|Southwest Asia News Digest
Arab League Summit a Success
DAMASCUS, March 30 (EIRNS)Syrian officials and those of other countries participating in the Damascus Arab League summit consider the summit to be a success, in light of the tremendous pressure put by the Bush/Cheney Administration on the U.S./U.K. client states not to attend. While the U.S.-, U.K.-, and French-dominated news media are all stating that the summit was a failure, the reality is that 11 heads of state participated, more than at many other such summits. Delegations of the 22 member-states were present.
Among other issues, the Arab League summit was to review the plan for peace presented by Saudi Arabia in 2002, which proposed to Israel peace and normalization of relations with all Arab states in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied during the 1967 War. In that context, Syrian President Bashir al-Assad called for Israel to withdraw, once and for all, from the Syrian Golan Heights, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
But the Arab leaders expressed their exasperation with Israel's lack of cooperation, by stating in the final communiqué that, "a continuation by the Arab side to present the Arab peace initiative is tied to Israel executing its commitments in the framework of international resolutions to achieve peace in the region." The communiqué, read by the League's president, stated that the "Arab heads of state decided to evaluate and review Arab strategies and the plan of action regarding reviving the peace process as a prelude to deciding on the next Arab moves." Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, who had earlier warned Israel that the Arab states might be obliged to take a "painful" position if Israel continues to refuse the initiative," called on the states to start such review in the middle of 2008.
On Lebanon, Assad stated several times that the Syrians didn't intend to meddle with internal Lebanese affairs, which is what the U.S., the U.K., and France are asking them to do. The final communiqué merely states that the member-states "declare that we stand by the Arab initiative to help Lebanon and support the efforts of the [Arab League] Secretary General to encourage the Lebanese parties to reach consensus to resolve this crisis to preserve Lebanon's security, unity, stability, and prosperity."
Cheney Tried, But Failed To Sabotage Arab League Summit
DAMASCUS, March 30 (EIRNS)In a short interview with EIR at the conclusion of the Arab League Summit, Deputy Foreign Minister of Syria and Syrian Ambassador to the UN Faisal Mekdad, told EIR correspondent Christine Bierre that the U.S. had failed miserably in trying to sabotage the summit. Asked about sabotage by the Cheney-Bush Administration, Mekdad replied: "The U.S. didn't sabotage this summit, they tried to sabotage it, but they failed as usual. They failed in Iraq, they failed in Lebanon, they failed in Palestine, and they failed in Afghanistan. This administration has failed everywhere and has failed again, now." The discussion continued:
Bierre: "So in a sense, you were a more united family without the people who decided not to attend?"
Mekdad: "The meetings between all Arabs this time were very frank, very open. Real discussion has taken place and this is the basis for facing all the forthcoming challenges, including the biased position of the U.S. against the Palestinians, against the real Lebanese, and against the real struggle of people for liberation."
Bierre: "Did Dick Cheney have something to do with the pressure exerted by the U.S. against this summit?"
Mekdad: "Absolutely, he did his best. But again he failed."
British War Drive Now Taking Off in Iraq
March 28 (EIRNS)What is happening in the southern Iraqi province of Basra now, and spreading throughout the country, is part and parcel of the new wave of British-orchestrated war provocations, which are aimed at destroying the United States, and its crucial partnersChina, India, and Russiain the formation of a New Bretton Woods system.
The British have set a trap for the U.S. occupation forces, reviving the chaos and bloodshed in Iraq, just as Tony Blair's war-policy ally Dick Cheney is in the region sabotaging Israel-Palestine and Israel-Syria peace negotiations.
Following the "shock and awe" war against Iraq by the United States and Britain in the Spring of 2003, British soldiers took control of the Shi'ite-dominated Basra province. After staying mostly inside their barracks for four-plus years, the last 500 British forces evacuated in December 2007, laying a trap for their best "friend," the United States. With their forces "on watch" outside, the British refused to re-enter Basra when violence occurred, and instead repeatedly goaded the Iraqi government to use its security forces to occupy the city.
What had to happen, happened this week, when militants loyal to radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, clashed with 30,000 Iraqi and U.S. forces sent into Basra for the second day on March 26, leaving at least 40 people dead and 200 others wounded. Fighting has spread and curfews have been imposed in the southern cities of Kut, Hillah, and Amarah, where the Sadr political group enjoys wide popularity among the poor and uneducated. Clashes have spread to Baghdad's Shi'ite-dominated districts, mainly Sadr City. The intensity of the fighting has kept many people in their homes, and there is no indication of when it will ceaseor who will be victorious.
