|Southwest Asia News Digest
Gates Warns vs. Land Wars in Asia; Notes Egypt as Exception
March 24 (EIRNS)Defense Secretary Robert Gates is not backing off from the warning that he gave in a speech to West Point a month ago, in which he cited Gen. Douglas MacArthur's wisdom against a land war in Asia. In an interview given to reporter David Ignatius, Gates said, in reference to Libya, "I think we should be alert to the fact that outcomes are not predetermined, and that it's not necessarily the case that everything has a happy ending.... We are in dark territory, and nobody knows what the outcome will be."
Gates singled out Egypt as a success because of the longstanding and deep collaboration between the U.S. and Egyptian military, but that is not the case everywhere. Gates offered advice to leaders who are facing "tectonic" changes in a region that has been politically frozen for 60 years, writes Ignatius: Get out ahead of change by making reforms early; and second, avoid violence, which usually backfires. He also commented that Hosni Mubarak might have remained in office if he had made early concessions.
New leaks about Gates' opposition to the no-fly-zone strategy came out again in Time magazine, in a piece featuring British agent-of-chaos Susan Rice. At a March 15 National Security Council meeting, writes Time, Gates was telling President Obama that a no-fly zone would not prevent Gaddafi from taking back the rebel strongholds. Rice, speaking by videoconference, bragged to Obama that she could get a resolution through the UN which would authorize further military actions, like bombing Gaddafi's armored columns. Obama readily supported Rice over what Gates was warning about, says Time.
Israeli Settlements Violate Spirit of Mass Strike in Arab World
March 27 (EIRNS)Leaders from 14 U.S. Christian churches and numerous interdenominational organizations sent a blistering letter to President Obama on March 7, criticizing United States' Feb. 18th veto of UN Security Council Resolution S/2011/24 that condemned Israeli settlements as illegal. Importantly, the letter links the Palestinian struggle to the mass strike sweeping the Arab and Muslim world from North Africa to Central Asia.
"We believe the current upheaval in the Arab world both reveals God's desire for the liberation of all people from oppression (Psalm 146.7) and presents an opportunity to support moral values in advancing human rights.
"In this connection, we wish to express our regret that the United States vetoed the resolution in the United Nations Security Council February 18 reaffirming that Israeli settlements activities in the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, are illegal. While we appreciate statements affirming continuing U.S. strong opposition to the expansion of Israeli settlements, these must be followed by concrete measures to halt this activity. We believe bold and immediate new steps are needed now to prevent this veto from further damaging America's credibility as a broker to help resolve this conflict that threatens the security of both peoples and denies self-determination to Palestinians."
The UN resolution was co-sponsored by 79 countries and demands "that Israel, the occupying Power, immediately and completely ceases all settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard...."
The letter also warns Obama not to try to manipulate, stall, and delay the United Nations demand for a final settlement of Palestinian statehood by September 2011 by coming up with an "interim agreement," that would only cost more lives and delay peace.
A Bloody Friday in Arabia
March 25 (EIRNS)Protesters across the Arabian Peninsula faced a truly bloody Friday on March 25. In Syria, widespread protests against the government of President Bashar Assad drew a severe response from security forces, who fired on demonstrators, witnesses say. Deaths are reported in the cities of Daraa, Latakia, Homs, and Sanamein, as well as in the poor Damascus suburb of Madamayeh. Hundreds of Syrians took to the streets in the capital, Damascus, in solidarity with people in Daraa, who are demonstrating for the eighth day against the regime. Eyewitnesses told the Chinese news agency Xinhua, that protests erupted just after the Muslim Friday prayers at some mosques in Damascus and Homs.
"We sacrifice our blood, our soul, for you, Daraa," protesters chanted, as they were met by Assad loyalists chanting in support of the Syrian President. Secret police broke the Damascus protest, and arrested dozens, Reuters said. Washington has expressed concerns over the government's violence in quelling the protests.
After a lull of a few days, demonstrations also turned violent in Jordan's capital Amman, when government supporters clashed with protesters, hurling stones at each other. Scores of people were injured, according to news reports. Hamza Mansour, leader of the opposition Islamic Action Front, said 26-year-old party member Khairi Jamil Saeed was "killed as a result of brutal police beating on his head and body," AP reported. This is the first reported death of a protester since unrest began in Jordan.
Israeli Right Goes into War Mode; Push for Greater Israel
March 27 (EIRNS)Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lost his grip in the international arena, and inside Israel itself, as the mass strike sweeps North Africa and the Arab world, violating "the rules" of the last 60+ years, leaving British agent dangling.
Among the situations facing Netanyahu:
* The Israeli right, the fanatic settlers community, and factions of the Israel military are screaming for an Operation Cast Lead II attack on Gaza to weaken, if not obliterate, the Hamas leadership before a Fatah/Hamas unity agreement for joint leadership comes about.
* Instead of holding talks with Israel, either direct or indirect, Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, head of the PLO, held direct talks with Hamas leaders in Ramallah on March 26 about a unity government arrangement. Dozens of countries in the UN General Assembly are discussing the independent Palestinian state, and
* Palestinian diplomatic work is winning more and more support internationally for UN recognition of an independent Palestinian state, with or without Israeli agreement. The support for an internationally recognized Palestinian state has grown even faster after the Feb. 18 UN Security Council resolution that declared the Israeli building of settlements past the 1967 line to be completely illegal.
* Dozens of rockets have been fired at the Israeli towns on the border with Gaza in recent weeks.
Netanyahu's lost clout in the U.S. has become a popular subject in Israeli media. In February, his calls to the White House demanding that Mubarak stay in power in Egypt, went unanswered. He is also reportedly shocked that neither the U.S. administration nor the U.S. Congress is visibly supporting Israeli strikes on Gazawhich are all set to go after the Jerusalem bus bombing on March 23. And while Netanyahu fulminates that he holds Hamas responsible for the bus bombing in Jerusalem, for which no group claimed credit, there is evidence that the attack came from inside Israel itself, raising a concern, according to the Jerusalem Post, over "home-grown" terrorism.
Netanyahu's own Likud is showing itself to be the party of ethnic cleansing and "Eretz Israel" that it has always been. According to Arutz Sheva on March 25, Likud faction chairman in the Knesset, Zev Elkin, proclaimed "there is no place for a Palestinian state, not in temporary borders and not in any other configuration."
On March 27, the daily Ha'aretz reported that Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz, a former Defense Minister is openly challenging Netanyahu for not protecting Israel. Visiting Be'er Sheva (Beersheba) near the Gaza border, Mofaz said that Netanyahu's non-response to the attacks from Gaza is wrong, and that "the government's policy ... is eating away at both Israel's deterrence and the security forces' ability to attack.... We should have exacted a price."
However, massive bombings by the Israeli air forces that kill thousands of civilians from high altitudes, as happened against Gaza in December 2008-January 2009, would make Netanyahu look like a Qadaffi Duck.