by PATRICK COCKBURN
Syria is close to following Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya as the target of a major Western military intervention. It certainly looks that way after the American decision last week to send weapons to the rebels in a move that can only deepen the conflict.
The supposed aim of the United States arms supply is to “tip the balance” in favour of the insurgents and force Bashar al-Assad’s government to negotiate its departure from power. But Assad holds all but one of Syria’s cities and large towns, so, to transform the military situation on the ground the US, Britain and France would have to become the main fighting force of the rebels and engage in a full-scale war.
Such a war would be similar to what happened in Afghanistan in 2001 when the cutting edge of the anti-Taliban offensive was strategic and tactical American air support. The anti-Taliban militiamen led by the Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara warlords of the Northern Alliance were few in number – I kept running into the same small units on the road from Kabul to Kandahar – and acted essentially as a mopping-up force that did little real fighting.
In northern Iraq in 2003 the Kurdish Peshmerga were careful not to advance anywhere until the Iraqi army facing them had been pummelled by US bombers. One Kurdish commander told me that his men could not advance an inch without US permission because “we have to co-operate with American air support”. Much the same happened in Libya in 2011 when, for all the laudatory media coverage of the rebels, they would not have survived for more than a few days without Nato Special Forces on the ground and air power overhead.
Of course, the Western intervention in Libya started off with the declared humanitarian purpose of preventing Gaddafi capturing Benghazi and massacring its people. The reality was that Nato leaders were determined to overthrow the regime. The main role of Libyan militiamen on the road south of Benghazi was to appear on foreign television. One of the more amusing sights at the time was to watch cameramen asking other members of the media to stand to one side so viewers would not see that journalists were more numerous than Libyan fighters in the front line.
The message of these three wars is that if the US and its Western allies do intervene in Syria it is they who will be the main players while the rebels will have only bit-parts or be there to give a Syrian gloss to foreign intervention. There are already signs of this happening. Brigadier Salim Idris, the chief of staff of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), appears to spend more of his time giving interviews to foreign journalists than commanding his troops. Not that these are numerous since even his own aides admit privately that he can give orders to a maximum of 10 per cent of the insurgent brigades in Syria.
There is a disconnect between the rebels as they really are and as presented by Western politicians such as David Cameron. Suddenly there is international concern about what will happen in Aleppo if the Assad forces launch a counter-attack to drive the rebels out of the parts of the city they hold. The rhetoric is similar to that used by then president Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron over the need to save the people of Benghazi from massacre in 2011. It is a measure of British and French cynicism that they hardly seemed to notice when, 10 days ago, militiamen in Benghazi, whom they formerly supported, shot dead 31 Libyans protesting against militia rule.
Britain and France speak as if the struggle was between an overwhelmingly popular insurgency and a hated dictatorship. But it was a rebel commander, Abu Ahmed, in the al-Tawheed Brigade that is part of the FSA in Aleppo, who volunteered to a reporter earlier this year that 70 per cent of people in Aleppo support Assad. “They don’t have a revolutionary mindset,” the rebel officer lamented, blaming this on the FSA’s oppression, and corruption caused by “parasites” who had infiltrated its ranks. Inured to horrors though Syrians have become, they were appalled last week to see pictures on Twitter of the mangled head of a 14-year-old boy selling coffee in the street in Aleppo. He had been shot twice in the face by rebels after they accused him of speaking ill of the Prophet. Also last week, rebels massacred 60 people in a Shia village in Deir Ezzor province in the east of the country.
The volume of propaganda justifying Western military intervention in Syria is so high because leaders advocating it know that polls show that such intervention is highly unpopular at home. Hence the White House’s claim that it decided to arm the rebels when it finally became convinced that the Assad regime had crossed a red line by using chemical weapons including sarin gas. Anthony Cordesman of the Centre for Strategic Studies in Washington, while arguing for full-scale US intervention in Syria, says “the ‘discovery’ that Syria used chemical weapons may well be a political ploy. It seems very likely that the administration has had virtually all the evidence for weeks, if not months.”
