|Southwest Asia News Digest
Hersh: Salvadoran-Style Death Squads in Iraq
Iraq is in a civil war, meaning a Central-America-style civil war, with death squads, says investigative journalist Seymour Hersh. Hersh spoke at the University of Illinois on May 10, and then Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman played his talk on the air and interviewed him. Hersh, a frequent contributor to the New Yorker, had many interesting things to say, but the most interesting was as follows.
Hersh said that Bush tries to create the appearance that he is uninvolved with the details of the Iraq war, but precisely the opposite is the case. Bush knows how important success in war is to the reputation of a President, and is extremely closely involved. Hersh says that there is a U.S. general (unnamed) who has 24-hour access to Bush so that he can always be on top of every detail.
U.S. strategy is to defeat the "insurgency" via a Central-America death-squad policy, using Saddam's recreated Mukhabarat intelligence service, tightly integrated with the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, and special forces.
A big deal was made of the destruction of Fallujah, yet now the U.S. military-Mukhabarat combination is continually engaged in a "Fallujah," in one Sunni city after another. The difference is that it is not being reported, because embedded reporters have been removed from the U.S. units involved.
This Salvador model explains the appointment of John Negroponte as Iraq Ambassador, after his earlier well-known role in coordinating Central American death squads. Negroponte's promotion to Director of National Intelligence was intended to give a still higher profile to this death-squad policy in Iraq, says Hersh. (See InDepth, "Calipari Death: Is Negroponte To Blame?" for related article.)
Likud Calls for Massive Assault on Gaza
As Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) was visiting China, Japan, and India, to seek support and financial assistance for a Palestinian state, the security situation in the Gaza Strip exploded between May 17 and May 20, with volleys of artillery fire from the Israeli Defense Forces, answered by mortar fire from Palestinian militants. By May 18, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon launched the first air attack on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, since the tenuous ceasefire agreement was made at a Cairo meeting following the Palestinian elections, Jan. 9, 2005.
Extremist Likud Party member of the Knesset, Yuval Steinitz, then took the occasion to call for blood revenge against the Palestinians. "Israel should now embark on a Defensive Shield 2 operation in Gaza, in order to derail the Hamas's rise to power and the rehabilitation of terror infrastructures," Steinitz said. The Likud opposes both a Palestinian state, and Sharon's "Gaza disengagement."
The air assault on locations near the Israeli-Egyptian border, then led to mortar shells being fired at the Jewish settlements in Gaza, and in return, Israel killed one of those involved in the shelling. A total of 65 motor shells were fired, as well as Qassam rockets. No Israelis were hurt.
Israel claims that the shelling of Israelis by Hamas is a retaliation against the Fatah faction of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, after a Palestinian judge annulled the elections in Rafah in the Gaza Strip, where Hamas did very well. But this is a much too simple explanation.
Sharon and his far-right wing are trying to sabotage the government of President Abbas, and have him slandered as a terrorist sympathizer, so that Israel can tell the U.S. that there is "no partner" with whom to discuss a peace agreement. This worked for Sharon while Yasser Arafat was alive, and Sharon hopes to make this a major theme when he attends the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). AIPAC is under investigation for obtaining classified documents from the United States. (See USA Digest for more on this story.)
Barak: Sharon's Policy Will Lead to 'Third Intifada'
In an interview in Israel's Ha'aretz daily of May 20, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak slams Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's unilateral disengagement plan saying Sharon's policy will lead to a new intifada.
The interview details how Sharon refuses to face the reality that he has to withdraw from most of the territories and ensure the establishment of a Palestinian State. He said that Sharon is orchestrating a campaign to "mislead the nation." Barak said that Sharon's claim that he has an agreement with Washington for Israel to keep the settlement blocks, is simply not true: "Sharon is not telling the people the truth. He is treating us all as though we are infantile and incapable of debating our future." Barak went on to say that the key problem is that "there is no viable opposition and because the media are remaining mute.... There is no true reporting, and there is no true debate."
