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I. GARY SICK, LETTER TO SECRETARY OF COMMERCE ON FBIS, OCT 7 II. WASH POST, PEOPLE NEED THE FBIS MATERIAL, OCT 8 III. BBC, IRAQI OVERTURE TO US, OCT 7 IV. PATRICK CLAWSON, "STEALTH BOMBING," TNR, SEPT 6 V. L. MYLROIE RESPONSE TO CLAWSON & CLAWSON REPLY, TNR, OCT 18 A serious problem has arisen. The FBIS translations from media sources on the State Dep't's list of embargoed countries, including Iraq, are no longer publicly available. That was a decision recently made by the Commerce Dep't. If any readers would be prepared to write letters and otherwise try to help reverse that, it would be much appreciated. Also, please let others know. Letters about the decision should be sent to the Secretary of Commerce, Mr. William M. Daley at: FAX (most impact) 202-482-2741; E-MAIL; [email protected]; TEL 202-482-2000. Copies should be sent to Sen. William Frist, Chairman of the Science, Technology, and Space Subcommittee of the Committee on Science, Commerce and Transportation FAX: 202 228 0326; TEL 202 224 8172. The FBIS translations of foreign media are, in the view of "Iraq News," the single, most important source of information for the study and analysis of political developments in the contemporary Middle East. They are available to the public on the internet by subscription from the "World News Connection," which is run by the Nat'l Technical Information Service (NTIS) of the Commerce Dep't. On Fri, Oct 1, WNC sent out a note advising that over the weekend it would be upgrading its system for Y2K compliance. The notice also said that when WNC became available again on Mon, "You will notice some changes to the sources represented. For example, we have deleted sources from the countries contained on the U.S. Department of State embargoed list." Thus, all items from media sources in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, and Libya are no longer available. Moreover, all such items have been deleted from the WNC data base, which goes back to 1995. Consequently, WNC's section on the Middle East/South Asia is a shadow of its former self. Whereas there regularly used to be 100, 200, or even 300 items per day, now there are regularly less than 50. Why was this done? Gary Sick, who runs Gulf 2000 at Columbia University, looked into the matter. Sick learned that some people in the Commerce Dep't had become concerned about possible copyright disputes. Technically, information from sources like INA, Babil, or Iraq Radio are subject to copyright. NTIS would ordinarily pay a fee to use that material. But a fee cannot lawfully be paid, because of the embargo. Of course, this is nothing new. To paraphrase Sick's Oct 7 letter of protest to Mr. Daley, the US bombs Iraq, starves its people, but it is cowed by a possible copyright dispute? How about establishing an escrow fund? And, as Sick noted regarding Iran, it is not a signatory to the copyright convention, so it can't sue. Moreover, the Commerce Dep't wants to terminate NTIS altogether. Yet as Sick explained, "It is self-supporting from subscriptions and provides a well-tested delivery mechanism." The Wash Post, Oct 8, picked up on Sick's letter, asking "Whatever happened to such pearls of wisdom as 'information is power' or 'know thine enemy'? . . . Could Secretary of Commerce William Daily please explain? Senate hearings on the fate of NTIS will be held Oct 21. It was widely reported, particularly in London's Arabic press, that Iraq gave Jordan's King Abdullah a message from Saddam to deliver to US officials. As the BBC, Oct 7, stated, "King Abdullah confirmed that he is carrying a message though he would not divulge its contents. . . Arab press reports now say his message contains proposals aimed at helping the Americans find a way out of the confrontation in which the two countries are currently locked. Quoting Iraqi sources, the pan-Arab daily Hayat said the letter contained an offer to introduce a new constitution based on a multi-party system and respect for human rights. . . . The report says the letter also promises that Iraq would play an active role in the Middle East peace process, entering into talks with Israel . . . All this, of course, would be in exchange for Washington and its allies agreeing to lift sanctions and call off their confrontation with Iraq." Abdullah had breakfast with the Sec State Oct 12. During the State Dep't briefing that day, Jamie Rubin was asked whether Abdullah had delivered a message from Saddam. Rubin said, "There was no message from the Iraqi government delivered by King Abdullah to Secretary Albright. At this point, we have no reason to think there would be a message in his later meeting with the President." As "Iraq News" understands, the Iraqis did ask Abudllah to deliver a message, but the US asked Abdullah not to bring it ip. So it seems there was a message, but it was not delivered. Of course, no reasonable person would believe