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Mon

18

Jun

2007

The Battle of Gaza
Monday, 18 June 2007 09:38

by Mike Whitney

In less than 24 hours of fierce street-fighting, Bush’s proxy-army in Gaza was routed by armed units of Hamas. It was a stunning defeat for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and for US-Israeli policymakers who have done everything in their power to overturn the “free and fair” election of the Hamas government.


For now, Hamas has reestablished its authority in Gaza although Abbas is still working frantically with Bush and Olmert to consolidate his power in the West Bank. So far, Abbas has carried out the demands of his paymasters by replacing Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh with ex-World Bank official, Salam Fayyad — a Palestinian Karzai who will take his orders from Tel Aviv or Washington. Abbas does not have the constitutional authority to replace Prime Minister Haniyeh or to disband the Hamas-dominated government, but this point is typically overlooked in the western media.

The Bush administration has abandoned any pretense of neutrality and is openly supporting the ongoing violation of UN resolution 242. Bush helped to engineer the savage boycott which has withheld food, water, medical aid and financial resources from Palestinian civilians. He has also funneled millions of dollars and weapons to the Palestinian “Preventive Security Force” headed by US-ally Mohammad Dahlan. According to the UK Guardian, “Washington has launched a controversial $60 million program to bolster Mr Abbas's presidential guard and Israel has quietly allowed Arab states to send in arms and ammunition”. Dahlan’s militia was organized to challenge Hamas, but the plan failed spectacularly. As soon as the fighting broke out in Gaza, Dahlan’s men panicked and fled across the border to Egypt. Those who remained were disarmed, stripped and taken into custody by Hamas. One prominent Fatah gunman, Samih Madhoun, who had boasted of “executing several Hamas fighters and torching the homes of others”, was shot execution style.

The defeat in Gaza is just the latest of Washington’s debacles in the Middle East. US-Israeli failures in the territories are the result of a misguided policy which is backfiring everywhere. Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh summed up the present policy like this: "We're in the business of creating... sectarian violence."


Hersh is right. Bush and Olmert are using the familiar “divide and conquer” strategy to provoke “Arab on Arab” violence. The policy is an extension of Henry Kissinger’s dictum during the Iran-Iraq war: “I hope they all kill each other”. The goal is the same today as it was then.

Hersh says that the Bush administration supported the group of Sunni extremists, Fatah al-Islam, who are still battling the Lebanese Army in Nahr al-Bared refugee camp. He said that it is "a covert program we joined in with the Saudis as part of a bigger, broader program of doing everything we could to stop the spread of the Shiite world".

In Lebanon, as in Gaza Strip, the “divide and conquer” strategy has produced appalling results — forcing 30,000 poor Palestinians to flee their homes and search for shelter.

This week’s bombing of the minarets at the Golden Dome Mosque is another example of the Bush Doctrine at work. Bush and his generals assure us that Al Qaeda was responsible, but reports from the New York Times tell a different story.

Here’s an excerpt from an article by Graham Bowley “Minarets on Shiites Shrine in Iraq Destroyed in Attack” (NY Times) which gives us a good idea of what really happened in Samarra. Bowley says:

“Since the attack in 2006, the shrine had been under the protection of local — predominantly Sunni — guards. But American military and Iraqi security officials had recently become concerned that the local unit had been infiltrated by Al Qaeda forces in Iraq. A move by the Ministry of Interior in Baghdad over the last few days to bring in a new guard unit — predominantly Shiite — may have been linked to the attack today.”

No reference is made to the sudden and unexplained changing of the guards at the mosque in future accounts in the mainstream press. And, yet, that is the most important point. The minarets were blown up just days after the new guards took charge. They cordoned off the area, placed snipers on the surrounding rooftops, and then blew up the minarets in broad daylight.

The first explosion took place at 9:30 AM. Ten minutes later the second bomb was detonated.

Al Qaeda?

Not likely.

The Golden Dome mosque has been heavily guarded ever since it was blown up in 2006. The four main doors have been bolted shut and not a tile has been moved in over a year. The reason for this is that the Shiites consider it a “crime scene” which they intend to investigate more thoroughly when the violence subsides.

The Shiites never accepted the official US-version of events that “al Qaeda did it”. Many believe that US Special Forces were directly involved and that it was a planned demolition carried out by experts. There is considerable proof to support this theory including eye witness accounts from the scene of the crime as well as holes that were drilled in the floor of the mosque to maximize destruction. This was not a simple al Qaeda-type car-bombing but a technically-demanding demolition operation.

