," he said. "Washington says so and Israel, of course." The ambassador also said of Israel and the Hezbollah: "I sense disproportion between the two forces. They are not comparable. Hezbollah is a reason of annoyance. But a real threat?" (Daily Star, Sept. 7)

Washington blames Hezbollah for the 1983 attack that killed 241 US troops in Lebanon, the bombing of its embassy in Lebanon the same year, and the kidnapping of US citizens during the 1975-1990 civil war. (Reuters, Sept. 6) Hezbollah has also been implicated in the deadly 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Argentina.. Argentina is reportedly ready to indict Hezbollah agents for the attack. (Forward, Oct. 4) Hezbollah has not been suspected of attacking US interests since the 1996 attack on the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. Hezbollah is known to run floating "day camps" for training terrorists in the Bekaa valley, some staffed with instructors from the Iranian Revolutionary guards. Members of the Red Brigades, the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), the Irish Republican Army, and the Basque separatist group ETA have all trained in these camps. (New Yorker, Oct. 21) More recently, the group dismissed as "ridiculous and baseless" the charge that it recruited Southeast Asian Muslims in a plot to attack US and Israeli ships in Singapore (AP, June 12) Loathed by the US defense establishment for the attacks of the '80s, the group is now seen by many as focusing its efforts against Israel. "The question is how we treat groups that are traditionally considered terrorist but have not lately targeted US interests," said a Mideast-based US official. (CSM, June 14) [top]

The US Justice Deptartment told the Senate Intelligence Committee on July 26 that Hezbollah has militants in the US who could strike US targets. The Department said Hezbollah militants may have been told to evaluate specific targets, but perhaps only to test their loyalty. Hezbollah has never struck a target in the US, but has raised funds stateside. "To date, it is believed that this extensive fund-raising activity itself acts as a disincentive for operational terrorist activity in the United States," according to the Justice Deptartment document. (AP, Nov. 1) (David Bloom) [top]

Hezbollah, a social and political organization with a wide welfare network in "Hezbollahstan" in Lebanon's south and ten members in Parliament, is at its heart a Shiite jihadi group, with two ultimate goals: establishing an Islamic republic in Lebanon, and liberating Israel from the Jews. In November 2000, five months after Israel pulled out of south Lebanon, UN secretary-general Kofi Annan asked the Lebanese army to deploy in the south and secure the border with Israel, with the UN to reduce half of its troop presence by 2003. However, at Syria's behest, the Lebanese army did not go south, and Hezbollah has continued its activities resisting Israeli occupation--this time of a small sliver of land adjacent to the Golan Heights called Shabaa farms. Shabaa farms is recognized by the UN, Israel, and Washington as Syrian territory, and a matter to be settled in Israeli-Syrian negotiations. But Lebanon and Syria say it is Lebanese, and that therefore Hezbollah has the right to continue its resistance. In June, it was revealed an Israeli academic had discovered maps and documents dating from the 1920-41 French mandate supporting the claim that Shabaa farms was Lebanese, and not Syrian. (Middle East Review, Oct. oct. 2; New Yorker, Oct. 21, Ha'aretz, June 26) (see WW3 REPORT# 40)

However, Hezbollah chief spokesman Hassan Ezzedine told New Yorker journalist Jeffrey Goldberg that an Israeli evacuation of Shabaa farms would by no means stop Hezbollah. "If they go from Shabaa, we will not stop fighting them. Our goal is to liberate the 1948 borders of Palestine." Surviving Jews "can go back to Germany, or wherever they came from." Pre-1948 Jews would be "allowed to live as a minority and they will be cared for by the Muslim majority." In a conference held in Tehran last year, Sheik Nasrallah said, "we all have an extraordinary historic opportunity to finish off the entire cancerous Zionist project."(New Yorker, Oct. 21) At a Nov. 1 visit to the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus, Nasrallah urged continued resistance to an enthused crowd. "I say to the Palestinians that their martyr-bombers are the makers and guarantors of your future in Palestine," he said to a roaring cheer. "You have to step up these attacks." (An-Nahar, Oct. TK)

Nasrallah expresses little fondness for Jews, either. Nasrallah said in a speech: "If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology, and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice, I do not say the Israeli.." Ibrahinm Mussawi, director of English-language news at Hezbollah's TV station, al Manar, called Jews "a lesion on the forehead of history." Hezbollah parliamentarian Hussein Hajm Hassan, who denies being anti-Semitic, told Goldberg that Jews are a pan-national group "that functions in a way that lets them act as parasite in the nations that have given them shelter."(New Yorker, Oct. 21) (David Bloom) [top]

In a July 13 report on the United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL), UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan held Beirut responsible for breach of UN resolutions by letting Hezbollah stage operations across the "Blue Line" separating Lebanon from Israel. Annan also blamed Israel for staging "unjustified" air patrols over Lebanese territory on a daily basis. Although the UN voted unanimously to extend UNIFIL's mandate by another six months on July 30, it cited "great concern about the serious breaches and the air, sea and land violations of the withdrawal line." The Security Council adopted a resolution urging the parties to put an end to those infringements and to "abide scrupulously by their obligation to respect the safety of the UNIFIL and other UN personnel". Four members of UNIFIL were "severely beaten" when they tried to enter Shabaa farms area to monitor the military situation, resulting in an apology from Hezbollah Secretary-General Sheik Nasrallah to Annan. (JDW, Aug. 14; JDW, July 31) (David Bloom) [top]

Lebanon Daily Star correspondent Nicholas Blandford, writing for Jane's Defense Weekly, reports that Israel may use the slightest provocation from Hezbollah to launch an attack on the group, and destroy Hezbollah's fighting capability once and for all. Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz, head of IDF Northern Command, recently said he is "almost certain" that Israel will wage war against both Hezbollah and Syria. Another IDF officer told Blandford the attack would take place "while the Americans are at work in Iraq." He added: "Hezbollah, as well as the Palestinians, are likely to start firing missiles at Israel anyway when the Iraq war starts, all we have to do is respond to the provocation."

