>> MULLAHWATCH - AHA?
Iran postpones UN nuclear inspection mission
Friday, March 12, 2004 - ?2004 IranMania.com
VIENNA, March 12 (AFP) - Iran has put off an inspection mission from the UN nuclear watchdog that was due to arrive in the Islamic Republic this week, Iranian ambassador to the international agency Pirooz Hosseini told AFP.
He said that "due to the approaching of the Iranian New Year we asked them to come later."
The ambssador said no new date had been set.
The delay comes as the watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is debating at a board of governors meeting in Vienna a resolution that criticizes Iran for hiding parts of its nuclear program.
IAEA officials refused to comment on the inspection mission.
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi had threatened in Iran this week for the Islamic Republic to end cooperation with the IAEA unless it stopped being "influenced by the Americans".
Hosseini said the delay in the inspection mission was not politically motivated.
He said that people will be out of their offices, since when the Iranian new year begins next week "there are five or six days of official holiday and then schools are closed for 15 days and parents take off to be with their children."
But a diplomat close to the IAEA said "of course it's political", and added that "the delay in inspections will definitely slow down what the IAEA is trying to do."
The IAEA has since February 2003 been verifying with inspections whether Iran's nuclear program is peaceful, or devoted to secretly developing atomic weapons, as the United States has charged.
>> OUR FRIENDS EU HARDBALL?
EU warns Iran over human rights
Friday, March 26, 2004 - ?2004 IranMania.com
GENEVA, March 25 (AFP) -- The European Union warned Tehran on Thursday that it had seen little progress in Iran's human rights dossier, which Brussels has effectively made a precondition to improved trade ties.
The EU also openly admitted at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva that its policy of constructive engagement with Tehran on human rights was flagging.
"Unfortunately, the fourth round of our human rights dialogue with Iran has not taken place due to Iran's failure to confirm the dates agreed," Ireland's envoy Mary Whelan told the Commission on behalf of the EU presidency.
"We regret that overall we see little improvement in the human rights situation in the country," she added.
Despite some improvement in women's rights, Whelan underlined that violations of human rights "continue to be widespread" in Iran, including torture, disappearances after arrests, arbitrary detention and political and religious repression.
The EU also noted that a de facto moratorium on amputations in Iran, a criminal penalty under Islamic law, had not been respected, while public executions continued.
"The recent interference in the electoral process represents a setback for democracy and a general trend toward even more restrictions on the exercise of political rights and freedoms," Whelan charged.
The EU External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten said in February, after elections in Iran were marred by a ban on many reformist candidates, that Brussels would be watching closely to see how the situation there evolved.
The EU promotes constructive engagement with the Islamic Republic, seeking dual-track talks on trade and political issues, in contrast notably to the United States which has labelled Tehran part of an "axis of evil."
But the talks have been on hold since June 2003 because of EU concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions.
>> MEANWHILE OUR RUSSIAN FRIENDS...
Russian Atomic Energy Minister to visit Iran
Thursday, March 25, 2004 - ?2004 IranMania.com
Tehran, March 24 (IranMania) -- According to Iran's State News Agency(IRNA) Chief of the Federal Atomic Energy Agency Alexander Rumyantsev is most likely to visit Iran in May, spokesman for the restructured Atomic Energy Ministry Nikolai Shingarev told Itar-Tass.
"Implementation of the scheduled construction of the first energy unit of Iran`s nuclear power plant in Bushehr will be discussed at the upcoming meeting of the chief of the atomic energy agency and the leadership of the Iranian atomic energy agency."
Meanwhile, "the text of the protocol on return of spent nuclear fuel with the nuclear power plant for storage and processing in Russia" is expected to be finally agreed at the Tehran meeting.
"Representatives of the Russian corporation TVEL will discuss "the commercial aspect of the return of spent nuclear fuel at a meeting with the Iranian side shortly," Shingarev emphasized. The company TVEL did not rule out "the meeting may be held in Tehran in the next two weeks."
Rumyantsev was initially planned to visit Iran last January, but the trip was postponed to March "for technical reasons."
Shingarev noted that new adjournment of the date of the trip of the atomic energy agency chief to Tehran "is caused by the resolution of organizational issues of the transfer of powers and functions of the abolished Atomic Energy Ministry to the Federal Atomic Energy Agency."
"This work will be mainly completed in the next six weeks," he remarked.
Moscow may help Iran build 2nd reactor
Thursday, March 25, 2004 - ?2004 IranMania.com
Tehran, March 24 (IranMania) -- According to Iran's State News Agency(IRNA) Russia may take part in the construction of a second reactor at Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, sources at the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry said.
According to the official, the general contractor involved in the Bushehr nuclear power plant project - Atomstroiexport, has already handed over to Iran preliminary feasibility studies concerning the construction of a second reactor at Bushehr.
The chief of the Federal Agency for Atomic Power, Alexander Rumyantsev said on Monday Russia`s plans regarding the Iranian nuclear power program remained unchanged, despite the ongoing reorganization of the Atomic Energy Ministry.
"Technical cooperation with Iran in nuclear power plant construction in Bushehr will go on," he said. "I see no causes that
might restrict our cooperation."
A supplementary protocol on the repatriation of spent nuclear fuel from Bushehr to Russia "will be signed soon." Rumyantsev said signing of the protocol had been delayed against a background of "certain financial aspects."
"Iran has asked for several months to study the technology of handling spent nuclear waste," Rumyantsev said, adding that "Iran had repeatedly confirmed the readiness to sign the protocol."
In the meantime Iran`s Ambassador to Russia, Gholam-Reza Shafei has told Tass in an interview that the Russian-Iranian protocol on he return of spent nuclear fuel from Bushehr nuclear power plant will be signed in Tehran or in Moscow in the near future. Cooperation between Iran and Russia, he said, is "absolutely transparent and is being carried in full compliance with international legislation and the applicable rules."
"In view of Iran`s signing of the supplementary protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency and our commitment to the liabilities under the Nuclear Arms Non-Proliferation Treaty and the good political relationship with Russia we hope that Russian-Iranian cooperation in the field of nuclear power will go on developing," the Iranian ambassador said.
"Cooperation in building the first unit of Bushehr nuclear power plant is continuing. The reasons why construction work has fallen behind schedule will be discussed when a senior Russian official visits Iran shortly."
Ambassador Shafei noted that Russia and Iran had agreed to sign a protocol on the return of spent fuel to Russia. "Alongside this protocol a supplement must be signed to the comprehensive contract on the construction of the nuclear power plant`s first unit."
The two sides are in the phase of active coordination of these documents, to be signed in Tehran or Moscow soon. "
A second Bushehr reactor is a future project and more fundamental negotiations on it will follow," the Iranian ambassador said.
>> AHEM...WE WERE BORN YESTERDAY...
Nuke fuel repatriation protocol with Iran
Thursday, March 25, 2004 - ?2004 IranMania.com
Tehran, March 24 (IranMania) -- According to Iran's State News Agency(IRNA) a Russian-Iranian protocol on the return of spent nuclear fuel from Bushehr nuclear power plant will be signed in Tehran or in Moscow in the near future, Iran's Ambassador to Russia Gholam-Reza Shafei told Tass in an interview.
Cooperation between Iran and Russia, he said, is "absolutely transparent and is being carried out in full compliance with international legislation and the applicable rules."
"In view of Iran`s signing the supplementary protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency and our commitment to the liabilities under the Nuclear Arms Non-Proliferation Treaty and the good political relationship with Russia, we hope that
Russian-Iranian cooperation in the field of nuclear power will go on developing," the Iranian ambassador said.
"Cooperation in building the first unit of the Bushehr nuclear power plant is continuing. The reasons why construction work has fallen behind schedule will be discussed when a senior Russian official visits Iran shortly."
Ambassador Shafei said Russia and Iran had agreed to sign a protocol on the return of spent fuel to Russia.
"Alongside this protocol a supplement must be signed to the comprehensive contract on the construction of the nuclear power plant`s first unit." The two sides are in the phase of active coordination of these documents, to be signed in Tehran or Moscow soon.
"A second Bushehr reactor is a future project and more fundamental negotiations on it will follow," the Iranian ambassador said.
Israeli report blasts intelligence
for exaggerating the Iraqi threat
By Dan Baron
JERUSALEM, March 28 (JTA) -- Israel's foreign intelligence services have come under public scrutiny with revelations they overestimated one major threat while underplaying another.
Hot on the heels of the testimony of former U.S. counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke accusing the Bush administration of ignoring pre-Sept. 11 U.S. intelligence reports because it was focused on Iraq, the Steinitz Report issued on Sunday blasted those in Israel who had pushed for the war on Iraq.
The 80-page report, compiled by the Knesset Subcommittee on Secret Services under lawmaker Yuval Steinitz, lambasted prewar assessments by Mossad and military intelligence officials that it was "very likely" Saddam Hussein had missiles with non-conventional payloads aimed at Israel.
That perceived threat prompted the Defense Ministry to issue millions of gas masks and order citizens to prepare sealed rooms, at a cost of millions of dollars.
"The military and political upper echelons are responsible for the mess-up," said the Steinitz Report, which charged Israeli intelligence analysts with overconfidence and oversimplification.
The report also said Mossad and military intelligence officials are in need of a major overhaul after they failed to track Libya's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.
Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi abandoned the program in December in negotiations with the United States and Britain that were kept secret from Israel.
"The idea that a hostile nation like Libya, with an unpredictable leader like Gaddafi, was in the running to develop a militarized nuclear industry, without Israel getting the necessary advance warning from its intelligence service to act preventively or at least prepare accordingly, is -- to put it mildly -- intolerable," the report said.
