|Southwest Asia News Digest
Behind the British Fiasco in the Persian Gulf
In the aftermath of the release of 15 British sailors and marines by the Iranian government on April 4, a hue and cry has arisen from military circles in the United States and abroad over the apparent colossal failures and unprofessionalism of the British Naval forces, during the engagement with the Iranian Navy, and while the 15 Britons were in Iranian custody. The controversy was further fueled on April 6, when six of the captives gave a press conference upon their safe return to Britain, and complained about the conditions they were subjected to and the harsh interrogation methods, which led several to issue statements to the Iranian government, admitting they had trespassed in Iranian waters and offering their apologies.
The 15 British sailors and marines were captured by the Iranians as they completed a search of a merchant ship headed for an Iranian port. Normally, such a search would involve helicopter air cover and monitoring of the area by the sophisticated British Naval frigate from which the sailors and marines had been dispatched. According to one U.S. intelligence source, 80 such searches have been conducted in the area by the British Navy over the past 12-month period. As American military experts told EIR, there is no plausible explanation for the failure of the British sailors and the captain and crew of the frigate to follow the most basic procedures for such a search.
The behavior of the British captives, based on their own accounts, was equally baffling. They complained of aggressive interrogation techniques, of being "fooled" by the Iranians into issuing the confessions, and of being held in isolation under harsh conditions. As several U.S. military sources reported, every soldier, sailor, and marine goes through basic POW training, and is drilled on procedures in the event of capture. From that standpoint, everything the Iranians did was totally predictable.
Lyndon LaRouche noted "a smell of real cowardice by the British forces, and what appears to be a lack of training." The idea that there was no close cover for the search party is also "stunning," LaRouche added. "This begs all kinds of questions that I am not in a position to answer."
Whatever the actual explanation for this performance, LaRouche concluded that it casts the Blair government in a most pathetic light. LaRouche also warned that the incident could embolden hardline factions in Tehran, who may misread the implications of the affair, and thus increase the danger of a confrontation with the United States, which has its own war party," centered around Vice President Dick Cheney, which makes no secret of the fact that they are looking for a pretext to bomb Iran.
Cheney Running Terrorist Operations Against Iran
ABC's "Nightline" reported April 3 that the U.S. is advising and supporting a Baluchi guerrilla organization, Jundullah, which is running raids into Iran from Pakistan, killing and capturing Iranian military and intelligence personnel. It was Jundullah, for example, which claimed responsibility for the February attack on a bus in Zahedan, Iran, in which members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard were killed. The group's leader, Abd el Malik Regi, has posted videos on the Internet showing him killing Iranians.
Regi is described as "part drug smuggler, part Taliban, and part Sunni activist" by Nixon Center senior fellow Alexis Debat. Vali Nasr, an expert on Shi'ite Islam and a professor at the Navy Postgraduate School, compares this to U.S. support for the Afghan Mujaheddin, out of which al-Qaeda emerged.
Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh reported, in a widely noted article titled, "The Redirection," in the March 5 New Yorker, what EIR had already been advised by intelligence sources, viz., that the Bush-Cheney Administration was conducting a reorientation of its Middle East policy into support of Sunni groups and governments against Iran, and Shi'ites in general. Hersh also reported that this involved cooperation with al-Qaeda sympathizers in covert operations aimed at Iran, and he specified that Vice President Dick Cheney was running the clandestine side of the these operations.
Citing Pakistani and U.S. intelligence sources, "Nightline" reported that the U.S. funds Jundallah indirectly, through Iranian exiles, to avoid legal requirements for a Presidential "finding" and Congressional oversight. "Nightline" also reported that Cheney specifically discussed the Jundallah operation when he met with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in February.
Other sources have told EIR that Musharraf refused Cheney's request to expand the Jundullah operationsone of a number of reasons for which the Bush Administration is reportedly withdrawing its protection for Musharraf.
Arabic Press Increasingly Cites LaRouche
On April 5, the leading Saudi daily Asharq Alaswat published on its website an article by LaRouche associate Hussein Askary debunking an op-ed by World Bank chairman Paul Wolfowitz which called for political "action" on supposed man-made climate change. There has been increasing coverage of LaRouche in Arabic press lately. This includes:
* In March, just days before the Riyadh Summit of the Arab League, the electronic daily Dunia Alwatan, connected to Fatah, published a lengthy article on LaRouche by Imad Fathi Shammut, entitled, "LaRouche exposes the Iraq war scandal and the collapse of the US economy."
