Saturday, January 13, 2007

In Somalia, a Reckless U.S. Proxy War

by Salim Lone
Global Research

"Undeterred by the horrors and setbacks in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon, the Bush administration has opened another battlefront in the Muslim world. With full U.S. backing and military training, at least 15,000 Ethiopian troops have entered Somalia in an illegal war of aggression against the Union of Islamic Courts, which controls almost the entire south of the country.

As with Iraq in 2003, the United States has cast this as a war to curtail terrorism, but its real goal is to obtain a direct foothold in a highly strategic region by establishing a client regime there. The Horn of Africa is newly oil-rich, and lies just miles from Saudi Arabia, overlooking the daily passage of large numbers of oil tankers and warships through the Red Sea. General John Abizaid, the current U.S. military chief of the Iraq war, was in Ethiopia this month, and President Hu Jintao of China visited Kenya, Sudan and Ethiopia earlier this year to pursue oil and trade agreements.

The U.S. instigation of war between Ethiopia and Somalia, two of world's poorest countries already struggling with massive humanitarian disasters, is reckless in the extreme. Unlike in the run-up to Iraq, independent experts, including from the European Union, were united in warning that this war could destabilize the whole region even if America succeeds in its goal of toppling the Islamic Courts.

An insurgency by Somalis, millions of whom live in Kenya and Ethiopia, will surely ensue, and attract thousands of new anti-U.S. militants and terrorists.

With so much of the world convulsed by crisis, little attention has been paid to this unfolding disaster in the Horn. The UN Security Council, however, did take up the issue, and in another craven act which will further cement its reputation as an anti-Muslim body, bowed to American and British pressure to authorize a regional peacekeeping force to enter Somalia to protect the transitional government, which is fighting the Islamic Courts.

The new UN resolution states that the world body acted to "restore peace and stability." But as all major international news organizations have reported, this year Somalia finally experienced its first respite from 16 years of utter lawlessness and terror at the hands of the marauding warlords who drove out UN peacekeepers in 1993, when 18 American soldiers were killed.

Since 1993, there had been no Security Council interest in sending peacekeepers to Somalia, but as peace and order took hold, a multilateral force was suddenly deemed necessary — because it was the Islamic Courts Union that had brought about this stability. Astonishingly, the Islamists had succeeded in defeating the warlords primarily through rallying people to their side by creating law and order through the application of Shariah law, which Somalis universally practice.

The transitional government, on the other hand, is dominated by the warlords and terrorists who drove out American forces in 1993. Organized in Kenya by U.S. regional allies, it is so completely devoid of internal support that it has turned to Somalia's arch- enemy, Ethiopia, for assistance.

If this war continues, it will affect the whole region, do serious harm to U.S. interests and threaten Kenya, the only island of stability in this corner of Africa.

Ethiopia is at even greater risk, as a dictatorship with little popular support and beset also by two large internal revolts, by the Ogadenis and Oromos. It is also mired in a conflict with Eritrea, which has denied it secure access to seaports.

The best antidote to terrorism in Somalia is stability, which the Islamic Courts have provided. The Islamists have strong public support, which has grown in the face of U.S. and Ethiopian interventions. As in other Muslim-Western conflicts, the world needs to engage with the Islamists to secure peace."

The Fascist And The Midwife Of Death:
Plenty To Smile About

Condi getting ready for her Middle Eastern tour

Threats, threats, threats ... about Iraq
Nothing, no plan, just tranquilizers for Palestine

(Hamed Atta, Al-Khaleej, 1/13/06).
(Click on to enlarge)
Contributed by Fatima.

Iran’s IEDs: Made in America

By Kurt Nimmo

"Now that Bush has delivered Kristol’s speech, we can expect a full-court press in the corporate media to demonize Iran in preparation for an attack against that country.

“U.S. officials tell CBS News that American forces have begun an aggressive and mostly secret ground campaign against networks of Iranians that had been operating with virtual impunity inside Iraq,” CBS News reports, or rather reads from the neocon script.

“According to U.S. military figures, 198 American and British soldiers have been killed, and more than 600 wounded by advanced explosive devices manufactured in Iran and smuggled in through the southern marshes and along the Tigris River. Attempts to disrupt these networks, combined with the decision to send a second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf as a warning to Iran, significantly raises the stakes, according to former Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk.”

Indyk is a prominent Israel Firster. He “served” as U.S. ambassador to Israel, directs the rabidly pro-Israel Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings, and is a member of the Middle East Strategy Group klatsch at the neolib Aspen Institute, where he rubs elbows with Henry Kissinger and Dianne Feinstein. Aspen is a pet project of the Rockefeller brothers and the Ford Foundation.

As it turns out, these “advanced explosive devices” are from Britain, not Iran."


The U.S.-Iran-Iraq-Israeli-Syrian War

At a not-for-quotation pre-speech briefing on Jan. 10, George W. Bush and his top national security aides unnerved network anchors and other senior news executives with suggestions that a major confrontation with Iran is looming

By Robert Perry

"Commenting about the briefing on MSNBC after Bush’s nationwide address, NBC’s Washington bureau chief Tim Russert said “there’s a strong sense in the upper echelons of the White House that Iran is going to surface relatively quickly as a major issue – in the country and the world – in a very acute way.”

Russert and NBC anchor Brian Williams depicted this White House emphasis on Iran as the biggest surprise from the briefing as Bush stepped into the meeting to speak passionately about why he is determined to prevail in the Middle East.....

Reasons for Alarm

In his prime-time speech, Bush injected other reasons to anticipate a wider war. He used language that suggested U.S. or allied forces might launch attacks inside Iran and Syria to “disrupt the attacks on our forces” in Iraq.

“We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria,” Bush said. “And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.”

Bush announced other steps that could be interpreted as building a military infrastructure for a regional war or at least for air strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.

“I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region,” Bush said. “We will expand intelligence sharing and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies.”.....

Militarily, a second aircraft carrier strike force would do little to interdict arms smuggling across the Iran-Iraq border. Similarly, Patriot anti-missile batteries would be of no use in defeating lightly armed insurgent forces and militias inside Iraq.

However, both deployments would be useful to deter – or defend against – retaliatory missile strikes from Iran if the Israelis or the United States bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities or stage military raids inside Iranian territory.

Iran has a relatively sophisticated arsenal of short- and medium-range missiles. Those short-range missiles could be fired at U.S. bases in Iraq or elsewhere in the Persian Gulf. The medium-range missiles could conceivably hit Tel Aviv.

Not only could Patriot missiles be used to knock down Iranian missiles while they’re heading toward their targets, but the fearsome firepower of two aircraft carrier strike forces could deter any Iranian retaliatory strike following a U.S. or Israeli attack.

In other words, the deployments would fit with Israel or the United States bombing Iran’s nuclear sites and then trying to tamp down any Iranian response.

Another danger to American interests, however, would be pro-Iranian Shiite militias in Iraq seeking revenge against U.S. troops. If that were to happen, Bush’s escalation of troop levels in Iraq would make sense as a way to protect the Green Zone and other sensitive targets.

So, Bush’s actions and rhetoric over the past several weeks continue to mesh with a scenario for a wider regional war – a possibility that now mainstream journalists, such as Tim Russert, are beginning to take seriously....."


The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel

While the celebrations for Israeli independence day are going on in other parts of the country, young Palestinian citizens of Israel observe a march taking place in the destroyed village of Hosheein in memory of the Nakba, 12 May 2005. (MAANnews/Charlotte de Bellabre)

Report: The National Committee for the Heads of the Arab Local Authorities in Israel, 12 January 2007

"We are the Palestinian Arabs in Israel, the indigenous peoples, the residents of the States of Israel, and an integral part of the Palestinian People and the Arab and Muslim and human Nation. The war of 1948 resulted in the establishment of the Israeli state on a 78 percent of historical Palestine. We found ourselves, those who have remained in their homeland (approximately 160,000) within the borders of the Jewish state. Such reality has isolated us from the rest of the Palestinian People and the Arab world and we were forced to become citizens of Israel. This has transformed us into a minority living in our historic homeland."


Leading article: A mendacious attack by Mr Blair to cover up his fatal misjudgement

For all Mr Blair's personal salesmanship at the time, this began as a highly unpopular war, and it remains one

"......In seeking to blame the media for what he sees as the growing distaste of the British public for war, the Prime Minister is quite simply wrong. If there is, as he suggested, a crisis of confidence in the benefits of military force, it is one that he has brought upon himself.

Mr Blair observed, rightly, that modern technology makes it impossible for governments to shield the civilian public from the unpleasant reality of war - as was possible, for instance, during the Falklands war or, to a lesser extent, during the Gulf war. Government censorship, on political or taste grounds, is now almost impossible. As we saw with the execution of Saddam Hussein, eyewitnesses have the means to gainsay the sanitised version. The truth, however gory and dishonourable, will out.......

No, what we are looking at now is not a general crisis of confidence in the use of British military force, fostered by the sensation-driven modern media; it is a particular crisis of confidence precipitated by the débâcle of Iraq. For all Mr Blair's personal salesmanship at the time - the weapons of mass destruction and all that - this began as a highly unpopular war, and it remains one. Rather plaintively, Mr Blair said yesterday that the armed forces wanted public opinion "not just behind them, but behind their mission".

