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Canadians Head For War In The Persian Gulf

Volume 4, Number 38 September 19, 1990

Since even before the federal government's decision to send forces to the Middle East, it has become increasingly apparent that firstly, a Gulf war is inevitable, and secondly, Ottawa is sending Canadians into battle.

In this week's report, with files from staff and contributors in Ottawa, Washington, Baghdad, Jerusalem, London, and Paris, we shall endeavour to set out for you the most recent "Gulf" issues and their context.

For you the reader there is much to consider. Industry will recognize the current and potential need for component parts and supplies to support a half-million or more allied military personnel involved in a prolonged conflict. Surge demands for hardware and consumables will only be met by those firms who are prepared to do business under swiftly arranged terms and with mass production of deliverable product. Strategic thinkers must remain open-minded to new developments in a powder-keg environment that is evolving substantively on an hourly basis.

The Gulf crisis four thousand miles away seems remote to many Canadians who are presently consumed in bickering over relatively silly domestic problems. Silly, yes, because in contrast to the horrible starvation, bloodshed, and mayhem engulfing other nations, Canadians living at the highest standards on earth, almost to the point of decadence, are brawling greedily over who has the greatest portion of Canada's resource-rich, million-square-mile geography; whose turn it is to jump onto center stage; and in the case of Indians and reporters, the all consuming issue of who gets to use the cellular telephones.

Bafflegab seems to be the new hallmark of our current-day politicians, perhaps as always, but amplified by "information-age", round-the-clock television news. Liberal defence and foreign affairs critic Lloyd Axworthy says that Brian Mulroney is the real dictator in the Gulf crisis. Figure



On September 15, Governor General Ray Hnatyshyn signed the federal cabinet's Order in Council ordering "Operation Scimitar" to active service duty in the Persian Gulf. On September 16, destroyer Athabaskan, frigate Terra Nova, and supply-ship Protecteur entered the Red Sea bound for the Arabian Sea and inevitably, war in the Persian Gulf.

Transport Command will airlift troops from third-world countries into Saudi Arabia and a full squadron of CF-18s will provide air cover for the Canadian vessels while in the Persian Gulf.

On the 15th and 22nd of August we presented you with highly detailed reports on the refit of the three-vessel Canadian task force. Sources here in Canada and others we have contacted, especially those with recent, naval combat experience, support in varying degrees our somewhat jingoistic contention that "if Iraqi pilots pick a fight with our sailors, they'll get an awful bloody nose". (See August 22, page 4, "Canada Has Mustered An Impressive Middle East Task Force".)

That of course doesn't guarantee that our vessel under attack wouldn't be sunk in the process. Only a fool in this era of high technology warfare would ignore the prevalent argument that modern warships are little more than ducks-in-the-water targets for well-equipped airborne attackers. Canada as yet has no modern warships. Clearly, DND is extending itself as far as it can go.

Canadians Head For War In The Persian Gulf

that one out if you can.

Jean Chretien is grasping for straws in a futile search for an opposing position on the Middle East crisis. The leader of the federal opposition party, the man who suggested that the `Thugs of Oka' be given leave to lower their assault-rifle sights from the heads of Canadian soldiers and saunter home to rest for a while, is bellyaching about the procedural aspects of the custom to issue an Order in Council to put Canadian Armed Forces on active service duty. Although Chretien has seized a real issue, he has not grasped its largest dimension.

Canada, as a protectorate of the United States, will be swept into each and every major endeavour of the U.S., now and in the future. But that is irrelevant while the United Nations maintains its strong stand against Iraq and provides an almost unhindering endorsement of belligerence toward Iraq's Saddam Hussein. It is even less of an issue while Saddam Hussein's butcherous soldiers murder Kuwaiti children, and while he himself, a mass-murderer on the loose with a million-man army and stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, continues to rampage.

In short then, it could be argued that Canada has taken some independent action. That is good news for many Canadians who otherwise see themselves constituting a wimpish nation `stooge' to the north of the United States. But certainly it is a turning point in Canadian foreign policy.

Micheal J. O'Brien


Unless Iraq suddenly withdraws from Kuwait, there will be war in the Persian Gulf. Of that there is certainty. Neither George Bush nor the U.N. Security Council provide face-saving options allowing Saddam to climb peacefully down out of his tree. Therefore he won't.

