Saturday, December 9, 2006

James Baker Versus the Lobby

Something's Gotta Give


"The tension between the Bush administration and the members of the Iraq Study Group, illustrates the widening chasm between old-guard U.S. imperialists and "Israel-first" neoconservatives. The divisions are setting the stage for a major battle between the two camps. The winner will probably decide US policy in the Middle East for the next decade.

The failed occupation of Iraq has put the entire region on the fast-track to disaster. That's why James Baker was summoned from retirement to see if he could change the present trajectory and mitigate the long-term damage to US interests. Baker was opposed to the invasion from the onset but his 4 day trip to Baghdad convinced him that something had to be done quickly. The ISG report reflects the unanimous view of its authors that Iraq is disintegrating into chaos and that action must be taken to reduce the level of bloodshed.

Baker is not merely an objective observer in this process. He clearly "has a dog in this fight". As Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan he put together the basic scaffolding for America's imperial presence in the region and he continues to be connected to many of the corporations which benefit from US relations in the Middle East. But he has also always taken a "pragmatic" approach to regional policy and cannot be considered a war-monger. Some critics of Baker say that his business interests suggest that he indirectly supports the Bush policy. But this is an oversimplification. In fact, Baker sees war as a blunt instrument that is essentially incompatible with commercial interests. There are simply more efficient ways for clever men to achieve their objectives......

This is the real James Baker. He's not ideological and he's certainly not on a religious crusade. His approach may seem cynical, but it shows that he prefers commerce (even with a brutal dictator) over war. This proves that his role with the ISG is not simply to provide cover for Bush. Baker's task is to salvage the imperial system which he helped to create. Besides, it's clear that Bush is unhappy with the report and has already rejected its two critical recommendations; negotiations with Syria and Iran, and a commitment to troop reduction. Furthermore, Bush is doing everything in his power to minimize the effects of the report. In fact, he even flew Tony Blair to Washington so that he wouldn't look as isolated in his position........

Whatever one thinks about James Baker, he is a seasoned diplomat and a serious man. His record shows that he has broad support among the leaders in the American oligarchy, so he can't simply be ignored. He represents a powerful constituency of corporate chieftains and oil magnates who are conspicuously worried about the deteriorating situation in Iraq and want to see a change of course. Baker's their man. He's the logical emissary for the growing number of jittery plutocrats who see that the Bush policy-train has jumped the tracks.

But if Big Oil wants a change of direction than where is Bush getting his support for "staying the course"?

An AP poll conducted this week shows that only 9% of Americans believe that "victory" in Iraq is possible. Even the hard-core Bush loyalists have abandoned the sinking ship. The only group left touting Bush's failed policy is the "Israel first" camp which continues to wave the bloody shirt of incitement from their perch at the Weekly Standard and the American Enterprise Institute. These same diehards are leading the charge for a preemptive attack on Iran; a criminal act which will have catastrophic effects on America's long-term energy needs.

An article which appeared in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz shows how confident Prime Minister Olmert is in the ability of the Jewish Lobby to torpedo the Baker-Hamilton report and steer the US away from changes in Iraq:

"On his way home from Los Angeles, the Prime Minister calmed' the reporters and perhaps even himself"by saying there is no danger of the US President George Bush accepting the expected recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton panel, and attempting to move Syria out of the axis of evil and into a coalition to extricate America from Iraq. The Prime Minister hopes the Jewish Lobby can rally a Democratic majority in the new Congress to counter any diversion from the status quo on the Palestinians. (Akiva Eldar, "The Gewalt Agenda")

Olmert has good reason to be "calm". While the new Congress is being apprised of its duties to Israel, the Brookings Institute is convening a forum at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy entitled: "America and Israel: Confronting a Middle east in Turmoil". The meeting will be attended by Israeli right-wing extremist, Avigdor Lieberman, as well as political big-wigs, Bill and Hillary Clinton.

The context of the meeting suggests that right-leaning Israelis will be informing their friends in the Democratic Party about the anticipated attack on Iran, as well as discussing strategies for sabotaging Baker's report. If we see the Democrats lambasting the ISGs recommendations next week; we'll know why.

So, the battle lines have been drawn. On one side we have James Baker and his corporate classmates who want to restore order while preserving America's imperial role in the region. And, on the other side, we have the neo-Trotskyites and Israeli-Jacobins who seek a fragmented and chaotic Middle East where Israel is the dominant power. (see "A Clean Break")

The one group that has no voice in this "Battle of the Titans" is the American people. They lost whatever was left of their shrinking political-clout sometime around the 2000 Coronation of George Bush.

In any event, Baker and his ilk are not going to sit back and watch the empire (and the military) they put together with their own two hands be systematically pulverized by a cabal of zealots pursuing an agenda that only serves Israeli hardliners.

That ain't gonna happen. Expect Baker to wheel out the heavy artillery and fight tooth-and-nail to reassert the primacy of the American ruling class. "The Lobby" may be powerful, but it's going to be tough-going to take the country away from the people who believe they own it. The struggle between the political heavyweights is about to break-out into open warfare."

Photos confirm US raid child deaths

Photos courtesy of Iraqirabita

"Al Jazeera has obtained exclusive footage that confirms children were among the victims of a US air raid northwest of Baghdad. Local officials said that the bodies of 17 civilians, including six children and eight women, had been pulled from the debris of two houses in al-Ishaqi.

The US military had issued a statement on Friday saying that two women were among 20 suspected "al Qaeda terrorists" killed in the operation.

Al Jazeera's footage showed the bodies of men, women and children wrapped in blankets after they had been pulled from the rubble.

The Agence France Presse news agency said it passed its own photographs of the dead children to Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Garver, a US military spokesman, who said: "We've checked with the troops who conducted this operation - there were no children found among the terrorists killed.

"I see nothing in the photos that indicates those children were in the houses that our forces received fire from and subsequently destroyed with the air strike."

Faces unrecognisable

In Aljazeera's pictures angry villagers had gathered around the bodies, several of which were so badly charred that their faces were unrecognisable.

Local residents said that one entire family had been killed.

"The Americans have done this before but they always deny it," Amer Alwan, the mayor of al-Ishaqi, told Reuters news agency.

"I want the world to know what's happening here."

He also told the AFP news agency: "This is the third crime done by Americans in this area of Ishaqi. All the casualties were innocent women and children and everything they said about them being part of al-Qaeda is a lie."

He told Al Jazeera that he was calling for an international investigation into the attack.

Abdullah Hussain Jabbara, deputy governor of Salah al-Din governorate, told Al Jazeera: "Residents of the two houses [which were bombed] have nothing to do with al-Qaeda network. All the people killed are members of the same family."

Civilians killed
Jabbara said an investigation into the incident would be carried out.

"But what is the use of opening an investigation?" he asked. "The occupation still exists and Iraqi citizens are the victims."

Local officials and Iraqi police had said on Friday that they believed 32 civilians had been killed in the attack."

How Many More Will Die for Bush's Ego?

The Cost of Bush's "Mistake"


".......I couldn't believe my ears when I heard talking heads worrying about Bush's "comfort level" with the Iraqi Study Group's unanimous report. Bush's comfort level? What about the comfort level of the Iraqis and Americans who are losing family members while idiot talking heads worry about Bush's comfort level with the facts!

Try to imagine the impression the US gives to the rest of the world: The US cannot stop a war that is a catastrophe becoming a calamity because it would interfere with Bush's comfort level.

This disastrous war is a testament to the irresponsibility of the American people and their elected representatives. There were, of course, many dissenters. But the majority were too lazy and irresponsible to take the trouble to be informed. Most Americans allowed themselves to be deceived and emotionally manipulated. The consequence of this failure of the American people has been brutal for countless people and their families in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon and for the thousands of American families who have suffered because Bush sent US troops on a fool's mission. The American people are stained with the blood of innocents. Are they still not sufficiently angry with the president who used them for his crimes to demand his impeachment?