It is astounding that, almost four years on, Mr Blair still fails to understand that the mission is precisely the problem. And his address contained all the old deceits. He conflated, as he habitually does, the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, even though the one had UN approval and the other, crucially, did not. He spoke about the qualitatively different threat we face after 9/11, as though the prime reason for invading Iraq was terrorism. And yet again he rejected all suggestion that Britain's presence in Iraq might be a factor in the alienation of young British Muslims.

To this catalogue he has now added the notion that media coverage is turning the British public off the use of "hard" power. The voters may indeed be more wary of military interventions in future. And so may the MPs who represent them. If this is so, however, it will not be because the media have willed it, but because of the fatal misjudgement of a Prime Minister. "


This jargon disease is choking language

In the military sex-speak of the Pentagon, Iraq would endure a 'spike' of violence

By Robert Fisk
The Independent

".....There is something repulsive about this vocabulary, an aggressive language of superiority in which "key players" can "interact" with each other, can "impact" society, "outsource" their business - or "downsize" the number of their employees. They need "feedback" and "input". They think "outside the box" or "push the envelope". They have a "work space", not a desk. They need "personal space" - they need to be left alone - and sometimes they need "time and space", a commodity much in demand when marriages are failing.

These lies and obfuscations are infuriating. "Downsizing" employees means firing them; "outsourcing" means hiring someone else to do your dirty work. "Feedback" means "reaction", "input" means "advice". Thinking "outside the box" means, does it not, to be "imaginative"?

Being a "key player" is a form of self-aggrandisement - which is why I never agree to be a "key speaker", especially if this means participation in a "workshop". To me a workshop means what it says. When I was at school, the workshop was a carpentry shop wherein generations of teachers vainly tried to teach Fisk how to make a wooden chair or table that did not collapse the moment it was completed. But today, a "workshop" - though we mustn't say so - is a group of tiresome academics yakking in the secret language of anthropology or talking about "cultural sensitivity" or "core issues" or "tropes"......"


New US tactics face ultimate test in Baghdad

King George, The Merciless
By Mr. Fish

"BAGHDAD (AFP) - Months after its last plan failed dismally to pacify Baghdad, the United States is pouring another 17,500 troops into the Iraqi capital to put new counter-insurgency tactics to the ultimate test.

Nicknamed "King David" by some within the US military, Lieutenant General David Petraeus, who led the 101st Airborne Division during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, will this year assume overall command of coalition troops in Iraq.

It will be a chance for him to put into practice a new US counter-insurgency manual, which the "warrior-scholar" co-wrote and published last month.

Drawing heavily on the lessons of nearly four deadly years in Iraq, the United States' biggest and deadliest war since Vietnam, the new doctrine challenges accepted practice and tactics long honed by the US military.

"Ultimate success in COIN (counter-insurgency) is gained by protecting the populace, not the COIN force," says the manual.

"If military forces remain in their compounds, they lose touch with the people, appear to be running scared and cede the initiative to the insurgents."

Most American soldiers in Iraq are holed up in fortress garrisons from which they venture only in heavy armoured convoys that send civilian traffic scurrying to avoid getting hurt by US guns or anti-American attacks.

Petraeus criticised the use of indiscriminate force, warning that heavier fire is more prone to "collateral damage" and mistakes, and widens the scope for insurgent propaganda to portray the US military as brutal.

"The key for counter-insurgents is knowing when more force is needed and when it might be counter-productive," the manual says."


Rice Says Bush Authorized Iranians’ Arrest in Iraq

The New York Times

"WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 — A recent series of American raids against Iranians in Iraq was authorized under an order that President Bush decided to issue several months ago to undertake a broad military offensive against Iranian operatives in the country, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday.

“There has been a decision to go after these networks,” Ms. Rice said in an interview with The New York Times in her office on Friday afternoon, before leaving on a trip to the Middle East.

Ms. Rice said Mr. Bush had acted “after a period of time in which we saw increasing activity” among Iranians in Iraq, “and increasing lethality in what they were producing.” She was referring to what American military officials say is evidence that many of the most sophisticated improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.’s, being used against American troops were made in Iran."


The Old And The New Iraq Policy
By Baha Boukhari

Friday, January 12, 2007

Amazon dot com blasts Carter - please sign petition

Tell Amazon to Treat Carter's Book Fairly

"As longtime Amazon customers, we are deeply disturbed by your treatment of Jimmy Carter's important new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.

Under the "Editorial Reviews" heading – a space normally used either for the publisher's own description of a book, or for short, even-handed summaries from listing services such as Booklist and Publishers Weekly – you insist on running the complete, 20-paragraph, 1,636-word text of a review unabashedly hostile to Carter's viewpoint. You have refused to add information shoppers should have in evaluating this review: the fact that the reviewer, Jeffrey Goldberg, is a citizen of Israel as well as the United States, and that he volunteered to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces, for which he worked as a guard at a prison for Palestinian detainees. And you have refused to balance his negative review by giving comparable space to a favorable assessment of the book, even though positive reviews by qualified experts have appeared in many reputable publications.

Because giving so much space in this location to such a negative review is so unusual – if not unprecedented – for Amazon, and because you have refused requests from many customers that you take a more balanced approach, we can only conclude that you are deliberately trying to discourage shoppers from ordering the former President's book.

This is contrary to Amazon's own interests as a bookseller. More important, it's also contrary to the interests of understanding, peace, and justice for all parties to the Israel/Palestine conflict

We are not interested in supporting a corporation that uses its power in the marketplace in such a biased and unconstructive way on such an important issue.

Accordingly, if you do not, by Jan. 22, remove the Goldberg review, move it to the more appropriate "See all Editorial Reviews" page, or restore a semblance of balance by giving comparable space and prominence to a more positive evaluation of Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, we the undersigned pledge to:

1. Stop shopping at;

2. Completely close our accounts on your service; and

3. Encourage our friends, family, and associates to do likewise.

Sincerely, "

Click Here to Sign Petition

Head For The Nearest Bomb Shelter:
The Midwife Of Death Is In The Middle East, Again!

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh (R) sits next to his daughter Sarah as he talks with people outside his house at Shati refugee camp in Gaza January 12, 2007. (REUTERS)

Hard limits and long-observed taboos

An Excellent Article

Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 12 January 2007

"With his book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid reaching the top of the bestseller lists, former President Jimmy Carter appears to have made a breakthrough in the ossified debate on Israel-Palestine in the United States.

In dozens of packed appearances and in the media, Carter has shattered long-observed taboos by talking about "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." It is still difficult to imagine any other senior US politician doing that.

Carter has been vilified by the pro-Israel lobbying industry in the United States with the frequent intimation that he is anti-Semitic. Yet even this furor demonstrates the hard limits which the debate still faces. In defending himself against such attacks, Carter has been careful to stress that he is only talking about the situation inside the territories occupied in 1967, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. "I know that Israel is a wonderful democracy with equal treatment of all citizens whether Arab or Jew. And so I very carefully avoided talking about anything inside Israel," he said.

Thus what even Carter acknowledges is that a debate about the racist nature of the Israeli state itself remains off-limits. An obvious question is how a "wonderful democracy" could operate a system of apartheid just a few miles away. Discrimination against non-Jewish citizens of Israel is legally enshrined and openly discussed in Israel. It includes separate and unequal education, laws that reserve the best land for Jews only, massive discrimination in allocation of resources, exclusion of non-Jews from government office, and the "Law of Return" that encourages Jews to move to the country while indigenous Palestinians remain banned from returning home.

The US media, with a few exceptions, continue to treat these facts, uncontroversial even within Israel, as if they don't exist. This underlines the persistent segmentation of the discussion of the conflict in the US and Europe. There is the official peace process industry, or mainstream discourse that dominates media coverage and government pronouncements resting on a number of false assumptions: the US and the "Quartet" are honest brokers; everyone agrees on the outlines of a two-state solution except for minor details; Israel has good intentions and merely awaits a Palestinian partner; Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is potentially that partner, while Hamas are outlaw extremists who must be curbed, forced to "recognize" Israel and "renounce terrorism" and so on.

Only rarely is reality allowed to intrude on this official discourse, which is what Carter did in a limited way. Sometimes bald facts also call it into question, if only momentarily, such as when Israel announced a major new settlement in the northern Jordan Valley part of the West Bank, just days after an Abbas-Olmert summit that the peace process industry had hailed as a breakthrough. A scab of distortion and spin quickly forms to cover up whatever reality may briefly have been revealed. What is remarkable about this official dialogue is that most Palestinians do not subscribe to it, with the exception of a minority who are the favored clients of the industry -- at this time, Abbas and his entourage, the US-armed and EU-backed Gaza warlord Mohammad Dahlan and the rest of the class that benefited directly from Oslo.

Contrasted with the official discourse is an insurgent one that remains marginalized in the academy, among activists and in the alternative media. But it is gaining strength. Like the vast majority of Palestinians, it continues to view the Palestine situation as one of anti-colonial struggle, comparable to the long fight against South African apartheid. Yet Carter's intervention offers the potential to connect these views; if it becomes legitimate to describe Israel's tyranny over the occupied Palestinians as "apartheid", it may not be long before Israel's own internal colonialism against more than one million Palestinians faces similar examination. When Israel is no longer viewed as a "wonderful democracy", as US politicians without exception continue to label it, then the possibility for genuine peace based on the principle that Palestine-Israel belongs to all who live in it without discrimination based on religion, ethnic or national origin may open up. This is the danger that pro-Israel groups clearly perceive and are working night and day to stop."

