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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

SYRIAN PRESIDENT TELLS ARMY TO "RAISE READINESS"




Thousands use pause in fighting to flee; Olmert rules out lasting cease-fire

Qana, Lebanon---Amid increasing tensions between Israel and Hezbollah, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told the army in his annual address to "raise readiness."

Meanwhile, thousands of civilians trapped for nearly three weeks in south Lebanon's war zone streamed north Monday by truck, car and on foot, seizing the chance to flee during a brief halt in Israeli attacks. Israel's prime minister said there would be no cease-fire in the fight against Hezbollah.

Prime Minister Olmert had agreed to the 48-hour pause beginning at 2 a.m. Monday while the military concluded its inquiry into the attack on the south Lebanese village of Qana, Israel's deadliest strike since the conflict erupted July 12.

But Israel left open the option to striking targets to stop imminent attacks or if the military completed its inquiry. After Hezbollah guerillas hit an Israeli tank near the village of Taibeh with an anti-tank missile, Israel said, the army carried out the airstrikes to protect ground troops.

In a second airstrike around the port city of Tyre, Israel accidentally killed a Lebanese soldier when it hit a car it believed was carrying a senior Hezbollah official. Instead, the car carried a Lebanese army officer and soldiers. "They were, of course, not the targets and we regret the incident," the Israeli army said.

Another airstrike hit the main Lebanese-Syrian border crossing for the third time in as many days, the army and witnesses said. Israel said the strike targeted a truck importing weapons fom Syria. It said the strike was in Lebanese territory.

But Lebanese police officials said two missiles struck near a vehicle carrying relief supplies near the customs post at Masnaa, wounding four people and a customs officer. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release information to the press.


"Determined to succeed"

Later, Olmert continued to defy international pressure for a cease-fire, saying that fighting would end only when Israel recovers the two soldiers Hezbollah guerillas captured in the cross-border raid that sparked the current crisis.

"We are determined to succeed in this struggle," Olmert said. "We will not give up on our goal to live a free life of terror."

In Washington, President Bush stuck to his position that any cease-fire be accompanied by a wider agreement addressing the root causes of the fighting, such as Hezbollah's control of southern Lebanon, and Iran and Syria's influence in Lebanon.

The brief pause in airstrikes meant the first relative relief for thousands of Lebanese hiding in their homes, in schools or hospitals in the dozens of villages that dot the mountainous south.

Huge numbers had fled already, and those left were mostly elderly, sick or too afraid of Israeli bombardment to risk the drive.

Early Monday, few southerners had ventured out, likely questioning whether news of the cease-fire was true.

By early afternoon, roads from villages into the port city of Tyre, then north from Tyre along the coast, were packed. With many of the main roads shattered, cars used dirt side roads, with white flags fluttering out windows or white sheets covering the roofs.

Mehdi al-Halim, 73, stumbled as he tried to walk out of the ruins of the border town on Bint Jbail, scene of the world's bloodiest ground fight. He and his wife had been hiding in their home since the start of the Israeli airstrikes.

"We had no food, no water. Everyday we had only one candy each, one candy that is all," he said, grabbing his loose trousers, held together with a pin, to show the weight he had lost. "How much you eat in one day is how much we have eaten in 20 days."


Regret for deaths

Lebanese Red Cross teams escorted by U.S. observers went to the village of Srifa to dig out more than 50 bodies believed still buried under rubble since Israeli strikes wiped out a neighborhood July 19. The bodies have begun decomposing, the Red Cross said.

Some U.N. and Red Cross aid convoys were forced to turn back from destinations in Lebanon because of continuing fighting, though other trucks pressed on in an attempt to reach Qana, U.N. officials said.

The stunning bloodshed in Qana increased international pressure on Washington to back an immediate end to the fighting, and pushed American peace efforts to a crucial juncture as fury flared in Lebanon. The Beirut government said it would no longer negotiate over a U.S. peace package without an unconditional cease-fire.

Olmert repeated Israel's regret for the civilian deaths.