As long as Bush remains in office, the neoconservatives will demand more wars. In the current issue of "Foreign Policy," neocon Joshua Muravchik stridently insists that Bush bomb Iran before he leaves office. Muracvchik urges his fellow neocon warmongers to "pave the way" for the bombing of Iran and to "be prepared to defend the action when it comes."

As Middle East expert Anthony Sullivan writes, the neoconservatives are "fifth columnists" whose "real concern is not the United States but Israel." Sullivan writes that "it is past time that neoconservatives and their movement be left to drown in the deepest reaches of the ocean."

Amen! And send Bush and Cheney and Rice with them."

What he's really thinking


"I can not believe I married this guy. All my friends warned me, but did I listen? Nooooo. 'You have nothing in common,' they said. 'You're too good for him,' they said. 'Oh sure, but if you were really my friend you would support me and want me to be happy,' I would say. Shite. Oh lord, is he going on about 'victory' and 'resolve' again? I used to think that was so cute... Bugger this. Should have insisted on that prenup."

Will Bush choose his new friends over his old?

The president's Shiite allies in Iraq really don't like some of James Baker's Sunni-friendly suggestions.

By Juan Cole

Dec. 8, 2006 | At a press conference on Thursday, George Bush was asked whether he was "in denial" about Iraq. "It's bad in Iraq," he shot back, to laughter. "That help?" He also noted that the report of the James Baker-led Iraq Study Group, which was released Wednesday, was important enough that he had read it.

But the immediate speculation in Washington was that even if the president has really accepted that things are "bad," it doesn't mean he's ready to follow the ISG's advice on how to make things better. Some wondered which prescriptions he would ignore, while others suggested he might be trying to sabotage the ISG's suggested remedies altogether.

The reality is that the president, via briefings, has probably long been aware of what the ISG report would say. In fact, when Bush met Iraq's two leading Shiite politicians in the week just prior to the report's release, he was almost certainly acquainting Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq party chief Abdul Aziz al-Hakim with the ISG's key proposals.

It is also true, however, that there are parts of the report that run counter to Bush's own strategy in Iraq, and not just in terms of how long to stay. In a real sense, Bush has developed Iraqi constituencies and political allies. Bush has already picked his horses in Iraq, and they are Shiite. And that puts him at odds with the panelists of the ISG, most notably James Baker, the very Bush family loyalist whose efforts on his behalf in Florida six years ago helped land him in the White House.

When Bush met with al-Maliki in Amman, Jordan, one week ago, the timely leak of a scathing memo on the eve of the summit suggested that the administration was trying to undermine the Iraqi prime minister. In the memo, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley wrote, "The reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests al-Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action." The memo apparently so angered the prime minister that he declined to show up at a banquet where he was scheduled to dine with Bush and with Jordan's King Abdullah II.

In reality, though some Washington insiders were pushing for a change behind the scenes, Bush claims he's not switching horses. At the conclusion of the summit, he publicly endorsed Maliki. "He's the right guy for Iraq and we're going to help him and it's in our interest to help him." The Shiite fundamentalist United Iraqi Alliance has come out on top in both of Iraq's parliamentary elections, and al-Maliki heads a key component of the UIA, the Islamic Call Party (al-Da'wa). He is in coalition with the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which has also done well in the polls. Bush decided that since al-Da'wa and SCIRI were winners in Iraqi politics, he would have to develop good relations with them. Sources in Washington confirm to me that Bush thinks of the two Shiite leaders as "our guys," and he has entertained Da'wa and SCIRI officials at private White House functions.

In turn, Bush and Maliki are in accord on several of the ISG's key proposals. The ISG report envisages that the Iraqi army "would take over primary responsibility for combat operations." Maliki has the same vision, and Bush likely met with him precisely in order to explore the issue of the prime minister's control over his own army. That the president was open to the further transfer of authority over the Iraqi army to al-Maliki suggests that this recommendation by the ISG will form part of administration policy. On Monday, U.S. commanders transferred control of the Third Iraqi Army Division, stationed in the northern province of Ninevah, to the prime minister. It was the third division to be put under Baghdad's control; seven others still take orders from the Pentagon.

The prime minister's own timeline for taking control of the remaining divisions is even more ambitious than that of the ISG. "At the beginning of next year we will increase the training of our forces," said al-Maliki. "When they reach an acceptable level, we can talk about transferring power from multinational forces to Iraqi forces." He has long maintained that the Iraqi military is capable of taking over more security tasks faster than Washington imagines. He told ABC news after the meeting with Bush in Amman, "I can tell you that by next June our forces will be ready."

Bush and al-Maliki were also in full accord with another ISG tenet -- that there must be no partition of Iraq. At the Amman summit, Bush telegraphed his opposition to any decentralization of Iraq or its partition. "The prime minister made clear that splitting his country into parts, as some have suggested, is not what the Iraqi people want, and that any partition of Iraq would only lead to an increase in sectarian violence." The two were slamming proposals like that of Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware that would create three ethnically based super-provinces in Iraq, over which a weak federal government would preside. Biden's plan does not actually call for partition, but many fear that such a reorganization would provoke a complete breakup of the country anyway.

As the ISG report put it, "The costs associated with devolving Iraq into three semiautonomous regions with loose central control would be too high." It points out that Iraq's population is mixed, so that such a devolution "could result in mass population movements, collapse of the Iraqi security forces, strengthening of militias, ethnic cleansing, destabilization of neighboring states, or attempts by neighboring states to dominate Iraqi regions."

President Bush is presumably in sympathy with one of the ISG's main concerns about partition, which is that there should be a central Iraqi government in control of the country's petroleum reserves and revenues. Both James Baker and the president have ties to U.S. petroleum companies, which would rather negotiate with a single central government than be forced to strike deals with each province or regional federation.

To forestall partition, and to promote national unity and reconciliation, the ISG recommends that the United States and the Iraqi government "support the holding of a conference or meeting in Baghdad of the Organization of the Islamic Conference or the Arab League." The Arab League is mostly made up of Sunni Arab states, and it has had a rocky relationship with the new Iraqi government, dominated by Shiites and Kurds. The Sunnis are supported by a majority of Iraq's neighbors, especially Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Baker also has long ties to the Saudis and other Sunni Arab powers. Only Iran supports Iraq's Shiites.

Whether Bush will adopt the idea of a conference involving Iraq's neighbors is not clear. But it is clear that his Shiite allies will resist it, and that here is where he may be forced to choose between his new Iranian-influenced Iraqi friends and his old Saudi friends and James Baker.

On Monday, Bush met with Shiite cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who heads up SCIRI as well as being the nominal leader of the United Iraqi Alliance, which has 128 seats in Iraq's 275-member parliament. Despite al-Hakim's close ties to Iran, he has been a consistent ally of the U.S. in Iraq. Bush works Iraqi politicians the same way he worked the Texas Legislature or Congress, and it may be difficult for him to buck his Shiite and Kurdish allies on this issue. By Monday, the ISG proposal for a regional conference to stop Iraq's sectarian violence had already leaked, and al-Hakim gave Bush an earful about it.

After the meeting, al-Hakim came out strongly against the ISG proposal. "We believe that the Iraqi issues should be solved by the Iraqis, with the help of friends everywhere. But we reject any attempts to have a regional or international role in solving the Iraqi issue."

On at least one subject, however, Bush will not have to choose between the Shiites and the ISG. Both groups already disagree with him.

In Amman, Bush said he wanted to start withdrawing American troops from Iraq "as soon as possible." He cautioned, however, that it might take time. He reassured al-Maliki that he was committed to keeping American troops in Iraq "until the job is complete." Al-Maliki seemed not to want the reassurance.

