September 1, 2004
World Media Watch
by Gloria R. Lalumia
BUZZFLASH NOTE: WMW provides BuzzFlash readers foreign views and perspectives that are not usually available from the media here in the U.S. The presentation of these articles from these international publications is not an endorsement of their viewpoints.
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WORLD MEDIA WATCH FOR SEPTEMBER 1, 2004
1//Inter Press Service News Agency, Italy--SPY PROBE SCANS NEO CON-ISRAEL TIES (The burgeoning scandal over claims that a Pentagon official passed highly classified secrets to a Zionist lobby group appears to be part of a much broader set of FBI and Pentagon investigations of close collaboration between prominent U.S. neo-conservatives and Israel dating back some 30 years...Some of these past investigations involve top current officials, including Deputy Secretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz; Undersecretary of Defence for Policy Douglas Feith, whose office appears to be the focus of the most recently disclosed inquiry; and Richard Perle, who resigned as Defence Policy Board (DPB) chairman last year...At the same time, another Pentagon office concerned with the transfer of sensitive military and dual-use technologies has been examining the acquisition, modification and sales of key hi-tech military equipment by Israel obtained from the United States, in some cases with the help of prominent neo-conservatives who were then serving in the government.)
2//Asia Times Online, Hong Kong--AFTER MUGTADA,
THE MILITIAS... (With the United States preoccupied
first with the Sunni resistance in Fallujah and
then with the Shi'ite opposition in Najaf, led
by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, another, equally significant
development has taken place in the Shi'ite-dominated
south of Iraq. According to Asia Times Online contacts
in the south, the Lebanese Shi'ite militia Hezbollah
has deeply infiltrated Basra and surrounding areas,
so much so that it virtually runs the province,
with the help of Shi'ite militias, and is committed
to establishing vilayat-e-faqih (rule by the religious
clergy according to the Shi'ite faith)...The Iraqi
Hezbollah now has its headquarters right in the
middle of Basra, in the old police headquarters.
The police have offices in a new building in front
of the Shatul Arab waterway. The Iraqi Hezbollah
has also established a powerful branch in Ammarah.
This combination of Shi'ite militias (reinforced
with Iranians) and Iranian intelligence in Basra
and Ammarah is taking place under the watchful
eyes of the British, who are responsible for security
in the south, but they are reluctant to precipitate
a major clash, so have kept their distance.)
* * *
Press Service News Agency, Italy August
SPY PROBE SCANS NEO CON-ISRAEL TIES
SEATTLE, Aug 31 (IPS) - The burgeoning scandal over claims that a Pentagon official passed highly classified secrets to a Zionist lobby group appears to be part of a much broader set of FBI and Pentagon investigations of close collaboration between prominent U.S. neo-conservatives and Israel dating back some 30 years.
According to knowledgeable sources, who asked to not be identified, the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) has been intensively reviewing a series of past counter-intelligence probes that were started against several high-profile neo-cons but never followed up with prosecutions, to the great frustration of counter-intelligence officers, in some cases.
Some of these past investigations involve top current officials, including Deputy Secretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz; Undersecretary of Defence for Policy Douglas Feith, whose office appears to be the focus of the most recently disclosed inquiry; and Richard Perle, who resigned as Defence Policy Board (DPB) chairman last year.
All three were the subject of a lengthy investigative story by Stephen Green published by 'Counterpunch' in February. Green is the author of two books on U.S.-Israeli relations, including 'Taking Sides: America's Secret Relations with a Militant Israel', which relies heavily on interviews with former Pentagon and counter-intelligence officials.
At the same time, another Pentagon office concerned with the transfer of sensitive military and dual-use technologies has been examining the acquisition, modification and sales of key hi-tech military equipment by Israel obtained from the United States, in some cases with the help of prominent neo-conservatives who were then serving in the government.
Some of that equipment has been sold by Israel -- which in the last 20 years has become a top exporter of the world's most sophisticated hi-tech information and weapons technology -- or by Israeli middlemen, to Russia, China and other potential U.S. strategic rivals. Some of it has also found its way onto the black market, where terrorist groups -- possibly including al-Qaeda -- obtained bootlegged copies, according to these sources.
Of particular interest in that connection are derivatives of a powerful case-management software called PROMIS that was produced by INSLAW, Inc in the early 1980s and acquired by Israel's Mossad intelligence agency, which then sold its own versions to other foreign intelligence agencies in the Middle East, Asia and Eastern Europe.
But these versions were modified with a "trap door" that permitted the seller to spy on the buyers' own intelligence files, according to a number of published reports.
A modified version of the software, which is used to monitor and track files on a multitude of databases, is believed to have been acquired by al-Qaeda on the black market in the late 1990s, possibly facilitating the group's global banking and money-laundering schemes, according to a 'Washington Times' story of June 2001.
According to one source, Pentagon investigators believe it possible that al-Qaeda used the software to spy on various U.S. agencies that could have detected or foiled the Sep. 11, 2001 attack.