Latuff: Palestine Denied To Palestinians

Pentagon memo predicts 10,000 or more American soldiers could die in Iraq by 2008

"Pentagon planners this week warned President George W. Bush that his "troop surge" plan could double U.S. casualties in Iraq in the coming year and result in 10,000 or more American deaths by the end of 2008.

In a classified assessment memo, military experts predicted violence against U.S. troops will increase "at a sustained pace" and concluded that increasing the use of soldiers for house to house searches in Baghdad will "dramatically alter" the "ratio of casualties to actions" in that civil-war torn city, says a military source familiar with the memo."

Escalation Boosts Fears that Americans will Never Leave Iraq

By Patrick Cockburn

"The Iraqi government will be weakened by the US dispatching more troops to Iraq and may well be replaced by a more pro-American administration in Baghdad. The increase in American involvement in Iraq is also convincing Iraqis that the US occupation is going to be permanent. "Many people now think the Americans are never going to leave," said Ghassan Attiyah, the Iraqi political commentator.

Many Iraqis previously suspected that US claims that it would only stay in Iraq for a short period were false and they will now believe their suspicions were justified. The Shia majority also fear that Washington will impose a government better prepared to carry out US instructions than that of the Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

At the heart of President Bush's speech was the message that it would be American views on what must be done in Iraq that must be obeyed. It will be very difficult for the Iraqi government to prevent the US launching an assault on the Shia bastion of Sadr City, home to two-and-a-half million people. In theory, sovereignty was returned to Iraq in June 2004, but Mr Maliki has said he cannot move a company of troops without US permission. The increase in the number of US brigades in Baghdad will increase US control....."


Less Than Zero

Cliff Ahead! Stomp on the Gas!


".....Relying on more promises from Iraq's nominal government and requiring more performance from the Iraqi army and police are equally empty policies. Both that government and its armed forces are mere fronts for Shiite networks and their militias. If the new troops we send to Baghdad work with Iraqi forces against the Sunni insurgents, we will be helping the Shiites ethnically cleanse Baghdad of Sunnis. If, as Bush suggested, our troops go after the Shiite militias in Baghdad and elsewhere, we will find ourselves in a two-front war, fighting Sunnis and Shiites both. We faced that situation briefly in 2004, and we did not enjoy it.

All this, again, adds up to nothing. But if we look at the President's proposal more carefully, we find it actually amounts to less than zero. It hints at actions that may turn a mere debacle into disaster on a truly historic scale.

First, Mr. Bush said that previous efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two reasons, the second of which is that "there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have." This suggests the new "big push" will be even more kinetic that what we have done in the past, calling in more firepower -- airstrikes, tanks, artillery, etc. -- in Baghdad itself. Chuck Spinney has already warned that we may soon begin to reduce Baghdad to rubble. If we do, and the President's words suggest we will, we will hasten our defeat. In this kind of war, unless you are going to take the "Hama model" and kill everyone, success comes from de-escalation, not from escalation.

Second, the President not only upped the ante with Syria and Iran, he announced two actions that only make sense if we plan to attack Iran, Syria or both. He said he has ordered Patriot missile batteries and another U.S. Navy aircraft carrier be sent to the region. Neither has any conceivable role in the fighting in Iraq. However, a carrier would provide additional aircraft for airstrikes on Iran, and Patriot batteries would in theory provide some defense against Iranian air and missile attacks launched at Gulf State oil facilities in retaliation.

To top it off, in questioning yesterday on Capitol Hill, the Tea Lady, aka Secretary of State Rice, refused to promise the administration would consult with Congress before attacking Iran or Syria.

As I have said before and will say again, the price of an attack on Iran could easily be the loss of the army we have in Iraq. No conceivable action would be more foolish than adding war with Iran to the war we have already lost in Iraq. Regrettably, it is impossible to read Mr. Bush's dispatch of a carrier and Patriot batteries any other way than as harbingers of just such an action.

The final hidden message in Mr. Bush's speech confirms that the American ship of state remains headed for the rocks. His peroration, devoted once more to promises of "freedom" and democracy in the Middle East and throughout the world, could have been written by the most rabid of the neo-cons. For that matter, perhaps it was. So long as our grand strategy remains that which the neo-cons represent and demand, namely remaking the whole world in our own image, by force where necessary, we will continue to fail. Not even the greatest military in all of history, which ours claims to be but isn't, could bring success to a strategy so divorced from reality. Meanwhile, Mr. Bush's words give the lie to those who have hoped the neo-cons' influence over the White House had ebbed. >From Hell, or the World Bank which is much the same place, Wolfi had to be smiling.

No, Incurious George has offered no new strategy, nor new course, nor even a plateau on the downward course of our two lost wars and failed grand strategy. He has chosen instead to escalate failure, speed our decline and expand the scope of our defeat. Headed toward the cliff, his course correction is to stomp on the gas."

By Mike Luckovich

Bush's Last Stand

The War Party is down, but not out

By Justin Raimondo

"......Not quite. It is untrue that the Shi'ite death squads were unleashed only "in retaliation" for the depredations of their Sunni archrivals they started their deadly work early on, and have been operating full blast ever since the Americans decided to tilt in their direction.

While the Mahdi Army of Moqtada Sadr is a relatively recent phenomenon, the existence of Shi'ite death squads predated the attack on the Golden Mosque: the Badr Brigade, now re-dubbed the Badr Organization – the armed militia of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) – was founded in Tehran in the 1980s. It is the military wing of SCIRI, the biggest political party in Iraq, and the major winner of the "purple finger" elections that Bush hails as a "stunning achievement." The Badr Boyz are the biggest, most organized, best-financed death squad in the country: they are up to their turbans in sectarian killings, and have infiltrated the Interior Ministry on such a large scale that they virtually control the national police and other security branches. The Iraqi elections, far from being a countervailing influence to the death squads, served to empower them.....

Bush is giving the signal for the Shi'ite death squads – in which our own troops will be "embedded" – to redouble their dirty work: it's the "El Salvador option" made manifest. And all in the name of fighting sectarian violence! That's the beauty of it. Later on in his peroration, Bush avers that "even if our new strategy works exactly as planned, deadly acts of violence will continue. And we must expect more Iraqi and American casualties." Given the objective consequences of his policies, what he really meant was especially if our strategy works exactly as planned.....

The last sentence ought to give us pause, because it underscores the real danger of remaining in Iraq one day longer, never mind four to six months or a year. Bush clearly sees the struggle in regional terms, and seeks to expand the conflict beyond Iraq's borders. That has always been the point of our intervention in Iraq: to establish a launching pad for the "liberation" of the Middle East.

Why else are U.S. soldiers storming the Iranian consulate in Irbil, and taking six consular personnel hostage – clearly an act of war?......

The longer we stay in Iraq, the likelier we are to get sucked into an Iranian quagmire that will dwarf our present predicament by several orders of magnitude. I would bank on a Cambodia-style incursion, a la Richard Nixon – a maneuver that, executed in the volatile Middle East, is likely to cause a seismic explosion that would reverberate across the globe with tremendous force. That's why we don't need a "surge" – and every moment we delay in getting out of Iraq takes us closer to the edge of the abyss."


The 'Surge' Is A Red Herring

A Good Article
by Paul Craig Roberts

".....Bush makes it clear that success in Iraq does not depend on the surge. Rather, "Succeeding in Iraq . . . begins with addressing Iran and Syria."...

Why is Bush telling these lies? Here is the answer: Bush says, "We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."

In those words, Bush states perfectly clearly that victory in Iraq requires US forces to attack Iran and Syria. Moreover, Bush says, "We are also taking other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East. I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region."

What do two US aircraft carrier attack groups in the Persian Gulf have to do with a guerrilla ground war in Iraq?

The "surge" is merely a tactic to buy time while war with Iran and Syria can be orchestrated. The neoconservative/Israeli cabal feared that the pressure that Congress, the public, and the American foreign policy establishment were putting on Bush to de-escalate in Iraq would terminate their plan to achieve hegemony in the Middle East. Failure in Iraq would mean the end of the neoconservatives' influence. It would be impossible to start a new war with Iran after losing the war in Iraq.

The neoconservatives and the right-wing Israeli government have clearly stated their plans to overthrow Muslim governments throughout the region and to deracinate Islam. These plans existed long before 9/11.

Near the end of his "surge" speech, Bush adopts the neoconservative program as US policy. The struggle, Bush says, echoing the neoconservatives and the Israeli right-wing, goes far beyond Iraq. "The challenge," Bush says, is "playing out across the broader Middle East. . . . It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time." America is pitted against "extremists" who "have declared their intention to destroy our way of life." "The most realistic way to protect the American people," Bush says, is "by advancing liberty across a troubled region.".....

Republican US Senator Chuck Hagel declared Bush's plan to be "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam." In truth, it is far worse. It is naked aggression justified by transparent lies. No one has ever heard governments in Iraq, Syria, or Iran declare "their intention to destroy our way of life." To the contrary, it is the United States and Israel that are trying to destroy the Muslim way of life.