Maliki wants American troops out, and so does the ISG. The ISG wants most active combat troops out of Iraq by early 2008. Maliki wants them out faster.

Both timetables would be unrealistic even if the president weren't clinging to the idea of victory. But Bush is unable to let go of the neoconservative folly that a democratic Iraq will transform the Middle East and form a new pillar of U.S. policy in the region. As he said in Amman, "It's in our interests to help liberty prevail in the Middle East, starting with Iraq. And that's why this business about 'graceful exit' simply has no realism to it at all." On this issue, Bush has fewer friends of any description every day.

Israeli PM calls for Armageddon, now!

ISRAELI Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has called for more dramatic measures to be taken against Iran and declined to rule out a military attack against Tehran in an interview with Germany's Spiegel magazine.

From correspondents in Berlin
December 09, 2006 11:11pm

"Mr Olmert criticised the international community's hesitation in dealing with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The West fears Iran's nuclear program is aimed at developing nuclear weapons but Tehran denies this.

"I am anything but happy," Mr Olmert was quoted as saying in an interview released ahead of publication tomorrow.

"I expect significantly more dramatic steps to be taken. Here is a leader who says openly that it is his aim to wipe Israel off the map. Israel is a member of the United Nations."

"That someone says such a thing these days is absolutely criminal."

When asked if he would not rule out a military strike against Tehran, Mr Olmert replied: "I rule nothing out."

Mr Olmert repeated he was prepared to withdraw from the majority of settlements in the occupied West Bank.

"A prime minister should not make promises that he cannot keep but my message is clear: I am prepared to give up regions.

"That means that I am ready to evacuate territories. You know how hard this is," he said.

"And we are ready to do this in such a way that would allow the Palestinians in the West Bank to have a contiguous state. I am not making any conditions which would not be made by the international community."

Mr Olmert is due to visit Germany on Tuesday and will hold a joint press conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel."

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, left, shakes hands with Iran 's former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, during an official meeting in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, Dec. 9, 2006. An unidentified translator is in center.(AP Photo)

Looking Presidential

Hudna or Not Palestinian Rights Must Be Preserved

By Ramzy Baroud

"....The media, once more, indulged in analysing the recent developments, with the full confidence that Olmert's verbal commitment to ending the conflict was indeed genuine. The ball, once again, was placed in the Palestinian court. All eyes are now on Hamas: will it heed to the voice of reason and moderation, as embodied in the character of Abbas? Or will it continue to nurture its sinful alliance with Iran and Syria?

As western governments - led or intimidated by the United States - rushed to punish the Palestinians for their democratic choice, the media largely followed suit: exaggerating Hamas' military strength and its ability to 'destroy' Israel, its adherence to violence as the only means of struggle, its religious fanaticism, and all the rest. Such a portrayal helped contextualize the three unfair conditions imposed on the Palestinian government, to unconditionally recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept previous agreements signed between the former Palestinian Authority governments and Israel, starting with the infamous Oslo Accords, reached in total secrecy in 1993.

I took just 10 months to consolidate such a discourse: where the Palestinians, as always were forced on the defence, desperately trying to show that all the allegations made against their government are untrue. Meanwhile, Israel was left with the gift of time, a desperately needed factor in its colonial war against the Palestinians: robbing more land, expanding its apartheid wall, killing with impunity and so on. Though such means of repression are commonplace tools in the ongoing conflict, exasperated in the last six years of Palestinian Uprising or Intifada, the election of a Hamas-dominated parliament introduced a newer element: starvation, plain and simple.

The Palestinian government, armed with the popular support of its people, which is yet to fade despite all attempts, refused to succumb to such pressure. It continued to argue that recognizing Israel while the latter claims both historic Palestine and the 1967 Occupied Territories as theirs is out of the question. Who would so naïve as to accept the existence of its occupier, oppressor, while the latter does its outmost to deny the occupied its right to live or to exist? ........

.....However, it must be stressed that this position should neither serve as, nor be understood as a personal indictment; Palestinian violence is hardly comparable to that of Israel, the fifth strongest army in the world; death tolls on both sides effortlessly express the disparity of power. While proposing a hunda is maybe an expression of the current Palestinian government's commitment to peace, or perhaps a way out of a terrible bind; regardless, it should neither override nor cancel out the Palestinian people's uncompromising adherence to their just demands for freedom and rights, determined by a Palestinian national consensus and cemented in international law. "

Kurds reject Iraq report

The Iraq Study Group's report on the situation in Iraq has received a strong rebuke from the leader of the northern Kurdish region of the country.
Massoud Barzani, the president of the northern Iraqi Kurdistan region, accused the commission on Friday of trying to impose the "wrong solutions" on the Iraqi people.

Barzani was sharply critical of the report's recommendation that the Iraqi central government should have control over the natural resources of the country and said that the mechanism of natural wealth distribution in the constitution was sufficient.

The Iraq Study group chairs Lee Hamilton and James Baker, a former US secretary of state, unveiled their findings on Wednesday.
Barzani said the panel had not even bothered to visit the Kurdish region before publishing their report.

"We are in no way abiding by this report," he said. Barzani, is a key ally of the US in Iraq.
Arab League
Meanwhile the 22-member Arab League was quoted by the Mena news agency on Friday as saying it was astounded by the study group report, which it said trampled on the rights of Iraqis and made face-saving a priority.

Other Iraqi leaders, most of whom appear to have been familiar with the contents of the report prior to its official release, were cautiously optimistic about the proposals, especially those calling for national reconciliation.

Barzani has otherwise been an ally of the US
In its efforts to promote greater unity for the country, the ISG report appears to have trodden on the Kurds' toes. Their autonomous region has escaped the violence raging in the rest of the country and is practically a separate entity.

The report suggested delaying the implementation of constitutional article 140 calling for a controversial referendum to decide the future of the northern oil city of Kirkuk, a tense mix of ethnic groups.

Washington talks

Barzani’s reaction was echoed by Ali al-Jarush, the Arab League’s official responsible for Iraq, who was quoted by the Mena news agency as being "astounded that the Baker-Hamilton report carries on regardless of the rights of Iraqis and limits itself to making it a priority to preserve the aura, interests and face-saving of the American administration".

Your Views

"The people of America want to apologize to the Iraqis for the mistakes of our elected officials"

Al Hajji Yusef, Mobile, US

The comments on Friday came after the head of the Cairo-based group, Amr Moussa, called the report "very interesting, full of very sound recommendations" after talks in Washington with Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State.

That report said progress towards Arab-Israeli peace was key to saving the situation Iraq.

It also called for direct talks between the US and Iran and Syria.

The renewed focus on Mideast peacemaking and growing domestic pressure on US leaders to end the crisis in Iraq have Israelis worrying about a possible policy shift by George Bush, the US president, who for six years has largely steerd personally clear of the intricacies of the peacemaking process in the Middle East.


Israel's leading newspaper, the Yediot Aharonot daily, said Bush was "trying to change his policy" and slammed the Iraq report, accusing its chief authors James Baker and Lee Hamilton of ignoring Israel during its preparation.


Iraq Study Group

"If the truth be told, they barely paid any attention to us," the newspaper said. "For 14 years, Israel enjoyed warm and pampering attention under Clinton and Bush. Now, in light of the catastrophe in Iraq, Baker and Hamilton wish to restore us to our proper proportions."

Edward Djerejian, a senior adviser to the Iraq Study Group, told the paper that were Washington to shift its tack, Israel would follow suit.

Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, has, however, expressed disatisfaction with the report's recommendations.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, he said US problems in Iraq "are entirely independent of the controversy between us and the Palestinians".

Elsewhere, responding to the ISG report John Howard, the Australian prime minister and staunch supporter of Bush, admitted on Friday that the war in Iraq was progressing "very badly", but ruled out any hasty withdrawal of Australian troops.


