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[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ] Greetings from Sheffield This posting contains two articles. One gives some information on the condition of Afghanistan's people following America's capture of Kabul. The other assesses the second battle of the war launched by GW Bush following September 11, the one to come... but the coming war will have two battlefronts: Iraq and Palestine. It will determine the fate not just of Baghdad but also of Jerusalem. ***************************************************************** Contents U.S., Israel set stage for two-front Mideast war (from #36 of the US weekly The Militant www.themilitant.com) UN cuts rations in hungry Afghanistan (from Reuters, August 8th) ***************************************************************** U.S., Israel set stage for two-front Mideast war (front page) BY PATRICK O'NEILL AND JACK WILLEY As Washington prepares a new war aimed at overthrowing the government of Iraq and capturing control of major oil reserves in the Middle East, the Israeli government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is setting the stage for a major new assault on the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip under cover of the planned U.S. ground invasion. During the U.S.-led war against Iraq in 1990-91, Washington forced Tel Aviv to the sidelines, refusing to give the Israeli air force the friend-or-foe codes necessary to put warplanes in the air over Iraq. And it made the Israeli rulers accept near-daily bombardment by Iraqi scud missiles without direct air retaliation. The new confrontation is shaping up differently. There is no reason to believe that with the evolution of the fighting Washington will oppose an Israeli military response if threatened by Iraq or another country. The U.S. war will provide the colonial settler state the opportunity to escalate its drive against the Palestinians, even pursuing the long-held goal of pushing them into Jordan. A victory in such a two-front war by the U.S. imperialists and their junior partners in Israel would create a new axis of power in the region. Working people in the Middle East would face the pincers of a U.S. protectorate in Baghdad and the military garrison state of Israel. By seeking to conquer Iraq, Washington hopes to strengthen its domination of Kuwait and its oil reserves, and put the rulers of Saudi Arabia on notice that their days are short if they don't do the bidding of U.S. imperialism. Such a scenario sends shudders down the spines of the superwealthy rulers of France, Germany, Japan, and other major powers whose world position would decline in relation to their rivals in the United States. Expulsion of entire populations is the time-honored answer of the Israeli rulers to the Palestinian fight for self-determination. The new push being readied involves driving Palestinians into neighboring Jordan, the country frequently named by Sharon as his choice for a future "Palestinian state." Sharon has cast the escalating assaults on the Palestinians as parallel to Washington's "war on terror," while Washington has increasingly given political support to Tel Aviv's repression, in addition to providing ongoing military and economic backing to the colonial settler state. On August 12 Sharon openly aligned his government with U.S. preparations to strike at Baghdad, saying, in the words of the Jerusalem Post summary, that "Iraq now poses the biggest threat to the country.... Coordination with the U.S. is at the highest level ever, and the government should certainly not express opposition to an attack." Chicago Sun-Times columnist Robert Novak, a right-wing critic of the pro-Tel Aviv policy of the White House, reported that Sharon told a closed-door hearing of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee that "U.S. military action against Iraq, instead of exacerbating the Palestinian problem, would end it." "We need many more Jews to come to Israel, a million more Jews," said Sharon, according to Novak. Immigration to Israel fell by 27 percent in the first half of 2002. Writing in the April 24 Daily Telegraph of London, Israeli historian Martin van Creveld laid out the means of ending the Palestinian "problem" that Sharon has long supported--the "transfer" of perhaps 2 million Palestinians into Jordan. "Mr. Sharon would have to wait for a suitable opportunity--such as an American offensive against Iraq," he wrote. The prime minister "himself told Colin Powell, the [U.S.] secretary of state, that America should not allow the situation in Israel to delay the operation" against Iraq. "Should such circumstances arise," he continued, "then Israel would mobilize with lightning speed," using its submarines, armored land units, and air force to counter any possible threat of intervention by Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon--Israel's immediate neighbors. Van Creveld wrote that the "expulsion of the Palestinians would require only a few brigades. They would not drag people out of their houses but use heavy artillery to drive them out.... Israeli military experts estimate that such a war could be over in just eight days. If the Arab states do not intervene, it will end with the Palestinians expelled and Jordan in ruins." If Sharon "decides to go ahead" with this bloody scenario, wrote van Creveld, who opposes such a course, "the only country that can stop him is the United States.... I would not count on it." Commenting on the political climate in Washington, a Middle Eastern diplomat told the New York Times , as