|Southwest Asia News Digest
Israel's Peretz To Campaign for Barghouti's Release
April 3 (EIRNS)Former Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz will begin a campaign after Passover (begins April 19), to seek the release of imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, and for holding negotiations with Hamas. Barghouti is in prison for his role in Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation, which Israel calls "terrorism."
In a speech at a meeting of Labor Party activists loyal to him, Peretz said he would visit the families of Barghouti's victims and ask them to publicly press for Barghouti's release.
"I will tell them there is a leader respected by the Palestinian people and we need him out of jail, so he could run the Palestinian Authority together with [Palestinian President] Abu Mazen" (Mahmoud Abbas), Peretz said. "With all the pain I feel for the blood that [they] shed, we need this move to prevent further bloodshed."
Peretz also called for talks with Hamas, "because we need to make peace with all the Palestinians and not just some of them."
Barghouti is the most credible of Palestinian leaders from Fatah. While being among the most nationalist, he is a strong supporter of a peace process between Israel and Palestine. Other leading Labor Party leaders have called for Barghouti's release, including Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer. Both Lyndon LaRouche and former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker III have called for his release as key to a successful peace process.
'Prudent' Syria Reacts to British Design
March 31 (EIRNS)Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem was asked on March 30, if Damascus fears "a U.S. strike against Syria or Iran," if other U.S. efforts fail to isolate Syria. Muallem replied that Damascus is prepared for all scenarios, including the U.S. use of military force. "A prudent person must make all his calculations, especially when we have to deal with an administration which knows how to strike but does not know how to withdraw," Muallem told AFP at the end of the Arab League summit in Damascus. "We hope that this will not happen. We hope for dialogue and an accord in order to avoid more American destruction to our region, and more deaths to the Americans."
Syria, Fearing an Israeli Attack, Mobilizes Reservists
April 2 (EIRNS)The London-based Arabic daily al-Quds al-Arabi reports that Syria is preparing for a possible "comprehensive" attack by Israel. The Syrians cite Israeli media reports and statements by Israeli defense officials as incitement and attempts to prepare the Israeli and global public opinion for a war. The newspaper reports that Syrian forces were conducting extensive military maneuvers and have called up reservists in preparation for an Israeli attack. It has also raised its security alert status, over fears of Israeli infiltration. Over the last week, Syria has stationed three armored divisions, special forces, and nine mechanized infantry divisions opposite Lebanon, as the Syrians estimate that an Israeli ground invasion may take place in the area.
Also, according to Ynet, Syria is expected to release the results of its investigation of the assassination of Hezbollah operative Imad Mugniyah, whom the Hezbollah claimed was assassinated by Israel on the streets of Damascus.
Lebanon Raises Military Alert Status
April 7 (EIRNS)Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora announced on April 4 that the Lebanese Army was being put on a higher alert status, because of fears of a provocation during a five-day Israeli military and civil defense exercise. Siniora urged the Lebanese Army to be alert for any "Israeli violation" of Lebanese borders, and he urged UN peacekeepers "to be careful" that Israel would not use the maneuvers "to launch operations capable to increasing tension."
Lebanese army commander Gen. Michel Suleiman also confirmed that his forces have been put on alert. And the Hezbollah commander in South Lebanon, Nabil Kaouk, said his group was closely monitoring the situation along the border with Israel.
The announcements by Siniora follows similar reports from Syria, that their forces are being put on a higher alert status for fear of an Israeli attack during the Israeli exercise. The real source of apparent tensions in the region can be attributed to the recent tour of the region by Vice President Dick Cheney, who promoted his British-designed plan to attack Iran, Syria, and the Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon.
The Lebanese warnings followed warnings issued by Gen. Claudio Graziano, the commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), that Israel was planning "unprecedented and massive military maneuvers" on April 6, according to a report in YNET. These exercises are part of a week-long civil defense maneuvers which involve various scenarios, including rocket attacks and chemical weapon attacks. Israel has sent messages, via the UN command, to inform the Lebanese government that the exercise will not harm Lebanon or Hezbollah, and will not take place near the border.
Netanyahu Loves Christian Zionists
April 7 (EIRNS)Christian Zionist pastor John Hagee and his "Christians United for Israel, was praised to the skies by Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu during the latter's speech given before a Hagee-sponsored event in Jerusalem.
"This is a friendship of the heart, a friendship of common roots, and a friendship of common civilizations," Netanyahu gushedperhaps because, at the event Hagee pledged $6 million to various Israeli causes.
Hagee was also backed by Israeli fascist and Knesset member Benny Elon, of the National Union-National religious party. Elon had been a spiritual advisor to Yigal Amir, the assassin of Yitzhak Rabin.
Last week, the head of the Reform Movement in the United States, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, denounced Hagee as an "extremist" who has been working against Israel achieving a territorial compromise with the Palestinians. This is significant, coming from Rabbi Yoffie, since his pro-Israel credentials are well known.