Saturday, February 17, 2007

Brzezinski’s warnings of war against Iran

Why is the US press silent on
Brzezinski’s warnings of war against Iran?

Barry Grey in Washington DC
Feb 3, 2007

The major national newspapers and most broadcast outlets failed even to report Thursday’s stunning testimony by former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Brzezinski, national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, is among the most prominent figures within the US foreign policy establishment. He delivered a scathing critique of the war in Iraq and warned that the policy of the Bush administration was leading inevitably to a military confrontation with Iran which would have disastrous consequences for US imperialism.

Most significant and disturbing was Brzezinski’s suggestion that the Bush administration might manufacture a pretext to justify a military attack on Iran. Presenting what he called a “plausible scenario for a military collision with Iraq,” Brzezinski laid out the following series of events: “Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks, followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure, then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the US blamed on Iran, culminating in, quote/unquote, ‘defensive’ US military action against Iran...” [Emphasis added].

Thus Brzezinski opined that a US military attack on Iran would be an aggressive action, presented as though it were a defensive response to alleged Iranian provocations, and came close to suggesting, without explicitly stating as much, that the White House was capable of manufacturing or allowing a terrorist attack within the US to provide a casus belli for war.

It is self-evident that such testimony at an open congressional hearing from someone with decades of experience in the US foreign policy establishment and the closest ties to the military and intelligence apparatus is not only newsworthy, but of the most immense and grave import. Any objective and conscientious newspaper or news channel would consider it an obligation to inform the public of such a development.

Yet neither the New York Times nor the Washington Post carried so much as a news brief on Brzezinski’s testimony in their Friday editions. Nor did USA Today or the Wall Street Journal. All of these publications, of course, have well-staffed Washington bureaus and regularly cover congressional hearings­especially those dealing with such burning political questions as the war in Iraq.

There is no innocent explanation for their decision to suppress this story. The Washington Post on Thursday published a large page-two column and photo on Henry Kissinger’s appearance the previous day before the same Senate committee. The former secretary of state under Richard Nixon gave testimony that was generally supportive of the Bush administration’s war policy.

Moreover, the Post’s web edition carried an Associated Press report on Brzezinski’s appearance. That article introduced subtle but significant changes to Brzezinski’s speculative scenario of the road to war with Iran which had the effect of underplaying the sharpness and urgency of Brzezinski’s critique of the Bush administration. It omitted the suggestion that a terrorist attack within the US could become the justification for war, and it removed the quotation marks from Brzezinski’s talk of a “defensive” war against Iran.

The World Socialist Web Site on Friday telephoned the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and USA Today to ask for an explanation for their failure to report Brzezinski’s testimony. None of the newspapers returned our calls.

As for the television news outlets, the “News Hour with Jim Lehrer” on PBS showed a clip of Brzezinski laying out his war scenario before the Senate committee, without making any comment. “NBC Nightly News” ignored the story entirely.

The suppression of this damning critique of the Iraq war, the conspiratorial methods of the Bush administration, and its drive to an even wider war in the Middle East is one more demonstration of the corrupt and reactionary character of the American mass media. It indicates that the establishment media is preparing once again, as in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, to serve as a sounding board for the administration’s war propaganda and lies.


Iraq's Diaspora

The Iraqi refugee crisis heaps more shame on George Bush and Tony Blair, strains the societies of Syria and Jordan, and refugee relief requires enormous support from the West, and from the rich Middle East countries.

Iraq’s Refugee Scandal

Patrick Seale

Agence Global
February 17, 2007

Copyright © 2007 Patrick Seale
[Republished at GRBlog with Agence Global permission]

U.S. President George W. Bush and his British ally, Prime Minister Tony Blair, have a great deal on their conscience. They do not deserve to remain in office, or even to sleep soundly at night. If there were any justice in this world, they would have to answer for their crimes before a court.

Not only did their foolhardy and illegal invasion of March 2003 smash the Iraq state, dealing a fatal blow to the geopolitical balance of the region, but their continued occupation has spread fear, chaos and instability throughout the Middle East, sparking a vicious Sunni-Shi‘i civil war, and provoking the greatest refugee crisis since the exodus of Palestinians from their homeland after the creation of Israel in 1948.

Some experts believe that the Iraqi refugee crisis is even worse than the unfolding tragedy in Sudan’s province of Darfur, where an estimated 200,000 people have died and two million have been displaced by attacks on their villages by government-backed militias.

The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has reported that the war in Iraq has caused the biggest displacement of people in the Middle East in recent history.

The Iraqi figures are so great as to be only approximate. It is thought that two million Iraqis have already fled their country; U.N. agencies expect another million to follow them into exile in 2007. A further two million Iraqis have been internally displaced by ethnic cleansing -- a cruel process that is far from over. These people are in urgent need of help and protection.

No one knows how many Iraqis have been killed in the war and in the descent into hell which has followed: Estimates range from 250,000 to 650,000. What is clear is that sectarian violence is claiming about 1,000 lives each week. Antonio Guterres, head of the UNHCR, has described the situation a humanitarian disaster.

A political settlement in Iraq to end the killing, the ethnic cleansing and the flight of refugees must now be an urgent priority for the international community. But President Bush is still in a state of denial. He refuses to recognise the seriousness of the refugee crisis, as this would mean acknowledging that his policies have failed.

As for Tony Blair, by making the fatal error of joining Bush’s war as his junior partner, he has destroyed his own reputation and robbed his country of an independent foreign policy.

The European Union has pledged $13 million as a contribution to the refugee crisis, and Sweden has donated $2m. Britain has so far given nothing. Antonio Guterres is trying to raise $60m in emergency funds. As the Financial Times pointed out earlier this month, this is the equivalent of what the Pentagon spends every five hours on its occupation of Iraq.

