|Southwest Asia News Digest
Cheney Will Push Israeli Strikes Against Iran
May 6 (EIRNS)Vice President Dick Cheney is scheduled to depart May 8 for a six-day tour of four key Middle Eastern nations, and senior intelligence sources in the United States and the region believe that the top item on the Veep's agenda will be a military confrontation with Iran. According to one leading Arab analyst, due to intensive opposition within the United States military, diplomatic, and intelligence communities, Cheney will press for an Israelirather than U.S.attack on Iran, ostensibly over Iran's refusal to shut down its nuclear enrichment program. Once such an Israeli strike is launched, Cheney and his backers reason, Congressional and public opposition to a showdown with Tehran will evaporate, and the United States will step in to back Israel.
Other sources who share this evaluation have pointed to a number of recent developments, highlighting the preparations for a war against Iran. The Bush Administration has, in recent months, provided Israel with "smart" bombs and the latest generation Patriot anti-missile batteries. Furthermore, in an interview with the April 28 edition of the German magazine Focus, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was quoted, warning that Israel had the capacity to launch 1,000 cruise-missile strikes against Iranian targets over a ten-day period.
Last month, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Washington, where he conferred privately with Cheney, and then addressed the annual Washington, D.C. convention of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee). In his speech to the Israeli lobby group, Netanyahu equated Iran with Nazi Germany in 1938, and vowed that Israel would strike Iran before the Islamic Republic obtained the capability to build a nuclear weapon. In the wake of the Winograd Commission interim report, strongly criticizing the Olmert government's handling of the Summer 2006 Lebanon War, Netanyahu has launched a drive to unseat Olmert through a vote of no confidence in the Knesset, and return to power. So far, according to Washington and Israeli sources, Netanyahu is at least five Knesset votes short of the required 61 needed to replace Olmert. Polls in Israel show that, were there to be early elections, a Netanyahu-led right-wing coalition would win.
Cheney's six-day trip will take him to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Egypt. All four countries are Sunni allies of the United States, which have been under pressure from Cheney and National Security Council Middle East director Elliott Abrams, to ally with Israel in a political-military coalition against Iran, since Cheney's November 2006 visit to Riyadh.
LaRouche on Arab Peace Plan: Don't Lose Optimism in a Crisis
May 5 (EIRNS)Egyptian Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit said the Israeli government is too weak to move on the Arab peace initiative because of the ongoing government crisis, and the calls for the resignation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "Do you think that the Israelis are in a position to receive anybody? Of course not," Aboul Gheit is quoted by Associated Press. Gheit was speaking following a meeting on May 4, held on the sidelines of the Cairo Iraq Stabilization Conference with the Quartet of Middle East mediators, including U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana, and EU External Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, as well as many Arab ministers.
Lyndon LaRouche, briefed on Gheit's pessimistic statement, said it was "too general to say that they can't act because of the crisis in Israel." He pointed out that although that entire section of the world is not functioning right now, "it is often in such a crisis that people will do things that they would never do under normal circumstances. Even the U.S. is now trying to find a way out from under the consequences of its own mistakes. The factor of uncertainty can be decisive in making things happen. I maintain my optimism in such a crisis."
Behind the Winograd Report: Cheney-Netanyahu Still Lusting for War
May 4 (EIRNS)In the April 6, 2007 issue of EIR, Lyndon LaRouche cautioned that the prominent role of Saudi National Security Advisor Prince Bandar bin-Sultan, the long-time Saudi ambassador in Washington and ally of Dick Cheney, led him to view the Arab League summit outcome with great reservation. Given the forces driving for war, in both London and Washington, the actions at the summit were hardly a check on the war drive, LaRouche warned.
Key to LaRouche's cautionary warning is a report on Benjamin Netanyahu's latest moves, that received by LaRouche and published in EIR, which said:
"Well-placed Israeli sources within the Kadima ruling coalition party have also warned EIR that former Likud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is making serious political moves to return to power, and that he has assured Vice President Cheney that, if he takes over again, he will be prepared to launch military strikes against both Iran and Syria, in full coordination with Washington.