"I am sorry from bottom of heart for all deaths of children or women in Qana," he said. "We did not search them out...they were not our enemies and we did not look for them."

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned that the entire Middle East peace could collapse because of Israel's fighting in Lebanon. "There's an urgent need for an unconditional cease-fire, which would pave the way for international efforts to end the crisis with its consequences," he said in a nationwide TV address.


Atacks continue despite pause

Fighting was heavy in the northeast corner of south Lebanon around Talibeh and other border villages, where Israeli ground forces have been fighting Hezbollah guerrillas for nearly two weeks. Constant Israeli artillery blasts---not covered under the air assault---shook the hills.

Hezbollah guerrillas fired mortars at Misgav Am, near the Israeli town of Kiryat Shemona, in what was initially thought to be a rocket attack, the Israeli army said. No casualties or damage was reported.

By 4:30 p.m. Monday, no Hezbollah rockets had hit the region, a remarkable turnaround for an area hit by dozens of missiles a day during the offensive. Overall, the suspension of airstrikes also brought relative quiet to much of southern Lebanon.

Israel called the 48-hour halt under U.S. pressure amid worldwide outrage over the Qana strike Sunday morning; Medial sources say of those 49 killed, at least 34 were children and 12 women. Before, the largest death toll from a single Israeli strike was about a dozen.

It was the deadliest single attack in the Israeli onslaught against Lebanon, aimed at reining in Hezbollah, which sparked the conflict by capturing two Israeli soldiers and killing three in a cross-border raid July 12.


Death toll counts increase

Some 519 people have been confirmed killed by Lebanon's Health Ministry since the fighting began. On the Israeli side, 33 soldiers have died, and Hezbollah attacks on northern Israel have killed 18 civilians, Israeli authorities said.

The attack prompted U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to cut short her Mideast mission to return home Monday. In a nationally televised speech before leaving Israel, Rice said she would seek international concensus for a cease-fire and a "lasting settlement" in the conflict through a U.S. security Council resolution this week.

But Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Israel plans to "expand and strengthen" its attack on Hezbollah. Israel's top ministers were to discuss widening the army's ground operation at a meeting later Monday, while thousands of reserve soldiers trained for the possibility of being sent into Lebanon.

It was unclear whether the senior ministers would approve a broader ground assault, defense officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to give information to the media.

Over the weekend, Olmert told Rice that Israel would need 10 to 14 more days to finish its offensive, and Justice Minister Haim Ramon told Army Radio on Monday that he did not think the fighting was yet over.

"I'm convinced that we won't finish this war until it's clear that Hezbollah has no more abilities to attack Israel from south Lebanon. This is what we are striving for," Ramon said.


ABC News
By: Dean Reynolds
July 30, 2006
















UNITED HOUSE AND SENATE DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP PUT FORWARD CONCRETE PLAN FOR CHANGE OF COURSE IN IRAQ

Bush and Congressional Republicans' Open Ended Commitment Must End

Washington, D.C.---With violence exploding in Iraq, there is little evidence that the Bush Administration and Congressional Republicans have a coherent strategy to stabilize Iraq. Thousands have been killed in sectarian and insurgent violence in recent months, and now the American people have been told that thousands more U.S. troops will be redeployed into an urban war zone in Baghdad. The President's current approach is not sustainable. Today, the Senate and House Democratic Leaders and ranking members from the key national security committees wrote to the President calling upon him to begin the phased redeployment of U.S. forces before the end of the year, to transform the U.S. mission, and to launch a real diplomatic and reconstruction effort to help stabilize Iraq. These concrete recommendations draw upon the Levin/Reed Iraq policy amendment overwhelmingly supported in the Senate. Simply staying the course behind the President's failed policy is not in the interests of our troops, taxpayers or national security.

Quotes from the letter:

"While the world has been focused on the crisis in the Middle East, Iraq has exploded in violence. Some 6,000 Iraqis were killed in May and June, and sectarian and insurgent violence continues to claim American and Iraqi lives at an alarming rate. In the face of this onslaught, one can only conclude that the Baghdad security plan you announced five weeks ago is in great jeopardy."