The United States has spent about $600bn on its calamitous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and has so far pledged the miserly sum of $9m for a world-wide resettlement and relief programme for Iraqi refugees!

Its wars have caused unimaginable hardship to millions, but it has so far admitted only 463 Iraqis to the United States since 2003, although it has now promised to admit another 7000.

Bush continues to believe in a military 'victory’ over the insurgents and is sending more troops to Iraq in the hope of stabilising the situation in Baghdad. This may bring some short-term relief, but few observers think this strategy can be successful.

It is time -- indeed it is long overdue -- for the countries must immediately affected by the Iraqi crisis to take matters into their own hands. Syria, Jordan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States should overcome their quarrels and rivalries and insist on the convening of an international conference to hammer out an agreement between Iraq’s warring factions, thus providing the conditions for a speedy U.S. withdrawal.

The poison from a disintegrating Iraq cannot be allowed to infect the whole region. Saudi Arabia and Iran, the two regional heavyweights, have a special responsibility to bring the Iraq war to a close on the basis of an honourable compromise between all the parties to the conflict.

Syria and Jordan are the immediate victims of the flood of Iraqi refugees. They have literally been overwhelmed and, in the view of UN experts, have now reached saturation point. Once again the figures are approximate, but each country is thought to have taken in about one million Iraqis -- with more coming over the borders every day.

Food prices have soared, rents have risen sharply together with the price of real estate. Public services are at breaking point. It is estimated that 30 per cent of Iraqi children in Syria are not attending school, because schools are already grossly overcrowded.

The first Iraqis to flee to Syria and Jordan were the rich and the highly educated -- doctors, lawyers, university professors, prosperous businessmen and their families. They have been followed by the poor who are fleeing for their lives.

"We cannot continue like this," Abd al-Hamid Ouali, the UNHCR representative in Syria, was reported as saying. "The situation is terrible, but we are obliged to do something."

The rich Arab states should donate generously to the UNHCR, Syria and Jordan deserve help, while the United States and Britain should be shamed into paying for the destruction and human misery they have caused.

Patrick Seale is a leading British writer on the Middle East, and the author of The Struggle for Syria; also, Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East; and Abu Nidal: A Gun for Hire.

Copyright © 2007 Patrick Seale

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Agence Global is the exclusive syndication agency for The Nation, The American Prospect, Le Monde diplomatique, as well as expert commentary by Richard Bulliet, Mark Hertsgaard, Rami G. Khouri, Tom Porteous, Patrick Seale and Immanuel Wallerstein

Friday, February 16, 2007

Pakistan: Between Afghanistan and a Hard Place

Pakistan faces presidential, national and provincial elections this year, and strongman president Pervez Musharraf is consolidating his support and trying to reach accommodation with Islamist groups. Jean-Luc Racine describes Pakistan's domestic and regional politics, as the country answers to the United States and Kabul with regard to Afghanistan and the Taliban, and answers to India with regard to Kashmir.

Pakistan: Trying to Please Everybody

Jean-Luc Racine

Le Monde diplomatique
February 16, 2007

Pakistan's voters will choose a new president, national parliament and provincial assemblies this year. There are doubts about how the three ballots will be conducted, and the process also raises longstanding and fundamental questions about the relationship between the military regime and the parliamentary opposition. If General Pervez Musharraf is re-elected as president, perhaps it is time for him to shed his uniform and rehabilitate the democratic opposition and its exiled leaders.

Some opposition MPs are Islamists who provide a constitutional front for radical armed Islamists, in league with the military, but targeted by Musharraf, who has persistently called for “enlightened moderation” in the service of a “progressive, dynamic Islamic state”. Could this relationship between the mullahs and the army develop? Its complexity is increased by the involvement of radical Pakistani Islamists in Kashmir and in the tribal areas on the Afghanistan border where the Taliban are regaining ground.

The deteriorating situation in the western coastal province of Baluchistan demonstrates the central government’s difficulties in dealing with inequalities between provinces; and in reconciling internal affairs with wider regional issues such as the international gas pipeline projects, involving Iran and Afghanistan; or the new port at Gwadar, intended to be China’s gateway to the Indian Ocean.

The shadow of the United States falls over all this. It constantly praises Musharraf’s key role in the war on terror; it also presses him to do more against al-Qaida and the Taliban.

Musharraf, and many of those around him, argue the necessity of not separating civil and military power precisely because Pakistan faces all these internal and external challenges. They insist that the president is the man to deal with the situation and the army is the only body capable of effective action. This view also finds favour among foreign political leaders. But some Pakistani liberals, anti-Islamist supporters of real parliamentary democracy, view the military regime as part of the problem, not as a potential solution. These are major challenges.

Jihad in Afghanistan
During the 1980s, the Afghan war against Soviet occupation and the Kashmiri rising against India allowed Pakistan to develop an active regional policy intended to prevent it from being squeezed between India and Afghanistan. As a frontline state against the Soviet Union, Pakistan allowed the United States to give effective support to the mujahideen. After the Soviet defeat in 1989 the mujahideen tore themselves apart and Pakistan’s influence was not decisive; Pakistan supported the Pashtun Gulbaddin Hekmatyar against Ahmed Shah Massud’s pro-Indian Tajiks. The rise of the Taliban after 1994 offered fresh opportunities. At the same time, Pakistani jihadists were fighting in Indian Kashmir, boosting the insurrection and bogging down much of the Indian army in a dirty war.

After 9/11 Musharraf soon understood the stakes in Afghanistan and saw the risks of refusing the deal offered by the Bush administration. He abandoned the Taliban (which refused to expel or hand over Osama bin Laden) and signed up to the war on terror. He shuffled his top brass, denounced extremism and arrested hundreds of al-Qaida militants including, in 2003, such senior figures as Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, who had planned 9/11.

