|Southwest Asia News Digest
Egyptian Revolution Forces Probe of Use of Force vs. Protesters
April 13 (EIRNS)The international media has only now acknowledged that millions of Egyptians turned out again in Tahrir Square on Friday, April 8, in the biggest demonstration since the start of the revolution in January. The admission that the mass protests are expanding, came after the new Prosecutor General, Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, had announced the detention of former President Hosni Mubarak, his two sons, Gamal and Alaa, former Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, ex-Presidential chief of staff Zakaria Azmi, former National Democratic Party (NDP) head Safwat Sherif, and businessman Ahmed Ezz. Ezz, a close business associate of Gamal Mubarak, was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the privatization of Egypt's state-sector steel conglomerate, and other state-sector industries, which he bought up for pennies on the dollar, according to Egyptian sources.
The men are detained for 15 days while prosecutors probe the use of force against protesters in January, and other allegations of corruption and theft. Former President Mubarak is in a military hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh, after suffering a heart attack during the initial interrogations yesterday. His sons and the others who are detained are in Tora Prison outside of Cairo, a prison where many of the Mubarak regime's political rivals were detained over the years. The decision by the new Egyptian government to take action came as a direct result of the mass protest last Friday. One source said 2-3 million people were in the square. One of the key demands of the April 8 protest was the detention of the Mubarak circles while a criminal probe was conducted. Protesters also planned a demonstration in Sharm el-Sheikh, if the demands were not met.
On April 16, in another major reform move, the Egyptian Supreme Administrative Court dissolved the National Democratic Party, the former ruling party, and ordered all its assets liquidated and turned over to the state. The NDP, renamed last week as the New National Party (the new head is Talaat Sadat, nephew of Anwar Sadat), can reapply for party status.
Yemen Near Break Point as Fighting Erupts Between Army Factions
April 13 (EIRNS)After weekend negotiations, brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), failed to settle the power struggle in Yemen, fighting has erupted among military units loyal to President Saleh and those loyal to Gen. Ali Mohsen, the former head of the armed forces who went over to the opposition several weeks ago. As demonstrations were taking place all over the country on April 13, some 10,000 more officers and solders from the Republican Guard, the Central Security, and the Air Force defected. Fighting erupted between the rival military factions in the capital city of Sanaa, with at least six people killed.
Over the weekend, the GCC attempt to negotiate a succession to Saleh failed. The GCC, dominated by Saudi Arabia, had originally pressed for Saleh to crack down on the protesters and stay the course. But after scores of protesters were gunned down, Saleh's departure became a precondition for any resolution of the protests, and the GCC adapted to that reality in an effort to maximize the continuity into the post-Saleh period. The fact that combat has erupted between rival military groups means that some kind of negotiated departure must be worked out soon, or the situation could devolve into a prolonged civil war.
According to a senior U.S. diplomat deeply involved in U.S. liaison to the GCC, the organization was established in the early 1980s, during the Iran-Iraq War, as a self-defense organization for six Persian Gulf statesSaudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, and the U.A.E. From its inception, the GCC was defined as a self-defense organization of the six emirates and kingdoms, and as an alliance with the United States. In the event of any external threat, including from Iran or Iraq, it was understood that the GCC member states could not defend themselves alone, but would rely on the United States and other allies. However, internal security matters were to be strictly handled within the GCC.
As the result of this arrangement, Saudi Arabia has pressed the other GCC countries to crack down on the reform protesters, arguing that any concessions, particularly to Shi'ite protesters, would give Iran a greater foothold. The Saudis have also been pressuring Jordan's King Abdullah II not to establish a constitutional monarchy, an act that would bolster the demands for reform that are sweeping the region.
This idiocy on the part of the Saudis has further fueled the mass strike dynamic throughout the region. Senior U.S. intelligence sources report that Iran is pressuring Syrian President Bashar Assad to crack down on mostly Sunni protesters in that country. Behind the scenes, the British are trying to foment a permanent sectarian war between Sunni and Shi'aboth to blunt the genuine mass strike demands for economic and political change, and because permanent war/permanent revolution is their imperial game.
Obama Lied to Egypt About Debt Moratorium
April 18 (EIRNS)President Barack Obama has rejected Egyptian requests for a postponement of Egypt's debt obligations to the United States, that is, for a debt moratorium. But according to well-informed Middle East experts, Obama lied that "Congress would not allow" the U.S. to forgive Egypt's debt. But high-level Congressional sources denied that the White House had ever gone to Congress about this.
Egyptian Planning Minister Fayza Mohamed Aboulnaga told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington that Egypt had asked the United States to forgive about $3.6 billion in debt to help the country restore growth, reported Reuters on April 14. "What we're asking for from our American friends is to give us debt forgiveness," said Minister Aboulnaga. She warned, "If, God forbid, we go wrong in Egypt," the rest of the region will also suffer.
Also speaking to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was Egypt's Finance Minister Samir Radwan, who told Reuters in an April 16 interview that Egypt is seeking $10 billion in funding, especially from the Group of 7 wealthiest nations. He is also meeting the IMF.
"I will be asking them for help. My immediate priority is to ease the fiscal strains," said Radwan, an economist who worked at the International Labor Organization for 28 years. Radwan emphasized that poverty and inflation are the major causes for the revolution in Egypt. "I can't touch subsidies now ... because the perception of the people is that subsidies are good for the poor," he told Reuters, noting that food price inflation is one of the biggest fears.
Israel Desperate to Stop UN Vote for Palestinian State
April 18 (EIRNS)Both Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama are fuming about the growing momentum for the recognition of a unilaterally declared Palestinian State at the 2011 meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in September.
Washington intelligence sources have reported that Netanyahu is scheming to present a "new" two-state "framework" when he comes to Washington, D.C. in May, in order to stop the momentum towards UN recognition of a Palestinian state, but that this is expected to fail. One of the major reasons for a growing number of countries moving to recognize a Palestinian stateincluding Russia, France, Germany, and the United Kingdomis the failure of President Obama to deal with the problem. Obama's "peace process" is recognized as a fake; in fact, the Obama policies are now being referenced in some circles as "worse than George W. Bush's." Not only have the Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories not stopped expanding, but the Obama Administration has continued the Bush-Cheney boycott of the duly elected representatives of Hamas, and U.S. military aid, sales, and other support for Israel is at its greatest level in history, sources report.
Netanyahu is being sidelined internationally, and at the same time he is facing significant corruption allegations at home: There is an investigation into illegalities in his campaign financing, and reports that he and his wife, Sara, were given tens of thousands of dollars worth of luxury trips and junkets by rich donors seeking political influence. In late March, the opposition Kadima Party approached the Israeli Attorney General, Yehuda Weinstein, to begin an investigation into "the criminal, tax, and ethical aspects" of the Netanyahus' activities, reported the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv and other major media.