reported on August 9, that in the White House "there are those who think the U.S. should not touch Sharon and if the Palestinians want their own state, they should move to Jordan." Impasse in Israeli policy The expulsion of the Palestinian population from their land, a course of action that has won the long-standing public backing of a wing of the Israeli ruling class, is posed by the impasse of Israeli policy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In spite of the escalation of their military attacks, the Israeli armed forces have not been able to stifle the Palestinian resistance or their struggle for self-determination and a homeland. Having shoved aside the Palestinian Authority and established control of the West Bank through military occupation, the Israeli rulers are now confronted by the devastation their actions have wrought. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society stated on August 5 that in the West Bank city of Nablus "electrical and water systems have sustained heavy damage in much of the old city" during the current Israeli offensive. "Sewage water now covers many of the city streets. A serious health crisis is developing as garbage collection has been hampered. Testifying before a Knesset committee on August 7, Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad, the armed forces' Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, sought to play down the reports of a 20 percent level of malnutrition among Palestinian children. "Hunger is when people have swollen bellies and fall over dead," he said. "There is no hunger now." Sharon's "solution is to call for huge influxes of relief aid, to keep the Palestinians alive while his tanks remain in their cities, and all movement and trading remain banned," reported the August 10 Economist. Big-business commentators have noted that such an occupation is neither economically nor politically sustainable. Israeli capitalists who count on hundreds of thousands of Palestinians for cheap labor have been hit hard by the closure of the West Bank and restrictions on movement from Gaza. Tel Aviv has so far been unable to make up for the shortfall by bringing in workers from Asia and elsewhere. The construction by the Israeli government of the 225-mile "separation fence" between the West Bank from Israel is crawling along at less than a snail's pace. In three months only 120 feet of the structure has been built. From the start, the plan for the fence drew many critics, including leaders of the settlements that honeycomb the West Bank. Opponents also complain that the fence draws a de facto border around Israel, giving legitimacy to Palestinian claims for sovereignty over the West Bank. Reflecting the frustration among the Israeli rulers over their failure to stifle the resistance, a member of the Knesset or parliament, told the body's Security and Foreign Affairs Committee on August 12 that the Israeli air force should bomb heavily populated Palestinian areas from the air, after delivering a warning to civilians. War preparations against Iraq On August 9, officials from the Bush administration met with representatives of exile groups and other parties that oppose the government of Saddam Hussein. The State Department admitted that the groups can claim little support inside Iraq and that it is "premature to talk of a government in exile." The meeting came eight days after congressional hearings that garnered bipartisan support for war. Following an invitation from the Iraqi parliament to U.S. politicians to visit the country and carry out their own inspections, U.S. vice president Richard Cheney sought to puncture any pretense that Washington will negotiate with Baghdad. Inspections "would be an effort by him [Hussein] to obfuscate, delay and avoid having to live up to the accords that he signed up to at the end of the Gulf War," Cheney said. Among the scenarios "leaked" by administration and military officials is the "inside out" plan, that would involve the use of troops and massive bombardments to conquer Baghdad block-by-block. One former military official noted that such an approach would involve heavy "collateral damage"--a euphemism for civilian casualties. Aim is to install a protectorate regime The next day, Bush told reporters that he had "no imminent war plan" or timetable. He added, reported the New York Times, "that Iraq was 'an enemy until proven otherwise' because of its programs to develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and the missiles that might carry them." "Wouldn't it be a wonderful thing if Iraq were similar to Afghanistan, if a bad regime was thrown out.... I mean, it would be fabulous," said Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The economic stakes behind the U.S. rulers' drive to replace the government of Saddam Hussein with a compliant regime--effectively a protectorate as is being constructed in Afghanistan--are seen in the oil reserves in Iraq and its neighbors. At more than 112 billion barrels, the country has the world's second largest proven reserves of oil. Only Saudi Arabia sits atop more, with one-quarter of the global quantity. Adjacent Kuwait, already ruled by a government that is heavily dependent on Washington's backing, boasts 96 billion barrels, or 9 percent of global reserves. Around 8,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Kuwait, a country of 2 million people. The position of Saudi Arabia, a traditional ally of Washington, came into the limelight in early July when the conservative Rand Corporation, a group of former senior government officials, delivered a report to the Pentagon claiming that "Saudi Arabia supports our enemies and attacks our allies." The briefing recommended that Washington warn the Saudi king to stop his government's alleged backing of "terrorist" groups, or face seizure of the country's oil fields and financial assets. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said the briefing did not represent the "dominant opinion" and assured the Saudi government of Washington's support. Discussing the document's approach, one administration official said, "The road to the entire Middle East goes through Baghdad. Once you have a democratic regime in Iraq...there are a lot of possibilities." Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said in early August that the U.S. military "will not be allowed to use the kingdom's soil in any way for an attack on Iraq." One week later the Wall Street Journal noted a "softening of the Saudi position" on joining a U.S. offensive. Prince Saud said that Saudi Arabia will back the assault if it sees "an imminent threat." Washington has reportedly moved military gear from Saudi Arabia to a base in Qatar in recent months. The Saudi regime was a major supporter of Washington's 1990-91 assault on Iraq, and since then has allowed U.S. planes to take off from its territory in constant patrols of the imperialist-declared "no-fly zones" and frequent attacks on Iraqi targets. ***************************************************************** UN cuts rations in hungry Afghanistan By Reuters, August 18 2002 The U.N.'s World Food Programme is being forced to cut rations for millions of hungry and vulnerable Afghans because international donors have failed to stump up promised cash, according to officials. Just seven months after Western nations pledged billions of dollars in aid to help rebuild Afghanistan, money is already running out for the most basic requirement -- feeding people who continue to live on the borderline of survival. "The level of resources we are going to get will not be enough," Guy Gauvreau, the WFP's representative for northern Afghanistan, said on Sunday. "We're extremely worried about it. It's understandable -- there's a drought in southern Africa -- but we cannot forget Afghanistan," he said. Some six million Afghans still need food aid over the next year, according to U.N. figures. The WFP has appealed for $285 million (179 million pounds) this year but is still short of more than $90 million -- or 200,000 tonnes of food -- and the lack of cash is beginning to hurt. Afghanistan is only slowly getting back on its feet after 23 years of war and the worst drought in living memory. The south remains bone dry for a fourth year, and while there has been decent rainfall in the north, many people are still struggling. UNPRECEDENTED DESTITUTION Shortages of seeds or oxen combined with locust infestations and a lack of security in many areas all limited the harvest, which Gauvreau says was "good, but not enough to feed people". Afghanistan already has one of the highest levels of infant and maternal mortality in the world and life expectancy is among the lowest. The drought has brought people to a unprecedented levels of destitution, aid workers say. More than half the country's livestock has been lost in the last four years, with massive deaths and distress selling last year. Rebuilding of herds is only happening slowly this year. "People have sold livestock, mortgaged their land, some have gone into debt, even sold the beams of their houses," said Andrew Pinney of Irish aid agency GOAL. "And they have sold in a terrible market, that's how desperate they have become." Pinney says some parents in the north have even been forced to sell their daughters as child brides, girls as young as eight fetching between $150 and $800. "The practice seems to have stopped in the last six months as food aid has produced some sort of buffer," Pinney said, adding continued support was essential to help communities recover. But support is running out. Only a fraction of the $4.5 billion in aid pledged to Afghanistan in January has so far come through. Donors have cited security concerns and Afghanistan's still limited capacity to absorb aid, but critics blame bureaucracy and many Afghans feel the outside world has simply failed to live up to its promises. RATIONS CUT AS BRUSSELS, WASHINGTON SQUABBLE Humanitarian sources say Washington, which has so far provided the lion's share of WFP's funding for Afghanistan this year, is demanding Brussels meet more of the shortfall. As the two capitals squabble over who should pay the bill, Gauvreau is being forced to cut back on aid for vulnerable Afghans in the north. Former refugees returning from abroad used to receive a one-time handout from WFP of 250 kg (550 pounds) of wheat to help them get back on their feet. That ration has been cut this month to just 100 kg (220 pounds), and Gauvreau says he fears a further cut to 50 kg (110 pounds) within two weeks if aid does not arrive fast. Crucial food-for-work programmes -- where communities receive aid in return for digging wells or canals or improving their land -- also face the axe throughout the north. Gauvreau needs to find 18,000 tonnes of wheat from somewhere to truck into the mountains before the roads close around the end of October, to help two million people get through the harsh winter. "What we are afraid of is that if the winterisation plan does not have enough resources to implement, there's going to be a major nutritional crisis in the mountain areas," he said. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk