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The New Middle East Cold War: Saudi/Israel/Lebanon versus Iran/Syria/Iraq/Hizbullah

by juan cole (reposted)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The New Middle East Cold War: Saudi/Israel/Lebanon versus Iran/Syria/Iraq/Hizbullah

Helene Cooper with Hassan Fattah of the NYT has the scoop that Saudi King Abdullah told US VP Dick Cheney two weeks ago that if the US withdrew precipitately from Iraq, the kingdom would have little choice but to support the Sunni Arab guerrillas. The Saudi government had pledged to the US not to do so as long as US troops were in Iraq. But it is alleged that Saudi oil millionaires privately already send money to the guerrillas. Saudis, as Wahhabi Muslims, belong to a sect that is to the right of Sunnism. But the Wahhabi tradition dislikes Shiites and in any Sunni-Shiite struggle, the Wahhabis will come in on the Sunni side.

This item is no surprise, of course, and I have brought up this likelihood a number of times myself. What is remarkable is that it is being stated by the Saudi leadership and published in the press. The Saudis are usually circumspect. If they are leaking this sort of thing, their hair must be on fire with anxiety.

Cooper also reports the abrupt and mysterious resignation of Saudi Ambassador to the US Turki al-Faisal after only 22 months in Washington. Prince Turki has been an effective diplomat and has done a lot of outreach work, addressing ordinary American audiences (a style very unlike that of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, his long-serving predecessor). Prince Turki is the only Saudi official I know of publicly to espouse Gandhian principles of non-violence for the Palestinian cause. I met him more than once and was impressed by his humanity and acumen. I'm sorry to see him leave Washington. There are rumors that he is leaving to become foreign minister of the kingdom. If that were the case, I should have thought the promotion would be announced along with his resignation, which he called a "retirement." The way this is being handled looks more to me as though he lost some big policy fight with the establishment in Riyadh. But we shall see.

The Saudis are usually important to the formulation of US policy in the Middle East. W. is now rudderless, with Rumsfeld gone and Cheney neutered by the November elections. Prince Turki's departure in addition to hysteria about a regional guerrilla war in Iraq on the part of the Saudi King are an element of instability in White House policy-making that we could have done without.

Meanwhile, a de facto Israeli-Saudi alliance appears to be building against Iran and the Shiites. Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz is now saying that the 2002 Beirut peace plan put forward by then crown prince--now King--Abdullah of Saudi Arabia must be the basis for going forward with an Arab-Israeli peace process. Abdullah got the Arab League to offer Israel full recognition and political and economic relations if only they'd go back to the 1967 borders and recognize a Palestinian state.

At the time, then prime minister Ariel Sharon dismissed Abdullah's plan rather rudely. But now Israel has been bloodied by a Lebanon war that it lost on points to Hizbullah despite its clear military superiority. Bashar al-Asad of Syria pointed out that every generation of Arabs hates the Israelis more than its predecessors. Iran is emerging as a new hegemon in the eastern stretches of the Middle East.

Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Olmert hoped that the Lebanon War of last August would finish off Hizbullah. Instead, Hizbullah put up a respectable resistance to the Israeli military. Now, Hizbullah and its Christian allies loyal to Michel Aoun have staged enormous daily protests aimed at bringing down the reform government of Fuad Seniora, and they may even succeed. Hizbullah is allied with Syria, which is allied with Iran.

While Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel are unified states in this new alliance, their de facto allies in Lebanon and Iraq include the bloc of Saad al-Hariri in the Lebanese parliament and the Kurds and Sunni Arabs in Iraq.

Iran gets support from Syria and Shiite Iraq and from Hizbullah in Lebanon.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh went to Tehran recently and got pledges of $120 mn. in aid. Haniyeh while there pledged never to recognize Israel. Iran has Shiite clients in Iraq now, and is reaching into the Levant with its patronage for Hizbullah and Hamas.

Iran's farce of a "conference" on the Holocaust is a way of underlining its government's complete rejection of a two state solution and of a Zionist state in the Middle East. Iran's leaders support a maximalist Hamas vision of a fundamentalist Muslim Palestinian state in all of historical Palestine, which requires the dissolution of the Israeli state. Since Israelis tend to justify their state project with reference to the Holocaust, the Ahmadinejad faction in Iran is replying with Holocaust denial as a counter to this argument. Note that other prominent Iranians, such as former President Mohammad Khatami, accept the Holocaust and have lambasted Ahmadinejad for questioning it.