The crystal clear truth is that fanatical neoconservatives and Israelis are using Bush to commit the United States to a catastrophic course."

Bush's tough tactics are a 'declaration of war' on Iran

The Independent

"American forces stormed Iranian government offices in northern Iraq, hours after President George Bush issued a warning to Tehran that was described as a "declaration of war".

The soldiers detained six people, including diplomats, according to the Iranians, and seized documents and computers in the pre-dawn raid which was condemned by Iran. A leading UK-based Iran specialist, Ali Ansari, said the incident was an "extreme provocation". Dr Ansari said that Mr Bush's speech on future Iraq strategy amounted to "a declaration of war" on Iran.

"The risk is a wider war. Because of the underlying tensions, we are transferring from a 'cold war' into a 'hot war'," he said.

In his speech, the President accused Iran and Syria of providing material support for attacks on US troops, and vowed to stop the "flow of support" from across the border. "We will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq," he said....."


President's back-up plan: blame Iran

Simon Tisdall
Friday January 12, 2007
The Guardian

"If George Bush's remodelled strategy for halting the Iraq disaster fails to work, it is becoming clear where the US administration will point the finger of blame: Tehran. For some months Washington has been moving aggressively on a range of fronts to "pin back" Iran, in Tony Blair's words. But Mr Bush's Iraq policy speech on Wednesday night marked the opening of a new, far more aggressive phase which could extend the conflict into Iranian territory for the first time since the 2003 invasion.

Mr Bush's choice of words constituted an unmistakable warning that US forces may in future conduct hot pursuit operations into Iran against terrorist suspects or their backers. "These two regimes [Iran and Syria] are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq," Mr Bush said."We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We'll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."
Asked on CBS television yesterday whether that meant US troops could be sent across the Iranian border, secretary of state Condoleezza Rice said that option was on the table. "We have to recognise that Iran is engaging in activities that endanger our troops."....."


By Steve Bell, The Guardian

Bush's Crackdown on Baghdad: A Step Towards Attacking Iran

By Mike Whitney

"Even a cursory review of Bush’s speech shows that the president is less concerned with “security” in Baghdad than he is with plans to attack Iran. Paul Craig Roberts was correct in his article yesterday when he questioned whether all the hoopla over a surge was just “an orchestrated distraction” to draw attention away from the real war plan. (“Troop Escalation and Iran”, Information Clearinghouse”)

Apparently, it is.....

Iran had set up the embassy at the request of the Kurdish Governor-General who was not informed of US intentions to raid the facility and kidnap its employees. The American soldiers confiscated computers and documents just 5 hours after Bush had threatened Iran in his address to the nation.

Clearly, Bush is looking for a way to provoke a military confrontation with Iran. Now he has 5 Iranian hostages at his disposal to help him achieve that goal.....

“Seek and destroy”? Is that the plan?

A region-wide conflagration with results as uncertain as they are in Iraq?

So far, there’s no solid evidence that Iran is “providing material support for attacks on American troops.” All the same, the administration has consistently used “material support” as the basis for preemptive war. In fact, the so-called Bush Doctrine is predicated on the assumption that the US is free to attack whoever it chooses if it perceives a threat to its national security. The normal rules of self defense or “imminent danger” no longer apply......

Bush also intimated that he would strike out at other “armed militias” in Iraq; an indication that US forces are planning an offensive against Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army. The Shiite cleric, al Sadr, is despised by the Washington Warlords and is described by the Pentagon as “the biggest threat to Iraq’s security.” Even so, al-Sadr has operatives placed strategically throughout the al-Maliki government (and within the Green Zone) and attacking him now would only make the occupation more perilous. In fact, an attack on the Mehdi Army could create a situation where Shiite militias cut off vital supply lines from the south making occupation virtually untenable.

Bush has decided to abandon all sense of caution and blunder ahead taking on all adversaries without concern for the consequences. It is a prescription for disaster....."


Shi'ite time bomb has a short fuse

President George W Bush's new strategy has the potential to unravel the current US-Shi'ite alliance in Iraq. Then the majority Shi'ites could turn into insurgents overnight, and the country would become a dangerous flashpoint between Iran and the US

By Kaveh L Afrasiabi
Asia Times

"......Indeed, the comparisons with Ngo Dinh Diem's fate in South Vietnam and Iraq are becoming more pronounced. Just as Diem was pressured with conditions on economic aid before his overthrow, Washington is now imposing "benchmarks" on the Iraqi government, such as how to divide up the oil revenue. These demands, irrespective of their merits, have the undesirable consequence of perpetuating the image of Baghdad's regime as a client state pure and simple, hardly conducive to the government's legitimacy requirements, and quest for internal peace and stability.

But don't expect any of the policy hawks behind Bush's make-believe "new strategy" to bother themselves with such details, given their imperial mindset on preventing the impression of an astounding failure. Yet few even in Washington seriously believe that such prescriptions falling seriously short of a "comprehensive new approach" as called for by the ISG and others have even a moderate chance of success. This save for the Israelis and their influence peddlers, who are quietly happy that Bush disregarded the panel's "linkage approach" that would have put the Israeli mistreatment of Palestinians on the United States' policy agenda.....

These are, indeed, tall orders for a US military stretched thin and plagued with low morale and troop exhaustion. Senator John Warner has warned that Bush's plan would embroil the US in a bloody civil war, thus further complicating the US mission in Iraq, which has led to a "US-Shi'ite alliance", per the words of Washington pundit Edward Luttwak.

Yet a point missed by Luttwak and many other US analysts is the fragility of this alliance and the distinct possibility that under undue pressure by a combined force of Arab Sunnis, Israelis and US hawks, the alliance might crumble and thus turn the majority Shi'ites in Iraq into insurgents.....

The consequences of failure, he has warned, would be dire in terms of "radical Islamists" posing even bigger threats to America's precious allies in the oil region and to the US itself, and "Iran will be emboldened to pursue nuclear weapons and to dominate the region".

Thus the gist of Bush's "new strategy" is to make transparent the veiled purpose of long-term US power in Iraq, which is to deter Iranian power, protect America's vital interests and act as a bulwark against Islamist radicals and terrorists, without even an indirect allusion to an exit strategy. In historical retrospective, all this will likely remind us of is yet another US tragedy as previously seen in Vietnam, or the French in Algeria, tragedies inherited from the legacy of Western colonialism.

One net result of the White House's new strategy may indeed turn out to be the transformation of Iraq into a flashpoint between Iran and the US, in light of Thursday's news of a US raid on the Iranian Consulate in the city of Irbil, decried by Tehran as an act of provocation...."


Somalia: Afghanistan remixed

By Pepe Escobar
Asia Times

"The "war on terror" is back with a bang. First Afghanistan, then Iraq and now Somalia. And Iran could well be the next Islamic nation to be bombarded by the US - as President George W Bush telegraphed in his "surge" speech on Wednesday.

The Pentagon is thus already well engaged in its self-described "arc of instability" that runs from the Horn of Africa to the Middle East and the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Himalayas. President Hugo Chavez's tropical Venezuela may not be Islamic,but he's taking no chances - especially after the incendiary promise in his re-inauguration of "socialism or death".

"Surge" is now a global household name. It refers to the US attack on Africans in Somalia in search for elusive al-Qaeda masterminds - but they missed the main targets. It includes North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) killing scores of alleged Taliban in Paktika province in Afghanistan this week. The dead may have been 80, or may have been 150; nobody really knows about civilian casualties because there's not a single journalist in the area and NATO may spin what it wants. The Taliban say the dead are all civilians.

Surge also applies to the Pentagon getting into the business of attacking foreign consulates, confiscating national flags, computers and arresting people, as it happened with an Iranian diplomatic mission - according to Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini - in Irbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan.......

So many demons, so little time
The ICU has joined Hamas and Hezbollah in official Washington demonology. It's easy to preview the sequel. Those three, previously excluded, US-backed warlords who terrorized the country for years are taking over. The ICU people dissolved into the population - just like the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Ba'athists in Iraq.

And a full-fledged Islamist guerrilla movement is being born. They will have plenty of targets to choose: Christian Ethiopian soldiers, warlord militias, "President" Yusuf's people, the odd American. The Hawiye clan is very influential in Mogadishu. It will never accept a president from the Darod clan, like Yusuf.

As far as the White House, Pentagon, CIA triad is concerned, at least for the moment they are getting the big prize: a client regime in the highly strategic Horn of Africa, facing the Gulf of Aden, next door to the Arabian Sea, and a stone's throw from the Persian Gulf. In addition - what else? - Somalia also happens to have oil...."


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bush Speech: Full Steam Ahead on Iran Attack

By Kurt Nimmo

"Speaking through the unitary decider—sort of like a ventriloquist speaking through a dummy—the neocons have once again issued threats against Iran and Syria.

“In his speech to the American nation yesterday, President George W. Bush issued a warning to Iran and Syria, accusing them of taking deliberate action against U.S. forces in Iraq and enabling aid transfers to insurgents,” reports Haaretz.

“Bush said the U.S. intends to take action against Iranian proxies in Iraq, and vowed to find and destroy the networks supplying these groups with weapons and training.” In addition, and ominously if not predictably, Bush “also promised that the U.S. would work ‘with others’ in order to block Iran from developing nuclear arms and dominating the region.”