U.S. defence planners have set out their military options designed to remedy the Iraqi crisis and as implied last week by the apparently gratuitous statements of now former U.S.A.F. boss, General Michael Dugan, the Pentagon is prepared to carry them out. Dugan was canned Monday by U.S. Secretary of Defence Richard Cheney. Dugan's roundabout reference to American use of Israeli designed "Popeye" guided bombs in a B-52 attack against Baghdad aroused numerous factions in the Mideast including Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

George Bush is walking a tight rope of emotions and conflicts. Saddam's rule of fear stretches across the Mideast with a prevailing threat that Israel could be drawn into the rivalry resulting in a strong Arab/Israeli conflict upsetting Arab support for Bush and feeding Saddam's anti "American and Zionist invasion" campaign. (See August 29, "Politics Of The Arab World".) The Egyptians and the Saudis have denied landing rights for U.S. B-52s and Egypt has also refused permission for F-15 and F-16s to land and refuel. Neither country wants any offensive equipment based within their borders. Meanwhile, TWR staff have eyeballed the intense preparation of B-52s stateside for arming with CBUs and GBUs (cluster and guided bombs). It appears that the U.S. is preparing to go it alone.

U.S. assault plan has been formulated.

According to Washington sources to The Wednesday Report, and despite cautious denials by U.S. Secretary of Defence Richard Cheney, the Pentagon has been instructed to plan and prepare for an invasion of Kuwait to push Saddam's 176,000-man force there, back into Iraq. Sources suggest that Kuwait has been ransacked so badly by Iraqis that there is almost no impediment to an all out pummeling of the entrenched Iraqi Army and that there is no aversion within Washington for blasting Baghdad.

As outlined in our previous reports, climactic conditions in the Gulf area dictate a certain agenda for effective military operations. An environmental window of opportunity will open shortly. Meanwhile, it must be considered that the political will within the allied Western and anti-Iraq Arab nations has a fragile makeup and is of finite endurance. The time-line for a cohesive, multinational standoff is limited by U.N. publics becoming increasingly alarmed at the prospect of wintering an oil crisis, and the growing cost and risk of keeping forces in the Gulf region. When the Joint Chiefs of Staff inform President Bush that their punch has reached the rule of thumb, three-to-one, effective-strength advantage at the striking point, while still able to maintain abundant defensive force in Saudi Arabia, war with Iraq is imminent — likely between now and October 27. In fact, the


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fiercest battles in the Iran-Iraq campaign were during cooler fall and winter months.

One strike scenario suggests simultaneous, massive attacks against Baghdad and Iraq-based air and air-defence assets while an amphibious Marine assault from the Persian Gulf and an armoured infantry assault pushing north into Kuwait from Saudi Arabia will compel Saddam to withdraw his forces back to Iraq. But an impediment delaying this plan has already arisen. Two weeks ago, the U.S. Army Commander in Saudi Arabia, General Norman Schwartzkopf encountered difficulties with his Saudi counterpart Prince Khaled Bin Sultan, the Saudi Chief of Staff who was told by the Saudi government that no U.S. assault against Iraq is to be launched from Saudi Arabia. Reportedly however, George Bush intervened successfully.

Iraq's strength may be on the upswing.

Bush's recent televised plea to the Iraqi population backfired say our Baghdad sources. The garrison mentality in Iraq has been intensified by Bush's belligerent rhetoric against Saddam whose ability to control internal opposition may have been underestimated by Washington.

Growing support for Saddam Hussein is a Mideast/African phenomenon. Already Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen have shown significant signs of backing Iraq. A meeting of these nations early this week resulted in a resolution to promote Arab suicide attacks against U.S. forces. Some countries have allowed Saddam to base aircraft within their borders. Sudan, bordering the Red Sea opposite Saudi Arabia is one such country. Libya, as we reported in August, is not confronting Iraq in any real manner other than faint rhetoric. Tripoli continues to move agents of biological origin and chemical weapons into Iraq.

