|Southwest Asia News Digest
Iraqi Resistance Takes on Al-Zarqawi
Who is really provoking civil-war-style conflict in Iraq? The question was thrust onto the front burner on Sept. 20, when the news broke that two British SAS troops opened fire on Iraqi police at a checkpoint in Basra, killing two. The Brits were disguised as Arabs, specifically as Arab Shi'ites associated with the militia of Moqtadar al-Sadr, wearing black turbans. Driving in a civilian car, they refused to halt at a checkpoint. After the shootout, they were arrested and jailed, while crowds of Iraqis assaulted British soldiers, throwing petrol bombs against a tank.
What happened next is confusing: Reports say that, after the British failed through diplomatic means to have them released, military units stormed the jail, breaking down a wall, and rescued the two. Other reports say the two were not in the police station jail, but had been taken to a house by insurgents, where they were then released.
Both the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, and the British occupying forces, have moved to cover up the entire affair, lest some unpleasant, politically explosive truth emerge about what the special forces are indeed up to in Iraq.
Parallel with this development, forces of the Iraqi resistance reportedly moved to eliminate the activities of what is referred to as the al-Qaeda-linked insurgents, under the leadership of al-Zarqawi. According to a report in the Neue Zuercher Zeitung on Sept. 22, written by its well-informed Limasol-based correspondent, the Iraqi resistance is issuing threats against the al-Zarqawi groups of foreigners, and demanding they leave Iraqi soil. The reason given is clear: Whereas the genuine resistance has targetted occupying forces and those Iraqis (police and military) considered collaborators, the al-Zarqawi operation has systemically bombed and shot up civilians, often sending suicide bombers into crowded market places or even mosques.
Al-Zarqawi had officially announced his intention of escalating such brutal attacks against "all Shi'ites," that is, to unleash a civil war among different religious sects. The message came in a September 14 Internet communiqué. However, as the NZZ notes, a week later, al-Zarqawi made known a change in his position, through leaflets distributed in Baghdad; he said that al-Sadr's group was excluded from the Shi'ite targetting, because al-Sadr had correctly opposed the U.S. as well as the Iraqi government.
The response of Moqtadar al-Sadr was highly significant: A spokesman stated that the al-Qaeda faction was merely trying to drive a wedge between different Shi'ite formations, and that it was among the worst of enemies. In the event al-Zarqawi should fall into their hands, said al-Sadr's spokesman, they would "tear him up into pieces."
Furthermore, the NZZ cites press reports, based on Sunni resistance sources, that al-Zarqawi's civil war declaration has exacerbated relations between the two camps, to the breaking point. "Any thought of a war by means of attacks against the civilian population, is rejected" by the resistance, writes NZZ. As a result, former Ba'athists and pro-Saddam Hussein military units had threatened the al-Qaeda group, and sent it packing. They were also fed up with the fact that the al-Zarqawi's troops had falsely taken credit for attacks against the occupying forces.
This new turn of events could lead to dramatic developments. If the implications of the British SAS operations in Basra are thoroughly investigated, it may emerge that, as many in Iraq and the rest of the Arab world have mooted, those stoking the fires of civil strife are indeed the secret services of foreign powers: the U.S., the UK, and the Israelis. No less a personality than Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal delivered a similar assessment, in a speech Sept. 20 at the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, in which he charged that the U.S. policy of dealing with Iraq through competing sects and ethnic groupsthe Shi'ites and the Kurds, for examplewould only lead to civil war; that, in turn, he said, would destroy Iraq as a nation, and hand over its single parts to regional powers, like Iran and Turkey.
If the implications of the British SAS incident are properly investigated, this might also finally lead to the identification of the mysterious al-Zarqawi; if, indeed, he is to be considered part of the al-Qaeda networks, the origins of that operation should be recalled to mind. It was the Anglo-American intelligence networks that set up the capability under Osama bin Laden, in Afghanistan, that later became known as al-Qaeda.