As if to underscore the importance and urgency of Iran’s prominent position on the neocon hit list, “American forces stormed Iranian government offices in northern Iraq,” essentially an act of war. “The soldiers detained six people, including diplomats, according to the Iranians, and seized documents and computers in the pre-dawn raid which was condemned by Iran. A leading UK-based Iran specialist, Ali Ansari, said the incident was an ‘extreme provocation’. Dr Ansari said that Mr. Bush’s speech on future Iraq strategy amounted to ‘a declaration of war’ on Iran,” reports the Independent.....

On the other hand, I say a war with Iran is indeed imminent, as the USS John C. Stennis strike group was not sent to the Gulf earlier this month to simply send a message—it was sent, bristling with warplanes and munitions, to attack Iran, as long planned by the neocons."


War shadows

Deteriorating relations between Fatah and Hamas could turn the spectre of war into a reality

By Khaled Amayreh from the West Bank
Al-Ahram Weekly

"After a week of fighting between Hamas and Fatah left more than a dozen people dead the spectre of civil war has never been more real for the four million Palestinians living in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In the Gaza Strip the poisoned atmosphere between Hamas and Fatah descended to new depths following the killing, by the Palestinian government's "executive force", of a high-ranking Fatah security officer last week. Fatah accused Hamas of executing the Fatah officer in his own home and in full view of his family. Hamas accused the officer and his men of killing a number of Hamas personnel.

The showdown between the two sides reached new levels on Sunday, 7 January, when tens of thousands of Fatah supporters, including police and security personnel, held a rally at the Al-Yamouk Stadium in downtown Gaza. The keynote speaker was Mohamed Dahlan, the controversial Fatah leader and member of Parliament accused by Hamas of attempting to oust Hamas from government by force. At the rally Dahlan launched a scathing attack on Hamas, calling the movement a "gang of murderous agents of Iran". He vowed to "teach Hamas a lesson" and make the movement "pay twofold for each and every provocation".

The Hamas retort was swift. "Dahlan and his cohorts," said a spokesman for the group, "are CIA agents who are trying to plunge the Palestinian people into chaos and civil war in the service of America and Israel". "Even the gasoline in their cars is paid for by the CIA," he added.

The latest confrontation between Fatah and Hamas began on 6 January, when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas branded the "Executive Force," answerable to PA Interior Minister Said Siyam, illegal "unless it is incorporated" into the Fatah- dominated Palestinian security forces. Abbas threatened to dissolve the 6000- strong force which he said was playing a "destructive role". Hamas rejected Abbas's remarks, arguing that the force was legal and that Abbas himself had issued a decree to that effect.

Hamas leaders, including Prime Minister Ismael Haniya, argued further that the force was created by a legitimate and democratically-elected government after Fatah-dominated security forces had proved unwilling and/or unable to maintain security and stem the rising tide of lawlessness.

The bulk of Fatah-dominated security agencies in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank refuse to carry out orders from the Hamas-led government. President Abbas, in addition, effectively withdrew most security-related powers from the government, prompting it to create its own police force, ostensibly to maintain law and order but also to provide security for Hamas leaders and government officials. Meanwhile, mutual recriminations and accusations continued, with each side blaming the other of contravening the law and endangering public peace as well as compromising Palestinian national interests.

The implosive atmosphere soon spread to the Israeli-occupied West Bank where Fatah forces are allowed to operate, especially in city-centres, as long as they do not interfere with Israeli army operations. (The Israeli army last week carried out a raid in the heart of Ramallah, killing five civilians, injuring many others and vandalising Palestinian property without facing any resistance from the increasingly-powerful US-armed Abbas presidential guard.)

On Sunday and Monday of this week, suspected Fatah militiamen went on a rampage of arson, shooting and abduction, targeting individuals and public figures believed to be affiliated with Hamas. In Ramallah itself, masked men armed with AK-47s torched several malls, department stores and money- changing offices, reportedly in full view of PA police and security forces. One of the targets was the Daraghmeh Mall where clothes worth a million Israeli shekels were burned. Several cars were torched and one, belonging to former Minister of Finance Salam Fayyadh, was shot at. The deputy-mayor of Ramallah, a Hamas- affiliate, was the target of a failed abduction attempt thought to be by Fatah militiamen.

In Nablus armed men from Fatah abducted the deputy-mayor, Mahdi Al-Hanbali, along with six other Hamas supporters. The abductors threatened to kill Hamas members in the West Bank whenever Fatah members are killed or attacked by Hamas in Gaza. Al-Hanbali and other abductees were subsequently released, a move suggesting that a possibility to patch things up between Fatah and Hamas still exists.

President Abbas has condemned the shooting and arson in Ramallah and the West Bank and has ordered his security forces to apprehend the perpetrators. He also promised to compensate the victims for losses which amount to millions of dollars.

Whether Abbas is in control of Fatah forces in the West Bank, especially the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (AMB), which Hamas tacitly accuses of responsibility for the vandalism and arson, is doubtful. This, along with the Hamas assertion that the former Gaza strongman Mohamed Dahlan has effectively taken over Fatah, bodes ill for any prospective reconciliation between the two groups.

Last week the Bush administration announced that the US would provide the PA leadership with more than $80 million dollars to bolster the Fatah- dominated security forces in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The US apparently hopes that military and financial assistance, which is being channeled with Israel's consent, will enable Fatah to defeat Hamas. But many Palestinians, including some Fatah leaders, such as the Damascus- based veteran Farouk Kaddumi, view the American "assistance" as interference in internal Palestinian affairs, aimed primarily at fanning the flames of civil war in the service of Israel and its designs to liquidate the Palestinian question.

This week a group of Palestinian intellectuals called on Egypt and other Arab countries to intensify mediation efforts between Hamas and Fatah, saying the prospect of civil war among Palestinians could soon be a reality."

Once bitten

A state with temporary borders would spell the end of the Palestinian cause and rights

Mustafa Barghouti
(The writer is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative)
Al-Ahram Weekly

"Every now and then it is useful to take a closer look at the nature of the ongoing struggle in Palestine, for it is easy to miss the forest for the trees. The general idea is simple. The Palestinians are fighting for a fully independent state on all the land occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem, and demanding recognition of the rights of Palestinian refugees. Meanwhile, Israel, which wants to create a system of apartheid and domination, is trying to get the Palestinians to accept a state with temporary borders, minus Jerusalem and other areas, and minus independence. Israel's recent decision to build a new settlement in the Jordan Valley is a case in point.

Shall we have a comprehensive and final solution to the conflict, or a temporary and interim one similar to that of the Oslo Accords? This is the big question facing the Palestinians today. A long-term transitional deal is what Israel wants. The Israelis want to force the Palestinians to give up large segments of the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and abandon refugee rights as part of an interim solution. But such a solution is likely to be permanent, not temporary.

Also, Israel wants the Palestinian Authority to remain ineffective and shorn of sovereignty. It wants the authority to act as Israel's bodyguard while Israel maintains all economic, political and security power.

Israel is pushing for an interim solution because it doesn't want the Palestinians to benefit from opportunities the US debacle in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the rest of the Middle East has created. With the Baker-Hamilton report calling for a solution to the Palestinian problem and with international community increasingly critical of Israel's policies, the tide is turning. Who would have imagined that a former US president, Jimmy Carter, would conclude that apartheid is worse in Palestine than it ever was in South Africa? The pressure on Israel is mounting, as is evident in the Spanish-French-Italian call for an international conference and a final settlement of the conflict. Europe wants a lasting solution to the Palestinian issue, and Israel -- fully cognizant -- is buying time.

Israel is trying to weaken the drive for genuine peace in the Middle East. In particular, it is trying to stop US officials from altering their policy in a way that could be beneficial to the Palestinians. And the Israelis are yet again using the Palestinians to avoid the consequences of a just and comprehensive settlement to the 40-year-old conflict.

Here is what Israel is doing. First, Israel is trying to portray the Palestinian scene as part of a battle between good and evil, a battle between those who belong to the so-called "Axis of Evil" and those described as moderates.

Second, Israel is trying to portray the conflict between Fatah and Hamas as a power struggle over who controls the occupied territories. The debate has thus been shifted to the nature and composition of government and to the terms under which Israel and other international parties would approve of the Palestinian government. This mustn't go on. The Palestinians need a unified national command, one that is capable of managing the conflict and breaking the siege.

Third, Israel is trying to get Fatah and Hamas to haggle, through international brokers, over partial and interim solutions. This also must stop. Fatah and Hamas should discuss their differences over the final peace settlement rather than waste their time on who is to negotiate a partial deal. It is essential for all Palestinian parties to denounce any partial deals and never accept a state with temporary borders.

The Palestinians need a unified position and strategy. They need a unified command, something that has been missing for almost three decades now. The last thing the Palestinians need is for domestic rivalries to distract them from managing the conflict. Let's keep in mind that political plurality can be a blessing or a curse. It would be a blessing if the Palestinians insist on a comprehensive solution. And it would be a curse if divisions weaken our negotiating position.

We need a government of national unity and we need it soon. More importantly, we need a unified command that can organise and coordinate action among the three components of the Palestinian people: those living outside Palestine; those living in the occupied territories; and those living in Israel, who are currently 22 per cent of the Palestinian population.