that Saddam has changed his stripes. Nor was Saddam likely to have thought that the US would be interested in his offer. So why did he make it? Was it part of an Iraqi diplomatic campaign to isolate the US and further erode the post-Gulf war constraints? Was it deception, to encourage the administration to believe Iraq is pressed in order to lay the ground for the next blow coming? Or was it made for some other reason? "Iraq News" has previously complained that the majority of Middle East experts who write about Iraq do not describe, or do not properly describe, the threat posed by Saddam's unconventional weapons capabilities. Consequently, their policy recommendations fall short of what is necessary to address the problem. In The New Republic, Sept 6, Patrick Clawson of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (TWI), wrote that the US bombing campaign in northern and southern Iraq has put Saddam "in a vise," while the end of [weapons] inspections was no great loss. . . Since these programs generally require facilities so large and distinctive that American spy satellites can find them, Saddam's nuclear and missile programs are somewhat more vulnerable to detection and destruction." That, of course, is nonsense and potentially dangerous nonsense at that. As I wrote in a letter to TNR, Oct 18, "Patrick Clawson's conclusion in 'Stealth Bombing' (September 6)--that the United States needs to support the Iraqi opposition in overthrowing Saddam Hussein--is most welcome. America's Middle East experts have lagged behind . . . in advocating such a course. . . . [But] during the Gulf war, the United States did not know about Iraq's main nuclear weapons manufacturing center and did not target it. . . . Had Clawson accurately described the danger, his argument for supporting the Iraqi opposition would have been more compelling and the bankruptcy of present US policy would have been clearer." "Iraq News" is still exploring the question it asked in the last issue--why does the Israeli leadership say virtually nothing about the threat from Iraq sans UNSCOM/IAEA? That has a significant impact, including in the US. For example, if the Israeli Gov't spoke out about the problem, neither TWI nor TNR, both very supportive of Israel, would have written that there was no real danger of an Iraqi nuclear breakthrough. I. GARY SICK, LETTER TO SECRETARY OF COMMERCE OVER FBIS October 7, 1999 Mr. William M. Daley Secretary of Commerce via fax: 202-482-2741 Dear Mr. Daley: I am writing with regard to two issues involving your Department that directly affect me and my colleagues in the academic and journalistic communities. 1. In a recent note to subscribers, World News Connection (WNC) announced that "we have deleted sources from the countries contained on the U.S. Department of State embargoed list and, in addition, refined the representation of sources previously provided." This means that materials from such countries as Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Libya will no longer be published in WNC and that previously reported materials have been deleted from the data base. 2. I understand that the Department of Commerce has proposed termination of NTIS. I am one of many scholars who have long relied on WNC and its predecessor FBIS to make available broadcasts of full texts of speeches, editorial comment in non-English newspapers, and facts that never make it to the Western media but are crucial for understanding other countries. Although this service attracts little public attention, it is widely used by scholars, journalists and policy analysts everywhere. Many university libraries (including Columbia) pay a hefty sum to make it available to their students. The embargoed countries--now deleted--are where WNC is most important, since their policy differences with the United States often make it difficult to get original materials, especially in good translation. They are also countries that tend to be under-reported in the Western media and that are particularly important in terms of policy developments. Because of the recent deletions of embargoed countries, much of this uniquely valuable information will no longer be available. As I understand it, the reason for this change of policy is a legal Catch-22. Because of sanctions, the United States cannot pay copyright fees for these materials. So, rather than risk the danger of a legal challenge, all such material will be tossed in the waste basket. The United States has unilaterally bombed Iraq, Sudan and Libya but we cower at the prospect of a copyright dispute? (Couldn't we just put the funds in escrow?) Were your lawyers aware of the fact that Iran is not even a signatory to the copyright convention, thereby removing any basis whatsoever for a suit? I find your decision to terminate NTIS even more incomprehensible, since it is self-supporting from subscriptions and provides a well-tested delivery mechanism. Any alternative