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Occupied Iraq and Palestine both
approaching greater explosion and civil war

MIDDLEEAST.ORG - MER - Washington - 7 December:

While so much of the dutifully compliant American media is busy parroting George Bush's purposefully deceptive talk of "democracy" and "elections", the realities of what is happening in occupied Iraq and Palestine are quite different and ominous. The Washington Neocons, working closely with the Israelis as they always have and do, have brought both occupied lands to the point of explosion and civil war. Even as they feverishly prepare to take on Iran one way or another -- some combination of further sanctions, attempted regime change, and/or destruction of weapons capabilities -- the lands so far 'liberated' by the new crusaders are in turmoil requiring still greater American blood and treasure to keep them under U.S. control. Oh yes, this applies to narco-state Afghanistan as well, even as the CIA's Hamid Karzai's 'swearing in ceremony' takes place today with VP Cheney and Pentagon Chief Rumsfeld smiling from the front rows.

Whether the further explosions and greater yet bloodshed will erupt in weeks, or months, or years, the course is now far more clear than the corporate media usually deals with. But today the New York Times is used for major leaks from the under-purge under-blame CIA about what to really expect in occupied Iraq, and recently the brilliant British journalist Robert Fisk wrote
in The Independent about what to really expect in occupied Palestine.

2 C.I.A. Reports Offer Warnings on Iraq's Path


New York Times, 7 December - WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 - A classified cable sent by the Central Intelligence Agency's station chief in Baghdad has warned that the situation in Iraq is deteriorating and may not rebound any time soon, according to government officials.

The cable, sent late last month as the officer ended a yearlong tour, presented a bleak assessment on matters of politics, economics and security, the officials said. They said its basic conclusions had been echoed in briefings presented by a senior C.I.A. official who recently visited Iraq.

The officials described the two assessments as having been "mixed," saying that they did describe Iraq as having made important progress, particularly in terms of its political process, and credited Iraqis with being resilient.

But over all, the officials described the station chief's cable in particular as an unvarnished assessment of the difficulties ahead in Iraq. They said it warned that the security situation was likely to get worse, including more violence and sectarian clashes, unless there were marked improvements soon on the part of the Iraqi government, in terms of its ability to assert authority and to build the economy.

Together, the appraisals, which follow several other such warnings from officials in Washington and in the field, were much more pessimistic than the public picture being offered by the Bush administration before the elections scheduled for Iraq next month, the officials said. The cable was sent to C.I.A. headquarters after American forces completed what military commanders have described as a significant victory, with the retaking of Falluja, a principal base of the Iraqi insurgency, in mid-November.

The American ambassador to Iraq, John D. Negroponte, was said by the officials to have filed a written dissent, objecting to one finding as too harsh, on the ground that the United States had made more progress than was described in combating the Iraqi insurgency. But the top American military commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., also reviewed the cable and initially offered no objections, the officials said. One official said, however, that General Casey may have voiced objections in recent days.

The station chief's cable has been widely disseminated outside the C.I.A., and was initially described by a government official who read the document and who praised it as unusually candid. Other government officials who have read or been briefed on the document later described its contents. The officials refused to be identified by name or affiliation because of the delicacy of the issue. The station chief cannot be publicly identified because he continues to work undercover.

Asked about the cable, a White House spokesman, Sean McCormack, said he could not discuss intelligence matters. A C.I.A. spokesman would say only that he could not comment on any classified document.

It was not clear how the White House was responding to the station chief's cable. In recent months, some Republicans, including Senator John McCain of Arizona, have accused the agency of seeking to undermine President Bush by disclosing intelligence reports whose conclusions contradict the administration or its policies. But senior intelligence officials including John E. McLaughlin, the departing deputy director of central intelligence, have disputed those assertions. One government official said the new assessments might suggest that Porter J. Goss, the new director of central intelligence, was willing to listen to views different from those publicly expressed by the administration.

A separate, more formal, National Intelligence Estimate prepared in July and sent to the White House in August by American intelligence agencies also presented a dark forecast for Iraq's future through the end of 2005. Among three possible developments described in that document, the best case was tenuous stability and the worst case included a chain of events leading to civil war.

After news reports disclosed the existence of the National Intelligence Estimate, which also remains classified, President Bush initially dismissed the conclusions as nothing more than a guess. Since then, however, violence in Iraq has increased, including the recent formation of a Shiite militia intended to carry out attacks on Sunni militants.

