|Southwest Asia News Digest
Syrian Strategic Institute Publishes EIR Report
A leading Syrian institute, the Data and Strategic Studies Center (DASC), published an Arabic translation of "Cheney and Netanyahu Pushing for War Against Syria," by EIR's Jeffrey Steinberg, as a leading item on its website Jan. 16. DASC is headed by Dr. Imad Fawzi Shueibi, one of the most influential strategic thinkers in Syria, who works closely with the Syrian leadership. In 2004, Shueibi issued a statement supporting the "LaRouche Doctrine" for peace in Southwest Asia.
The EIR article's DASC translation was picked by the European Palestinian Refugees Association (Al-Rabeta.com) which published it prominently on its website. Al-Rabeta, based in Damascus, is an influential Palestinian association with strong ties to Palestinian refugees in Europe and South West Asia.
Neo-Con Asset, Spy for Israel, Given Harsh Sentence
The Pentagon neo-conservative cabal's operative Larry Franklin was sentenced Jan. 20 to 12 years and seven months in Federal prison for passing classified information to the Israeli government. Franklin, who pleaded guilty to reduced charges in October 2005, faced a maximum of 25 years. Two co-conspirators, both top officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Steven Rosen and Keith Wiessman, are going on trial in April, and Franklin may receive a reduction in his sentence if he cooperates and helps to convict these and other parties involved in the espionage operations run by AIPAC.
Franklin was not a low-level flunky. He was part of the neo-con inner circle run by kingpins Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and Douglas Feith. Franklin was the Iran desk officer under William Luti, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Near East and Southwest Asia (NESA), a former staffer for Dick Cheney, who was the "stovepipe" directly to Cheney's Chief of Staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Luti oversaw Feith's rogue intelligence unit, the Office of Special Plans (OSP), which has now been renamed. Feith and Wolfowitz have left the Pentagon, while Libby is facing trial for perjury and obstruction of justice in the investigation of another case of illegal dissemination of classified informationthe Valerie Plame case.
There are three things to note about the Franklin case: There are three or four Israeli officials who reportedly received Franklin's stolen documents, but these individuals have not been charged; Franklin was a fanatic proponent of a war on Iran, and was passing information to Israel about a possible U.S. attack on Iran; Franklin accompanied top neo-con fascist Michael Ledeen to Italy in December 2001, one of a series of trips which are under investigation in connection with the forgery of the "Niger yellowcake" documents which were used by the White House to justify the war against Iraq.
Meanwhile, Rosen, the top spook at AIPAC, and its research director for 27 years, and his deputy Weissman, have both been fired by AIPAC, which is paying their legal bills, but there have been reports of a falling out because AIPAC reportedly is not paying quickly enough.
Israeli Labor Party Presents Vibrant Candidates List
The Israeli Labor Party completed the primaries for its list of candidates, with many of chairman Amir Peretz's key allies finishing among the crucial top ten of the 120-member list. Many of the deadheads associated with former Prime Ministers Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak, who had been undermining Peretz, ended up further down on the list, so far down for some, that they are now totally out of the picture, which is good for the campaign.
Among those in the top ten are: Avishai Braverman, the president of Ben Gurion University; Ami Ayalon, former commander of the Israeli Navy and former chief of the Shin Beth, who has been leading his own Palestinian-Israeli peace initiative; Eitan Cabal, the secretary general of the Labor Party; and retired Gen. Benjamin Ben Eliezer.
Peretz called the list a "perfect team," declaring, "Standing here are the best people in all fields, in all issues. There is no issue for which we do not have an unequivocal answer. There are people here who know how to deal with security better than anyone else."
Peretz, who had headed the trade union federation Histadrut, has vowed to continue the peace legacy of slain Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin, and to restore the Israeli economy which has seen a drastic rise in poverty.
Would-Be Syrian Putschist Khaddam Seeking Asylum
Former Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam, who says he's organizing a coup against Syrian President Bashar Assad, may be seeking asylum outside of France. Aljazeera reported Jan. 14 that a French delegation went to Saudi Arabia to probe this for Khaddam, but was rejected, and then headed for the United Arab Emirates.