In fact, the evidence smells very like that for Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction in 2003. It begs the question of why Assad should use small quantities of sarin gas knowing it would be used to justify Western military intervention when his forces are not short of artillery and every other weapon if they want to kill people. One curious aspect of the sarin gas story is that, at the end of May, the Turkish security forces said they had arrested in Turkey militants of the Syrian rebel al-Nusra Front, affiliated to al-Qa’ida, who had in their possession a 2kg cylinder filled with sarin. This is far more substantial evidence for the possession of poison gas than anything alleged against Assad’s forces, but the US, Britain and France showed no interest.
At the G8 meeting in Enniskillen tomorrow it may become clearer how far the US and its allies distinguish between propaganda and reality in relation to Syria. Do Britain and France really imagine that a mix of bluff, threats and a limited supply of infantry weapons will have a decisive impact on the battlefield? Cordesman argues for a no-fly zone that should be rapidly transformed into “a de facto no-move zone”. This is the most effective way to allow the rebels to defeat Assad if they can. In other words, only an all-out war by the West will work against Assad; anything else will be like being “half-pregnant”.
Cordesman is probably right in his military assessment but surely wrong, as we have seen in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, that this will end the fighting. Better by far for the G8 leaders to compel all parties in Syria to go to Geneva, agree a ceasefire, establish a UN mission in Syria to monitor it, and then seek to negotiate long-term solutions.
The first priority should be for the US and Russia to compel the sides they back to cease fire. This would have to be policed on the ground by a UN observer force. I recall the much-maligned UN Supervision Mission in Syria in 2012 arranging a ceasefire in the hardcore rebel town of Douma on the outskirts of Damascus. It did not stop all the shooting but many Syrians lived who would otherwise have died.
There may be a more sinister reason why the US has started setting the bar so high for talks. Washington’s involvement is greater than appears because so much of it goes through Qatar, with the CIA determining who gets arms and money sent via Turkey. This would also explain why Britain and France are so keen to send the rebels weapons.
The explanation for the actions of the Western states may be that they do not want the war to end except as a victory for their allies. This certainly is the view of many in the Middle East, such as Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the former Iraqi National Security Adviser, who told me the civil war “is the best option for the West and Israel because it knocks out Syria as an opponent of their policies and keeps Iran busy. Hezbollah is preoccupied by Syria and not with Israel. Turkey’s idea of a new Ottoman empire is gone with the wind.”
This is a cynical but probably correct explanation for why the US, Britain, France and the Sunni monarchies do not want the war to end until they can declare victory.
WASHINGTON — A nonpartisan, independent review of interrogation and detention programs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks concludes that “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture” and that the nation’s highest officials bore ultimate responsibility for it.
The sweeping, 577-page report says that while brutality has occurred in every American war, there never before had been “the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.” The study, by an 11-member panel convened by the Constitution Project, a legal research and advocacy group, is to be released on Tuesday morning.
Debate over the coercive interrogation methods used by the administration of President George W. Bush has often broken down on largely partisan lines. The Constitution Project’s task force on detainee treatment, led by two former members of Congress with experience in the executive branch — a Republican, Asa Hutchinson, and a Democrat, James R. Jones — seeks to produce a stronger national consensus on the torture question.
While the task force did not have access to classified records, it is the most ambitious independent attempt to date to assess the detention and interrogation programs. A separate 6,000-page report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s record by the Senate Intelligence Committee, based exclusively on agency records, rather than interviews, remains classified.
“As long as the debate continues, so too does the possibility that the United States could again engage in torture,” the report says. Read more…
Robert Fisk writes: For 10 years, we’ve lied to ourselves to avoid asking the one real question
By their books, ye shall know them.
I’m talking about the volumes, the libraries – nay, the very halls of literature – which the international crimes against humanity of 11 September 2001 have spawned. Many are spavined with pseudo-patriotism and self-regard, others rotten with the hopeless mythology of CIA/Mossad culprits, a few (from the Muslim world, alas) even referring to the killers as “boys”, almost all avoiding the one thing which any cop looks for after a street crime: the motive.
