|Southwest Asia News Digest
New Elections in Israel in Early 2006
Israeli national elections will be held between the end of February and the end of March 2006, according to a Nov. 18 announcement by the Labor Party's new chairman. Amir Peretz, following a meeting with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Early elections were made inevitable when Peretz, the former head of the Histadrut, was elected to lead the Labor Party earlier this month. He announced that Labor would immediately pull out of the national unity government with Sharon's Likud Party.
Following his meeting with Peretz, Sharon met with Shinui chairman and opposition leader Yosef Lapid, and told him that he will convene the Likud in the coming days and announce whether he will form his own party or remain with Likud. All the Labor ministers in the present national-unity government gave Peretz letters resigning from the government, and Peretz had those letters in hand when he met with Sharon. Sharon is scheduled to meet on Nov. 20 with the heads of the National Religious Party, Shas, Degel Hatorah, and Agudat Yisrael, and could decide the following day what election date to put in a bill to dissolve the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament). Sharon rival Benjamin Netanyahu had urged him to put off the elections till May, to give people time "to get tired of Peretz," but Sharon rejected this suggestion.
The Jerusalem Post reported that the main reasons Sharon might form a new party, are to avoid a nasty internal Likud fight, and to allow him to immediately start a campaign against Peretz. The Likud primaries promise to be brutal, against Netanyahu and Uzi Landau.
Meanwhile, one Sharon family member won't be running in the elections. Omri Sharon, the son of Ariel Sharon, has pleaded guilty after being indicted for illegally raising funds for his father's 1999 primary campaign for the leadership of the Likud Party. He has not been sentenced yet, but has announced his retirement from politics. He will also resign his Knesset seat.
James Baker Honors Slain Rabin
With former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) in attendance, the Bush Administration sent former Secretary of State James Baker III to head the official U.S. delegation to Israel's commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the assassination of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
As this week's InDepth article reports, the Rabin memorial was the occasion of the largest pro-peace rally in Israel since 1982.
In his speech at the commemoration, Baker pointed to three important principles Rabin had championed: military strength had to be used to obtain peace, not to merely exercise control; the relationship between Israel and the U.S. was key to the peace process, but only Arabs and Israelis could actually make peace; and that "peace opens the door to a better economy and society."
In 1991, as Bush 41's Secretary of State, Baker froze billions of dollars worth of loan guarantees to Israel in order to force Likud Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to the Middle East Peace Conference; hence, Baker is not very well-liked by the Israeli right-wing.
Will Bush Buck Cheney and Work with Russia on Iran Issue?
In what could represent a dramatic policy shift, President Bush announced on Nov. 18 that he would back a Russian government proposal to solve the Iranian nuclear impasse. Russia had sent a new proposal to Tehran under which Iran could reprocess nuclear material, provided the final stage of the process were completed in Russia. If the Bush endorsement of the Russian plan, which came during a Bush-Putin summit in Seoul, South Korea and was reported in the Nov. 19 Washington Post, is confirmed, it would be the first time that the Bush Administration has acknowledged Iran's right to pursue a peaceful nuclear energy program. The Bush-Putin meeting occurred five days before a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria is scheduled to take up the Iran nuclear issue again.
Chalabi Blasted as Crook, Liar, and 'Convicted Felon'
Whatever the Cheney cabal thought they were accomplishing with the visit to Washington last week by convicted embezzler Ahmed Chalabi, for meetings with Dick Cheney, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the meetings have triggered more calls for investigations by the Congress into the Bush Administration's use of fabricated intelligence to secure support for the Iraq war.
Well-placed current and former government officials have told EIR that Chalabi is in the U.S. to coordinate "cover stories"' with the Cheney cabal about the pre-war Iraq intelligence, including the Niger forgeries, because the investigation is going to zero in on these subjects.
On Nov. 15, after the weekly Democratic Senators' policy meeting, Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev) blasted Cheney, saying: "Now there was a secret meeting that took place in the White House last night I understand. By all the reports I know about, the man he met with is a fugitive from justice, Ahmed Chalabi, who's a convicted felon in Jordan, our ally, who, there seems to be no question that he fed this administration all kinds of information, ... most of it was faulty about intelligence in pre-war Iraq."