"The prime ministers lack the proper tools that would afford them real oversight and orientation on the intelligence apparatus and building a real force for intelligence analysis."
Israel stayed on the sidelines of the Iraq war out of concerns its involvement would alienate the few U.S. allies in the Arab world.
But Israeli intelligence assessments were regularly fed to Washington.
"It is not inconceivable that assessments passed by an Israeli intelligence agency . . . to a friendly agency were bounced back and force, played a key role in that friendly agency's planning, and ultimately ended up with the agency where they originated in the form of an analysis by an altogether different agency. Such assessments would immediately be perceived as another authoritative body bolstering and verifying the original Israeli view," the report said.
Yet asked by reporters if Israeli intelligence might have misled the United States and its ally Britain as to Iraq's real capabilities, Steinitz was more circumspect.
"American and British intelligence services had much better access to Iraq by simply sitting in Kuwait and other locations, and by being able to fly almost freely over Iraqi soil," he said.
U.S. and British officials did not comment.
The Steinitz report did not recommend action against any specific intelligence officials. But it said military intelligence, which has swollen steadily in terms of manpower and funding since Israel's failure to foresee the Arab assault which opened the 1973 Yom Kippur War, should be cut down in size.
Unit 8200, the military intelligence codebreakers -- who, according to a recent report in the New Yorker magazine, tipped off the United States as to Iran's nuclear buildup -- should become a civilian agency, the report said.
Meanwhile, it called for the Mossad to be boosted. According to security sources, the spy agency has fallen into lethargy recently through a combination of military intelligence's wide reach and an over-reliance on cooperation with foreign agencies.
The Prime Minister's Office, which oversees all of Israel's intelligence agencies, said it would consider the recommendations.
? JTA. Reproduction of material without written permission is strictly prohibited.
One year after war in Iraq, results
are mixed -- and terrorism continues
By Leslie Susser
JERUSALEM, March 22 (JTA) -- When the United States launched its war on Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, Israeli planners were hoping for major strategic changes that would promote regional stability.
A year later, the results are mixed.
There have been some major strategic gains: potential nuclear threats from Iran and Libya have been reduced, the threat of Iraq and Syria joining forces in a land war on Israel's northeastern border has been removed, and on Israel's northern border, the Hezbollah terrorist group has been exercising newfound restraint.
But the hoped-for domino effect against terrorism and its sponsors has not materialized. The terrorist threat to Israel actually has grown, and the chances of peace with the Palestinians appear increasingly remote.
Much will depend on whether the United States sees through the regime-change process and creates a stable democracy in Iraq or withdraws in disarray, leaving behind a trail of chaos and resentment.
Though no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq, Israeli experts still maintain that Saddam had advanced chemical and biological weapons' programs and that if left to his own devices, he would have obtained nuclear bombs sooner or later.
Israeli strategists argue that the fact that such developments were pre-empted by the war is a major strategic boon not only for Israel, but for the Western world as a whole.
The most unexpected strategic gain for Israel was the domino effect on Libya's leader, Col. Muammar Gadhafi. Days after Saddam's capture by American forces in December, Gadhafi announced his readiness to dismantle his weapons of mass destruction programs.
Israeli officials believe Gadhafi is genuine and that Libya can be removed from Israel's "threat map."
They maintain that had Gadhafi developed a nuclear capability, Israel and the West would have had to invest huge resources in developing a suitable response.
The same Israeli officials are far less sanguine about Iran's declared readiness to suspend its nuclear program. They believe the Iranians are playing for time. But they note that even if the Iranians go back on their promises, the war in Iraq has pushed back their nuclear timetable.
It also has created a framework for international monitoring of Iran's nuclear development. That is no small achievement, the Israeli officials say.
One of the Israeli military planners' greatest nightmares was the specter of massive Iraqi, Syrian and Jordanian tank forces rolling across the desert toward Israel's eastern border. This scenario was dubbed the "Eastern Front" problem, and it was one of the main reasons for Israel's huge tank build up, even after achieving peace with Egypt and Jordan.
The removal of Iraq from the equation makes the scenario totally unrealistic. Israel's military planners will be able to risk major cutbacks in land forces and already are considering which units they can do without.
There also is a significant political dimension to the Eastern Front's disappearance.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon always had insisted on retaining the Jordan Valley, between the West Bank and Jordan, as an additional buffer against the Eastern Front.
That would have meant that any future Palestinian state would have had to settle for no more than 80 percent of the West Bank. Now that the Eastern Front no longer exists, Sharon can consider relinquishing the Jordan Valley and strengthening chances for a future territorial settlement with the Palestinians.
Saddam's elimination and the collapse of Eastern Front also has heightened Syria's weakness and isolation.
This already has led to overtures to Israel from Syria's President Bashar Assad, which Israel dismissed as insincere. But a weakened Syria may well make serious approaches for peace with Israel soon.
In addition, with Israel and the United States believing that the best hope for long-term peace in the Middle East is the overthrow of autocratic regimes and the spread of democracy, they could not but take heart from unprecedented criticism of the Assad regime and recent Kurdish riots in Syria. One group of protesters said explicitly that they had been inspired by the overthrow of Saddam to challenge the sister Ba'athist regime in Damascus.
Another gain for Israel is the restraint currently being exercised on its volatile northern border by Hezbollah.
The group has been defined by the United States as a terrorist organization on a par with Al-Qaida, and its members may fear that attacks on Israel could elicit massive Israeli retaliation -- with the backing of the United States.
So Hezbollah, with Iranian aid, has changed its modus operandi: Instead of sparking direct military exchanges with Israel, it is clandestinely sending agents into the West Bank and Gaza Strip to help promote terrorism there.
Indeed, in perhaps the greatest disappointment to Israeli policy makers, the Iraqi domino effect has not impacted the level of Palestinian terrorism.
In a recent interview with Israel's daily Ma'ariv, retired Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz's closest political adviser, declared that "the domino effect worked where it wasn't expected to, on Libya, and not where we hoped it would, on Arafat."
Ongoing Palestinian terrorism after the war in Iraq, and the sense that there was no one to talk to on the Palestinian side, led to Sharon's plan for unilateral disengagement from the Palestinians. The first step, outside of Israel's West Bank security barrier, is Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
But both Israel and the United States feared that as in Iraq, a power struggle would ensue between different local factions. To ensure that the secular Palestinian Authority and not the fundamentalist Hamas takes control of Gaza after the Israeli withdrawal, Israel has been targeting Hamas and its leaders.
Monday's assassination of Hamas spiritual and political leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin was part of this policy. Israeli military intelligence estimates that this will weaken Hamas and reduce terrorism in the long term.
Other analysts, however, warn that in assassinating a cleric, Israel may have opened a wider front with the Muslim world -- precisely the kind of development the U.S.-led war in Iraq was meant to contain.
Whether terrorism against Israel declines will depend to some extent on the degree to which the United States manages to stabilize the situation in Iraq, Israeli analysts believe.
As far as its strategic impact on the region is concerned, they argue, the American story in Iraq is far from over.
This month's signing of a provisional constitution in Iraq should be a major achievement for the Americans, they say, but they fear that ongoing terrorism in Iraq still could disrupt Washington's plans for a model democracy.
And, they say, the way the struggle in Iraq between the United States and its terrorist opponents plays out could have major consequences for Israel and the region as a whole.
Leslie Susser is the diplomatic correspondent for the Jerusalem Report.
? JTA. Reproduction of material without written permission is strictly prohibited.
China's Communists Fall Victim to Piracy
BEIJING - China's rampant copyright piracy has hit home for the ruling communists after police caught two people with 14,000 unauthorized copies of party handbooks.
The two books contain new rules on party relations with the Chinese public and are mandatory reading for the party's 68 million members, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
Police launched an investigation following a complaint by the party publishing house that illegal copies appeared on the market immediately after it issued the real thing in February.
A bookstore owner and a printer in the western city of Xi'an were caught and admitted printing copies because the books "have become best sellers and are profitable," Xinhua said.
The report didn't say whether any party members -- who are supposed to be moral role models -- tried to save money on their political obligations by buying pirated copies.
It didn't say what penalties the store owner and his printer might face.
China's thriving industry in product piracy churns out illegal copies of everything from software to DVDs of Hollywood movies to fake designer shirts.
Chinese leaders have launched repeated crackdowns, but foreign and Chinese manufacturers complain that violations are still widespread.
Chirac Suffers Midterm Blow
French Deliver Rebuke of Government Policies in Regional Vote
By Keith B. Richburg
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, March 29, 2004; Page A18
PARIS, March 28 -- President Jacques Chirac and his ruling conservative party suffered a crushing defeat in regional midterm elections Sunday, with the opposition Socialists and their Green and Communist allies seizing control of the vast majority of regional councils. The results represented a sharp rebuke for the government, which has attempted to reform France's costly health care, pension and education systems.
Chirac's party was expected to lose control of a number of regional councils after its poor showing in last week's first round of voting. But the scale of Sunday's defeat immediately prompted speculation that Chirac's prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, could be replaced in a sweeping post-election cabinet reshuffle this week.
"It's not just a defeat," said Alain Duhamel, a veteran political analyst and commentator. "It's a disaster."
Results being tallied Sunday night showed the Socialists and their allies taking control of at least 21 of 26 regional governments. Nationally, the Socialists and their allies were winning almost 50 percent of the vote, compared with just 37 percent for the government and about 13 percent for the anti-immigration National Front party.
