|Southwest Asia News Digest
Lyndon LaRouche: I Defend President Jimmy Carter
On Dec. 14, 2006, Democratic Party leader Lyndon LaRouche issued a press release defending former President Jimmy Carter for his book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, which has come under brutal attack for comparing the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians to South African apartheid. LaRouche stated, "I intervene to defend former President Jimmy Carter at this instant, for two reasons. First, he is right on the issue of the title of his current book. What the Israelis and others are currently practicing against the Palestinians, is nothing differing in principle from a continuing practice of Apartheid. Every sane and intelligent political figure I know agrees with that in fact, but only a few of those politicians acting in the tradition of 'political animals,' are willing to be caught saying that publicly...."
Locating former President Carter's book in the context of the Iraq War, LaRouche concluded:
"Without bringing about a peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israel conflict, there is no hope for the continued existence of Israel itself, nor the so-called "Middle East" as a whole. If the "Middle East" goes, as the Bush-Cheney policies would ensure an early catastrophe there, there is the danger that the entire planet is plunged into related political-strategic flames. Jimmy Carter is right."
The full statement is posted at www.larouchepac.com.
LaRouche Reps Interviewed in Tehran During Week-Long Visit
From Nov. 24 to Dec. 8, two representatives of Democratic Party leader Lyndon LaRouche visited Tehran, during which they made appearances on ten media, notably, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), which is the national TV and radio entity. In every interview, Muriel Mirak-Weissbach, an American, and her husband Michael Weissbach, a German national, were officially identified as LaRouche representatives, and LaRouche was presented as the leader inside the U.S. Democratic Party of the opposition to Bush/Cheney, and the first to call for double impeachment of Bush and Cheney.
On Dec. 6, a joint interview took place on the IRIB German-language radio. The questions focussed on the significance of the Nov. 7 U.S. elections; whether or not Bush really had won the 2000 election; the role and political weight of the "Christian fundamentalists"; and the implications of a recent report that 2% of the U.S. population (or 7 million people) are in prison. Questions were also asked about the danger of a U.S. and/or Israeli attack on Iran.
Questions to Michael Weissbach started with an evaluation of the current status of trans-Atlantic relations, especially U.S.-German relations under Bush and Chancellor Angela Merkel, European views of needed change in U.S. foreign policy, and impeachment. Discussion also covered Germany's role in Afghanistan; Germany's loss of sovereignty through the euro system; German nuclear policy; and how Germany views Iran's nuclear program.
The final media event was on Dec. 7, on a live TV roundtable discussion called Forum, at IRIB, with the moderator, Mirak-Weissbach, an IRIB correspondent hooked up from London, and a professor. The subject was the Lebanon crisis, and there was ample time in the 45-minute show to develop the background picture of the crisis: from Cheney's 1996 Clean Break doctrine, to Cheney's recent Sunni vs. Shi'a scenario.
Is Bush Preparing To Implement AEI/Cheney Plan for Iraq?
Numerous news reports, on Dec. 16, suggested that proposals for large increases in American troop strength in Iraq are the real policy of the White House, in direct repudiation of the Iraq Study Group report. The increases being considered range from 20,000-50,000 troops, though military officials told the New York Times that anything above 30,000 troops would not be possible. In fact, a plan produced by the notorious American Enterprise Institutethe same AEI that provided the neo-con "team" for Dick Cheney that rammed through the Iraq War without a plan, or reasonis being touted as the Cheney plan being pushed on Bush.
Released on Dec. 13, and posted on the AEI website, the "plan" is a sophomoric 56-slide power-point presentation called "Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq," by Frederick Kagan.
It calls for adding four to five U.S. brigades in Baghdad on top of the five already there and two more in Anbar province and proposes to do this by extending rotations of Army brigades from 12 to 15 months, and Marine regiments from 7 to 12 months and moving up the deployments of bridages already scheduled to go to Iraq in 2007. The plan proposes that all these extra troops are supposed to both put down the Sunni insurgency in Anbar and disarm the Shi'ite Mahdi and Badr militias in Baghdad.
Retired DIA analyst Patrick Lang describes the AEI plan as "Stalingrad on the Tigris." "The concept seems to be based on the notion that Shia militias exist because of Sunni violence against them rather than as expressions of a Shia drive to political dominance in Iraq," Lang writes. "Based on that belief the authors seem to believe that if the additional U.S. and Iraqi forces to be employed in the Capital area defeat the Sunni insurgent groups, then the Shia militia armies will 'whither away' from lack of need. I do not think that belief is justified." Lang also notes that the authors of the AEI report assert that such a surge of troops into Iraq won't "break" the Army, contrary to Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker's appraisal, just this week (see USA Digest). In a separate posting, Lang writes that the Army "is going to break, split wide open from stress and grief and family loneliness" because "There are not enough units to rotate in and out of the war in any way that human flesh can bear indefinitely."
As for the AEI scenario, Lang says: "This concept is a recipe for a grand and climatic battle between the U.S. and Iraqi forces on one side and some combination of Sunni and Shia forces on the other.... The carnage implicit in this concept would be appalling." Lang concludes that, "The authors have much to say about the consequences of defeat in Iraq, but, I wonder if they have contemplated what it would be like to fail in their climactic battle and still be required" to stay in Iraq.