"Far from implementing a comprehensive 'Strategy for Victory' as you promised months ago, your Administration's strategy appears to be one of trying to avoid defeat."

"Meanwhile, U.S. troops and taxpayers continue to pay a high price as your Administration searches for a policy. Over 2,500 Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice and over 18,000 others have been wounded. The Iraq war has also strained our military and constrained our stability to deal with other challenges. Readiness levels for the Army are at lows not seen since Vietnam, as virtually, no active Army non-deployment combat brigade is prepared to perform its wartime missions."

"In the interests of American national security, our troops, and our taxpayers, then open-ended commitment in Iraq that you have embraced cannot and should not be sustained."

"Iraqi political leaders must be informed that American patience, blood and treaseure are not unlimited. We were disappointed that you did not convey this message to Prime Minister Maliki during his recent visit."

"Mr. President, simply staying the course in Iraq is not working. We need to take a new direction."


The text of the letter follows below:


July 30, 2006

The President
The White House
Washington, D.C.

Dear Mr. President:

While the world has been focused on the crisis in the Middle East, Iraq has exploded in violence. Some 6,000 Iraqis were killed in May and June, and sectarian and insurgent violence continues to claim American and Iraqi lives at an alarming rate. In the face of this onslaught, one can only conclude that the Baghdad security plan you announced five weeks ago is in great jeopardy.

Despite the latest evidence that your Administration lacks a coherent strategy to stabilize Iraq and achieve victory, there has been virtually no diplomatic effort to resolve sectarian differences, no regional effort to establish a broader security framework, and no attempt to revive a struggling reconstruction effort. Instead, we learned of your plans to redeploy an additional 5,000 U.S. troops into an urban war zone in Baghdad. Far from implementing a comprehensive "Strategy for Victory" as you promised months ago, your Administration's strategy appears to be one of trying to avoid defeat.

Meanwhile, U.S. troops and taxpayers continue to pay a high price as your Administration searches for a policy. Over 2,500 Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice and over 18,000 others have been wounded. The Iraq war has also strained our military and constrained our ability to deal with other challenges. Readiness levels for the Army are at lows not seen since Vietnam, as virtually no active Army non-deployed combat brigade is prepared to perform its wartime mission. American taxpayers have already contributed over $300 billion and each week we stay in Iraq adds nearly $3 billion more to our record budget deficit.

In the interests of American national security, our troops, and our taxpayers, the open-ended commitment in Iraq that you have embraced cannot and should not be sustained.

Rather, we continue to believe that it is time for the Iraqis to step forward and take the lead for securing and governing their own country. This is the principle enshrined in the "United States Policy in Iraq Act" enacted last year. This law declares 2006 to be a year of "significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty, with Iraqi security forces taking the lead for the security of a free and sovereign Iraq, thereby creating the conditions for the phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq." Regrettably, your policy seems to be moving in the opposite direction.

This legislation made clear that Iraqi political leaders must be informed that American patience, blood and treasure are not unlimited. We were disappointed that you did not convey this message to Prime Minister Maliki during his recent visit. Reducing the U.S. footprint in Iraq will not only give the Iraqi's a greater incentive to take the lead for the security of their own nation, but will also allow U.S. forces to be able to respond to contingencies affecting the security of the United States elsewhere in the world.

We believe that a phased deployment of U.S. forces from Iraq should begin before the end of 2006. U.S. forces in Iraq should transition to a more limited mission focused on counterterrorism, training and logistical support of Iraqi security forces, and force protection of U.S. personnel.

Additionally, every effort should be made to urge the Iraqis to take the steps necessary to achieve a broad-based and sustainable political settlement, including amending the constitution to achieve a fair sharing of power and resources. It is also essential to disarm the militias and ensure forces loyal to the national government. Finally, an international conference should be convened to persuade other governments to be more involved, and to secure the resources necessary to finance Iraq's reconstruction and rebuild its economy.

