|Southwest Asia News Digest
Lebanon's Maronite Patriarch Calls for Peace with Syria
Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, the Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Lebanon, made a visit to Washington, D.C., during which he gave an interview to EIR, in which he stressed that he wants peace with Syria and all Lebanon's neighbors. Patriarch Sfeir said he sees the 1648 Peace of Westphalia as the approach to be taken in Lebanon. After meeting with President George W. Bush on March 16, Sfeir, who is the spiritual leader of the Lebanese Christian community, held a separate press conference in which he called on the anti-Syria opposition in Lebanon to cease calling for the ouster of President Emile Lahoud.
The Patriarch's intervention is a strategic development, which counters inflammatory statements and actions by Lebanese "democracy" forces, who are being egged on by Condoleezza Rice's State Department, and neo-con warmongers run from Vice President Dick Cheney's office, to use Lebanon as the springboard for the next Syrian war.
See the Commentary in this week's "InDepth" for excerpts from the interview with Cardinal Sfeir, which will appear in full in an upcoming EIR.
Former Lebanese PM Blasts Opposition Demands
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Salim Hoss urged opposition "exaggerators" to stop their unlimited escalationsuch as Druse leader Walid Jumblatt's demand that Lebanese President Emile Lahoud resignstressing that their bet on the support of a superpower will not benefit the country. According to the Daily Star of March 19, Hoss said: "In the presence of a superpower like the United States, or another like France or the United Nations, they found an opportunity to squash the other party in Lebanon out of greed to monopolize the rule. This is the logic of the winner and the loser which will endanger the survival of coexistence in Lebanon...." The reference to the "logic of the winner and the loser" is widely accepted as one of the causes of the prolongation of the civil war of the 1970s and 1980s. Referring to the opposition's refusal to serve in a unity government, Hoss said, "They are shunning national unity for the sake of instantaneous goals and illusions."
Hoss, whom many Lebanese would support as a interim Prime Minister, said he was not trying to defend President Lahoud, but coexistence in Lebanon. These exaggerators "are dragging the country to a political vacuum," he said. Hoss added that since there was basic agreement on implementing the Taif Accord, which does open the way for a Syrian withdrawal, the political process should move forward. "Thus, we can turn the page of this open destructive conflict and take the bickering from the streets to constitutional institutions where it can be dealt with in a civilized way."
Congress Passes Anti-Syria Resolution
In total disregard for the interests of the people of Lebanon, the U.S. House of Representatives passed House Resolution 32, an incendiary statement that condemns Syria for "continuing gross violations of human rights and civil liberties," in both Syria and Lebanon. The resolution, reported in the Lebanon Daily Star of March 19, was sponsored by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla), who also sponsored the Syria Accountability Act. This new resolution calls for Bush to "freeze all assets in the United States belonging to Lebanese government officials who are found to support and aid the occupation of Lebanon by the Syrian Arab Republic."
At the very point that Lebanese leaders of the true oppositionnot the neo-con paper cutouts modelled on Iraqi crook Ahmed Chalabiare working intensely on national unity, including the participation of Hezbollah in the Parliament (where it already won 12 seats), the House, led by right-wing thug Tom DeLay (R-Texas), is acting to trigger a civil war. Ros-Lehtinen works closely with the neo-con warmongers, and also supports the Iranian terrorist group, Mujaheddin al-Khalq, as a U.S.-backed vehicle for sabotage and overthrow of the Iranian government.
Is AIPAC Getting Ready for Indictments in Spy Case?
According to a report in the Jewish weekly Forward March 18, two officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), implicated in the Department of Defense-Israeli spy case, have gone on paid leave. The two officials, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, are being investigated for conspiring to acquire classified documents to pass on to the Israeli government. Defense Department employee Larry Franklin, who worked closely for neo-con Undersecretary Douglas Feith, is also under investigation.
The case first surfaced in August 2004, when AIPAC's offices were raided by Federal authorities in the course of the investigation, which is now before a grand jury.
Sharon Gives Orders To Attack Iran
The Sunday Times of London March 13 "leaked" the fact that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government has approved plans for a strike against Iran, with the blessing of Bush Administration officials.
The Times wrote that Sharon's inner cabinet gave the "initial authorization" for an attack during a private meeting at Sharon's ranch last month: "Israeli forces have used a mock-up of Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment plant in the desert to practice destroying it. Their tactics include raids by Israel's elite Shaldag (Kingfisher) commando unit and airstrikes by F-15 jets from 69 Squadron, using bunker-busting bombs to penetrate underground facilities."
"The plans have been discussed with American officials who are said to have indicated provisionally that they would not stand in Israel's way if all international efforts to halt Iranian nuclear projects failed."
The Times is notorious for serving as a leak sheet for the Mossad, and this report is nothing less than a statement of intent by Sharon and his supporters in the Bush Administration to attack Iran. The reference to a meeting on Sharon's ranch in February, is most likely the same meeting where Sharon and Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz decided to purge the top leadership of the Israeli Defense Forces. In February, Sharon placed, in top military positions, his hand-picked "Doctor Strangeloves," who will follow him into his new war.
The Times report stands in apparent contradiction to recent statements from Bush Administration officials that imply a softening of the U.S. position vis à vis Iran, and a greater willingness to back European efforts to negotiate a solution to the crisis. However, it is known that the neo-con grouping headed by Vice President Dick Cheney have long backed an attack on Iran as part of their so-called "Clean Break" strategy, named for the mid-1990s policy paper drafted for Netanyahu government; the Clean Break document is now the active policy blueprint for Israeli hawks and for the Cheney neo-cons, who, as the Times article implies, await either the failure of negotiations with Iran, or some other staged provocation, to launch new wars.
However, it is also known that sane sections of the U.S. military and intelligence establishment desire no such attackeither by the U.S. or Israelfor fear of a wider war, and its impact on U.S. troops in the region.
With his unprecedented consolidation of his top-down control of the military-security establishment, Sharon will have no resistance from within the military brass to his wild designs for a new war. One British Middle East specialist warned that Sharon could be preparing for a Gaza bloodbath; since there is no room for political negotiations with the Palestinians in Sharon's phony unilateral disengagement plan, it is only a matter of time before Sharon launches a major assault on the Gaza Strip to wipe out the militant Palestinian Hamas organization.
"Unlike in the past Sharon will now have a totally unified command to carry out a bloodbath in Gaza," the source said.
Israel Not Interested in 'Democratizing' Middle East Regimes
The danger of an attack on Iran, Syria, and Lebanon by Israel actually increases, if these countries actually become "more democratic," as demanded by the Bush Administration, according to sources in Europe and Washington. The Iraqi election has not helped U.S.-Israeli agreement on this issue, they point out.
In the case of Iraq, "the Israelis are studying a secret memorandum on the teachings of Iraqi Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani," a well-placed Muslim expert on the Middle East told EIR, "and they are alarmed that the U.S. invasion has not given Israel a regime that is 'more friendly' or better for Israel's security." The source added that because of the Bush's Administration's support for the brutal policies of Ariel Sharon's government in occupying the Palestinian lands, and the Iraq war that has killed, injured, and humiliated millions of Iraqi civilians, real "democratic elections" would likely usher in anti-American regimes.
The source then elaborated that in fact, the U.S. "democracy" campaign is not truly interested in democracy, but is trying to put in place regimes that are friendly to the Bush Administration, using democracy as a cover. Given the complexity of Arab and Islamic politics, the "democracy initiative" will give Bush results exactly opposite to what he wants.