|Southwest Asia News Digest
Israel and Palestine: An exclusive interview in this week's InDepth with former Israeli Cabinet Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami provides a first-hand look at how a leading Israeli is seeking peace.
Former U.S. Commander in Iraq Warns vs. Sectarian Manipulation
Speaking with EIR on Dec. 1, Gen. Jay Garner (ret.), who headed up the first postwar reconstruction mission to Iraq, before being replaced by Paul Bremer, decried any attempt to play a "Sunni card": "Any attempt by the U.S. to line up with the Sunni or Shi'a side would be one hell of a dangerous thing to do," Garner said. He noted that the U.S. problem had been its wavering back and forth between, first, the Shi'as, then the Sunnis, with the net result that "no one really knows what we're up to."
Garner expressed the belief that it would be well-nigh impossible to get a central government that would really be in control. At the same time, he opposed any attempts to divide the country, calling rather for a "stronger regionalization where real power was being wielded by known local leaders, but within the framework of a national entity. The only precondition for that would be an arrangement by which the oil revenues would be shared among the regions." He admitted that even that solution would result in some bloodletting within the regions. "But, hell, it couldn't be worse than it is now," he said.
On a more rational note, he called for a "Marshall Plan" for rebuilding the economy. "But tell the contractors involved that they are required to take at least 49% of their workforce from the Iraqi population." Recently at a conference on the Middle East, Garner had also suggested that "we take a page out of Roosevelt's CCC in order to get the kids into jobs."
King Abdullah: Israel-Palestine Peace Key to Region
Prior to his meeting with President George W. Bush on Nov. 26, Jordan's King Abdullah presented a horrifying picture of the Arab region in a Nov. 26 interview on ABC's This Week. King Abdullah, who also met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, told the American audience that there are potentially three civil wars in the Middle East region: Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon. He put the priority on settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to prevent the entire situation from spiraling out of control.
"I know people will say that there are several core problems in the Middle East," Abdullah said. "Obviously, the closest to American minds, because of your commitments of soldiers, is Iraq. But for the majority of us living in this part of the world, it has always been the Israeli-Palestinian, the Israeli-Arab problem. And I fear that if we do not use the next couple of months to really be able to push the process forward, I don't believe that there will be anything to talk about."
Hamas Leader Gives Israel Six Months To Reach Two-State Settlement
Khaled Mashaal, the head of Hamas, who resides in Damascus, Syria, concluded three days of talks with Egyptian officials in Cairo, and gave the Israeli government a six-month deadline to reach a settlement with the Palestinians or face a third intifada, reported U.S. wire services on Nov. 25. Mashaal said that a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 borders should be the outcome of talks, as specified by the Palestinian national dialogue.
This represents a sign that Hamas's most militant leader could give Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas backing to negotiate an agreement with Israelbut within a six-month deadline. Mashaal said that so far, there have been no decisive breakthroughs on a formation of a national unity cabinet, or a final deal to free the Israeli soldier being held by Hamas. Associated Press reported that Mashaal balked at a government of "technocrats," demanding that the parties with the popular support of the Palestinian voters be represented in the cabinet.
Cordesman to White House, Pentagon: Stop Lying About Iraq
In the latest of his periodic reports on the situation in Iraq, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) senior analyst Anthony Cordesman on Nov. 27 blasted the Bush Administration for persistently exaggerating and misrepresenting the training and readiness of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). In fact, Cordesman said, "No strategy that hinges largely on the successful development of the ISF can possibly succeed."
However, it is exactly that policy"when they stand up, we stand down"which is the only one that the Bush Administration has identified.
And in a slap at the "democracy" rhetoric of the administration, Cordesman said that: "Legitimacy does not consist of determining how governments are chosen, but in how well they serve the day-to-day needs of their people."
As to the Iraqi forces, Cordesman said that it's difficult to gauge progress, "because so much U.S. reporting grossly exaggerates progress, ignores or understates real-world problems, and promises unrealistic timelines."
The report, entitled, "Iraqi Force Development and the Challenge of Civil War," concludes, "To put it bluntly, the U.S. government and the Department of Defense must stop lying about the true nature of Iraqi readiness and the Iraqi force development."
Democrats Demand Bush Appoint Special Envoy For Iraq
At a Nov. 30 press conference in Washington, Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) released a letter that he and Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev), Dick Durbin (D-Ill), Carl Levin (D-Mich), and Jay Rockefeller (D-WVa) had sent to President Bush, calling for a special envoy to be appointed for Iraq to deal with sectarian violence. Reed's co-signers are respectively the incoming Senate Majority Leader and Whip, and the new chairmen of the Armed Services and Intelligence Committees.
The analysis presented by Reed does not differ at all from the much-repeated empty phrases of top Bush Administration officials, such as Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this past July. Like Khalilzadwho is reportedly trying to leave the Iraq post as soon as possibleReed says that the Iraqi government must disband the militias, and begin providing services to the public to gain their support; it must also work for all communities in the government of the country.
Reed said that a "high-ranking special envoy to work with the Iraqi government" is necessary because Bush has little time to come up with some means of improving the out-of-control situation in Iraq.
EIR suggests that asking Bush to appoint a special envoy at this point, is both ridiculous and naive. Two distinguished special envoys to the Palestinian AuthorityGen. Anthony Zinni (USMC, ret.), and former World Bank head James Wolfensohnboth quit in disgust with the failure of the White House to back their efforts on behalf of peace process and humanitarian aid.