Experts Warn Iraq Is Coming Unglued
March 30 (EIRNS)Two leading American military experts warned today that the situation in southern Iraq is explosive, and is far more complex than most media coverage suggests. In an op-ed in today's New York Times, Anthony Cordesman, who has just returned from a tour of Iraq, warned that the confrontation between the Madhi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr and the Iraqi Army is actually a sectarian conflict among rival Shi'ite factions, all of which have ties to Iran, and which are now vying for power on the eve of the scheduled provincial elections in the autumn of this year. Cordesman warned that there are three dangerous confrontations brewing in Iraq, that could deny the Bush Administration its coveted "victory." First, a confrontation could erupt among Kurds, Turkmens, and Arabs over control of Kirkuk and Mosul, two oil-rich areas bordering the Kurdish region. Second, renewed fighting between U.S. occupying forces and Sunni militias, now temporarily working on the U.S. and Saudi payroll against al-Qaeda in Iraq, could get out of control. Third, and most complex, the situation among rival Shi'ite factions in southern Iraq and in Baghdad, could erupt into an out-of-control battle. Cordesman warned that the U.S. military involvement in the Shi'ite fighting, ostensibly to defend the "Iraqi government," is a terrible mistake.
Retired Defense Intelligence Agency official Col. Patrick Lang penned a commentary on a recent London Daily Mail article, describing a big political rift between Washington and London, over the precipitous British military pullout from Basra, which led to the current conflict there. Writing on his website, Sic Semper Tyrannis 2008, Lang tore into the British for their pompous attitude towards American counterinsurgency operations, while creating the mess in and around Basra. "In the interest of not making things worse with our cousins across the sea," he wrote, "I will restrict my comments on the Daily Mail article to make a request, on behalf of the uniformed services people, that we not encounter further condescension from the British on the subject of the superiority of their knowledge, sophistication, methods, etc. with regard to COIN. Enough." Lang went on to report that the U.S. is clearly preparing to send in a sizeable U.S. ground and air force, to a new base being built near Basra, to clean up the mess the British left behind.
Cheney Orders End to Palestinian Reconciliation
March 24 (EIRNS)While many moderate voices in Israel are calling for some sort of dialogue with Hamas as a means of ending the violence between Israel and the Palestinians, Dick Cheney is demanding a civil war. Speaking to reporters while en route to Ankara, Turkey, the last stop in his tour to the Middle East, Cheney "predicted" that the Yemeni initiative to mediate a reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas would fail. Cheney's conclusion, he asserted, after having talked with the Palestinian leadership of the West Bank, "is that they have established preconditions which would have to be filled before they would ever agree to reconciliation, including a complete reversal of the Hamas takeover of Gaza."
A well-informed Egyptian source reviewed the Cheney visit to Ramallah with EIR today, indicating that an important agreement between Fatah and Hamas had been reached and signed, only to be overturned after the fact immediately following Cheney's visit with Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on March 23. Reading the statement of Abbas aide Ahmed Qureia, the source said that the Fatah delegate to Yemen had instructions on what to agree to, and signed when the conditions set by Ramallah had been set. What the Fatah delegation didn't know, was that the view from Ramallah changed because of Cheney.
According to the Israeli news site, Ynet.com: "A senior Abbas confidant, chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qureia, said Monday that [Azzam] al-Ahmed [the senior PNA negotiator assigned to the Yemen talks] signed because of a mix-up. Al-Ahmed called Abbas' office repeatedly to get guidance, but Abbas was meeting at the time with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, and al-Ahmed went ahead and signed, Qureia said.
"'There was a misunderstanding,' Qureia told reporters Monday. 'President Abbas was busy hosting Cheney.'"
Cheney, according to one report, directly threatened Abbas that all money to the Palestinians will stop if the Palestinian Authority makes any deal with Hamas.
Israel Trying To Revive Talks with Syria
March 28 (EIRNS)Israeli Infrastructure Minister and Labor Party member Benjamin Ben Eliezer said that Israel is trying to revive talks with Syria. "All efforts are being made to bring Syria to the negotiating table in order to sign a peace treaty," Ben Eliezer told Israel Radio. "We know exactly what the price will be," he added, in an obvious reference to the return of the Golan Heights to Syria. He also said that current Defense Minister and Labor Party chairman Ehud Barak is involved in trying to revive talks.
This statement followed two earlier statements on Syria-Israel talks: a March 26 statement by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and, a statement on March 27, by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, during a meeting of the Arab foreign ministers in Damascus.
While Moallem said that Israel does not have a "genuine political will" for peace because of its "aggressive policies and actions," he nonetheless reiterated Syria's position on talks: "Our position on peace in the Middle East is known to all. We support a just and all inclusive peace in accordance with UN resolutions and based on the principle of 'land for peace.'"
Arab foreign ministers again endorsed the 2002 Arab peace initiative during their pre-summit meeting in Damascus on March 28.