Why so, I ask myself, after 10 years of war, hundreds of thousands of innocent deaths, lies and hypocrisy and betrayal and sadistic torture by the Americans – our MI5 chaps just heard, understood, maybe looked, of course no touchy-touchy nonsense – and the Taliban? Have we managed to silence ourselves as well as the world with our own fears? Are we still not able to say those three sentences: The 19 murderers of 9/11 claimed they were Muslims. They came from a place called the Middle East. Is there a problem out there? Read more…
By KHALAF AL-HABTOOR, Thursday, 12 May 2011
Vultures circle around Gulf States
Forget the fiery rhetoric, Washington, Tel Aviv and Tehran have more in common than you might imagine. All share the same aim: to control Arab States, the custodians of the world’s largest oil and gas deposits, and prevent them from uniting under one powerful bloc. In earlier times, they have been co-conspirators in that endeavour. The question is whether Iran truly is an enemy of America/Israel and a natural ally of the Arab world as the Iranian leadership works hard to portray?
The rivalry between Persians and Arabs goes back 1,400 years to the Muslim Conquests when Persians embraced Islam. Today, Iranians wrap themselves in an Islamic flag in an effort to lead the Muslim world yet the pre-Islamic Zoroastrian New Year Norouz is still Iran’s most celebrated festival. Attempts by Iranian clerics to undermine the resurgence of the Shiite holy city of Najaf in Iraq to retain the center of religious gravity in the Iranian Shiite city of Qom exemplify Tehran’s nationalistic instincts.
If Iranians were true friends of Arabs, they would not impede Arabic being spoken or the construction of Sunni mosques when Shiite mosques and synagogues proliferate. The Iranian government also bans parents from giving traditional Arab names to their newborns. It should be remembered too that Tehran still occupies UAE islands, refuses demands from the Arab population of Al-Ahwaz (Khuzestan) for autonomy, has territorial claims on Bahrain and threatens airlines that use “Arabian Gulf” instead of “Persian Gulf” with being barred from Iranian airspace. With friends like these who needs enemies!
Dr. Abdullah Al-Nafisi, a university professor and specialist on Shiite affairs, says Iranians are primarily Persian nationalists who use their faith to reach Arabs via Shiite Arab minorities. He says Iranian officialdom from the Supreme Leader down to senior military officers, Revolutionary Guards and intelligence personnel once followed the teachings of the politician and cleric Abdollah Nouri. This former Interior Minister maintains that all Gulf States belong to Persia and promotes Iranian retribution on Arabs for helping to destroy the Persian Empire which may account for Iranian Arabs being treated as second-class citizens. Conversely, according to Al-Nafisi, ordinary Iranians harbour no hostility towards the country’s 25,000 Jews who are represented in Parliament and are so well-respected that most have declined cash incentives to move to Israel.
Under-the-table dealings between Israel, the US and Persia extend back to the reign of Mohammed Reza Shah when Iranian oil flowed to Israel and, in turn, Israel supplied Iran with technological knowhow, missile assembly plants and military training. Iran even supplied Israel with details of Jamal Abdul Nasser’s military planning according to an illuminating book by Trita Parsi titled “Treacherous Alliance.”
Following the 1979 Islamic revolution, Yasser Arafat was lectured by the Ayatollah Khomeini on the need for Palestinians to reject Arab nationalism and revert to their Islamic roots, Parsi says. It was clear that Mr. Khomeini wasn’t serious in his support for the Palestinian cause. His primary aim was to lead the Islamic world, indoctrinate Arabs with his credo and bolster Arab Shiites.