New Investigation of Sharon for Election Law Violations
Following media reports that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon raised $200,000 in campaign funds while in New York City, Israeli Attorney General Menachem Mazuz announced he will examine the case. Mazuz has already received complaints from several Knesset members, as well as from the Movement for Quality Government in Israel.
The report on Israeli Channel 10 TV said that Sharon's money was collected at a dinner given by Nina Rosenwald, the scion of the Rosenwald family corporate empire, the center of which is Sears Roebuck, and top financier of the Likudnik neocons. Among the guests were 15 of the wealthiest Jewish businessmen in the U.S. Each had to fork over $10,000 in advance, so Sharon could say he did not collect any money at the event. Nonetheless, Israeli election law states that donations of more than $7,800 are illegal. The money will help Sharon in the Likud primaries, which could be held soon, and where Sharon will face Benjamin Netanyahu.
The invitation that Rosenwald sent out read, "Sadly, Sharon does not enjoy the financial backing that Netanyahu has garnered over the last several decades from many leaders of the international financial community. Therefore, we are asking if you might donate a fully tax-deductible contribution of $10,000 per couple to a not-for-profit organization that operates throughout Israel, and has been particularly effective in bringing people to the polls. All contributions must be received before the event. Please help. The future of Israel is literally at stake."
The activities of Nina Rosenwald bring us directly to the center of the neo-conservative movement. She is a member of the Committee on the Present Danger along with George Shultz and James Woolsey. She is a trustee of the Hudson Institute and Freedom House, vice president of the Jewish Institute of National Security Affairs (JINSA), a board member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and chairwoman of the Middle East Media and Research Institute, better known as MEMRI, which is run by Israeli "terror expert" Col. (ret.) Yigal Carmon.
One of the paying guests was New York real-estate magnate Larry Silverstein, who owns such properties as the ill-fated World Trade Center and the Queens, N.Y., Runway 69 strip club. Silverstein has also been a big supporter of Netanyahu, and was famous for promoting a Free Trade Export Zone in the Negev. This was the brainchild of the Jerusalem Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, which also produced the notorious "Clean Break" paper. Both Netanyahu and Sharon were big supporters of the Zone, but Israeli institutional resistance killed the project, because it was feared the it would become a money-laundering center.
Israelis Pursue Policy of Confrontation with Iran
Former Mossad director Dr. Uzi Arad, Sharon's Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mark Regev, and Yuval Steinitz, head of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, attacked Iran, and EU and Russian actions concerning Iran, according to a Cybercast News Service roundup datelined Jerusalem, Sept. 23.
Mark Regev said that, "Iran has had a strategy of stretching things out as long as possible with the goal of developing its nuclear program to the point where no one can stop them." Yuval Steinitz said that "Europe and Russia were not fulfilling their commitments to refer the issue to the UN Security Council." Foreign Minister Shalom claimed in a speech to the UN this past week that "Iran and its nuclear ambitions were the central threat to the global security." He also "called on the international community 'to use all means at its disposal' to stop Iran from gaining nuclear capabilities." Former Mossad Director Arad "earlier this year" said that "Western leaders would probably have to decide this year how they were going to deal with Iran."
Controversy Over Source of Deadly Gaza Strip Blast
During a Hamas military parade in the Gaza Strip on Sept. 23, an explosion killed 19 and injured 85, with 15 of the wounded being children. There are conflicting reports from the media: Hamas claims the explosion was a rocket strike from an Israeli drone; but President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah group reportedly chided Hamas for holding a military parade in the Jabalya refugee camp, saying that weapons in the parade exploded.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesperson, threatened retaliation against Israel, saying, "this is a massacre, a real carnage, and we will avenge it." He also rebuked the Palestinian Authority for implying the incident was an accident caused by a collision between two vehicles carrying explosives, saying, "How could some PA officials deny the obvious and acquit the Zionist enemy of the crime?" Senior Hamas official Nizar Rayyan said, during a press conference, that he and other leaders saw Israeli drones hovering over the parade, and that the weapons in the parade were fake, and could not have exploded.