Astoundingly, hundreds of Soviet military advisors in Iraq continue to train Iraqis while the Soviet Union is hosting 178 Iraqi military personnel who continue to undergo training in the Soviet Union. According to Soviet defence minister Dmitry Yazov, "178 Iraqi servicemen are being trained in the Soviet Union under contracts that expire in November."

Jordan is training Iraqi troops in the use of Hawk missiles, captured from Kuwait. (Jordan received U.S. Hawks several years ago.) Amman is also reporting Israeli troop movements to Baghdad.

Americans are motivated not just by oil.

Although cynics suggest that U.S. lawmakers, President Bush and the American people all hanker for war solely because their pocketbooks are threatened, oil equating to money, it must not be overlooked that there remains a deep ailing within the hearts of Americans. Many if not all of the top U.S. military brass bear a hidden hurt that is shared with all their countrymen: loss of the Viet Nam war. Anything less than victory against Iraq would be a crushing blow to the gut of America.

Thus the pressure upon President Bush and his U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff to succeed is enormous. Already threatened with massive defence cuts they will want a good showing from their generals and admirals in the Persian Gulf.

General Powell's image is sacrosanct to the Bush administration. Chief of the General Staff, General Powell wants to be the next Vice President. Touted as a replacement for teetering Dan Quayle on the next Republican Presidential ticket, Powell is seen as the solution to a Republican Party need to solidify its black vote. This political element to the Bush agenda put pressure on Cheney to fire Michael Dugan and further heats up the boiler for a swift, decisive attack against Iraq. Nothing less than victory is acceptable. When the top military man gives the "high sign" to President Bush, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff will be thoroughly prepared for war, and likely to the point of overkill if time permits.

The world waits for President Bush.

Washington is stalling. U.S. military strength in the Mideast has been strategically understated. Bafflegab emanating from official spokespersons and others within the three U.S. military services about force movements to Saudi, Bahrain, Qatar, U.A.E., Turkey, Oman and Egypt, has the Washington press chasing its collective tail. Reports ranging from 45,000 to 225,000 American troop strength in Saudi Arabia breed such marvelous confusion that in fact, right now, it is highly un

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likely that anyone has a perfectly precise measure of anti-Iraq forces present or enroute to the Gulf. Iraqi intelligence must certainly be in a dither.

Moving heavy armour into the region has been a predictable nightmare. Harbingers of doubt about the mustering of supply convoys for NATO Europe have warned North American and other NATO governments about the disastrous implications of a dwindling North American merchant marine fleet. Today that problem is stunningly obvious. In this one instance, Canada's shortfall is overshadowed by a larger problem in the U.S. The lack of a domestically-flagged Merchant Marine in both countries is sufficient to beg a question about whether or not the resupply of Europe in a conflict there would ever have been possible. Rumours of "rusted out" American cargo ships stalled in sea lanes are filtering through the defence community in Washington as the Sahara sands sift silently through the hour glass of the Mideast crisis.

Israeli patience is wearing thin.

Well placed sources in Jerusalem have told The Wednesday Report's Moshe Karem that patience is running thin for Washington's low-profile policy for Israel. Some Israelis now mock Americans over their failure to avert the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and their failure to take decisive action now. In spite of the immense size of U.S. forces, Washington is still not acting. Israel with a much smaller force contends regularly with an amalgam of all the Arab forces and is typically much less timid. Karem reports that Israel's air force is on a high state of alert. Two American warships were loaded in Haifa on the weekend and American supplies prepositioned in Israel are now being drawn. Significant American stockpiling and resupply is being done from Israel as its prominence in the Gulf crisis comes closer to the surface. A senior Israeli air force official in Jerusalem told Karem that "With the significant air power present, they [the U.S.] can destroy Iraq's strategic assets in two night's work." Jerusalem is growing impatient.

The longer U.S. forces stay in the Gulf region say other Mideast sources, the greater the damage to Middle East power balances. In Israel there is concern and even anger about the size and impressive quality of weapons involved in a $20 billion U.S./Saudi arms deal. Publicly it is difficult to oppose the deal, but silently, Israeli leadership is seething. Many senior officials within the Israeli government feel that Patriot missiles and Apache attack helicopters shipped to Saudi in large numbers suggest a lack of American understanding of the Middle East situation. Israel air superiority is lost in the move while Arabs gain an advantage, claim officials in Jerusalem.