Palestinian security force officers, most loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, gather on the steps of the Legislative Council during a protest to demand their salaries from the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority in Gaza City, Saturday Dec. 9, 2006.(AP Photo)

Palestinian security force officers, most of them loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, chant slogans as they march during a protest to demand their salaries from the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority in Gaza City, Saturday Dec. 9, 2006.(AP Photo)

Palestinian security force officers climb the Legislative Council building during a protest to demand their salaries from the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority in Gaza City, Saturday Dec. 9, 2006. (AP Photo)

Palestinian police officers ride on a police vehicle as they and others march during a protest demanding their salaries in the West Bank town of Jenin, Saturday, Dec. 9, 2006. Some 4,000 members of the security forces staged the march to press for their salaries which have not been paid in full by the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority in months. (AP Photo)

Palestinian security personnel fire into the air, during a rally by uniformed police and other security officers demonstrating over the non-payment of their salaries, inside the parliament headquarters in Gaza December 9, 2006. A Palestinian parliamentary guard was wounded as demonstrators and parliamentary security guards exchanged fire at the Palestinian parliament building in Gaza City on Saturday, a Reuters witness said. (REUTERS)


While The Zionists Are Establishing "Greater Israel," The Palestinians Are Spending Their Energy Fighting Over A Fictitious "State," But In Reality Living In A Prison.
By Hamid Najeeb.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Israel-Firsters in US House of Representatives, Led by Lantos, Weiner, and Lehinen, Pass Yet Another Anti-Palestinian Legislation

By Hassan El-Najjar

"C-Span, December 7, 2006 aired speeches of three members of the US House of Representatives pushing for the adoption of their legislation to further starve the Palestinian people. The legislation punishes Palestinians for not surrendering to their Israeli occupiers who forced them out of their homeland and they want them now to legitimize the theft by recognizing the Israeli occupation government.

Israeli-Firsters and Zionist dinosaurs in the US House of Representatives, Led by Lantos, Weiner, and Lehinen, pressured other members of Congress to vote for yet another anti-Palestinian legislation.

The Zionist zealots Tom Lantos of California, Weiner of New York, and Lehinen of Florida spoke in a very hateful way against the Palestinian people. Lantos in Particular expressed gloating in starving the Palestinian people yet more for daring to vote for Hamas.

According to the new legislation (HR-2370, Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act), which was passed by the AIPAC-controlled rubber-stamp US Congress, the US government should deny funding to the Palestinian Authority as long as the elected Hamas leaders run it.

The most important consequence of such legislation, however, is not denying US funding to the Palestinian Authority. Rather, to obligate the Bush administration to use its influence on other nations not to provide assistance to the Palestinian people.

Qatar's foreign minister was summoned to the US State Department yesterday to rebuke him for his country's announcement of paying salaries of Palestinian teachers. Condoleezza Rice does not want to see Palestinian government employees getting paid even by their Arab brethren.

This Lantos-Weiner-Lehinen legislation is an example for students of American politics of how Zionists control the US government in service of the Israeli occupation government policies. Any legislation bill presented by any number of Zionists in Congress about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is going to pass automatically by the AIPAC-controlled US rubber-stamp Congress. (See Carter's new book, Walt and Meirsheimer's Israel Lobby paper, and Findley's famous book, Who dares to speak? for explanation).

This legislation comes also only one day after the Zionist Israeli occupation ideologue, Shimon Peres, announced a worldwide Israeli plan to throw out the Hamas government.

The Zionist Israeli plan focuses on starving the Palestinian people, as a punishment to them for electing Hamas, and a pressure on Hamas to give up the government to its Fateh rival, which is accepted by Israelis and their followers in the US and Europe.

The Zionists are mad that Hamas has refused so far to recognize Israel as an occupying power. They want the Palestinians to surrender and accept all Israeli conditions before negotiations. Well, Fateh did that and gained nothing in ten years.

These Zionist dinosaurs in US Congress have not realized yet that their days may be numbered after pushing the US to the disastrous invasion of Iraq in service of Israeli interests.

The Baker-Hamilton Commission recommended that the US address the Palestinian grievances and help establish the Palestinian state, in order for Arab and Muslim governments to be able to give a hand to America to get out of the Iraqi quagmire.

It doesn't seem that Lantos, Weiner, Lehinen, and their likes read the report.

They may never read it
. "



U.S. occupation forces in Iraq have suffered their deadliest week in almost 3 years. In the first week of December, 37 U.S. soldiers were killed, making it the worst week since April 2004, when fighting in Fallujah was raging.

So far a total of 2,927 U.S. service members have been killed in Iraq.

Speaking Frankly about Israel and Palestine

by Jimmy Carter

"I signed a contract with Simon & Schuster two years ago to write a book about the Middle East, based on my personal observations as the Carter Center monitored three elections in Palestine and on my consultations with Israeli political leaders and peace activists.

We covered every Palestinian community in 1996, 2005 and 2006, when Yasser Arafat and later Mahmoud Abbas were elected president and members of parliament were chosen. The elections were almost flawless, and turnout was very high — except in East Jerusalem, where, under severe Israeli restraints, only about 2% of registered voters managed to cast ballots.

The many controversial issues concerning Palestine and the path to peace for Israel are intensely debated among Israelis and throughout other nations — but not in the United States. For the last 30 years, I have witnessed and experienced the severe restraints on any free and balanced discussion of the facts. This reluctance to criticize any policies of the Israeli government is because of the extraordinary lobbying efforts of the American-Israel Political Action Committee and the absence of any significant contrary voices.

It would be almost politically suicidal for members of Congress to espouse a balanced position between Israel and Palestine, to suggest that Israel comply with international law or to speak in defense of justice or human rights for Palestinians. Very few would ever deign to visit the Palestinian cities of Ramallah, Nablus, Hebron, Gaza City or even Bethlehem and talk to the beleaguered residents. What is even more difficult to comprehend is why the editorial pages of the major newspapers and magazines in the United States exercise similar self-restraint, quite contrary to private assessments expressed quite forcefully by their correspondents in the Holy Land.......

Book reviews in the mainstream media have been written mostly by representatives of Jewish organizations who would be unlikely to visit the occupied territories, and their primary criticism is that the book is anti-Israel. Two members of Congress have been publicly critical. Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for instance, issued a statement (before the book was published) saying that "he does not speak for the Democratic Party on Israel." Some reviews posted on call me "anti-Semitic," and others accuse the book of "lies" and "distortions." A former Carter Center fellow has taken issue with it, and Alan Dershowitz called the book's title "indecent."

Out in the real world, however, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. I've signed books in five stores, with more than 1,000 buyers at each site. I've had one negative remark — that I should be tried for treason — and one caller on C-SPAN said that I was an anti-Semite. My most troubling experience has been the rejection of my offers to speak, for free, about the book on university campuses with high Jewish enrollment and to answer questions from students and professors. I have been most encouraged by prominent Jewish citizens and members of Congress who have thanked me privately for presenting the facts and some new ideas.

The book describes the abominable oppression and persecution in the occupied Palestinian territories, with a rigid system of required passes and strict segregation between Palestine's citizens and Jewish settlers in the West Bank. An enormous imprisonment wall is now under construction, snaking through what is left of Palestine to encompass more and more land for Israeli settlers. In many ways, this is more oppressive than what blacks lived under in South Africa during apartheid. I have made it clear that the motivation is not racism but the desire of a minority of Israelis to confiscate and colonize choice sites in Palestine, and then to forcefully suppress any objections from the displaced citizens. Obviously, I condemn any acts of terrorism or violence against innocent civilians, and I present information about the terrible casualties on both sides.

The ultimate purpose of my book is to present facts about the Middle East that are largely unknown in America, to precipitate discussion and to help restart peace talks (now absent for six years) that can lead to permanent peace for Israel and its neighbors. Another hope is that Jews and other Americans who share this same goal might be motivated to express their views, even publicly, and perhaps in concert. I would be glad to help with that effort. "

The Baker Agenda: Troops out, Oil Companies in?