US Sen. Bob Graham, Chairman of the US Senate Intelligence Committee, has urged the Bush administration to take out Hezbollah before taking on Iraq, calling for air strikes against the group in the Bekaa Valley. That and similar statements by US administration officials have increased speculation that Washington might approve of an IDF operation against Hezbollah, possibly in co-ordination with the US-led strike on Iraq. (JDW, Oct. 30) (David Bloom) [top]

A Sept. 2 report in Ha'aretz by Israeli military analyst Ze'ev Schiff claimed that up to 200 al-Qaeda operatives had been settled in Ein al-Hilwah Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon. Schiff said he got the information from an unnamed Israeli security source. (Ha'aretz, Sept. 5) A Lebanese security source discounted the report, saying that only 10-15 wanted Islamic activists were operating in the camp. (Haartez, Sept. 3)

One Lebanese analyst discounted the Ha'aretz report as "yet another desperate attempt by Israel to link Lebanon and Syria with al-Qaeda and put them on the list of targets in the war against terrorism". (BBC, Sept. 2)

The LA Times said Sept. 15 that Arab intelligence sources report that al-Qaeda members fleeing from Afghanistan have regrouped in the Middle East, and are present in Iran, Syria and Lebanon. The Times said Syria has allowed "dozens" of al-Qaeda operatives to take up residence in Ein al-Hilwah. (LAT, Sept. 15)

Twenty-two people, including nationals from Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Turkey and the Palestinian territories, have been charged by a Lebanese military prosecutor with planning to carry out attacks and forging travel documents. Three of the 22 are in custody. The men are alleged to be members of al-Qaeda. (AP, Oct. 11) (David Bloom) [top]


An armada now leaving San Diego with more than 8,000 sailors and Marines is heading for the Persian Gulf. While the deployment of the aircraft carrier Constellation and five escort ships has been planned for over a year, the flotilla has been considerably beefed up. The Constellation battle group includes the carrier, 72 aircraft, the cruisers Bunker Hill and Valley Forge, destroyers Higgins and Milius, and frigate Thach. Joining the warships are aircraft and crew members from North Island Naval Air Station and Miramar Marine Corps Air Station. The submarine Columbia from Pearl Harbor, HI, and the support ship Rainier from Washington state will also join up. The battle group, armed with fighter-bombers and Tomahawk cruise missiles, could be stationed off Iraq by early December.

"Any time you deploy you have to go with the mind-set that you'll be involved in some action," said Capt. John Miller, the Constellation's commanding officer. This time "there is a very real possibility we'll be involved in combat." The carrier is "ready in every regard," he said. The Constellation will relieve the carrier Lincoln and its escort vessels. Planes from the Lincoln group have been flying patrols over southern Iraq's no-fly zone and intercepting ships trying to smuggle Iraqi oil. (San Diego Union-Tribune, Nov. 1) [top]

Navy warplanes patrolling the no-fly zone in southern Iraq--including the new F/A-18E Super Hornet, deployed for the first time--are practicing mock raids on airfields and military targets. "It gives us the opportunity to train in the same environment that we may possibly go to war in," said Cpt. Kevin C. Albright, commander of the Abraham Lincoln battle group. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has also authorized US warplanes to actually strike a wider variety of targets in southern Iraq--now including command, control and communications systems such as radar and relay stations as well as anti-aircraft weapons. (NYT, Nov. 3) [top]

In October, Ahmed Chalabi, head of the London-based Iraqi National Congress (INC), met executives of three US oil multi-nationals in Washington DC to negotiate the post-Saddam carve-up of Iraq's massive oil reserves, the UK Observer reported Nov. 3. Disclosure of the meetings comes just as Lord Browne, the head of the UK petrol giant BP, warned that British oil companies have been squeezed out of post-war Iraq even before the first shot has been fired in any US-led land invasion. Confirming that the meetings took place, INC spokesman Zaab Sethna said: "The oil people are naturally nervous. We've had discussions with them, but they're not in the habit of going around talking about them."

Next month oil executives will gather at a retreat near Sandringham in the English countryside to discuss Iraq and the future of the oil market. The conference, hosted by former Saudi oil minister Sheikh Yamani, will feature a former Iraqi head of military intelligence and top British officials and financiers. The Observer writes: "Topics for discussion include the country's oil potential, whether it can become as big a supplier as Saudi Arabia, and whether a post-Saddam Iraq might destroy the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries."

Disclosure of talks between the oil executives and the CIA-supported INC will likely exacerbate friction on the UN Security Council between the US and veto-holders Russia, France and China, who fear they will be squeezed out of a post-Saddam oil industry in Iraq. Although Russia, France and China have existing deals with Iraq, Chalabi has made clear that if his faction is installed in power he will reward the US for removing Saddam with lucrative oil contracts, telling the Washington Post recently: "American companies will have a big shot at Iraqi oil."

Russia, which is owed billions of dollars by Iraq for past loans and arms deals, has the biggest interest in Iraq's oil industry, including a $3.5 billion, 23-year deal to rehabilitate oilfields--particularly the 11-15 billion-barrel West Qurna field, located west of Basra near the Rumaila field. Since the agreement was signed in March 1997, Russia's Lukoil has developed plans to install equipment to produce 100,000 barrels per day from West Qurna's Mishrif formation. The French giant TotalFinaElf has been in negotiations with Iraq on development of the Nahr Umar field.

In September, Larry Lindsey, President Bush's economic adviser, said: "When there is a regime change in Iraq, you could add three to five million barrels [per day] of production to world supply. The successful prosecution of the war would be good for the economy." That same month, a model for the carve-up of Iraq's oil was presented by Ariel Cohen of the right-wing Heritage Foundation. In "The Future of a Post-Saddam Iraq: A Blueprint for American Involvement," Cohen called for privatization of Iraq's nationalized oil industry, and warned that France, Russia and China were likely to find that a new INC-led government would not honor their contracts.

Cohen's proposal would have Iraq's oil industry split up into three large private companies, with the areas of control following Iraq's ethnic divisions: one company for the largely Shia south, another for the Sunni region around Baghdad, and a third for the Kurdish north. [top]

"Does the Bush administration have a hidden agenda?" asks commentator Jeremy Rifkin in the LA Times Oct. 25. "If you want to know how utterly estranged Europe and the United States have become, listen to the talk in the streets over the possible US invasion of Iraq. In the US, most Americans believe President Bush when he says we have a moral obligation to protect the world from Saddam Hussein's pathological desire to build and employ weapons of mass destruction. In Europe, by contrast, most people believe that the US is planning to invade Iraq to secure its oil fields. So, while most Americans think that we are planning an attack on Iraq to save the world from a madman, most Europeans think that Bush is the madman, with the evil intention of grabbing a foothold in the oil-rich Middle East to extend the 'American empire.'"

