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July, 2007



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Mideast Governments In The Pocket of America
By Karen Nakamura

There are times when we need to ask 'what was that again?' While the facts were aired, they were passed over. The dots weren't connected in the American psyche.
Far from facing defeat, the 1996 goals of the neo-con Project for the New American Century, (members/supporters include Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Scooter Libby and John Bolton among others), are being realized to an amazing degree. These include ratcheting up American military might, changing the landscape of the Middle East to reflect American Values and be "American friendly" (even if the people want something different), and crush any opposition.

Except for being American friendly, the "new" governments of the area are certainly in the pocket of the Americans. Suddenly, there's the Abbas/US backed Fatah government, the Siniora/US backed Lebanese government, and the Malaki/US backed Iraq government. This very weak and lopsided line-up certainly doesn't play against Israel's interests either. How could this come about in a region so vehemently anti-American?

After robbing a bank in Tripoli on May 20, a little known terrorist organization, Fatah-al-Islam, took refuge from the pursuing Lebanese Army in the Nahr El-Bared Palestinian refugee camp. Numbering a couple hundred fighters, the organization didn't seem a threat. But, according to Lebanon's Daily Star, due to the nature and timing of the challenge it was more than just a Lebanese problem. In the murky world of Lebanese politics, Syrian manipulation of Fatah al-Islam couldn't be ruled out but then neither could American machinations.

By agreement, the army never entered the camps. It does now. It has also been successful in flushing out more than one long time seat of Palestinian foes of Siniora's government, Israel and the U.S.

A fierce battle erupted where Fatah al-Islam fighters holed up, the camp's Samed center, housing a community center and UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools. This was an interesting choice what with the hundreds of other buildings not housing relief supplies. Samed Center was leveled. Pursued by the military, the militants retreated deeper into residential neighborhoods. An amateur video showed mass destruction. The situation is only too familiar, Palestinians taking the brunt of the violence. Over 100 lost their lives and nearly 40,000 residents were displaced. None of this is news.

The usual suspect, Syria, denied any support of Fatah al-Islam. Possibly named to confuse, Fatah al-Islam is not to be identified with Fatah or any of the "legitimate" Palestinian political parties, which along with Syria, disavowed them loudly. Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyya, did call for a negotiated end to the siege.

Multi-national, many fighters were in Iraq or trained in Jordan and elsewhere. However, a third of those killed have been young Lebanese Palestinians. The group is led by Shaker Abssi, a Palestinian wanted by both Syria and Jordan. Jailed for three years in Syria and released in 2003, Damascus issued another arrest warrant against him. In 2004, a Jordanian military court sentenced Abssi to death in absentia. None of this seems to make him amenable to Syrian sponsorship. So where did Fatah al-Islam come from? They were reported well-equipped and brandishing American weapons.

The Siniora government and its sponsor the U.S. blamed Syria, Iran or Al-Qaeda, as they did the assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri. It was meant to "derail efforts to create an international tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri." Prime Minister Fouad Siniora was an aide to Hariri. However, many Arabs think the Hariri assassination was a covert operation by the United States and Israel to stir up the Middle East and take over the government, much like the Nazis set up the Vichy government in France.

The dot to connect here is that in March, about eight weeks before the beginning of the siege, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh found the United States and Saudi Arabia have been covertly backing radical splitter groups, including Fatah al-Islam, to counter Iran & Hezbollah militants. Hersh talked to officials in Beirut who admitted they tolerated Sunni Fatah al-Islam as a "protection" against Shiite Hezbollah and to erode the authority of the main Palestinian faction Fatah, which runs the camps and deals with Lebanese authorities.

Al-Jazeera Magazine reported at the end of May that: "According to ...Hersh, there's another theory of who is really supporting the group: the Lebanese government itself, along with the United States. Last March, Hersh reported in the New Yorker that the U.S. and Saudi governments are covertly supporting Sunni groups like Fatah al-Islam as part of a policy against Iran and growing Shia influence in the Middle East."

During an interview with CNN International's "Your World Today", Hersh declared groups like Fatah al-Islam developed from Washington's covert policies. There was an agreement between Dick Cheney, Deputy National Security Advisor Elliot Abrams and Saudi national security adviser, Prince Bandar that the Saudi regime would covertly "fund the Sunni Fatah al-Islam as a counterweight to the Lebanon's Shia Hezbollah." Hersh accused the White House of being " the business of creating ... sectarian violence."

Hersh continued that the U.S. government would join the Brits, Western allies and moderate Sunni governments, "Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt -- and with Israel ...fight the Shia." The idea was to provide them with arms, money and some basic equipment. "...These are small units, a couple hundred people. There were three or four ...given the same help covertly, the goal being they would be potential enemies of Hezbollah in case of warfare." It was also pointed out that the Sunni group, Esbat al-Ansar, located in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in Sidon, "has received arms and supplies from Lebanese internal-security forces and militias associated with the Siniora government."

This was reported in March. The Nahr El-Bared siege didn't begin until May. Therefore, the western alliance in Lebanon had to have known it was arming the very terrorists it went into the camps to take down. Early in Bush's administration, then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced a policy of "preparing the battlefield" in the Middle East. If the U.S. is funding covert units, is it responsible for so much suffering?

All of this may be because the western alliance has decided to enforce United Nations Resolution 1701 which calls for the disarmament of all militias in Lebanon and the setting up of an arms-free buffer zone south of the Litani River including Hezbollah and Palestinian strongholds. This weapon free zone would in effect disarm Hezbollah, the only force capable of keeping the Israelis from invading again. Taking out a Palestinian foothold could be considered a good start.

Meanwhile, on June 18, reported "A previously unknown militant Islamic group claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on north Israel. ...The self-proclaimed group, "the Jihadi Badr Brigades - Lebanon branch," vowed in a fax to the Associated Press in Beirut to continue... Authenticity of the group's claim could not be immediately confirmed."

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