|Southwest Asia News Digest
Cheney Tour Is Pushing Israeli Strikes Against Iran
May 9 (EIRNS)Arab sources continue to insist that the number-one item on Vice President Dick Cheney's agenda, as he continues his six-day, five-nation tour of the Arab world, is to prepare backing for an Israeli pre-emptive strike against Iran. On May 9, Cheney made an unannounced stop in Baghdad, to confer with Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki and receive a briefing from American military commanders.
While Iraq has been publicly identified by the Bush Administration as the top priority in Cheney's trip, Arab sources pointed out that there is very little for the Vice President to say or do about the Iraq situation, which is rapidly degenerating into a full-scale ethnic-cleansing civil war. The sources emphasized that Saudi Arabia is pouring money and material support into the Sunni tribes in Iraq's western Anbar Province, to encourage them to wipe out the foreign al-Qaeda fighters, before the latter return home to spread instability throughout the Persian Gulf and North Africaas happened at the close of the Afghanistan War in 1989. Arab sources emphasized today that the Saudis will not halt this activity, no matter what the Vice President says to King Abdullah. In effect, the Saudis are feeding the Sunni insurgency, through the overlap between the Sunni tribes in the western part of the country, and the major Sunni resistance organizations.
Since this is an intractable problem, which the Vice President cannot solve, the Arab sources insisted in interviews today with EIR, that Cheney's message in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Jordan will be: Diplomacy with Iran has failed over the past year to halt Iran's nuclear program, and now it is time to escalate the pressure on the Tehran regime. According to one source, Cheney will also alert the Arab leaders that Israel is preparing contingency plans for strikes against Iranian nuclear sites, and that the United States is prepared to assist the Sunni Arab regimes in countering any retaliation in the event that the Israelis actually launch such attacks.
In an interview with Al Arabiya television, aired on May 9, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, referring to Iran, declared that, "The American President will not abandon the military option, and I believe that we do not want him to do so." While Rice also emphasized that the Bush Administration preferred a diplomatic solution, her words echoed enough of the Cheney sentiments that they will be read as a further indication that the Bush Administration is still looking to depose the regime in Tehran through military action.
Cheney Makes More Threats Against Iran
May 11 (EIRNS)At a time when Lyndon LaRouche has pointed out that Vice President Dick Cheney's influence is declining as the world sees President Bush acting more and more crazy, Cheney issued new threats against Iran on May 11, while standing on the deck of an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.
"With two carrier strike groups in the Gulf, we're sending clear messages to friends and adversaries alike," Cheney said from the USS Stennis, according to a White House transcript. "We'll keep the sea lanes open.... And we'll stand with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating this region."
On May 10, in an interview with Fox News, Cheney warned of nuclear terrorism in a manner reminiscent of his hyping the non-existent Iraq nuclear threat in the months preceding the invasion of Iraq. "The real threat we face today is the possibility of an al-Qaeda cell in the midst of one of our cities armed with a nuclear weapon," Cheney ranted, "and if they ever were to achieve that, and we know they're trying, but if they were ever to pull that off and detonate a nuclear weapon in one of our major cities, it would rival all the casualties we've suffered in all the wars in over 200 years of American history."
"And one of the lessons we learned on 9/11 was that we can't hide behind our oceans and ignore what's going on in the Middle East and be safe and secure; we have to be actively and aggressively involved there," Cheney continued to rave. "We've got to go after the terrorists. We've got to go after states that sponsor terror."
Arab Newspapers Blast Cheney; Some Call for Impeachment
May 7 (EIRNS)As Vice President Cheney embarked on his trip to four Gulf states, he was greeted by an unprecedented blast from leading daily newspapers in the region, which are denouncing him, and even calling for his impeachment.
The strongest attack appeared May 7 in the Saudi daily Al-Hayat, under the title, "I live for the hope of it [impeachment]," by the paper's editor-in-chief and former owner Jihad Al-Khazen. He calls Cheney the "war-party kingpin," and lists the lies he used to start the war against Iraq: "The US Administration did not err in its information about Iraq; it lied intentionally," writes Al-Khazen, citing former Presidential candidate George McGovern: "Cheney and Bush committed more serious impeachable offenses than Nixon, ... and I expect that Cheney and Bush will be forced to resign before 2008." Al-Khazen adds, "I don't expect that, but I demand it, hope for it, and live for it."
Addustour, the semi-official Jordanian daily, published a May 7 article entitled "Cheney: A Dangerous, Wounded Predator," by columnist George Haddad. Haddad lists Cheney's crimes, and emphasizes that "Cheney visited the region before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and again before the Israeli invasion of Lebanon last summer, and the same Cheney is visiting the region now again. This is not so strange, because whenever the vultures hover around, there are blood and victims on the ground." Haddad also blasts Cheney's notion of a "sectarian Sunni alliance" against Iran.
Al-Rai, a Jordanian daily with close ties to the government, published an editorial on May 7 telling Cheney not to harbor any illusions about mobilizing "moderate" Arab states against Iran. "If Dick Cheney is betting in his coming tour in the region on creating an Israeli-Arab alliance against Iran and Syria, then he is definitely harboring great illusions!!" Tarik Masarweh wrote. "The moderate and non-moderate Arab states may not agree with Iran's ambition to create circles loyal to it in the Arab countries, especially in Iraq and the Gulf, but these countries will never accept the U.S. hegemonic schemes."
