Insider notes from United Press International for Jan. 23 ...
Within the next two weeks, Central Command will conduct a full-scale operational level run-through of the actual U.S. battle plan to be used in toppling Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, well-placed administration officials tell UPI. The run-through, a huge computer simulation, will take place inside several buildings in Kuwait, supervised by the leading U.S. ground commander, Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, of the U.S. Army Forces Central Command -- Arcent -- based at Fort McPherson, Ga. McKiernan is former deputy chief of staff of military planning for the U.S. Army. The run-through will consist of three parts: the deployment of U.S. ground and air forces against Iraqi targets, an opposing force acting to thwart them, and an umpire force to monitor the proceedings. The purpose is to ensure that all links between various elements of command and control function perfectly, and correct any glitches. The sources added that the 101st Airborne Division and the 1st Cavalry Division are about to be deployed to the region.
Pope John Paul II, 82, is determined to hit the road again after ill health made last year the least mobile of his 24-year reign. He is planning five international trips this year, all in Europe. He starts with Spain in May and Croatia and Bosnia in June, Slovakia in September and a so-far unconfirmed summer trip to Strasbourg, France, to address the European Parliament. That will not necessarily be a religious call. As he did in addressing the legislatures in Poland and Australia, the pope can appear in Strasburg as head of state of the Vatican enclave -- but it does not entitle him to a vote.
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov is preparing a list of terrorist organizations to be banned, drawing on similar blacklists elsewhere, including that of the Council of the European Union that includes Basque ETA and the Irish Republican Army groups as well as Hezbollah and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade from the Middle East. The Russians are expecting that their own blacklist will get equal recognition elsewhere, which may be tricky when it comes to some Chechen figures such as Akhmed Zakayev, currently fighting extradition to Russia in the British courts. If the Brits accept the Russian list, then Russia will expect the international financial controls against terrorism to come into play -- which would mean freezing the bank accounts of actress Vanessa Redgrave, who is hosting Zakayev and helping to funds his legal defense.
Here comes a new player in the Middle East. Lebanon's Defense Minister Khalil Hrawi, just back from the first such visit to Beijing since the two countries began diplomatic relations in 1971, has been shopping. Hrawi asked China to supply tanks and other armored vehicles, and signed an agreement with his Chinese counterpart, Chi Haotian, for Beijing to provide mine-clearing equipment and a team of Chinese military advisers to instruct the Lebanese army in their use. Curious. It was only last year that Hrawi, a well-connected nephew of former Lebanese President Elias Hrawi, attended the opening ceremony at Beit Yahun of the U.N.-backed program to de-mine southern Lebanon. Then it was being financed by a $50 million grant from the United Arab Emirates, which was paying civilian contractors to do the job. The arrival of Chinese military technicians is altogether new.
Peter Ackerman's International Center for Non-Violent Conflict, whose training in civic action helped local demonstrators bring down Slobodan Milosevic's government in Serbia, is being flooded with requests from intriguing places for similar teachings. The center's courses and its documentary films by Steven York, "A Force More Powerful" and "Bringing Down A Dictator," have been translated into various languages including Arabic, Farsi and Chinese, and beamed by exiles into Iraq and Iran by satellite TV. Video cassettes of the courses are also being distributed discreetly into Iraq, Iran, Myanmar, Tibet and China. Do not mock this stuff. It helped lead to the Iraq's first peaceful protest against the Iraqi regime. After Saddam "emptied" his jails last year, the disquieting fact was how many of the prisoners never emerged. The regime seems incapable of either crushing or ignoring the protest demos by Iraq's "Mothers of the Disappeared" -- echoing the similar demos in Argentina that helped undermine the military junta.
After a dozen deaths, waves of strikes and a general strike expected Friday in Haiti against the American-installed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, all that the poor island needs is a return to the really bad old days. But it could be coming. Exiled dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier (son of the infamous Papa Doc) has announced his "firm intention to return as soon as conditions allow" to the hapless country that he fled 17 years ago. Haiti can hardly wait.