In this issue:

Rumsfeld Pentagon Unable To Cover Up Murders in Iraq

Hersh: Revolt of Generals Forced Bush To Table Nuclear Attack vs. Iran

Iraqi Sunni MPs Boycott Parliament as Violence Rages

Russia, China Urge Iran To Accept Nuclear Offer

From Volume 5, Issue Number 28 of EIR Online, Published July 11, 2006
Southwest Asia News Digest

Rumsfeld Pentagon Unable To Cover Up Murders in Iraq

A well-placed U.S. intelligence expert on Southwest Asia and the Arab world told EIR last week that the Pentagon and the Bush White House are trying to quickly bury and cover up the March 12 rape and murder of a young Iraqi woman and the murders of her family by U.S. soldiers, but this effort will not succeed. EIR's source pointed to the June 29 Supreme Court decision outlawing the secret tribunals scheme that the Bush Administration set up under its claim of the powers of the "unitary executive," as one factor in preventing a coverup. The source said the Supreme Court ruling was a major institutional slap against the Administration, especially against Dick Cheney, whose office was the prime mover of the secret prisons/torture policies.

The incident in Mahmoudiyah, south of Baghdad, has become a rallying point for Iraqi protests and rage at the United States. On July 5, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki demanded an independent inquiry of the rape/slaying of the young woman, and said that immunity from Iraqi prosecution enjoyed by U.S. forces "encouraged them to commit such crimes." He called for a review of U.S.-led coalition troops' immunity from prosecution by Iraqi courts.

"We believe that the immunity given to members of coalition forces encouraged them to commit such crimes in cold blood; that makes it necessary to review it," al-Maliki said in Kuwait, AP reported July 8.

The U.S. government moved rapidly against the alleged killer—Army Pfc. Steven D. Green—who has been charged in Federal court in Charlotte, N.C., with rape and four counts of murder. At least four other U.S. soldiers still in Iraq are under investigation in the attack.

Al-Maliki's statement about reviewing the immunity of U.S. soldiers, which was declared by the Paul Bremer U.S. Occupation Goverment in 2003, has panicked the U.S., and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad issued an immediate apology—one of the few apologies the U.S. has made. The usual Bush Administration line is to say that the U.S. "regrets" that civilians were killed.

On the military side, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said that no American soldier is above the law, but only promised that U.S. law would try the soldiers. He also indicated that the U.S. will pressure al-Maliki to drop any intention of lifting immunity for U.S. soldiers.

The unit is the same one from which U.S. soldiers were abducted, and then found dead and brutally mutilated in early June. But Gen. Caldwell said there was no evidence (so far—ed.) that the abduction was a revenge act related to the rape/killings.

Experts on Iraq told EIR that revenge would be highly likely in such a case. Especially when a coverup is going on. An immediate question, being asked by Americans and Iraqis, is why did it take so long—over three months—for the U.S. to open a probe of the incident. According to AP July 1, a sheikh from the dead family's tribe immediately called the incident in to the Iraqi police. But, the U.S. probe only began on June 24, one day after two soldiers "reported alleged coalition force involvement" in the crimes. AP added that the rape and killings came to light after a soldier—who was in the unit, but not part of the attack—felt compelled to talk about it in "a counseling-type session," which apparently followed the killing of the two American soldiers from his unit.

This is the fourth major case of alleged U.S. multiple murders of Iraqi civilians now under investigation. The revelation came close on the heels of the investigation of the killing of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha, in November 2005 (and not revealed until months later).

Hersh: Revolt of Generals Forced Bush To Table Nuclear Attack vs. Iran

In a lengthy article in the July 10 New Yorker, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reviews the current state of warfare inside the Pentagon, over the Cheney-Rumsfeld drive for regime change in Iran.

Among the highlights of Hersh's article: In April, "the military leadership, headed by [Marine] General [Peter] Pace, achieved a major victory when the White House dropped its insistence that the plan for a bombing campaign include the possible use of a nuclear device to destroy Iran's uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz." Hersh cites an unnamed former intelligence official who told him that the White House backed down, in the face of opposition from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and accepted the idea that the nuclear option was "politically unacceptable."