On May 10, Al-Khaleej, published in the Emirate of Sharjah, editorially ridiculed Cheney for attempting to solve a problem he created without admitting that it is a problem. "Cheney arrived in Baghdad on a surprise visit hoping to create a breakthrough, to release some of the pressure the U.S. Administration is facing in Washington. As for how he is going to do that, his methods seem to be at the least a blind and a desperate attempt to get out of the quagmire. He, as a fanatic on the war issue, wants to fly forward from the only solution, which is a scheduled withdrawal from Iraq, into more use of force, more pressure on the Iraqis, and more pressure on everyone close to Iraq or far from Iraq,' the editorial said.
Al-Khaleej points to the real intentions of Cheney: "Cheney wants to rationalize the occupation of Iraq through agreements with the Iraqi factions. He is intending to force laws on Iraq that would allow U.S. oil companies, for whom he is the leading representative, to take over Iraq's energy resources. He also wants the Iraqi economy to become subordinate to American companies, or companies of other countries who are working from beneath to prolong the occupation." This latter hint is an unmistakable reference to the British government. But, Al-Khaleej warns, "These moves violate the essence of national sovereignty, and no Iraqi faction will accept that. The UAE daily concludes: "After having bloodied the Iraqi nation and destroyed their country, this man has only one right choice to make, and that is to listen to the demands of all the people of the world: the time for a timetable for withdrawal has come."
Iran Offers Washington an 'Exit Strategy' from Iraq
May 9 (EIRNS)Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said, in an interview with the Financial Times, picked up by IRNA, that America and Iran had the "same interests" in stabilizing Iraq, and that direct talks which might develop a "face-saving withdrawal" would be possible if Washington demonstrated good will. Araghchi said that Iran sought a common approach to the future of Iraq, together with Iraq's other neighbors and "foreign forces," i.e., the occupying powers. "Their invasion was a disasterlet there not be a disastrous withdrawal," he said. "Yes, immediate withdrawal could lead to chaos, civil war. No one is asking for immediate withdrawal of foreign forces. But there should be a plan."
The U.S. presence, he said, was the problem. "Iraq is suffering a vicious cycle. There are foreign forces who have occupied Iraq and justify their presence under the pretext of the 'war on terror,' and there are terrorists who claim they are fighting occupiers." He said the results of the conference at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt were positive, pointing to the four principles seen as acceptable to Iraq's neighbors: support for the Baghdad government, greater authority for the government in "politics, economics, and especially security"; support for the Iraqi army and police; and help for reconstruction.
Iran has often said there is no solution to the Iraq crisis without active Iranian involvement, but this is the most advanced public statement made of Tehran's offer to help. Iranian sources have told EIR what they believe the solution for Iraq requires: The U.S. should first decrease its military and political role. It should rebuild the Iraqi military, integrating some of the past officers, who were thrown out under the disastrous "de-Ba'athification" program. The U.S. could help train, equip, and provide information to the Iraqis, but should not be in a command or managerial position. The U.S. should let the neighboring countries help more.
Araghchi rejected U.S. charges that Iran was arming Iraqi insurgents. He said, "They should stop blaming others for problems they have themselves created. In fact, the number of weapons that have come into Iran from Iraq is high, as you can see by reading the crime pages of Iranian newspapers. Terrorist groups as well as criminals see Iraq as an opportunity." He referred to U.S. support for the terrorist Mujahedin-e-Khalq, MKO/MEK, the Iranian group under U.S. "protection" in Iraq, and Pejak, an Iranian Kurdish faction linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), based in northern Iraq. He added that Iran saw U.S. and British links to terrorists in Iran's southeast province of Sistan-Baluchestan and in Khuzestan in the southwest. He also said Iran would never give up its nuclear program.
Fallon Moves To De-Escalate Confrontation in Gulf
May 7 (EIRNS)The USS Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group has left the Persian Gulf in advance of the arrival of the USS Nimitz, according to wire reports. The Nimitz will join the USS Stennis, which has been on patrol since February. This was a welcome relief to many who feared that there could potentially have been three carrier groups in the narrow Persian Gulf at one time, a situation clearly designed to provoke conflict with Iran. Sources have confirmed to EIR that the departure of the Eisenhower is part of a conscious effort by new CENTCOM commander Admiral William J. Fallon to de-escalate the confrontational stance of the U.S. in the Persian Gulf, something that Lyndon LaRouche said is "sure to draw a nasty reaction" from the circles of Vice President Dick Cheney.
Rice Cancels Israel-Palestinian Trip
May 8 (EIRNS)The State Department announced on May 7 that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is postponing a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories which had been planned to take place on her way to Moscow, for a meeting set for May 14-15.
A source from the office of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Israel Radio that Rice's move was unprecedented. This source said that the cancellation will be seen in the region as reflecting Washington's belief that there is no way to advance the peace process at the moment, due to turmoil in Israel. The source claimed the crisis caused by the Winograd report on the Israel-Lebanon War as the reason.
Iraqi Parliament to Bush and Blair: Time To Go!
May 10 (EIRNS)More than half the members of the Iraq Parliament signed a draft petition on May 8 calling on the U.S. to set a timetable for withdrawal. The petition, which is non-binding, was sponsored by the Shi'ite nationalist Al Sadr movement. AP reported today that a spokesman for the movement says he has presented the petition to the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, and demanded that a binding measure be put to a vote. Iraqi law mandates such a response to a legislative petition, but a May 9 blog-article by AlterNet.org (re-posted by truthout.com) says there are significant loopholes in the law which make it unclear what will happen next.