Straw in the wind of US policy

IT'S Independence Day, the day Americans celebrate their country's independence from Britain. If only Britain was independent from them.

IT'S Independence Day, the day Americans celebrate their country's independence from Britain. If only Britain was independent from them.

Jack Straw is supposed to be Britain's foreign secretary. But was anyone the least bit surprised this week to see him once again following America's agenda?

After effecting regime change in first Afghanistan and then Iraq, the US has a military pincer grip on the country that lies between them – Iran.

So we have Tony Blair, our glorious leader, upsetting the Iranian government by applauding student protests against it.

Now – guess what? – here's Straw "urging" Iran to accept tougher international inspections of their nuclear facilities.

This is the same pretext that was used against Iraq. It worked there – up to a point.

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There is STILL no publicly verifiable evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq – a fact which has seen Straw squirming more and more visibly.

Still, the US is clearly set on using the same gambit against its next target. And sending in its British pawns first.

Iran's chief representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Akbar Salehi, says, incidentally: "Iran considers the acquiring, development and use of nuclear weapons inhuman, immoral, illegal and against its very principles."

George W Bush (and therefore Jack JW Straw) doesn't believe this – at least not in public. He is probably unfamiliar with the concept of politicians telling the truth.

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LIKE so much in British politics, the really important things in the so-called "dodgy dossier" row have become obscured by the personalities involved.

Frankly, who gives a monkey's about Alastair Campbell?

It is interesting that a top Tory like Nicholas Soames should ride to the defence of New Labour's top spin-doctor.

But it is much more instructive to know that Campbell demanded changes in the dossier of evidence against Iraq before the war.

The infamous "45 minutes to launch WMD" claim may not have been his invention. But it seems he DID demand 11 changes to the text before its publication.

Does this matter? Darned right it does.

What it means is that an unelected lackey of the government tampered with evidence in order to push Britain into war.

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GEORGE W Bush is apparently "considering" sending US troops to Liberia, where rebels are in violent revolt against a president who has been indicted for war crimes.

He won't do it, though – defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld is against the idea.

Of course he is. Liberia is not known for its supply of oil. And it's not on the list of countries the US administration had lined up in its gunsights even before it came to power.

Unlike Iraq. And Afghanistan. And Iran.

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THERE is always a frisson whenever you hear the name Bethlehem on the news. Along with the words "West Bank town", there is always the unwritten, unspoken but clear-as-a-bell addition "birthplace of Christ".

News from Israel – be it good (like this week) or bad (like nearly every other week) – always comes with this extra charge.

Right now the central conflict is between a Jewish state and an oppressed Muslim community. But it is impossible to forget that this is the land considered holy by not just two, but three of the world's major religions.

Islam and Christianity are both offshoots of Judaism. Over the centuries both offspring have turned on their venerable parent – as well as on each other – with astonishing viciousness.

In recent times the state of Israel has been getting a bit of own-back on behalf of the Jews, with little or no more justification.

Today's news may seem hopeful. But history sadly suggests that any peace in the Levant is likely to be temporary.

It would be a mistake to assume, however, that ALL the news from Israel is grim, violent and flavoured by historical hatreds.

Both government and police departments showed this week that they have time to face hazards and problems beyond the obvious ones.

In the process, they have given a new twist to the national theme of bringing together the ancient and the modern.

Camels in the Negev desert are being fitted with luminous safety strips to make them more visible to motorists.

It's a lifesaving idea – for both the camels and the drivers. And what a stunning sight it must be to see an illuminated camel looming up in your headlights.

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