- The Washington Times - Monday, January 20, 2003

Insider notes from United Press International Jan. 20 …

As the first anniversary of President Bush's "Axis of Evil" speech nears, Iraq and North Korea have warranted their inclusion, but Iran has lain low. Now Argentina's Secretara de Inteligencia de Estado (Secretariat of State Intelligence) is about to put Iran back into the bad guys' club. New SIDE boss Miguel Angel Toma has completed a confidential report for federal judge Juan Jose Galeano about the July 18, 1994, bombing of AMIA's (Israel-Argentine Mutual Association) headquarters in Buenos Aires. A total of 85 people died in the attack, and the incident strained Israeli-Argentinian relations for years. Argentine intelligence sources tell UPI that the dramatic report will directly name Hezbollah — with official Iranian backing — as the perpetrator of the attack. What is not known is whether Galeano will accept SIDE's conclusions and issue a judicial ruling. Buenos Aires is abuzz that the report will name Iranian government officials and Hezbollah leaders who according to SIDE gave the orders for the bombing. Former Iranian Embassy Cultural Attach Moshen Rabbani is named in the report as being the architect of the attack.

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Meanwhile Hezbollah is reported to have carried out "a major reshuffle of its military command" to prepare for an expected Israeli attack on Hezbollah's Lebanese bases under cover of a U.S. war with Iraq. The Emirates daily Al Bayan is quoting Iranian Revolutionary Guard officers attached to Hezbollah saying they have completed a re-equipment and training program in southern Lebanon, including mortars, rockets and anti-tank missiles.

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What part of "No" did Gen. Richard Myers not understand? His talks Monday with his Turkish counterpart Gen. Hilmi Ozkok and Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul did not result in the hoped-for agreement to use Turkish bases to launch up to 60,000 U.S. troops in a second front against Iraq. (Indications from Jordan are also depressing prospects of opening another front against Iraq from the west.) Talks continue, but Turkey's new moderate Islamist government and its veteran President Ahmet Necdet Sezer are holding firm in requiring a vote by the Turkish Parliament and a new U.N. resolution. Turkey is meanwhile aligning with regional Islamic powers, planning a summit in Ankara next week with Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Iran, to find some way to avoid war. Turkey's traditional loyalty to the United States is being blurred by its hopes of joining the far less warlike European Union.

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Japan, seeing war as almost inevitable, is gearing up to provide support to the U.S. operations. Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda has set up a task force that is preparing for logistic support for U.S. forces in the Indian Ocean and economic help for refugee relief among Iraq's neighbors. Estimating that the war will last no more than a month, Japan intends to focus on post-conflict support including rebuilding infrastructure, medical support, refugee relief, and disposal of chemical weapons. This last issue has provoked a serious row between the Defense Agency, which says Japanese troops are not trained in chemical and biological warfare, and the Cabinet office which says it's about time they started. Given Japan's pacifist constitution, all this will need new legislation, currently being drafted by deputy Cabinet Secretary Teijiro Furukawa and two top aides from the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Agency, Shotaro Yachi and Keiji Omori. Reckoning on the time needed to get the legislation past the Diet and get Japan's Self-Defense Force contingent to the Gulf, they do not expect the Japanese to arrive before May. The real political battle could take place over Fukuda's determination to use the crisis to rewrite Japan's national security doctrine. He wants the new legislation to start with the words: "To secure Japan's national security, which depends on Middle East oil …"

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Despite the scandal-ridden year of Enron and Worldcom and the massive fines imposed on Wall Street, the global reputation of U.S. business still rides high. In the annual Financial Times survey of the world's "most respected" companies and business leaders, the United States scores nine out of 10. The top four companies are GE, Microsoft, IBM and Coca-Cola, with Toyota at No. 5. The business leaders are Bill Gates, Jack Welch, Lou Gerstner, Michael Dell and Warren Buffet. A heartening report based on interviews with 1,000 top businessmen in 20 countries — but outdated. Welch has left GE and Gerstner has left IBM. Trailing the U.S. dominance, Germany has nine of the top 50 "most respected" companies, Britain eight and Japan and France have three each.

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