|Southwest Asia News Digest
Is Prince Bandar Plotting a Coup in Saudi Arabia?
July 5 (EIRNS)The head of the Center for Research and Media in the Middle East, Nassir Kandil, said in an interview to al-Jazeera on July 3, that Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan was planning a coup against King Abdallah, as part of a U.S. plan to enhance Israel's role in the region. Bandar involved in the BAE scandal and in Dick Cheney's regional war policies.
Kandil, said to be a well-known Lebanese expert, was quoted by the Iranian news agency IRIB's German-language edition as having told al-Jazeera that, "The U.S. plans to establish an even more secure network for Israel in the region, before they withdraw from Iraq. Therefore, Bandar bin Sultan should take power in Saudi Arabia." Kandil also said that Bandar had a role in the creation of Fatah al-Islami in northern Lebanon, as well as the coup attempt against Palestinian Hamas. He stated: "Bandar bin Sultan told the Americans, that he could at the present time create a new al-Qaeda, just as he had done in 1980, when he built al-Qaeda against the Soviet Union."
Kandil also spoke about the role of Fatah operative Mohammad Dahlan, in cooperation with U.S. Gen. Keith Dayton, in organizing a coup against Hamas. The report on German-language IRIB appeared together with an interview about the BAE scandal, with Michael Weissbach of the BüSo (Civil Rights Solidarity Movement), led by Helga Zepp-LaRouche.
Warning: Cheney Pushing New Lebanon War This Summer
July 7 (EIRNS)Israeli and Arab sources are telling EIR that there is a very strong likelihood that Israel will launch new military operations into southern Lebanon before the end of the Summer, and that pressure for such attacks is coming from the circles of Vice President Dick Cheney. According to one source, a new Israeli assault against Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon would be based on the 1982 Israeli invasion plan of then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, and that the attack could include operations launched from the Golan Heights, in an effort to draw Syria into the conflict.
An Israeli source acknowledged that there is strong opposition in some Israeli political circles to such a preemptive attack, and that Syria has been warned that part of the scheme involves the effort to draw Syria into the war. One U.S. intelligence specialist acknowledged the war danger, but cautioned that Hezbollah has also revised its military plans, in anticipation of such an Israeli action, and that it is prepared to carry out much more damaging asymmetric retaliatory attacks on Israel. In short, any move by the Israeli Defense Forces would generate a larger regional conflict with the potential to spread beyond Israel and Lebanon.
All of the sources who spoke to EIR acknowledged that the biggest driver for the Israeli action is the Cheney cabal in the Bush Administration, and the neo-con camp in Washington. Such an Israeli hit on Hezbollah is seen by Cheney and company as a vital part of their war plans against Iran, which call for a "carpet bombing" campaign against an estimated 20 military and infrastructure targets inside Iran, before the end of this year, several sources asserted. The only certain way to stop these planned military actions is for Cheney to be forced out of office in the immediate weeks ahead. That, several sources said, would tilt the political balance inside Israel, allowing the anti-war forces to prevail, and greatly weakening Cheney's key ally, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
French Envoy Invites Lebanese Factions to Paris
July 4 (EIRNS)French envoy Jean-Claude Cousseran is in Beirut, to organize a meeting in Paris of all 14 Lebanese political groups on July 14-16. Cousseran met for an hour and a half today with Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, and stressed the French government's hopes to "restart dialogue and rebuild trust" among the rival Lebanese political factions.
"The meeting will include the representatives of 14 factions who have taken part in the national dialogue. Each group can send two delegates," Cousseran said. Although it is planned for French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner to attend, he added, France will not impose the agenda. "France aims through this dialogue to organize and participate in a dialogue between the various Lebanese factions," Cousseran said. He said Kouchner would try to function as moderator and facilitator.
None of the delegates' names have been released, but Arab League secretary general Amr Moussa will attend the meeting. Cousseran said his discussion with Siniora was "very useful and important." He then met with Speaker Nabih Berri, the Daily Star reported.
The French initiative, according to Washington sources, reflects a significant potential shift in French policy from that of previous President Jacques Chirac. Chirac had been extremely close to Rafik Hariri, the slain Lebanese Prime Minister, who had bankrolled much of Chirac's political career, from the time that Chirac was mayor of Paris, and this relationship had colored French policy towards Lebanon.
Hamas Secures Release of BBC Reporter
July 4 (EIRNS)Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh announced the release today of BBC journalist Alan Johnston, who had been kidnapped by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on March 12. In announcing the release of Johnston, Haniyeh also issued an appeal to Israel for a prisoner exchange that would include the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held by Hamas. Haniyeh said, "As the case of Alan Johnston has ended, we hope that the case of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit may end, too, in an honorable deal that would secure the release of our hero prisoners from Israeli jails."
Speaking from Damascus, Hamas leader Khaled Meshal declared, "We have been able to close this chapter which has harmed the image of our people greatly. The efforts by Hamas have produced the freedom of Alan Johnston. It showed the difference between the era in which groups used to encourage and commit security anarchy and chaos, and the current situation in which Hamas is seeking to stabilize security."
Although the media have tried to claim that Johnston was held by an al-Qaeda-linked group, he was in fact being held by the militia of one of the major clans that dominate Gaza, the Doghmush clan. Not only is there no evidence the clan is tied to Hamas, but well-placed U.S. intelligence sources report that the Doghmush clan was being backed by Mohammed Dahlan, the Fatah security boss in Gaza, who has widely been seen as a provocateur of the Hamas-Fatah confrontations.
Egyptian and Palestinian sources told EIRNS this week that there is a good chance that Fatah and Hamas could resolve the crisis between the two factions with talks, but the United States is dead-set against such negotiations, and is putting enormous pressure on President Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) to prevent him from reopening negotiations.
However, inside Israel, a significant faction of military intelligence officials are pushing for a settlement of the intra-Palestinian conflict, through dialogue. Briefing the Knesset, the Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, said that President Abbas and Hamas political chief Khaled Mehsal will eventually resume their dialogue, and that the separation between Gaza and the West Bank would eventually end.
Arab Parliament, Egypt Urge Fatah-Hamas Reconciliation
July 7 (EIRNS)The Arab Parliament, a 44-member institution created by the Arab League in 2001, held a series of meetings in Damascus, Syria and Amman, Jordan to begin a process to reconcile the two principal Palestinian factions, Hamas, which won the majority in the Palestinian national assembly, and Fatah, led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen).
The plan to discuss the mediation effort was announced by Speaker of the Arab Parliament Muhammed Jasim al-Saqr of Kuwait, reported Deutsche Presse Agentur today. Al-Saqr spoke to reporters on July 6ahead of a meeting with Abbas and other Palestinian leaderssaying, "In my capacity as Speaker of the Arab Parliament, I feel it is our duty to stage an initiative" to bring about a reconciliation. He told the press that he had already had a meeting with Meshal, "who expressed desire for a reconciliation" with Fatah.
After the meeting with Abbas, al-Saqr said, "The meeting decided to set up a committee and assigned it the duty of looking into means for reaching a solution to the Palestinian impasse." DPA reports that the committee includes two members of the Arab Parliament and Azzam al-Ahmad, a leading member of Fatah, and it was to meet later on July 7.
The Arab Parliament initiative is part of a call for reconciliation made last week by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is also pushing for reconciliation, and will take up the question with Abbas, when the two meet in Riyadh in mid-July.
According to well-informed Egyptian sources, Abbas is being warned by Dick Cheney, and his operative within the National Security Council, Elliott Abrams, against a reconciliation with Hamas. But Arab leaders are bucking the Cheney pressure, because the Palestinian factional war is destabilizing the entire region.