Mr. President, simply staying the course in Iraq is not working. We need to take a new direction. We believe these recommendtions comprise an effective alternative to the current open-ended commitment which is not producing the progress in Iraq we would all like to see. Thank you for your careful consideration of these suggestions.


Harry Reid, Senate Democratic Leader
Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Leader
Dick Durbin, Senate Assistant Democratic Leader
Steny Hoyer, House Minority Whip
Carl Levin, Ranking Member, Senate Armed Services Committee
Ike Skelton, Ranking Member, House Armed Services Committee
Joe Biden, Ranking Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Tom Lantos, Ranking Member, House International Relations Committee
Jay Rockefeller, Vice Chairman, Senate Intelligence Committee
Jane Harman, Ranking Member, House Intelligence Committee
Daniel Inouye, Ranking Member, Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee
John Murtha, Ranking Member, House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee

ISRAEL-PALESTINE: CHENEY UNLEASHES THE DOGS OF WAR

Vice President Dick Cheney has ignited a new Middle East war that threatens to spread from Israel and Lebanon, to Syria and Iran. As EIR recently exposed, (EIR June 30, 2006: "Cheney and Netanyahu Conspiring for War?"), this latest war was planned at a secret meeting between Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, during a conference organized by the American Enterprise Institute in June at Beaver Creek, Colorado.

This war is not intended to make Israel safe from Hamas, Hezbollah terrorism, or Iran's alleged intentions to build nuclear weapons, but is rather a drive by the synarchist financial sources represented by the likes of George Shultz and Felix Rohatyn, who stand behind Cheney and Netanyahu. Their aim is to escalate a global clash of civilizations, to maintain their political and financial hedgemony, as their own global financial system crumbles.

Israel is their chosen weapon to launch a war against Syria and Iran, now that U.S. military forces are bogged down in Cheney's insane Iraq war. Their war plan is well known to readers of EIR, and is the policy the Bush Administration has been implementing, with disastrous results, for the last three years. This is based on the notorious policy paper, "A Clean Break: New Strategy for Securing the Realm," which was presented to Netanyahu when he became Israeli Prime Minister in 1996. Its authors included the "Prince of Darkness" Richard Perle, former Defense Department official Douglas Feith, and neo-conservtive fanatics such as David and Meyrav Wurmser. This document called for a "clean break from the slogan 'comprehensive' to a traditional balance of power.'" They called for Israel to "seize the initiative along its northern border," against Hezbollah, Syria and Iran, including "striking at select targets in Syria proper."

Hezbollah is a Lebanese umbrella organization of Islamic Shiite groups, and the Shiites are the largest religious bloc in Lebanon.


ISRAEL'S WAR POLICY

Netenyahu came back from his meeting on the weekend of June 17-18 with Cheney at Beaver Crek, and announced that Israel must reject any form of negotiations with the Palestinians, and instead reassert its military "deterence." This policy has been embraced by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, a former Likudnik who enjoys many of the same U.S. financial supporters as does Netanyahu. The June 25 capture of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, by Palestinian militants in the Gaza strip, served as a pretext to launch Netanyahu's policy of "rebuilding Israel's deterrence" against the Palestinians, by destroying Hamas. After rejecting political negotiations with the Hamas government of Palestinian Prime Minister Usmail Haniyah, as well as President Abu Mazen, the Gaza strip was reoccupied, after chunks of its infrastructure were destroyed, leading to a humanitarian catastrophe.

Now a second front has been opened on the Israel-Lebanon border. Contrary to media reports, Hezbollah members did not cross into Israeli territory to "kidnap" two Israeli soldiers, as the media spin claims. The captured Israeli soldiers were part of a group patrolling inside Lebanese territory. Like the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, their capture became a pretext to launch a large military operation against Hezbollah. Another factor to be considered is that, according to the July 13 'Jerusalem Post,' the high-alert status that the northern border had been under since the capture of Shalit three weeks ago, was lifted only three days prior to the Hezbollah capture of two Israeli soldiers.

According to a report in the July 13 daily 'Ha'aretz,' the Israel military had approved a plan for a major exercise along the Israeli-Lebanese border, based on a scenario of a Hezbollah capture of Israeli soldiers, after which Israel would respond with a heavy air and land assault into southern Lebanon to destroy Hezbollah. It is this plan which is now being carried out. As of this writing, Israel has begun to mobilize its reserves, including a full division, to be deployed on the already heavily fortified northern border.

The Israeli military has similar contigency plans for a strike against Syria. These plans have been the basis of excercises for the last two to three years.

While Isarel has bombed targets in Beirut and put the entire country under a siege by air and sea, Hezbollah forces have launched Katyusha rockets into Israeli towns in northern Israel. The head of Hezbollah, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, had declared that the Israeli soldiers will be released only in an exchange of prisoners.

The conflict is now vectored to escalate, and spread to Syria. Israel's intention to attack Syria and Iran has been mooted by several Bush Administration spokesmen, each of who immediately blamed Syria and Iran. Bush himself, while meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on July 13, declared that "Israel has a right to self-defense."

The most obvious proof that the Bush Administration wants a new war does not lie in its bellicose statements against Iran, Syria, Hamas or Hezbollah, however. It lies in the fact that it has not lifted a finger either to syop, or even mediate the crisis. Through its Ambassador to the United Nations, the non-confirmable neo-con zealot John Bolton, the Bush Administration is even preventing the issue from being brought before the United Nations Security Council.


NO MILITARY SOLUTION

In comments to EIR, veteran military historian Col. Meir Pa'il (ret.) confirmed that a broad military escalation can be expected. From a military standpoint, Pa'il said, Israel will now have no choice but to occupy southern Lebanon up to the Litani River, which means a return to the so-called "security zone" from which Israel unilaterally withdrew in 2000. Nonetheless, Israel will not be able to sustain a broad land war in Lebanon, as in 1982, or even a permanent occupation of the old security zone.

Although he doubted that Syria would offer Israel a pretext for an attack, he feared that if such a pretext presented itself, a military strike could not be ruled out. While asserting that Israel is not capable of launching a major land war against Syria, and thus would not do it, Colonel Pa'il warned that there has always been a "dream" held by a faction in the military security establishment to put Damascus within range of Israeli artillery. Since the Syrian capital is less than 40 kilometers from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, such an event is very much within the realm of possibility.

Colonel Pa'il warned that "the real problem is that Israeli leaders are only thinking in military terms," while what needs to be done is to build a political peace with Israel's Arab neighbors. Pa'il, who is a member of the pro-peace Meretz-Yahad party, said that the value of Israel's massive military superiority is to demonstrate to the Arab worlds that Israel cannot be defeated militarily. Nonetheless, that military must serve to set the stage for a real peace process. "The real issue is to raise the flag of a solution to the problem. I am crying and weeping because of the fact that this government has no political orientation to deal with the Arab world."

While the ex-lawyer, Ehud Olmert and the ex-furniture salesman Benjamin Netanyahu are trying to sound like the ex-general Ariel Sharon, there are serious doubts within the Israeli security establishment over their drive to push Israel into a three-front, or even four-front war with the Palestinians, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran. Even prior to the new crisis with Hezbollah, 'Ha'aretz' cited security sources who have dealt with these situations, saying that Omert's policy of non-negotiation "infuriates" them. 'Ha'aretz' even quoted slain Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabib, who said, "When there is no military option, we do everything, including negotiations with the kidnappers, to free hostages."

Former Mossad Chief Ephraim Halevy espressed similar doubts, when speaking before a business luncheon on July 11. Asked how he would have acted in the current Israeli prisoner crisis, he replied, "I believe that one should never underestimate the enemy, and it always helps and never harms, when you approach your greatest tests with just a grain of humility."


A BASIS FOR NEGOTIATIONS

Many Israelis also know that the Bush Administration has given Israel a greenlight to crush Hamas, and now Hezbollah.

Hamas knows this also. Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah, in an op-ed published in the July 11 'Washington Post,' under the title "Aggression Under False Pretenses," charged that both Olmert and the Bush Administration were colluding to destroy the Hamas government.