By Tom Hayden

"Recommendations 62 and 63 confirm that control of Iraqi oil is a fundamental premise of Administration policy. This was denied in the first years of the war, but this week the President confirmed his belief that Islamic extremists will “gain access to vast oil reserves and use Iraq as a base to overthrow moderate governments all across the broader Middle East.” [LAT, 12-6-06]. Then James Baker revealed the interest of his longtime oil industry allies, as well as key financial and corporate interests, in an Iraq resolution favorable to their narrow interests.

Recommendation 62 says the US government should help draft an oil law that “creates a fiscal and legal framework for investment.” It further recommends that the US, in conjunction with the International Monetary Fund [IMF], should “pres Iraq to continue reducing subsidies in the energy sector...until Iraqis pay market prices for oil products...” That is, in a country besieged by civil war, bombings of infrastructure, unemployment at 50 percent levels, and the lack of necessities, the Baker Report proposes to make everyday life harder for average Iraqis so that the oil industry profits.

Recommendation 63 says the US should “assist” Iraqi leaders in privatizing the national oil industry into a “commercial enterprise” to encourage investment by the multi-national oil companies.

Who said it was not about blood for oil?

There’s more to uncover. But at this point we know that the Baker commission is sprinkled with heavyweights from oil, construction, and financial entities with interests in Iraq. Baker is a Texas oilman whose law firm has interests in debt repayment to Kuwait and other Gulf States. Lawrence Eagleberger has ties to Halliburton and Philips Petroleum, and is a former head of Kissinger Associates, a corporate consulting firm whose clients remain secret [Paul Bremer was managing partner of the Associates]. Vernon Jordan is a power lawyer at Akin Gump who is closely associated with the secretive Bilderberg Group [as well as the Clinton circle and civil rights firms]. Leon Panetta served on the board of the New York Stock Exchange. The expert working groups for the ISG include leaders of Bechtel, PFC Energy, and two representatives of Citygroup, Inc., the firm of Robert Rubin, leading neo-liberal advocate and member of Clinton’s cabinet.

Not a single person from the peace movement, women’s, environmental, civil rights or labor organizations were among the “expert” consultants listed in the ISG Report, although the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute were there.

The Report acknowledges that “senior members of Iraq’s oil industry” argue for a nationalized oil company to centralize and allocate revenues fairly by region and group. But the Baker team dismisses any such idea on grounds that simply favor private multinationals. They approve of “aggressive” Kurdish investment deals with oil companies in northern Iraq, and note that Shi’a leaders are reported to be negotiating for foreign oil companies as well.

The Sunni armed nationalist groups have consistently stood for the Iraqi right to control Iraqi oil, while also offering a generous role for American contractors and corporations in their vision of the future.

All this suggests that the ideological goal of the US invasion was not simply to displace Saddam Hussein but to dismantle the Arab nationalist state as a whole, opening the oil fields to private penetration. It is even possible that the grand alliance behind the Baker report includes support for US military disengagement in exchange for permanent guarantees that privatize the second largest oil fields on the planet.....


Ahmad Yousef, Haniyyah's Senior Advisor And P.R. Consultant

Is It All About Image? Is This What Ahmad Yousef Advises?

We Must Prevent Permanent Bases in Iraq

Congress passed a law banning permanent bases in Iraq and the Baker-Hamilton Report suggests that Bush state we don't have long-term plans - meanwhile, construction continues.

Did you notice something about the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group Report? It recommends all sorts of changes, all of them far short of actually ending the war, but it recommends them all to the same person responsible for the disastrous situation we're in now. It doesn't suggest what Congress should do to rein in an out-of-control president. Rather, it recommends that the President do dozens of things. Here's one of them:

Recommendation 22: The President should state that the United States does not seek permanent military bases in Iraq. If the Iraqi government were to request a temporary base or bases, then the U.S. government could consider that request as it would in the case of any other government.

Bush came close to stating this on April 13, 2004, when he said "As a proud and independent people, Iraqis do not support an indefinite occupation and neither does America." But the Iraq Study Group does, and so -- judging by other remarks and actions, does Bush. When you refuse to set a definite time for getting out, you are supporting an indefinite occupation. Robert Gates, the new Rumsfeld, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that he thought the "war on terror," which he dishonestly connected to the War on Iraq, would last "a generation." That's pretty indefinite.

But what if Bush were to state that the United States does not seek permanent bases? How would that differ from Bush stating that he had no warning of Katrina, or that he knew Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, or that the United States does not torture, or that he planned to keep Rumsfeld on another two years?

Speaking of Rumsfeld, on February 17, 2005, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, testifying before the same Senate Armed Services Committee, said: ''We have no intention, at the present time, of putting permanent bases in Iraq.'' Now, in Rumsfeldspeak this probably meant that he would build temporary bases and then decide later to make them permanent, or that they would just be "enduring," which would mean permanent but not, you know, permanent -- in the same way that an "enemy combatant" is a prisoner of war without the rights of, you know, a prisoner of war. In any case, what is gained by having Bush or Rumsfeld say the words? Wouldn't it make more sense to recommend to Congress that it do something that used to be the role of Congress: namely, pass a law?

But there's the catch. Congress already has. Since the moment we entered Fiscal Year 2007 in October, every dime spent on permanent military bases in Iraq has been illegal. But no one even knows how to find out how many dimes that is. And that illustrates a broader problem. Bush not only began this war in secret with money that Congress had approved for something else, but he also immediately turned it into a permanent occupation and began constructing permanent bases. It took Congress three years to get around to cutting off the funding for more such construction, but Congress had never approved the whole idea. Neither, of course, had the Iraqis.

This past weekend there was a huge protest in Italy where a permanent U.S. military base plans to expand with the construction of a new base nearby. In South Korea it's a similar story, with the added kicker that our military is evicting townspeople, eliminating their village, and building a new base with a golf course attached. There's a global meeting planned in March in Ecuador on eliminating foreign military bases. It was U.S. bases in Saudi Arabia that enraged Osama Bin Laden. Americans pay a fortune to maintain bases all over the world, and the primary product of them is anger.

Last March, when Congress passed the "emergency" supplemental funding for the war for 2006, both houses of Congress included language banning the use of funds to build permanent bases. A Republican-run conference committee "reconciled" this agreement by deleting it.

But leaders on this issue like Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) didn't give up. Similar language was included in the "Defense" Appropriations bill for 2007. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) introduced an amendment on the floor of the House to again delete the language on no-permanent-bases. But most of the Republicans and almost all of the Democrats went against him. Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) urged King to withdraw his amendment: "If we strike this prohibition from this bill that was well thought out, what we are saying to the Iraqi people and what I am satisfied the propaganda machine of al Qaeda in Iraq are going to do is use this and say: see there, we told you so. The Americans plan to occupy us for the rest of our lives." The House voted 376-50 for no-permanent-bases. It's been the law since October. The 2007 "Defense" Authorization bill passed including the same language.

Why did King want to allow the construction of permanent bases? He argued on the floor: "I believe that we should not foreclose our options in Iraq ... Historically, basing rights agreements have been a necessary part of diplomatic relations with foreign governments." Well, yes, but that's exactly what the Iraq Study Group recommends: working the basing arrangements out with the puppet government. Indications are that the Iraqis are not fooled.

When a number of us wrote to Congressional leaders to thank them for cutting off funds for permanent bases, we noted that: "This important step comes as evidence increasingly points to its need. A University of Maryland poll recently showed that 77 percent of Iraqis believe that the United States intends to maintain permanent bases in that country, while a State Department study found that a majority of Iraqis are calling for U.S-led military forces to withdraw immediately. The recently issued National Intelligence Estimate confirmed what many of us had feared for so long: the U.S. presence in Iraq is increasing terrorist threats and not making America’s homeland more secure."

