water dimension to war against Iraq? NYTimes suggests


In questioning the assertion that Saddam Hussein "gasses his own people," former Army War College professor Stephen Pelletiere, in an op-ed in the New York Times, today, adds a heretofore little mentioned angle to the geopolitical equation, that of Iraqi water. Pelletiere, who served as an intelligence analyst in the 1980's, reports that all that is really known about the supposed gassing of Kurds in the northern Iraqi town of Halabja in March of 1988, before the end of the Iraq-Iran war, is that it occurred in the context of a battle for the town between Iranian and Iraqi forces. He also notes that there were indications that the Kurds died of cyanide gas, known to be used by the Iranians, and not the mustard gas being used by Iraq. He also reports that there are, in fact, no known cases of Iraiq use of gas against civilians, and that those civilians who died at Halabja died as a consequence of the military use of gas in the battle. "These were tragedies of war," Pelletiere writes, "There may be justifications for invading Iraq, but Halabja is not one of them."

Then Pelletiere goes on to raise the question of what the battle for Halabja was all about. He says that while we are constantly reminded that Iraq has the largest oil reserves, "it may be more important that Iraq has the most extensive river system in the Middle East," as well as an impressive system of dams and river control projects built before the Gulf War. When the Iranians seized Halabja, they were aiming to control the Darbandikhan dam, the largest in Iraq. So, if America seized control of Iraq, we would control not only the oil, but also the water, and could "alter the destiny of the Middle East in a way that probably could not be challenged for decades...." What's still lacking, Pelletiere notes, is a strong reason for acting. "Before we go to war over Halabja," he concludes, "the administration owes the American people the full facts." [cjo]

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