|Southwest Asia News Digest
No Break from 'Clean Break': Wolfowitz Favors 50-Year Stay in Iraq
Despite the announced departure of leading Iraq warmonger, neo-conservative Douglas Feith, from his top Pentagon post, there are no signs that the Bush Administration has, in any substantive way, broken from its policy of perpetual war in Southwest Asia and other raw-materials-rich parts of the planet.
Indeed, while Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's tour of Southwest Asia and Western Europe drew some praise for rhetorical fence-mending, the content of her pronouncements was another version of the "Clean Break" policy that brought you the Iraq mess. While preaching trans-Atlantic collaboration, Rice made clear this "collaboration" is to be on Washington's terms, and includes political/military destabilizations and regime change in Iran and Syria.
This targetting of Iran and Syria comes right out of the pages of the July 1996 "A Clean Break" blueprint, delivered to Israel's then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by a team of American neo-cons, led by Feith, Richard Perle, and David Wurmser (now in the Office of Vice President Dick Cheney). In that document, Netanyahu was told that the Oslo Accords could be ripped up, by denouncing Yasser Arafat as a terrorist and launching hot-pursuit raids into Palestinian Authority zones, until the Palestinian governing institutions had been gutted. "Clean Break" also spelled out a sequencing of regime changes in the Arab/Muslim world, beginning with Iraq, and moving on to Iran, Syria, and, eventually, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. This perspective was clearly visible in President Bush's State of the Union speech.
A number of American and British military specialists with decades of experience in Southwest Asia confirm that the Bush Administration is hell-bent on military actioneither American or Israeliagainst Iran, perhaps as early as Summer 2005. According to one senior retired American military intelligence official, the U.S. Air Force is set for bombing missions against a dozen Iranian sites, purportedly secret nuclear weapons facilities.
On Feb. 10, Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland reminded readers that the real power in the Administration lies with Vice President Dick Cheney, with his round-the-clock access to President Bush, and vise-like control over the White House national security team. Cheney has given two high-profile TV interviews since Inauguration Day, in which he targetted Iran for military action by either the United States or Israel.
Hoagland also pointed out that the new National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley, is an old Cheney Pentagon protege, and Hadley's newly appointed deputy, J.D. Crouch, also comes from the Cheney stable. Indeed, White House senior staff meetings, according to leading Republican strategist and newsletter publisher Richard Whalen, are chaired, not by Hadley, but by Cheney's own chief of staff, neo-con Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
Part of Cheney's policy appears to have been let out of the bag on Feb. 3: Before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz admitted that he favors a 50-year American military presence in Iraq. Wolfowitz drew the parallel between Iraq and Korea, where 37,000 U.S. troops have been stationed since the end of the 1950s Korean War.
The next day, the Association of Muslim Scholars, the leading Sunni clerical group in Iraq, met with the United Nations envoy, and offered a cessation of the insurgency, in return for a definite date for withdrawal of all foreign occupation forces from Iraq. But that would mean that the United States would have to abandon the neo-con schemes for permanent military bases in the heart of Iraq, at the center of the Persian Gulf oil patch.
The Sunni offer to end the insurrection, in return for an assured end of foreign military occupation, even if over several years, is clearly worth pursuing. But the silence from the Bush-Cheney Administration on this dramatic offer convinces many that the U.S. plan is for permanent bases in the Iraqi desertregardless of how many American and Iraqi lives have to be sacrificed.
Shi'ite List Poised To Win a Majority in Iraq Elections
While the final election results in Iraq were not ready by Feb. 11due, in part, to substantial "voter irregularities"it appeared that the United Iraqi Alliance, the list backed by Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, could gain over 51% and an absolute majority in the 275-member parliament. Second will be the Kurdish parties. Running a distant third was the American Occupation-appointed Interim Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi's list, with an estimated 13.6%. Fourth is the National Independent Cadres and Elites, led by Shi'ite Fathallah Ghazi Ismail, fifth is the party of Sunni Interim President Ghazi al-Yawer, and the Communist Party was sixth.
The most important development following the elections, is the move towards national reconciliation. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), and top candidate in Sistani's list, opened channels with the leading Sunni organization, the Association of Muslim Scholars, asking them to take part in drafting a constitution.
The Association, which boycotted the elections, had made an offer to the U.S., through a third party, whereby it would reverse the boycott on condition that the U.S. establish a date for withdrawal. That offer, made prior to Jan. 30, met with no comment from the U.S. side. Now, this group says it respects the choice of the voters, but will not consider the new government to be legitimate, i.e., to have the right to make long-term agreements. However, the group will enter into a national dialogue, in the interest of maintaining Iraq's territorial integrity and independence.
The most important concern, both of the Sistani forces, and the Sunnis, is that the occupation end. Ayatollah al-Sistani had demanded elections be held by January, solely in order to have a government which could call for the end of the occupation. Now, if the national reconciliation process moves forward, this will call the bluff of the U.S. and Britain.