For Israel, its low profile is becoming uncomfortable. Israel's defence minister was in Washington as Cheney fired Dugan on Monday. Jerusalem was looking for real-time access to U.S. intelligence on Iraqi military movements, but Washington is reluctant.

The showdown in the Gulf between Saddam and Bush could be lifted from the hands of the two leaders if Israel could be drawn into the fray. The Iraqi/Jordanian border is the point where Israel has drawn its lines and it is entirely likely that a strategic move on the part of Baghdad could induce a reaction by Israeli Defence Forces.

Many think that Saddam's next move will be to draw Israel into his standoff with the West by provoking an Israeli attack. Iraq would then use the Israeli response to his provocation to whip up support throughout the Arab world, embarrass Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria, and delegitimize their coalition with the West.

New U.N. assertiveness is leaning toward a dangerous precedent.

Only Margaret Thatcher has overtly suggested the use of military force against Iraq. Certainly the prospect of armed conflict is repugnant to all U.N. members and therefore when France's Francois Mitterand last Friday rebuked Iraqi aggression against diplomatic missions in Kuwait and requested an immediate session of the U.N. Security Council, he got immediate results. Subsequent to an overnight meeting last Saturday which unanimously condemned Iraq's "suicidal" assault against diplomats, the U.N. Security Council members at the start of this week were preparing text for a new resolution, an embargo on air transport in and out of Iraq.

No matter how cautious the wording of this U.N. Resolution, it could conceivably be one of the most dangerous developments within the U.N. during any conflict in living history. An air embargo against Iraq could lead to confrontations between armed anti-Iraq forces and unarmed airliners. It is


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not beyond Saddam to countenance the loading of aircraft with the human cargo of foreign nationals, his hostages, and instructing aircrew to violate U.N. embargo rules to deliberately prompt a mishap.

Such an air embargo could open a pandora's box. An air embargo in any form would rely on U.S. intelligence to assure effectiveness and to avoid a major tragedy. The CIA would necessarily report on aircraft contents and destinations. Recent criticism of the CIA would suggest that to be impossible. The March, 1980 aborted attempt at rescuing U.S. hostages from Iran with the ensuing loss of seven RH-53D helicopters, one EC-130H Hercules, eight dead and many wounded epitomized CIA incompetence for the entire world to see.

The precedent established by encouraging the armed confrontation of unarmed air traffic has ghoulish import. The world knows the lesson. Overshadowing the horrible fate of KAL 007 in the early 1980s, on July 3, 1988, Iran Airbus A300 EP-IBU out of Bandar Abbas was shot down by the crew of USS Vincennes who claimed they thought the Airbus was an F-14. Two hundred and ninety helpless passengers were slaughtered. Surely Canada, the host to ICAO headquarters, would not vote in favour of a resolution with such implications?

Averting war by assassinating Saddam.

A plausible argument has been made that Saddam's rule could be toppled by CIA, Musad or MI5 forces, or a joint effort thereof. But seemingly, that has a low probability of success, moreover, unpredictable results. Countless attempts against Saddam's life have already failed in exposure, assassination, imprisonment and torture for the plotters and perpetrators.

Saddam has developed an extraordinary intelligence and security organization within Iraqi institutions. He has working for him a complex "fifth column" web of fervently loyal informants and assassins. His own whereabouts at any given time is cleverly concealed with elaborate deceptions. From Baghdad there are reports of a dozen or more Saddam "look-alikes" making appearances here and there throughout the country.

Saddam's assassination would not necessarily result in Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait. Because of his deft manipulation of the Iraqi people and his propensity to surround himself with zealously loyal officials, an assassination attempt would not assure Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait and could lead to unpredictable complications. Saddam would likely be succeeded by the current Minister of Industry and Military Industrialization, Brigadier-General Hussein Kamel who is a loyal "cousin" and son-in-law to Saddam. Kamel is reputedly as much of a rat as is Saddam. Confirming that is the often murmured tale in Baghdad that suggests Kamel and Saddam plotted and murdered a relative, Iraqi defence minister Adnan Khairallah, Saddam's brother-in-law whose loyalty had come into question.