A research paper by Xue Maior concludes Iran disseminates the principles of the Iranian revolution under anti-Israel slogans”. Israel never took the “Little Satan” slur seriously and lobbied Washington to renew relations with Tehran. In 1981, Iran facilitated Israel’s attack on Iraq’s nuclear reactor with photographs and maps of OSIRAK and during the eight-year-long Iran-Iraq War, the Iranians purchased weapons from Israel with the White House’s blessing, writes Parsi. In early 1986 President Reagan signed a secret memo authorising the sale of US arms to Iran resulting in the Iran-Contra scandal.
With the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, Tehran saw its plan to dominate the Arab world slipping away and so began funding and supporting Islamist rejectionist groups to spoil the peace process. Despite being included in George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil”, Iran offered to help strengthen the fledgling Afghan army under US supervision and in 2002, the US State Department initiated talks with prominent Iranian political figures.
Tehran later urged Iraqi Shiites not to resist the US-led occupation for good reason. Iraq – the main obstacle to Iran’s access to Gulf States – had been conveniently defanged and was now ruled by political figures that have either lived in Iran for many years or consider it as their spiritual home. Inadvertently or otherwise, Mr. Bush spent billions of American taxpayers’ money and sacrificed tens of thousands of lives only to bring Iraq into Iran’s sphere of influence.
Tehran has since made efforts to woo Washington so as to gain access to the IMF, win clout in the UN and oil the lifting of anti-Iranian sanctions. It’s worth noting that economic sanctions against Iran have not heavily impacted the Iranian economy, certainly not in comparison to those that crippled Iraq and were considered responsible for the death of 500,000 Iraqi children – perhaps indicating that the West isn’t serious about disciplining Iran.
It’s curious, too, that Washington has been flexing its muscles over Iran’s uranium enrichment program since a 2006 UNSC resolution demanding its suspension but despite Iran’s intransigence the West has refrained from packing a punch – a dramatic contrast from its determination to punish Saddam for his non-existent WMD. Why the double standards?
In recent decades, Iran has hardened its grip on Lebanon and expanded its influence to Syria, Iraq and Yemen as well as to Shiite minorities in the Gulf. Prior to the “Arab Spring” that may have been planned by American NGOs working with Arab youth movements – as reported in the Washington Post and New York Times – veteran leaders kept a lid on Tehran’s ambitions.
The toppling of strong Arab leaderships is an invitation to sectarian conflict, extremist organisations, secessionist groups – and civil war. I would argue that division and chaos under the banner of “freedom” will serve Iran. It’s already happening. The new Egypt has permitted Iranian warships through the Suez Canal and is preparing to normalise diplomatic relations with Tehran despite deep reservations within the GCC.
It’s notable that while the US is vehemently supportive of revolutionaries in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Syria and is using its airpower to attack the Libyan regime, its condemnation against Iran’s repression of anti-government activists has been lukewarm. I have always suspected that the ‘enmity’ between Iran and the US/Israel may be an elaborate act. If Tehran has covertly cooperated with its so-called enemies in the past, it’s not that much of a stretch to believe that may be occurring now.
In any case, keeping up the pretence of enmity is a symbiotic win-win situation for all concerned. Israel has a pretext to expand its nuclear arsenal and propagandise its need to put security first in the face of an Iranian existential threat. Iran uses anti-Israel slogans to increase its standing among Muslims. And the US has an excuse to maintain its military footprint in the Gulf.
What if, in the future, Washington, Tel Aviv formed an alliance similar to the one that existed at the time of the Shah? How would that impact the independence of Gulf States? It may be that such a scenario is in preparation which would explain the West’s softly-softly approach towards Iran’s nuclear program, oppression of dissidents and support of armed religious militants in Arab lands.
In conclusion, I would strongly urge GCC states to increase their military might and initiate a unified strategy to defend against threats to our land, dignity and freedom. In an increasingly unprincipled geopolitical climate where major powers are willing to dump even close allies to suit their interests we cannot rely on protection from others. We’re on our own – and the sooner we face up to that fact and take care of ourselves the better.
