Dual Loyalties

My opinion on the people who shape our world

Sunday, January 09, 2005

World Peace Herald

World Peace Herald: "Commentary: Learning from the Saudis
By Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Published January 4, 2005

WASHINGTON -- When Islamists detonated two bombs outside Saudi Arabian security centers last week, within hours three of the leading suspected ringleaders in the kingdom had been killed and others apprehended. Yet when insurgents in Iraq killed 30 government soldiers in attacks on succeeding days, they did so with impunity and many more massacres are feared in the coming weeks.

According to the neo-conservative policymakers who have shaped U.S. Middle East policy in the Pentagon, the National Security Council and the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, it was not supposed to be this way. Indeed, it was supposed to be precisely the opposite: Iraq two years after the toppling of President Saddam Hussein was supposed to already be a pillar of regional stability pumping out enough oil to break the power of the OPEC cartel while Saudi Arabia was supposed to be the dangerous breeding ground for active Islamist terrorists.

Two of the most influential neo-con shapers of U.S. policy in the Middle East, Harold Rhode, adviser on Islamic affairs to Vice President Dick Cheney and David Wurmser, Cheney's favorite Middle East analyst who is a contender to take over the Near East Affairs Bureau at the State Department, have both repeatedly advocated the eventual partitioning of Saudi Arabia and the creation of a Shiite majority, pro-American independent state in the kingdom's oil-rich Eastern region.

More than six times the number of American soldiers has been killed in Iraq since President George W. Bush declared "mission accomplished" on May 1, 2003, than those who died during the first three weeks of occupation. Yet Rhode, Wurmser and their allies still believe Iraq policy is "on track." They believe that the elections for a new National Assembly on Jan. 30 will produce a united Shiite bloc that will look to Washington far more than to Tehran. They also still have faith that their old favorite, Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress and one of the top 10 figures on the united Shiite list of candidates, will steer the new majority in the way they want. Then, they believe, the Sunni Islamist guerrilla insurrection across Iraq will finally be crushed.

Yet, the harsh, unrelenting fact remains that the new Iraqi security forces that were rapidly rushed into existence over the past 20 months to take the burden off the exhausted and undermanned 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq have so far shown no ability to do the job.

Their morale is poor, their equipment miserable and their training derisory. U.S. military analysts fear the new forces are riddled with Islamist and former Baath agents and that in intelligence terms they therefore leak like a sieve. In Washington, many Middle East experts now opine that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld should instead have opted for building slowly and far more carefully, an elite, carefully screened and much smaller Iraqi force.

Even after the Iraqi guerrillas showed their formidable teeth by August 2003, in attacks that killed U.N. special envoy to Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello and Shiite Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim in the same month, neo-con pundits publicly predicted the insurrection was tiny, unrepresentative, could not last and would not spread. All those predictions have been proven false.

By contrast, the repeated neo-con predictions of catastrophe and doom that they believed would rapidly fall upon Saudi Arabia have been proven completely wrong. Five years ago, with global oil prices down to an historic low of nearly $10 per barrel, there were indeed widespread concerns that the Saudis might be running out of cash to fund the generous and expensive social contract that has bought decades of peace and stability to the desert kingdom. But today, with global oil prices still well above $40 a barrel and an energy-hungry China ravenously seeking new oil supplies from as far away as Canada and Venezuela, the Saudis certainly do not lack for financial resources to fund either their social programs or their security services.

Instead, over the past year, their revitalized security services -- which were always, in reality, far more effective than hostile critics in the American media often painted them -- have scored one success against Islamist insurrectionists after another. Al-Qaida's organization in Saudi Arabia has been reeling with at least three of its directors of operations in succession killed by Saudi security in only 12 months. As a result, the Saudis have done more to dent the image of invincibility that al-Qaida instantly gained across the Middle East from the Sept. 11, 2001, mega attacks in New York City and Washington than 22 months of U.S. military operations in Iraq have managed.

The neo-cons with the enthusiastic support of Rumsfeld, Cheney and President Bush were convinced that they could "drain the swamp" of the Middle East by sweeping away repressive regimes and creating U.S.-style democracies that almost instantaneously eliminate popular support for al-Qaida and its cohorts. Instead, the opposite has occurred.

The most dangerous and effective enemies al-Qaida has had have been the mukhabarat intelligence forces of existing Arab governments, whether they be the extensive network of the Saudi monarchy, the small but highly efficient security forces of King Abdullah II in Jordan, or the intelligence service of Baathist Syria under President Bashar Assad. Indeed, Syria has been an invaluable source of intelligence on al-Qaida to the U.S. intelligence services over the past three years.

At least for the moment, the Saudi security authorities continue to clamp down on their own militants. But in neighboring Iraq, just as we noted in these columns 16 months ago, the insurgents still have the Bush administration by the throat, not the other way round."

The neo-conservative factor (by Arshin Adib-Moghaddam) - Media Monitors Network (MMN)

The neo-conservative factor (by Arshin Adib-Moghaddam) - Media Monitors Network (MMN): "The neo-conservative factor
by Arshin Adib-Moghaddam
(Sunday 19 December 2004)
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"What makes things easier for the neo-conservative-Likudnik coterie is that it is operating within a pre-existent "anti-Iranian" context."