"The current Gaza invasion is only the latest efforts to destroy the results of fair and free elections held early this year," Haniyah charged. "It is the explosive follow-up to a five-month campaign of economic and diplomatic warfare directed by the United States and Israel. The stated intention of that strategy was to force the average Palestinian to 'reconsider' his or her vote when faced with deepening hardship; its failure was predictable, and the new overt military aggression and collective punishment are its logical fulfillment.

"The 'kidnapped' Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit is only a pretext for a job scheduled months ago. In addition to removing our democratically elected government, Israel wants to sow dissent among Palestinians by claiming that there is a serious leadership rivalry among us. I am compelled to dispel this notion definitively. The Palestinain leadership is firmly embedded in the concept of Islamic shura, or mutual consultation; suffice it to say that while we may have differing opinions, we are united in mutual respect and focused on the goal of serving our people....

"We want what Americans enjoy---democratic rights, economic sovereignty and justice. We thought our pride in conducting the fairest elections in the Arab world might resonate with the United States and its citizens. Instead, our new government was met from the very beginning by acts of explicit, declared sabotage by the White House. Now this aggression continues against 3.9 million civilians living in the world's largest prison camps. America's complacency in the face of these war crimes is, as usual, embedded in the coded rhetorical 'green light:' 'Israel has a right to defend itself.' Was Israel defending itself when it killed eight family members on a Gaza beach last month, or three members of the Hajjaj family on Saturday, among them 6-year-old Rawan? I refuse to believe that such inhumanity sits well with the American public."

Haniyah called for a prisoner exchange and put forward the principles for a negotiating process, writing that, "Palestinian priorities include recognition of the core dispute over the land of historical Palestine, and the rights of all its people; resolution of the refugee issue from 1948; reclaiming all lands in 1967; and stopping Israeli attacks, assassinations and military expansion....

"Contrary to popular depictions of the crisis in the American media, the dispute is not only about Gaza and the West Bank; it is a wider national conflict that can be resolved only by addressing the full dimensions of Palestinian national rights in an integrated manner. This means statehood for the West Bank and Gaza, a capital in Arab East Jerusalem, and resolving the 1948 Palestinian refugee issue fairly, on the basis of international legitimacy and established law."

Haniyah concluded, "If Israel is prepared to negotiate seriously and fairly, and resolve the core 1948 issues, rather than the secondary ones from 1967, a fair and permanent peace is possible. Based on a hudna (comprehensive cessation of hostilities for an agreed time), the Holy Land still has an opportunity to be a peaceful and stable economic powerhouse for all the Semitic people of the region. If Americans only knew the truth, possibility might become reality."

OLMERT THINKS HIS HARD-LINE POLICIES, BACKED BY THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION, WILL CREATE A NEW "BALANCE OF POWER" IN THE REGION. BUT ISRAEL IS FACING AN ASSYMMETRIC WAR LIKE THE ONE THE UNITED STATES IS CONDUCTING AND LOSING IN IRAQ AND AFGHANASTAN, WHERE THERE ARE NO "BALANCES." ALREADY THE ISRAELI MILITARY IS WARNING THAT THESE OPERATIONS COULD CONTINUE FOR MANY MONTHS, AND FOR THE FIRST TIME, PUT HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF ISRAELI CIVILIANS IN THE LINE OF FIRE. CAN ISRAEL SUSTAIN THIS, ECONOMICALLY AND POLITICALLY? THE 1982 LEBANON WAR BANKRUPTED ISRAEL. ISRAEL AVOIDED BANKRUPTCY IN THE SIX-YEAR-LONG SECOND INTIFADA OF 2000 TO 2005 ONLY BECAUSE THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION PROVIDED $10 BILLION IN LOAN QUARANTEES. NOW, WITH THE UNITED STATES ITSELF NEARLY BANKRUPT, WILL THERE BE ANOTHER BAILOUT?


*This article appears in the July 21, 2006 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.
By" Dean Andromidas