While Rifkin says "the media on both sides of the pond are pandering to the political sensibilities of their respective regions," he takes the US press to task for its silence on oil as a factor in the war drive. "Do they really believe that oil plays no role in the strategic thinking of the inner circles at the White House? This national silence is even more deafening when we look at the key players in this unfolding drama. Both Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney come out of the oil industry. Their careers have been shaped by oil interests. Their political fortunes have been boosted by the oil lobby. Bush was the No. 1 recipient of energy industry money, collecting more than $1.8 million in contributions, more than any other candidate for federal office received over the last decade. If there was any reason to be suspicious of the White House's intentions in regard to Iraq, certainly the fact that Cheney held closed-door meetings with the leaders of the energy industry immediately upon taking office--and then refused to release the record of those discussions or the names and corporate affiliations of the participants--should at least raise a few eyebrows in the media. That's not to suggest that these private discussions related to American security interests in Iraq and the Middle East. Rather, what it says is that the interests of the oil companies are never far from the thoughts of Bush and Cheney. Thus it is incredible that no one in Congress or the media has bothered to ask: Does the desire to secure the second-largest oil fields in the world play any strategic role in White House thinking?" [top]

In the Nov. 21 New York Review of Books, financial power broker Felix Rohatyn--former ambassador to France and chair of NYC's Municipal Assistance Corporation--writes: "It is clear today that uncertainty over Iraq has become an important factor in weakening an already weak economy. This is caused by uncertainty about the war, its cost, and, more important, the cost of its aftermath. We are uncertain about the future supply of oil as well as future oil prices... How we deal with Iraq will have a dramatic impact on our domestic situation. The two issues must be linked." Rohatyn argues against "going it alone" on Iraq in favor of multilateralism. He also calls for domestic belt-tightening (a favorite theme of his when he was New York City's de facto Austerity Czar at the MAC after the '70s fiscal crisis), endorsing conservation measures such as stringent SUV mileage standards as "necessary for national security." But he makes clear that the slumping economy reflects jitters over access to Middle East oil. "Credit comes from the Latin credere, 'to believe.' The system is in jeopardy when the public no longer has confidence in major corporations and institutions. That is the case today... America's dependence on foreign oil, and the fact that its sources are not reliable, worsens our foreign trade deficit." [top]

The Bush administration is considering an Israeli proposal to send US special forces into Iraq's western desert to knock out missile sites in the event of war, a US official said, speaking to the AP on condition on anonymity Oct. 19. In a joint operation, Israel would furnish the US with intelligence about the sites and how to disarm them early in the conflict. Israel is said to have presented the proposal during Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's October talks in Washington with President Bush and senior White House, Pentagon and State Department officials. He was reportedly given assurances the administration would make a maximum effort to neutralize any Iraqi missile threat. Sharon vowed before his trip to Washington that Israel "will take the proper steps to defend its citizens" if Iraq should attack Israeli civilians. In 1991's Operation Desert Storm, Iraq hit Israel with 39 Scud missiles, but at the behest of the US Israel did not retaliate. Sharon did not get a response to the special forces proposal during his three-day visit, and it is still under consideration, the official said.

See also WW3 REPORT #56 [top]

Concerns about Iraqi ballistic missile attacks in the event of a US-led invasion of Iraq have led Israeli to deploy Patriot anti-missile missile batteries around the nuclear facilities at Dimona, in the Negev desert. In addition to concerns about Iraqi missiles, there is concern Hezbollah could launch attacks against the Israeli north, in order to draw Syria into the conflict, says Jane's Missiles & Rockets. Israeli press reports put Hezbollah's estimated rocket inventory at 8-10,000, mainly 107mm and 122mm rockets, but also some longer-ranged 240mm rockets. (JMR, Oct. 1) (David Bloom) [top]

Spain's top diplomat in Baghdad has resigned, complaining that he felt under increasing pressure to toe a pro-Washington line. "The official position is so markedly pro-US that, if you don't support Washington's policy, it is as if you are working against your own government," Fernando Valderrama, Spanish charge d'affaires, told El Pais newspaper. "The way the situation is presented, you are asked to choose between Bush and Saddam, and I don't side with either." The Spanish government of President Jose Maria Aznar is one of the few on the European continent to support Bush's war drive. (UK Observer, Oct. 20) [top]

Stevie Wonder is apparently unmoved by the devotion of President Bush, New York's Daily News reported Nov. 3. Back in March, when the soul legend played at Ford's Theater in DC, the First Fan was spotted excitedly waving to him--until Bush apparently remembered that Stevie couldn't see him and sheepishly lowered his hand. In spite of that adulation, Wonder has now declared himself firmly opposed to Bush's war drive against Iraq. "I can't believe how we can be a part of this war and destruction," he said Oct. 28 at a Beacon Theater benefit for the Artist Empowerment Coalition. [top]

In the November Harper's Magazine, Joy Gordon likens the sanctions against Iraq to weapons of mass destruction. Gordon charges that through Washington "fiat" in the UN Security Council, "the United States has consistently thwarted Iraq from satisfying its most basic humanitarian needs, using sanctions as nothing less than a deadly weapon... US policymakers have effectively turned a program of international governance into a legitimized act of mass slaughter... Since the program began, an estimated 500,000 Iraqi children under the age of five have died as a result of the sanctions--almost three times as many as the number of Japanese killed in the US atomic bomb attacks."

Gordon shows how Defense Department documents predicted the toll the sanctions would have on Iraq's public health and sanitation, and she cites an anonymous Pentagon official quoted in the June 23, 1991 Washington Post saying: "People say, 'You didn't recognize that it was going to have an effect on water and sewage.' Well, what were we trying to do with sanctions--help the Iraqi people? No. What we were doing with the attacks on the infrastructure was to accelerate the effect of the sanctions."

Gordon also shows how the Oil-for-Food program, first rejected by Iraq in 1991 and finally put in place in 1996, has been systematically undermined by US veto power over the Security Concil's 661 Committee, charged with evaluating Iraq's "humanitarian" imports assure that they do not have a "dual use" that could be applied to military purposes. Up to a third of water and sanitation-related contracts have been placed on hold in 2001, and a quarter of electricity and educational-supply contracts. Even the arms experts at the UN Monitoring, Verification ande Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) objected when the US blocked contracts for water tankers, claiming they could be used to haul chemicals. Meanwhile, child mortality rates in Iraq have more than doubled since the sanctions were imposed, with chronic child malnutrition up to 25% in the south and central zones of the country.

Gordon unfortunately falls into the same trap as most of the anti-sanctions movement--completely exculpating Saddam Hussein of any responsibility for the situation. While conceding that the dictator has a problem with what she somewhat euphemistically calls "human-rights violations" against the Kurds and Shiites (wholesale ethnic cleansing is more like it), she praises him for running a welfare state which "invested heavily in health, education, and social programs for two decades prior to the Persian Gulf War... The social programs and economic development continued, and expanded, even during Iraq's grueling and costly war with Iran from 1980 to 1988..."