So, over three-quarters of Iraqis are hip to what we're doing. Americans don't lag so far behind. In a new study released by the same university this week, we learn that 66 percent of Americans (including a near majority of Republicans) believe that a majority of Iraqis oppose the establishment of permanent U.S. bases in their country, and 68 percent of Americans (including a majority of Republicans) believe that, in any case, we should not have such bases. Tom Engelhardt points out that: "This is an especially remarkable set of figures, given that the permanent bases have received next to no attention in the American mainstream media."

Enough has been reported, however, for us to know that we are spending billions of dollars to construct bases in Iraq for the U.S. military. The new Democratic majority in Congress knows this, knows the damage these bases are doing, and knows the good that could be done by making better use of all that money, not to mention the lives lost in the process. If we speak up, perhaps the new majority will also know how quickly it can become a minority again if it does not seize this issue, expose it, and set it right. As Congressman Dennis Kucinich said on the floor of the House on Wednesday: "The American public did not vote for the Iraq Study Group. They voted for a new congress and a new direction in Iraq -- OUT."

Milan Rai on Iraq Study Group Report

AMY GOODMAN: We continue in London with Milan Rai, co-founder of the group Justice Not Vengeance and also Voices in the Wilderness. His latest book is called 7/7: The London Bombings, Islam and the Iraq War, joining us from London. Milan Rai, The news conference that Bush and Blair held at the White House yesterday, can you respond?

MILAN RAI: Well, I think that what happened was that, as several commentators said in the British press, Tony Blair used to enjoy the privilege of coming and conferring with the President, the leader of the free world, so to speak, but now it looks more like a penance, and it’s more of an act of demeaning the Prime Minister than elevating him, in the eyes of many commentators over here.

I think that there are serious differences between Bush and Blair, but Blair still has some things that he wants to get from President Bush, as he enters the last phase of his premiership, because, of course, Tony Blair has said that he’s going to leave power next year, and that might only be a few months away. And one of the things that he wants, as we know from the conversation that was recorded without their knowledge at the G8 Summit, is this trip to the Middle East that’s about to take place, where he wants to once again play the role of a great statesman, as part of his farewell to holding power here in Britain, and to try to advance what they call the peace process in relation to Israel and Palestine.

Now, one of the differences between Bush and Blair is to do with what’s happening in Iraq, and another difference is to do with Iran. On Iran, Tony Blair has been trying to halt a US assault on Iran since before the Iraq war started. And in fact, if you go back to September 2002, in the speech in which Tony Blair unveiled the famous 45 minutes to attack dossier to the world and to the House of Commons, he said in that that one of the reasons why there should be an attack on Saddam Hussein was that there was no moderate wing of Saddam Hussein's government that could be appealed to. And that half a sentence, that phrase was inserted, as far as I can make out, to start building the case against an assault on Iran, which has a much more open and pluralistic political system than then obtained in Iraq.

Of course, there are differences also on what should happen in Iraq. But what is outlined in the Iraq Study Group and what Tony Blair has been pushing for for some time and, in fact, the British government is following in relation to its control of Southern Iraq is a process of what has been called a repeat of the Vietnamization strategy of the 1970s in Vietnam, where what you do is you reduce the Western combat troops from the frontline and you instead substitute local fighters who will fight on your behalf. So what the Iraq Study Group report is about and what the handover of provinces in Southern Iraq by the British forces is about is not about real withdrawal or real exit strategy. It’s about a modification of the occupation.

And what’s going to happen in the southern zone of Iraq for Britain is that provinces will be handed over to local forces, but the British forces will continue to remain in Iraq, and they will have a number of roles, including protecting the US supply chain coming out from Kuwait, which means that as long as there is a US military presence in Iraq, there will continue to be a British military presence, because that's their role now or that's their intended role at a reduced level.

And what Tony Blair wants to do is to shift attention to Afghanistan, where the political cost internationally and domestically is much lower, and, in fact, a similar strategy is outlined in the Iraq Study Group report, thich says that even after all of their plans have been completed, if they’re successful, there will still be a significant US military presence in Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: And what do the British people want? What is the sense of the British public right now? And was the Iraq Study Group report played large in Britain?

MILAN RAI: Well, there was a significant amount of reaction in the media to the Iraq Study Group report. And generally it was called uncontroversial, unexpected, not surprising, and so on. It’s not seen as something that is likely to have a dramatic effect. People are calling it, in the media, an opportunity for reality and sanity in mainstream terms.

Now, what’s happening, I think, is that a lot of people in Britain, including perhaps in sectors of the antiwar movement -- and, in fact, I was ringing around people in the antiwar movement around the UK this morning -- I think that in a large part of the population here, the sense is that with these handovers in the South, with the talk in the Iraq Study Group, the US and UK are moving towards real withdrawal, which is not the case at all.

And I think that that’s a real problem that the media coverage of the Iraq Study Group report, of the British withdrawals from or of handovers of provinces, is creating. It’s creating a misimpression that what we're seeing is a real intention to withdraw control. What’s on the table is control at a reduced political and military cost, and that’s what Tony Blair is talking about, and that’s what the Iraq Study Group are talking about.

AMY GOODMAN: In 20 seconds, what do you feel needs to happen right now, Milan Rai, long antiwar activist in Britain and political analyst?

MILAN RAI: Well, I think there needs to be a resurgence of the antiwar movement, and there are different strands of opinion within the antiwar movement, but I think that we can all unite to try to expose the propaganda that’s going on and to say that what's on the table is continued occupation and control of Iraq, and that’s rejected by the Iraqi people, by the British people and by the United States public, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: On that note, Milan Rai, I want to thank you for being with us, co-founder of the groups Justice Not Vengeance and Voices in the Wilderness.

Bush's Iraq approval at new low

"WASHINGTON President Bush's approval rating on Iraq has slumped to a new low.

Just 27 percent of those questioned in a new A-P-Ipsos poll approve of the way he's handling the war. At the same time, dissatisfaction has climbed to an all-time high of 71 percent.

Ohio State University's John Mueller, who's an authority on presidents and public opinion, says Bush's support is continuing to erode and there no reason to think it can be turned around.

The poll also indicates nearly two-thirds of the American people do not think Iraq is going to end up with a stable, democratic government. Only nine percent think the Iraq war will end with a clear-cut victory."

The Media Lynching of Jimmy Carter

Words Even an Ex-President Can't Say in America


"It seems Israel's "supporters" have conscripted me in their lynching of Jimmy Carter. Count me out. True, the historical part of Carter's book, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, contains errors in that it repeats standard Israeli propaganda. However, Carter's analysis of the impasse in the "peace process" as well as his description of Israeli policy in the West Bank is accurate - and, frankly, that's all that matters.

A wag once said that there is no Pravda (Truth) in Izvestia (News) and no Izvestia in Pravda. The same can be said of our Pravda (The New York Times) and Izvestia (The Washington Post). Today both party organs ran feature stories trashing Carter using Kenneth Stein's resignation from the Carter Center as the hook. (I was sitting in the airport when this earth-shattering story came on CNN.) But like John Galt, many people must have wondered, Who (the hell) is Kenneth Stein? Stein wrote exactly one scholarly book on the Israel-Palestine conflict more than two decades ago (The Land Question in Palestine, 1984). Even in his heyday, Stein was a nonentity. When Joan Peters's hoax From Time Immemorial was published, I asked his opinion of it. He replied that it had "good points and bad points." Just like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Later Stein wrote a sick essay the main thesis of which was, "the Palestinian Arab community had been significantly prone to dispossession and dislocation before the mass exodus from Palestine began" - so the Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 was really no big deal ("One Hundred Years of Social Change: The Creation of the Palestinian Refugee Probem," in Laurence Silberstein (ed.), New Perspectives on Israeli History, 1991).