Khaddam has been in Paris, living it up at the swank Georges V hotel, under heavy police guard. But it may be that it's becoming embarrassing for French President Jacques Chirac to have him announcing his coup plans from the French capital. Indeed, any government that grants him asylum, would be implicated in the coup against Syria he has threatened.
Meanwhile, Khaddam is receiving coverage in the biggest European media outlets to build the climate for regime change in Syria. He told Britain's Sky News that Bashar al-Assad "ordered" the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
In a Jan. 16 interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, Khaddam said he wants to establish a government in exile. Khaddam had been a top aide to former President Hafez al-Assad, but when asked what his role had been in Syria for 30 years (up until July 2005), he claimed that, "since the death of Hafez al-Assad in 2000," he had "distanced [himself] from the regime."
In these two interviews, Khaddam embellished his previous statements, which had been carried in the Arabic and French press, and now claims that Bashar Assad had given the order for the murder of Hariri. Khaddam also attacked the idea of Presidential immunity from questioning by the UN investigators, saying, "Why should a President who is a murderer, be able to plead immunity?"
He confirmed that he is building a government in exile, and did not exclude the participation of any party, including the Muslim Brotherhood, in his scheme. The ruling Ba'ath Party is also welcome. Khaddam says he doubts the "regime will last out this year," because of the international pressure around the Hariri investigation.
Bolton: Tehran 'Biggest Sponsor of Terrorism'
In an interview in the German newspaper Die Welt on Jan. 13, temporary U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton gloated that it is "big progress" that the Iran nuclear research issue "is now up at the United Nations," which, formally speaking, is not the case yet.
Neo-con warmonger Bolton, who was not able to win U.S. Senate confirmation, predicted that permanent UN Security Council members Russia and China will be more anti-Iran at the UNSC than at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) talks, because at the UN, they "bear global responsibility. Being nuclear powers, they know quite well what it would imply if Iran possessed nuclear weapons."
But, revealing that the real issue is regime change, Bolton called Iran the "biggest global sponsor of terrorism. Tehran is financing the Hezbollah and other terrorist groups. Then, see the threats by the Iranian President to extinguish Israel. It is hard to imagine what would happen if Iran had its finger on the trigger of a nuclear weapon."
Shimon Peres Accused of Illegal Fundraising
The Israeli State Comptroller and State Prosecutor have been investigating the possibility that former Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres raised $220,000 illegally for his primary campaign for the chairmanship of the Labor Party, reported Ha'artez Jan. 17. Despite having raised close to $400,000, he lost that election to Amir Peretz.
Israel's Channel 10 revealed that $100,000 of this money was donated by Bruce Rappaport, the Geneva-based independent shipping operator who has been involved in many dubious affairs, including the Iran-Contra scandal. The remaining funds were contributed by Haim Saban, a wealthy U.S. movie mogul. Peres's lawyer has disputed the illegality of the payments.
Settlers Riot in Hebron While Rabbis Threaten Olmert
Beginning Jan. 13, extremist Israeli settlers rioted in the old marketplace in Hebron, attacking soldiers and police. The rioting started after it was announced that the army would remove eight settler families who are living illegally in the old market.
All settlers had been removed from that site in 1994, after the Jewish suicide terrorist, the Brooklyn-born Baruch Goldstein, a settler in the West Bank, went on a rampage, killing Muslim worshippers at the Cave of the Patriarch mosque. But, after Ariel Sharon came to power in 2001, the extremists moved back into the old marketplace, seizing Palestinian property and establishing a settlement.
The Israeli High Court of Justice ruled in early January that the settlers had to be removed and, in complying, the army said their removal would be completed by the end of February.
Ha'aretz Jan. 16 quotes an Israeli military officer denouncing the rioting: "We are facing Jews who are conducting pogroms against Arab property."
Meanwhile a group of radical rabbis sent a letter threatening Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, demanding he stop the evacuation. The rabbis, in language eerily similar to recent remarks by U.S. televangelist Pat Robertson, wrote that the letter was a "warning" to Olmert, that he might end up like Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin, and Ariel Sharon, and claimed that "Prime Ministers who harmed the Land of Israel never succeeded in completing their term in office...."