- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 16, 2003

Insider notes from United Press International for Jan. 16 …

The Pentagon's top soldier, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers, is expected in Ankara Monday for hastily arranged talks with his counterpart, Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, to try and nail down Turkish cooperation in military action against Iraq. Ozkok has just held his own tricky meeting with Prime Minister Abdullah Gul, and reports from sources close to the military tell UPI the general informed the premier that "news reports about 'indecision' regarding the Iraq issue had upset the Turkish armed forces." The Turkish generals are keen to support the United States, claiming that since Washington has clearly decided to go ahead, Turkey had better be on the winning side to ensure that it has a major voice in post-war decisions on the future of Iraq and the role of the Kurds. The last thing the Turkish military wants to see is a de facto independent Kurdistan acting as a magnet and inspiration for its own Kurdish minority. By formally asking its NATO allies for support, Washington has made it easier for the Turks to go along — and the option of a second front for U.S. and British troops to attack from the north is seen as extremely valuable.

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Diplomatic links with another key ally could prove difficult over the coming months. The popular and well-connected British ambassador in Washington, Christopher Myers, is leaving in February to become head of Britain's Press Complaints Council, the media's almost-toothless and self-regulating watchdog. But his replacement, former Ambassador to NATO David Manning, will not arrive to take over until late spring. Manning, currently in Prime Minister Tony Blair's office as the British equivalent of U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, is already closely involved in Iraq planning. During the interregnum, the Washington embassy will be in the hands of its No. 2, Tony Brenton, an amiable if somewhat more disheveled figure than the ever-elegant Myers. Bush officials see Brenton as "a solid Atlanticist" who maintains that there is no gulf in trans-Atlantic relations — the real gap is in the English Channel.

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Not that Iraq is necessarily at the top of the U.S. State Department agenda of things to worry about. One senior State Department official confided off the record this week that after recent reports from New Delhi and Pakistan, "Iraq and North Korea might turn out to be this year's second level crises." Even with the winter snows closing many of the passes through which Pakistani-backed guerrillas/terrorists have traditionally made their way into Kashmir, infiltration levels are rising ominously, the official added. And it was getting tougher to talk the Indian government out of taking the kind of pre-emptive action that the United States advocates in its own new national security doctrine. "We can't talk to the Indians about whether or not they would be right to strike, only about whether it would be smart," the official said.

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Just a week before the Dutch go to the polls in a general election, half of them tell pollsters they are not proud of their own country, mainly because of dissatisfaction with the present political situation. Nearly 20 percent of those surveyed by the Research International group have a negative picture of Dutch politics and say they feel ashamed of it. Additionally, 15 percent said rising insecurity was the reason not to be proud, stressing crime and violence — and overly light sentences. About 10 percent said they feel a "foreigner in their own country" because of immigrants — which could prove important in next week's election, even though the anti-immigrant Pim Fortuyn party (named after its assassinated leader) in total disarray. Polls show the ruling Christian Democrats led by the resigned Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, neck and neck with the Labor Party, under its new leader Wouter Bos who has done well in TV debates. The left-wing Socialist Party looks like jumping from nine to around 16 seats on an anti-Europe platform, demanding no more transfer of national sovereignty to the European Union. Former Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm, leader of the center-right Liberals, is also campaigning against "Europe's over-meddlesome ways.”

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Britain's top-selling (3.5 million daily) tabloid, Rupert Murdoch's The Sun, may be about to modify its traditional anti-European venom. New Editor Rebekah Wade is a fluent French speaker and Francophile, after her first job in journalism working in Paris on the staff of Architecture Aujourd'hui. The structures she now supervises include the bare bosoms of the tabloid's notorious page 3 girls.


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