George Bush promoted Pakistan to the rank of “major non-NATO ally” in 2004. But the US administration wanted more than just Pakistan tracking down Bin Laden and Muhammad Omar. Both the United States and Afghan president Hamid Karzai, blamed the setbacks of Operation Enduring Freedom on the porosity of the long, mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Musharraf decided in 2004 to send troops to South Waziristan, an agency in the federally administered tribal areas (FATA) along the Afghan border. Guerrilla fighting ensued between the army, which lost 800 out of 80,000 men, and militias -- Afghan Taliban, neo-Taliban from Pakistani tribes, and international al-Qaida combatants. The government reached agreements with the local tribal chiefs in South Waziristan in 2004 and 2005, and in North Waziristan in 2006, but these did not stop the fighting. The dispute with Kabul intensified because of infiltration from Pakistan’s tribal zones and Baluchistan into Agfhanistan. The US army noted this deterioration and the advance of the Taliban in southeast Afghanistan at the expense of NATO forces.

On the Pakistan side of the border, the rebelliousness and radicalisation of the FATA became a major preoccupation. Caught between US pressure and anti-US public opinion, the government had to pay for its repressive policies in the tribal areas. Its largely ineffectual and occasionally controversial operations included an air raid that killed 80 people in a madrasa in the Bajaur agency on 30 October 2006, the day that a deal was due. Nine days later a revenge suicide bombing on a barracks in the Northwest Frontier Province, outside the FATA, killed 35 recruits.

Negotiations with the tribal chiefs often required the mediation of the Islamist parties, and especially Jamaat-e-Ulema-e Islam (JUI, Assembly of Islamic Clergy), led by Fazlur Rehman, the opposition leader in parliament and an open supporter of the Taliban. The use of force against Pakistan’s citizens has tarnished the government’s image, without successfully ending the ongoing Talibanisation of the FATA. There are fears that this process could extend to the Northwest Frontier Province, which is at present governed by the Islamists of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA, United Action Forum).

Another tribal problem
Despite differences, the problem here is also essentially tribal. Baluchistan provides a large proportion of Pakistan’s gas supply and believes that it is being exploited by the central government and the wealthy province of Punjab. Baluchistan is the largest and least populated of Pakistan’s provinces, and has gone through a series of crises since independence, including the suppression of several insurgencies (1958-60, 1973-77).

The first phase of the construction of the deep-sea port at Gwadar and the stationing of more numbers of troops in the province have worsened the frustration of the Baluch autonomist movements, which now enjoy the support of important tribal leaders who previously upheld the political status quo.

In August 2006, government forces killed Akbar Khan Bugti, a rebellious former governor of Baluchistan. This pyrrhic victory radicalised both insurgents (including the Baluch Liberation Army) and local political parties that support greater autonomy. The Baluch problem is undermining major projects -- the port at Gwadar (where Chinese engineers have been kidnapped) and the gas pipeline linking Iran to India via Pakistan -- that could boost Pakistan’s economy.

‘Proxy war’ in Kashmir
At first Musharraf mishandled relations with India. By precipitating the Kargil conflict in 1999, on the line of control that separates Indian-and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, he ended talks between the two governments. Although limited, this was the first war between two states that had recently acquired nuclear weapons. Later, for 10 long months following the failure of the Agra summit in July 2001 and the terrorist attack on the Indian parliament in New Delhi in December 2002, the threat of war loomed again.

In a historic speech in January 2002, Musharraf condemned jihad. But he had no intention of undoing the painstaking preparations made by Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) to intervene in Indian Kashmir. These involved Lashkar-e-Taiba, the armed wing of the powerful Markaz-ud-Dawa-wal-Irshad (renamed Jamaat ud Dawa after it was banned) and Jaish-e-Muhammad. Although Indian forces were mobilised in response, the threat of nuclear confrontation deterred them from open conflict.

Pakistan was running out of room to manoeuvre. The 9/11 attacks gave the Indian government an excuse to denounce the proxy war waged by Pakistan in Kashmir using cross-border terrorism. It was clear that India could find no military solution after almost 15 years of insurrection in Kashmir. Musharraf began making concessions in 2003, by announcing that Pakistan had left aside United Nations resolutions calling for the Kashmir issue to be settled by referendum, and by agreeing to composite talks that would put all issues dividing India and Pakistan on the table beside the central issue of Kashmir.

This, on top of the government’s enlistment on the side of the United States, was the final straw for some jihadists linked to al-Qaida and supported by some junior officers. In December 2003, Musharraf barely escaped two assassination attempts. Rigidly structured talks began with India in February 2004, and were declared irreversible in 2005.

But no quick legally agreed solution can be expected on the Kashmir issue. India might agree to ratify the status quo by allowing Pakistan to hold the areas that it occupies; but it rejects any settlement that would place all or part of the Srinagar valley under Pakistan’s control or double mandate. Pakistan has called for flexibility on both sides, but still refuses to recognise the line of control inherited from the wars of 1948, 1965 and 1971.

Possible avenues include greater autonomy for Indian Kashmir; withdrawal of the jihadists, then of troops; opening the line of control to road traffic; and even joint consultative bodies. Discreet negotiations have taken place with the Kashmiri separatists from the Hurriyat (freedom) Conference, and even with some Kashmiri combatants from Hizbul Mujaheddin. The bomb attacks on Mumbai trains in which 180 people died in July 2006 showed that although terrorist pressures can influence the dialogue between India and Pakistan, they can no longer halt it.