After the disengagement from Gaza, Sharon will not dismantle other settlements. "On the contrary. He'll go to the right, and say that the Gaza game is finished.... Let's close ranks. We'll protect Judea and Samaria against the lapdogs of the left." After this, Barak said, "There will be another round [of violence]. We will bury hundreds of people in a third intifada." In this future that Sharon is leading Israel into, more and more soldiers will die to protect the settlements.
Barak added: "The mothers will ask what we are doing there. The mothers will ask why their sons are being killed.... But then, after hundreds have been killed and billions of shekels lost, and after an internal rift, we will no longer succeed in preserving all the large settlement blocs inside Israel. At the end of the great shortcut, we'll find ourselves withdrawing to a line that is worse than the line to which we could withdraw now. We will find ourselves on a line that is very close to the Green Line." The Green Line is the 1948 border between Israel and Palestine.
Historic Visit of Iranian Foreign Minister to Iraq
The visit of Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi to Iraq, the highest level such visit, has furthered the process of reconciliation of the two countries, whose devastating war from 1980-1988, left over a million dead. The war was encouraged by U.S. "Clash of Civilizations" engineers, such as Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Dr. Bernard Lewis, the British intelligence transplant to the U.S., who steered the U.S. into arming both sides.
On May 18, Kharrazi met with his counterpart Hoshyar Zebari, as well as with Prime Minister Jaafari, President Talabani, and Parliament Speaker Hassani.
During the U.S.-appointed interim government of Iyad Allawi, Baghdad had repeatedly accused the Iranians of infiltrating "terrorists" into Iraq, etc. The current government, although also handpicked by the U.S. to a large extent, has realized that it needs good relations with its Persian neighbor. Many of the Shi'ite members of government, who represent a majority, spent years in exile in Iran.
In a joint press conference with Kharrazi, Zebari said he had "no doubt this visit will open up significant new horizons for cooperation between the two countries. We must break with the past and open a new page," he went on, "build better relations in all fields based on mutual respect and noninterference."
For his part, Kharrazi went quite far in guaranteeing that Iran would patrol its borders, and "arrest infiltrators, because securing Iraq is securing the Islamic Republic." He also said, "We do not want Iraq to be a place for us to settle our differences with the United States. Whatever our relations with the United States may be, we think it is our duty to assist the Iraqi people."
Will Bush Administration Destabilize Egypt?
Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmad Nazif met with George W. Bush on May 18, during a U.S. visit, where the Egyptian government hoped to placate U.S. neo-cons, who are demanding "democratization now." With Bush boasting that the U.S. was spending more than $4 billion a year in supporting opposition groups in various countries, more and more countries see that Bush's policy is "democracy without sovereignty," but they are afraid to say it, fearing that they may get the Iraq treatment.
In an interview USA Today published May 16, Nazif said, "Nobody would disagree with President George Bush's call for deepening democracy," but "the pace is up to us." He added that Egyptians were "kind people," who, even though they think many Americans are not as nice as they should be, still want good relations.
Nazif challenged the opposition groups, who are clamoring for more democracy, to address the real issues: unemployment, the budget deficit, pension reform, etc. When asked about the Muslim Brotherhood, he said, "We will not allow political parties based on religion."
Nazif also met Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
At the same time, Egypt's three main opposition parties, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood, which advocates religious law, announced that they would boycott a May referendum of the new electoral laws introduced by the government. The laws still make it very difficultif not impossiblefor a genuinely independent opposition candidate to run for office. The Wafd party, which is central-liberal; the Tagamu, a Marxist party; and the Nasserites said they would boycott the elections, and call on the population to follow suit. The Brotherhood issued a separate statement calling for a boycott "in agreement with the position of parties and national political forces which refuse to participate" in the referendum. Although the Brotherhood is officially banned, it is tolerated; it has 17 MPs elected as "independents." Observers reckon it could get up to 30% in free elections.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the administration was aware of the opposition's complaints, and wanted to see what the Egyptian government planned to do. Bush had called for international observers to attend the September elections, but Egypt's judges unanimously rejected this monitoring as interference.