Hersh noted that the backdown by the White House came during the "April Revolution," i.e., the protests by a number of retired generals, who demanded Rumsfeld's ouster for his failures in Iraq, and his refusal to 'fess up to major policy disasters there, or to change course.

Hersh also noted that Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld have the backing of the "strategic bombing" crowd inside the U.S. Air Force, who believe that "shock and awe" bombing is the key to ending Iran's nuclear-weapons program—even if the nuclear-weapons option has, as Hersh claims, been taken off the table. Hersh reported that the Air Force has devised a plan to launch a succession of bunker-buster conventional bomb attacks on Natanz that would have the cumulative effect of a nuclear bombing, without the radioactive fallout.

Iraqi Sunni MPs Boycott Parliament as Violence Rages

Two days following the July 1 killing of 66 people in Baghdad, the political crisis in Iraq escalated, as Sunni MPs boycotted the Parliament, demanding the release of a colleague who had been abducted. Taiseer Najeh Awad al-Mashhadani, a Parliamentarian from the National Concord Front, was kidnapped in Baghdad with eight bodyguards. Next, a roadside bomb exploded as the convoy of a Shi'ite MP from the Iraqi National List, of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. Then, on July 4, Deputy Electricity Minister Raad al-Harith was ambushed and kidnapped by men in seven cars, who blocked his convoy. The kidnappers were in uniform.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki started his tour of the region, visiting Saudi Arabia, where he called for Saudi investments. Speaking at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Jeddah, he said, "The security problems are not in all of Iraq, but rather they are confined to Baghdad," and urged businessmen to finance infrastructure projects. He was to also visit the UAE and Kuwait.

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, who was one of the original planners of the unjustified war, then told BBC in an interview published July 4, that the killing of al-Qaeda leader Zarqawi, has had no impact on the violence in Iraq. He said the killing had encouraged "other insurgent groups to reach out, because some were intimidated by Zarqawi," but that the level of violence had remained the same. He was non-committal about the progress—or lack thereof—of insurgents response to an offer of amnesty by the Iraqi Prime Minister.

Russia, China Urge Iran To Accept Nuclear Offer

On the eve of talks between European Union Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana and Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani June 27, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said in Beijing: "The Iran nuclear issue is at a crucial phase and the urgent task is to help resume the talks as soon as possible. We hope that Iran will pay attention to the concerns of the international community and respond as soon as possible to the basket of proposals." She added: "We also hope that the other sides will exercise patience and restraint, and seriously consider Iran's reasonable concerns."

Russian President Vladimir Putin stated: "We really would like our Iranian partners to accept the proposals," adding that he hoped it would happen before the G-8 meeting in Moscow that begins July 11.

Then, the informal dinner meeting on July 6 between Solana and Larijani went well, according to Solana's spokeswoman. "It's a good start for what we expect will be a positive meeting July 11," the spokeswoman said, adding, that the aim of the EU was to get negotiations started as soon as possible, and also stressed that "We are not using the word 'deadline.' "

Solana met with Iranian negotiator Larijani in Brussels, in a tête-à-tête dinner, attended only by an interpreter. No details were released about the content of the talks, but Larijani had said earlier that Iran was serious about negotiations, and Solana had warm words of welcome for his Iranian guest.

Meanwhile, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei, in Ankara, Turkey, said he was optimistic that a diplomatic solution could be found. "There is no other option than the diplomatic route," he said. "I am always very optimistic about a diplomatic solution.... The military solution is not an option." He added that since the IAEA does "not consider Iran as a country that could produce atomic weapons tomorrow, ... for this reason, I think we still have time for diplomacy."

ElBaradei also talked with Turkish government leaders about that country's desire to develop nuclear energy. He said Turkey could help promote a diplomatic solution to the Iran crisis.

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