So Israel is up against determined enemies on its borders, which it has not been able to crush militarily, and which are political clients of Iran. Iran does not pose a conventional military threat to Israel, but Tehran is able to put pressure on it through support of asymmetrical operations, which it hopes can make the Israeli state collapse in the same way that the Soviet state collapsed. The Israeli leadership believes that Iran is trying to get a nuclear weapon, even though there is no good evidence for an Iranian nuclear weapon program (as opposed to a civilian nuclear research program).

I have been told that the Israeli leadership is extremely anxious about Iran becoming a nuclear power, and sullen about the outcome of the Lebanon war. They are further demoralized by the Baker-Hamilton Commission report, which calls for US talks with Iran. The Israeli leaders interpret this passage as a surrender by Washington to Iran's nuclear ambitions, and are preparing for the possibility that they might have to take on Iran themselves. This extreme anxiety about a nuclear Iran (which is at least 10 years away even if it is trying, according to the US National Intelligence Estimate) may have driven Olmert to make his gaffe of openly admitting that Israel has weapons of mass destruction. That gaffe has resulted in calls for his resignation. For one thing, in strict US law, it should result in sanctions by Congress. Olmert, battered by the outcome of the Lebanon War, and now accused of having loose lips of the sort that got Mordechai Vanunu an 18-year prison sentence, is desperate for a political breakthrough of the sort that might come from a realignment of Middle East politics.

Saudi Arabia is equally frantic about the possibility of a nuclear Iran, and is moreover apoplectic that the US delivered Baghdad into the hands of Iraqi Shiite fundamentalists allied with Iran. Saudi Arabia fears Hizbullah in Lebanon as an Iranian cat's paw in the Arab world. The Khomeinists of Iran and south Lebanon believe that Islam is incompatible with monarchy (Khomeini said, "there are no kings in Islam.")

Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and (de facto) the 14 March Bloc in Lebanon are ranged against Iran, Shiite Iraq, Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas. Neither Israel nor Saudi Arabia can openly admit to the tacit alliance for fear of anger from their own publics because of objectionable parties to it. But this is how things are shaking out.

Now the Saudis are openly saying that this new Cold War in the region could turn hot. If you don't own a bicycle, I'd buy one, because a regional war of the sort Saudi Arabia said it feared would potentially cut off 20 percent of the world's petroleum.
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The Whistelblower's Freedom of Speech Trial in a Middle East Democracy
by eileen fleming
December 10, 2006

Jerusalem- During this reporter's March 2006 interview with Mordechai Vanunu, he stated, "This administration tells me I am not allowed to speak to foreigners, the Media, and the world. But I do because that is how I prove my true humanity to the world. My freedom of speech trial began January 25, 2006 for speaking to the media, the same day as the Palestinian elections."

Only three journalists were present to cover the first day of this historic case which continues on without MSM coverage.

Although 'freed' in April 2004, Mordechai Vanunu has been forbidden to leave Israel, forbidden to speak to media and to foreigners under the draconian restrictions of the Emergency Defense Regulations which were implemented first by Britain against Palestinians and Jews after World War II.

After WW II, Attorney Yaccov Shapiro, who later became Israel's Minister Of Justice, described the Emergency Defense Regulations which denies Vanunu the inalienable rights of freedom of speech and movement as "unparalleled in any civilized country: there were no such laws in Nazi Germany."[ N.S. Ateek, Justice and Only Justice p.34]

On February 22, 2006 in a Jerusalem court it was revealed that Israel had asked Microsoft to hand over all the details of Vanunu's Hotmail account before a court order had been obtained.
According to Vanunu, "Microsoft obeyed the orders and gave them all the details…three months before I was arrested and my computers were confiscated…it is strange to ask Microsoft to give this information before obtaining the court order to listen to my private conversations. It means they wanted to go through my emails in secret, or maybe, with the help of the secret services, the Shaback, Mossad."

