|Southwest Asia News Digest
Cheney's Lies on Iran-Taliban Ties Blown
June 12 (EIRNS)Two high-ranking U.S. officials have punched holes in the lie, perpetrated by Vice President Dick Cheney, that Iran has been supplying the Taliban in Afghanistan with weapons. An article by Garth Porter, "Cheney's Iran-Arms-to-Taliban Gambit Rebuffed," and posted on antiwar.com June 12, reports that Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Dan McNeill, have both denounced these lies.
Porter writes that the allegations have been spread by articles quoting "senior officials," in the Cheney camp, to present Iran as pro-Taliban. He cites the Guardian of May 22, which quoted an anonymous U.S. official forecasting an "Iranian-orchestrated summer offensive in Iraq, linking al-Qaeda and Sunni insurgents to Tehran's Shi'a militia allies" and referring to the alleged "Iran-al-Qaeda linkup" as "very sinister."
Other coverage with the same spin came from CNN May 30, the Washington Post June 3, and on ABC News June 6. ABC reported that "NATO officials" said they had "caught Iran red-handed, shipping heavy arms, C4 explosives, and advanced roadside bombs to the Taliban for use against NATO forces." This referred to vehicles found with Iranian-made weapons, though no connection to Iranian personnel was made.
Gates and McNeill denied the reports. Gates told a press conference on June 4, "We do not have any information about whether the government of Iran is supporting this, is behind it, or whether it's smuggling, or exactly what is behind it." McNeill told Jim Loney of Reuters on June 5, "When you say 'weapons being provided by Iran,' that would suggest there is some more formal entity involved in getting these weapons here. That's not my view at all."
The most likely explanation is that drug smugglers are purchasing weapons in Iran.
Porter notes that, "The combination of anonymous statements by administration officials and the dismissal of the charge by the commander in the field contrasts sharply with the Bush Administration's claims that Iran was sending armor-piercing IEDs to Shi'ite militias in Iraq last January and February. Those accusations, which were never backed up with specific evidence, were made publicly by Bush himself, the State Department, and the U.S. military command in Baghdad. The fact that the officials making the accusation about Iran and Afghanistan are unwilling to go on the record, and the refusal of Gates and McNeill to go along with it, suggests an effort by Cheney and his allies in the administration to do an 'end run' around the official policy by conjuring up a region-wide Iranian offensive against U.S. forces."
Cheney Cabal's Anti-Iran Campaign Has Few Takers in Afghanistan
June 15 (EIRNS)Afghanistan's Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak, who is attending a NATO defense ministers' meeting in Brussels, dismissed U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns' June 13 statement from Paris, that Iran is supplying weapons to the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Defense Minister Wardak told the Associated Press: "Actually, throughout, we have had good relations with Iran and we believe that the security and stability of Afghanistan are also in the interests of Iran."
"There has been evidence of weapons, but it is difficult to link it to Iran," Wardak said. "It is possible that (they) might be from al-Qaida, from the drug mafia or from other sources." On June 13, Burns, pinch-hitting for the Cheney cabal in pushing hostile actions against Iran, told CNN there was "irrefutable evidence" that arms shipments (to the Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan) were coming from Iran 's government.
On the other hand, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who is attending the Brussels meeting, also mentioned the alleged weapons transfers from Iran. "The irony is the Afghan government and the Iranian government have pretty good relationships," Gates told reporters. Gates, who was in Afghanistan last week, said Afghan President Hamid Karzai talked to him about the good relationship between the two countries.
Barak Pledges To Lead Israel in the 'Next War'
June 15 (EIRNS)Just days before the shattering of the Palestinian National Authority (see InDepth for "Cheney Drive for Civil War Succeeding in Gaza Strip"), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert named newly elected Labor Party chairman Ehud Barak as defense minister. This followed a request by Barak, "in light of Hamas's violent take over of the Gaza Strip," according to Ha'aretz.
Olmert and Barak met today, and agreed that, "due to the security situation in the area, Barak should be appointed full-time Defense Minister in a quick proceeding," Ha'aretz reported. Cabinet ministers were contacted by phone, and were asked to approve the former Prime Minister and former chief of general staff of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Barak's appointment is expected to be approved by the Knesset June 18.
"Defense Minister Amir Peretz will resign immediately after the Knesset vote," his office said in a statement. "Until then, he will fulfill his duty as usual. The Jerusalem Post said that Barak had met Peretz, had told him that his place in the Cabinet was not safe, and had demanded that he break up the "socioeconomic camp" in the Labor Party which he initiated at a rally two weeks ago. It was the first meeting between Barak and Peretz in two years. Peretz, who lost the chairmanship of Labor Party, will become a minister without portfolio.
The idea of Barak taking over as Defense Minister was discussed even before the Labor leadership election, and was expected. Barak ran in that race on the line that he is the only one who can lead Israel in the "next war."
Iran-Contra Arms Dealer Arrested in Spain
June 9 (EIRNS)The infamous Syrian arms dealer Monzer Al Kassar and four others were arrested in Spain and Romania following their indictment for conspiracy to sell arms to the Columbian FARC narcoterror group. Al Kassar has been a subject of investigations by EIR for over two decades as one of the key controllers of international terrorism, and drugs and arms running; Al Kassar was part of the Oliver North-led Iran-Contra operation of the 1980s.
On June 8, Al Kassar and his two bodyguards were arrested in Madrid after arriving on a flight from his base in Malaga, in southern Spain. Two other men, Tareq Mousa al Ghazi and Luis Felipe Moreno-Godoy, were arrested in Romania the same day.
According to a report in the International Herald Tribune, a U.S. federal indictment was made public in New York. Agents of the Drug Enforcement Agency, posing as members of the FARC, entrapped the network by proposing an arms deal involving machine guns, rocket grenades, and surface-to-air missiles. They were charged with illegal weapons dealing, conspiracy to kill U.S. officials and citizens, and money laundering. The U.S. will seek Al Kassar's extradition.