|Southwest Asia News Digest
88 Members of Congress Demand Answers on Secret Pre-War Deal
Eighty-eight members of Congress have called for immediate answers about a secret pre-war deal between President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in a letter written to President Bush on May 6, 2005. Led by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, and Dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Representatives demanded information from Bush about an alleged "secret deal" dating to 2002, between Bush and Blair to go to war with Iraq.
Details of the Bush/Blair deal emerged in recent articles in the British press, which reported on classified minutes of a summer 2002 secret meeting between Blair and his advisers on preparations to go to war with Iraq.
According to the letter from the 88 members of the U.S. House of Representatives:
"The minutes of this meeting contain the following stunning revelations:
"British officials offered an assessment of the case for war as 'thin'....
"The Foreign Secretary [Jack Straw] indicated a plan was being hatched with Bush Administration officials to create justifications to go to war, where no legal basis currently existed.
"British officials indicated that Bush Administration officials had already decided to go to war in the summer of 2002 despite contemporaneous, and apparently false, statements by Bush Administration officials that the President had not yet made such a statement.
"A high-ranking British official acknowledged the deliberate manipulation of intelligence, indicating that, while the President 'wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by conjunction of terrorism and WMD ... the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.'
"The same official warned that the Bush Administration had no plan for post-war Iraq, stating that ... [t]here was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."
Conyers wrote that, "These allegations strike at the heart of our democracy and present the most troubling constitutional questions.... These allegations... echo allegations by former Bush Administration officials Paul O'Neill and Richard Clarke. When these officials brought these allegations forward, they were slandered by Administration officials as lacking credibility. The source of these allegationsthe British government itselfcannot be similarly assailed."
Among the signers, in addition to Conyers, were: Jackson-Lee, Sheila, Texas; Nadler, Jerrold, N.Y.; Maloney, Carolyn B., N.Y.; Frank, Barney, Mass.; Lee, Barbara, Calif.; Jones, Stephanie Tubbs, Ohio; Watson, Diane E., Calif.; Wasserman Schultz, Debbie, Fla.; DeFazio, Peter A., Ore.; Michaud, Michael H., Maine; Markey, Edward J., Mass.; Blumenauer, Earl, Ore.; Hinchey, Maurice D., N.Y.; Baldwin, Tammy, Wisc.; Kucinich, Dennis J., Ohio; Olver, John W., Mass.; Gutierrez, Luis V., Ill.; Schakowsky, Janice D., Ill.; Slaughter, Louise McIntosh, N.Y.; Serrano, Jose E., N.Y.; Waters, Maxine, Calif.; McKinney, Cynthia, Ga.; Christensen, Donna M., V.I.; Payne, Donald M., N.J.; Brown, Corrine, Fla.; Kilpatrick, Carolyn C., Mich.; Meeks, Gregory W., N.Y.; Clay, Wm. Lacy, Mo.; Butterfield, G.K., N.C.l; Johnson, Eddie Bernice, Texas; Napolitano, Grace F., Calif.; Meehan, Martin T., Mass.; Moran, James P., Va.; Berkley, Shelley, Nev.; Thompson, Bennie G., Miss.; Lofgren, Zoe, Calif.; Kildee, Dale E., Mich.; DeGette, Diana, Colo.; Van Hollen, Chris, Md.; Hastings, Alcee L., Fla.; Watt, Melvin L., N.C, 12th Owens, Major R., N.Y., 11th Woolsey, Lynn C., Calif; Lewis, John, Ga.; Miller, George, Calif.; McGovern, James P., Mass.; McDermott, Jim, Wash.; McCarthy, Carolyn, N.Y., Solis, Hilda L., Calif.; Brown, Sherrod, Ohio; Bishop, Sanford D. Jr., Ga.; Farr, Sam, Calif.; Grijalva, Raul M., Ariz.; Stark, Fortney Pete, Calif.; Kaptur, Marcy, Ohio; Filner, Bob, Calif.; Wu, David, Ore.
Saudi Crown Prince on Diplomatic Offensive
Following his talks with President George W. Bush and others, at Bush's Crawford, Texas ranch on April 25, Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah has started a round of meetings with key leaders in the region, in an attempt to cool down tensions. According to his aides, the Prince had urged Bush to reduce the pressure on Syria. In return, Abdullah would "encourage Assad to put into practice his stated intentions to carry out internal reforms and cooperate at the regional level," a reference to Lebanon. The Saudi sources said Bush and Abdullah agreed that Assad "should be given a chance to introduce political and security reforms at home and to formulate a policy of non-intervention in Lebanon, especially by Syrian security services." Furthermore, he said Abdullah would "not just brief Assad on the U.S. stance towards Syria, but also put forward proposals that would help ease Washington's pressure on Damascus and set the stage for better relations."