The scenario described by General Michael Dugan — which got him fired — involved bombing Baghdad with "smart" bombs and rockets intended to destroy Saddam himself while crippling Iraqi military commands and strategic assets within the capital. That scenario does not preclude war.

The drum beats reverberate through Canada.

When the House of Parliament begins its fall session next Monday, much of the members' debate will likely center on the Gulf crisis, and the timing of Parliament's resumption. It is worrysome that House leaders and their Party leadership have not arrived at an accord for the handling of the Persian Gulf dilemma. It is even more worrysome that debate could, as our politicians of late have demonstrated, take on the lowest possible form.

It is inevitably true that for as long as the U.S. citizenry gives its support to President Bush for his handling of the Iraq/Kuwait campaign, the majority of Canadians will also support Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's decision to provide Canadian military assistance in the Gulf. But if Bush falters, or worse, fails, then politically, all hell could break loose in Canada.

Clearly, our politicians must realize the most desirable outcome in the Gulf — and their only agenda in this matter — is to end Iraq's occupation of Kuwait as quickly as possible with a minimum of bloodshed. And that each and every yellow ribbon is retrieved `on the way to the porch' by home-bound, safe-returning Canadian Forces' personnel.

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Canadians Head For War In The Persian Gulf

Micheal J. O'Brien


Prime Minister Brian Mulroney announced last Friday the role that Canada will play in the Gulf. Said Mulroney, "The task that our forces are being given is to cooperate with other, like-minded countries in deterring further Iraqi aggression and in ensuring strict implementation of the economic sanctions laid down in U.N. Security Council Resolution 661 whose objective, among other things, is to end Iraq's occupation of Kuwait."

Canadian ships will operate within the Persian Gulf under Canadian command and control and will have responsibility for a sector across the middle of the Gulf, north of the Strait of Hormuz and south of Bahrain. A squadron of twelve to eighteen CF-18s from Lahr, West Germany will also be sent, accompanied by 450 air force personnel, to provide air cover for the naval task group.

Canada has also made a commitment to help resolve the refugee problem as hundreds of thousands flee from Iraq into Jordan and Saudi Arabia. "Three countries," said the Prime Minister, "whose cooperation is vital to the effective functioning of the sanctions against Iraq — Turkey, Jordan, and Egypt — are carrying a disproportionate burden in the Gulf crisis. At the same time they have, themselves, suffered severe economic setbacks as a side-effect of the sanctions and from assisting tens of thousands of displaced people. We have therefore decided to contribute financially to help these countries. Canada's contribution, over and above the costs of committing our ships and aircraft, will total up to $75 million."

The federal cabinet has committed development assistance funds to three developing nations. "On return to their homelands, the displaced citizens of the poorer countries will still face an uncertain future, because their own governments cannot afford to handle such an influx. We have decided, therefore, to increase our development assistance funds earmarked for Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Bangladesh."


Shifting Canadian task group operations from the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman to the Persian Gulf is a move that demands hefty air defences and is one that has been planned by DND for weeks. That role was confirmed by naval commanders from participating nations who attended tactical and strategic briefings and meetings in Bahrain on September 9th and 10th. Canada bid for the Persian Gulf and got it. Canada's contingent was led by Commodore Ken Summers, the senior officer afloat with the task force. The results of that meeting were announced by DND last Friday.

"Three operating areas were created: the Red Sea, the Gulf of Oman, and the Persian Gulf." But DND says the Red Sea had already been grabbed by Americans, French, British and three other navies, and the Gulf of Oman is too large an area with no choke points for intercepting shipping. Said Major-General Huddleston: "In order to ensure that all ships transiting through the area are monitored and if necessary stopped and their cargo verified, nations have agreed upon a layered approach to interdict shipping in the region. Canada has elected to patrol an independent sector across the middle of the Gulf."

DND wants to ensure that Canadian vessels are given sufficient air cover and that means doing it themselves. From a base close to the Canadian zone of operations, the CF-18 squadron will "cap" the task-force's air defence cone and provide the longer range air defence otherwise sorely lacking. About the defensive capability of the Canadian task force Huddleston said that "The ships have been equipped with close-in weapons systems, but the extent of air defence in a potentially threatening air environment is something we should take into account ourselves." He said that the CF-18s will provide "the type of air defence we wish them [Canadian sailors] to have".


