|Southwest Asia News Digest
Lebanon's Siniora Defuses Confrontation with Palestinians
The French and British (likely under pressure from the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, neo-con nut John Bolton) are circulating a draft UN resolution pushing for open-ended sanctions against Syria, using Lebanon as a pretext (see report below). On Oct. 27, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora acted to stop a major confrontation, which had begun two days earlier, involving seven of the Palestinian camps on the Lebanese border with Syria, which had been surrounded by Lebanese Army soldiers and tanks.
At a cabinet meeting Oct. 28, Siniora called off the military deployment and stated emphatically, "We won't be led into a confrontation with the Palestinians.... We insist on conducting an internal dialogue with the Palestinian factions with regard to implementing UN [resolution] 1559 and, soon, I will personally head the committee that will negotiate this issue with the Palestinians." There are about 400,000 Palestinians in Lebanon.
On Oct. 25, it was reported that a Lebanese civilian surveyor had been killed by Palestinian gunmen, along the Syrian border, triggering a military deployment. On Oct. 27, six Lebanese soldiers were detained by the forces of the camp run by the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), headed by Ahmed Jibril, who has been based in Damascus for years. The situation was escalating, when Jibril went on Lebanon New TV, the evening of Oct. 27, and said that the Palestinians were not looking for a confrontation, and that the PFLP had released the six soldiers after having interrogated them. He also denied that the PFLP had killed the surveyor.
Also on Oct. 27, after the Lebanese cabinet meeting, Information Minister Ghazi Aridi reiterated that disarmament of militias, including the Palestinians and Hizbollah, will be settled through national dialogue. "The UN has their own point of view and we have ours," Aridi said.
Diplomatic Push To Stop Cheney War Against Syria
On Oct. 26, Saad Hariri, the son of slain Lebanese leader, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, intervened in the international arena, to voice his opposition to sanctions against Syria, which have been proposed by the U.S., France, and Britain, in a draft resolution to the UN Security Council. The resolution surfaced on Oct. 25, just after the Security Council heard from Detlev Mehlis, who heads the investigation into Hariri's murder.
The Mehlis report alleges the knowledge of some Syrian officials about the assassination and a lack of cooperation by the Syrian government in the investigation; both allegations have been strongly denied by the Syrian government. Syrian President Bashar Assad has already sent a letter to the Security Council stating that his government would prosecute any Syrians involved in the assassination to the full extent of Syrian law.
The Security Council has postponed any action until Oct. 31, when a meeting at the Ministerial level takes place.
Saad Hariri praised the Mehlis investigation, and while stating his unshakeable commitment to finding the killers of his father, and bringing them to justice, he added, "We are friends with Syria, and friends with the Syrian people. There is a long historical friendship between Lebanon and Syria, and we wish to preserve it." Hariri held meetings on Oct. 25 in London, with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, and with French President Jacques Chirac in Paris on Oct. 26, asking them to support his desire to have those who are accused of murdering his father Rafik, to be tried by an international tribunal. According to many press reports in Lebanon, Chirac agreed to support this measure.
Saad Hariri's opposition to sanctions, puts him at odds with the Bush Administration, which, under the control of serial warmonger Vice President Dick Cheney, wants nothing less than "regime change" in Syria, i.e., the overthrow of President Assad. But, Cheney has to first clear the hurdle of the UN.
For the international community, the draft resolution against Syria, and the arm-twisting coming from the U.S. and its "allies" has the rotten stench of the U.S. maneuvers of October 2002, when the Bush Administration was trying to use the UN as a fig leaf for a preemptive attack on Iraq. As Yogi Berra would say, "It's deja vu, all over again."
However, this time around, some of the major political forces that opposed the Iraq war, but did not stand up to the Cheney lies in 2002 and 2003, have come out actively opposing sanctions, and are reaching out to Damascus to ensure its full cooperation with the United Nations investigation.
In a statement from Moscow Oct. 26, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kalmynin told reporters that Russia "will do everything necessary to stop attempts to introduce sanctions against Syria." Russia, which has veto power as one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, also has firmly asserted that Syria must cooperate fully. In addition, the Arab League rejected sanctions. - The Cheney Factor-
The motivation for the sanctions and pressure on Syria on the part of the Bush Administration is not driven by pure concern over justice in the case of Hariri's murder. It has more to do with saving the political neck of Dick Cheney, whose National Security Advisor Scooter Libby was indicted on Oct. 28 for perjury and obstruction of justice in the Federal investigation of the leaking of the name of covert CIA agent, Valerie Plame Wilson (see InDepth).