Interestingly, most U.S. military commanders, including Gen. George Casey, the U.S. commander in Iraq, are said not to favor such an increase in U.S. troops. Schoomaker explicitly told the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves that the Army should not surge without a purpose "and that purpose should be measurable." One commander said to favor the idea, however, is Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, slated to take operational command of U.S. forces in Iraq in January. Odierno commanded the 4th Infantry Division in Iraq in 2003-2004 and came in for heavy criticism for running huge cordon and sweep operations that contributed to the growth of the Sunni insurgency and the Abu Ghraib scandal.
Abbas Calls New Elections, Deepens Hamas-Fatah Conflict
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced Dec. 16 that he will call early elections, supposedly to break the deadlock between the Hamas-led government and Abbas's Fatah faction.
In his statement, which has been rejected by a number of Palestinian groups represented in the legislative assembly, Abbas said, "Since the people are the source of authority, we will return to them and let them say their word.... I decreed the formation of the government and I can sack it whenever I want to."
Reaction to Abbas' announcement was immediate and angry. Tens of thousands of people in Gaza protested in support of Hamas leading to clashes with Fatah security forces in which dozens of people were wounded.
"What a war, Mahmoud Abbas, you are launching, first against God and then against Hamas," senior Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayya declared at a rally in Gaza City. Mahmoud Zahar, Foreign Minister in the Hamas-led government declared, "We are not going to allow elections to take place. This is a real coup. He [Abbas] has never accepted this government. He never sat in one government meeting."
Khalid Meshal, the Damascus-based Hamas political chief, on the other hand, called for Palestinians to "practice restraint." "Our battle is against occupation, and we will not be dragged into a civil war," he said. On Dec. 15, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh appealed for "national unity," but reportedly stopped short of explicitly calling for calm.
The question that has to be asked, however, is the degree to which outside support for Abbas is intensifying the conflict. Hamas supporters are already blaming the U.S. and Israel for what they describe as an assassination attempt on Haniyeh, on the night of Dec. 14. The official word from the office of the Israeli Prime Minister's office is that government ministers are to make no statements about the events in the Palestinian Authority or Abbas's call for early elections.
But, security and government sources told Ha'aretz political reporter Aluf Benn Dec. 16 that there is already an Israeli decision to aide Abbas by transferring a security force loyal to him from Jordan to Gaza. And, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in Cairo for meetings with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, declared that the international community should support Abbas, who, he said, is "signaling his determination to move on without them [Hamas], if they are unwilling or unable to move."
Saudi Clerics Call for Worldwide Sunni Mobilization vs. Shi'ites
A religious call for a worldwide Sunni mobilization against the Shi'ites has been posted on Saudi Islamist web sites. Appearing on Dec. 11, it says the Sunnis were being murdered by Shi'ites, backed by Iran, and the U.S.-led forces. "We direct this message to all concerned about Shi'ites in the world: the murder, torture and displacement of Sunnis ... is an outrage. We don't think you would accept to be treated like this," said the statement, dated Dec. 7. "Muslims must stand directly with our Sunni brothers in Iraq and support them by all appropriate, well-studied means.... Muslims generally should be made aware of the danger of the Shi'ites. Clerics and intellectuals should not stand hands folded over what's happening to their Sunni brothers in Iraq; all occasions should be used to expose the Shi'ites' practices.... What has been taken by force can only be got back by force."
The statement was signed by 38 clerics and Islamic preachers, including leading Wahabites Abdel-Rahman al-Barrak, Safar al-Hawali, and Nasser al-Omar. The document reportedly also expressed fears of a "Shi'ite crescent" stretching across the Middle East, the same formulation used by Jordanian King Abdallah II.
Chief-of-Staff Decries 'Hollowing' of U.S. Army
In a dramatic gesture of opposition to Bush Administration and neo-conservatives' calls for an expansion of the U.S. troop deployments to Iraq, Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, told the Commission on the National Guard and Reserve, in testimony Dec. 14, that unless there is a significant expansion of the size of the Army, and other policy changes, the force structure will collapse.
According to a front-page lead story in the Washington Post Dec. 15, Schoomaker spoke bluntly about the inability of the U.S. Army to sustain the present Iraq deployment, without a much larger involuntary call-up of Reserve and National Guard units. He demanded that the temporary increase in the size of the U.S. Army from 482,000 active duty soldiers to 512,000 be made permanent, and that the Army increase in size by 7,000 additional soldiers per year for an indefinite period of time. He also demanded that the Reserve and Guard policy be changed. Now, Reservists and Guardsmen can only be called to active duty involuntarily once, and for a total of 24 months. As a result, of the 522,000 Guard and Reserve troops, only 90,000 are still available to be mobilized for Iraq, Afghanistan, and other assignments.
In this context, Schoomaker told reporters after his commission testimony, that he opposes an increase in the troop strength in Iraq. "We should not surge without a purpose," he said, "and that purpose should be measurable and get us something."
Among active-duty and retired military officers, Schoomaker is not known for brilliance or candor. He was brought out of retirement by now-former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to take the Chief of Staff post, when a string of active duty generals, in line for the job, refused to work for Rumsfeld after the Iraq invasion and occupation fiasco.