Extremism isn’t just for export
While India continues to drag its heels, Musharraf has made a series of proposals on Kashmir. His enthusiasm is not enough to dispel persistent suspicions in India, the United States and Afghanistan about the deep-rooted relationship between the military leadership, the ISI, and extremist groups. Musharraf made his personal convictions clear when he denounced “bigots and obscurantists” who give Islam and Pakistan a “bad image.” But it is less certain that he has the political will or capacity to root out extremism.

The desire to preserve some margin for manoeuvre over Kashmir and Afghanistan may explain why jihadist forces are kept in check without being eradicated. It may also explain why the Pakistani government, suspicious of the increasing Indian presence in Afghanistan, may welcome Taliban pressure. Extremism is not just for export: Radical Islam has long spun its web at the heart of Pakistan.

Specific manifestations include the extremist Sunni militias’ campaigns against the Shia minority, which has included attacks on places of worship; effectively autonomous preaching networks calling for jihad in Kashmir; armed groups whose leaders used to be able to connect with al-Qaida through Afghanistan; and, since the U-turn of 2001, domestic terrorist attacks on targets both foreign (the Karachi attack on French naval engineers in 2003; the execution of journalist Daniel Pearl) and military (Musharraf has long been designated as a target by al-Qaida’s number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri).

The relationship between the army, political Islamists and extremists is complicated. During the 2002 elections the government suppressed and divided the parliamentary opposition parties (Nawaz Sharif’s Muslim League and Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s party). But in the process the government opened the way for the Islamists of the MMA, which it had favoured but which now sits with the opposition.

A key component of the MMA, Qazi Hussain Ahmed’s Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), remains firm on Kashmir; another, the JUI, although more flexible on this issue, has maintained its links with the Taliban. The MMA governs the Northwest Frontier Province and is a member, beside the pro-Musharraf faction of the Muslim League, of the ruling coalition in Baluchistan.

The JI and JUI both preach an austere, backward-looking Islam that rejects any liberalisation of the law. Musharraf has backed off several times on this issue; finally, in November 2006, he secured the passage of a Women’s Protection Bill, which transfers trials for rape from the jurisdiction of the Islamic courts, where the offence must be confirmed by four male witnesses, to regular criminal courts. This half-measure failed to end the repressive system established by the Hudood Ordinance, introduced by the former military dictator Zia-ul-Haq in 1979.

‘The poor man’s Ataturk’
Opinions vary on armed Islamism and the relationship between the army and the mullahs. Some accuse Musharraf of compromise and double-dealing: He bans extremist groups then allows them to re-form; he preaches enlightened moderation but does nothing to reform the madrasas; and he has reached an accommodation with the MMA. Others claim that to overestimate the influence of radical Islam allows the military to present itself as the only possible defence against extremists in the continuing war on terror.

Another school of thought argues that extremism will continue and even increase until the army and its leader, “a master of half-measures and the poor man’s Ataturk," take a firm stand. Others believe that only Musharraf, with the support of the military leadership, can extricate Pakistan gradually from the structural contradictions that have beset it for the past 25 years.

In July 2006, a group of key figures, including generals from the army reserve, called upon Musharraf to give up his uniform if he sought re-election, and to separate military and civilian power. He is unlikely to take this advice, since as long as he remains head of the military hierarchy he controls a pillar of power: the Corps Commanders’ Conference.

Musharraf has managed to split the major political forces that governed Pakistan between 1988 and 1999. He achieved this by seducing a significant proportion of the Muslim League; a few Pakistan People’s party MPs; and the Muttahida Quami Movement that represents the Mohajirs (Pakistan citizens who migrated from India at the time of partition in 1947) and is powerful in the southeastern Sindh province. This is a coalition of convenience and has not significantly eroded the parliamentary opposition.

A ‘charter of democracy’
A pluralist press can make its voice heard. In exile, former sworn enemies Bhutto and Sharif signed a “charter of democracy” in May 2006. Even if it defeated Musharraf, the opposition would still have to come to terms with the army. There have been repeated rumours and denials that Musharraf might strike a deal with Bhutto or even Rehman, dividing Islamist opposition in parliament.

In December, Musharraf announced that the presidential race would be held before legislative elections. This sent a clear signal that he hopes to be re-elected by the current parliament and provincial representatives; and that he is unwilling to place his political future in the hands of new assemblies. The regime has raised the major questions posed by the regional situation and by the need for a paradigm shift, and this has been debated in the press. There is a danger that during the electoral campaign they will be overshadowed by a pragmatism that would confirm the army’s powers and privileges.

There is a worsening disparity between an economy that grew by an annual average of 7% between 2004 and 2006 and an uncertain political status quo. The population recently passed 160 million; pressing social issues are being ignored. As public education collapses, and health and development are starved of funds, economic growth finances defence expenditure, which has risen to 20% of the total budget.

Pakistan’s military, technocratic and social elite live in a different world from the ordinary citizen. Social indicators have risen slowly since 2000 in literacy, education and vaccination rates. Yet the World Bank, in its 2006 report on Pakistan, pointed out that in many respects “social indicators still lag behind countries with comparable per capita incomes,” particularly in rural areas.

Even if the opposition did achieve power, it would not radically change a policy of active liberalisation which, according to the report, “has failed to achieve social progress commensurate with its economic growth.” -- Translated by Donald Hounam

Jean-Luc Racine is director of research at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique and teaches at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales; he is co-editor of Pakistan:Contours of State and Society (Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2002) and author of Cachemire: Au péril de la guerre (Autrement, Paris, 2002).