First of all, it is hard to believe that "Saddam Hussein's government" did anything "for two decades prior" to the 1991 Gulf War given that he only came to power in 1979. But more to the point, does Gordon assume that Saddam's supposed socialist ideals are intact--or that they were ever more than a tactical consideration in building a power base? It doesn't seem to occur to her that now that sanctions have made Iraq's economic pie much smaller Saddam has decided to sacrifice the butter for guns--and is directing scarce resources into arms, palaces and cronyism rather than human needs.

Gordon fails to report that multi-national corporations like Halliburton are also eating into the Oil-for-Food funds through compensation claims for their investments damaged in Desert Storm (see WW3 REPORT #32). Less surprisingly, she also fails to consider the probability that Saddam's own kleptocratic regime is skimming from the Oil-for-Food funds to line the pockets of the dictator and his cronies. [top]

The Nov. 11 issue of Newsweek reports on the story of Russian businessman Gazi Luguev, who met Uday Hussein, Saddam's elder son, in Baghdad early last year to discuss what was presented as a lucrative business opportunity. After greeting Luguev warmly at his Baghdad palace, showing off his collection of expensive cars, rare cognac and Cuban cigars--and going on about his insatiable craving for Kit Kat candy bars--Uday cut to the chase. The Iraqi regime would set up Luguev with contracts to buy tanker-loads of oil at below-market prices. Luguev could then re-sell to major oil companies at a higher price, and pocket the profit. Best of all, the deals were entirely legal under the Oil-for-Food program. The money Luguev paid to Iraq for the oil would be deposited in a UN-controlled bank account, and used to feed starving Iraqi kids. "We need to help the children," Luguev recalls Uday's saying with a smirk. There was just one catch. Uday and his dictator dad wanted a cut. In exchange for arranging the oil shipments, Iraqi officials later told him, Luguev would have to secretly wire $60,000 to a secret account in Jordan. Luguev was informed that everyone who bought oil from Iraq paid a similar "deposit" for each contract. "It is our rule," he says an Iraqi official told him. Luguev claims he wired the money and waited to hear back. But the call never came. At first, Luguev said, Iraqi officials told him that the shipment was delayed. When he complained, they canceled the contract entirely--but kept his $60,000. "They think they are like God," he said a furious Luguev. "They can do what they like." In retaliation, Luguev squealed on Iraq, filing a formal complaint to the UN--wihch was obtained by Newsweek. (In response, Iraq has said Luguev is "incorrect"--but offered to return his money.)

UN officials are now investigating the charges, but Newsweek reports they were not shocked by Luguev's charges: "For years it had been an open secret that Saddam was plundering the Oil for Food program-netting a huge cash windfall that the CIA believes the Iraqi dictator has used to finance his weapons programs. US government figures estimate that Iraq has received at least $2.3 billion in oil-contract kickbacks since 1997." [top]

Iran has complained to Iraq about huge fires reportedly burning large areas of marshland on the border between the two countries. A statement by the Iranian environmental protection agency said the fires, which began over two months ago, are were still burning now, with thick clouds of smoke pushed across the border by a south westerly wind, and the resulting pollution affecting people in towns and villages on the Iranian side. Officials in southwest Iran blame the Iraqi military for starting the fires, speculating that it may have been a pre-emptive move aimed at driving out rebel Shiite fighters in advance of a possible US invasion. The main Iraqi Shiite opposition group, which is based in Iran, did not endorse this theory, but pointed out that the fires would not have been possible had the Baghdad government not dried out much of the marshes of southeast Iraq by huge drainage schemes in recent years. The marshes were a globally important wetland, sustaining a huge volume of wildlife, especially birds, as well as a unique way of life for the marsh-dwelling Shiite Arabs of the region. The United Nations Environment Program estimates that some 90% of the marshes have been destroyed, calling Saddam's policy an environmental catastrophe and a major loss to all humanity. (BBC, Oct. 30)

See also WW3 REPORT #39 [top]


Most of Syria's Kurdish minority live along the border with Iraq and have watched enviously as Iraq's Kurds have established a self-governing zone under the protection of US and British warplanes. Now that Iraq's Kurds are gaining even more stature as potential allies in the war drive against Saddam, the Syria's Kurds are starting to raise their own demands for equality and language and cultural rights. Use of Kurdish in schools and publications remains illegal in Syria, where authorities traditionally view the 8% Kurdish minority with suspicion. "Kurds are an integral part of Syrian society and should have the same rights as Syrian citizens," said Marwan Zirki, head of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Gathering, one of 14 Kurdish groups in Syria--none of which are recognized by the government.

In the last decade, thousands of Kurds have been killed as Turkey and Iraq put down Kurdish revolts. Syrian Kurds have been spared such brutality, but they increasingly complain of a lack of basic rights, and of official neglect in their impoverished provinces of Hasakeh and Qamishli. The Syrian Constitution makes no mention the country's 1.5 million Kurds. About 160,000 Kurds have been denied Syrian nationality, meaning they cannot vote, own property, go to state schools or get government jobs. They carry special red identity cards that identify them as "foreigners." Some 75,000 Kurds are not recognized at all and have no identity cards--which means they cannot even be treated in state hospitals or get marriage certificates. They are called "maktoumeen," or unregistered. The government maintains that Kurds who fled from Turkey or Iraq are not Syrians, but that Kurds who are citizens enjoy the same rights as other Syrians. Those who could not prove they had lived in Syria since 1945 lost their citizenship.

Syria, Turkey and Iran all fear a war on Iraq could split the country, leading to an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq and new demands for independence by Kurds throughout the region. In an unusual move, Syrian Vice President Abdul-Halim Khaddam met with an Iraqi Kurdish delegation recently. And when Syria's Kurdish groups recently held an unprecedented round-table discussion of their political status, many Syrian intellectuals participated, and authorities did not interfere. In August, President Bashir Assad made what is believed to be the first visit to Kurdish areas by a Syrian leader since the country's independence in 1946. Assad did not mention the Kurds in his speech there, but spoke of "national unity" and the "need to abide by law and order."