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In the absence of official inter-state relations between Iran and Israel on the one side and Iran and the United States on the other, there is no avoiding the fact that much of what is happening between the countries is influenced by the activities of "sub-state" institutional actors who have filled the political vacuum left behind by the governments. One side effect of this constellation is that the American foreign policy-making process vis-a-vis Iran is heavily penetrated by neo-conservative functionaries and activists with close links to Jewish lobbying organizations and the Likud party in Israel. Let me frame the review of the evidence for this statement with two concrete questions: How pervasive is the neo-conservative-Likudnik nexus? How much leverage does it have on the power elites in Washington?

One newly established link in the chain of neo-conservative think tanks tied to Jewish lobbying organizations is the Coalition for Democracy in Iran (CDI). Founded in 2002 by Michael Ledeen and Morris Amitay, who used to be executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the organization aims to foster political support for regime change in Iran. Members include Raymond Tanter of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), itself an invention of AIPAC, Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy (CSP) and Rob Sohani who has close personal and political links to the son of the deposed Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi. Ledeen, Amitay and Sobhani joined forces at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in a seminar entitled "The Future of Iran", co-sponsored by the Hudson Institute and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. All three have connections with the media agency Benador Associates that manages both their op-ed placem! ents and television appearances. Eleana Benador represents Richard Perle, James Woolsey, Charles Krauthammer, Martin Kramer and other neo-conservatives tied to the Bush administration.

Influence on the levers of power in Washington is not only secured through lobbying efforts. There is also persuasive evidence for covert activity. In August 2004, it was revealed that classified documents including a draft National Security Presidential Directive devised in the office of Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith was shared with AIPAC and Israeli officials. The document set out a rather more aggressive US policy toward Iran and was leaked by Lawrence Franklin, an "expert" on Iran who was recruited to Feith's office from the Defense Intelligence Agency. An FBI counterintelligence operation revealed that the same Franklin met repeatedly with Naor Gilon, the head of the political department at the Israeli embassy in Washington, and other officials and activists tied to the Israeli state and Jewish lobbying organizations, primarily AIPAC.

Feith himself has longstanding links to Zionist pressure groups. The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), for example, honored him and his father for their service to Israel and the Jewish people in 1997. He is also cofounder of "One Jerusalem", a Jerusalem-based organization whose ultimate goal is securing "a united Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel." A second cofounder of this organization is David Steinmann who is chairman of another neo-conservative institution with close ties to Israel's Likud party, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). He is also a board member of the CSP and chairman of the executive committee of the Middle East Forum. Two other cofounders of "One Jerusalem" are directly tied to the Likud party: Dore Gold is a top advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Natan Sharansky is Israel's Minister of Diaspora Affairs.

What makes things easier for the neo-conservative-Likudnik coterie is that it is operating within a pre-existent "anti-Iranian" context. Most analysts would agree that the image of Iran as a country in the grip of endemic revolutionary hysteria has been produced, reified and internalized by large segments of the American and Israeli public for quite some time now. That perspective has it that post-revolutionary Iran is monolithic, ruled by sword-swinging mullahs who are not to be trusted. It is a view openly articulated by many. Richard Perle, Harold Rhode, Michael Ledeen, David Frum and other activists and decision-makers tied to the neoconservative-Likudnik nexus are among them. For Iran, it is typically argued, there can be no reprieve. "When it is in our power and interest," pontificate Perle and Frum in their latest book An End to Evil, "we should toss dictators aside with no more compunction than a police sharpshooter feels when he downs a hostage-taker".

Given that the neo-conservative-Likudnik consensus has acquired all the qualities of a strategic, transnational alliance, it would be naive to assume that its mobile architects have not the means and determination to channel their campaigns into the power centers of Washington's foreign policy elite. Both the US and Israel are receptive to this kind of manipulation, because producing the image of Iran as a rogue actor serves the important function to legitimate their policies in West Asia (demonizing Israel and the United States is equally expedient for the Iranian state, of course). Yet, there is no escaping the fact that all three actors share a "common fate," that regional stability cannot be secured without a pragmatic consensus among them. This inevitable independence demands opening up communication channels for future dialogue. Reaching that stage is dependent on a) the willingness of the United States to engage Iran diplomatically and b) the ability of the Islamic Re! public to legitimate detente with both Israel and the United States on the level of ideological theorizing."

Neocons favor Netanyahu over Sharon

World Peace Herald: "Sharon's paradox remains, however, that he leads a remarkably united nation but also an increasingly divided ruling party. Further, and little noted either in Israel or the U.S. press, his determination to pull out of Gaza has angered the politically powerful pro-Israel neo-conservatives who dominate foreign policy making in the Bush administration.

Douglas Feith, under secretary for policy in the Department of Defense has over the years been openly critical of any initiative by any Israeli government to pull back from any territories whatsoever, starting with Gaza. David Wurmser, chief Middle East strategist for Vice President Dick Cheney and Harold Rhode, advisor on Islamic affairs to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld are said by White House and Pentagon insiders to have privately expressed exactly the same sentiments.

In fact, the inner circle of neo-conservative intellectuals and policymakers in the Bush administration have never made any secret about their preference for Netanyahu, who shares their free market reforming sentiments and conviction that democracy must be spread around the Middle East to ensure lasting peace. Sharon, by contrast, is a power-focused pragmatist who has always remained at best indifferent to such economic and ideological issues.

Sharon therefore is an increasingly isolated figure in the very circles, both in Israel and Washington, that successive Likud prime ministers have routinely counted on for support over the past quarter century. So far, his high standing among the Israeli public has confounded his detractors in both camps. But their opposition can be expected to grow as he pushes ahead with the policy he deems crucial for his nation's future."