* On April 4, the Jordanian daily Al-Ghad discussed the failure of U.S. policy in Iraq on the fourth anniversary of the invasion, concluding with a lengthy and accurate summary of LaRouche's view, concluding, "It is not about conquering land, but the elimination of all the remnants of the sovereign nation-state, the reduction of the world population...."
* On March 31, in Al-Shaab daily of Cairo, Dr. Farghal, senior Islamic scholar and former professor at Al-Azhar, quoted LaRouche similarly.
* Meanwhile, LaRouche's Arab-language website, nysol.se/arabic, is posting a pamphlet on the genocidal roots of the global warming madness. The article/leaflet on the IPCC's CO2 fraud has already been posted.
Cheney Slams Pelosi, While Arabs Slam Cheney
During the week of April 1, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) led a Congressional delegation on a tour of Southwest Asia which took her to Israel, the Palestinian National Authority, Lebanon, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. These efforts to conduct a dialogue in the service of peace were denounced by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. By contrast, Pelosi and the other members of Congress were welcomed with open arms by their Arab hosts. Arab News, the leading news agency of Saudi Arabia, praised Pelosi for "building bridges" for peace while Bush's policy is a "treacherous wreck."
In an April 5 interview with Rush Limbaugh, Cheney denounced Pelosi's announcement that she had delivered to Syrian President Assad a message of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that Israel was prepared to discuss peace.
"Well, I think, clearly, she stimulated a reaction out of the Israelis. Prime Minister Olmert immediately made it clear that she was not authorized to make any such offer to Bashir Assad," Cheney said. "It was a non-statement, a nonsensical statement.... I think it is, in fact, bad behavior on her part. I wish she hadn't done it, but she is the Speaker of the House, and fortunately I think the various parties involved recognize she doesn't speak for the United States in those circumstances. She doesn't represent the Administration. The President is the one that conducts foreign policy, not the Speaker of the House."
Meanwhile, Pelosi held direct talks with Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, with whom she discussed the situation in Iraq and the long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process on April 4. Pelosi later spoke before the Shoura Council, Saudi Arabia's 150-member advisory body, where she praised the constructive role that Saudi Arabia has been playing in finding solutions to the region's problems, and the Arab peace initiative, recently endorsed by the Arab League summit. Pelosi also met with Interior Minister Prince Naif, but details of the talks were not made public.
While praising Pelosi's efforts at constructive dialogue, the editorial comment in the April 6 Arab News slammed the Bush Administration. Pointing up the absurdity of Bush's "stinging criticism" of her visit to Syria, the paper stated, "He cannot abide the fact that Pelosi, the third-most senior official in the U.S., refuses to dance to his tune. Not that his tune is anything other than a shrill cacophony." Pelosi's visit, the paper goes on, seems to have "built bridges with Damascus and laid the grounds for possible renewed peace talks between it and the Israelis. Bush, however, doesn't seem interested. He keeps his head firmly stuck in the sand, willfully ignoring the reality that without Syria there is no chance of a Middle Peace settlement." Pointing to the absurdity for the Republicans to claim Pelosi has undermined Administration policy, the Arab News declares there is nothing to undermine in his policies: "They are all a wreck. Bush has the opposite of a Midas touch in the Middle East: Everything he handles turns from a potential golden opportunity into a treacherous liability. Yet when someone tries to bring some common sense back into the U.S.'s Middle East thinking, the White House takes umbrage. It shows how far the Bush Administration has lost the plot in the Middle East."
U.S. Troops Take the Brunt of Casualties from 'Surge'
As predicted, U.S. soldiers are suffering twice as many casualties in February and March as Iraqi troops, despite the fact that they are better armed and trained. In March, 81 U.S. soldiers and marines were killed, compared to 44 Iraqi Defense, Interior, and Health Ministry forces. Data compiled by several ministries put civilian deaths in March at 1,861, compared with 1,645 in February, an increase of 13%. U.S. diplomats say violence in Baghdad has fallen by 25%.