|Southwest Asia News Digest
Cheney, Rumsfeld Use Terrorist MEK Inside Iran
Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld are using the terrorist group MEK in the "Global War on Terror"inside Iran. Larisa Alexandrovna, of TheRawStory.com, reported April 13 that the Pentagon is "bypassing official U.S. intelligence channels and turning to a dangerous and unruly cast of characters in order to create strife in Iran in preparation for any possible attack." Among the assets being used on the ground inside Iran are the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK), an Iranian group on the State Department's list of International Terrorist Organizations. MEK fighters have been reportedly deployed into two border regions of Iran near PakistanBaluchistan and Khuzestan.
The operation was rammed through by Cheney and Rumsfeld, against opposition from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, according to Alexandrovna. She quoted one of her sources: "These guys are nuts. [Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen] Cambone and those guys made MEK members swear an oath to Democracy and resign from MEK and then our guys incorporated them into their unit and trained them." The MEK operations into Iran reportedly have been going on for a year, and coincide with missions by U.S. soldiers from "special mission units," several intelligence community sources told Alexandrovna.
U.S. Intel Officials: Iran Is Years Away from a Bomb
Thomas Fingar, chairman of the National Intelligence Council (NIC), together with nine other intelligence officials, held an on-the-record press briefing on April 13, to reiterate that Iran is several years away from developing a nuclear weapon, and also to express their determination not to repeat the intelligence mistakes that were made in the lead-up to the Iraq War. Fingar emphasized that incorporating dissenting views into the assessments sent to policy makers, was one of the NIC's important achievements in its first year of operations.
This is not a neutral statement. Fingar previously ran the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and in that capacity, disagreed with the Cheneyacs' insistence, based on fabricated intelligence and lies, that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. He pointedly stated in the briefing that by incorporating dissenting views, "we think that will ... make it clear that we are not trying to drive the analytic community to come to any particular position." Fingar also explained that transparency about sources will be a priority, so that the quality of intelligence reporting can be properly assessed.
Fingar was the first person from the administration with whom the recently created, unofficial, bipartisan Iraq Study Group met to get an assessment of "where we are" in Iraq. Fingar was joined at the briefing by Kenneth Brill, head of the National Counter-Proliferation Center, who emphasized that recent statements by Iranian President Ahmadinejad, that Iran plans to build 3,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges by next year, don't necessarily reflect reality. "It will take several years to build that many centrifuges," he said. Stephen Rademaker, Assistant Secretary of State for non-proliferation issues, said on April 12 that it would take 13 years for Iran to produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon.
Richard Armitage Calls for Direct U.S.-Iran Talks
Richard Armitage, formerly Deputy Secretary of State in the current Bush Administration has called for direct U.S.-Iran talks, according to the Financial Times April 13. Armitage said: "It merits talking to the Iranians about the full range of our relationship ... everything from energy to terrorism to weapons to Iraq. We can be diplomatically astute enough to do it without giving anything away." He said the U.S. could afford to be patient "for a while" about Iran, since it wouldn't have nuclear weapons for a long time.
U.S. Embassy Report Shows Increasing Instability in Iraq
An internal staff report prepared by the U.S. Embassy and the military command in Baghdad, rates the stability situation in six provinces as "serious" and one as "critical." According to the New York Times April 9, the report shows that ethnic and religious schisms have become entrenched; taken together with reports of mass migrations within Iraq, it shows that Iraq is undergoing a de facto partitioning along ethnic and sectarian lines.
The Times notes that the report contrasts sharply with the optimistic comments from Administration officials, especially Vice President Dick Cheney, who has been saying that the Administration's glowing statements on Iraq are much more accurate than news reports. Others, such as U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, have been more realistic, the Times notes, pointing out that Khalilzad had warned April 7 that a civil war in Iraq could engulf the entire Middle East.
Asked about this April 9 on Fox News Sunday, Khalilzad did not dispute the accuracy of the Times story. He acknowledged that "we commissioned this study," to look at the situation in the provinces, and said that this is different from a purely military assessment, because it is looking at the broader picture. But he denied that the situation in Iraq is deteriorating, and maintained that it is better than it was a year ago.
Italian PM-Elect Prodi Open To Helping New Hamas Gov't
Italy's Prime Minister-Elect Romano Prodi commented April 14 on the new, Hamas-led Palestinian government in an interview with the Arab TV channel Al Jazeera. Prodi said, "I shall commit myself at the European level to shape a new position with respect to the new Palestinian government. I am looking with great attention at the signs of an opening being made by Hamas."
Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reports that Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh will soon make a "special political statement," that is expected to include acceptance in principle of the 2002 Arab League peace initiative, based on a state-to-state solution, recognizing Israel and normalizing relations with it, pending its withdrawal to the 1967 borders. This initiative is also written into the so-called Bush Road Map for a Middle East peace.
In a positive development, the Bush Administration has renewed its permission for the Washington office of the Palestinian Liberation Organizationwhich functions as a de facto diplomatic mission of the Palestinian National Authorityto remain open.
Criminologist Points to U.S., Israel in Hariri Murder
In a new book, The Hariri MurderSuppressed Leads in Lebanon, criminologist Juergen Cain Kuelbel points to the U.S. and Israel as possibly having been responsible for the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which has generally been pinned on Syria. Kuelbel studied criminology in the former East Germany and has been active in the field for 15 years. In an interview in Germany's Junge Welt April 11, Kuelbel said the UN investigating committee had been set up by Kofi Annan, who was being blackmailed with the oil-for-food scandal, and that Carla del Ponte, of Milosevic prosecution fame, was the one who named Detlev Mehlis to lead the investigative work, with orders to follow the Syrian track only. Kuelbel says his investigation revealed information not contained in the UN reports: First, that the security technologies in Hariri's convoy, which were able to neutralize electronic devices such as mobile phones, or other devices that could set off a bomb, completely failed during the attack, although they were activated. Had they functioned, the attack would not have succeeded. Kuelbel said he has confirmed that the supplier was an Israeli firm, and that he spoke with one of the owners, who had previously worked for the Mossad.
Asked who could have been behind the attack, he named numerous neo-cons and the U.S. Committee for a Free Lebanon.