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Eric Margolis: End near in Babylon

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    End is near in Babylon BY Eric S. Margolis http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article15804.htm 12/04/06 Toronto Sun -- - FRENCH President Jacques
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 5, 2006
      End is near in Babylon
      BY Eric S. Margolis

      12/04/06 "Toronto Sun" -- - FRENCH President Jacques Chirac's warnings
      in 2003 that a US invasion of Iraq would set the Mideast on fire,
      encouraging terrorism and producing a disaster have been tragically
      borne out by events. Iraq is falling ever deeper into chaos and
      sectarian conflict. Lebanon teeters on the brink of civil war. The
      agonies of Palestine — now the world's largest outdoor prison —
      continue without relent. Iran's power and influence are surging.

      For the latter, thank Washington, which overthrew two of Iran's
      bitterest enemies, Taliban and Saddam Hussein, then stuck US ground
      forces in the $250 million per day Iraq quagmire.

      As Iraq turns into a nightmare of carnage and hate, President Bush and
      mentor Dick Cheney rushed to the Mideast last week to urge their local
      allies to pull America's bacon out of the fire.

      But Iraq's prime minister, Nuri Al Maliki, governs only over Baghdad's
      US-protected Green Zone. The US controls what passes for Iraq's police
      and armed forces. Maliki has no army of his own; his Shia supporters
      are divided and feuding. How can Bush expect a powerless prime
      minister to do what the mighty US cannot?

      At least, Maliki had the pluck to make a symbolic protest by refusing
      to meet with Bush for dinner in Amman after humiliating reports leaked
      in Washington the US intended to dump him. So much for Iraq
      `democracy.' Washington may be headed towards installing a ruthless
      Saddam clone, either a former CIA `asset' or some iron-fisted general.

      What western reporters term the Iraqi Army is really a collection of
      Shia militias, death squads and mercenaries, many former convicts. The
      US occupation's extensive use of Shia death squads to fight the Sunni
      resistance has played a key role in igniting Iraq's current sectarian
      bloodbath. This little-known story is a major scandal.

      Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and Jordan warn they may send troops into Iraq
      to protect its Sunni minority from ethnic cleansing by the Shia
      majority. Such a move could provoke the powerful Turkish Army to
      invade independence-seeking Kurdish regions of northern Iraq. Iran
      would be quickly drawn into the melee.

      Iraq's neighbours deeply fear its chaos will spread across their
      borders, with dangerous, unpredictable consequences for all concerned.

      The long-awaited Iraq Study Group's report comes out this week. It is
      expected to call for a phased withdrawal of US combat troops from
      Iraq, and retention of some `intervention units' in neighbouring
      countries. France ruled its West African empire for a half a century
      this way: installing compliant rulers kept in power by strategically
      located French Foreign Legion and Air Force units ready to swiftly
      intervene at signs of unrest.

      The Iraq Study Group will also likely suggest direct talks with
      so-called `axis of evil' members, Iran and Syria. Their cooperation is
      essential to stabilizing Iraq as well as for producing a viable
      solution to the Palestinian tragedy.

      But a furious, behind-the-scenes battle is raging in Washington
      between advocates of diplomatic engagement with Damascus and Teheran,
      and the powerful Israel lobby, which has successfully blocked for
      decades all attempts to open such badly needed dialogue or press
      Israel over Palestinian rights. Israel and its American supporters are
      pushing hard for US attacks on Iran's nuclear infrastructure.

      Israel also wants to avoid being drawn into any talks with Syria that
      will inevitably raise the issue of the Golan Heights, which Israel
      occupied and ethnically cleansed of its Arab and Druze population in
      1967. A comprehensive Mideast settlement will inevitably involve
      Golan, which Syria desperately wants back and that Israel is
      determined not to relinquish. Damascus won't permit an
      Israeli-Palestinian peace deal until Golan is returned.

      If Washington announces `phased withdrawals' of US forces from Iraq,
      already shaky morale of American troops there will plummet. Who wants
      to risk life or limb for a withdrawal?

      This is exactly what I saw happen to US forces in Vietnam after
      President Lyndon Johnson announced military victory was no longer his
      goal. No GI wanted to be the last soldier killed in a lost war started
      by bungling politicians.

      Once Washington utters the dreaded `W' word — withdrawal' — Iraqis
      working for the US occupation will flee to the Sunni or Shia
      opposition. Iran's influence in Iraq will soar. America's Arab allies
      will be left facing severe external and internal dangers. But
      President Bush keeps insisting `no retreat.' He still seems unable to
      see the writing on the wall in Babylon.

      Eric S. Margolis is a veteran American journalist and contributing
      foreign editor of The Toronto Sun



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