The end-of-tour cable from the station chief, spelling out an assessment of the situation on the ground, is a less-formal product than a National Intelligence Estimate. But it was drafted by an officer who is highly regarded within the C.I.A. and who, as station chief in Baghdad, has been the top American intelligence official in Iraq since December 2003. The station chief overseas an intelligence operation that includes about 300 people, making Baghdad the largest C.I.A. station since Saigon during the Vietnam War era.

The senior C.I.A. official who visited Iraq and then briefed counterparts from other government agencies was Michael Kostiw, a senior adviser to Mr. Goss. One government official who knew about Mr. Kostiw's briefings described them as "an honest portrayal of the situation on the ground."

Since they took office in September, Mr. Goss and his aides have sought to discourage unauthorized disclosures of information. In a memorandum sent to C.I.A. employees last month, Mr. Goss said the job of the intelligence agency was to "provide the intelligence as we see it" but also to "support the administration and its policies in our work."

"As agency employees we do not identify with, support or champion opposition to the administration or its policies," Mr. Goss said in that memorandum, saying that he was seeking "to clarify beyond doubt the rules of the road." The memorandum urged intelligence employees to "let the facts alone speak to the policy maker."

Mr. Goss himself made his first foreign trip as the intelligence director last week, with stops that included several days in Britain and a day in Afghanistan, but he did not visit Iraq, the government officials said.

At the White House on Monday, President Bush himself offered no hint of pessimism as he met with Iraq's president, Sheik Ghazi al-Yawar. Despite the security challenges, Mr. Bush said, the United States continues to favor the voting scheduled for Iraq on Jan. 30 to "send the clear message to the few people in Iraq that are trying to stop the march toward democracy that they cannot stop elections."

"The American people must understand that democracy just doesn't happen overnight," he said. "It is a process. It is an evolution. After all, look at our own history. We had great principles enunciated in our Declarations of Independence and our Constitution, yet, we had slavery for a hundred years. It takes a while for democracy to take hold. And this is a major first step in a society which enables people to express their beliefs and their opinions."

Catastrophe looms in reaction to Arafat's death


So the death of Yasser Arafat is a great new opportunity for the Palestinians, is it? The man who personified the Palestinian struggle -- "Mr. Palestine" -- is dead. So things can only get better for the Palestinians.

Death means democracy. Death means statehood. That the final demise of the corrupt old guerrilla leader should be a sign of optimism demonstrates just how catastrophic the conflict in the Mideast has now become.

It's a bit like Fallujah. The more we destroy it, the crueler we are, the brighter the chances of Iraqi democracy. The more successful we are, the worse things are going to get. That's what George W. Bush said on Friday: that violence will increase as Iraqi elections grow closer -- a total mind warp since the more violent Iraq becomes, the less the chances of any election ever being held.

Note how President Bush could not even bring himself to mention Arafat's name. It's the same old agenda. The Palestinians have to have a democracy. They have to prove themselves; they -- not the Israelis -- have to show that they are a worthy "negotiating partner." And any new leader -- the colorless Ahmad Qureia or the equally colorless and undemocratic Abu Mazen -- must "control his own people." That was what Arafat failed to do even though he thought his job was to represent his own people, which is what democracy is supposed to be all about.

It's worth noting how this narrative has been written. The Israelis, with their continued occupation, their continued illegal construction of colonies for Jews and Jews only on Arab land, their air strikes and helicopter executions and live-fire shooting at stone-throwing children, are not part of this equation. They are just innocently waiting to find a new "negotiating partner" now that Arafat is in his grave.

Ariel Sharon, held "personally responsible" for the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre by the Kahan commission report, remains, in Bush's words, "a man of peace." No one asks whether he can control his own army. Or whether he can control his own settlers. He wants to close down the colonies in Gaza -- even though his spokesman has told us that this will put Palestinian statehood into "formaldehyde."

So let's just take a look back at those tragic years of the Oslo accord. In 1993, we are supposed to believe, the Palestinians were offered statehood and a capital in Jerusalem if they accepted the right of Israel to exist. Oslo said nothing of the kind. It did set down a complex system of Israeli withdrawals from occupied Palestinian land and a timetable that the Israelis were supposed to meet. We all knew that any failure to do so would humiliate Arafat -- and make him less able to "control" his own people.