© 2007 Jean-Luc Racine - Le Monde diplomatique

Released: 16 February 2007
Word Count: 2,569

For rights and permissions, contact:, 1.336.686.9002 or 1.212.731.0757

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Agence Global is the exclusive syndication agency for The Nation, The American Prospect, Le Monde diplomatique, as well as expert commentary by Richard Bulliet, Mark Hertsgaard, Rami G. Khouri, Tom Porteous, Patrick Seale and Immanuel Wallerstein.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Dirty Bush Wars: Iraq

The Bombing of the Golden Dome Mosque:
One Year Later

Mike Whitney

Atlantic Free Press
Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Bush’s “dirty war” in Iraq has become increasingly violent and confused. The neocon trust in “creative destruction” has succeeded in fragmenting Iraqi society, but the long-term prospects for normalization (or resource extraction) appear bleak. At this point, it seems irrelevant whether the bombing of the Golden-dome Mosque was the work of Sunni extremists or the US intelligence agencies. After all, propaganda may be useful for shaping public opinion but it cannot win wars. And that is the dilemma that Bush now faces...

According to the Muslim calendar, today — February 12 — is the one year anniversary of the bombing of Samarra’s Golden Dome Mosque. The blast is frequently pointed to as the event which transformed the conflict from an armed struggle against foreign occupation into a civil war. This change in the narrative has had some real benefits for the Bush administration by diverting attention from the nonstop fighting between American troops and the Sunni-led resistance.

The notion that Iraq is in the throes of civil war is rarely challenged in the western media despite the fact that Iraq has no history of the type of sectarian violence which is now ripping the country apart. Veteran journalist Robert Fisk put it this way:

“Iraq is not a sectarian society. People are intermarried. Shiites and Sunnis marry each other…Some from the militias and death squads want a civil war (but) there has never been a civil war in Iraq. The real question I ask myself is: who are these people who are trying to provoke a civil war? The Americans will say that it’s al Qaida or the Sunni insurgents; it is the death squads. Many of the death squads work for the Ministry of Interior? Who pays the militia men who make up the death squads? We do; the occupation authorities.”
(Robert Fisk, “Somebody is trying to provoke a Civil War in Iraq”)

So, if we accept the idea that Iraq is in a civil war, aren’t we ignoring the fact that other forces may be at play just below the surface?

There’s no doubt that the Bush administration is engaged in a secret war in Iraq. A great deal has already been written about “the Salvador Option” which involves the arming and training of death squads for spreading terror among sympathizers of the resistance. But it is also likely that many of the bombings we see are, in fact, false flag operations intended to pit Arab against Arab, and thereby undermine the greatest threat of all, Iraqi nationalism.

False flag operations are commonplace in foreign occupation. Robert Fisk cites a few examples in his article, “All This Talk of Civil War, Now This” (UK Independent, 2006):

“I think of the French OAS in Algeria in 1962, setting off bombs among France's Muslim Algerian community. I recall the desperate efforts of the French authorities to set Algerian Muslim against Algerian Muslim which led to half a million dead souls.

And I'm afraid I also think of Ireland and the bombings in Dublin and Monaghan in 1974, which, as the years go by, appear to have an ever closer link, via Protestant "loyalist" paramilitaries, to elements of British military security.”

It’s impossible to know how much of the violence we see is real and how much is “black-ops”. Divide and rule is an adage that is as old as war itself and it is certainly being used in Iraq. In fact, the Bush administration commissioned the Rand Corporation to draw up a plan which promotes this very strategy.

The Rand Study was called: “US Strategy in the Muslim World after 9-11”. The document provided “A framework to identify major ideological orientations within Islam, examines critical cleavages between Muslim groups.” The goal of the paper was to develop a Shaping Strategy for pacifying Muslim populations where the US has commercial or strategic interests. The conclusions of the document are enlightening. Rand suggests the US, “Align its policy with Shiite groups who aspire to have more participation in government and greater freedoms of political and religious expression. If this alignment can be brought about, it could erect a barrier against radical Islamic movements and may create a foundation for a stable U.S. position in the Middle East.”

Clearly, the administration is following the recommendations Rand study and has decided elevate the Shiites over the previously dominant Sunnis.

The Bush administration also appears to be applying parts of another theory which was conjured up by the fiercely nationalistic, Oded Yinon, in his “The Zionist Plan for the Middle East”. Yinon said:

"It is obvious that the above military assumptions, and the whole plan too, depend also on the Arabs continuing to be even more divided than they are now, and on the lack of any truly mass movement among them... Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation will assist us in the short run and will shorten the way to the more important aim of breaking Iraq up into denominations as in Syria and Lebanon... Syria will fall apart."

Similar to the Rand study’s recommendations, Yinon’s strategy is to pit Sunni against Shiite in a way that destroys Arab unity and to leaves the country weak and fragmented.

Again, there’s nothing new in these theories, but we should realize that much of the media narrative is crafted in a way that conceals the truth while promoting the objectives of the US occupation. Beyond the smokescreen of “civil war” (some of which is real, of course) is a coherent and carefully articulated plan to quash the resistance and steal Iraq’s resources. That is the real force which is generating much of the violence that we see on the ground.

In practical terms, Robert Fisk provides a credible description of how these black-ops are executed in Iraq. In his article, “Seen through a Syrian Lens” (UK Independent 4-29-06) the Fisk gives the details of a conversation he had with a trusted “security source” who told Fisk that: (the US) “is desperately trying to provoke a civil war around Baghdad in order to reduce its own military casualties.”

"I swear to you that we have very good information," Fisk recounts, "One young Iraqi man told us that he was trained by the Americans as a policeman in Baghdad and he spent 70 per cent of his time learning to drive and 30 per cent in weapons training. They said to him: 'Come back in a week.' When he went back, they gave him a mobile phone and told him to drive into a crowded area near a mosque and phone them. He waited in the car but couldn't get the right mobile signal. So he got out of the car to where he received a better signal. Then his car blew up."

As incredible as it seems, Fisk assures us that he’s heard the same story many times from different sources.