The FBI is reportedly also involved in the Pentagon's investigation, which is overseen by Deputy Undersecretary of Defence for International Technology Security John A "Jack" Shaw with the explicit support of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
The latest incident is based on allegations that a Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) career officer, Larry Franklin -- who was assigned in 2001 to work in a special office dealing with Iraq and Iran under Feith -- provided highly classified information, including a draft on U.S. policy towards Iran, to two staff members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), one of Washington's most powerful lobby groups. One or both of the recipients allegedly passed the material to the Israeli embassy.
AFTER MUGTADA, THE MILITIAS
KARACHI - With the United States preoccupied first with the Sunni resistance in Fallujah and then with the Shi'ite opposition in Najaf, led by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, another, equally significant development has taken place in the Shi'ite-dominated south of Iraq.
According to Asia Times Online contacts in the south, the Lebanese Shi'ite militia Hezbollah has deeply infiltrated Basra and surrounding areas, so much so that it virtually runs the province, with the help of Shi'ite militias, and is committed to establishing vilayat-e-faqih (rule by the religious clergy according to the Shi'ite faith).
Most of Iraq's eligible males received military training under the Ba'ath rule of Saddam Hussein, and now the Shi'ite militias have equipped them with arms and ammunition. According to the contacts, much of this activity is being bankrolled through "welfare funds" ostensibly given to mosques and shrines by Iranian intelligence. Also, Iranian Shi'ites are said to be flooding across the porous border in their thousands, including Iranian revolutionary guards, who have already established pockets, especially in Ammarah and Basra.
The former residence of the governor of Basra, situated in Mohallah (locality) Manawi Basha (popularly known as Corneesh) near the Sheraton Hotel is now being used by Iranian intelligence under the cover of the Sayyed al-Shohada political party. The party is like many Shi'ite militias and calls itself a branch of the al-Majlis al-Alla (Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq - SCIR) led by Ayatollah Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. However, the office bearers of the organization are not known to local Iraqis, and are generally believed to be Iranian.
However, it is often difficult to distinguish between Iranians and native Iraqis in southern Iraq as many Shi'ites, notably from the Dawa Party, the SCIR and members of Muqtada's Mehdi Army spent many years in exile in Iran during Saddam's rule.
The Iraqi Hezbollah now has its headquarters right in the middle of Basra, in the old police headquarters. The police have offices in a new building in front of the Shatul Arab waterway. The Iraqi Hezbollah has also established a powerful branch in Ammarah.
This combination of Shi'ite militias (reinforced with Iranians) and Iranian intelligence in Basra and Ammarah is taking place under the watchful eyes of the British, who are responsible for security in the south, but they are reluctant to precipitate a major clash, so have kept their distance.
Getting Muqtada off the battlefield and into the political process is only a part of the problem in Iraq. Still sidelined are many Arab nationalists (former Ba'ath Party members), tribal chiefs, former Iraqi army top brass, and last but not least many of the clergy and prayer leaders at mosques, whether Shi'ite or Sunni. These people formed the pillars of power under Saddam, now they have been excluded - the Ba'ath Party was banned, the army disbanded, etc.
Inevitably a power vacuum formed, into which stepped people like Muqtada and Sunni leaders in Fallujah. Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, who was himself a former Ba'athist and once a jail mate of Saddam in the 1960s, is acutely aware of this, and he is known to oppose the ban on the Ba'ath Party, which has been partly relaxed.
But whether he will have a free hand over his US backers in "rehabilitating" the former pillars of power is another matter. The alternative is anarchy in the form of militias. This is the dilemma the US now faces.
THREE MOSSAD AGENTS AMONG EIGHT KILLED IN IRAQ
TIKRIT: At least eight people were killed in continued violence across Iraq on Tuesday. An Iraqi insurgent group claimed that it had killed three "Mossad agents" in Iraq and holding another hostage along with a Turkish truck driver accused of working for US-led forces. The claim was included in a statement plastered on walls in Tikrit city and signed by the "Horror Brigades", a previously unknown division of the Secret Islamic Army, which is holding three Indians, three Kenyans and an Egyptian.
"A group from our brigade killed three infidel Zionist Mossad agents after kidnapping them and burning their car on Monday on the road between Tikrit and Mosul," the statement read. "We are still holding a fourth Zionist as evidence to condemn the United States of infidels and their dirty plot to destroy Islam and Iraq through Zionist methods," it said.
"The criminal (hostage) confessed that they came to Iraq after reaching a deal with the infidel occupiers in order to train US forces in guerrilla warfare, under the cover of working for a private security company," the statement said. "He also confirmed that, along with 100 others, he had interrogated detainees inside infidel US prisons, even women, in collaboration with US intelligence." The statement mentioned no ransom. "This is not the time for negotiation. He is on a journey to meet his death," it said.
The statement also said the group had abducted a Turkish truck driver in the area. "The criminal confessed that he had carried about 40 loads of ammunition to the US forces in Balad military base" south of Tikrit, it added. "Our brigade will implement the order of God."
Meanwhile, Moqtada al-Sadr's top aide said Sadr will field candidates in Iraq's first elections and campaign on a platform calling for the withdrawal of US forces after moving away from violent opposition to their presence.