Source: Al Arabiya
By MIKE WHITNEY, May 29, 2007
” … under the sky
the self inside me dies …
I will always be from nowhere
Without a face, without a history
“Traveler without Luggage” by Abdul-Wahab Al-Bayyati
It’s hard to know what Bush hopes to accomplish by backing the bloody siege of the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, but one thing is certain; things are never as they seem. In an interview on Democracy Now last week, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh stated that, Fatah al-Islam—the group of Sunni extremists inside the camp–were getting material support from the Saudis, the Bush administration and members of the Lebanese political establishment.
So, the Bush administration is supporting terrorism???
That’s right. Sy Hersh put it like this:
“The idea was to provide them (Fatah al-Islam) with some arms and some money and some basic equipment so — these are small units, a couple hundred people. There were three or four around the country given the same help covertly, the goal being they would be potential enemies of Hezbollah in case of warfare”.
But if Fatah-al-Islam is an American-Saudi creation than why is the Bush administration shipping weapons to Lebanon to help kill them? Is this is another example of “blowback”—the unintended consequences of a misguided foreign policy?
Yes and no.
By MIKE WHITNEY
What does the assassination of Osama Bin Laden have in common with Guantanamo Bay?
They’re both intended to send a message that the United States has sunk deeper into savagery and abandoned any commitment to conventional norms of behavior. That’s the message, and we hear it “loud and clear”.
We don’t need our Harvard-educated president to crow about his latest gangland “hit” to know that America has turned into a moral swamp. That’s obvious in every area of policy, foreign and domestic. It’s just that certain incidents draw more attention than others, like when a drone incinerates a home full of women and children in the Pakistani outback or when F-16s reduce a city of 300,000 (Falluja) to rubble leaving behind a legacy of birth defects, cancer and grinding poverty. These are the real “headline grabbers”, like shrugging off the sovereign rights of an ally, invading their airspace, and deploying special ops to conduct a Rambo-style massacre in a civilian section of town.
Booyah. You go America! U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A.
Everyone knows the rules don’t apply to America. How could they not know? In Libya, the US is supporting a gaggle of fundamentalist crackpots invoking the thinnest rationale of all time, that the leader of the nation (Gaddafi) does not have the right to put down an armed rebellion against the state. What kind of nonsense is that?
But it doesn’t matter, because the US creates the rules on-the-fly; just makes it up as they go along. So, when Bin Laden gets whacked in the latest bloody incident of military gangsterism, no one utters a peep of protest, because everyone knows that the US owns the world and the rest of us are just guests.
So, now that Bin Laden is dead can we withdraw the troops from Afghanistan and allow the Afghans decide their own future? Can we make our apologies to the families of the 1 million Iraqis who were killed in the invasion-occupation of Iraq and move on? Can we stop poking our nose in the internal affairs of every state, on every continent, in every corner of the planet?
Of course not. It’s our planet, isn’t it?
The world deserves a breather from the United States, just a pause in the action. It’s not that everyone hates us; they don’t. They don’t even think about us. They have their own problems to deal with. But the US has become a first class nuisance, like a wasp at the company picnic, constantly buzzing around the potato salad just when people want to sit down to eat. That’s America, one big honking wasp making everyone’s life miserable.
The rest of the world doesn’t share our “enlightened” views about justice. They’re still stuck in the past believing in archaic ideas about due process, habeas corpus, and civil liberties. They don’t see the virtue of kidnapping, beating, and waterboarding. They don’t cheer when people are butchered and dumped at sea. They don’t build Stalinesque gulags and torture chambers to show how forbearing and merciful they are. They’re leaders don’t go through the ritual chest-thumping exercise on national TV when someone’s been assassinated. They don’t understand what a wonderful country the US is. All they just want a little breather from all the violence. Is that too much to ask?
So, here’s a solution that will make everyone happy. Why doesn’t the US plan a short trip, like a 5 or 6 year sabbatical, and give everyone a break. Because–like I said–people don’t hate the US; they’re just weary. You’ve worn us out, America. You’re like the mother-in-law with the booming voice who comes for the weekend and stays for a month. You’ve worn out your welcome. So, just go. It’ll be better for everyone.