Abdullah was to meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on May 6, and was then to travel to Amman for talks with Jordan's King Abdullah II. A visit to Syria would follow.
At the same time, however, Bush was quoted attacking Syria for being a danger to the worldleaving one to wonder what Dubya is up to. An important commentary in the Gulf News, by Patrick Seale, outlined the neo-cons' thinking. The article, entitled, "Is Syria's Leadership in Danger?" noted that for the Bush Administration neo-cons, getting the Syrians out of Lebanon was merely "a means to an end," the end being overthrow of the Assad regime. Seale wrote that for the neo-cons, Syria is at the center of a "hostile network" in the region, which includes Hizbollah, Iran, and the Iraqi resistance. "For the network to collapse, the Syrian regime must be overthrown!" he wrote.
Seale went on to explain that the neo-cons believe they cannot control the Iraq mess, until they have removed Iran and Syria as factors; since they are shying away from attacking Iran directly, they would go for regime change in Damascus, hoping that a puppet regime there would help isolate Iran.
Maronite Patriarch Intervenes for Lebanon Stability
On May 2, Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir returned to Lebanon from Rome, where he had a private discussion with the new Pope, Benedict XVI, and from Lourdes, France, where he spoke on the phone with French President Jacques Chirac. The Patriarch gave a press conference at the airport, where he sternly criticized the way various political factions were squandering the political potential of the upcoming Lebanese elections. Sfeir, who has urged that all factions proceed from the higher commitment to the nation of Lebanon, and not fall into the quagmire of civil war, noted how Lebanese factions have played "confessional politics."
Patriarch Sfeir will be meeting with various political and religious leaders in the next two weeks, with the aim of changing the environment leading into the May 29 elections.
Lebanese leaders have told EIR that the political agitation is making people dizzy, particularly in the context of the build-up to the May 7 return of former Interim President Michel Aoun from French exile, and the expected release from jail of Lebanese Forces Commander Samir Geagea. One Lebanese commentator wrote, "Let us steer the Lebanese democracy out of the bazaar, where the most precious aspirations and beautiful dreams are sold for the cheapest price."
Among the hot spots that were noted are:
* A new draft resolution calling for the disarmament of Hezbollah is being discussed in the UN Security Council. The draft, circulated by France, deplores the fact that "there has been no progress toward the disarmament of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, and that the government of Lebanon still does not fully exert control over all its territory."
Making the disarming of Hezbollah an issue is a favorite of the U.S. neo-cons, who see this as an opportunity for military intervention into Lebanon, which can then be a springboard for the "regime change in Syria" strategy, that Cheney and his crowd are pushing.
* Disinformation that Syria has not evacuated from Lebanon, although UN troops declared that all Syrian forces and intelligence agents had left the country. Fuel was added to the fire being kindled in the UN Security Council when a UN verification team attempted to inspect a post in the Bekaa Valley. The post was manned by guards from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, who, not expecting the team, fired shots in the air and ordered them not to approach the post. Although the inspection team left without incident, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan protested that the Lebanese army must do more to protect the UN inspectors. (Palestinian refugee camps have been outside the jurisdiction of the Lebanese state since the Cairo Agreement of 1969but now some are trying to make an issue of the PFLP-GC outposts.)
* All protesters agreed last week to move out of the tent city in Martyrs' Square which developed out of protests after former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's assassination last February. But supporters of jailed Lebanese Forces Commander Geagea and General Michel Aoun moved back in, saying that the protests were not finished. Although the opposition had agreed to curtail their demonstrations, Geagea's supporters held sit-ins in front of parliament demanding that it pass a law freeing the Commander, who has been imprisoned for the last eleven years. Also, Aoun's supporters are plastering the country with posters reading; "DeGaulle 1945; Aoun 2005," and preparing big rallies for his return to Lebanon on Saturday after 15 years of exile in France.
Christian and Muslim forces are working to ensure that these two figures, who have been known to have been manipulated by outside forces during their long periods of prison and exile, do not spring any of the traps set for them, and through them for the nation. There is still a dispute about the electoral process, and Aoun, who, in an interview from France announced that he expects to be swept into the Presidency upon his return, already labelled as "traitors" those who want a larger electoral district. On the other hand, the Patriarch, Cardinal Sfeir, said that, while he thinks that the smaller electoral district would assure better representation, "the priority is not to postpone the election, because the whole world is watching us very closely."