arrangement would cost more and provide less service to the people who rely on it. The information provided through NTIS makes an irreplaceable contribution to U.S. national security. It informs us about other countries in ways that otherwise would be nearly impossible. It costs virtually nothing in comparison with almost any other national security system. It is not as sexy as a bomber or a missile, but its contributions to national security can be attested to by generations of policy-makers. I was in the White House during the Iranian revolution and the hostage crisis, and my respect for the power of this information was born at that time. I often found it more helpful than the reams of classified material that came across my desk at the NSC. Both of the decisions above were taken without any consultation with those who actually rely on the work of FBIS and NTIS. I have taken the liberty of alerting many of my colleagues in the academic and journalistic community about these developments. I am also sending a copy of this letter to Senator William Frist, Chairman of the Science, Technology and Space Subcommittee for his consideration in the upcoming hearings. I sincerely hope that you will reexamine both of these decisions. Yours truly, Gary G. Sick Senior Research Scholar Columbia University cc: Senator William Frist by fax: 202-228-0326 II. WASH POST, PEOPLE NEED THE FBIS MATERIAL Washington Post No News Isn't Good News By Nora Boustany Friday, October 8, 1999; Page A25 What ever happened to such pearls of wisdom as "information is power" or "know thine enemy?" Scholars, historians, journalists, policy analysts and diplomats will no longer be able to turn to the Commerce Department's World News Connection for material from countries under U.S. sanctions--such as Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Libya. The service provides full texts of speeches, information from national news agencies and editorial comment from non-English newspapers, not to mention facts that never make it into the media. World News Connection is the division of Commerce that was designated as the successor to the CIA's Foreign Broadcast Information Service for public distribution of materials on countries around the world. The embargoed countries, now deleted from the database, are where that source material is most important since it is often difficult to get original material in good translation, academics and policy analysts argue. The World News Connection announced its policy change in a report about Y2K compliance. "In addition, you will notice some changes to the sources represented. For example, we have deleted sources from the countries contained on the U.S. Department of State embargoed list," said the notification buried deep in the report. The legal catch is that because of sanctions, the United States cannot pay copyright fees for these materials. "The United States has unilaterally bombed Iraq, Sudan and Libya, but we cower at the prospect of a copyright dispute?" asked Gary Sick, a former member of the National Security Council. "Couldn't we just put the funds in escrow? This information makes an irreplaceable contribution to U.S. national security. It informs us about other countries in ways that otherwise would be nearly impossible." In 1997, a congressional attempt to cut funding to the information service was defeated in the face of public protest, so the demand is out there. In fact, hefty subscription rates make the World News Connection financially self-supporting. The monitoring of television, radio, news agencies and the print media will continue, but the transcripts for countries under sanction will only be available to the U.S. government. Could Secretary of Commerce William Daley, who is responsible for the decision, please explain? . . . III. BBC, IRAQI OVERTURE TO US Thursday, October 7, 1999 Published at 11:41 GMT 12:41 UK Iraq 'makes peace bid' Iraq seeks end to bombing By Jim Muir in Cairo Arab press reports say Iraqi president Saddam Hussein has offered a deal aimed at ending the confrontation between Iraq and the United States. A message from the Iraqi leader is being carried by King Abdullah of Jordan, who is on his way to the United States for 10 days of talks with American officials, including President Clinton. Saddam bids to break deadlock Setting off for his second visit to Washington since he took the throne in February, King Abdullah confirmed that he is carrying a message though he would not divulge its contents. The Iraqi leader has for some time been signalling his readiness to enter a direct dialogue with Washington. Arab press reports now say his message contains proposals aimed at helping the Americans find a way out of the confrontation in which the two countries are currently locked. Constitutional reform Quoting Iraqi sources, the pan-Arab daily Hayat, said the letter contained an offer to introduce a new constitution based on a