The Pravda ( NYT) story was written by two reporters who seem to have made a beeline for the newsroom from their bat mitzvahs. They quote Stein to the effect that Carter's book is "replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions and simply invented segments". I doubt there's much to this. Most of the background material is Carter's reminiscences. Maybe he copied from Rosalyn's diary (she was his note taker). Then Pravda reports that "a growing chorus of academics...have taken issue with the book". Who do they name? Alan Dershowitz and David Makovsky. Makovsky is resident hack at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the Israel Lobby's "think"-tank.

Pravda saw no irony in citing Dershowitz's expertise for a story on fabrication, falsification and plagiarism regarding a book on the Israel-Palestine conflict. As always, one can only be awed by the party discipline at our Pravda. It makes one positively wistful for the days when commissars quoted Stalin on linguistics."

Mr. Lieberman Comes to Washington

Brookings Hosts an Ethnic Cleanser


"When far-right leader Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu party joined the Israeli government, pro-peace Israelis expressed outrage. The Brookings Institution extended an invitation.

Brookings' Saban Center for Middle East Policy is holding the third annual Saban Forum in Washington, D.C. from December 8 through the 10th. This year's forum is entitled "America and Israel: Confronting a Middle East in Turmoil" ­ "turmoil," meaning pissed off Arabs, of course.

In his new book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, Jimmy Carter charges that we lack a national discussion about our nation's support for Israel. This invitation proves his point, as does the entire forum ­ which doesn't think any Arabs, not even the empire butt-kissers, need be present. For some reason, they invited Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer, but not a single Arab.

An Arab-less discussion of the Middle East fits comfortably with one prominent guest's vision of the holy land. Lieberman is one of Israel's leading advocates of forcibly removing masses of Palestinians in order to alter the country's demographic outlay permanently. This has a more common name: ethnic cleansing.


Uneasy Havens Await Those Who Flee Iraq

Ms. Reyahi is one of nearly two million Iraqis who have fled the vicious chaos of their country since the American invasion nearly four years ago, flooding neighboring states, especially Jordan and Syria, but also Lebanon and Egypt.

As they leave Iraq at a rate of nearly 3,000 a day, the refugees are threatening the social and economic fabric of both Jordan and Syria. In Jordan, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are trying to blend into a country of only 6 million inhabitants, including about 1.5 million registered Palestinian refugees. The governments classify most of the Iraqis as visitors, not refugees.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimated in a report released last month that more than 1.6 million Iraqis have left since March 2003, nearly 7 percent of the population. Jordanian security officials say more than 750,000 are in and around Amman, a city of 2.5 million. Syrian officials estimate that up to one million have gone to the suburbs of Damascus, a city of three million. An additional 150,000 have landed in Cairo. Every month, 100,000 more join them in Syria and Jordan, the report said.

In a report released this week, Refugees International, a Washington-based advocacy group, put the total at close to two million and called their flight “the fastest-growing humanitarian crisis in the world.” Its president, Kenneth Bacon, said, “The United States and its allies sparked the current chaos in Iraq, but they are doing little to ease the humanitarian crisis caused by the current exodus.”

Every night, hulking orange and white GMC Suburbans and sedans pull into the taxi garage in downtown Amman stuffed with Iraqis and their belongings, adding to the growing social problems they pose while fueling growing fears that Iraq’s sectarian tensions will spill over here.

As Iraq seems to disintegrate into warring factions of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, the risk that their dispute will be transferred here and increase local social problems is frightening the authorities. As a result, restrictions on Iraqis have been tightened in Egypt, Syria and Jordan, which has been increasing patrols seeking to evict those who have overstayed their visas.

Most of the émigrés bring tales of horror and sadness. Ali Ghani, a onetime champion Iraqi body builder, said that his father had been grabbed from their house in Iraq, apparently because he was a Shiite; his body was later found in the street. Several other friends have met a similar fate, he said.

Partly as a result of such strife, refugees here claim, there is a growing sectarian dimension to the official crackdown. They say the authorities of this officially Sunni country have paid more attention to deporting Iraqi Shiites, fearing that their militias are trying to organize here.

“There is only disrespect for us now,” said Qais Attiyeh, 36, a Shiite sculptor who says he has been granted refugee status in Amman. “And now I increasingly find Jordanians who ask me, ‘Are you a Shiite or a Muslim?’ ” he said, referring to extremist Sunnis’ rejection of Shiism as a branch of Islam.

“I read their facial expressions and tell them what they like to hear,” he said.


US and Israel Targeting DNA in Gaza? The DIME Bomb: Yet another genotoxic weapon, Part III

By James Brooks

".....Return to Gaza: The mythology of murder

Israel has denied using DIME weapons. Nonetheless, Israel’s military has used the occupied Palestinian territories as a weapons development zone for decades, testing bright ideas like depleted uranium and poison gases. It would not surprise us to find that it is now testing a weapon for the US Air Force on Palestinians in Gaza. (23)

Unfortunately, the DIME hypothesis is the most plausible explanation for the grotesque effects of Israel’s new weapon. We can only pray that we have not witnessed the first experiment in the effects of embedded HMTA in human subjects.

Still, DIME may not explain all of the evidence. For example, one of the metals found in victims’ wounds was copper. DIME bombs are not known to contain significant copper, but another US marvel, the Sensor Fuzed Weapon (SFW), sprays slugs of molten copper at its targets. Is Israel also testing the SFW? (24)(25)

If DIME weapons are designed to reduce civilian casualties, why has Israel’s ‘mystery weapon’ increased the civilian death toll? Perhaps this question should be addressed to the advocates of Focused Lethality Munitions, and to the remote-control operators of Israel’s drone aircraft and their commanders and politicians.

Although much remains unclear about Israel’s new weapon, a few devastating facts are indisputable:

The weapon causes enormous and indiscriminate pain and suffering.

It operates as both a chemical weapon and an anti-personnel explosive. At the very least, it is likely to induce heavy metal poisoning in its surviving victims.

The weapon has significantly increased civilian mortality rates, in part because it inflicts virtually untreatable wounds.

Despite this public parade of horrors, Israeli forces have continued to use this weapon against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip for nearly five months........

.....We will likely be told that DIME weapons provide a more “humane” way to fight “terrorism” by “reducing collateral damage” and “helping US troops win hearts and minds”. At the same time, we’ll be assured that the new weapon “packs quite a punch” and will “give our troops more options” to “take the battle to the enemy”, even if he is “hiding among civilians”.

Whether Israel’s new weapon is the Air Force’s DIME bomb or another similarly dreadful invention, the horrors unfolding in Gaza make it clear that “Focused Lethality” is a blood-drenched lie. It promises only a deadlier form of indiscriminate warfare.

US plans to explode payloads of cancer-causing genotoxic heavy metal powder “wherever and whenever necessary” may portend an escalation of a campaign currently limited to the vicinity of “hard targets” we attack with DU and NDU. Whatever we make of the intent behind these weapons, the habitual result is chemical-genetic warfare. It cannot be allowed to continue."

Sayyed Nasrallah vows no retreat and no surrender; some ruling bloc figures asked US to give Israel green light to crush Hezbollah


"Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah made a fiery speech Thursday and addressed the Lebanese and the Arab World in a live television speech broadcast by Al-Manar channel and several other satellite channels. Sayyed Nasrallah vowed that the Lebanese opposition will not "surrender" in its mass protests to bring down the Western-backed government. "At the mass protest on Sunday we will show that those who are betting on our surrender are having an illusion. We will not go out of the streets before we achieve our objective to save Lebanon," he said. "We insist on our demands, for the formation of a real government of national unity... because it is the only means to prevent any foreign tutelage on Lebanon, so that we have Lebanese decision-making." "We reject any tutelage, from any party, whether it is the enemy, brother or friend," he said, signaling Syria, Iran and other states. But Nasrallah said "the opportunity is still there and the doors of negotiation are still open, let us change the current government into a government of national unity headed by Saniora." "But if you (ruling majority) remain stubborn... we will reach a stage in which we will not accept any of you to head the next government... we will form an interim government that will hold early elections," he said.