"The sources warned that within weeks, the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is likely to fall. Sometime in the second half of April, the Winograd Commission, appointed last September by Olmert to probe the disastrous July 2006 war in Lebanon, will issue an interim report. The report will focus on the roles of Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, and former Chief of Staff Gen. Dan Halutz in the military fiasco. The Winograd Commission is widely expected to call for Peretz's resignation as Defense Minister, and to trigger such a deep crisis that Olmert will be forced out.
"According to an April 1 Jewish Telegraph Agency wire, Likud chief Netanyahu is already negotiating with Kadima Knesset members to back his move to stage a no-confidence vote. With 61 votes, Netanyahu would claim the premiership, or call for early elections.
"The Israeli source reports about renewed Netanyahu-Cheney collusion are unquestionably true. On March 12, Netanyahu was in Washington for the annual convention of AIPAC. He used the occasion to hold a private behind-closed-doors meeting with the Vice President, the content of which, according to the Israeli source, was a deal to hit Iran.
"In his brief speech at AIPAC, Netanyahu resumed the theme of his 2006 speech: It is 1938, and Iran is Germany. Netanyahu railed that the entire world is 'imperiled' by Iran's quest for a nuclear bomb. 'Ahmadinejad is going for genocide, and we have to stop genocide,' Bibi screamed, to roaring applause from the crowd. And, in a not-so-veiled threat of Israeli attacks against Iranian sites, Netanyahu continued, 'no one will protect the Jews if the Jews don't protect themselves.'"
On April 30, the Winograd Commission (named for retired Israeli Judge Eliyahu Winograd) released its report, charging gross incompetence in the Olmert government's "rush to war" in Lebanon, and the evaluation from Israel-based intelligence sources that was published in the above-cited April 6 issue of EIR was substantially confirmed.
Winograd Report: Lebanon War a Catastrophe for Israel
The Winograd Commission report on the Lebanon War confirmedas LaRouche stated while the Israeli invasion was ongoingthat for Israel, the attack, goaded on from London and Washington, was a catastrophe. But, utterly lacking from the report, apparently, is that the pressure from the Bush-Cheney White House was to launch that war, and that the Cheney crowd's real goal was to hit Syria, in order to create a war "emergency" in time for the 2006 Congressional election.
On Olmert, the report says he "is responsible for failing to clearly set out the aims of the war," and those aims adopted "were ambitious, and were not within reach."
On Defense Minister Amir Peretz, Winograd said "he took decisions without consultation, and didn't give enough weight to contrary views. He failed to fulfill his role, and he didn't act out on the basis of a strategic plan. He didn't demand or examine the army's plans. He didn't check the methods of the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces], its plans, and its set targets."
As for then-IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, who had been appointed by former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Winograd charged, "His personal involvement in government decisions was dominant. He was not ready for the kidnapping [of Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah]. He acted impulsively. The chief of staff's culpability is made more severe in light of the fact that he knew that the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister had no experience, and his claim that the army was ready and had a plan."
U.S. Army Admits: Iraq War Driving Soldiers Crazy
May 5 (EIRNS)On May 4, the U.S. Army released its fourth Mental Health Advisory Team report, this one based on surveys of soldiers taken in Iraq in August and September of 2006. The report showed what any mental health professional would say: extended and repeated deployments are taking a psychological toll on soldiers.
Unlike previous MHAT reports, this one also included Marines, 447 of them, along with 1,320 Army soldiers, and discovered that the Marines have fewer mental-health issues and morale problems than do soldiers, probably because their tours are only seven months compared to now 15 months for the Army. Those who have deployed multiple times reported "higher acute stress" and marital concerns than those on their first deployments.
The report, for the first time, included questions on battlefield ethics, and found that 10% of soldiers and Marines reported mistreating non-combatants, either through physical abuse or unnecessary damaging of property. Less than half agreed that non-combatants should be treated with respect. Acting Army Surgeon General Maj. Gen. Gale Pollock tried to put a positive spin on this ethical problem, by claiming that the low percentage is actually proof of how well soldiers and Marines follow orders, rather than considering that it might be evidence of a burgeoning problem.
The most important recommendation made in the MHAT report is that the amount of "dwell" timethe time units spend at their home stationshould be increased to 18 to 36 months, rather than the 12, or sometimes fewer, that has been typical of Army units, in order to give soldiers more time to "reset mentally."