multi-party system and respect for human rights. Qusai to take more prominent role Saddam's son, Qusai, would be given a more prominent leadership role, presumable with Saddam Hussein himself moving into the background. The report said the letter also promises that Iraq would play an active role in the Middle East peace process, entering into talks with Israel. All this, of course, would be in exchange for Washington and its allies agreeing to lift sanctions and call off their confrontation with Iraq. Since United Nations weapons inspectors were pulled out late last year, American and British jets have been involved in frequent attacks on Iraqi installations - the latest on Wednesday. Since December more than 25,000 sorties have been flown to enforce the controversial no-fly zones over the north and south of the country. In the north alone, more than 1,000 bombs have been dropped on 250 different targets. But other international powers are deeply uneasy about their strategy, and their aim of overthrowing Saddam Hussein appears to be no nearer to fruition. Concrete 'bombs' The US is reported to have recently switched to bombing targets with concrete in place of high explosive in an attempt to keep civilian casualties to a minimum. The bombs are said to destroy the target but cause minimal damage to the surrounding area. According to the US, Saddam Hussein has deliberately placed military facilities near civilian populations. The Iraqi leader is now clearly signalling now that he wants to help the Americans break the deadlock; but there has been no sign so far that Washington shares that aspiration. IV. PATRICK CLAWSON, "STEALTH BOMBING" http://www.tnr.com/magazines/tnr/archive/0999/090699/clawson090699.html V. MYLROIE RESPONSE TO CLAWSON & CLAWSON REPLY The New Republic October 18, 1999 Nuclear Presence TO THE EDITORS: Patrick Clawson's conclusion in "Stealth Bombing" (September 6)--that the United States needs to support the Iraqi oppo-sition in overthrowing Saddam Hussein--is most welcome. America's Middle East experts have lagged behind certain national security figures in advocating such a course. But, as someone consulted by a TNR fact-checker for this article, I would like to point out a major error. Clawson claimed that the end of the presence of U.N. weapons inspectors (UNSCOM) in Iraq was "no great loss," while "Saddam's nuclear and missile programs are somewhat more vulnerable to detec-tion and destruction" now because they re-quire such large facilities that spy satellites will be able to detect them. That is not necessarily so. During the Gulf war, the United States did not know about Iraq's main nuclear weapons manufacturing center and did not target it. Moreover, Iraq's nuclear program is, in significant respects, more advanced than it was at that point. After the August 5 defection of Saddam's son-in-law Hussein Kamil, who bad overseen Iraq's unconventional weapons programs, it was discovered that Iraq's nuclear program had continued after the war and that Iraqi scientists had solved the problem of designing a bomb small enough to fit on a missile. Thus, all Iraq needed to make a nuclear bomb was the fis-sile material. And, if Iraq managed to get such material, the weapons fabrication facility to turn it into a bomb would be small--undetectable by satellite. Clawson wrote only about inspections, failing to mention UNSCOM'S monitoring of Iraq's large industrial base. Dual-use equipment was tagged and regularly checked to insure that it had not been diverted for proscribed purposes. The equipment for shaping the core of nuclear bombs was monitored while UNSCOM was there but is not any longer. The same is true about Iraq's missile program. Iraq is allowed to have limited-range "de-fensive" missiles. while UNSCOM was in Iraq, it could ensure that the country's declared facilities were not being used to build longer-range missiles. But who can tell now? Saddam's determination to retain chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs even in the face of punitive economic sanctions should be a matter of concern, particularly with UNSCOM's presence ended. Had Clawson accurately described the danger, his argument for supporting the Iraqi opposition would have been more compelling and the bankruptcy of present U.S. policy would have been clearer. Laurie Mylroie Publisher, Iraq News Washington, D.C. PATRICK CLAWSON REPLIES: Laurie Mylroie is correct that, if Iraq got hold of fissile material, it could produce a nuclear bomb in a small facility not detectable by satellite. Inspections would do little to solve this problem, because the facility needed would be so small that it could be hidden from any conceivable inspections regime. (Also, the necessary equipment is compact enough to be readily smuggled in.) This is one of the reasons the U.S. government puts such a high priority on its program with the former Soviet states to prevent diversion of fissile material.