Opinion polls suggest that a majority of Palestinians and Israelis want a comprehensive solution. But the so-called Israeli peace movement has become inactive since talks shifted to partial and interim solutions. Israel must come to the realisation that apartheid is a non-starter and that the only way ahead is that of comprehensive peace. We've tried Oslo once. Let's not try it again. "

By Ed Stein, The Rocky Mountain News

Palestine 2007: Genocide in Gaza, Ethnic Cleansing in the West Bank

By Ilan Pappe
The Electronic Intifada, 11 January 2007

"On this stage, not so long ago, I claimed that Israel is conducting genocidal policies in the Gaza Strip. I hesitated a lot before using this very charged term and yet decided to adopt it. Indeed, the responses I received, including from some leading human rights activists, indicated a certain unease over the usage of such a term. I was inclined to rethink the term for a while, but came back to employing it today with even stronger conviction: it is the only appropriate way to describe what the Israeli army is doing in the Gaza Strip.

On 28 December 2006, the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem published its annual report about the Israeli atrocities in the occupied territories. Israeli forces killed this last year six hundred and sixty citizens. The number of Palestinians killed by Israel last year tripled in comparison to the previous year (around two hundred). According to B'Tselem, the Israelis killed one hundred and forty one children in the last year. Most of the dead are from the Gaza Strip, where the Israeli forces demolished almost 300 houses and slew entire families. This means that since 2000, Israeli forces killed almost four thousand Palestinians, half of them children; more than twenty thousand were wounded.....

On the other hand, there is no clear Israeli strategy as yet for the Gaza Strip; but there is a daily experiment with one. Gaza, in the eyes of the Israelis, is a very different geo-political entity from that of the West Bank. Hamas controls Gaza, while Abu Mazen seems to run the fragmented West Bank with Israeli and American blessing. There is no chunk of land in Gaza that Israel covets and there is no hinterland, like Jordan, to which the Palestinians of Gaza can be expelled. Ethnic cleansing is ineffective here.

The earlier strategy in Gaza was ghettoizing the Palestinians there, but this is not working. The ghettoized community continues to express its will for life by firing primitive missiles into Israel. Ghettoizing or quarantining unwanted communities, even if they were regarded as sub-human or dangerous, never worked in history as a solution. The Jews know it best from their own history. The next stages against such communities in the past were even more horrific and barbaric. It is difficult to tell what the future holds for the Gaza population, ghettoized, quarantined, unwanted and demonized. Will it be a repeat of the ominous historical examples or is a better fate still possible?.....

A creeping transfer in the West Bank and a measured genocidal policy in the Gaza Strip are the two strategies Israel employs today. From an electoral point of view, the one in Gaza is problematic as it does not reap any tangible results; the West Bank under Abu Mazen is yielding to Israeli pressure and there is no significant force that arrests the Israeli strategy of annexation and dispossession. But Gaza continues to fire back. On the one hand, this would enable the Israeli army to initiate more massive genocidal operations in the future. But there is also the great danger, on the other, that as happened in 1948, the army would demand a more drastic and systematic 'punitive' and collateral action against the besieged people of the Gaza Strip....."


Bush Channels Nixon

By Robert Dreyfuss

"At the tail end of the Vietnam war, when everyone in Washington knew that America had lost, peace talks stalled and President Richard Nixon ordered a massive bombardment of North Vietnam over Christmas, 1972. In a horrific and needless weeks-long reign of terror, the United States bombed cities and villages in Vietnam, including a devastating strike that demolished Bach Mai, Hanoi’s largest hospital. Once the president got that out of his system, the assault ended, the peace talks resumed and shortly thereafter the United States gave up on the war.

What President Bush is doing in Iraq is precisely the same thing. There is virtually no one in the foreign policy establishment, in the military or anywhere else who believes that the Iraq war can be won. But, by sending 21,500 more U.S. troops to Iraq to engage in a massive, citywide offensive in Baghdad, Bush is doing what Nixon did in 1972. He is unleashing carnage for reasons that are not military, but political and petulant. Many thousands of Iraqis, and not a few Americans, will die as a result—and, in the end, the United States will have to get out of Iraq anyway....."


أخطاء السياسة الايرانية والمواجهة القادمة

معقل زهور عدي

أضاف نشر جريدة الصندي تايمز بتاريخ 8/1/2007 لتقرير حول خطة عسكرية اسرائيلية يجري وضع اللمسات الأخيرة لها لضرب مجمعات الطاقة النووية في ايران مؤشرا جديدا حول تصاعد المواجهة بين الولايات المتحدة واسرائيل من جهة وايران من جهة أخرى وتمحور تلك المواجهة حول مسألة تقدم ايران نحو امتلاك أسلحة نووية.
ورغم الخلاف في النظرة بين السياستين الأمريكية والاسرائيلية تجاه ايران حيث تنظر السياسة الأمريكية الى الوضع في المنطقة من زاوية مصالحها الاستراتيجية خاصة في السيطرة على النفط ومنع الدولة الايرانية من تكوين قوة اقليمية تضع مسألة السيطرة المطلقة على النفط موضع تساؤل أو مساومة، تنظر السياسة الاسرائيلية الى القوة الايرانية الصاعدة كخطر مستقبلي لمنافسة في منطقة باتت اسرائيل تعتبرها مجالها الحيوي كقوة اقليمية، فالمسألة بالنسبة لاسرائيل لا تقتصر على احساسها بالخطر من استعمال السلاح النووي ضدها ولكنها تندرج في اطار ما يضيفه امتلاك السلاح النووي من قوة لايران تمكنها من الدخول بقوة كمنافس استراتيجي للقوة الاسرائيلية المتفوقة في منطقة شرق المتوسط.
اذن فنحن على الأغلب قد انتهينا من مرحلة الحوار الايراني ـ الأمريكي ودخلنا مرحلة المواجهة بدءا بتصعيد العقوبات الدولية وحشد الرأي العام ضد ايران، وصولا نحو الضربة العسكرية الشاملة.
وفي حين يصعب أن لايشعر المرء بالتعاطف مع ايران المستهدفة اسرائيليا وأمريكيا، فان من المناسب دق ناقوس الخطر للسياسة الايرانية التي كشفت ايران على نحو غير مسبوق في العالمين العربي والاسلامي، بحيث تكاد ايران تفقد حاضنتها الطبيعية ومصدر دعمها الحقيقي في أي مواجهة مقبلة.
لقد ابتدأت أخطاء السياسة الايرانية تتراكم منذ وقت طويل، وتجلى ذلك بتمكين الولايات المتحدة ومساعدتها في احتلال أفغانستان ثم العراق، ثم في انتهاج سياسة غير رشيدة تجاه العراق دافعة حلفاءها العراقيين للتحالف مع الاحتلال الأمريكي بهدف تثبيت سيطرتهم على العراق وافساح المجال بالتالي أمام النفوذ الايراني للتغلغل بطريقة أسفرت عن اثارة حفيظة المشاعر الوطنية للعراقيين. وبعد أن شعرت ايران أنها باتت تمتلك الورقة العراقية استدارت نحو الولايات المتحدة عارضة عليها المساومة مقابل غض النظر عن امتلاك السلاح النووي والاعتراف بايران قوة اقليمية وشريك في المنطقة(يمكن مراجعة حديث السيد على لارجاني يوم الخميس في 16/3/2006 والذي قال فيه حرفيا وفقا لجريدة الواشنطن بوست (حيث ان السيد الحكيم أحد القيادات المؤثرة في العراق قد طلب منا الحوار مع الأمريكيين فيما يتعلق بمستقبل العراق لذلك وافقنا على الحوار). و يقول السيد علي لارجاني سكرتير المجلس الأعلى للأمن القومي الايراني : (بامكاننا خلق الاستقرار والأمن في الأقليم ولكن ليس عبر لغة كلغة السيد بولتون (مندوب الولايات المتحدة لدى الأمم المتحدة آنذاك) ما هو مطلوب أناس يتمتعون بقدر كاف من الحساسية والتقدير بحيث يستطيعون التفكير بخطة طويلة الأجل) وبترجمة كلام السيد لارجاني للغة أكثر وضوحا فهو يقول للأمريكان : لسنا ضد استراتيجيتكم في المنطقة، ولكننا نحتاج الى من يقدر طموح ايران ودورها الاقليمي، وحين يتوفر لديكم ذلك المحاور فسنصل بالتأكيد للتفاهم المطلوب.
اليوم وصلت تلك السياسة الى حافة الافلاس، ويظهر سياق تطور المواجهة بين ايران والولايات المتحدة واسرائيل مدى قصر النظر الذي تمتعت به تلك السياسة وابتعادها عن العقلانية.
فالولايات المتحدة الأمريكية لا يمكن أن تقبل بقوة اقليمية تشاركها في أهم منطقة نفطية في العالم، وهي أكثر اصرارا على ذلك اليوم مما كانت عليه عشية الحرب على العراق، بعد أن استثمرت في الحرب على العراق مئات المليارات من الدولارات (يتراوح الرقم بين 300 – 500 مليار دولار) وعشرات الألوف من القتلى والجرحى، لقد ساهمت السياسة الايرانية غير الحكيمة في ادخال الدب الى الكرم بينما كانت تتعالى الصرخات ضد الشيطان الأكبر في طهران.
والخطأ الآخر الذي لا يقل أهمية هو الاساءة لمشاعر الوطنيين العراقيين ولمشاعر العرب في موقفها غير المبرر في دعم وتمكين قوى الاحتلال ودفع حلفائها بعيدا عن خط المقاومة، وغض النظر عن الممارسات الوحشية للميليشيات المحسوبة عليها.
لقد أسفرت السياسة الايرانية عن فشل مزدوج فلا هي تمكنت من اقناع الولايات المتحدة بالاعتراف بدورها الاقليمي كما تطمح اليه وغض النظر عن برنامجها النووي، ولا هي استطاعت استقطاب تعاطف ودعم الشعوب العربية والاسلامية بسياساتها المتقلبة وغير المبدئية.
لقد شعرت بحزن وألم عميقين وأنا أتصفح تعليقات الجمهور العربي في الصحافة الالكترونية على التقرير الذي نشرته الصندي تايمز بقرب ضربة عسكرية اسرائيلية لايران، تلك التعليقات التي لا تظهر أي قدر من التعاطف والتضامن المفترضين.
في النهاية لا يمكن النظر لايران كقوة عدوة بل لا بد من النظر اليها كحليف استراتيجي للأمة العربية، ولا يمكن مقاربة وضعها بأية صورة بوضع قوى الهيمنة الأمريكية والصهيونية، وأية محاولة لذلك تعني عدم معرفة العدو من الصديق والعمى الاستراتيجي.
في اللحظة الراهنة تستثمر الولايات المتحدة ليس فقط في الخلافات المذهبية للحشد ضد ايران تمهيدا لضربها ولكن أيضا في أخطاء السياسة الايرانية ذاتها خلال المرحلة السابقة.