"There was another man, trained by the Americans for the police. He too was given a mobile and told to drive to an area where there was a crowd - maybe a protest - and to call them and tell them what was happening. Again, his new mobile was not working. So he went to a landline phone and called the Americans and told them: 'Here I am, in the place you sent me and I can tell you what's happening here.' And at that moment there was a big explosion in his car."

Fisk is a hardnosed journalist not easily given to exaggeration. His account of these incidents simply adds to the growing body of “hearsay” evidence that US intelligence agencies are directly involved in inciting sectarian violence. These stories cannot be corroborated, but, of course, that hasn’t stopped many Iraqis from believing that the US is behind the daily bombings.

Of course, the question of “who” is funding and facilitating the terrorism in Iraq presents a serious challenge to an administration that has based its foreign policy in terms of a war on terror. Public support would quickly erode if the American people knew that Bush was directly involved in the same activities as our nemesis, al Qaida.

Traditionally, the United States has no problem supporting Islamic extremists as long as they serve our overall foreign policy objectives. The CIA funded the mujahideen in Afghanistan, the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) in Kosovo, and now provides material support and weaponry to the MEK Mujahideen-e- Khalq; a Marxist militant group which is on the State Dept list of terrorist organizations. What matters is not ideology but whether or not the groups can advance Washington’s imperial aspirations.

This demonstrates that Bush’s finger-wagging against “ideological extremism” or “radical Islam” is just more empty rhetoric. Ideology plays a very small part in the current war. Dick Cheney’s comments in a speech to the Institute of Petroleum in London in 1999 may shed a bit of light on this point. He said, “By 2010 we will need on the order of an additional fifty million barrels a day. So where is the oil going to come from? ... While many regions of the world offer great oil opportunities, the Middle East with two thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies."

While depletion of oil reserves have accelerated beyond Cheney’s expectations at the time ;( the world’s 4 largest oil fields are in a state of irreversible decline) the facts remain the same. The world is running out of oil and the US intends to deploy its military to seize vital reserves wherever they may be. The war on terror is simply the mask that conceals this ongoing struggle.

The Bush administration seems less and less concerned that their “divide and rule” strategy remains hidden from the public. There’ve been a number of articles in the mainstream press about Bush’s $86 million gift to Mahmoud Abbas’ to train and equip special shock-troops to crush the democratically-elected Hamas government. And, there’s been ample coverage of the CIA’s covert operations in Lebanon that are directed against Hezbollah. The only conclusion we can draw from this, is that Bush really doesn’t care anymore if the world knows that the US is purposely fueling the anarchy which is quickly spreading across the entire Middle East. (The latest accusation that Iran is supplying roadside bombs to the Iraqi resistance just shows how sloppy the administration has gotten in managing its propaganda. Iran, of course, is Shiite, whereas, the Iraqi resistance is predominantly Sunni. The likelihood that Iran is providing roadside bombs to the former members of Saddam’s army is remote to say the least.)

Bush’s “dirty war” in Iraq has become increasingly violent and confused. The neocon trust in “creative destruction” has succeeded in fragmenting Iraqi society, but the long-term prospects for normalization (or resource extraction) appear bleak. At this point, it seems irrelevant whether the bombing of the Golden-dome Mosque was the work of Sunni extremists or the US intelligence agencies. After all, propaganda may be useful for shaping public opinion but it cannot win wars. And that is the dilemma that Bush now faces.

It has been exactly one year since the Askirya Mosque was flattened. Most Americans now believe that we are mired in an "unwinnable" war. Public support is eroding, the violence is escalating, the administration is drifting sideways, and the end is nowhere in sight. The inability of the administration to think politically or change course has thrust America to the brink of its worst defeat in history.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

High Noon on High Seas: Whalers v. Sea Shepherds

Japan Times
Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2007

Japanese whaling ship collides with activists' vessel

SYDNEY (Kyodo) A Japanese whaling ship and a vessel of an environmental group collided in the Antarctic Ocean off New Zealand on Monday, the Japanese Fisheries Agency and the conservation group said.

In this photo provided by the Japanese Fisheries Agency, the Robert Hunter of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, flying a Jolly Roger flag, is seen alongside the Japanese whaling ship the Kaiko Maru operated by the Institute of Cetacean Research in the Antarctic Ocean off. KYODO PHOTO
The accident caused damage to both the 860.25-ton whaler Kaiko Maru operated by the Institute of Cetacean Research and the Robert Hunter of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, the agency and the environmental group separately said.

Sea Shepherd said the Robert Hunter was left with a 30-cm gash in its hull after the collision in the late afternoon.

Speaking from aboard the ship, Captain Alex Cornelissen claimed the vessel sustained the damage after the Kaiko Maru struck its hull.
"We were holding our course and the Kaiko Maru turned and struck our port side. We couldn't really avoid the crash," Cornelissen said.

The Robert Hunter and the Sea Shepherd flagship Farley Mowat had chased the Japanese vessel into a patch of ice after seeing the ship following a pod of whales, he said.

However, the Japanese government denied that the Kaiko Maru, which is engaged in what Japan calls research whaling, had struck the Robert Hunter, claiming it was the other way around.

The Japanese vessel made a distress call after the Robert Hunter struck the ship in what amounted to a "pirate attack," a spokesman of the Fisheries Agency said.

The incident follows a clash Friday in which two Sea Shepherd ships caught up with the Japanese fleet after five weeks of playing cat and mouse in the icy Ross Sea.

The protesters threw a foul-smelling acid aboard the Nisshin Maru, the mother ship of the Japanese whaling fleet, inflicting minor injuries to two of its crew members, the agency said.

In the earlier clash, two Sea Shepherd activists went missing during the operation in an inflatable boat. They were found seven hours later, the group said.

