|Southwest Asia News Digest
Cheney's Plans for Sunni Alliance Exposed Throughout the Gulf
Dick Cheney's strategy was probably buried by Dec. 6, the date of the press conference by the Baker-Hamilton Commission, thanks to the intervention of Lyndon LaRouche, which began with the circulation of an EIR memo by Jeffrey Steinberg on Cheney's visit to Riyadh, released on Nov. 27. The Arabic version of Steinberg's memo is still circulating, even among the most extreme Wahabi (Saudi-backed Sunni faction) groups. It is spreading confusion too, among those who were for an assault on Shi'ite Iran.
The text was published on Dec. 3, in Al-Wasat, the major Bahraini daily sponsored by the Shi'a majority in the country. The paper was, until Dec. 1, the "opposition" paper. But, since the Shi'a alliance won a majority in the House of Representatives, it is probably going to be part of the government.
The same text appeared on Iraqi websites supporting the Sunni insurgency. Interesting is the spread of the memo in Saudi and other Gulf discussion groups and blogs on the Internet. Due to the restriction on publications and free speech, Arab youth and dissident groups, even armed groups, use the Internet intensively. Some of these blogs have published the text of Steinberg's memo in Arabic, creating much debate about who is running the policy of the Saudi Kingdom. Those who are British agents expose themselves by supporting Cheney's plans. Others feel forced to denounce the whole thing, calling on the Saudi government to break with that policy.
After receiving the Arabic text by fax, a Saudi diplomatic representative in Europe contacted EIR-Arabic, asking for more information and ways of staying informed on these developments.
UN General Assembly Passes Six Resolutions on Palestine
On Dec. 1, the UN General Assembly passed six resolutions supporting the Palestinians and calling for the formation of a Palestinian state, the Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported Dec. 2. The key resolution, titled the "Peaceful Settlement of the Question of Palestine," welcomed the Nov. 26 ceasefire and urged both sides to maintain the truce, which it said paves the way for negotiations toward a resolution to the conflict.
Other resolutions called on Israel to withdraw from the Palestinian territories, and declared illegal any attempt by Israel as an occupying power to impose its laws, jurisdiction, and administration on Jerusalem, and therefore null and void, calling on it to cease such illegal and unilateral actions.
The key resolution passed 157-7 with 10 abstentions. The usual gang of seven opposers included the U.S., Israel, Australia, and the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, and Palau.
Shi'ite Leader Al-Hakim Rejects Sunni-Shi'a Conflict
In response to a question from EIR on the danger of a regional Sunni-Shi'a conflict, Sayyed Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim, the president of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), played down the danger of any long-term sectarian strife in Iraq. Al-Hakim was on a visit to Washington, where he met President Bush. "As it is proven, there are strong ties between the different components of the Iraqi people," he said. "We have never known conflict between these components. The goal of the terrorists and Saddamists since the bombing of the Samarra mosque has been to foment a war between the Sunnis and the Shi'as. They declared it in 2003. They didn't want to reveal that they were waging war against the Iraqi people, so they portrayed it as being against the Shi'as," Al-Hakim said. "This sectarian violence has been rejected by all the ulema, as well as by all the political forces in the country. We are working on different paths, issuing fatwahs against violence. We are also acting to garner support from the regional powers and have initiated a reconciliation process within Iraq."
Al-Hakim, took EIR's question on Dec. 5, after delivering a lecture at Catholic University in Washington, on "Freedom and Tolerance in Shi'a Islam and the Future of Iraq."
Speaking on Dec. 1 at a Friday sermon at a Sunni mosque in Jordan (an unusual occurrence), Al-Hakim also spurned the idea of a Shi'a-Sunni conflict, and warned that "The eruption of a sectarian war will not only burn everyone, but it will also undermine the security of the entire region and lead to the unknown." He stressed, "We are attached to unity for Iraq and its people."
But, before he arrived in the U.S., someone attempted to set up Al-Hakim in the Shi'a-Sunni conflict scenario, by distorting his comments in Jordan. Iran Daily reported Dec. 2 that Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiyya had quoted Hakim saying that in the event of civil war, Iraq's Sunnis would be the big losers. Hakim immediately denied these quotes. Tehran Times reported that the misquotes originated from the Jordanian royal palace, following Hakim's meeting with King Abdullah II on Nov. 29.