"The full political programme will be unveiled soon. The Sadr movement has academic elements and experts who will be coming more to the forefront and support its role in a free, independent, democratic Iraq," Sadr's political aide Ali al-Yassiri told Reuters.
IRAN ARRESTS DOZENS OF 'SPIES' FOR PASSING NUCLEAR
The Iranian government announced yesterday that a number of spies linked to an armed opposition movement had been arrested for passing on nuclear secrets to foreign enemies.
The announcement came as the United Nations prepared to release a report later today on Iran's co-operation with weapons inspectors. Western diplomats said that the report is expected to be "fairly positive" and will not reveal a "smoking gun" in Iran's suspected nuclear weapons programme.
"It doesn't reveal any new kind of discovery. In fact, over the last three months, Iran has provided some pretty decent cooperation," said a diplomat familiar with the report.
The United States has been threatening to report Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions over its failure to fully come clean about its nuclear programme, but today's report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) seems unlikely to provide enough evidence for such a move. The IAEA governors are to discuss the report at a meeting beginning on 13 September.
The US President, George Bush, stressed yesterday that diplomacy remained the best option for dealing with Iran, which confirmed in July that it had resumed building nuclear centrifuges, which can enrich uranium to weapons grade.
It was unclear yesterday whether there was a connection between the timing of the announcement about the arrest of dozens of spies and the latest IAEA report. Iran denies that it is building a nuclear weapon and insists that its programme is purely for civilian needs.
The Iranian Intelligence Minister, Ali Yunesi, said that most of those arrested were linked to the People's Mujaheddin organisation, or Mujaheddin Khalq.
"The hypocrites [People's Mujaheddin] had the lead role and they have boasted before about spying against Iran in a press conference in America," he added. "We have identified and arrested dozens of spies on various grounds." He did not give any other details.
The People's Mujaheddin are known as "the hypocrites" because of their association with Iran's arch-enemy, Iraq. The group is listed as a terrorist organisation by the US and European Union. The group's political wing, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), was the first to publicly mention at press conferences that Iran had failed to declare nuclear sites in Iran, which were subsequently investigated by the IAEA and later declared by Tehran.
Economist, UK Aug 31st 2004
THE BATTLE FOR MORTGAGEVILLE
It will be a tight race dominated by the Iraq war, foreign-policy "arrogance" and the fate of a debt-laden economy. But there is at least one big difference between Australia's elections-called by John Howard, the prime minister, on Sunday August 29th-and America's: none of the parties vying for power down under is bothering itself much about getting out the vote. Australian law does that job for them by requiring every voter to cast his ballot on election day, October 9th.
Current opinion polls suggest their votes will be evenly split between Mr Howard's ruling, conservative coalition of the Liberal and National Parties, which is seeking a fourth consecutive term in power, and the resurgent Labor opposition, fronted by its newish leader, Mark Latham.
The last election, in November 2001, left the government with only a slender majority of seats, several of which could now change hands with the smallest of electoral swings against it. Mr Howard owed that majority, in large part, to his campaign against asylum-seekers, an issue he successfully conflated with the war on terrorism. In August 2001, the prime minister ordered armed troops to stop a Norwegian cargo ship, the Tampa, from landing with asylum-seekers it had rescued from the sea off Western Australia. After September 11th, Mr Howard's vow to defend Australia's borders against people he characterised as possible terrorists and probable queue-jumpers played well with the electorate. He also offered himself as a more than willing member of President George Bush's various military coalitions, sending troops both to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Neither stance resonates so well with the electorate today. About 850 Australian troops are still stationed in the Gulf. Mr Latham wants to withdraw the 350 or so still serving in Iraq by the end of the year. His qualms about Mr Howard having put Australia so closely alongside America have come to be widely shared. In a statement on August 8th, 43 of Australia's former defence and diplomatic chiefs argued that Mr Howard had sent the troops into Iraq under "false assumptions".
They also claimed that his "unquestioning support" for the Bush administration had raised Australia's profile as a terrorist target. One of the signatories accused Mr Howard of governing in an "arrogant" way.
Disquiet about Mr Howard's draconian stance on asylum is also spreading. In May, Australia's human-rights commission said the government's treatment of child refugees, incarcerated in desert detention centres, violated UN conventions. In July, under pressure from many of its own constituents, Mr Howard's government relaxed its immigration rules, allowing refugees on temporary protection visas to apply for permanent residency. This week, a Liberal MP, defending a marginal Adelaide seat, was forced to apologise for saying that refugees had to be detained in the same way that animals entering the country had to be quarantined.
In this campaign, Mr Howard has found another, more mundane fear to stoke: the spectre of rising mortgage rates. Between 1996, when Mr Howard came to power, and the end of last year, household debt has risen from 85% of disposable income to 140%. Housing credit has almost doubled in the past four years. One Australian household in six owns an investment property, speculating that house prices can only go up.
To these over-exposed households, Mr Howard has issued a stark warning: a Labor government would mean higher interest rates. That may come as news to Australia's central bank, the Reserve Bank of Australia, which operates independently of the government and has already raised interest rates twice since November of last year. But Mr Howard argues that a Labor government would fail to balance the budget, thereby putting upward pressure on the cost of capital.