Abdul-Hamid Darwish, head of the Kurdish Progressive and Democratic Party in Syria, told AP the Syrian Kurds do not seek separation from Syria. "We do not seek the establishment of a Kurdish area," he said. "We just want to administrate our area and to freely practice our cultural, social and political rights." (AP, Nov. 1) [top]

King Pleads for Rain Prayers in S. Arabia Saudi Arabia's King Fahd urged the citizens of his desert kingdom to pray for rain, his court said in a statement. "As both man and land need rain...the king has urged everybody to perform rain prayers on Monday," said the statement, carried by the official Saudi Press Agency Nov. 2 The kingdom has an annual rainfall of only 6 inches. (An-Nahar, Lebanon, Nov. 3) [top]

An Egyptian governor banned shisha waterpipe smoking in coffee shops to stop local employees from skipping work, Egypt's al-Wafd newspaper reported. Gov. Adel Labib of Qena province said he had noticed people who should have been at work were instead sitting in cafes and smoking the popular "hubbly-bubbly" pipes. Shisha smoking is widely popular in Egypt, with coffee shops serving a wide variety of flavored tobacco such as apple, strawberry and rose. Cafes which violated the ban would be closed and face a fine of $108, the paper said. Smokers would also be fined. (Reuters, Nov. 1) [top]

Recent news on the archeological front vividly illustrates the idiotic futility of attempting to suppress the trade in hashish, cannabis and opium which has persisted in the Middle East since the dawn of history. Archeologists have determined that a thriving Bronze Age drug trade supplied dope to ancient cultures throughout the eastern Mediterranean as balm for the pain of childbirth and disease, proving a sophisticated knowledge of medicines dating back thousands of years. Traces of opium have been found on ancient Mycenaean-era ceramic pots in tombs and settlements throughout the Middle East, dating as far back as 1,400 BC, said Joe Zias, an anthropologist at Jerusalem's Hebrew University. "We know for sure these things were used for medical purposes," Zias said. "The question is whether they were used for recreational purposes."

Mark Spigelman, a Zias colleague at Hebrew University, found one Bronze-Age pot in the shape of an opium poppy in Siqqura, a Giza cemetery near the pyramids outside Cairo, during a dig four years ago. The pot, found in an 18th-dynasty grave, was identical to other pots found in Israel and elsewhere. "These guys were selling opium all over the Middle East," Spigelman said.

Based on ancient Egyptian medical writings from the third millennium BC, researchers believe opium and hashish were used during surgery and to treat pain. Archaeologists think the opium was eaten rather than smoked. They also say ancient trade likely was run by respected healers rather than violent drug lords.

At a Roman-era dig at Beit Shemesh in central Israel, Zias found another clue--the skeleton of a 14-year-old girl who died in childbirth about 390 CE. On her stomach was a fleck of a burnt black substance. "I thought it was incense," Zias said. But when he had it analyzed by police and chemists at Hebrew University, it turned out to be a mixture of "hashish, dried seeds, fruit and common reeds." (AP, Aug. 8)

Do you think the fact that the dope trade is today controlled by violent mafias instead of peaceful healers might have a little something to do with the fact that the stuff is illegal? Nah... [top]


US officials say the Pentagon plans to establish a military headquarters in the Horn of Africa to direct US operations against al-Qaeda in the region, ABC News reported Nov. 3. Officials say the Second Marine Division based in Camp Lejeune, NC, has received orders to deploy several hundred headquarters staff for a joint task force for the Horn of Africa. A strike force of some 800 US special operations forces and Marines is already on station in the former French colony of Djibouti for possible deployment against al Qaeda in the region. They say no operations have been launched so far, and the forces stationed in Djibouti are engaged mainly in training and expanding contact with government forces in Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya and Yemen. But intelligence-gathering activities in the region could lead to military action. "If something breaks, and you find something and go after it, you have to have someone focused on it," a defense official said. An amphibious assault group led by the helicopter carrier USS Nassau is currently in the Red Sea with a contingent of some 2,200 Marines, and an amphibious group led by the USS Belleau Wood is said to be on the way to the region. [top]


Senior Afghan officials have warned the US that Taliban forces are regrouping just across the border in Pakistan in preparation for a new wave of terrorist attacks aimed at destabilizing the US-installed regime of Hamid Karzai. Pentagon and State Department officials say Afghanistan's Kunar province, which borders Pakistan's lawless North-West Frontier Province, has become a gateway for Taliban fighters infiltrating back into the country. It is also said to be a base for fighters loyal to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a fundamentalist warlord who has pledged to overthrow Karzai. Pentagon officials say Hekmatyar has forged an alliance with Taliban/al-Qaeda commanders and is providing leadership for their regrouped forces. (NYT, Nov. 3) [top]

In coordinated actions Oct. 25, girls' schools in four separate villages outside Kabul were attacked--two hit by rockets that left gaping holes in the walls, the other two damaged by arson. At each location, a letter was found signed by "the hero Mujahedeen of Afghanistan," urging Afghans to rise up against US forces who have "occupied" the country and "made our Afghan sisters their servants and slaves." The note also warned: "Stop carrying out the plans of the Americans, or you will face further deadly attacks." Additionally, on Sept. 25 vandals set fire to a group of tents being used as a girls' school at Sar-i-Pul. Earlier that month, a small bomb exploded in the changing room of a co-educational primary school in Kandahar, injuring a teacher. (NYT, Oct. 30)

Meanwhile, the Afghan Supreme Court dismissed a female judge for not wearing an Islamic headscarf during a meeting with President Bush and his wife in October, Reuters reports. Marzeya Basil was among a group of 14 female government officials who attended computer and management courses in Washington at the invitation of the US government. Pictures of Basil and several other participants standing with Bush without headscarves were carried by world media. The 44-year-old Basil was fired days after her return to Kabul for not wearing her scarf during the meeting. The decision for her removal was made by "top authorities of the Supreme Court," one source said. Basil herself could not be reached for comment. (Reuters, Nov. 2) [top]

Opium production in Afghanistan soared to near-record levels in 2002, placing the country back in the number-one slot for global output, according to the latest UN study. UN officials blamed "the total collapse of law and order" in Afghanistan during the US-led drive to oust the Taliban regime one year ago for the resurgence in poppy production. Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the UN Office on Drugs & Crime, said in Rome that Afghanistan's new leader Hamid Karzai had tried to halt opium production, but needed more aid from the international community. "These figures are not the manifestation of a failure of Afghan authorities," he said. "They can only be interpreted in the context of that country's realities of the past year." The annual survey puts Afghanistan's 2002 opium production at 3,700 tons, with an estimated value of $1.2 billion--a huge increase over the 185 tons produced in 2000, when the Taliban regime issued an edict banning opium cultivation. The report notes that Karzai's program to compensate farmers for the voluntary eradication of their opium crops was thwarted by inadequate funds, violent resistance by poppy farmers and the refusal of many local officials to destroy the crops. The report identifies 90% of Afghanistan's opium as originating in just five of its 32 provinces: Helmand in the south, Nangarhar in the east, Badakhshan in the north, and Oruzgan and Kandahar in the south (in order of production). These are all areas where Karzai's weak central government is struggling to assert its authority. (NYT, Oct. 28)