هل هناك متسع من الوقت للسياسة الايرانية لتصحيح أخطائها؟
على أية حال ما هو مطلوب من ايران أن توقف الاعمال الوحشية للميليشيات المحسوبة عليها في العراق أولا، وأن تقف موقفا واضحا غير ملتبس ضد الاحتلال الأمريكي للعراق وتدعم المقاومة الوطنية بغض النظر عن الهوية المذهبية، وأن تكون مع وحدة العراق لا مع تقسيمه قولا وفعلا فالمواقف اللفظية لا تقنع أحدا.
أما على صعيد المنطقة فالمطلوب من ايران أن تعي أن الأمة العربية حليفتها وشريكتها وبالتالي أن تنظر بعين الاحترام لمشاعر العرب وتطلعاتهم رغم واقعهم البائس لا أن تنظر اليهم كأسلاب ومنطقة نفوذ، وكما قال الشاعر العربي:
واذا نابها الزمان بضر لاتكن أنت والزمان عليها

Human shield blocks Israeli air raid on home of resistance fighter

"Gaza - Palestinian masses encircled the home of Ibrahim Juma, an Islamic Jihad activist, in the Gaza Strip after receiving a telephone contact that he has to evacuate the house immediately along with his family because the Israeli air force would bomb it.

Local sources said that an IOF officer told Juma over the phone that he has to evacuate his home north of Gaza city within half an hour. However, the word spread and a larg number of people headed to Juma's home and surrounded it foiling the Israeli air raid.

This is the first time that the IOF command returns to such a policy since a truce between the IOF and Palestinian resistance factions was agreed almost two months ago.

Palestinian masses came up with this idea to block Israeli air strikes that flattened tens of civilian homes before the truce went into effect. "

Israeli army carries out rampage of terror in Dura

By Khalid Amayreh in the West Bank

"Israeli occupation forces, Tuesday night, rampaged through the town of Dura , 10 kilometers south west of Hebron , vandalizing property and terrorizing civilians, locals and eyewitnesses told PIC.

Eyewitnesses said as many as 20 army vehicles carrying dozens of crack soldiers raided the town in the quiet hours before dawn Wednesday amid sounds of shooting and blasts.

“I saw more than 20 army Jeeps, armored vehicles and trucks, in addition to at least one bulldozer, enter the town around 3: 30 am,” said Ahmed Sharah, a night-shift attendant at a petrol station near the main entrance to Dura.

“They were shooting into the air and making blasts to terrorize the people.”

Upon entering the town, the troops demolished the forefronts of two stores, a butcher's shop and a restaurant, belonging to Muhammed Abu Zneid and his brother Firas.

According to Muhammed Abu Zneid, the occupation troops “rounded up everybody in the home and pushed us onto the street.”

“They behaved like thugs and common criminals. They wouldn’t even let us put on our winter clothes.

“Then they started vandalizing our property and stealing our money,” he said.

Abu Zneid said the soldiers stole from his home $5000 and 12000 NIS in addition to Jewelry of unspecified value.

Eventually, the army began demolishing the front-doors of the two stores, crushing everything inside, including refrigerators. The commanding officer reportedly accused the family of harboring two “wanted persons” affiliated with Hamas’s military wing and demanded that they be handed over.

The family vehemently denied any knowledge in this regard and offered to open the doors so that the soldiers could see for themselves that there were no people inside.

“I told them I would open the doors for them, but they insisted on force-opening the two stores with the bulldozer. They apparently wanted to make us incur as much losses as possible.”

Abu Zneid estimated that losses incurred at more than $10,000.

Earlier, the Israeli army arrested several people in Dura, apparently in connection with “wanted persons,” an allusion to Palestinians activists suspected of involvement in resisting the Israeli occupation.

The Israeli army carries out a nearly nightly spate of arrests of suspected Palestinian activists, mostly on disingenuous charges pertaining to the resistance.

Most of the detainees are incarcerated for prolonged periods of time, often without charge or trial.

It is believed that Israel is detaining as many as 10,000 Palestinian political and resistance activists in as many as 25 prisons and detention camps throughout Israel.

Israeli leaders indicated on several occasions that the prisoners are effectively used as bargaining chips and “pressure cards” to blackmail the Palestinian leadership to give political concessions to Israel in return for freeing the prisoners. "

Hamas, Fatah lawmakers display unity in Hebron

By Khalid Amayreh in the West Bank

"In a symbolic show of unity, a number of Hamas and Fatah lawmakers marched through downtown Hebron Monday, assuring townspeople and reporters of their determination to prevent factional strife from spreading to the Hebron district, the most populous in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The march came as local political and civic leaders were calling for speedy and concerted measures to forestall any possible occurrence of factional violence between Hamas and Fatah in the city and numerous surrounding towns and villages.

Taking part in the march were Hatem Qafisha and Samira Halayqa from Hamas and Akram Haymoni and Sahar Qawasmi from Fatah in addition to local Islamic and nationalist leaders and public figures.

"This district (Hebron) can't bear the occurrence of violence or civil war, this should be clear to all people here," said Akram Haymoni.

He told reporters that both Hamas and Fatah were sending out a clear message that "we are one people and that we will not allow political differences to turn into violence between the brothers."

"What binds us together is far greater than that which would keep us apart. Yes, we might sincerely and thoughtfully have different political views, but these differences should never ever be allowed to create a violent dichotomy between us."

The same message was echoed by Hatem Qafisha of Hamas who called "on every true Palestinian" to say a "clarion No" to inter-factional strife and civil war.

"We must stand united against the ominous specter of violence and civil war with all our strength. We know for sure that faceless Israeli agents are being mobilized in full in order to incite Palestinians one against the other. We must be vigilant and not allow our enemies to make us kill ourselves with our own hands."

Ahmed Tamimi, a former Director-General of the Interior Ministry, said "civil war in Hebron, God forbid, would consume everything and turn clan against clan, family against family and even brother against brother."

"We must send a clear and unmistakable message to both [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas and [Prime Minister Ismael] Haniya that they must sit down immediately and put an end to this disgrace.

"They must sit down for as long as it takes to overcome this problem and eliminate once and for all the prospects of civil war between the brothers."

Tamimi also spoke of the existence of a "third column," an allusion to Israeli collaborators and agents working "day and night" to fan the flames of civil war among Palestinians.

Tamimi said it was a foregone conclusion that Israel, through its agents and collaborators, was doing all it could to get Fatah and Hamas to fight and kill each other.

"They would instruct their agents to assault or shoot this or that figure from Hamas and Fatah and then the two sides, because of the mutual mistrust, would think that the other side perpetrated the attack. Hence, we would end up facing a vicious cycle of action and reaction while the Israelis are watching gleefully as we kill and attack each other."


Meanwhile, civic leaders in the Hebron region have called for a one-day conference aimed at giving local society more immunity against the prospect of inter-factional fighting.

According to organizers, dozens of clan leaders as well as public figures will participate in the conference which is expected to take place this week.

The conference is expected to adopt a "document of honor" that would treat any attack or assault by any Palestinian against any other Palestinian because of his political affiliation as an "act of treachery against God, His messenger, and the Palestinian people."

The document would also stipulate that violators would be expelled by their factions and clans and held fully responsible for their actions.

"The killer himself and his immediate family (not Hamas or Fatah) would be fully responsible for any crime," said one clan notable from Dura. "

Surging toward the holy oil grail

By Pepe Escobar
Asia Times

"......Bush is heading toward escalation, summoning his 21,500 men, supported by barely 11% of Americans. Escalation in Iraq is the name of the president's game, and that also applies to Somalia - the new Afghanistan.