Attorney Michael Sfard repeatedly requested Police Representative Mr. Peterburg, to specifically state what type of espionage activity Vanunu was accused of. According to Vanunu, "The policeman did not have any answers and said that he brought all the evidence to the court. When Sfard asked him again about any material related to the 'espionage' charge, Peterburg had no answers.

"Sfard proved that the police had misled the judges who gave the orders to arrest me: to search my room, to go through my email, to confiscate my computers and that they misled Microsoft to believe they are helping in a case of espionage. The State came to the court with two special secret Government orders; Hisaion [documents or information that are deemed confidential by the government and kept from the court, the defendant, and lawyers.] This allows the prosecution to keep documents related to my court hearing secret. One was from the Minister for Interior Security and one from the Minister of Defense."

Vanunu's secretly taped police interrogations, his 2004 Christmas Eve arrest for "attempting to leave the country" while traveling the four miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, the confiscation of his private property by thirty IDF that stormed into his room at St. George's Cathedral, according to Vanunu have all "been done…under the false and misleading statements to the courts of 'suspicion of espionage', and yet they are not charging me with spy crimes… and the fact is that I have not committed any crimes."

On May 14, 1948 The Declaration of the establishment of Israel affirmed:

"One the day of the termination of the British mandate and on the strength of the United Nations General Assembly declare The State of Israel will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel: it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion it will guarantee freedom of religion [and] conscience and will be faithful to the Charter of the United Nations."

In the spirit of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights -which Israel agreed to uphold and was contingent upon its statehood-Vanunu does speak to media and foreigners, and could very well face more jail time. Only three journalists were present to cover the first day of that historic case which is continuing to unfold.

In March 2006, this reporter and Vanunu discussed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and how he and millions of Palestinians have been denied them.

Article 1 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights upholds that:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in the spirit of brotherhood.

Vanunu responded, "When I decided to expose Israel's nuclear weapons I acted out of conscience and to warn the world to prevent a nuclear holocaust...The Israeli media demonized me...they published many lies about me...and Israel kept me totally isolated in prison for most of the 18 years...I am also regarded as a traitor because I was baptized a Christian."

Article 18 of the UDHR affirms that:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes freedom to change one's religion.

Vanunu has consistently maintained, "My Christian conversion was also considered as treason and led to me receiving more time in jail than any murderer has ever served. The Israelis have this very beautiful article about freedom and liberty but they want to destroy anyone who criticizes them for revealing the truth to the world. The world must look and see what kind of democracy Israel is when one speaks out the truth."

Article 13 of the UDHR upholds that:

Everyone has the right to freedom of movement.

Vanunu and millions of Palestinians have been denied this inalienable right under the draconian British Emergency Mandate Regulations and the concrete wall/electrified fence that has been repeatedly deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice for it does not follow the Green Line and divides Palestinians from their land, water, families, jobs and holy sites.

Vanunu stated, "It's very sad that Hilary Clinton went to the Jewish Wailing Wall and forgot the real crying wall is the Palestinian wall...the apartheid wall... the wall is not for defense, but to keep this conflict permanent...the people who need the help are the Palestinian Christians. We need all Christians to come and see the true facts on the ground.

"The Dimona is 46 years old; reactors last 25 to 30 years. The Dimona has never been inspected and Israel has never signed the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty but all the Arab states have...Twenty years ago when I worked there they only produced when the air was blowing towards Jordan ten miles away. No one knows what is happening now.

"The Israelis have 200 atomic weapons and they accuse the Palestinians and Muslims of terrorism. The world needs to wake up and see the real terrorism is the occupation and the Palestinians have lived under that terror regime for 40 years.

"Israel propaganda portrays all Palestinians as Muslim extremists and Hamas terrorists and neglect that Palestinian Christians are following the true message of Jesus Christ with nonviolent resistance. We need all Christians to come and see the truth for themselves. Israel is only a democracy if you are a Jew."


"30 Minutes with Vanunu"

Uncensored by Israeli Military

by karlos
The title of this essay is very mistaken.
1. Hizbullah is a big part of Lebanon.
2. The ruling party of Lebanon has pledged to be the last Arab country to sign a peace agreement with Israel. So they will not work together against another state.
3. In terms of culture and mentality, Lebanon and Syria are very similar, so they will not fight each other.
4 Iraq itself is divide and therefore cannot be put on one side rather than the other.
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