Canadian military commitment is not restricted to a squadron of CF-18s and the three


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Canadians Head For War In The Persian Gulf


Canadian military commitment is not restricted to a squadron of CF-18sand the three ships of the task group. Transport Command's CC-130s and CC-137/Boeing 707s will also be heavily engaged during the crisis. The federal government has committed to airlift third country ground forces to Saudi Arabia "as the need and the opportunities arise".


The U.K. government's decision to send the British Army's 7th Armoured Brigade to the Gulf has been expected since the remarkable display of political unanimity when Parliament returned early to Westminster specifically to debate the Middle East situation. Ministry sources had let it be known that the military favoured sending a balanced force of a meaningful size. The decision to deploy a brigade will lead to a 6-8,000 increase in the number of British servicemen deployed in the Gulf, the availability of an additional one and a half squadrons of Tornado aircraft, and the establishment of a unified command for the British army, air force, and naval assets.

The despatch of 7th Armoured Brigade has been welcomed by the U.S. troops already in Saudi Arabia. The brigade includes two armoured regiments, the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and the Queens Royal Irish Hussars, each equipped with around fifty Challenger 1 MBTs; an Armoured Infantry Battalion, the Staffordshire Regiment, equipped with 45 Warrior MICVs; and a reconnaissance squadron of the Queens Dragoon Guards with 16 Scimitar light armoured vehicles. Artillery support will be provided by the M109 SP howitzers of 40th Field Regiment which will also have an attached air defence troop with Javelin missiles. The brigade's helicopter assets will comprise 9 Lynx and 4 Gazelle helicopters.

`Getting there' may take more than six weeks. The British Army has not deployed heavy armour over any appreciable distance since the 1958 Suez operations, and the assembly of a sufficient number of merchant ships with the requisite deck loadings will in itself be a major logistical task. At the time of going to press it seemed likely that the brigade would embark from north German ports, although it is known that the possibility of using rail transport to take some equipment to Italy for embarkation has been under examination.

Once ashore the U.K. contingent will face some formidable logistic problems. Not the least of these is the fact that Challenger and Scimitar cannot use the same ammunition as their U.S. counterparts and will require a complete logistic chain of supply. Seasoned observers of the military scene have been surprised to find the media claiming that Challenger 1 is one of the world's best tanks. While there is no disputing the excellence of its Chobham armour, Challenger is a far from reliable machine. Much has been made of the fact that it was originally designed for Iran. However, a recent analysis of the reasons for its mechanical unreliability has shown that poor sealing on its air filters and the lack of an adequate scavenging system while idling leads to severe ingestion problems. Other weaknesses identified by Vickers Defence Systems during the development of the latest Challenger 2 — still at the prototype stage — include unreliable wiring circuits. Moreover, Challenger 1's turret which is now being described by the media as `a sophisticated fire control system' is generally recognized as being less than adequate.

The news that the deployment of ground troops to Saudi Arabia would cost £2 million (sterling) per day came within hours of the announcement that inflation in the U.K. had risen to its highest level (10.6 percent) since the early 1980s. At this stage the opposition Labour Party defence spokesman Martin O'Neill has been at pains to preserve the unanimity. Admittedly there are voices at the far left — led by former Labour minister Tony Benn — arguing against a move which they consider will take the U.K. into a conflict on Washington's coattails, but it seems that the Thatcher government will carry popular support through the coming three weeks of annual Party conferences.

However, if the crisis continues for months rather than weeks, it could pose Labour with some tricky problems. Political observers believe that a crisis situation will tend to favour the Thatcher government. As a general election draws closer, Labour cannot afford to see its lead eroded. Thus when Parliament reassembles in mid-October it will have to begin to find grounds on which it can embarrass a government with which it has to side on the Gulf issue. The outcome should be a stern test of Party discipline.

John Reed, London, England


The Wednesday Report - Copyright 1990

September 19, 1990

  • Publisher and Editor In Chief: Micheal J. O'Brien

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