In far from accidental timing, the good old "war on terror" is back from the grave (nobody really related to the "long war" newspeak). After all, the galleries had to be reminded that there's a Pentagon-concocted "arc of instability" running from the Horn of Africa to the Middle East and then to the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Himalayas. The "war on terror" has expanded to the business of killing Africans, now afforded membership of the ever-expanding "axis of evil".....

With some aplomb, the White House/Pentagon axis has managed to turn Somalia into the new Afghanistan, in more ways than one and just in time for Bush's announcement of his escalation-tainted "new way forward". The Pentagon maintained it had "credible" intelligence before it decided to strike alleged al-Qaeda-infested villages in southern Somalia. This is highly suspect.

The intelligence was provided by unsavory, corrupt Ethiopian dictator Meles Zenawi - who came up with the clever plot of concocting a fictitious jihad conducted by "neo-Taliban" in Somalia and selling it handsomely to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Pentagon. He's now posing as a prime US ally in the "war on terror", just as Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov did in the autumn of 2001.

Zenawi's US-trained Ethiopian troops, the ones who invaded Somalia, are infested with CIA operatives and Special Forces - all of them flown in from the strategic US-controlled (since September 11, 2003) Camp Le Monier in Djibouti.....

But just when Washington and the Green Zone in Baghdad were abuzz with talk of regime change, Bush told Republican senators this week that his escalation and "new way forward" policies were basically designed by none other than Maliki, widely condemned for his support of Shi'ite death squads. It is astonishing that Maliki might actually have managed to convince Bush that he will frontally take on the militias of his ally Muqtada.

High on the White House wishful-thinking list is that Muqtada be isolated in the Iraqi Parliament as the US-trained Iraqi army, on Maliki's orders and helped by the Pentagon, crushes the Mehdi Army. Shi'ites killing Shi'ites? Now that's an extremely tall order. Yet this would lead, runs the scenario, to the mollifying of the Sunni Arab resistance. Sunnis would increase their voice in the government - supposing they were convinced there would be no more militia-conducted ethnic cleansing. The scenario completely "forgets" the SCIRI's Badr Organization, whose militias, much more organized and well trained than the Mehdi Army, are operating right from inside the Interior Ministry.....

The basic fact remains that Bush's escalation is designed to smash Muqtada's Mehdi Army. That can only mean, in practice, a mini-genocide of vast masses of unruly, extremely dispossessed Shi'ites: the coming battle of Sadr City, which the Pentagon has been itching to launch since the spring of 2004. The Pentagon is actually declaring war on no fewer than 2.2 million (poor) people. A sinister symmetry still applies: the Pentagon will attack dispossessed Shi'ite masses - just as the Israeli Defense Forces attacked dispossessed Shi'ite masses in southern Lebanon in the summer of 2006.

There's more. Bush's escalation, according to his own speech, will ensure there will actually be two major battles on two different fronts: the battle of Sadr City, against Shi'ites, and the Great Battle of Baghdad, as the Sunni Arab muqawama (resistance) has been dubbing it. A tangential taste of this second front was provided this week by the day-long fight in Haifa Street between coalition and Iraqi forces against militants.....

Washington's successive divide-and-rule tactics - facilitating a possible genocide of Sunnis, contemplating a mass slaughter of Shi'ites, betting on a regional Sunni/Shi'ite war - never for a second lose sight of the riches of Iraqi. For Big Business, an Iraq eaten alive by Balkanization is the ideal environment for the triumph of Anglo-American petrocracy....."


Few Tears For Muqtada And His Army

A Comment
By Tony Sayegh

It was obvious, and it was stated on this blog weeks ago, that the main objective of the "surge" was to destroy Muqtada and his Mahdi army. It is the latest phase of the successful American strategy of having Iraqis destroy each other. Frankly, while most Arabs supported Muqtada in 2004 when he fought the occupation in Najaf, I don't think that he can count on that support today.

A lot has changed since then: Muqtada and his army became the major source of death squads; he became an important player in the occupation-imposed sectarian government; his death squads are ethnically cleansing Baghdad and other areas; his death squads have been terrorizing and killing innocent Palestinians in Baghdad who have no place to go; in spite of his empty rhetoric about ending the occupation, his Mahdi army relies on active support of the U.S. Army as seen just days ago when it called for U.S. air strikes on Haifa street in Baghdad; he cast his lot with Iran instead of forming a united front with the Iraqi resistance and that introduced its own set of contradictions since Iran (and SCIRI) favor Iraq's partitioning (euphemistically called federalism); and finally how can we forget the barbaric scenes of Muqtada's thugs chanting his name during the grizzly lynching and subsequent slaughter of Saddam. The last item was, of course, stage-managed, to demonize Muqtada (not a hard task) and justify the forthcoming U.S. move to destroy his army.

Few tears will be shed for Muqtada and his army this time.

The man who now holds Iraq's future in his hands

A Good Comment
By Patrick Cockburn
The Independent

".....He has now become part of the White House's demonology in Iraq. At one time the US believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for all its problems in Iraq - problems that would be resolved once he was overthrown. Today Sadr, a 32-year-old cleric in his black robe with fierce, staring, dark eyes, is denounced as the fomenter of sectarian warfare.

Many Iraqi leaders never leave the Green Zone. Sadr has never entered it. He has a cult-like following. He controls Sadr City, the ramshackle, sprawling slum in east Baghdad which is home to two-and-a-half million Shia, important cities such as Kufa and provinces such as Maysan. He can probably put 100,000 armed militiamen into the field. Much of the Baghdad police force follows him. Army barracks where Shia units are stationed have pictures of him pinned to the walls.

Once in 2004 he was wanted "dead or alive" by the US forces and dismissed as "a firebrand". They soon found that his movement had deep roots. He controls 32 out of 275 seats in the Iraqi parliament. He is the most important ally of the Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki. In 2004, the US and its former exile allies paid a heavy price for trying to exclude him from power. In 2005 and 2006, they recognised his strength. He became part of the political process in Iraq while opposing the US-led occupation.

Now, astonishingly the US may be about to confront Sadr and his powerful social and political movement. This could lead almost immediately to a crisis for the US and President Bush's new strategy for Iraq.

If the US Army, along with Kurdish brigades of the Iraqi army, do assault Sadr City, they are unlikely to win a clean victory. The rest of Shia Iraq is likely to explode. A confrontation will convince many Shia that the US never intends to let them rule Iraq despite their success in the elections. The US is already at war with the five million-strong Sunni community and is now fast alienating the Shia. For the first time this year, polls showed that a majority of Shia approve of armed attacks on US-led forces.

An offensive against Sadr's Mehdi Army will be portrayed as an attempt to eliminate militias. But it is, in reality, an attack on one particular militia, because it is anti-American. The Kurdish brigades in the Iraqi army take their orders from the Kurdish leaders and not from Maliki. The US also has good relations with the other Shia militia, the Badr Organisation, which is the military wing of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

There is no doubt that the Mehdi Army includes death squads targeting Sunni - but this is also true of Badr.

.....Muqtada al-Sadr became so powerful so fast because he was in the same tradition as his relatives. His militiamen are generally not paid and supply their own weapons. They are beginning to have a core of trained, paid professionals but they were never as militarily effective as the Sunni insurgents, many of whom were experienced soldiers.

A US attack on Sadr will open another front in the war in Iraq. It would split the Shia coalition into pro- and anti-American factions. It would disrupt the Shia-Kurdish alliance. It probably would not conciliate the Sunni insurgents.

Sadr's movement thrives on martyrs. The only certain result of an all-out US assault on the Mehdi Army would be to deepen and widen the war in Iraq."

The Triumph Of Death

(Click on cartoon to enlarge)
By Steve Bell, The Guardian

Defiance and delusion

Thursday January 11, 2007
The Guardian

"George Bush's announcement last night that he is going to pour more troops into Iraq was the last throw of the dice in a misconceived enterprise that has dragged his country, this country and the Middle East into a nightmare. The package includes 17,500 more combat troops for Baghdad and 4,000 more marines for Anbar province, the cockpit of the Sunni insurgency. Over $1bn will be spent in economic aid. In return the Iraqis are to promise to crackdown on insurgents, regardless of sect or religion.

In opting for a troop surge, Mr Bush has ignored the message of the mid-term elections, the Iraq Study Group, Congress, his own top generals and most world opinion. US generals have difficulty enough maintaining current levels of combat-ready troops and are not convinced that more troops will make any difference. Rather than listen to them, Mr Bush has turned to the right, to those who argue that honour and the America's national interests require fighting on. One senses that "honour" is the more important of the two.......

Thus far, al-Maliki's record has not been good. He has been unable or unwilling to confront the main Shia warlord, Moqtada al-Sadr, on whom he depends for parliamentary support. His government cannot fight sectarianism, if entire ministries are working for the Shia militias. This was demonstrated by the execution of Saddam Hussein. On Tuesday alone, 40 bodies were found in Baghdad, the presumed work of the death squads.......

The claim peace is returning to Basra is as unreal as Mr Bush's hope that order can be brought to Baghdad. Surrounded by the wreckage of the disaster they created, both men still hope, against all reality, that somehow the pieces can be put back together again. But their project is dead. A few more troops, or a few more months, will not restore it. Both men are on their way out. By stringing the war along without admitting defeat, it will become the business of another British prime minister and another American president to end it."