So frantic is Cheney, that he has been placing panicked calls to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (including one in the middle of the night), to urge him to take military action against Iran. Well-placed Israeli sources reported to EIRNS that Cheney told Sharon that the U.S. would back him up, because "the American people won't go for impeachment during a war." The sources added that Sharon isn't interested in using Israel to fight a Cheney war. Cheney desires regime change in Syria.
But despite this pressure, in Israel, it is acknowledged that there are no legal grounds to go after Syria for the Hariri assassination. On Oct. 23, Ha'aretz reporter, Zvi Barel wrote, "The details in the Detlev Mehlis probe ... are not sufficient to issue an 'indictment' against Syria or against senior figures in the Syrian and Lebanese governments," and that is the reason that Mehlis requested, and received, an extension of the investigation. Barel adds that some UNSC member states hope that in the next two months, Syria will cooperate with the investigation, fully. The reason that Mehlis was forced to present the report immediately, lies in Washington, not at the UN, Barel says, because the Bush Administration is desperate for some further anti-Syria ammunition.
But even though the Mehlis investigation cannot prove that Syria's leaders ran the Hariri assassination, a new war danger has been set into motion under the auspices of UNSC Resolution 1559, which not only demanded the withdrawal of Syria from Lebanon, but the disarming of every militia group inside Lebanon. For the last several weeks, the Lebanese Army has been engaged in a face-off against Palestinian refugee camps near the Syrian border. On Oct. 26, UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen reported to the UNSC that there are a "variety of reports" showing that Syrian arms are flowing into the Palestinian camps.
One high-level Lebanese Christian leader expressed grave concern over the renewed buildup of Lebanese-Palestinian tensions. This was, he said, where the 1975 civil war, which he calls the "Thirty Years War," began.
Defense Attorneys in AIPAC-Franklin Case Seek To Question Israelis
The defense attorneys for former employees of the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Keith Weissman and Steve Rosen, have requested permission to question three Israeli diplomats in the case, according to the Jerusalem Post Oct. 25. The three include Naor Gilon and Rafi Barak, who were at the Israeli Embassy in Washington and had been in contact with Larry Franklin (see InDepth), who has been indicted for passing on secret documents. Who the third Israeli is, is not yet known.
While the government of Israel is saying it will not provide these witnesses, the Federal prosecutor in the case is also said to seek the questioning of the three Israelis, but has yet to make a formal request. The trial is scheduled to begin on Jan. 3, 2006 in the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va.
Israelis Revive Targetted Assassinations, Kicking Off Revenge and Counter-Revenge
On Oct. 27, an Israeli helicopter gunship rocket attack killed seven Palestinians, including two militants and a 15-year-old boy, in the Gaza Strip, Ha'aretz reported Oct. 28. The attack was Israel's revenge for a suicide bomb attack in Israel the previous day, which killed five Israelis. The Palestinian suicide bombing attack, in turn, was in retaliation for an Israeli targetted assassination of a leader of Islamic Jihad, carried out in the Occupied West Bank earlier in the week.
In addition, the Israeli Defense Forces have launched a major operation against Islamic Jihad in the northern part of the West Bank, which Israel has cut off from the south. The Israeli operation will continue for three months, reported the Israeli press.
Now, according to Ha'aretz Oct. 28, Hamas has announced that the "calm," which Egypt and other Arab nations had played a major role in negotiating, is over, while Islamic Jihad promised revenge attacks.
The situation pleases Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, because he may now use it to call off the planned meeting in November with Palestinian President Abu Mazen, that Washington is pushingeven though it is known to be nothing but a photo-op for the besieged Bush Administration. Sharon is now insisting that the Palestinian Authority must "stop terror."
Israeli sources told EIR that only pressure from the United States will bring "sanity" into a situation which is going out of control. These sources said that the only reason that Sharon finally carried out the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, was because pressure from Washington had forced him, kicking and screaming all the way, to carry it out.
In fact, no such intervention can be expected from Washington, unless the "permanent war" champion Dick Cheney is replaced.