|Southwest Asia News Digest
Obama Rants About Success in Iraq, Afghanistan, While Deaths Mount
Aug. 7 (EIRNS)President Obama told a conference of Disabled American Veterans in Atlanta on Aug. 2, that the U.S. troop presence will be brought down to 50,000 by the end of the month, when his promised "end of combat mission" is announced. Obama boasted that "violence in Iraq continues to be near the lowest it's been in years." A reality check in Baghdad, however, reveals that the Iraqi government has reported that July was the deadliest month in over two years, with 535 Iraqis killed.
Not to be deterred by reality, Obama said, following his speech: "The United States handed over control of all combat duties to Iraqi security forces on Saturday in a further sign its withdrawal is on track," reported Reuters on Aug. 7.
In Afghanistan, where the United States has fought the longest war in its history, July was the deadliest month yet for the American military, with 66 dead. The total deaths among NATO forces was 89, after setting a record of 104 in June.
The Afghan population's rejection of the failed U.S. strategywhich was intensified by Obama's double "surge" of troops in 2009was shown on Aug. 1, when several hundred Afghans marched through Kabul, with a police escort, protesting the American presence and civilian deaths at NATO's hands. The march was sparked not only by bombings of civilians, but also by a July 30 incident in which a Dyncorp humvee ran down and killed four civilians in Kabul. The private security personnel barely escaped with their lives, under police protection, while a mob destroyed their vehicle.
NATO reports that the insurgents have killed more than 590 Afghan civilians this year, while UN figures estimate civilian deaths at the hands of the U.S. and its allies as between two and five times greater than those killed by the insurgents since the beginning of the long war.
Virtual State of War in Southwest Asia
Aug. 7 (EIRNS)Southwest Asia has been in a virtual state of war ever since the British put Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in power in March 2009. The actual warlike World War Iwill occur at the point the British decide to throw a spark into the tinderbox. Crises are exploding on several fronts:
* The Aug. 3 clashes along the Lebanon-Israeli border. The Obama Administration had White House Middle East advisor Dan Shapiro telephone Israel's Ambassador Michael Oren, demanding that he inform Netanyahu that the Administration expects him to act with restraint. French Foreign Minister Bertrand Kouchner spoke directly to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, exhorting him to exercise restraint.
What is significant about this latest clash, is the fact that it took place between the Israeli Defence Forces and the Lebanese National Armynot Hezbollah. A Lebanese source considers it a probe by the Israelis, to test the reaction in preparation for a future attack.
* Defense Minister Ehud Barak this week attacked the head of Turkey's National Intelligence Organization as being "pro-Iranian," and claimed that Ankara could pass secrets which Israel has shared with Turkey to Iran. The Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned the Israeli ambassador in Ankara to deliver a protest. Turkey has already recalled its ambassador to Israel on May 31, over the Israeli attack on a Turkish-run aid flotilla heading for Gaza.
* Israel has so antagonized Jordan in recent weeks, that King Abdullah II issued a rare warning that Israel's refusal to negotiate peace with the Palestinians could once again lead to war. The failure of the peace process has sparked the creation of a "New Nationalist Movement" in Jordan, comprised of retired senior military officers and others, who are reacting to an increase of West Bank Palestinians fleeing to Jordan. The movement petitioned the King to stop caving into the Americans and being too soft with Israel. The Israeli low-key "ethnic cleansing" of the West Bankdriving residents into exile in Jordanis in line with making Jordan a "Palestinian state," along the lines of Ariel Sharon's "Jordan is Palestine" policy.
* Israel's continued blockade of the Gaza Strip antagonizes Egypt, one of the three Muslim countries with which it has diplomatic relations.
For the moment, noises coming out of the Israeli government indicate that it is avoiding a military escalation with Lebanon, especially since it was the National Army of Lebanon, not Hezbollah, that engaged in the clash. At the same time, the Israeli government is building up tensions against Hezbollah, in anticipation of an announcement by the UN Commission investigating the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, that will allegedly name members of Hezbollah as the assassins. Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah says that the Israelis killed Hariri.
On July 30, an unprecedented summit meeting of the Lebanese, Saudi, and Syrian heads of state was held in Beirut, to attempt to ensure that stability and peace survive in Lebanon, regardless of what charges the UN Commission makes. Side meetings included leaders of all major Lebanese ethnic and religious groups, including Hezbollah.
An intelligence source in Washington, D.C. noted that Hezbollah has become one of the strongest factions in Lebanon over the last two years, and that a majority of Lebanese leaders are questioning the anticipated report of the UN Commission. "First it was the Syrians who were accused," reported the Washington source, "and those accusations were dropped. Now there is so-called 'new evidence,' but people are asking, 'what happened to the old evidence?' "
Report of Assassination Attempt on Iranian President
Aug. 4 (EIRNS)The Dubai Media City-based al-Arabiya TV reported on Aug. 4 that Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had survived an attack in the city of Hamedan, where the President had gone to deliver a speech. Iran's official media has denied the report.
The news of the assassination attempt emerged a day after Afghan President Hamid Karzai's spokesperson announced that the Afghan President is to visit Iran, to attend a summit among Afghanistan, Iran, and Tajikistan.
Although the assassination attempt has not been confirmed, there are reasons to expect such an attempt by Britain's allies within Iran. The tripartite summit, under Iran's leadership, was to plan the furthering of road, railway, and tunnel projects to develop improved transport links among these three countries, through a series of bilateral agreements, in a concerted attempt to restore Iran's traditional role as a trade hub.
This tripartite agreement has been identified by London and its allies as an effort by Tehran to enhance its regional influence and overcome Western efforts to isolate Iran. Iran has not signed up to Western-backed initiatives, such as the EU-supported Transport Corridor of Europe, Caucasus, and Asia (TRACECA) projectalso known as the "New Silk Road"amid the ongoing international dispute over Tehran's suspected nuclear program.