The damning information in the New York Times article has been corroborated in many other publications including an official statement from the Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq (AMSI). According to the AMSI, Prime Minister Nouri al Mailiki replaced the Sunnis who had been guarding the site for over a year with Shiite government forces from the Interior Ministry. Their statement reads:

“Security forces arrived yesterday afternoon from Baghdad Tuesday for the receipt of the task of protecting two tombs instead of the existing force there. Somehow they obtained a scuffle followed by gunfire lasted two hours over control of security forces coming from Baghdad."

So, the Sunni guards were replaced (after a scuffle) with goons from the Interior Ministry. The next day the minarets blow up.

Coincidence?

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki immediately issued statement where he claimed that the al Qaeda was responsible for the attack. At the same time, however, he arrested all 12 of the guards he sent from the Interior Ministry.

Why? Was he afraid they would talk to the media?

The Association of Muslim Scholars said that “last year’s explosion happened after a severe political crisis between blocs involved in the political process to the occupation. After the elections, the establishment of the government was blocked at that time. It is quite similar to the political crisis faced by the government and parliament today”.

The AMSI is right. The destruction of the Golden Dome Mosque took place soon after the Iraqi parliament rejected the US-plan for dividing Iraq. (“Federalism”) This time, the parliament has voted-down the US-plan to transfer control of Iraq’s vast petroleum reserves to the American oil giants via the “oil laws”.

The AMSI sees the bombing as a desperate attempt by the US occupation to break the logjam in Parliament over the oil laws and to conceal the failures of the “surge” by inciting sectarian violence. The only difference this time is that the Shiite militias have been less responsive to US manipulation. In fact, Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr has tried to stop his Mahdi Army from attacking Sunni areas and he has decried the bombing as another plot by US-Israeli intelligence agents operating in Iraq. He said that the incident reveals “the hidden hand of the occupier.”

He added, “This is what the occupiers brought to Iraq: a disintegration plot and fanning the flames of sectarian violence. Destroying the Askariya shrine goes exactly with the insurgents' beliefs.”

Among Shiites, there’s nearly unanimous agreement that the US was behind the bombing. Middle East expert Juan Cole reports on his blog-site “Informed Comment, that protests have broken out in India, Pakistan, the Caucasus, Bahrain, Iran and other locations where there are high concentrations of Shiites. The consensus view is that the minarets were blown up as part of a larger US-Israeli strategy for controlling the Middle East.

But why would the Bush administration want to unleash a fresh wave of sectarian violence when they can’t even establish security in Baghdad?

Here’s what the AMSI says:

“Sectarian violence is an effective means to enable the militias to fully impose their control on (Sunni) neighborhoods and cities as it did after the bombings of Samarra….The government is also trying to control the capital of Baghdad; seeking to extend its power over other cities that reject the occupation, especially the cities of Baquba and Samarra”.

This is what is gained by the bombings—further ethnic cleansing of the Sunni neighborhoods and greater control over the public through a campaign of terror. It’s all part of a broader neocon strategy that centers on “creative destruction” rather than the traditional US policy of “regional stability”.

Al Sadr’s comments (as well as those of the AMSI) show that fewer and fewer Iraqis are taken in by US counterinsurgency activities. In fact, US-Israeli aggression is now seen as the main source of violence in the region. This has turned Muslims around the world against the West. For these people, the victories by Hamas and Hezbollah must come as a welcome relief. They are small indication that the imperial grip is beginning to loosen and that, perhaps change will be achievable sometime in the “not so distant” future.

The perception of US invincibility has been shattered. America’s moral authority is in ruins. We are neither feared nor respected; that is the unfortunate legacy of Abu Ghraib and Falluja. But what is bad news for us may be good news for the people in the Middle East. It’s now possible to imagine a New Middle East where fundamental change is possible. As resistance continues to swell from a trickle to a stream — we can envision “regime change” sweeping through the region from Riyadh, to Amman to Cairo — an entirely new world shaking off its colonial past.

The forces that Bush has put in motion will inexorably lead to the decline of “superpower rule” and the dismantling of the US imperium. The transition is already visible. The battle of Gaza is just a macrocosm of a much larger phenomenon which now extends from Mogadishu to Kabul.

Change is coming, but it might not be to Bush’s liking. That’s the real lesson of what happened in Gaza
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