All last week, the French media had been filled with speculation that Chirac would keep Raffarin in a retooled government and let go of some of the more unpopular ministers. But Duhamel, among others, said Chirac might now feel pressure to replace Raffarin with Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, whose crackdown on crime has made him France's most popular politician.
Also threatened were the government's unpopular attempts to cut the spiraling costs of France's generous pension system and other aspects of the welfare state. The government has said changes are necessary to make the French economy more dynamic. But the reforms, including an increase in the number of years a person must work to qualify for a pension and a planned reduction in some unemployment benefits, have prompted bitter and disruptive protests over the past two years by a wide range of workers.
Alain Juppe, the head of Chirac's ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party, insisted the reforms would continue. "The governing majority has suffered a serious defeat," he said in a speech to supporters. "Is it necessary to abandon the reforms launched by the Raffarin government? In conscience, I believe not. To abandon the reforms would be to condemn our country to paralysis and regression."
Raffarin, appearing subdued, said, "It is clear that the opposition has won this ballot." But, he said, "the reforms will continue simply because they are necessary."
Leaders of the victorious Socialist Party called the results a repudiation of Chirac's policies and said voters had demonstrated their trust in the Socialists to preserve the safety net of social services.
Citing the high turnout, Francois Hollande, the Socialist Party leader, said voters had "sent a clear message to our political leaders. They have rejected the policies which have over two years aggravated inequality."
The ruling party's defeat was underscored in some high-profile races. Poitou-Charentes, in western France, was long Raffarin's personal fiefdom, but on Sunday it was won by a Socialist, Segolene Royal, who received 55 percent of the vote. A conservative former French president, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, was handily defeated in his bid to become the regional president of Auvergne.
Regions have little real power, and turnout in the past has been low. But Sunday was the first time French voters had an opportunity to go to the polls since Chirac and the center-right swept to power two years ago, and many wanted to signal their dissatisfaction before the next elections for president and parliament in 2007.
"The results of the regionals are going to have a huge influence on the national government's policies," said Karim Khelifi, 43, a communications worker voting in a working-class neighborhood of Paris. "I hope that the left wins in many regions," he added. "That way, the government will be forced to come back to more humane social policies."
Special correspondent Pan Yuk contributed to this report.
R?gionales : la d?b?cle de la droite
LEMONDE.FR | 28.03.04 | 20h02 * MIS A JOUR LE 29.03.04 | 01h57
La vague rose du premier tour des r?gionales s'est amplifi?e au second tour, dimanche, et la gauche se retrouve ? la t?te d'au moins 20 r?gions m?tropolitaines sur 22, contre huit avant le scrutin.
La majorit? UMP-UDF a subi une v?ritable d?route, dimanche 28 mars, au second tour des ?lections r?gionales. La gauche emporte au moins 20 r?gions sur les 22 de la France m?tropolitaine alors que la droite, qui en contr?lait 14 depuis 1998, n'en a plus que deux au maximum, l'Alsace et peut-?tre la Corse.
Le taux d'abstention, qui ?tait de 37,9 % au premier tour, est tomb? ce dimanche ? pr?s de 35 %. Cette plus forte mobilisation des ?lecteurs a profit? ? la gauche, qui recueille 50,37 % des voix (6 points de plus par rapport au premier tour), contre 37 % ? la droite (+ 3) et 13 % au Front national (- 2,5).
Cette victoire ?crasante de la gauche, qualifi?e d'"extr?mement spectaculaire" par l'ancien premier ministre PS Laurent Fabius, se traduit par le gain d'une dizaine de r?gions, sur les 13 que la droite d?tenait en m?tropole (hors Corse). Le premier secr?taire du Parti socialiste, Fran?ois Hollande, a, lui, parl? de"d?saveu s?v?re" du pr?sident Jacques Chirac.
"C'est d?sormais au pr?sident de la R?publique de tirer les le?ons de cette crise de confiance", a rench?ri le pr?sident de l'UDF, Fran?ois Bayrou.
"C'est un 21 avril  ? l'envers", a d?clar?, de son c?t?, le ministre des affaires sociales, Fran?ois Fillon, en ?voquant "une d?faite extr?mement grave du gouvernement et de la majorit?". Le constat est identique pour le pr?sident de l'UMP, Alain Jupp?, qui estime que "la majorit? gouvernementale vient de subir un ?chec grave. (...) Nous devons entendre ce fort m?contentement".
Symbole de cette situation, le Poitou-Charentes, fief du premier ministre, o? S?gol?ne Royal (PS) obtient 55,1 % des suffrages, soit 20 points d'avance sur Elisabeth Morin (UMP), successeur de M. Raffarin ? la r?gion.
Autre victime de ce raz-de-mar?e, l'ancien pr?sident Val?ry Giscard d'Estaing (UMP), battu de 5 points en Auvergne (52,65 % contre 47,5 %) par Pierre-Jo?l Bont? (PS).
D?faite cuisante aussi en Picardie pour le ministre UDF, Gilles de Robien, qui ne recueille que 35,7 % des voix contre 45,7 % ? la liste du PS Claude Gewerc.
La droite perd deux autres bastions, la Bretagne, o? le pr?sident sortant, Josselin de Rohan (UMP), est largement devanc? par Jean-Yves Le Drian (58 % contre 42 %), et la Franche-Comt?, o? Raymond Forni (PS) devance de 12 points Jean-Fran?ois Humbert (UMP).
Elu en 1998 avec les voix du Front national, Jacques Blanc (UMP) est battu de 15 points en Languedoc-Roussillon par le maire PS de Montpellier, Georges Fr?che.
REMANIEMENT EN VUE
Dans ce contexte, la gauche conserve ais?ment les huit r?gions qu'elle d?tenait d?j?, dont l'Ile-de-France, o? Jean-Paul Huchon (PS) devance le porte-parole du gouvernement, Jean-Fran?ois Cop? (UMP), d'environ 6 points.
Dans la r?gion PACA, le pr?sident sortant PS, Michel Vauzelle, devance de 11 points le secr?taire d'Etat UMP, Renaud Muselier.
M?me cas de figure en Aquitaine et dans le Nord - Pas-de-Calais, o? les sortants PS Alain Rousset et Daniel Percheron l'emportent avec environ 20 points d'avance sur les ministres Xavier Darcos et Jean-Paul Delevoye.
L'?chec de la droite place le pr?sident Jacques Chirac dans une position difficile, l'incertitude r?gnant plus que jamais sur l'ampleur du remaniement minist?riel ? venir et sur le possible d?part de Jean-Pierre Raffarin de Matignon. Un changement de strag?gie mettant davantage l'accent sur le social pourrait voir le jour.
"Des changements s'imposent certainement", a indiqu? M. Raffarin dans sa premi?re r?action publique apr?s les r?sultats, apr?s que des ministres ont admis la gravit? de la d?faite du gouvernement. Pour M. Raffarin, dont la popularit? est en chute libre, "l'action doit ?tre plus efficace, l'action doit ?tre plus juste". Rappelant son bilan au gouvernement en mati?re de lutte contre l'ins?curit? et le ch?mage ou de r?forme des retraites, il a reconnu que "ce n'est pas assez, je le sais, les Fran?aises et les Fran?ais nous l'ont dit aujourd'hui clairement".
Selon un sondage r?alis? cette semaine par la Sofres, ? para?tre lundi dans L'Express, 59 % des Fran?ais souhaitent le d?part de M. Raffarin, 29 % plaident au contraire pour son maintien tandis que 40 % veulent qu'il soit remplac? par Nicolas Sarkozy.
Lemonde.fr avec AFP et Reuters
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Shiites Organize to Block U.S. Plan
Spurred by Sistani, Iraqi Clergy Mobilizes Followers Against Constitution
By Anthony Shadid
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, March 29, 2004; Page A01
BAGHDAD -- With the turban of the clergy and the talk of a politician, Hashem Awadi, a young Shiite Muslim cleric, thumbed through papers that described the latest challenge to Washington's political blueprint for Iraq.
Here, the gaunt, 38-year-old said, was a leaflet that enumerated the objections of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the country's most powerful cleric, to Iraq's interim constitution. This, he said, was the letter the ayatollah sent to the United Nations in protest. And here, displayed proudly, was the petition denouncing that constitution in what he said amounted to a "popular referendum."
"We want to make clear the will of the people," said Awadi, who heads the Ghadir Foundation, a religious institute in Baghdad that, by his count, has distributed as many as 10,000 of the petitions. "The people are burning."
Awadi, whose speech veers from Islamic law to Western freedoms, is one of the leaders of a vociferous grass-roots campaign unleashed by the edict published by Sistani's office March 8 questioning the legitimacy of the interim constitution.
In the weeks since, the vast network of Shiite Muslim mosques, religious centers, foundations and community organizations that make Sistani Iraq's most influential figure has led a campaign to amend the constitution or discard it. Posters have gone up at universities in Baghdad and elsewhere, leaflets have circulated among prayer-goers and Sistani's cadres -- from young clerics to devoted laymen -- have gathered tens of thousands of signatures on the petitions. Demonstrations are next, they warn.
"This is freedom of expression," Awadi said, thumbing yellow worry beads. "This is freedom of opinion."
The clergy's campaign is steeped in the religious symbolism that binds much of the country's Shiite majority, whose political ascendancy is a defining feature of postwar Iraq. It turns on a term -- legitimacy -- that is far easier to deny than to bestow. The campaign signals a willingness to confront U.S. authorities at a moment when time is short, as the American administration prepares to formally end the occupation on June 30 and turn over authority to an interim Iraqi government.
