A leading Iraqi opposition figure told UPI Hears that he has protested to Washington at being left out of Friday's talks between Bush administration officials and representatives of six other organizations that also want to topple Saddam Hussein. Speaking from London, Sheikh Muhammad Muhammad bin Ali, a prominent Shia Muslim cleric and a tribal leader, said his exclusion deprived their meeting of a moderate Islamic voice. He said representatives of Christian Assyrians and a bigger Iraqi minority, the Turkomans, hadn't been invited either. The meeting with senior, but not quite top officials of the State Department and the Pentagon is part of the Bush administration's effort to cobble together an Iraqi version of the Northern Alliance to use in the event of a U.S. attack on Saddam Hussein. Six Iraqi opposition groups were invited to the talks, organized by Ryan Crocker, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs. One possible reason for Sheik Muhammad's exclusion, one insider told UPI Hears, was that the administration had invited representatives of the Iran-based, hard-line Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Sheikh Muhammad had once been affiliated with the Supreme Council but had broken away, and the SCIRI may have blocked his presence. A pity, says Sheik Muhammad. Didn't Paul Wolfowitz, (the Deputy Secretary at the Department of Defense that has become the cutting edge of policy on Iraq) say Washington should support the moderate Muslims?
The Iranian-backed Iraqi opposition may be plotting Saddam Hussein's downfall in Washington, but meanwhile in a border town in Iran, Saddam's son, Qussay, recently met with Maj. Gen. Baqer Zolqadr, a Deputy Commander in Chief of the Iran Revolutionary Guards and the main subject was buying Iranian missiles. In the meeting -- which Iranian officials have denied ever took place, but a Western intelligence source says happened -- Qussay said he was shopping for Iranian-made Shihab-III surface-to-air missiles, and also for supplies of food and medicine. He also requested the return of all Iraqi military aircraft that sought refuge in Iran in 1991 in the aftermath of the 1990 Gulf War. The Iraqi aircraft included MiG and Mirage fighters, as well as more than 20 Boeing jets. In reply to similar earlier requests Tehran has said that most of the two dozen aircraft that entered Iranian airspace had crash-landed. But Zolqadr left the door open on missiles deliveries, saying he was not authorized to negotiate on that topic.
Remember when victory in the U.S.-led war against terrorism was defined by the capture of Osama bin Laden -- "dead or alive" -- in President Bush's phrase? But a month away from the first anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York and Washington, the al Qaida leader's fate remains unknown and the Bush administration has had to re-adjust its sights accordingly. Comments on Friday in Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan, by Gen. Peter Pace, Vice-Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and the second highest-ranking military officer in the U.S. Armed Forces reflected Washington's less spectacular objectives. Pronouncing himself pleased with Uzbekistan's cooperation in the anti-terrorism campaign, Pace told UPI that while it was important "to try to capture or kill the leaders of the terrorist organizations," it was more important that the United States goes "to the heart of the terrorist organizations" and over time makes it impossible for them to attack people all over the world. Meanwhile, Osama bin Laden could be lying under a pile of Afghan rubble, as some believe, or sheltered by supporters in Pakistan. Somehow, Washington is likely to be the last to know.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill left Buenos Aires Wednesday leaving a trail of anger and disappointment in his wake. Argentinians were asking why the IMF had been so quick with its massive bailout for Brazil -- and its more modest one for Uruguay -- but Washington continued to stand in the way of the same help being given to their country's ailing economy. Alfredo Atanasoff, President Eduardo Duhalde's chief of staff commenting dryly on O'Neill's non-committal speech about economic aid to Argentina, said O'Neill was after all, "a high ranking American official, not Santa Claus." At Thursday's anti-O'Neill rally, actor Nito Artaza joked, "Who is Paul O'Neill? I say he is Walt Disney who has been thawed." Disney's body was frozen after his death. Artaza is saying O'Neill behaved like a cartoonist not a treasury secretary. Mickey Mouse economics?
One of the last and best-kept secrets of World War II has been revealed. In Sept 1944, the United States had a plan to use atomic weapons in Europe as well as Japan. Retired U.S. Army Air Force Col. Paul Tibbets, 87, who commanded the B-29 bomber "Enola Gay" which dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, revealed this in an interview in Columbus, Ohio. Tibbets said he was told of the plan by Gen. Uzal Ent, commander of the U.S. Army Air Force Second Air Force, when he was ordered to train a team of B-29 pilots for the two missions.