Did Bush's Iran Policy Come From Israeli War Party?
According to a Feb. 11 article by Ha'aretz reporter, Amir Oren, the comments on Iran in President George W. Bush's inaugural address were inspired by Israeli secret services. Those comments called for supporting the so-called Iranian opposition and exile movement against the Iranian government.
Oren identifies the Israelis who are shaping Bush's policy as "two or three Israelis who are close to the defense establishment" who "persuaded Bush's aidesnotably Elliot Abrams, the official in charge of the Middle East [for the National Security Council] ... to include in the President's remarks a call to the Iranian nation to rise up against the rule of the ayatollahs. The text was more moderate than that, but there was no mistaking its import: Bush invited the opponents ... to topple the regime and thus spare Iran an American operation against its nuclear facilities."
Although Oren writes that Mossad director and flunky of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Meir Dagan had recently been in Washington to discuss a possible Israeli strike against Iran, he claims that now a regime change were preferable to Washington. Oren writes that what is wanted is "a popular quasi-Ukrainian movement that will spring up ... and will win over the army and the Revolutionary Guards until it vanquishes Khamenei...."
For Oren, the only question is, once an uprising starts, what will the Bush Administration do to support it? However, senior Middle East specialists in Israel and Washington have told EIR that such an "uprising" is another neo-con "pipe-dream," like the infamous claim that victory in Iraq would be a "cakewalk."
Israeli Fanatic Writes War Manual for Christian Zionists
Israel's religious extremist, Rabbi Benny Elon, of the ultra-right-wing National Union Party, has just written a book to mobilize U.S. Christian Zionists against Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw the Israeli settlements from the Palestinian territories.
Elon is one of the most notorious fanatics in Israel. He was the Rabbi of Ateret Cohanim Yeshiva, better known as the headquarters of the Temple Mount Faithful fanatics. He was one of the spiritual guides of Yigal Amir, the murderer of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and Elon's niece was the girlfriend of assassin. She was put on trial for not trying to stop the murder, even though Amir had told her he was going to kill Rabin.
Elon's book ,God's Covenant with Israel: Establishing Biblical Boundaries in Today's World, will be presented at a National Religious Broadcasters convention of 6,000 "Christian communicators," including Pat Robertson, Kay Arthur, and Janet Parshall, to be held in Anaheim, Calif., Feb. 11-16, 2005.
Elon told the Jerusalem Post that Israel "hasn't done enough to reach out to our strategic partners, the Christian lovers of Israel." He said he has no problems talking to these fundies, despite the fact that they believe that when the Messiah comes all the Jews will be finished. "I am secure with my Judaism and I know who my Messiah is," Elon replies to such questions.
The book focuses on the geographic dimensions of the "land of Israel" of which, for Elon, the Gaza Strip is a part, so Christian Zionists are obligated to fight against Sharon's disengagement plan. "Gaza was clearly part of the biblical land-grant to Israel and God has a plan for Gaza and its inhabitants in the future," Elon wrote in his book. "As the preparations for this withdrawal increase, please keep the inhabitants of Gaza and northern Samaria in your hearts and prayers. The people of the book have a responsibility to uphold and protect the convenant between God and Israel."
The book also depicts Muslims as anti-Christians and tries to claim that the Palestinian National Authority acts brutally against Christians. This claim by Elon is a lie, and is also ridiculous, since many Palestinian Christians are leading members of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The book is expected to hit the bookshelves in April so as to be widely distributed when Sharon starts the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in the summer. Elon and the right-wing settlers are organizing for thousands of Christian Zionists to travel to Israel from the United States to help block the withdrawal.
Elon and others would, in effect, be using American Christian fundamentalists as "human shields," in their opposition to Israeli government police and military personnel.
Rights Group Challenges Naming of New Shin Bet Chief
According to the Israeli daily Ha'aretz of Feb. 11, the Israel Public Committee Against Torture sent a letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon demanding that he not name Yuval Diskin as the new head of the Shin Bet security service, because he is the architect of the targetted assassination policy.
"The assassination policy that Mr. Diskin was instrumental in putting into practice claimed the lives of hundreds of people, many of whom were innocent bystanders, in recent years," wrote attorney Michael Sfard on behalf of the organization. "Up until May 2004, the policy claimed the lives of 362 people237 assassination targets and 125 innocent bystanders.... Israel's assassination policy, which is tantamount to execution without trial, constitutes a systematic violation of the laws of war... and could even be considered a serious war crime.... If Mr. Diskin was indeed involved in shaping and implementing the assassination policy, he is not fit to serve as head of the Shin Bet."
The letter does not mention whether Sharon is fit to be Prime Minister since, in the post, he must approve all assassinations.