Sistani's edict was never uttered aloud. The reclusive, 73-year-old cleric did not deliver it publicly. But the statement -- six lines penned in the meticulous handwriting of Sistani's son -- was enough to seriously imperil a document American and Iraqi leaders have hailed as a model for the Arab world and the clergy have denounced as the work of an unelected body unduly pressured by U.S. officials.
Sistani's followers make clear that their campaign is not simply driven by the hope of altering the constitution. In a country where pledges of democracy are not yet supported by representative institutions, religion is by far the best-organized force. Its leadership views the constitution as an opportunity to mobilize the still unfulfilled potential of the country's Shiite majority.
"For a long time, we had lost our rights," said Saad Taher, 40, a community activist and municipal worker, sitting in a tailor's shop in the religiously mixed neighborhood of New Baghdad. "We're trying to help the people to take their rights back."
The room, a dingy second-floor workshop that overlooks a teeming street market of rickety stalls, is the headquarters of Taher's Committee of Heavenly Books, one of an abundance of Shiite community groups that have sprung up since the fall of Saddam Hussein's government on April 9. Most have names imbued with religious imagery, like the Committee of Rescue Ships or Committee of the Followers of Hussein, Shiite Islam's most beloved saint. Most are long on devotion and short on money.
"We're from the people," Taher said. "We're the children of this neighborhood."
With about 400 members, the committee has worked on the front lines of the constitutional campaign. Taher and his co-director, Talal Jaafari, a vendor in the market outside, meet every day in the workshop with five or 10 of the most committed.
For the past week, they have gone to universities, to Shiite community centers known as husseiniyas, to mosques and door to door with the petitions, which describe the constitution as illegitimate and list objections that run from the document's liberal definition of citizenship to the power of an unelected government to make lasting decisions. So far, the two men have completed more than 400 petitions, each with 15 signatures, along with a name, address, occupation and birth date.
Some were reluctant to sign, fearing political involvement that, until a year ago, was particularly dangerous, Taher said.
"But we've overcome our fear," he said, smiling. "Thank God and praise him."
"We've come to the point where others are scared of us," a friend, Jassem Qureishi, said, drawing laughs from the group.
"America has a term: the rebuilding of Iraq," Taher said, sitting along a wall crowded with religious portraits and a tailor's tools. "We are rebuilding ourselves. We want to create a new Iraqi personality. That's our task. That's not the Americans' task."
Asked about the next step the group plans in the campaign, Taher answered succinctly.
"We take our instructions from Sheik Sahib," he said.
Lieutenant in Baghdad
Sheik Sahib Abdullah Warwar Qureishi is a wakil, or religious representative. He is one of about 200 in Baghdad who answer to Sistani, many of them providing the organizational power behind the campaign's momentum.
Unlike many of the wakils, Qureishi is young, his bushy beard making him appear older than his 34 years. But he has spent more than a decade as a seminary student in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, where Sistani has his headquarters. His words come slowly and are often unexpectedly cheerful, in the mentoring tone of a teacher.
"We refuse the constitution in its entirety and its details," he said, sitting under three shelves full of law books.
Qureishi is responsible for a sprawling swath of New Baghdad known as the Gulf neighborhood, which is majority Shiite. More than 70,000 people live there, and the area has 10 husseiniyas and 12 mosques. Qureishi spends half the week in Najaf, where he visits Sistani's office daily. On his three nights in Baghdad, he teaches three one-hour courses to about 37 students who, along with the activists of the Committee of Heavenly Books, have become the foot soldiers in the petition campaign.
On this night, six stacks of petitions were laid out in front of him, spread like a feast.
"For 35 years, Najaf could never lift its head. The people couldn't breathe," he said, as the ceiling fan blew the scent of burning incense across the room. "Now we speak as we like, we worship as we like. What we have now feels like democracy."
Until late in the night, students and activists streamed into his small brick house, bordered by three palm trees, with pools of sewage outside. Each carried a bundle of petitions. Over the past week, he estimated, he had gathered at least 6,000 petitions with 90,000 signatures. Every day or so, he has the documents scanned onto a computer disc and sent to Sistani's office in Najaf.
"We had more than 1,000, and it wasn't enough," said one activist, Qassim Hassan, 42, as he entered the home.
"If you need a billion, I'll give them to you," Qureishi told him.
Kadhim Atshan, a member of the committee, said a third of the people wanted to sign with pens dipped in their own blood.
Qureishi shook his head. Sistani, he said, "has refused people doing this. He said it's disgusting, and he doesn't accept it."
Sitting together on red carpets, their backs against pillows along the walls, the men talked about what they considered the constitution's faults.
The campaign already resembles a movement led by Sistani against a U.S.-devised plan for Iraq's transition, announced Nov. 15, calling for regional caucuses that would choose a transitional government. A month later, Sistani made his reservations to the plan public. By February, amid popular opposition, the U.S. administration was looking for an alternative that has yet to be decided.
In both campaigns, the question was who would decide Iraq's political future and under what authority.
Iraq's U.S.-appointed Governing Council, which negotiated and signed the interim constitution on March 8, "doesn't represent the majority of the people," Qureishi said. "They must represent themselves." He turned the discussion to the U.S. occupation, as the men listened patiently. "The coalition forces didn't come for your interests or my interests," he said, wagging his finger, "not at all."
"The solution is for you to vote, for me to vote, for him to vote," he said, pointing to those gathered. "That's the solution."
The enthusiasm grew. At one point, electricity was cut and the lights went out. Most of the men pulled out lighters. The conversation never missed a beat. Some of the youngest of the sheik's followers pleaded for more direct action. "The shortest distance between two points is a straight line," said Jawad Rumi, 33. "The shortest distance from Earth to Heaven is jihad."
Over tea and cigarettes, other men spoke up, addressing the sheik or their colleagues, and nearly all seemed to have read the law. One pointed out the constitution's provision for Iraqis to reclaim citizenship. Several pointed out that the provision would allow Iraqi Jews who left for Israel in the 1940s and 1950s to return. "It will let the Israelis do as they like in Iraq," Jaafari said to the nods of others.
What about Iraqi armed forces remaining under U.S. control in the interim? one man asked. Why wasn't the constitution put to a vote? asked another. Others objected to a three-member presidency that would allow a vice president, likely a Sunni Arab or Kurd, to overrule a presumably Shiite president -- a clause that U.S. officials and some Iraqi leaders describe as essential for protecting minority rights.
The sheik spoke up again. From a poster embossed with red and black type on a blue background, he pointed out what he said was his biggest objection: a provision that gives Kurds an effective veto over the permanent constitution to be written next year.
"This decision was imposed on us," Qureishi said.
'They're Ready to Act'
The poster the sheik read from has gone up in many parts of Baghdad. It bears a picture of Sistani, with flowing beard and turban, reading from a book. In large type, it asks, "What do you know about the Iraqi State Law for the Transitional Phase?" It was published by the Najaf-based Murtada Foundation which, like Awadi's Ghadir Foundation, is among the handful of institutions that are nominally independent but under the loose supervision of the offices of Sistani and other senior ayatollahs.
The literature is ubiquitous -- in husseiniyas and mosques, on the walls of universities and in markets. Qureishi, the sheik, had foot-high stacks of the group's leaflets and interviews, piled next to blank petitions. At a mosque in a nearby neighborhood, banners along the walls copied the slogans: "Any law not ratified by a nationally elected group will not be legitimate."
Jassim Jazairi, a 35-year-old cleric in a black turban, runs the branch of the Murtada Foundation on Baghdad's Palestine Street, one of two in the capital. On his untidy desk were 170 petitions, marked either with signatures or with the thumbprints of the illiterate. Alongside them were copies of an interview with "a source close to" Sistani, reprinted from the foundation's magazine, Holy Najaf. Next to those was a red Koran.
"Even now, when we hold forums and we talk about [Sistani's] reservations, the people almost respond with violence," Jazairi said. "They're emotional, and they're ready to act."
Jazairi predicted that protests would come next, to force amendments to the constitution. He insisted they would stay nonviolent -- "peaceful resistance," as he put it. To him, they were another step in the politicization of the Shiite community, led by the clergy.
"We lost so much over 35 years of repression," he said. "The fear remains, and it still affects Iraq's people. We want to restore people's confidence in themselves. We want them to know they can change the political situation they face."
? 2004 The Washington Post Company
Iraqi Minister Escapes Assassination
2 hours, 31 minutes ago
By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA, Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Gunmen opened fire Sunday on a convoy carrying Iraq (news - web sites)'s minister of public works, killing a driver and a bodyguard and injuring two others, the U.S.-led coalition said. The minister, Nisreen Berwari, was unharmed.
In another attack in the same city, Mosul, gunmen killed a Briton and a Canadian who were working as security guards for foreign electrical engineers at a power station. The ambush appeared to be part of a campaign to undermine U.S.-led reconstruction efforts in Iraq.
The attacks highlighted the tenuous security situation in Iraq's third-largest city, once a prime recruiting ground for the officer corps of Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s military.
Berwari was returning to Mosul from a meeting in the city of Dohuk when her convoy was attacked, said Kristi Clemens, a coalition spokeswoman in Baghdad.
Saro Qader, an official with the Kurdistan Democratic Party, described the attack as an "assassination attempt." Berwari is a member of the Kurdish party.
Iraqi police said the attack occurred around 11 a.m. in the al-Karama neighborhood of Mosul. They said the two men who were killed were both bodyguards, and that Berwari was in another car that was not hit by gunfire.
Berwari, who earned a degree at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government in 1999, is one of five Kurdish ministers in the coalition-appointed interim government. There are 20 other ministers.
Previously, Berwari was development minister in the Kurdistan regional government, and she also served with United Nations (news - web sites) organizations in Iraq.
Another female political leader, Aqila al-Hashimi, was assassinated in September. She was a Shiite member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council.
The slain Briton and Canadian had been assigned to protect foreign engineers working for General Electric Co., a coalition spokesman said on condition of anonymity. GE is helping rebuild Iraq's decrepit electrical infrastructure, which has suffered from war, neglect and years of sanctions. Power blackouts are frequent.
U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police sealed off the area after the shooting. Witnesses saw two partly burned bodies, clad in flak jackets, lying beside a four-wheel drive vehicle that was on fire. One man had been shot in the head.
In London, the Foreign Office said one Briton was killed. In Ottawa, the Canadian Foreign Ministry said a Canadian died. Their names were not released.
An Iraqi official at the power station in East Mosul said the slain men were protecting experts working at the station. Private security firms provide guards to many foreign companies operating in Iraq.
This month, assailants have killed other Western civilians linked to reconstruction efforts: four American missionaries working on a water project in Mosul, two Finnish businessmen in Baghdad, a German and a Dutch national working on a water project south of Baghdad, and two American staffers with the coalition shot south of the capital.
U.S. military officials in Mosul say insurgents are shifting from attacks on American troops to targeting Iraqi security forces, and most recently civilians. The shift could be partly because there are fewer American soldiers in the area, and consequently fewer U.S. targets.
The U.S. military, however, says rebels are choosing civilians targets because they are frustrated at a lack of success in attacking soldiers.
Late last year, some 20,000 soldiers with the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division occupied Mosul and surrounding areas. Since the 101st pulled out in February, the region around Mosul has been occupied by 8,000 U.S. troops under Task Force Olympia, which lacks the 101st's fleet of helicopters.
The new forces in the north have cut back on the number of economic development and infrastructure projects undertaken by the 101st.
In other violence in Mosul on Sunday:
_ Iraqi police said two U.S. soldiers were wounded after gunmen in a car opened fire on their military vehicle. The U.S. military said troops returned fire, killing all four "enemy forces" in the car.
_ A U.S. military Stryker vehicle caught fire after being struck by a rocket-propelled grenade, but there were no injuries, the U.S. military said.
_ Gunmen exchanged fire with Iraqi police guarding the main gate of the television station. Two policemen were injured, and the attackers fled.
_ A rocket, possibly aimed at a police station a block away, hit a classroom at a primary school while a lesson was in progress. It failed to explode, and no pupils were injured.
In Baghdad, U.S. soldiers shut down a weekly newspaper run by followers of radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, saying its articles were inciting violence against the coalition. The Al-Hawza newspaper will be closed for 60 days, the coalition said. Hours later, 1,000 followers of al-Sadr demonstrated against the closure, saying it violated freedom of expression.
The Holocaust Shrug
From the April 5, 2004 issue: Why is there so much indifference to the liberation of Iraq?
by David Gelernter
04/05/2004, Volume 009, Issue 29
I HEAR AND READ ALL THE TIME about Democratic fury; evidently, enraged Democrats are prepared to do whatever it takes to rid the country of George W. Bush's foul presence. Somehow Republican rage doesn't seem quite as newsworthy (and when it does show up, the storyline is usually "Republicans Angry at Bush"). To be fair, Republicans do control the presidency and both houses of Congress, and ought to be far gone in euphoria. But they are not. There are lots of unhappy and quite a few furious ones out there, and they are not all mad at the president. Some reporters will find this hard to believe, but quite a lot of them are actually mad at the Democrats.
Consider Iraq. By overthrowing Saddam, we stopped a loathsome bloody massacre--a hell-on-earth that would have been all too easily dismissed as fantastic propaganda if we hadn't seen and heard the victims and watched the torturers on videotape. Now: There is all sorts of latitude for legitimate attack on the Bush administration and Iraq. A Bush critic could allege that our preparation was lousy, our strategy wrong, our postwar administration a failure, and so on ad infinitum . . . so long as he stays in ground-contact with the basic truth: This war was an unmitigated triumph for humanity. Everything we have learned since the end of full-scale fighting has only made it seem more of a triumph.
But Democratic talk about Iraq is dominated not by the hell and horror we abolished or the pride and joy of what we achieved. Many Democrats mention Saddam's crimes only grudgingly. What they really want to discuss is how the administration "lied" about WMDs (one of the more infantile accusations in modern political history), how (thanks to Iraq) our allies can't stand us anymore, how (on account of Iraq) we are shortchanging the war on terror. But don't you understand, a listener wants to scream, that Saddam's government was ripping human flesh to shreds? Was consuming whole populations by greedy mouthfuls, masticating them, drooling blood? Committing crimes that are painful even to describe? Don't you understand what we achieved by liberating Iraq, what mankind achieved? When we hear about Saddam and his two sons, how can we help but think of the three-faced Lucifer at the bottom of Dante's hell?--"with six eyes he was weeping and over three chins dripped tears and bloody foam," Con sei occhi piangea, e per tre menti / gocciava 'l pianto e sanguinosa bava, as he crushes human life between his teeth.
I could understand the Democrats' insisting that this was no Republican operation; "we were in favor of it too, we voted for it too, and then voted more money to fund it; we want some credit!" Those would be reasonable political claims. But if you talk as if this war were one big, stupid blunder that we are stuck with and have to make the best of--you are nowhere near shouting distance of reality; people would suspect your sanity if you were not a politician already. Instead of insisting that the war belongs to them, too, Democrats are running top speed in the other direction. Howard Dean led the way on this flight from duty, honor, and truth, but it didn't take long for most of the nation's prominent Democrats (with a few honorable exceptions) to jump aboard the Dean express--which is now, absent Dean, a runaway train.
People ask, why this big deal about Saddam? "Isn't X evil too, and what about Y, and how can you possibly ignore Z?" But we aren't automata; we are able to make distinctions. Some evil is beyond our power to stop. That doesn't absolve us from stopping what we can. All cruelty is bad. Yet some cruel and evil men are worse than others. By any standard we did right by overthrowing Saddam--and do wrong by denying or belittling that fact.
The Democrats' refusal to acknowledge the moral importance of the Coalition's Iraq victory felt, at first, like the Clinton treatment--more relativistic, warped-earth moral geometry in which the truth gradually approaches infinite malleability. Overthrowing vicious dictatorships and stopping crimes against humanity were no longer that big a deal once Republicans were running the show. It seemed like the same old hypocrisy, sadly familiar. (I will even concede, for what it's worth, that Republicans can be inconsistent and hypocritical too.)
But as we learned more about Saddam's crimes, and Democrats grew less convinced that the war was right and was necessary . . . their response took on a far more sinister color. It started to resemble the Holocaust Shrug.
I SUGGEST ONLY DIFFIDENTLY that the world's indifference to the Coalition's achievement resembles its long-running, well-established lack of interest in Hitler's crimes. I don't claim that Saddam resembles Hitler; I do claim that the world's indifference to Saddam resembles its indifference to Hitler.
The Holocaust was unique--"fundamentally different," the German philosopher Karl Jaspers wrote, "from all crimes that have existed in the past." Hitler's mission was to convert Germany and eventually all Europe into an engine of annihilating Jew-hatred. He tore the heart out of the Jewish nation. There is nothing "universal" or "paradigmatic" about the Holocaust, and next to Hitler, Saddam is a mere child with a boyish love of torture and mass murder.
Yet Saddam, like Hitler, murdered people sadistically and systematically for the crime of being born. Saddam, like Hitler, believed that mass murder should be efficient, with minimal fuss and bother; it is no accident that both were big believers in poison gas. Saddam's program, like Hitler's, attracted all sorts of sadists; many of Saddam's and Hitler's crimes were not quite as no-fuss, no-muss as the Big Boss preferred. Evidently Saddam, like Hitler, did not personally torture his prisoners, but Saddam (like Hitler) allowed and condoned torture that will stand as a black mark against mankind forever.
Hitler was in a profoundly, fundamentally different league. And yet the distinction is unlikely to have mattered much to a Kurd mother watching her child choke to death on poison gas, or a Shiite about to be diced to bloody pulp. The colossal scale and the routine, systematic nature of torture and murder under Saddam puts him in a special category too. Saddam was small compared with Hitler, yet he was like Hitler not only in what he wanted but in what he did. When we marched into Iraq, we halted a small-scale holocaust.
I could understand people disagreeing with this claim, arguing that Saddam was evil but not that kind of evil, not evil enough to deserve being discussed in those terms. But the opposition I hear doesn't dwell on the nature of Saddam's crimes. It dwells on the nature of America's--our mistakes, our malfeasance, our "lies." It sounds loonier and farther from reality all the time, more and more like the Holocaust Shrug.
Turning away is not evil; it is merely human. And that's bad enough. For years I myself found it easy to ignore or shrug off Saddam's reported crimes. I had no love for Iraq or Iraqis. Before and during the war I wrote pieces suggesting that Americans not romanticize Iraqis; that we understand postwar Iraq more in terms of occupied Germany than liberated France. But during and after the war it gradually became impossible to ignore the staggering enormity of what Saddam had committed against his own people. And when we saw those mass graveyards and torture chambers, heard more and more victims speak, watched those videotapes, the conclusion became inescapable: This war was screamingly, shriekingly necessary.
But instead of exulting in our victory, too many of us shrug and turn away and change the subject.
Young people might be misled about the world's response to the Holocaust by the current academic taste for "Holocaust studies" and related projects. It wasn't always this way.
