|Southwest Asia News Digest
Bush Should Fire 'Beria' Cheney To Salvage His Presidency
Egyptian journalist Mohammed Hakki, who writes from Washington for Al-Ahram weekly, and who has interviewed Lyndon LaRouche, wrote an article for the Jan. 13 edition, calling on President Bush to fire Vice Presiding Cheney to save his Presidency.
After reviewing the "firestorm" that erupted following Bush's Dec. 17 public admission that he had approved NSA spying on Americansan impeachable offenseHakki asked: "So how can Bush make a clean break, or a new start in 2006? Most people do not realize that Bush's popularity jumped up a few notches in 2005 because he got rid of some of the most sinister neo-cons in his administrationmen like Douglas Feith and Paul Wolfowitz. There are already whispers in Washington that if Bush wants to save the rest of his presidency he should get rid of Dick Cheney.... The scenario they consider is this: if Bush's instincts are still sound, he can see that Cheney is the one most after himself fuelling the 'hate Bush' syndrome. He can simply ask him to retire gracefully, 'for health reasons' and appoint someone else, like Senator John McCain, in his place.
"Keeping Cheney, who is considered by many to be a 'commissar' in the mold of Lavrenty Beria [head of the Stalinist secret policeed.], will ensure a slide in popularity from now to the end of Bush's term," writes Hakki. "Keeping Cheney around will augur negatively on the rest of his term because of torture and now domestic spying, each of which has been supported, if not instigated, and definitely identified with Cheney. Who knows, maybe if God loves Bush he will guide him to do that?"
Study: Iraq War Costs Could Top $2 Trillion
A study released on Jan. 20 by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard "budget expert" Linda Bilmes puts the total cost for the Iraq war at over $2 trillion. Included are simple factors such as increased cost of oil and gas attributable to the war, but more significantly, the lifetime cost of disability and mental-health care, as well as the cost of the loss of productivity for the estimated 16,000 injured soldiers.
"Shortly before the war, when Administration economist Larry Lindsey suggested that the costs might range between $100 and $200 billion, Administration spokesmen quickly distanced themselves from those numbers," says Stiglitz, a longtime critic of the war. "But in retrospect, it appears that Lindsey's numbers represented a gross underestimate of the actual costs."
Stiglitz and Bilmes presented their paper at the annual conference of the Allied Social Sciences Association, sponsored jointly by the American Economic Association and the Economists for Peace and Security, in Boston.
Secret Pentagon Report: Armor Could Have Saved Lives
Eighty percent of the Marines who died in Iraq could have been saved if they had had body armor, said a secret Pentagon study, leaked by the New York Times on Jan. 7.
"Such armor has been available since 2003, but until recently the Pentagon has largely declined to supply it to troops despite calls from the field for additional protection," the Times said. This report confirms in spades what Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa) has been saying in public speeches, such as the town meeting hosted recently by Rep. James Moran (D-Va) in Arlington, Va.
Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) has called upon Sen. John Warner (R-Va) to hold a Senate Armed Services Committee investigation of why the troops in Iraq were not being protected with proper and sufficient body armor. Clinton told ABC News, "We perhaps could have avoided so many of these fatalities.... This is the Bush/Cheney policy.... I've been one of the leading critics pointing out all the failures, the incompetencies...."
Egypt, Saudi Arabia Attempt To Stabilize Syria Crisis
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad met with Saudi King Abdullah and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak over the Jan. 7-8 weekend, in Jeddah and Cairo, respectively, to discuss the continuing pressure on Syria around the 2005 killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, and the threats from Paris-based exiles of a coup against Assad.
King Abdullah reportedly urged Assad to improve relations between Syria and Lebanon. An Egyptian political source told EIR that the Saudis were using the coup threat to pressure Assad to comply with the UN probe into Hariri's murder, and to purge his government.
The source said neither Cairo nor Riyadh wants regime change in Damascusbecause of the implications for their own regimesbut would be forced to accept it as a fait accompli. One Saudi official was quoted as saying the calls from Lebanon for regime change in Syria were damaging, and that "Even the U.S. and France do not call for regime change in Syria."
