|Southwest Asia News Digest
Egypt Revolution Moves into Phase II
April 12 (EIRNS)A report from Cairo, blocked out of the international media, indicates that the Egyptian revolution is alive and well. On April 8, between 2 and 3 million people turned out in Tahrir Square, escalating the pressure on the Supreme Military Council to continue the reform process, and not cave in to pressure from the Mubarak old guard, bolstered by floods of Saudi money. The crowd demanded a full criminal investigation into the Mubarak National Democratic Party (NDP) and the theft of much of Egypt's national patrimony.
According to one organizer, there was growing concern that the Egyptian Army high command was balking at the continuing reform process, and some corrupt Army generals, possibly including the Minister of Defense, were allowing the State Security Ministry, the hated secret police, to resume operations. The major weapon in the hands of the youth-led opposition is their continuing ability to turn out millions of Egyptians from all walks of life, to demand that the reform process move forward. According to one source, the proposals by Dr. Farouk El Baz, for a major agricultural and irrigation project to green the western desert, are circulating widely, and there are calls for Egyptians to donate one Egyptian pound per week to a development fund to launch the project.
After the demonstrators had largely dispersed, several thousand leftists decided to remain in Tahrir Squareagainst the wishes of the leadership of the protest movement. This violation of the ban on trespassing in the square after 2:00 a.m. gave the Army a pretext to move in on the protesters. According to on-the-ground sources, seven people, including two Army officers who had joined in the sit-in, were killed. The officers were reportedly shot a point-blank range. This incident has further angered and energized the population. Cooler heads within the Supreme Military Council moved immediately to make further concessions to the protesters, announcing the arrests of three top NDP figures, including the longtime Speaker of the Parliament and the nominal head of the Mubarak party. Judges attending the daytime rally in Tahrir Square held a preliminary public inquest and demanded a full investigation into Mubarak family finances.
Former President Mubarak responded almost immediately, by issuing his first public statement since leaving office. He denied any corruption, and vowed to cooperate with the probe, and to sue anyone who persisted in libeling him.
One leading figure in the events of April 8 described them as the beginning of the second phase of the Egyptian Revolution. Parliamentary elections are now scheduled for September, giving the youth more time to form political parties, choose candidates, and organize. In the recent weeks, the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood had initially decided to boycott the Friday rallies in Tahrir Square, pulling their people out of the April 1 demonstration. When over a million people showed up, despite their boycott, and when youth members of the Brotherhood voiced frustration at the leadership, they reversed the decision, and turned out for the April 8 events.
The Supreme Military Council was desperate to deny that there had been live ammunition fired at protesters in Tahrir Square, when troops moved in to evict the overnight trespassers. Under the treaty with the United States, weapons provided by the U.S. government cannot be used against any Egyptian civilians. The Pentagon has kept up the pressure on this issue. However, the Saudis are not only pouring money into Egypt; they are pressing for a crackdown, as they have in Yemen and Bahrain. The rift between Washington and Riyadh, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official, is deepening by the day, and goes way beyond the personal animus between King Abdullah and President Obama. The Saudis are out to defend the old British imperial "Sunni stability belt" of monarchies and dictatorships. According to the source, Iran is pressuring Syrian President Assad to crack down on protesters. The source warned of an escalating danger of a sectarian Sunni-versus-Shi'ite explosion, acknowledging that this is exactly what the British want.
Obama's Libya War Fiasco Going to Hell
April 7 (EIRNS)The Libyan war is going to hell because of President Obama's incompetence and confusing and contradictory mission orders, reported a senior retired U.S. military officer with years of experience in the Arab and Muslim world. The retired officer noted that Obama exhibits a mental disorder characterized by believing that just because he states somethinge.g., "Qaddafi must be removed"it becomes real, without knowing how to accomplish it, or the consequences of his actions.
Several Washington intelligence sources, including the retired officer, believe that the possibility of a de facto partition of Libya into East and West, is in the offing unless there is a dramatic escalation in U.S. operations to break Qaddafi's forces.
There are several serious problems for Obama: U.S. opposition to the Libya military action has already escalated into the drafting of Articles of Impeachment of Obama by a Constitutional law expert; the rebel forces in Libya are an incoherent rabble; there are serious divisions in the NATO coalition over operations; and there is serious backlash at the UN Security Council, where Russia, for one, has said that regime change is not what the Security Council authorized.
After projecting a quick victory because he said so, Obama lied to the American people, in a televised address, that there would be no U.S. troops ("boots on the ground") in Libya, and that the command would be turned over to NATO.
But the Libyan rebels have claimed three times in the past week that NATO had bombed rebel units and oil installations under their command, by mistake. The latest incident took place today, when half a dozen rebel fighters were killed near the oil town of Brega. The initial reports blaming NATO, were later contradicted by an "official spokesman of the National Opposition Council," who said that the air strike was carried out by "Col. Qaddafi's forces." On April 7, Voice of America reported that NATO is investigating this and two other charges: "NATO planes earlier this week struck rebel forces in the same area, killing 13 rebels, in what was acknowledged as an unfortunate accident," VoA wrote. VoA also reports that NATO has denied responsibility for an April 5 attack on oil fields near Sarir and Meslah, 600 kilometers south of Benghazi, which supplied oil that comprised the "first shipment of oil by the opposition ... from near the eastern port of Tobruk."
But there is more than incompetence rocking the coalition's efforts. A military contact reports that the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu is providing direct assistance and training for Qaddafi's forcesat Qaddafi's requestthrough private Israeli security companies. Their rationale is that Israel is not going to take a chance in overthrowing "the devils we know." At the same time, the French Ambassador to the United Nations, Gerard Araud, stated on a conference call on April 1, that his government opposes arming the Libyan rebels, out of concern for the "security of the entire Sahel." Ambassador Araud compared the danger of the spread of arms to the Afghanistan fiasco in the 1980s, where training and arms were given to the future leaders of al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
Yemen's Saleh Reneges on Promises to Negotiate with Opposition
April 8 (EIRNS)Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters in Yemen hurled stones at riot police backed by tanks, in the southern province of Aden, as dueling rallies were held in the capital. Police were reported to be shooting tear gas and live ammunition in Taiz, although it was not clear whether they were firing in the air or at crowds.
Addressing tens of thousands of supporters, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh rejected a mediation offer from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council that calls on him to hand over power to his deputy, in return for immunity from prosecution for him and his family. This is a reversal of earlier statements by Saleh that he had accepted the offer to go to Saudi Arabia for mediation.
Medical sources said that 12 people were killed and more than 500 injured on April 4, as about 90,000 people demonstrated against Saleh. Meanwhile, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which functions under the influence of Saudi Arabia, has called on all parties to return to dialogue. But it is unlikely that the protesters, subjected to months of violent actions by the Saleh regime, will agree to anything less than immediate removal of the ruler.
Over the past two months, the U.S. has continued to back Saleh, despite his attacks on nonviolent protesters. While there are reports in U.S. media that Washington is abandoning Saleh, the fact that military aid to the Army has been extended is a sure sign to the Yemeni military that Saleh might stay in power. Earlier signs that the Army would turn against him, Egypt-style, are fading.