THREATS, bullying and bribery are the methods the US and Britain have turned to to get a United Nations resolution for war on Iraq. Bush and Blair need nine votes out of the 15 members of the Security Council to get the resolution passed.
They also have to make sure that none of the five permanent members of the council (the US, Britain, China, Russia and France) uses their veto. The war is so unpopular that every government is under strong pressure not to back it.
So the US and Britain are offering blood money to enter what they call the 'coalition of the willing'. It should be called the coalition of the killing. The Guardian says, 'Russia and China are putting their power of veto up for sale in the form of debt write-offs and promises of a share of the action in post-war oil contracts.'
The ten other countries on the Security Council face a blizzard of threats and sweeteners. One US official says that although there were no direct economic threats 'that's not to say that countries are not aware that we provide them with assistance'. For Mexico the pay-off for a yes vote would be easing of US immigration barriers to Mexicans.
For Bulgaria a pro-US vote has been made much more likely by promises of help with entry into the European Union and cooperation with NATO. Bulgaria is set to receive over $31 million in US military grants and nearly $100 million from another fund.
Chile's biggest fear is that a no vote could halt a trade agreement. The US has left the African countries Angola, Guinea and Cameroon in no doubt that aid will be cut off if they don't jump into line. It is no idle threat. Yemen lost a $70 million aid programme when it voted against the 1991 Gulf War.
If the US can get the nine votes but the resolution is vetoed, Bush will claim he has the 'moral majority' on his side. This is not an argument he uses about Israel.
The last Security Council motion against Israel (for killing UN humanitarian workers) had 14 votes in favour but was vetoed by the US.
Stuffed with cash
THE US has already spectacularly bought support in Turkey where Bush's men offered $26 billion in grants, loans and loan guarantees. At the start of this week the Turkish government said it would recommend to parliament that US troops be allowed to enter the country.
The US military has dispatched the 4th Infantry Division, which plans to base 15,000 troops in Turkey as the launch point for a potential invasion of northern Iraq. The Turkish foreign minister has said he wants US guarantees that the Iraqi Kurds would not be allowed to 'declare independence' and that US forces would take control of the oil cities of Kirkuk and Mosul.
He added that there was a danger that if the refugees returned to these cities, the Kurds might seize Iraq's northern oilfields. The US and Britain are perfectly prepared to let Turkey crush Kurdish resistance. Turkish general Yasar Buyukyanit has proposed reintroducing military rule in six largely Kurdish provinces in Turkey.
What about HIS missiles?
THE US and Britain claimed this week that Iraq has missed its 'last chance' to disarm. They have also tried to make a big incident out of the possibility that one class of Iraqi missiles, known as Al Samoud, could possibly fly up to 180 kilometres.
This is not even far enough to go from Baghdad in central Iraq to Basra in the south. Whatever the Iraqi regime's arsenal, it pales to nothing in comparison with the Israeli stockpiles, especially as Israel definitely does have nuclear weaponry. Israel's Jericho I ballistic missile has a range of 500 kilometres. The Jericho II is even more deadly. Its range of 1,500 kilometres means it can hit targets in Iraq, Syria, Iran and even Russia.
It can carry a payload of 1,000 kilograms, more than enough for a nuclear weapon. Bush and Blair do not want to 'rid the region of weapons of mass destruction'. They just want to make Iraq defenceless.
With the US and Britain openly preparing for a massive attack against Iraq, the Iraqi leaders are told they must immediately destroy any weaponry that might get in the way of a quick US victory.
Free Egyptian activists
ARRESTED FOR no reason, 'disappeared' off the streets, held without trial and tortured. That is the fate of peace protesters in Egypt, a key ally of the US and Britain in the Middle East. Protests took place in London, Washington, Warsaw and Beirut on Monday in solidarity with at least 14 people rounded up by the regime of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
Eleven Egyptian activists remain in custody. Nearly all have been tortured. This is the country where Tony Blair has twice taken his Christmas holidays - one of them paid for by the Mubarak regime. The arrests began after an anti-war protest in January.
Then last week officers of the State Security Intelligence (SSI) seized Kermal Khalil, one of the leaders of the anti-war movement in Egypt, only days after he underwent a major operation. Amnesty International has formally taken up his case.
Wa'el Khalil, a spokesperson for the detainees, says, 'We know that many of those kidnapped by the SSI have been tortured with great brutality. We are especially worried about Kemal and fear he may not survive ill-treatment.' The others still in custody are Sabri Al Sammak, Ibrahim Al Sahari, Tamer Hindawi, Abdel Gawad Ahmed, Mohammed Khalil, Samir Al Foli, Magdi Al Kordi, Mahmoud Hassan, Mohammed Dakhli, and Mohammed Hosni. The British Stop the War Coalition says, 'If Bush and Blair were serious about democracy they would protest now.
'They have said nothing. Meanwhile the Mubarak government in Egypt continues to receive massive aid.'
Stamp on unions
NEW LABOUR was poised to cave in to the bosses and stamp on any extension of rights for trade unionists this week. Union leaders had been hoping a new white paper would include the right to strike without fear of getting sacked.
Legal strikers can currently be sacked after eight weeks. The TUC's assessment was 'disappointment that the government has not moved on the major issues. 'Fundamental changes are needed to eliminate some serious shortcomings in the legislation.'
Employment relations minister Alan Johnson said last week he will not grant those working in companies with fewer than 21 workers the right to hold a union recognition ballot.
The bosses' club, the CBI, said it was encouraged by leaked news of the white paper last week.
Levy more fees
NINE OUT of ten universities plan to charge the maximum £3,000 a year top-up fees from 2006, trashing the idea that poorer students could choose a less expensive course.
This was always going to happen once education secretary Charles Clarke announced he wanted a 'fundamentally market-based system'. None of the universities want to be branded as 'cheap'.
Clarke has already said the new grant, limited to a few of the poorest students, could be abolished within two years of being introduced next year. In the US 16 out of 50 states have increased their tuition costs by more than 10 percent, according to the College Affordability in Jeopardy report. It argues that huge numbers of Americans are being priced out of higher education.
Divide the NHS
HEALTH secretary Alan Milburn wants to increase the number of foundation hospitals to 50. Foundation hospitals are about imposing two-tier healthcare. These hospitals will get extra resources, privileges and be able to poach staff from the rest.
Milburn's latest target of 50 hospitals is four times the number first suggested by the Department of Health. The strategy is the cause of serious tension inside Blair's cabinet. But the debate is only over how fully the process should go ahead, not whether there should be elite hospitals in the first place. Milburn admitted recently that some of his plans were 'a huge lottery'.