British troops burned many opium fields in Afghanistan this year, but met with fierce resistance from local farmers. (See WW3 REPORT #37)

Warlords resisting Karzai's central authority are believed to have turned to the heroin trade to fund their private armies. (See WW3 REPORT #47) [top]

Many marijuana growers who were forced out of business by a draconian anti-cannabis edict under Afghanistan's ultra-fundamentalist Taliban regime were able to plant again this spring--and are now reaping a bumper crop. Fields of sturdy marijuana plants, some nearly seven feet tall, line the main road leading west from the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. But the new freedom to grow may have more to do with lawlessness than a more enlightened policy. The new regime has again ordered farmers to tear up their cannabis crops, but growers in the village of Khana Abad, 20 miles from Mazar, say they'll ignore the new edict. "We have to do it because of our economic problems," said Rouzudin, a farmer who said he heard the warnings broadcast on the radio only after investing a large sum in his plot. Rouzudin and his fellow farmers made no effort to hide their plants, which loom over nearby cotton bushes. The two crops are interspersed along the road leading to Shibergan, headquarters of Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, the warlord who rules the north. Farmer Majid Gul said he can get 5 million Afghanis, or about $100, for 2.2 pounds of hashish--200 times more than he could earn for the same amount of cotton. "When we're ready to sell, people in big cars will come from the bazaar in town," he said. "We don't know who they are, we just want the money." (AP, Sept. 14) [top]

Afghanistan's weak legal system means that struggling farmers--not wealthy and well-connected traffickers--will be the main target in the country's opium crackdown, said authorities in a major poppy-growing region. "Down the road, the central government will prepare laws," said Khalid Pashtoon, government spokesman for the southern province of Kandahar. "Right now, we have to be a little cautious. We don't want to cause any trouble."

Afghanistan was long a top global opium producer. But in 2001, the Taliban regime banned cultivation of poppies, and production fell dramatically. Last year, however, growers around the country took advantage of the power vacuum during the US-led war on the Taliban, and production soared. A new UN report says the country has now regained its status as the world's top opium producing nation.

Pashtoon said this year no compensation would be paid to farmers, but plantations will be summarily destroyed by a newly-created anti-drug squad. "Once the crops are visible, we will eradicate them." Kandahar agriculture minister Said Wajdun said his under-funded department was trying to disrupt this year's planting--but to little effect. "We placed announcements in the paper and over the radio telling them we would destroy their crops with a helicopter, but they don't care," Wajdun said. (AP, Oct. 30) [top]

An international conference on fighting narco-trafficking in the countries of the Great Silk Road was held n Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, organized under the auspices of the World Customs Organization (WCO). Representatives from 30 countries attended, marking the first time that delegates from China to Europe worked jointly and signed multilateral documents on the issue. Officials said Afghan heroin, marijuana and opium are being smuggled through Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, including the Osh Knot zone, a UN project aimed at preventing drug smuggling in the Fergana Valley, a strategic area shared by the three countries. Experts said new routes are opening through Central Asia due to the sharp increase in opium output in Afghanistan this year. Conference participants pledged international coordination to break the smuggling routes. (Kyrgyz AKIpress news agency, Oct. 31, via BBC Monitoring) [top]

President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan has instructed his Security Council to examine the experience of countries such as The Netherlands that have decriminalized marijuana and other drugs, as well as the prohibition model in place in the US. Justice Minister Georgiy Kim told a news conference after the Security Council meeting that Nazarbayev directed the council "to study both methods in a balanced way in the light of the drug market situation so as to see to what extent legalization of certain kinds of drugs will be useful." (BBC, Sept. 24) [top]


The presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have jointly pledged to revive one of the gigantic-scaled engineering projects of the Soviet era--the diversion of the Siberian rivers southwards to stop the drying up of the Aral Sea. The sea--actually a closed salt lake, which straddles the frontier of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan--has over the past generation largely dried up, so that it is now split completely into two. Regional leaders call it a major ecological threat not only to Central Asia but the entire planet. "The annual take-up into the atmosphere of 1 million tons of salt blown from the dry sea-bed could cause a disaster of global proportions," claims Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Scientists have also warned that deadly pathogens isolated on the Aral Sea's Vozrozhdeniye Island, where the Soviets maintained their top biological warfare lab, are in danger of spreading to the mainland as the water around the island disappears.

Soviet agricultural planning caused the drying out of the Aral, with the sea's feeder rivers almost entirely diverted to irrigate vast cotton fields. The Soviet solution was to divert the north-flowing Siberian rivers southwards--a grandiose and unprecedented engineering scheme. Soviet generals even wanted to use nuclear weapons to do the digging. The plans were finally shelved in 1987 under pressure from the new environmental and "heritage" groups which emerged under the "glasnost" policy of Mikhail Gorbachev.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, the leaders of the newly independent Central Asian states spoke of ending the cotton monoculture in favor of a more diverse, self-sufficient and ecologically sound economy. But little was done, and cotton remains the region's major cash-crop. Additionally, lack of money to repair dams and pipes--as well as squabbles between the states about the sharing of water resources--has meant upstream floods, wastage, and even less water reaching the Aral.

Now the leaders plan to convene an international forum on water management next year, and revive the Soviet river diversion scheme. But this would require huge engineering operations on Russian territory, with financing uncertain at best. [More significantly, Moscow may be unwilling to divert water from Russian rivers to an Aral Sea no longer under Kremlin control.--BW] (Jane`s Defense & Aerospace, Oct. 17)

See also: WW3 REPORT #27 WW3 REPORT #5 [top]


At a noon press conference outside New York City's federal building, a coalition of 30 immigrants' rights groups released a statement by 81 INS detainees protesting overcrowding and harsh conditions at New Jersey's Passaic County Jail, which holds many arrested in the post-9-11 sweeps. The statement complains of an "infestation of roaches, lack of personal space, poor health care" and meals that "do not meet nutritional standards." The handwritten letter, by detainees from 42 countries, was received by the Committee for the Release of Farouk Abdel-Muhti in September, said the group's coordinator, David Wilson. The letter detailed unsanitary conditions, inadequate access to water and severe overcrowding. Passaic County Sheriff Jerry Speziale rejected the charges, telling New Jersey's Herald News, "One can literally eat off the floor of the facility."