In the years right after the war, there was Holocaust horror all over the world. The appearance of such books as Elie Wiesel's Night and Anne Frank's diary kept people thinking. But after that, silence set in. In 1981 Lucy Dawidowicz, most distinguished of all Holocaust historians, wrote of "this historiographical mystery of why the Holocaust was belittled or overlooked in the history books." I remember the 1960s (when I was a child growing up) as years during which the Holocaust was old stuff. On the whole, neither Jews nor gentiles wanted to think about it much. I remember the time and mood acutely on account of travels with my grandfather.
He was a rabbi and a loving but not a happy man. His synagogue was in Brooklyn, at the heart of an area that was full of resettled Holocaust survivors. He would visit them often, especially ones who had lost their families and not remarried. Naturally they were the loneliest. But what they suffered from most was not loneliness but the pressure of not telling. Pressure against their skulls from the inside, hard to bear. They needed to speak, but no one needed to listen.
Old or middle-aged men with gray faces and narrow wrists where the camp number was tattooed forever in dirty turquoise, living alone in small apartments: They would go on for an hour or more, mumbling with downcast eyes as if they were embarrassed--but they were not embarrassed; they were merely trying to keep emotion at bay so they could finish. Not to be cut down by emotion was the thing; they wanted to make it through to the end. So they would mumble quickly as if they were making a run for it, in Yiddish or sometimes Hebrew or, occasionally, heavily accented English. My Hebrew was inadequate and my Yiddish was worse, but I could get the gist, and my grandfather would fill me in afterward. Once an old man wanted to tell us how one man in a barracks of 40 had stolen a piece of bread (or something like that), and in retaliation the whole group was forced at gunpoint to duck-walk in the snow for hours. He didn't know the right word, so he got down on the floor to show us--an old man; but he had to tell us what had happened.
Steven Vincent went to Iraq after the war and reported in Commentary about Maha Fattah Karah, an old woman, sobbing. "I look to America. I ask America to help me. I ask America not to forget me." Saddam murdered her husband and son. That story takes me back.
My grandfather was driven. He spent years at one point translating a rabbi's memoir from Hebrew, then more years trying to find a publisher--any publisher; but no one wanted it. Holocaust memoirs were a dime a dozen, and (truth to tell) had rarely been hot literary properties in any case. Then he shopped the "private publishers" who would bring out a book for a fee. He tried hard to raise the money. He was a good money-raiser for many fine causes. But this time he failed. No one wanted to underwrite a Holocaust memoir. The book never did appear.
THE HOLOCAUST SHRUG: To turn away is a natural human reaction. In 1999 (Steven Vincent reports) the Shiite cleric Sadeq al Sadr offended Saddam--whose operatives raped Sadeq's sister in front of him and then killed him by driving nails into his skull. Who can grasp it? In any case, today's sophisticates cultivate shallowness. They deal in cynicism, irony, casual bitterness; not in anguish or horror or joy.
Lucy Dawidowicz discussed the unique enormity of the Holocaust. It destroyed the creative center of world Jewry and transferred premeditated, systematic genocide from "unthinkable" to "thinkable, therefore doable." Mankind has crouched ever since beneath a black cloud of sin and shame.
Nothing will erase the Holocaust, but it is clear what kind of gesture would counterbalance it and maybe lift the cloud: If some army went selflessly to war (a major war, not a rescue operation) merely to stop mass murder.
That is not quite what the Coalition did in Iraq. We knew we could beat Saddam (although many people forecast a long, bloody battle); more important, we had plenty of good practical reasons to fight. Nonetheless: There were many steps on the way to the Holocaust, and we can speak of a step towards the act of selfless national goodness that might fix the broken moral balance of the cosmos. The Iraq war might be the largest step mankind has ever taken in this direction. It is a small step even so--but cause for rejoicing. Our combat troops did it. It is our privilege and our duty to make the most of it. To belittle it is a sad and sorry disgrace.
David Gelernter is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.
? Copyright 2004, News Corporation, Weekly Standard, All Rights Reserved.
>> GREAT JOB PERVEZ?
Pakistan withdraws, calls mission success
By SADAQAT JAN
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
A Pakistani government official, center, smiles, as he is surrounded by tribal elders after being released by foreign militants linked with al-Qaida, in Wana, Pakistan on Sunday, March 28, 2004. Pakistani troops began withdrawing from some parts of western Pakistan on Sunday after militants agreed to release captured soldiers and politicians, but officials said soldiers will remain in the area while tribal leaders negotiate the handing over of foreign militants. (AP Photo)
PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- Pakistan called its mission to chase down and kill Taliban and al-Qaida militants a success and began withdrawing troops Sunday after tribesmen along the border with Afghanistan agreed to release captured soldiers and politicians.
Officials said, however, troops would remain in the unruly western border region while tribal leaders negotiate the hand-over of other foreign militants.
Eleven soldiers were released Sunday morning and two local officials were expected to be released later in the day or early Monday, said Brig. Mahmood Shah, the regional security chief.
Another soldier escaped before he could be released, he added.
"The main objectives of the operation have been achieved. They included destroying dens, searching of homes, taking people into custody and the recovery of gadgets and equipment," Shah said.
Troops would regroup in South Waziristan's main town of Wana and remain in the area, he said.
But Shah said 500-600 suspected militants still may be hiding along the border with Afghanistan and he did not rule out using military force against them. The army would continue using a combination of military operations and talks with tribal leaders to rid the region of suspected al-Qaida forces and allies, he said.
About 10,000 Mahsud tribesmen met Sunday near Wana to help authorities track the perpetrators of an attack on an army convoy last week.
Late Saturday, military spokesman Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan said recently gathered intelligence - combined with eyewitness accounts - indicated that alleged terrorist Tahir Yuldash had been badly wounded and was in hiding. He said Pakistani forces were not close to capturing him.
"He might have slipped away, he's on the run," Sultan said.
Yuldash is the leader of an Uzbek terror group allied with al-Qaida called the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. He was previously mentioned as one of two possible "high-value targets" cornered when Pakistan's military began the sweep of South Waziristan on March 16.
Despite the apparent escape, Sultan said the operation had been successful because the military had killed 60 suspected militants and captured 163 more.
President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a key ally of the United States, has sent 70,000 troops to the border with Afghanistan since the Sept. 11 attacks to prevent cross-border attacks - the first such deployment since independence from Britain in 1947.
U.S. and Afghan forces have deployed on the other side of the border as part of a new offensive against al-Qaida and Taliban forces there. Musharraf has said U.S. experts are working with Pakistani troops, but no American military forces have crossed into Pakistan.
"As far as al-Qaida is concerned, yes, indeed, they are in bigger numbers than we thought in that region. And we need to eliminate them. It's very clear that we will eliminate them," Musharraf said in an interview on ABC News' "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" aired Sunday in the United States.
He said tribal elders from six of the seven tribal groups in western Pakistan were cooperating with the government's efforts to capture, kill or drive out foreign extremists.
"They are cooperating with us, cooperating with the army. And I'm very sure we'll take a very hard stand, and the writ of the government will be established, and these people have to be eliminated," Musharraf said.
Tokyo nixes extradition of alleged spy
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
TOKYO -- A Japanese court rejected a request Monday to extradite a medical researcher wanted in the United States on charges of industrial espionage.
The Tokyo High Court turned down a request made by U.S. authorities for Takashi Okamoto, 43, a former researcher at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, said court spokeswoman Yukiko Morita. The court released no other details of the ruling.
Okamoto was charged in May 2001 with conspiracy, economic espionage and interstate shipment of stolen property related to Alzheimer's disease research.
According to a federal indictment, Okamoto left the United States on Aug. 17, 1999, a day after he and another Japanese man allegedly took genetic materials from a lab and left vials of tap water in their place.
Okamoto allegedly arranged for the materials to be sent to the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research, north of Tokyo. He also allegedly destroyed other biological materials.
Tokyo prosecutors took Okamoto into custody last month after Justice Minister Daizo Nozawa ordered them to start extradition proceedings. Court hearings began earlier this month.
Japan and the United States have an extradition treaty, but Tokyo only sends its citizens to face charges abroad if they have been accused of acts that are also illegal in Japan.
While Japan doesn't have any economic espionage laws, the Justice Ministry had decided Okamoto's acts constituted theft and destruction of property under Japanese law.
Okamoto has claimed his innocence, saying he didn't think his actions were criminal, according to local media reports.
He is now a doctor at a hospital on Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido. He resigned from the Cleveland Clinic in 1999.
By The Prowler
Published 3/29/2004 12:07:19 AM
LOSERMEN IN ACTION
Apparently attendees at the Democratic Unity Dinner in Washington last Thursday night got a look at another version of Al Gore Unleashed.
This Gore updated model is a vindictive and bitter, washed-up candidate who acts like a teen-age girl trying to impress the cool kids. For example, upon seeing the Rev. Jesse Jackson on stage, Gore made a beeline toward him and, while casting his gaze across the stage at his former running mate, Sen. Joe Lieberman, wrapped Jackson in a big hug.
"Jackson looked mortified," says an onlooker. "That kind of affection wasn't something he was looking for."
Gore then turned and walked toward Lieberman ... and simply patted him on the back. "They don't get along, for obvious reasons," says a former Lieberman campaign staffer. "Gore has never apologized for his betrayal."
But one good turn deserves another, and Gore got the stiff himself when he attempted to reach out to his former boss, Bill Clinton. Clinton, refused to step up to Gore, instead putting current presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry between him and Gore. So much for unity.
Down in the audience, similar behavior was unfolding. Sen. Tom Daschle had one of his staffer complain to DNC organizers about his seating, which placed him about three rows back in the audience during dinner. His table was not as good as the one set aside for some of Kerry's campaign staffers, including uber consultant Bob Shrum.