Source: Counter Punch
I grew up in a conservative household. That was the life of the time in Egypt, a conservative, middle-class household. [I had] good caring parents, with lots of roots but a lot of affection and love. But it was basically a conservative upbringing; we focused on values, focused on education. I was exposed, early on to a lot of things which I still enjoy, like classical music. My father used to love classical music.
- Did your mother wear a headscarf?
No, only lately, she started to wear them. When I was growing up, there was not a single woman in Egypt that was wearing a scarf. That was not the thing. This is all the last ten years, I would say.
- So she has started to wear one now?
Five, ten year. I think it’s more of a … I don’t know whether it’s peer pressure. It’s tradition now. This is one of the issues I discuss with her every single day, that it doesn’t make sense for you to wear it. But, in a joking way. She’s 82, so I’m not going to change the way she thinks now. But this is one of the contentious issues I have with her, that I tease her about it.
- To what extent does your religion help shape your world view?
Not much, as much as any religion. To me religion is the core values [with] which I felt as comfortable Christians, with Buddhists, with Jews. I don’t see much difference. [...] Egypt at that time was multi-cultural. I remember I used to play squash. I bought the equipment from a shop that was run by Australians. My father used to go rowing and his trainer was an Italian. My mother used to go to a tailor, “Madame Euphegine”, she was French. My parents used to buy me toys from a shop, Mr. Zak, who was Jewish. Egypt was in a way was very much, religion was not something people talked about. [...] But, religion to me, at that time, and continues to be, it’s a good guiding set of principles which I share with everybody else. My daughter’s husband is British, my first girlfriend was Jewish. I never really felt that religion is a major factor I have to take into account.
- On becoming a lawyer:
I always wanted to be a lawyer. I don’t know why. [...] I guess law was always interesting to me because you deal with constants. I like to deal with constants, abstracts, constants and reason and ration, rational approaches to things. I don’t know, I never really thought why I wanted to study law. But if you ask me, whether I would do it again, absolutely. I love law, more in the sense of having a structured approach to dealing with irrational approach. You learn how to think in a rational way, in a logical manner. That helps you in anything you do in life.
- On his role as IAEA Director General:
I would probably say: I’m not a technician fixing cameras. People would like to downsize me, put me in the job of a technician fixing cameras but I don’t see my role like that.
- On running for a third term:
I thought two terms was more than adequate. I’ve done my duty as a public servant and it was time to move on. Less stress and something new in my life. It was 99% decided that I should not stand up for a third term. My daughter was very much pushing me not to go and my wife also, although she said, “it’s up to you”. But the whole family was not really keen that I should run again, including myself.
- You could have left with the legacy of Iraq…
That is correct. Iraq was behind us. It was a great achievement for the Agency and myself that we at least proved ourselves in such momentous issue. To be on the right side. I could have left and basked in the good will of public opinion and moved to the lecture circuit. I had three or four offers at that time from the Fletcher School [at Tufts University], the Kennedy School [at Harvard University], to go and do whatever Fellow teaching, write books. Everything was set to go. Then of course, I got the message from our friend [then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations] Mr. [John R.] Bolton, that the US is not ready to support me and it took me one day to put my name on the back on the ballot. Really … the second day. It was a sense of revulsion, that basically, this decision should be made by me and not by anybody else and even if you do not want to support me, that’s your choice, but you can not tell me in advance. Don’t try.
General Omar Soliman, head of Egyptian intelligence, tells US ambassador that Cairo will keep up pressure on Palestinian Islamist movement. He sees Iran as a “significant threat” to Egypt and advises other Arab countries to keep their distance from it. Key passage highlighted in yellow.