And what happened? It's important, at this supposedly "optimistic" moment, to reflect on the facts of the previous "peace process" in which Europe as well as the United States spent so much time, energy and -- in the EU's case -- money. Under the Oslo agreement, the occupied West Bank would be divided into three zones. Zone A would come under exclusive Palestinian control, Zone B under Israeli military occupation in participation with the Palestinian Authority, and Zone C under total Israeli occupation. In the West Bank, Zone A comprised only 1.1 percent of the land whereas in Gaza -- overpopulated, rebellious, insurrectionary -- almost all the territory was to come under Arafat's control. He, after all, was to be the policeman of Gaza. Zone C in the West Bank comprised 60 percent of the land, which allowed Israel to continue the rapid expansion of settlements on Arab land.

But a detailed investigation shows that not a single one of these withdrawal agreements was honored by the Israelis. And in the meantime, the number of settlers illegally living on Palestinians' land rose after Oslo from 80,000 to 150,000 -- even though the Israelis, as well as the Palestinians, were forbidden from taking "unilateral steps" under the terms of the agreement. The Palestinians saw this, not without reason, as proof of bad faith.

Since facts are sometimes elusive in the Middle East, let's remind ourselves of what happened after Oslo. The Oslo II (Taba) agreement, concluded by Yitzhak Rabin in September 1995 -- the month before he was assassinated -- promised three Israeli withdrawals: from Zone A (under Palestinian control), Zone B (under Israeli military occupation in co-operation with the Palestinians) and Zone C (exclusive Israeli occupation). These were to be completed by October 1997.

Final-status agreement covering Jerusalem, refugees, water and settlements were to have been completed by October 1999, by which time the occupation was supposed to have ended. In January 1997, however, a handful of Jewish settlers were granted 20 percent of Hebron, despite Israel's obligation under Oslo to leave all West Bank towns. By October 1998, a year late, Israel had not carried out the Taba accords.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, negotiated a new agreement at Wye River, dividing the second redeployment promised at Taba into two phases -- but he honored only the first of them. Netanyahu had promised to reduce the percentage of West Bank land under exclusively Israeli occupation from 72 percent to 59 percent, transferring 41 percent of the West Bank to Zones A and B. But at Sharm el-Sheikh in 1999, the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, reneged on the agreement Netanyahu had made at Wye River, fragmenting the latter's two phases into three, the first of which would transfer 7 percent from Zone C to Zone B. All implementation of the agreements stopped there.

When Arafat finally went to Camp David to meet Barak, he was allegedly offered 95 percent of the West Bank and Gaza but turned it down and went to war with the second intifada. A study of the maps, however, shows that -- with the exclusion of Jerusalem and its extended boundaries, with the exclusion of existing major Jewish colonies and with the inclusion of an Israeli cordon sanitaire, Arafat was offered nearer to 64 percent of the 22 percent of mandate Palestine that was left to him.

Then a new explosion of Palestinian suicide bombings, usually aimed at Israeli civilians, destroyed Israel's patience with Arafat. Sharon, who had provoked the second intifada by strolling on to the Temple Mount with a thousand policemen, decided that Arafat was a Bin Laden-style "terrorist" and all further contact ended. This is not to excuse the PLO or Arafat himself. His arrogance and corruption, and his little dictatorship -- initially encouraged by the Israelis and Americans who lent Arafat their CIA boys to "train" the Palestinian security services -- ensured that no democracy could thrive in "Palestine."

And I suspect that while he personally disapproved of suicide bombings, Arafat cynically realized that they had their uses; they proved that Sharon could not provide Israel with the security he promised at his election, at least until he built the new wall, which is stealing further Palestinian land.

But that was only one side of the story -- and last week Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair went back to the old game of seeing only the other side. The Palestinians -- the victims of 39 years of occupation -- must prove themselves worthy of peace with their occupiers.

The death of their leader is billed as a glorious occasion that provides hope. All this is part of the self-delusion of Bush and Blair. The reality is that the outlook in the Middle East is bleaker than ever.

Oh yes, and -- since we'd be asking this question today if Sharon had gone to meet his maker in an equally mysterious way -- just what did Arafat die of?
The Independent - 17 November 2004

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Source: http://www.middleeast.org/articles/2004/12/1228.htm