|Southwest Asia News Digest
Petraeus Waging Information Warfare Against the American Public
Sept. 4 (EIRNS)Over the past couple of weeks, a new facet of Gen. David Petraeus's strategy to "win" the war in Afghanistan has emerged, and it's aimed, not at the Taliban, but at the American people. Petraeus, the U.S.-NATO commander in Afghanistan, is now trumpeting special forces operations, in a way that was never done at the height of the surge in Iraq, "to try to convince skeptics that the war can be won," reports Associated Press. Petraeus told reporters in Kabul, traveling with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, that special operations missions killed or captured 235 militant leaders in the last 90 days, killed another 1,066 rank-and-file insurgents and detained another 1,673, during the same time period "to demonstrate the Taliban and their allies are also suffering losses as NATO casualties rise," again in the words of AP. Such numbers were never discussed in Iraq, because of lingering memories of the body counts of the Vietnam War.
The NATO force is also claiming that intelligence indicates that the Taliban are losing in Helmand province, including Marjah, that their morale is down, and that there are conflicts between Taliban forces on the ground and the Taliban leadership safely ensconced in Quetta, Pakistan. However, despite these claims, improvised bomb attacks are actually on the rise, and the Taliban has been gaining strength in other parts of the country. Even in Marjah, Maj. Gen. Richard P. Mills, the U.S. commander in Helmand province, admitted on Sept. 2, during a teleconference with reporters at the Pentagon, that Marjah was "still a work in progress," and that it would be some months before it is fully secure.
Petraeus's information strategy stems from the 2006 counterinsurgency manual (of which he oversaw the production), which calls on counterinsurgent leaders to carry out "information operations" to "obtain local, regional, and international support for COIN [counterinsurgency] operations."
Peace Talks in Washington; Violence in the West Bank
Sept. 2 (EIRNS)Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Middle East envoy George Mitchell hosted a 90-minute negotiating session with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas today. The session was followed by a private one-hour Abbas-Netanyahu meeting. After the sessions, it was announced that peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians will resume on Sept. 14-15, in Egypt (probably at Sharm el-Sheikh), and that talks between Abbas and Netanyahu will take place every two weeks after that. The timetable for reaching a final agreement is one year.
While this was playing out in Washington, on the ground in the West Bank, the prospects for peace were already unraveling. For the second day in a row, Israeli settlers were ambushed by armed assailants. On Sept. 1, four settlers from Hebron were killed in a barrage of gunfire. Some Hamas officials have claimed credit for the attacks, although it is not clear whether those claims are accurate, or whether they represent a split in the organization. A well-informed U.S.-based source, with close ties to Hamas, indicated that he expected the two consecutive days of attacks would continue, and could represent a new strategy of armed confrontation with the illegal Israeli settlers.
The same day that the attacks were taking place, the Yesha Council, the governing body for the West Bank Jewish settlers, announced that construction of settlements would resume immediately at 80 locations, thus preemptively ending the temporary settlement freeze that Netanyahu had agreed to, and which expires, officially, on Sept. 26. In a statement issued by the Prime Minister's office as the Washington talks were underway, Netanyahu said that it would be impossible to extend the settlement freeze, since the status of the West Bank settlements is one of the final status issues, being negotiated. Abbas has made clear that, if the settlement expansion resumes, he will walk out of the talks immediately. And he may have no choice. According to news accounts, Abbas barely got permission from the PLO governing body to attend the Washington session and resume direct talks with Netanyahu; and if Netanyahu fails to extend the settlement freeze, the PLO will withdraw the authorization for Abbas to negotiate.
Blame Game, Not a Summit
Sept. 3 (EIRNS)One day after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu to extend the moratorium on building settlements in Palestinian territories, until the end of the year, so that direct talks could continue, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren made very clear in a teleconference briefing to the Jewish Federation of North America, that the whole so-called peace process is nothing but a "blame game" set-up. Oren emphasized that the settlement freeze was a "one time, unprecedented" offer designed to lure the Palestinians to the negotiating table, and even though Israel knows that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas might not survive a resumption of settlement building, Israel will not bend on this "core issue," and instead will come up with "other ways to incentivize" talks.
In a blunt and psychopathic description of the British-blessed Likudnik policy, Oren said that the settlements are a core issue, and part of Israeli "security," which is the "corest of the core." Each time that Israel withdrew from territoryfrom Lebanon and then from Gazawhat was created was a terrorist bastion, Oren claimed. Hamas created a "terrorist mini-state" in Gaza, and there was a "near takeover" of Lebanon by Hezbollah.
So, settlements are part of the security issue, and "security" is the "sine qua non of peace." While lying that Israel has gone into the talks with "no prior" demands, in the next breath Oren enumerated the "sine qua non" for peace: Palestine will be a demilitarized state; such a state will never have an air force; this state will have no arsenal of rockets, such as Hezbollah or Hamas has today; and such a state will not be allowed to have any treaties with "hostile" countries such as Iran.
When reminded by a questioner that settlement closure is not a Palestinian demand, but a condition of the Road Map, Oren basically declared the Road Map to be over, because of "new issues": the rise of Iran, the Hamas takeover of Gaza, and the "near-takeover" of Lebanon by Hezbollah. If the Palestinians want to play the Road Map, Oren said, Israel could immediately come up with counter-chargesespecially that the Palestinians have not shut down the terror apparatus.
And in what could be read as marking President Abbas for death or overthrow, Oren boasted that the terrorist incident perpetrated in Hebron by Hamas illustrates that Israel and the moderate Palestinians of Abbas have a "common" enemy, since Hamas has marked not only Israelis, but also moderate Palestinians for terrorist attackan assertion which is mostly false, but has enough substance to tip off the Israeli game of trying to provoke civil war between Palestinian factions.
Oren's ravings are the Israeli position, but are so contrary to every prior agreement and UN Security Council resolution that these are guaranteed to scuttle the talksleaving the Israelis to claim that they are the peacemakers, while the Palestinians walked out.
Is Dennis Ross the Architect of an Oslo II Swindle?
Sept. 4 (EIRNS)A well-informed Egyptian source characterized the Sept. 2 Palestinian-Israeli summit as an "Oslo II" swindle, devised by White House Middle East director Dennis Ross. According to the source, Ross proposed the year-long negotiating process, to end with an agreement that will nominally create a Palestinian state over a ten-year period. But, as was the case with Oslo I, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu well knows, "events on the ground" can be used as the pretext for sabotaging any actual two-state solution. Obama will play this as a "diplomatic triumph," and the Administration will pressure the Sunni Arab states to normalize with Israelin preparation for possible military action against Iran. The source added that, even the leaking of the Netanyahu "off microphone" boasting about how he had sabotaged Oslo I, and shafted the naive Americans, was a carefully scripted Mossad leak, intended to remind the Israeli hardliners that Netanyahu had not changed his stripes.
Of course, not everyone in the Obama Administration, nor in the Israeli institutions, is as jaded as Ross. But the Egyptian report is probably a fairly accurate assessment of Ross's intent. And the mere presence of Tony Blair as the so-called Quartet peace emissary assures that the British will be playing their usual Sykes-Picot wrecking games.