|Southwest Asia News Digest
U.S. Clueless on Libyan Opposition; LaRouche Stresses Mass-Strike Momentum
March 4 (EIRNS)Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) issued a statement against any military adventure in Libya, reiterating his "long-held view that the U.S. should not be an occupying power in that part of the world." About Libya, he said, "I am very conscious of the unpredictability of history in this part of the world when it comes to situations after these opposition movements run their courseIran being the classic example, where we traded the Shah of Iran for the Ayatollah Khomeini. What I am concerned about is, what are the characteristics of the rebel forces in Libya that would commend them to our government to the level where we would actually consider military intervention in cooperation with them?"
Webb asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about this in her testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 2, and quoted her response: "There may well be a role for military assets to support getting [humanitarian] equipment and supplies into areas that have need of them and where we are welcome, but I think that is a big reminder to us that we don't know the outcome of this. We don't know these players."
Webb also appeared on CNN March 3 with the same message, adding that when he was Secretary of the Navy, he was the only person to oppose the Rumsfeld "tilt" to Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war"and you know what that got us later on."
Well-informed Washington intelligence sources warn that there is tremendous pressure on Obama from London and from the fantasy-ridden "democracy" movement for military action against Libya on "humanitarian grounds," but that senior U.S. military and intelligence community leadership remains opposed, instead trying to rapidly deepen contacts with the opposition.
In a discussion this evening, Lyndon LaRouche again stressed that what is happening in Libya is part of a global mass-strike movement, and that crazy Nero-like Gaddafi is relying on mercenary forces to wage war against his population. The seizure of Gaddafi and his family's assets and bank accountsincluding by the Saudiscould break his hold, said LaRouche. "This is a chance for the Saudis to do something useful," said LaRouche, "They are in an unstable situation, and this could help them also."
Protesters Back Egypt's New Prime Minister
March 6 (EIRNS)Protesters in Egypt have seen one of their immediate demands met, as the Supreme Military Council named a new prime minister, Essam Sharaf, on March 5., Sharaf then appointed a new cabinet, eliminating all of the former Mubarak loyalists whom the protesters demanded be removed. Sharaf was formally sworn in, in a ceremony at Tahrir Square in Cairo, the center of all of the demonstrations that brought down the Mubarak regime. It was an important symbolic statement. Another 1 million demonstrators were in the Square on March 5.
Sharaf appointed a new Interior Minister, Maj. Gen. Mansour El Essawy; and a new Foreign Minister, Nabil Elaraby. Both men, while experienced in government, were active with the opposition from the outset. Elaraby, the former Egyptian Ambassador to the United Nations, was an advisor to the Tahrir Square demonstrators, and served on the International Court of Justice for a number of years.
On March 3-4, protesters descended on the Interior Ministry headquarters in Cairo, and in other cities around the country, in response to reports that officials of the hated State Security Services were burning documents. Army troops were deployed to these sites, in part to protect demonstrators against hooligans. According to one well-informed Egyptian source, the Supreme Military Councilthe ultimate authority over the country during the transition to elections and civilian ruleis fully behind the diminishing of the State Security Services, and may have been encouraging the protesters outside the ministry buildings. The top generals were all under State Security surveillance and even the Supreme Military Council was targeted for blackmail by the security services.
A referendum is scheduled for March 19 on proposed Constitutional changes that revise election procedures. Parliamentary elections are expected some time in June, to be followed by Presidential elections before the end of the year. The Egyptian youth who organized the Tahrir Square protests have formed a political party to participate in the June elections.
Volatility Sweeps Middle East and Maghreb
March 6 (EIRNS)Protests throughout entire Middle East and Maghreb are continuing against the global economic collapse, food price rises, corruption and joblessness. In addition to those listed below, Lebanon and Israel have also seen protests by thousands of people.