Reid asked, "Isn't it about time" that Cheney come clean on what happened at all the secret meetings he's held, from the energy task force, to the Halliburton deals, to his meetings with Chalabi? Was Chalabi giving Cheney "information about how to conduct the war ... what to do with the oil in Iraq? That's in the past what he's done," asked Reid.
Wilkerson Thinks Pre-War Memo Was Kept from Bush
Colonel Larry Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, says that a White House memo outlining the need for up to 500,000 troops for Iraq, was kept from President Bush. A Nov. 11 article in the Forward quoted Wilkerson saying that he thinks that then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, or her deputy Stephen Hadley (now National Security Advisor), may have blocked the memo from getting to Bush.
"This was not a 'troop estimate,' " Wilkerson said of the NSC memo. "It was a comprehensive analysissuccinct to be sureof the potential post-war situation, which incidentally, as one would expect, included estimates of security, engineering, police, and other forces DOD might have to provide, as well as those of other agencies or departments....
"The reason I suspect it got stopped is simply that they knew Cheney and Rumsfeld dissented strongly and did not want to reopen that box of worms."
'16 Words' Author Uses Stolen Laptop for Secret Briefings
Neo-con former NSC staffer Dr. Robert Josephwho was the author of the now-infamous "16 words" in President Bush's January 2003 State of the Union address, claiming Iraq was seeking "yellowcake" uranium from Africa, and who has replaced John Bolton as Undersecretary of State for Arms Controlis once again at the center of controversy over the circulating of suspected disinformation, this time targetting Iran. Dr. Joseph, a protege of Richard Perle, began giving secret briefings to the IAEA and some European nations in July of this year, as Vice President Dick Cheney was gearing up for a planned military confrontation with Iran. Joseph's supposedly "secret information" on the Iranian nuclear program came from a Persian-language program on a stolen Iranian laptop.
Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei, head of the IAEA, who conducted an interview with David Sanger of the New York Times on this issue, said the IAEA needs to "follow due process, which means I need to establish the veracity, consistency, and authenticity of any intelligence, and share it with the countries of concern. That has not happened." Ali A. Larijani, Iran's nuclear negotiator, said, "We are sure that there are no such documents in Iran."
Cheney Torture Policy Encouraged the Insurgency in Iraq
On Nov. 11, the Veterans for Common Sense held a press conference in Washington calling for an independent commission to investigate the torture policy. Two of the speakers, Iraq war intelligence specialists Dave Debatto and Frank Ford, testified that the situation changed dramatically in June of 2003, during the period "U.S. Viceroy" Paul Bremer issued his orders for de-Baathification and dissolution of the Iraqi Army. Debatto said that from March until June of 2003 his unit got "a lot of intelligence" because "we treated them [the Iraqis] with respect." However, in the middle of June, the situation "literally went to hell in a hand-basket ... when we started kicking in doors and started doing all kinds of heinous acts to the Iraqis." After mid-June, Iraqis were no longer volunteering intelligence information.
Frank Ford, a 32-year career intelligence officer, told a similar story, reporting that high-level Iraqi sources told him: "You had your chance. We asked you for electricity and water. That's all we needed from your people. Knock off the torture business. If you don't knock it off, we'll knock it off." Ford also reported that when he began questioning rumors and reports from Abu Ghraib, before the CBS "60 Minutes" expose, he was told that he was the problem. When he requested a formal investigation, he was forcibly taken to a psychiatrist for evaluation, and then evacuated from Iraq, strapped to a stretcher.
Bush-Cheney Accused of Imitating Red Army Interrogation Methods
A Nov. 14 New York Times op-ed by Gregg Bloche of Georgetown University, and Jonathan Marks of Georgetown and Johns Hopkins, outlined the Pentagon's use of its SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) program which is designed to teach resistance to stress and torture, andas EIR reported in the "Spoonbenders" reporthow this has been flipped on its head to use those techniques against U.S.-held prisoners at Guantanamo and elsewhere. The authors note that this means that the United States is now using interrogation tactics that mimic Soviet Red Army methods; however, the Communists' objective was not to extract accurate information, but to coerce false confessions.
When some in the Pentagon warned that these tactics constituted torture, a top advisor to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld justified them by pointing to SERE training. The use of SERE techniques, the authors conclude, is further evidence that torture was policy, not an aberration.