The Japan Times

(C) All rights reserved

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Gorilla Radio for Monday, February 12, 2007

Gorilla Radio for Monday,
February 12, 2007
C. L. Cook

Far-reaching laws enacted in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks in the U.S. have allowed for all manner of state excess. None have felt the sting of these laws more acutely than America’s Muslim community: imprisonment without due process, so-called “extraordinary rendition,” and broadened powers of search and seizure have combined to create a climate of fear for many Americans. But none of these is more disturbing than the “case” against Dr. Rafil A. Dhafir. Last year, after serving nearly three years in federal custody, Dr. Dhafir was sentenced to 22 years in prison; his crime: Sending humanitarian aid to Iraq.

Katherine Hughes is a Syracuse, New York potter and student who followed the prosecution of the local doctor, Rafil Dhafir, and says she became so concerned with the ramifications of it held for civil liberties she took a hiatus from her studies to look more deeply into the case than the local media was willing to.

Katherine Hughes and the United States v. Rafil A. Dhafir in the first half.

And; they blazed into Washington riding a wave of voter revulsion of the incumbent government. Scandals of epic, unprecedented dimension are the hallmark of the Bush administration, and now, with majority control of both houses of Congress, the Democratic Party is in a position to initiate, impanel, and chair congressional committees to begin the long process of redress for a criminal conspiracy centred at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and so far responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands, and the pilfering of untold billions of dollars from the U.S. treasury. David Swanson is the Washington director of and, and co-founder of the groups, After Downing and Meet with

David Swanson and an accounting of the 110th Congress of the United States of America in the second half.

And; Janine Bandcroft will be here at the bottom of the hour to bring us up to speed with some of the good things you can get up to in and around Victoria in the coming week.

But first, Katherine Hughes and the laying low the good Dr. Dhafir.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Rising Russia

As the Middle East region rapidly changes with Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas, and the Saudis exerting influence, new European leaders arrive, who will counter or support the U.S. role and its policies.

Exit Blair and Chirac,
Enter Vladimir Putin Patrick Seale

Agence Global
February 10, 2007

Copyright © 2007 Patrick Seale
[Republished at GRBlog with AG permission]

On February 11, President Vladimir Putin begins a Middle East tour clearly intended to signal the intention of a more confident Russia to provide a regional counter-weight to the United States.

The two powers are at odds on several Middle East issues. The United States is threatening Iran with harsh sanctions and possibly even military strikes unless it suspends its uranium enrichment programme. Russia has supplied Iran with anti-aircraft systems to protect its nuclear facilities. It is building Iran’s first nuclear plant at Bushehr, and has a contract to build six more.

Whereas Washington backed Israel in its war last summer against Hizbullah in Lebanon, Hizbullah’s anti-tank weapons, which successfully knocked out dozens of Israel’s tanks, were of Russian manufacture -- even if supplied indirectly via Iran and Syria.

The United States has followed Israel’s lead in boycotting Hamas after its victory at the democratic Palestinian elections of January 2006. Russia has argued in favour of a dialogue with Hamas, and invited its leaders to Moscow.

Washington fears that North and sub-Saharan Africa may become a new base for terrorist activities. Russia, in contrast, has criticised America’s obsession with terrorism, and has agreed to supply Algeria with $7.5 billion worth of tanks, aircraft and anti-aircraft missiles.

Another new actor on the Middle East scene is German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Because of its Nazi past, Germany will never put serious pressure on Israel, but on her recent Middle East tour, Merkel displayed considerable independence by arguing in favour of engaging with Syria, and of a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

As new actors enter the Middle East arena, others prepare to depart.

This spring, two European leaders, Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair and France’s President Jacques Chirac, will be passing from the national and international scene. Both will have been in power for a decade. Both leave behind a mixed record.

Blair will be handing the reins over to his long-serving Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, while the coming French elections in April-May are expected to put either the right-wing Nicolas Sarkozy or the socialist Ségolène Royal in the Elysée Palace.

There is a one percent chance that Chirac might attempt to stand again. But, after forty years in public life -- as mayor of Paris, prime minister and president -- this is highly unlikely. He was recently quoted as saying that there was life after politics.

Blair’s creditable domestic record as prime minister has been fatally tarnished by his decision to join the United States in the war against Iraq -- a war many consider illegal and waged on fraudulent premises, which has destroyed a major Arab country, encouraged Iran’s ambitions, and spread chaos throughout the region.

Blair has attempted to rescue his reputation by pressing for movement on the Arab-Israeli peace process. But he has been defeated by Washington’s pro-Israeli neo-conservatives, who believe Israel should be free to settle its conflict with the Palestinians, and with Syria and Lebanon, on its own muscular terms, without external pressure or interference. No one knows whether Gordon Brown will be any more successful than Blair in checking American belligerence.

Jacques Chirac’s main claim to fame in the Middle East is that he opposed the war in Iraq from the very start -- an act of vision and political courage, which won him considerable popularity among Arabs. He threw some of this credit away, however, by joining the United States in pressing for Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon and by conducting a personal feud against Syria’s President Bashar al-Asad (whom he suspects of responsibility for the assassination of Chirac’s close friend, Lebanon’s former premier Rafiq Hariri). Chirac has also opposed Hizbullah in its challenge to the Lebanese government and has followed America’s lead in boycotting Hamas.

If Nicolas Sarkozy were to win the French presidential election, he is widely expected to place France more firmly in the American-Israeli camp. He has repeatedly described himself as a "friend of Israel," and as profoundly concerned for Israel’s security. On a visit to Washington late last year, he was at pains to be photographed in friendly talks with Bush.

The truth is that neither Britain nor France have managed to implement an independent policy in the Middle East, but have been forced to give ground to the United States and Israel. Many observers would say that Europe’s failure to devise a common defence and foreign policy -- or to agree on a new Constitution for a Union of 27 members -- lie at the root of its current weakness.