The Egyptian news agency MENA reported on the talks with Mubarak, that they "covered the results of talks Mubarak had with the Saudi King ... and with French President Jacques Chirac in Paris ... and with Lebanese leaders and the UN about Syria and Lebanon." Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Shara'a has reportedly agreed to being questioned by the Hariri probe, but said Assad would not, as such interrogation would "violate Syrian sovereignty."
British Asset Muslim Brotherhood Threatens Assad
The leader in London of the Muslim Brotherhood in Exile, Ali Sadreddine Bayanouni, told the Financial Times Jan. 9, that his banned, violent group would be willing to work with some factions in the Syrian government.
"For us, getting rid of the dictatorial regime could come many ways. During the transition it could happen through people within the regime," he said.
These remarks came on the heels of statements by former Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam, that he would welcome the Brotherhood into his opposition group seeking regime change in Damascus. Khaddam is living in Paris, and made the threat of a coup from there.
An Egyptian political source, briefed on Lyndon LaRouche's warnings of a new Sykes-Picot agreement between Britain and France being orchestrated involving the Muslim Brotherhood, said: "Mr. LaRouche is absolutely right." (The Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 carved up the Middle East into British and French spheres of influence, and undercut all previous treaties in the region.) The source reported on a major article in the Egyptian Al Moussawar, which published photocopies of memos between the Muslim Brotherhood and American circles. He also referenced the growth of the Brotherhood in the Egyptian Parliament, with 88 seats now, and said there were rumors that the government could dissolve Parliament if the Brotherhood's power were excessive.
Revolutionary Guard Commander Killed in Air Crash
An Iranian military plane (Falcon) crashed near the Turkish border, killing all 13 aboard, according to Agence France Presse Jan. 9. Among those killed was Ahmed Kazemi, commander of the Revolutionary Guard ground forces, and seven senior officers. There is widespread belief that the plane was sabotaged, report Washington-based intelligence sources.
U.S. Assures Palestinians on East Jerusalem Elections
Palestinian Minister of Information Nabil Shaath said that the United States has informed the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) that East Jerusalem residents will be able to campaign and vote in Jan. 25 Palestinian elections, reported the Israeli newspaper Ha'artez on Jan. 9.
Until Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was incapacitated, his government had said that Israel would not allow the Palestinians living in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem to vote in the elections, because Jerusalem was the "undivided capital of Israel" (the Israelis conquered East Jerusalem in the 1967 war).
Shaath stated, "I have already been informed by the American government of their assurances that the Israelis will implement the commitments ... to allow campaigning and elections for the legislative council to be held in Jerusalem as well as any other place, on the modalities that were used in 1996."
Although Shaath said he has not received an official response from the Israeli government, Israeli Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra announced that Palestinians will be allowed to campaign, provided they don't belong to "terrorist" groups. It is not clear yet whether this is the beginning of an Israeli climb-down from its earlier position, or another move to play for time.
Israel Cracks Down on Fascist 'Jewish Legion'
Hundreds of Israeli police and border guards conducted raids on Jan. 8 on the offices of the terrorist-linked Jewish Legion. The army ordered the closure of the Legion's offices in the West Bank settlement of Kfar Tapuach, where the group was running a "security organization" with trained attack dogs. The raids closed down several offices in the settlement and hit an Internet cafe and a nearby apartment owned by Yekutel Ben Yaacov, one of the organization's leaders in Jerusalem. The group has known links to the terrorist Kach organization.
The raid was made ahead of a conference planned for Jan. 11, where Ben Yaacov was to announce a new initiative calling for setting up a new independent Jewish Authority in the West Bank, which he dubbed the "Judea Initiative."
In a Jan. 9 article in WorldNetDaily, Ben Yaacov said, "Legally it's a no-man's land. The Palestinians used that status to create their own authority, so there is absolutely no reason the Jews can't do the same thing. The area is the site of a lot of the Bible and has had a Jewish population for centuries. We will not allow the Israeli government to kick us out."
This Judea Initiative is a replay of slain Jewish Defense League founder Meir Kahane's attempt to found an independent "State of Judea" in the West Bank. The Jewish Legion is named after the Jewish Legion founded by the fascist Vladimir Jabotinsky.