BAHRAIN: Headquarters for the U.S. 5th Fleet, and connected to the increasingly unstable Saudi Arabia by a causeway, Bahrain has had tens of thousands of demonstrators amassing in the streets since Feb. 14. Pearl Square, in the capital Manama, has become the epicenter of the protests, with demonstrators keeping vigil in hundreds of tents. The non-sectarian protests are directed against the minority Sunni dynasty, which has ruled for over 200 years. "The people want to topple the government!" and "the people want to topple the regime" are the main chants. On March 6, thousands of protesters gathered outside the prime minister's office to demand he step down. Despite the large security presence, demonstrators shouted, "Topple Hamad! Topple Hamad!" referring to long-time Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa.
Signs reading: "I am Sunni: Yes to national unity," showed that the protests are not sectarian, Shi'a vs. Sunni.
OMAN: Hundreds of Omanis demanding jobs and political reforms demonstrated across this Gulf Arab sultanate on March 4. Around 200 protesters gathered in the capital Muscat at the headquarters of the Shura Council, a quasi-parliamentary advisory body, where some had camped out overnight. Similar numbers demonstrated in Salalah, the eastern coastal town of Sur, where Oman's liquefied natural gas export facilities are based, and in Sohar, where medical sources said six people were killed in clashes with security forces. The silent demonstrators outside the Shura Council in Muscat held placards saying "We want an elected cabinet of ministers," and "End corruption and create jobs."
YEMEN: Growing protests across the country demand that President Ali Abdullah Saleh end his 32-year rule. On March 2, several thousand demonstrators turned out yet again in the capital Sanaa, protesting against increasing food prices, crushing poverty, and soaring unemployment. Tens of thousands continued with protests in several key cities across Yemen on March 5, according to Associated Press, pressing on with demands that Saleh step down. University classes are on midterm break in the Sanaa and in the southern port city of Aden, which have been the focal points for daily demonstrations. Protests have also spread to the cities of Taiz and Hadramawt; and an investigation into the deaths of four protesters, when the military opened fire on March 4, is now being demanded.
SAUDI ARABIA: The Saudi government fears an Egyptian-style uprising, and has warned potential protesters that it will ban future demonstrations. "The kingdom's regulations totally ban all sorts of demonstrations, marches, and sit-ins, as they contradict Islamic Sharia law and the values and traditions of Saudi society," the Interior Ministry said in a statement March 6. A week earlier, 119 jurists and professors signed an open letter, demanding immediate reforms, calling on Saudis to stage their own "day of rage." According to a U.S. intelligence source, this initiative is backed by some leading princes in the House of Saud, who are opposed to Interior Minister Prince Naif taking over when King Abdullah dies. On March 7, leading Wahhabi clerics denounced protests as "un-Islamic."
KUWAIT: According to Kuwait Times online, protests are planned as soon as March 8. Thirty people were wounded in Feb. 19 clashes in Kuwait between security forces and stateless Arabs demanding citizenship. While there are apparently two different groups in Kuwait, with opposing views, both call for the resignation of the prime minister and his cabinet.
IRAQ: Demonstrations were held in Baghdad, Basra, Nineveh, Anbar, and Salaheddin on March 4, in a continuation of protests over the past month that have demanded economic progress, an end to corruption. The demonstrations went ahead, despite curfews and bans on vehicle movement in major cities. Declaring Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki a liar, and waving banners that said, "We need freedom," and "We love Baghdad," about 2,000 people gathered in the capitol's Tahrir Square, where music played, and pictures of West Baghdad slums were displayed. Even larger rallies took place the previous week, where more than a dozen people were killed in clashes with security forces.
JORDAN: Thousands of protesters, estimated by Islamist leaders at 10,000 and by police at 5,000, holding national flags and banners reading: "We need bread and freedom," and "Together let's dissolve parliament," demonstrated in Amman on March 4, a day after Prime Minister Maaruf Bakhit rejected calls for a constitutional monarchy. The protesters include Islamists, trade unionists and leftists. On March 6, religious extremists staged a rare demonstration in Amman, demanding release of suspected al-Qaida leaders now on trial. The protest by the group of about 300 Salafi Muslims (non-Saudi believers of the extremist Wahhabi doctrine), whose ultraconservative sect is banned in Jordan, called for changes in the regime.