Mac Scott, lawyer for Farouk Abdel-Muhti, said a new effort to free the detained Palestinian activist would be launched within a week. Abdel-Muhti has been behind bars for more than six months for an outstanding 1995 deportation order--despite the fact that he is stateless and therefore not deportable. No criminal charges have been filed against him. Scott said Abdel-Muhti would be out of detention within two months after he files a writ of habeas corpus on his behalf in federal court.

Other letters from detainees detailing problems at the jail were also presented at the press conference. Tino Mucic, a Croatian film student at Hunter College detained after being arrested for trespassing on a Brooklyn property, wrote that the jail's guards "are trained to work with criminals, not civil detainees." (NJ Herald News, Oct. 30)

As of Oct. 29, 2002, Farouk Abdel-Muhti and other INS detainees at Passaic County Jail report that the facility has had no heat or hot water for the past five days, and they have only thin sheets and no blankets to protect them from the cold. The detainees are having serious health problems from the constant low temperature in the building. The Coalition for the Human Rights of Immigrants asks supporters to call or fax INS NJ District Director Andrea Quarantillo (tel 973-645-4421; fax 973-297-4848) and Passaic Warden Charles Meyers (tel 973-881-4620; fax 973-881-2485). Tell them the jail must provide heat, hot water, adequate blankets and warm clothing to detainees. Send copies of any letters to Coalition for the Human Rights of Immigrants (CHRI) at fax 212-674-9139 or email [top]

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has created its first paid TV ad, protesting civil rights violations since 9-11--but the spot won't be airing on New York City network television. Created by Zimmerman & Markman of Santa Monica, CA, the ad features a copy of the Constitution being written over and cut up. "Look what John Ashcroft is doing to our constitution," a voiceover states. "He's seized powers for the Bush administration no president should ever have." While ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates in Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC, San Francisco and Seattle agreed to air the spot, those in New York refused. "We did turn down the ad, based on station policy on issue advertising," said a representative for WNBC in New York. "We prefer to handle certain issues in our news and public-affairs programming." (, Oct. 16) [top]


A federal judge in San Francisco issued a preliminary injunction stopping the US Navy from deploying a new high-intensity sonar system that could hurt or kill whales, dolphins, seals and sea turtles. Granting a request by five environmental groups, US Judge Elizabeth LaPorte ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service had likely issued the Navy a permit in violation of federal law. On July 15, the Navy received its permit to "harass marine mammals" in tests of the low-frequency sonar designed to detect submarines while remaining outside the range of their weapons. The Navy was approved to deploy two ships that use the new sonar system. Judge LaPorte found that the plaintiffs "have shown that they are likely to prevail on establishing violations" of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

The sonar system, known as Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System Low Frequency Active (SURTASS-LFA), relies on very loud sound to detect submarines at great distances. The environmental groups argued that the survival of entire populations of whales and other marine mammals are jeopardized by deployment of the sonar, which has been measured at 140 decibels 300 miles away from the sound's source. Scientists claim that during tests off the California coast noise from a single LFA system was detected across the breadth of the North Pacific Ocean. Joel Reynolds, attorney for the Marine Mammals Protection Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), lead plaintiff in the case, said, "Today's decision is a crucial step to protect our oceans and, in particular, whales and other marine mammals that depend on hearing for their very survival." (Environment News Service, Oct. 31)

The US Navy's SURTASS-LFA website is online

See also WW3 REPORT #56 [top]

Britain is in secret talks with the US over the development of so-called non-lethal weapons, including lasers that blind the enemy and microwave systems that cook the skin of human targets. The UK Observer reported Nov. 3 that US and British military leaders met at the Ministry of Defence HQ in London to discuss the benefits of such technology as a "persuasive tool." Documents obtained under the US Freedom of Information Act detail discussions of potential battlefield uses of the weapons, and whether they could be used to back up economic sanctions against target countries. The weapons include lasers that can stun an enemy and cut through metal to disable vehicles. Another weapon discussed uses microwave beams to heat the water in human skin. A third category uses gases similar to those deployed to end the terrorist siege in a Moscow theatre, which killed more than 100 hostages. (See WW3 REPORT #57) [top]

The US military secretly tested sarin nerve agent in a Hawaii forest preserve in 1967, the Pentagon has acknowledged in the latest disclosures about Cold War-era testing of chemical and biological weapons. In other secret tests in Hawaii in 1966 and the Panama Canal Zone in 1963, the Pentagon released a germ meant as a harmless stand-in for the anthrax bacteria, the Defense Department said. A 1966 experiment in an undisclosed "tropical jungle type environment" involved spraying tear gas on unprotected US military volunteers. The Defense Department released summaries of five chemical and biological weapons tests Oct. 31 as part of an effort to make public such Cold War programs and alert veterans who may have been exposed. The tests were part of Project 112, a military program to test chemical and biological weapons and counter-measures against them. A related Navy program was called Project SHAD, for Shipboard Hazard and Defense. Some of those exposed in the tests say they now suffer health problems, and are pressing the Veterans Affairs Department for compensation. The Pentagon this year acknowledged for the first time that some of the tests used real chemical and biological weapons, not just benign stand-ins. The Defense Department has identified some 7,000 service members involved in the tests, said Dr. Jonathan Perlin of the Veterans Affairs Department. He said 53 veterans had filed health claims for their exposure.

The sarin testi was code-named "Red Oak" and conducted in the Upper Waiakea Forest Reserve on the island of Hawaii in April and May 1967. The testers detonated sarin-filled 155 mm artillery shells to study how the nerve agent dispersed in a tropical jungle. Other tests made public involved Bacillus globigii bacteria, related to the Bacillus anthracis germ that causes anthrax. In a test called "Yellow Leaf," officials detonated 20 "bomblets" filled with BG in the Olaa Forest, also on the island of Hawaii, in April and May of 1966. In a test called "Big Jack," US planes sprayed BG on an area near the Fort Sherman Military Reservation in the Panama Canal Zone in February and March 1963. (AP, Oct. 31) [top]

In what may be the largest expansion of covert action by the armed forces since the Vietnam era, the Bush administration has turned to what the Pentagon calls the "black world" to pursue the War on Terrorism, defense analyst William M. Arkin wrote in the LA Times Oct. 27. Arkin states that the Pentagon is building up an "elite secret army with resources stretching across the full spectrum of covert capabilities." Officials say the increasingly dominant role of the military reflects both frustration with civilian intelligence and law enforcement agencies and the desire of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld "to gain greater overall control of the war on terror." Outlining the new strategy, Rumsfeld said in May: "Prevention and preemption are... the only defense against terrorism. Our task is to find and destroy the enemy before they strike us."

