In this issue:

LaRouche Warns Against Gaza-Egypt Merger

No Agreement on Iran Sanctions, French Ambassador Says

Terrorists Shift Tactics in Iraq

From Volume 7, Issue 6 of EIR Online, Published Feb. 5, 2008
Southwest Asia News Digest

LaRouche Warns Against Gaza-Egypt Merger

Feb. 2 (EIRNS)—Schemes to permanently separate the Gaza Strip from Israel, to ostensibly align it economically with Egypt, are a British-inspired chaos operation run through the Muslim Brotherhood that would escalate the danger of regional war, said Lyndon LaRouche yesterday.

And, both the Egyptian government—President Hosni Mubarak and other Egyptian leaders—and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak oppose such a scheme. This option came to the fore as a result of mass demonstrations that broke through the wall that separates the Gaza Strip and Egypt, after the humanitarian disaster that followed when Israel cut off fuel deliveries—and therefore electricity, water purification, and sanitation in late January. An estimated 700,000 desperate Palestinians fled from Gaza into Egypt to buy food, water, and medicines when they were cut off.

"The danger is that an adjoining Egypt/Israel border at Gaza would accelerate the potential for general war. That is why Barak denounced statements advocating this. He may be ambitious, but he's not stupid," LaRouche said, adding that those who propose a Gaza-Egypt merger, notably the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Palestine, are pushing a British trap.

At the same time however, a high-level Egyptian diplomatic source told EIR that the Rafah Crossing should never have been closed in 2006-2007, because the move had turned Gaza into an open-air prison. LaRouche also noted that the U.S.-British-Israeli decision to seal the Rafah Crossing (from Gaza to Egypt) is part of the same British chaos operation. A viable border agreement involving Israel, Egypt, and the Palestinians, was broken by Israel—egged on by the Anglo-American war party—after Hamas was elected as the Palestinian Authority government.

Muslim Brotherhood circles are now trying to exploit the Gaza crisis as an excuse to overturn the Paris Agreement of 1993-1994 that linked the economy of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza and the West Bank, to Israel. According to an Egyptian intelligence source, Hamas is now embracing that idea.

That was in part confirmed by Ismail Haniyeh, the deposed Hamas prime minister, who was quoted today in Ha'aretz, telling the pro-Hamas daily Palestine, that Hamas would like to see Gaza receive its fuel and electricity from Egypt. "We have said from the days of our election campaign that we want to move toward economic disengagement from the Israeli occupation," Haniyeh said.

Meanwhile, the situation on the ground continues to be fluid. Haniyeh, in the same comments reported above, also said he would not allow Egypt to reseal the border. However, another senior Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahar, said, after meetings with Egyptian officials today, that "We will work to close the border between us and Egypt [and] restore control over this border, in cooperation with Egypt and gradually."

No Agreement on Iran Sanctions, French Ambassador Says

Feb. 1 (EIRNS)—French Ambassador to the United States Pierre Vimont indicated today, in response to a question from EIR as to whether the EU-3 would consider additional sanctions against Iran, that the latest UN sanctions resolution still had a ways to go. "It is not only an agreement between the Permanent-5 that we have to consider, but also, for the sake of unanimity, the non-permanent members of the Security Council. Some members want to wait for the results of the talks that [International Atomic Energy Agency head] Dr. Baradei will be holding with Iran in the middle of February," Vimont said. "With regard to possible EU sanctions, there is also a timetable. Some members of the EU have asked for a postponement on a sanctions resolution until we see the results of the Security Council Resolution." Vimont also indicated that the fact that the United States has a no-negotiations policy with Iran, until Tehran stops enriching uranium, puts a damper on negotiations that the other countries may conduct with Iran; he expressed some frustration with this impediment.

Vimont was speaking at a forum organized by the Middle East Institute in Washington.

Terrorists Shift Tactics in Iraq

Feb. 1 (EIRNS)—While the U.S. military in Baghdad today was announcing at a Pentagon briefing that the number of insurgent attacks in Baghdad had dropped to levels last seen in 2005, close to 100 people were killed in near-simultaneous suicide-bomber attacks, attributed to al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), on open-air pet markets in Baghdad. An Associated Press report on today's bombings says, "The U.S. military has been unable to stop the suicide bombings despite a steep drop in violence in the last six months."

At the Pentagon briefing, Army Brig. Gen. Joseph Anderson, Chief of Staff of Multinational Corps Iraq, said that Coalition forces are clearing more bombs than they have in the past four years, and that in the past week of operations, the number of attacks nationwide remained below the average of the past three months. A press release on the briefing notes there was a New Year's offensive, Operation Phantom Phoenix, "aimed at driving al-Qaeda and other extremists from safe havens in outlying provinces."

The reduced violence seems to have led newly confident Baghdad residents to come out to the markets which were bombed today. The shift in tactics was not entirely unforeseen. A Christian Science Monitor report on today's bombings notes that the new commander of U.S. troops in Baghdad, Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, warned that the militants might now strike in a more brutal way, trying to regain the initiative with high-profile and complex attacks. "I think al-Qaeda has discovered that because a great job has been done, they just cannot drive their VBIEDs [vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices] like they used to ... we see an adjustment in the suicide vest attack," the Monitor quotes General Hammond.

News reports about the bombings show a continuation of a new trend in AQI attacks on the civilian population: the use of female suicide bombers carrying explosives under their clothing. Frequent public security checks are done on males. In addition, it is reported that the suicide bombers were mentally debilitated (variously described as crazy, mentally unstable, or retarded with Down's Syndrome), and the bombs were triggered remotely, not by the women themselves.

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