Another clear conclusion of recent years is that, in spite of providing Israel with massive assistance, the United States has been unable to influence Israel in the direction of peace with its neighbours. Rather, Israel and its influential friends have succeeded in shaping Bush’s policy. Having pushed him into the Iraqi quagmire, the neo-cons are now urging him to make war on Iran -- with unpredictable consequences for the whole world.

It remains to be seen whether a more confident Russia, a more assertive Arab world under Saudi leadership, an emergent Iran, as well as radical non-state actors like Hizbullah and Hamas will manage, in their very different ways, to introduce an element of balance in Middle East affairs.

Patrick Seale is a leading British writer on the Middle East, and the author of The Struggle for Syria; also, Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East; and Abu Nidal: A Gun for Hire.

Copyright © 2007 Patrick Seale

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Peace Possible in Palestine?

The Palestinian agreement last week in Mecca could result in peace negotiations if Israel in particular, and Israel's allies (the United States and the Quartet), respond in a positive manner and with equitable offerings.

Promising Saudi-Palestinian Stirrings
Rami G. Khouri

Agence Global
February 11, 2007

Copyright ©2007 Rami G. Khouri / Agence Global
[Republished at GRBlog with AG permission]

BEIRUT -- The most significant thing about the national unity government agreement signed February 8, by the Palestinian groups Hamas and Fateh in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, under Saudi auspices, is that it was signed in Mecca under Saudi auspices. It is probably more important for what it tells us about Saudi diplomatic stirrings than Palestinian-Israeli issues.

If this is the beginning of a new era in which diplomatically dynamic Saudis and politically pragmatic Palestinians assert themselves more forcefully on the regional stage, we might be on the threshold of better days ahead for the Middle East. I would not bet the family savings on this, but neither would I ignore the potential that is there.

We need not expect this accord to jump start a new Arab-Israeli peace process, mainly because Israel and the United States -- with Western Europe increasingly in tow -- have not seriously explored real openings for a negotiated peace in the past decade. The most forceful move ever made by the four-member Quartet (United States, UN, EU and Russia) that is supposed to shepherd the peace-making process was to slap sanctions and tough demands on the Hamas-led Palestinian government -- without ever making equal, parallel demands of Israel. As such, the Quartet looks more and more like a legitimizing cover for Israeli-American positions that have killed any chance of a peace process.

Israel and the United States are likely to repeat the Quartet's three demands: that the Palestinian government explicitly renounce terrorism, honor all existing Palestinian agreements with Israel, and recognize Israel's right to exist. These are reasonable and legitimate demands -- but only if Israel is required to abide by the same rules. And this is not the case. The Quartet sanctions the Palestinians without demanding simultaneously that Israel stop its colonization of Arab lands, its expansion of settlements, and its routine killings and assassinations of Palestinians and Lebanese.

Here is a clue to a breakthrough for Israel, the United States and the West: Offer to the Palestinians as much as they demand the Palestinians give to Israel.

In this respect, the Palestinian accord in Mecca will not meet Israeli-American-Quartet demands, and is unlikely to advance peace talks. However it could mark a positive turning point if the Israeli-American-Quartet camp were to see peace-making as a win-win situation, in which progress happened on the back of mutual gains by both sides, rather than mainly enforcing the unilateral demands of Israel.

The Palestinian national unity government has offered Israel two significant but symbolic olive branches: respecting all previous Palestinian agreements (such as the Oslo accords and the PLO’s recognition of Israel’s right to exist) and respecting the Arab Summit’s 2002 peace plan, which offers Israel full peace in return for full withdrawal from occupied lands, and a negotiated resolution of the Palestinian refugee issue. This same Palestinian government, though, also recommitted itself to other Palestinian documents and Arab positions that make armed resistance against Israeli occupation both legitimate and noble. The future path defining Palestinian policy will largely reflect how Israel and the West respond to the Mecca agreement.

Those who truly seek peace should see this Palestinian gesture as an opening and an opportunity to explore serious means of negotiating a comprehensive, permanent peace agreement. Israel will make an important choice in the coming months: It will reciprocate the Palestinian-Saudi gesture in kind and make equally broad but well-intentioned declarations of an intent to coexist in peace and equality; or, it will hold fast to its ironclad policy of refusing any diplomatic probes and persisting in its colonization, strangulation, and military assaults on the Palestinians.

The important Saudi mediation for the Hamas-Fateh agreement comes at a time when Saudi Arabia is also actively engaged with Iran on defusing tensions related to Lebanon and to the larger standoff with the West and the UN on Tehran's nuclear industry. Saudi Arabia affirmed its clout within the region in fostering the Palestinian unity accord, which Syria and Egypt both had tried but failed to do. If Saudi Arabia is more willing to use its considerable moral (religious) and financial power to help broker conflict resolutions in the Middle East, we should all welcome that. But we must also respond to Saudi gestures, rather than let them wither on the vine, as happened with the Saudis' 2002 Arab-Israeli peace plan that Israel and the United States ignored.

It is important to recognize the significance of a diplomatically stirring Saudi Arabia that can have a positive impact in Iran, Syria, Palestine-Israel, and Lebanon, for starters. As in 2002, Saudis and Palestinians have made a sincere, constructive gesture for peaceful coexistence. A return gesture of equal magnitude could change history. Snubbing this Arab gesture would only exacerbate existing tensions and conflicts in the region, and probably push them towards levels of suffering and destruction that would make the past five years look like a picnic.

Rami G. Khouri is an internationally syndicated columnist, the director of the Issam Fares Institute at the American University of Beirut, editor-at-large of the Beirut-based Daily Star, and co-laureate of the 2006 Pax Christi International Peace Award.

Copyright ©2007 Rami G. Khouri / Agence Global

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