Wednesday, 02 January 2008, 18:07
S E C R E T CAIRO 000009
EO 12958 DECL: 01/01/2018
TAGS PREL, PGOV, IS, IZ, SY, EG
SUBJECT: CODEL VOINOVICH MEETING WITH EGIS CHIEF SOLIMAN
Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Stuart Jones Reasons: 1.4 (B) and (D)
1. (S) Summary. EGIS Chief Omar Soliman told Ambassador and a visiting Codel led by Senator George Voinovich December 31 that he is optimistic progress will be made on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. However, Soliman was concerned with continuing Israeli criticism of Egyptian anti-smuggling efforts. He was worried that the Egyptians would not be able to work out an arrangement with the Israelis for Hajj pilgrims to return to Gaza. On Iran, Soliman said that the USG’s release of the National Intelligence Estimate had altered the calculus through which Arab states are interacting with Iran. On Iraq argued that the Iraqi government needed to amend its constitution and that Prime Minister Malaki should not deal with the Iraqi people in a “sectarian way.” End summary.
2. (S) Soliman led off the New Year’s Eve meeting by telling the Codel that the region is at a special, critical juncture. Egypt is America’s partner. Sometimes we have our differences. But Egypt will continue to provide the USG with its knowledge and expertise on the critical regional issues, such as Lebanon and Iraq. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains the core issue; Soliman contended a peaceful resolution would be a “big blow” to terrorist organizations that use the conflict as a pretext. For this reason, President Mubarak is committed to ending the Israeli-Arab “stalemate.”
3. (S) Soliman applauded the Administration’s efforts, commenting that Annapolis had given hope and begun a process. The timing is right for progress based on four factors. First, the PA leadership is moderate and willing to negotiate. Second, Hamas is isolated and politically cut off in Gaza. Third, the Israelis are ready for peace; Soliman assessed that the GOI coalition is broad and strong, and larger than Rabin’s coalition of the mid-nineties. Fourth, Arab states are ready to see an end to “the struggle.”
4. (S) Soliman stressed that Egypt stands ready to help the U.S. effort. The GOE knows both the Palestinians and the Israelis, and knows the obstacles to peace. Soliman recommended two steps be taken. First, both the Israelis and Palestinians must be pressed hard to sign an agreement, which the U.S. and international community could endorse, to be implemented at the proper time. Second, the U.S. should insist that “phase one” of the Roadmap should be completed before the end of 2008.
5. (S) Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Soliman opined that the Palestinian Authority was ready to sign an agreement, but that establishment of a state may take between 1-3 years. While Hamas is isolated politically and unable to stop an Israeli-PA agreement, it remains entrenched in Gaza, and it was unclear to Soliman how long that would last. At one point in the discussion, Soliman seemed to imply Hamas may remain in control of Gaza for more than a year; at another juncture, he told Senator Voinovich that if negotiations proceeded briskly, Hamas may be forced to cede power in Gaza in 3-4 months. The bottom line for Hamas, according to Soliman, is that they must be forced to choose between remaining a resistance movement or joining the political process. They cannot have it both ways, he said.
S E C R E T CAIRO 003126
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/24/2017
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, EG, IQ
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR AMBASSADOR CROCKER’S VISIT TO CAIRO
Classified By: DEPUTY CHIEF OF MISSION STUART JONES. REASONS: 1.4 (B) and (D)
1. (S) Welcome to Cairo.
2. (S) Cairo-Baghdad Relations: The Egyptian leadership wants assurances that the USG will not withdraw from Iraq precipitously. The Egyptians were also taken aback by Senate resolution on sectarian division, which got broad press play here. The GOE has played a constructive role in the expanded neighbors forum. Mubarak hosted the group in Sharm el Sheikh in May and Aboul Gheit will join the Istanbul meeting. The GOE dislikes and distrusts PM al Maliki, but stops short of calling for his removal, so far, even in private. Vice President Abdel Mahdi was received warmly in September and made a positive impression.
3. (S) The best thing the Baghdad can do now to improve relations with Cairo is appoint a full-time Ambassador. The GOE is still stung by the August 2005 assassination of its emissary, Ihab el-Sharif, but has made noises about appointing an Ambassador to Baghdad resident in Cairo.