A month ago, AFSCME president Gerald McEntee was saying that his ex-golden boy, former Vermont Gov. Howie Dean, was insane. Now McEntee is getting back in bed with his nutty pal.
According to former Dean campaign sources, McEntee has committed funds in the "seven figure range" to Dean's new grassroots program. The money from AFSCME will be used to strengthen the commitment of Dean's young voting block to the Democrats and not to independents or third-party candidates in 2004.
"It's all about [Ralph] Nader," says a former Dean staffer, who is mulling an offer to rejoin Dean's operation. "There is real concern about young-voter flight to Nader or elsewhere now that Dean is gone. McEntee's money would try to shore up that support."
Saddam betrayed by bodyguard
Saddam Hussein was finally betrayed by a relative who was one of his closest bodyguards, a BBC programme reveals.
Panorama reports that after eight months on the run, the hiding place of the ousted Iraqi leader was given away by an aide known as "the fat man".
The programme, to be broadcast on BBC One on Sunday, says Mohammed Ibrahim Omar al-Musslit gave away the secret after being arrested and interrogated.
Saddam Hussein was captured on 13 December near his home town of Tikrit.
Mr Musslit was a loyal lieutenant of Saddam Hussein. He was one of the people who accompanied the Iraqi leader as he fled Baghdad in a white Oldsmobile, as US troops entered the city on 9 April 2003.
But Panorama will reveal that he was quickly broken by interrogators after being captured in Baghdad, and led American troops to his boss just hours after being arrested in December.
After his arrest, Mr Musslit was flown to Tikrit where he was interrogated. He was then made to point out the remote farm where Saddam Hussein was hiding
I think the US treasury gets to keep the money
Major-General Raymond Odierno
The 600 American soldiers there found nothing in the farm buildings, but discovered Saddam Hussein hiding in an underground passage.
But because he did not willingly offer the information, the man who led the Americans to Saddam Hussein's secret bunker near his home town of Tikrit will not benefit from the $25m reward that was on offer.
A senior US commander, Major General Ray Odierno, denied the source had been tortured but told the programme that he was "a shady character", adding that he believed "the US treasury gets to keep the money."
To this day the US will not reveal the identity of the man who led them to Saddam Hussein.
Colonel James Hickey, of the 4th Infantry Division, the unit that captured him in "Operation Red Dawn" would only say that he was "a middle aged man who went pear shaped."
However, people close to Saddam Hussein confirmed to Panorama reporter Jane Corbin that it was Mr Musslit who betrayed the former Iraqi president.
Mr Musslit was a key figure in Saddam Hussein's security organisation and had been in the Fedayeen.
By the end, Mr Musslit was believed to be the only man who knew of Saddam Hussein's full movements.
Panorama: Saddam on the run will be broadcast on BBC One on Sunday, 28 March 2004 at 2215 BST
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/03/26 22:44:54 GMT
? BBC MMIV
Al-Qa'ida 9/11 chief reveals US got off lightly
From The Sunday Times
March 29, 2004
IT makes a chilling picture. The mastermind behind the September 11 attacks has told interrogators that he and his terrorist nephew leafed through almanacs of US skyscrapers when planning the operation.
Sears Tower in Chicago and Library Tower in Los Angeles - which was "blown up" in the film Independence Day - were both potential targets, according to transcripts of interrogations of al-Qa'ida operations chief Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. "We were looking for symbols of economic might," he told his captors.
He recounted sitting looking at the books with Ramzi Yusuf, his nephew by marriage, who was the man behind the first World Trade Centre bombing in 1993. In that attack Yusuf succeeded only in ripping a crater into the foundations with a van bomb.
"We knew from that experience that explosives could be problematic," Khalid said, "so we started thinking about using planes."
When he was captured last March in the house of a microbiologist in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, the paunchy 37-year-old was unshaven and wearing a baggy vest. He looked more like a down-and-out than one of the most dangerous men in the world.
The interrogation reports make clear, however, that he was not only the chief planner for September 11 but also introduced Osama bin Laden to Hambali, the Indonesian militant accused of orchestrating the Bali bombing 13 months later.
To date, Khalid is the most senior al-Qa'ida member to have been caught. Until now there has been no word of where he is being held or what, if anything, he is saying.
Although the interrogation transcripts are prefaced with the warning that "the detainee has been known to withhold information or deliberately mislead", it is clear that he is talking - and that the September 11 conspiracy was much more extensive than has previously been revealed.
The confessions reveal planning for the atrocity started much earlier than anyone had realised and was intended to be even more devastating.
"The original plan was for a two-pronged attack with five targets on the east coast of America and five on the west coast," he told interrogators.
"We talked about hitting California as it was America's richest state and bin Laden had talked about economic targets."
Bin Laden, who like Khalid had studied engineering, vetoed simultaneous coast-to-coast attacks, arguing that "it would be too difficult to synchronise".
Khalid switched to two waves: hitting the east coast first and following up with a second attack. "Osama had said the second wave should focus on the west coast," he said.
Zacarias Moussaoui, a French-Moroccan who had lived in London, was sent to the Pan Am international flight school in Minnesota to train for the west coast attack, according to Khalid. His instructor alerted the FBI, however, after the Moroccan showed no interest in landing planes - only in steering them. He was arrested in August 2001.
Until now it had been widely believed that Moussaoui was meant to have been the 20th hijacker on September 11. The revelation by Khalid that he was part of a "second wave" is lent weight by the FBI's recent arrest of two other men who were allegedly part of the west coast conspiracy.
Despite the setbacks, Khalid described the September 11 attack as "far more successful than we had ever imagined".
Khalid, whose family came from Pakistan, was born in 1965 in Kuwait City, where his father was a preacher. He joined the Muslim Brotherhood as a teenager and went to the US to study engineering in North Carolina.
At that time the Afghan jihad against the Russians was in full flow. After graduating, Khalid headed for one of bin Laden's guesthouses in the Pakistani frontier town of Peshawar. He has told interrogators it was there that he first met Hambali.
In 1992 Khalid moved south to Karachi. Posing as a businessman importing holy water from Mecca, he acted as a fundraiser and intermediary between young militants and wealthy sponsors in the Gulf.
Yusuf's attempt to blow up the World Trade Centre inspired him to conceive his own operations. The first was a plot to blow up 12 American airliners over the Pacific. Both Yusuf and Hambali were involved. It failed after their Manila bomb factory caught fire. The men fled to Pakistan where Yusuf was arrested.
Undeterred, Khalid decided to start working on something "far more spectacular" for which he "hoped to persuade bin Laden to give him money and operatives". He also decided to introduce Hambali to bin Laden.
Hambali headed Jemaah Islamiah, which wanted to unite Southeast Asia under an Islamic banner.
Khalid told interrogators: "I was impressed by JI's ability to operate regionally and by Hambali's connections with the Malaysian government. He told me that his group had a training camp in The Philippines and a madrasah (religious teaching) program in Malaysia on the border with Singapore.
"In 1996 I invited Hambali to Afghanistan to meet Osama. He spent three or four days with him and it was agreed that al-Qa'ida and Hambali's organisation would work together on 'targets of mutual interest'."
Hambali, who had been operating on a shoestring, was provided with a new car, mobile phones and computers.
Bin Laden was apparently impressed by Khalid's networking and ideas and made him head of al-Qa'ida's military committee. From then on he was a key planner in almost every attack, including the simultaneous bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1988. Bin Laden dubbed him The Brain.
The big challenge was to attack Americans on their own soil. Initially Khalid proposed leasing a charter plane, filling it with explosives and crashing it into the CIA headquarters. But the plan expanded.
Bin Laden pointed out that on a visit to the US in 1982 he had been to the Empire State Building in New York and was astonished by how unprotected such key landmarks were.
A committee, known as the shura, was formed comprising bin Laden, Khalid and four others. It met at what was known as the war room in bin Laden's camp outside Jalalabad in Afghanistan. The plan for a two-pronged attack was formed. "We had scores of volunteers to die for Allah but the problem was finding those familiar with the West who could blend in as well as get US visas," Khalid told his interrogators.
Two Yemenis and two Saudi pilots, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Midhar, were selected and given commando training in Afghanistan. "All four operatives only knew that they had volunteered for a martyrdom operation involving planes," Khalid said.
In 1999 the two Yemenis were refused US visas; but a few months later four jihad recruits from Hamburg arrived in Quetta, Pakistan. Led by Mohammed Atta, an Egyptian, they had originally planned to go to Chechnya to fight the Russians, but a former mujaheddin in Germany had given them an introduction to bin Laden.
After meeting the al-Qa'ida leader in Kandahar, they delivered the baia, the oath of allegiance required to gain access to his inner circle, and were invited to his Ramadan feast. He told them that they had been selected for a top-secret mission and promised that they would enter paradise as martyrs.
They were instructed to go home and destroy their passports so their trip to Pakistan would be undetected. They were then to shave off their beards, go to the US and obtain pilot's licences.
Khalid told interrogators he had provided them with a special training manual which included information on how to find flight schools and study timetables.
Three of the four were granted US visas and travelled to the US. The fourth, Ramzi Binalshibh, failed and returned to Afghanistan, where he communicated with them through internet chat rooms.
In the spring of 2000, after a planning meeting in Kuala Lumpur, bin Laden scaled back the plan from two-prong to two-wave because they had been unable to get enough potential pilots into the US. Moussaoui succeeded in entering the US, but the order went out for potential recruits who were not Arab, Khalid told his captors.