Ahmadinejad in Qatar Counters Cheney Gambit vs. Iran
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in Qatar for the opening of the 15th Asian Games, and met with Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, particularly about the dangers of an anti-Shi'ite, anti-Iranian coalition, i.e., the Cheney-Rice gambit, reported Iran News Nov. 30. After discussing plans for enhancing economic cooperation, Sheikh al-Thani stated: "All regional countries should make efforts to prevent division and strife between Shi'as and Sunnis in Iraq, because this [war] is what the enemies want." He added, "Qatar not only will not support moves against Iran, but also it will do its utmost to block the implementation of such moves."
At the same time, Ahmadinejad sent an envoy to Abu Dhabi, U.A.E., to deliver a message to President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Aoun Denounces Anti-Syrian Propaganda as Cynical Game
In an interview published Dec. 4 in the French newspaper, Le Parisien, which had intimated that former Lebanese President Michel Aoun had made a deal with Syria, Aoun replied, "When I was in exile in France, every time I spoke against the Syrian occupation [of Lebanon], France would remind me of my reserve obligation. During those 15 years, the international community (including France and the U.S.A.) considered Syria as a factor of stability for Lebanon. It is this cynical policy which pushed many Lebanese political figures" to turn toward Damascus.
To another question on whether his alliance with Hezbollah is "against nature," he said, "Not at all. The media demonize Hezbollah, which represents 30% of the Lebanese people." He stressed that in the "Entente memorandum" signed between his movement (CPL) and Hezbollah, both forces "call for redrawing of the borders between Lebanon and Syria, for the freedom of Lebanese prisoners held in Syria, for the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries, the rejection of any return to Syrian tutorship, and the return of Lebanese refugees in Israel. We agree with Hezbollah on the need for creating a modern state favoring the emergence of a civilian society limiting the influence of sectarian sentiments." General Aoun has let it be known that he does not wish to be called a "Christian" leader.
Saudi Embassy Fires Author of 'Arm the Sunnis' Piece.
Nawaf Obaid's consulting contract with the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington has been cancelled, the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., Prince Turki al-Faisal, announced on CNN Dec. 3. Obaid was dismissed in order to distance the Saudi government from Obaid's Nov. 29 article in the Washington Post, which threatened that Saudi Arabia would intervene to arm the Sunni population in Iraq, were the United States to withdraw its troops. "To be sure," Obaid had written, "Saudi engagement in Iraq carries great risks: it could spark a regional war. So be it: The consequences of inaction are far worse."
"[I]n order ... to make sure that nobody misunderstands where Saudi Arabia and the Embassy stand on that issue, we terminated our consultancy with [Obaid]," Prince Turki said. The cancellation comes in the wake of the heat created by EIR's Nov. 27 memorandum on Cheney's trip to Riyadh (see above item).
Iran To Replace Dollar with Euro in Foreign Trade
On Dec. 5, Iranian Finance Minister Davud Danesh-Jafari announced that the euro will replace the dollar in foreign trade, saying, "Such an inclination has been an underlying part of our economic policy for a while, and our Oil Stabilization Fund (OSF) in dollars is at its lowest now." An Iranian source in Tehran told EIR that the move has to be seen in light of the U.S. financial sanctions against Iran, whereby many banks, including Credit Suisse, have cut Iran's bank accounts. The U.S. "will not sell us dollars any more, so that's why the euro will be used, not because [the Iranian government] wanted to," the source explained.
Arab League Head Backs Baker-Hamilton Report
Arab League president Amr Moussa spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington on Dec. 7, following his meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Moussa focussed on the recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group (ISG), saying, "The region is awash with questions about the Baker-Hamilton report, and the situation in Iraq.... It is a major step forward to have this report. It has very sound recommendations. The situation in Iraq is deteriorating very rapidly."
Moussa announced that he is organizing a meeting of the Arab League at the ministerial level, to take place in Baghdad in the near future, which "goes together" with the ISG recommendations, and "with the potentials of the neighbors of Iraq." He added that he hopes to have the Arab League provide the auspices for a conference on Iraqi national reconciliation, also in Baghdad.