Development of the Pentagon's covert counter-terror capability has its roots in the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, which sparked creation of the Army's Intelligence Support Activity (ISA). Established in 1981, this secret unit fought in drug wars and counter-terror operations from the Middle East to South America, building "a reputation for daring, flexibility and a degree of lawlessness." In May 1982, Deputy Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci called the ISA "uncoordinated and uncontrolled." Though its freelance tendencies were curbed, the ISA continued to operate, including deep-cover mission in Bosnia and Somalia. The ISA today operates under the code-name Gray Fox. In addition to covert operations, it provides the kind of "close-in" signals monitoring--including interception of cell phone conversations--that helped bring down Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. Gray Fox's eavesdropping planes fly without military markings. Coordinating closely with Special Forces and the CIA, Gray Fox also places operatives inside hostile territory. In Afghanistan, Gray Fox was part of a secret operations groups that included the CIA's paramilitary Special Activities Division and the Pentagon's Joint Special Operations Command. An Army brigadier general at Bagram air base commands the Joint Interagency Task Force, coordinating CIA, Pentagon and coalition forces in Afghanistan. A new Campaign Support Group has been established at Ft. Bragg, NC, and a Special Operations Joint Interagency Collaboration Center in Tampa, FLA.

The North Carolina-based Joint Special Operations Command, often referred to as Delta Force, is still so secret that it is not officially acknowledged to exist. Its two-star commander, Army Maj. Gen. Dell L. Dailey, who spent much of the Afghan war in Oman, has no public biography. Arkin writes that Dailey's assets include a fleet of aircraft specially equipped for secret operations--conventional and covert military planes and helicopters, and even former Soviet choppers. The bulk of those craft, including the reconfigured Russian choppers, fly from airfields in Uzbekistan and from two Pakistani air bases, Shahbaz and Shamsi.

Rumsfeld's influential Defense Science Board 2002 Summer Study on Special Operations and Joint Forces in Support of Countering Terrorism says in its classified "outbrief"--drafted to guide other Pentagon agencies--that the War on Terrorism "requires new strategies, postures and organization." The board recommends creation of a "Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group (P2OG)" to coordinate CIA and Pentagon covert action. Among other things, this body would conduct operations aimed at "stimulating reactions" among terrorists and states possessing weapons of mass destruction--for instance, prodding terrorist cells into action and exposing themselves to "quick-response" attacks by US forces. Such tactics would hold "states/sub-state actors accountable" and "signal to harboring states that their sovereignty will be at risk," the briefing paper declares. (LAT, Oct. 27) [top]

Citing the need to redirect resources to the War on Terrorism, the Pentagon is scaling back its $1-billion-a-year effort to combat international drug trafficking. Congress ordered the Pentagon to enter the Drug War in 1988 in response to the surging cocaine traffic from South America. "We should not be relaxing our efforts in the war on drugs," said Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-FLA), chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence. "Terrorism is the highest priority, but drugs are still insidious.... Every time [military officials] bleed off assets, it just opens up the drug corridors again."

Because of such concerns, the Pentagon's plans have been cloaked in indirect terms. This summer a memo from Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz said the department had "carefully reviewed its existing counter-narcotics policy" because of "the changed national security environment, the corresponding shift in the department's budget and other priorities, and evolving support requirements." The Pentagon will now focus its counter-narcotics activities on programs that, among other things, "contribute to the war on terrorism."

But even before the Sept. 11 attacks, senior officials, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, had questioned the Pentagon's anti-drug mission. Before becoming secretary, Rumsfeld described military efforts to stop drugs as "nonsense" and said during his Senate confirmation hearing in January 2001 that drugs were "overwhelmingly a demand problem." Some experts believe that the Defense Department may be taking advantage of the War on Terrorism to scale back a mission they never wanted.

Early last year, top department officials asked the Pentagon comptroller to reassess whether to continue the counter-narcotics work and other "nontraditional" missions. Sources say the classified study recommended paring the program. Rumsfeld has not named a permanent assistant defense secretary for "special operations and low intensity conflict," who is supposed to oversee the anti-drug program.

Pentagon counter-drug chief Andre Hollis stated that the DoD wants to retain parts of the program but that all the pieces are being examined to determine whether each "is still a priority mission.... The top priorities now are to defend the homeland and to win the war on terrorism." Hollis said the counter-narcotics mission has multiplied into 179 separate sub-programs, a number he called "surreal." He said his first assignment when he came to the job in August 2001 was to conduct a "bottom-up review" to distinguish what the Pentagon does well in counter-narcotics from "what we shouldn't be doing, or that didn't need to be done any more." Hollis emphasized that the Pentagon wants to reduce the burden on special operations forces, which are in heavy demand for terrorism-related missions. He added that the department wants to double up on the use of intelligence gathering equipment. If a National Guard helicopter is flying along the California-Mexico border "looking for drug activity, there's no reason why they can't also be looking for terrorists," he said.

In fiscal 2002, the Pentagon spent about $1 billion on drug-related operations out of a total federal counter-narcotics outlay of $19 billion. The Pentagon has a bigger anti-drug budget than the Coast Guard, Customs Service or the INS. Most of the Pentagon's counter-narcotics efforts are in the Western Hemisphere, notably the Andes, Central America and the Caribbean. The military also trains and gathers intelligence in Southeast Asia, notably Thailand. However, even while retrenching elsewhere, the Pentagon intends to expand operations in Colombia. (Los Angeles Times, Oct. 20) [top]


EXIT POLL: Is Hezbollah the "A-team" of terrorists, as Richard Armitage says, or just Lebanese patriots?

EXTRA CREDIT: Who would you rather have over to dinner, Shiek Sayyid Nasrallah, or Turkmenbashi?

EXTRA EXTRA CREDIT: Would you eat off the floor of the Passaic County Jail?

OUR POLICY: Either answer the Exit Poll or send us a check

Send feeback to:
To reply, remove NOSPAM from e-mail address

Send generous checks to:

Bill Weinberg
44 Fifth Ave. #172
Brooklyn NY 11217

Or donate by credit card:

Subscribe to WORLD WAR 3 REPORT:
Receive WW3 Report by email each week.


Reprinting permissible with attribution.
Subscriptions free but donations needed!!!

Search WWW Search

Reprinting permissible with attribution.