The Secretary General paid respect to the family of National Opposition martyr Ahmed Mahmoud who was shot in the back by supporters of the ruling bloc and insisted Hezbollah "will not be dragged into any strife even if you kill a thousand of us." "We will not raise our arms in the face of anyone in Lebanon. "When they killed Ahmed Mahmoud, they wanted to push us to clashes. I tell them that we refuse civil war and discord. Our weapons have only been raised against our Israeli enemy," he said.

Sayyed Nasrallah also blasted Arab and Western governments that have sided with Saniora's ruling bloc and called them to come to Lebanon and seek facts and remain neutral. He also reminded Saniora's bloc that the United States administration has been cornered by the Baker Hamilton report on Iraq and that Lebanon is no longer a top priority on Washington's agenda. "You have been counting on American backing. It will not bring you any benefit. How can you count on Bush and its army when they are sinking in the mud of the region, in Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon?"

Sayyed Nasrallah accused "some members" of the ruling majority of having asked Washington to let Israel launch a war against Hezbollah in the summer to crush Hezbollah. His eminence said that those who made this request know themselves very well and "we know them by name," and called for an Arab probing panel to be formed to look into this issue. "I hope that I would not be obliged to name them in the future," his eminence said. "Can anyone accept that in a time of war, the prime minister ordered the Lebanese Army to seize weapons being delivered to us as we were trying to defend our country from Israeli attacks?" Nasrallah asked, also calling for an independent committee to investigate events during the war.

His eminence added: "We in Lebanon pay taxes to the government and the government pays the salaries of employees and security services personnel who are supposed to protect the Lebanese and their properties. During the war, some pro-ruling majority bloc security services were supposed to track down spies and Israeli networks that are giving information to the Israelis for bombing missions. But unfortunately, and I'm with calling for an independent committee to investigate events during the war, one of the security services loyal to the ruling bloc was operating during the war to identify and locate Hezbollah leaders and a unit of this security service had sought to locate the place where used to stay during the war."

Sayyed Nasrallah called upon his supporters to "refrain from insulting and disrespecting ruling politicians." He also said that the Maronite Bishops' initiative deserves consideration and it has many positive points. Sayyed Nasrallah concluded that "the door is open for negotiations, but we will not leave the street before achieving the goal of saving Lebanon." "We will win with our voices, and not with our arms!" vowed Nasrallah, calling for a greater turnout for yet another mass demonstration on Sunday aimed at forcing the government to step down.

As a gesture of reunification among Muslim Shiites and Sunnis, he invited adherents of both sects to show up Friday "and pray at the same time" in the heart of the capital, with prominent Sunni religious figure, Sheikh Fathi Yakan leading the prayers. "

Baker wants Israel excluded from regional conference

Former Secretary of State James Baker (left) of the Iraq Study Group speaks while his co-chair Lee Hamilton looks on in September 2006. (AFP/File/Mandel Ngan)

The White House has been examining a proposal by James Baker to launch a Middle East peace effort without Israel.

The peace effort would begin with a U.S.-organized conference, dubbed Madrid-2, and contain such U.S. adversaries as Iran and Syria. Officials said Madrid-2 would be promoted as a forum to discuss Iraq's future, but actually focus on Arab demands for Israel to withdraw from territories captured in the 1967 war. They said Israel would not be invited to the conference.

�As Baker sees this, the conference would provide a unique opportunity for the United States to strike a deal without Jewish pressure,� an official said. �This has become the most hottest proposal examined by the foreign policy people over the last month.�

Officials said Mr. Baker's proposal, reflected in the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, has been supported by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns and National Intelligence Director John Negroponte. The most controversial element in the proposal, they said, was Mr. Baker's recommendation for the United States to woo Iran and Syria.

�Here is Syria, which is clearly putting pressure on the Lebanese democracy, is a supporter of terror, is both provisioning and supporting Hezbollah and facilitating Iran in its efforts to support Hezbollah, is supporting the activities of Hamas," National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley told a briefing last week. "This is not a Syria that is on an agenda to bring peace and stability to the region."

Officials said the Baker proposal to exclude Israel from a Middle East peace conference garnered support in the wake of Vice President Dick Cheney's visit to Saudi Arabia on Nov. 25. They said Mr. Cheney spent most of his meetings listening to Saudi warnings that Israel, rather than Iran, is the leading cause of instability in the Middle East.

�He [Cheney] didn't even get the opportunity to seriously discuss the purpose of his visit�that the Saudis help the Iraqi government and persuade the Sunnis to stop their attacks,� another official familiar with Mr. Cheney�s visit said. �Instead, the Saudis kept saying that they wanted a U.S. initiative to stop the Israelis� attack in Gaza and Cheney just agreed.�

Under the Baker proposal, the Bush administration would arrange a Middle East conference that would discuss the future of Iraq and other Middle East issues. Officials said the conference would seek to win Arab support on Iraq in exchange for a U.S. pledge to renew efforts to press Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and Golan Heights.

�Baker sees his plan as containing something for everybody, except perhaps the Israelis,� the official said. �The Syrians would get back the Golan, the Iranians would get U.S. recognition and the Saudis would regain their influence, particularly with the Palestinians.�

Officials said Mr. Baker's influence within the administration and the Republican Party�s leadership stems from support by the president's father as well as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Throughout the current Bush administration, such senior officials as Mr. Hadley and Ms. Rice were said to have been consulting with Brent Scowcroft, the former president's national security advisor, regarded as close to Mr. Baker.

�Everybody has fallen in line,� the official said. �Bush is not in the daily loop. He is shocked by the elections and he's hoping for a miracle on Iraq.�

For his part, Mr. Bush has expressed unease in negotiating with Iran. At a Nov. 30 news conference in Amman, Jordan, the president cited Iran's interference in the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki.

�We respect their heritage, we respect their history, we respect their traditions,� Mr. Bush said. �I just have a problem with a government that is isolating its people, denying its people benefits that could be had from engagement with the world.�

Mr. Baker's recommendation to woo Iran and Syria has also received support from some in the conservative wing of the GOP. Over the last week, former and current Republican leaders in Congress�convinced of the need for a U.S. withdrawal before the 2008 presidential elections�have called for Iranian and Syrian participation in an effort to stabilize Iraq.

�I would look at an entirely new strategy,� former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said. �We have clearly failed in the last three years to achieve the kind of outcome we want.�

In contrast, Defense Department officials have warned against granting a role to Iran and Syria at Israel's expense. They said such a strategy would also end up undermining Arab allies of the United States such as Egypt, Jordan and Morocco.

�The regional strategy is a euphemism for throwing Free Iraq to the wolves in its neighborhood: Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia,� said the Center for Security Policy, regarded as being close to the Pentagon. �If the Baker regional strategy is adopted, we will prove to all the world that it is better to be America's enemy than its friend. Jim Baker's hostility towards the Jews is a matter of record and has endeared him to Israel's foes in the region.�

But Defense Secretary-designate Robert Gates, a former colleague of Mr. Baker on the Iraq Study Group, has expressed support for U.S. negotiations with Iran and Syria. In response to questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee, which begins confirmation hearings this week, Mr. Gates compared the two U.S. adversaries to the Soviet Union.

�Even in the worst days of the Cold War, the U.S. maintained a dialogue with the Soviet Union and China, and I believe those channels of communication helped us manage many potentially difficult situations,� Mr. Gates said. �Our engagement with Syria need not be unilateral. It could, for instance, take the form of Syrian participation in a regional conference.