4. (C) Egypt has a strong record on intelligence liaison and blocking foreign fighters en route to Iraq. This has included several arrests here. You may wish to praise Egypt’s help and also ask how the Egyptians regard the problem of Syria transit. Egyptian has not experienced the huge refugee influx of Iraq’s neighbors but the approximately 200,000 displaced Iraqis are a source of anxiety and concern. The Egyptians want to be involved in any refugee solution.
4. (C) DEBT: The Egyptians are not accustomed to forgiving other countries’ debts and regard the Iraqis as oil-rich. MFA reportedly has the portfolio to negotiate the debt issue, but most of the debt is held by MOD, which is not engaged. The parties have discussed a compromise that the GOE would forgive official debt — approximately $700m — if the Iraqis paid off their private debt, owed mainly to Egyptian workers who had worked in Iraq, estimated at approximately $400m. But there is considerable dispute over the figures and the Iraqis seem no more eager than the Egyptians to close a deal. We expect this process to drag on for some time.
5. (S) IRAN: The Egyptians dismiss news reports that the GOE is moving towards normalization with Iran. Aboul Gheit met with his Iranian counterpart on the margins of UNGA. Omar Soliman takes an especially hard line on Tehran and frequently refers to the Iranians as “devils.”But bilateral contacts are on the rise. Soliman will press you for an assessment of Iranian activity in Iraq and also of al Maliki’s ties to Tehran. Mubarak and Soliman are furious about Bashar Al Assad’s collaboration with Iran. They want the USG to improve relations with Damascus to lure Bashar back to the Arab fold. But Egyptian influence is very limited and Cairo is out of ideas.
6. (S) Arab League Secretary General Amre Moussa is one of the few Arab leaders to serially visit Baghdad. (Aboul Gheit will not go). The Arab League has exchanged ambassadors with Baghdad. You may wish to enlist Moussa in efforts to increase Arab diplomatic representation in Baghdad.
7. (C) Moussa met with Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan October 18, and reportedly advised against Turkish intervention in northern Iraq, taking the view that Iraq had enough issues to deal with already. A key Arab League contact told us October 18 he was confident that the Turks will not enter northern Iraq, but noted the idea (apparently proposed by Maliki) of a joint Turkish-Iraqi force to address Turkish concerns would not be unreasonable so long as the two governments agreed to it. RICCIARDONE
By Genevieve Cora Fraser
Al-Jazeerah, November 8, 2006
It was meant to be a joke and it got a big laugh from TV host Tavis Smiley when his guest, political pundit Andy Borowitz quipped, “George Bush plans to withdraw all his troops from Iraq – to Iran. That’s the plan – the exit strategy.”
But no one was laughing, least of all Turkish military officers, on September 15th when a map was presented at the NATO’s Defense College in Rome that included a reduced Turkish landmass. The new Middle East map prepared by retired US Col. Ralph Peters and published in the Armed Forces Journal in June featured a “Free Kurdistan” that included additional territory taken from Syria and Iraq. Indeed, Iraq was a fragment of its former self and had been carved up to also include Sunnis Iraq and the Arab Shia State.
Within the proposed new Middle East, Iran was also reduced, not only by Free Kurdistan, but by “Free Balochistan” which had also borrowed heavily from territory currently claimed by Afghanistan and Pakistan. Balochistan, which lies in the southwest corner of Pakistan, is the largest but least populated of the Pakistani regions. Lately the Chinese have invested heavily in the area by expanding the port city of Gwader. Natural gas, coal, copper and gold offer vast wealth and pipelines will be stretched from Iran to India through the province. Balochistan is also rich in opportunities for drug smugglers with its massive border alongside Afghanistan’s most frequented heroin routes. Some political pundits have labeled heroin as the new American Gold Standard – the only thing propping up the bankrupt American economy and the real reason we occupy Afghanistan. Yes, endless war is very expensive for taxpayers but the fat cat international banking and corporate interests in armaments and energy grow wealthier by the minute.