|Southwest Asia News Digest
Mideast Officer: Cheney Pushing Hard for Iran Attack
Aug. 2 (EIRNS)A senior military officer from a Middle Eastern country revealed to EIR today that Vice President Dick Cheney is still pushing for military action against Iran. "He's pushing hard," the officer said, "and the Pentagon and [Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice are pushing back. But the President has not taken sides yet. Probably because of problems in Iraq. The last report from there was bad. We may see where he stands in September, when Petraeus gives his report."
Cheney's interview with CNN's Larry King on July 31, included a psychologically revealing moment when the V.P. was asked if "you would make an overt move on Iran." Cheney lost control of his facial expression, grimaced, tried to cover it with a smirk, and then, after an awkward pause, spit back: "For what reason?"
Iraq's Maliki Wants Petraeus Out
July 28 (EIRNS)According to today's Daily Telegraph of London, relations between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and U.S. military commander Gen. David Petraeus are so badthe two reportedly engage in regular shouting matchesthat Maliki appealed directly to President Bush for Petraeus's removal. One Iraqi source told the Telegraph that Maliki told Bush that "if Petraeus continues, he [Maliki] would arm the Shi'a militias." Petraeus has admitted that the relationship is stormy, saying, "We have not pulled any punches with each other." The substance of their dispute is not reported, however, though it may have something to do with Maliki's alleged ties to Shi'a militias involved in sectarian violence.
The Human Cost of Cheney's War
July 30"Eight million people are in urgent need of emergency aid; that figure includes over 2 million who are displaced within the country, and more than 2 million refugees." An additional 4 million people are "food insecure and in dire need of different types of humanitarian assistance." This stark assessment of humanitarian destruction in Iraq is presented at the opening of a report, "Rising to the Humanitarian Challenge in Iraq," by the British organization Oxfam, and a network of aid agencies called NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq (NCCI).
Some 43% of Iraqis now suffer from "absolute poverty," and possibly as much as 50% of the workforce is now unemployed. The situation is worse for children. Of the "displaced," 32% have no access to food rations, and an additional 51% report getting food only sporadically. Those with access to "adequate" water supplies had dropped from 50% in 2003, to 30% today, and only 20% having "effective" sanitation.
"The people of Iraq have a right, enshrined in international law," the report says, to humanitarian conditions, and to aid if necessary.
Saudi Money-Laundering Under New Scrutiny
July 28 (EIRNS)A Saudi bank that has been linked to terrorist financing has, up till now, never been acted against by the Bush Administration, which has always chosen to bring its concerns about the bank to the Saudis privately. U.S. intelligence reports acquired by the Wall Street Journal describe how the al-Rajhi Bank has maintained accounts for Saudi charities that the United States and other countries have designated as supporters of terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda.
One CIA report from November 2002 cited by the Journal says that the Saudi government "has made little independent effort to uncover terrorist financiers, investigate individual donors and tighten regulation of Islamic charities," largely because of "domestic political considerations." The Journal doesn't say so, but this was the time that the CIA was investigating the networks behind the 9/11 attacks. It was also the same time period when it became public that the wife of then-Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., Prince Bandar bin Sultan, had given financial support to two of the 9/11 hijackers in the months prior to the attacks.
EIR will be investigating whether this apparent money-laundering operation is part of Prince Bandar's operations in the U.S. using money supplied by the British defense firm BAE Systems.
Congressional Resolution vs. Saudi Arms Deal
July 30 (EIRNS)Nine Congressional Democrats have signed a statement in support of a "Joint Resolution of Disapproval" blocking the Cheney-Bush Administration's plan for a multi-billion-dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia, on the grounds that the arms deal "could allow weapons to slip into terrorist hands." Two of those Congressmen, generally known as friends of the Israeli Lobby, and representing districts in New York City, Reps. Anthony Weiner and Jerrold Nadler, went to the Saudi Consulate on July 29, to release a statement opposing the deal, because they say the Saudis support terrorism all over the world, including in Iraq. Nadler brought up the hot issue of 9/11, saying, "it is no accident that 15 of the 19 terrorists on 9/11 were Saudi."
No such opposition has come from the Israeli government, however. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert endorsed the aid package heartily: "We understand the United States' need to assist the moderate Arab states, which are standing in one front with the United States and us in the struggle against Iran."
The Saudi deal, accompanied by a 25% hike in U.S. military aid to Israel, and a $13 billion package for Egypt, was announced today by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She justified the deals as an effort to build a regional alliance to counter Iran and Syria, Hezbollah and al-Qaedaa formulation, like Olmert's, conforming precisely to Dick Cheney's drive to create a "Sunni and Israel vs. Shia" war across Southwest Asia, which he kicked off in his November 2006 visit to the region.
(For more on this, see InDepth: "War on Iran Will Trigger 'Hundred Years' Conflict," by Michele Steinberg.)
Russia Steps Forward To Broker Palestinian Unity
July 30 (EIRNS)Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov today, following which the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement offering to help restore Palestinian unity. "In no way can the division of Palestine into two separate entities be tolerated, given the current situation," the Foreign Ministry stated, pressing for "a dialogue involving all political forces."
Abbas's three-day visit, which includes a meeting with President Vladimir Putin on July 31, appears to be making progress on precisely that point.
Before Abbas arrived, Lavrov spoke by telephone on July 26 with Hamas Political Bureau chairman Khaled Mashaal, and discussed the necessity of restoring Palestinian unity under the leadership of the PNA President. Mashaal assured Lavrov that Hamas stands firmly for Palestinian unity under the leadership of Abbas, a point reiterated by Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri from Gaza today, as Abbas began his visit. For his part, Hamas leader Ismail Haniya told reporters in Gaza today, that Hamas welcomes any initiative, and particularly that of Russia, "to fill the gap between us and Fatah, to put an end to the crisis."
From Moscow, Abbas emphasized that "Russia is a friendly state.... Therefore, the support of Moscow is of great importance to us."
Bandar Visits Russia To Promote Saudi-Russian Ties
Aug. 2 (EIRNS)Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Secretary General of the Saudi National Security Council, is in Moscow, meeting with President Putin and other officials. Prince Bandar, the former ambassador to Washington, has been exposed as the key Saudi player in the huge British-Saudi BAE/Al-Yamamah arms-oil-financial scandal. Bandar is representing Saudi King Abdullah, who had Bandar deliver the message that the King "considers our relations [with Russia] as strategic," Itar Tass reported today. Putin visited Saudi Arabia in February.
Bandar met Valentin Sobolev, the acting secretary of the Russian Security Council, and First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov. The Kremlin website showed Bandar shaking hands with Putin, who emphasized that there are large prospective economic projects between the two countries.
The Israeli Peace with Syria Movement Calls for Talks
July 31 (EIRNS)The Peace with Syria movement held a conference July 30, calling on the Israeli government to open negotiations with Syria immediately. Former Foreign Ministry director General Alon Liel, the founder and head of the movement, called on the government to begin negotiations with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and urged U.S. President George W. Bush to allow such a move. Liel had held informal talks with Syrian intermediaries up until 18 months ago.
The conference included residents of the Golan Heights, both Jewish and Arab, who agreed that the Israeli-occupied territory, seized in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, should be returned to Syria in exchange for peace.