Proposed U.S. military operations against Iraq have suffered from the problem of the lack of nearby bases, with the Saudis reluctant to cooperate and the alternative northern route through the Kurdish mountains from Turkey posing formidable logistical problems. Maybe an alternative is in the works. British and U.S. military reconnaissance teams have been spotted in eastern Jordan, close to the Iraqi frontier and diplomats sources say Jordan's King Abdullah is considering the provision of a Special Forces base near the border for Scud-hunting operations inside Iraq. These bases, needing helicopter and air support, have a tendency to grow. But if Jordan were fully to join the effort to topple Saddam, the prize could be tempting -- and could also answer the question of who replaces Saddam. Until his assassination in 1958, the Hashemite King Faisal II was the head of state of Iraq. King Hussein of Jordan, father of the current King Abdullah, was Faisal's cousin, and the heir to the Iraqi throne, Sharif Ali, lives conveniently in London. The return of a constitutional monarchy to Iraq could be a plausible replacement for Saddam Hussein -- and how could the Arab world object to the return of the Hashemite dynasty, direct descendants of the prophet Muhammed?
It looks as though World Cup visitors to Seoul will have to do without free nibbles of a local delicacy. In the face of foreign government and FIFA -- the sport's governing body -- pressure to ban dog meat sales during the World Cup matches, 150 restaurant owners defiantly proclaimed that they would give free samples of the local delicacy to any foreigner who requested one. The government has clamped down on the gesture though, so foreign football fans will have to forgo their dog & chips while ticket agencies struggle to offload the more than 400,000 unsold tickets.
If politics had not intervened, Friday would have seen the opening of a three-day World Chechen Congress in Istanbul. Among the invitees were former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. But the Turkish government's on-again off-again approach finally pulled the plug late Tuesday. The Russians have been stroking the Turks since Sept. 11 on anti-terrorism cooperation to some effect; Putin recently closed a Kurdish Worker's Party base in Russia, much to Ankara's satisfaction. The final straw for the Turks apparently was the May 4 hostage-taking by a gunman in Istanbul's swank Marmara hotel. While the gunman claimed to be acting on behalf of Chechens, he was later proved to be Mustafa Yildirim, a Turk. Nonetheless, the incident seems to have tipped the scales; despite appeals to the Foreign Ministry, the Turkish government remained adamant. The decision has lapped to the shores of the Potomac: National Security Council staffer Matt Byaza has drafted a memo on the incident for Condoleezza Rice, and the Pentagon had a late Tuesday briefing on the issue, as some felt it signified a shift in Turkish strategic thinking.
After the success of the anti-immigration group led by the assassinated Pim Fortuyn in Wednesday's Dutch elections, the Czech Republic looks to be the next European country to follow France, Austria and Denmark in revealing the power of the anti-immigrant vote. Former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, leader of the Civic Democratic Party in next month's elections, is clambering onto the bandwagon. He told a rally in Brno Monday that it was time "to end the taboo on discussing our immigration problem -- you all talk about it at home and I can see no reason why it should not be spoken about at the microphone here, in the square." Klaus, who called himself a disciple of Margaret Thatcher when he launched the massive and corruption-flawed privatization scheme, is still trying to decide whether he wants to be premier again, or replace Czech President Vaclav Havel who steps down next year.
The repercussions from the "Palestinian Houdini" van jailbreak two weeks ago continue to rattle Israeli security. After Tanzim activist Abu Jamous managed to wriggle out of his arm and leg manacles and squeeze out a prison van window without being noticed by 10 security guards, a commission of inquiry was established by the head of the Prison Service. Jamous remained on the lam for two days before being recaptured. The commission found that a lax body search had allowed Jamous to conceal a pin in his hair, which he later used to pick his manacles. The commission is recommending that Er Ben-Dor, commander of the Nachshon prison guard and the 10 inept guards be dismissed.