A date was set for the first-wave attack, codenamed Porsche 911, and a message went around the world for followers to return to Afghanistan by September 10.
The messages were intercepted by several Western intelligence agencies but none apparently realised their significance.
When the suicide planes struck on September 11, al-Qa'ida seems to have been taken by surprise - both by the success of the attacks and by the US reaction.
"Afterwards we never got time to catch our breath, we were immediately on the run," Khalid said.
He said the war on terrorism and the US bombing of Afghanistan completely disrupted their communications network. Operatives could no longer use satellite phones and had to rely on couriers, although they still used internet chat rooms.
"Before September 11 we could dispatch operatives with the expectation of follow-up contact but after October 7 (when the bombing started) that changed 180 degrees. There was no longer a war room or shura and operatives had more autonomy."
He told interrogators that he remained in Pakistan for 10 days after September 11, then went to Afghanistan to find bin Laden: "I went to Jalalabad, Tora Bora, looking for him and then eventually met him in Kabul."
The al-Qa'ida leader instructed him to continue operations - with Britain as the next target.
"It was at this time we discussed the Heathrow operation," Khalid said. "Osama declared (British Prime Minister Tony) Blair our principal enemy and London a target."
He arranged for operatives to be sent from Pakistan and Afghanistan to London, where surveillance of Heathrow airport and the surrounding areas began. However, he claimed, the operation never got beyond the planning stages. "There was a lot of confusion," he said. "I would say my performance at that time was sloppy."
One priority was to get Hambali out of Afghanistan. In November 2001, Khalid arranged for him to go to Karachi. There he gave him $US20,000 and a false Indonesian passport with which he could travel to Sri Lanka and on to Thailand, from where he would help to organise the Bali nightclub bombing the following year. They kept in touch through Hambali's younger brother, who was in Karachi.
The net was closing in around Khalid. Another shura member, Abu Zubayda, was arrested in Faisalabad in March 2002. Six months later Binalshibh was seized in a Karachi apartment he shared with Khalid.
Khalid escaped, but his flight came to an end in the early hours of March 2 last year in Rawalpindi. Questioned for two days by Pakistan's military intelligence, who say he did nothing but pray repeatedly, he was flown blindfolded to Bagram, the US base in the mountains above Kabul.
It is not clear how long he was held there, nor what methods were used to make him talk. Afghans freed from Bagram claim to have been subjected to sleep deprivation and extremes of hot and cold. There have also been reports of truth drugs.
? The Australian
>> KPMG GOOD TURN?
'Massive scam' in Iraqi oil program
From The Sunday Times
March 29, 2004
AN investigation into the United Nations oil-for-food program in Iraq is to name more than 200 people, including British and European politicians, businessmen and senior UN officials, who may have profited from Saddam Hussein's regime.
The inquiry is being conducted by accountants KPMG and international law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer on behalf of the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council. The KPMG team has previously traced assets seized by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
The investigators claim tens of billions of dollars may have been improperly distributed under the auspices of the oil-for-food program.
The publication of the report, probably in May, is likely to embarrass the UN. It stands accused of failing to properly police the oil scheme, while senior officials allegedly took kickbacks.
The scheme, set up in 1995, allowed the Iraqis to sell oil worth more than $US47 billion ($62 billion) in return for food and other essential humanitarian supplies.
But investigators say Iraqi documents suggest millions of barrels of oil were given as bribes for supporting the Hussein regime.
KPMG is also investigating claims that bribes were paid to UN staff and that food unfit for human consumption was traded for oil.
The report will for the first time identify everybody who was allegedly allocated oil and others who might have acted improperly under the scheme. Further investigation will establish how many were profiting illegally from the arrangement, although some were legitimate traders.
The investigation into the scandal is being overseen by Claude Hankes-Drielsma, a former chairman of the management committee of Price Waterhouse who is now advising the Iraqi council.
In a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan earlier this month, Mr Hankes-Drielsma said: "The UN failed in its responsibility to the Iraqi people and the international community at large.
"It will not come as a surprise if the oil-for-food program turns out to be one of the world's most disgraceful scams and an example of inadequate control, responsibility and transparency, providing an opportune vehicle for Saddam Hussein to operate under the UN aegis to continue his reign of terror and oppression."
The KPMG team is trawling through documents held in several Iraqi government departments, including the oil ministry in Baghdad. Investigators are interviewing the Iraqi civil servants who reportedly signed and compiled the documents to verify their authenticity.
After the report is published, a second phase of the investigation will trace what happened to the allocated oil, where and if it was sold, how much money was made and by whom.
"Many on the list may be absolute bona fide oil traders. But there are people on the list who have been allocated oil and you have to ask why," Mr Hankes-Drielsma said.
? The Australian
Why world can't rest on retirement
By Frances Cairncross
March 29, 2004
SOMETHING unprecedented and irreversible is happening to humanity. This year or next, the proportion of people aged 60 or over will surpass the proportion of under-5s. For the rest of history, there are unlikely ever again to be more toddlers than grey heads.
Already those aged 65 and over, who throughout recorded time have rarely accounted for more than 2-3 per cent of most countries' people, make up 15 per cent of the rich world's inhabitants.
So this is the start of what the Japanese (who will have a million centenarians by mid-century) call the Silver Century. The rise in the proportion of the world's old will be the century's defining demographic trend.
In some countries it may also determine the nature of politics, rates of economic growth (ageing countries will have slower rates of growth per head than those with younger populations) and global clout.
In fact, three trends are running in parallel, each at a different pace. The first is a bulge in retirement, which will become noticeable in just over a decade.
The older members of the US baby-boom generation are due to turn 62 (the minimum age at which social security allows early retirement) in 2008.
But the generation, like a pig in a python, will guarantee an unusually large proportion of old folk - and then of very old folk - in the populations of most rich countries in this century's middle years.
Its impact will be aggravated by a second trend: the widespread fall in fertility rates.
In most countries women on average are not having enough babies to replace the people who die. In some countries, mainly in continental Europe and Japan, birth rates have been below replacement for a quarter of a century. When the baby boomers retire, the size of the working population will plummet. That in itself is worrying enough. But there is a third problem: the old spend much more time in retirement than ever before. Life expectancy continues to rise, yet people are drawing their pensions earlier and earlier.
A century ago, most old people worked almost up to the end of their days. Now, by the age of 65, only 16 per cent of men are still in the workforce in the US and only 4 per cent in continental Europe.
Thus, a larger generation of old folk than ever before will need support for longer than ever before from a population of working age that is shrinking continuously in absolute size for the first time since the Black Death.
And the level of that support is unprecedented. The triumph of Europe's welfare state and the US's social security system has been more or less to eradicate poverty among the old. All rich countries have health insurance systems with near-universal coverage for the retired.
The cost of these benefits, in effect, falls on those in work. This has prompted books with scary titles, such as The Coming Generational Storm.
Moreover, if things look bad in the US and worse in continental Europe, they will one day look calamitous in some parts of the developing world. There, the passage of the pig within the python will be even more rapid.
Countries as diverse as Brazil, Iran and Turkey will all be below replacement rate within 15 years.
China's huge Red Guard generation - its equivalent of the US's baby boomers - reaches retirement age around 2015.
Meanwhile, thanks to China's one-child policy, the fertility rate has plunged from six or seven children per woman in the 1960s to below replacement rate.
In a decade's time, many countries thus start to face a huge problem: how to support a vastly larger population of old folk.
There are only three ways to provide income in old age: one, to store goods for later consumption, which in practice doesn't work (just try storing a hip replacement operation); two, to exchange current production for claims on future production, by saving or by extracting promises from your children or the government; and three, to go on producing yourself.
The promises governments have made to people retiring today are too large to be met in full. As a result, people will have to work longer, and retire later, than they do now. And the old will have to insure themselves for more of the cost of healthcare.
Fortunately there is a time window, of about a decade, during which the population of working age will be at a historic high. OECD projections show that the impact of retiring baby boomers will not begin to be felt until the next decade, and will culminate in 2025-35.
So governments have a chance - but one that they must grab fast.
It will not be easy. The notion of retirement - an abrupt end to paid employment - is relatively recent but has been hugely popular. Cutting it back is expected to cause uproar.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Dora Costa, who wrote The Evolution of Retirement, points out that people began to reduce the length of their working lives as soon as they could afford to do so, and long before generous social benefits were widely available.
Not only do the old live longer than ever; the range of pleasures available in retirement, such as foreign holidays and home entertainment, are more varied and less expensive than ever before.
The longer that countries postpone the steps needed to make retirement sustainable, the more abrupt and damaging the transition will be. But given the will, change is possible.
Pioneering work by two US economists, Jonathan Gruber and David Wise, has shown that retirement decisions are greatly influenced by the structure of pensions and other benefits. If it pays to stop working, people will. Driven by fiscal desperation, governments will increasingly steel themselves to alter the way benefits work.
Once that change begins, there will be jobs for those who want them. When the baby boomers start to retire in large numbers, they will empty out workplaces - such as public services - that now have lots of staff in their 50s. To replace them, employers will have to come up with the sort of flexible deals they once used to attract women back to work.
Indeed, the workplace revolution that lies ahead may be very like the one that, in the course of the 1970s and 80s, brought millions of mothers into the job market.
Since then, the workplace has been feminised; in future it will be grizzled. A quarter of a century from now, retirement will look different: a mix of work and gardening, rather than gardening alone. For older people, work may then offer some of the charms that have lured so many women into the job market: stimulus, companionship and the freedom from worry that extra money can bring.
Frances Cairncross is management editor of British news magazine The Economist.
? The Australian
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