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Commentary Last Updated: Mar 1st, 2007 - 00:43:10

Middle East is plagued by covert operations
By Linda S. Heard
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Mar 1, 2007, 00:41

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Iraqis have long suspected the finger of the occupying forces has stirred the pot of sectarian violence with the ultimate aim of splitting their country into three separate provinces.

Suspicions were particularly heightened in 2005 when British military agents in Arab garb were caught at a checkpoint with explosives in their booby-trapped vehicle, which, according to a member of the Iraqi National Assembly Fattah El-Sheikh, was destined to explode in a marketplace.

We can never know the truth of this claim since following the agents� arrest and detention, the British Army used tanks to topple the walls of the jail and extricate their men before they could be interrogated.

Now Iran is making similar claims. According to an article in the Sunday Telegraph, titled �US funds terror groups to sow chaos in Iran,� the CIA is supplying cash and weapons to �militant ethnic separatist groups in Iran� thought responsible for the recent bomb attacks in the Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchistan.

The veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh continues this theme in an explosive article, �The Redirection: Is the Administration�s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?� published in the March 5 issue of the New Yorker magazine. He asserts the US has taken part in clandestine operations targeting Iran and its ally Syria and is bypassing Congress to fund Lebanese jihadist groups �with ideological ties to Al-Qaeda� as a buffer to Hezbollah.

He quotes a US government consultant and former senior intelligence official as saying: �In this process, we�re financing a lot of bad guys with some serious potential unintended consequences. We don�t have the ability to determine and get pay vouchers signed by the people we like and avoid the people we don�t like. It�s a very high risk venture.�

Hersh says the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, believes the Bush administration is working with Israel to deliberately instigate �insurrection and fragmentation within Islam.�

It�s the same story within the Palestinian territories when prior to the Saudi-brokered plan for a Palestinian unity government, the US upped the ante by supplying Fatah with weapons with which to fight Hamas.

Thankfully Palestinian leaders had the sense to step back from the brink of civil war, refusing to play into the hands of the US and Israel, which do not want a unified Palestinian entity. They would be morally obliged to negotiate a Palestinian state with such an entity.

The US is also thought to have been behind the successful Ethiopian attempt to oust the Islamic Courts fighters from the Somali capital in December and was accused by the Arab League of killing many innocent civilians by launching airstrikes on southern Somalia under the pretext of targeting �Al-Qaeda� leaders.

Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, formerly national intelligence director, was the US envoy to Honduras during 1981-85 and together with Elliott Abrams, Oliver North, Michael Ledeen and John Poindexter was implicated in the illegal war against the government of Nicaragua by Contra rebels based in Honduras.

Elliot Abrams was pardoned and is today a special assistant to President George W. Bush and senior director for Near East and North African Affairs. Oliver North is a regular commentator on the pro-Bush Fox News channel.

John Poindexter briefly headed the Bush administration�s DARPA Information Awareness Office. Michael Ledeen is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, involved in crafting the administration�s policies.

Who said that crime doesn�t pay?

The depths to which successive US governments will stoop for their own ends is illustrated perfectly by the Iran-Contra affair, which involved members of the Reagan administration who sold weapons to the Khomeini regime and used the profits to fund guerrillas opposed to Nicaragua�s leftist Sandinista leadership.

In 1988, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, headed by Sen. John Kerry, found that members of the Reagan State Department, who supported the anti-Sandinista Contras, paid drug traffickers with funds earmarked by Congress for humanitarian assistance. Reagan and Vice President George H.W. Bush were later to disavow any knowledge of the scandal.

CIA involvement in the overthrow of the democratically-elected Chilean government of Salvador Allende in the early 1970s and in the ousting of the democratically-elected Iranian Premier Mohammad Mosaddeq in the 1950s are just two examples among many of America�s ruthlessness.

Both Allende and Mosaddeq were replaced with repressive and cruel dictators, but as long as they are considered �our dictators� that�s okay.

In light of America�s less than attractive history of covert interference in other nations� business, I never cease to wonder how some people still consider Washington a global force for good.

Following the 1991 Gulf War, President George H.W. Bush told Iraqi Shiites and Kurds to rise up against Saddam and then abandoned them to their fate. More recently, his son promised Iraqis democracy and freedom only to deliver fear and bloodshed.

And due to US and British pressure, the Iraqi government has signed off on a new hydrocarbon law that, if approved by parliament, will hand over Iraq�s oil reserves to foreign oil giants for 35 years or more.

Isn�t it about time that the leaders of this region took note of history and wised up? How long will they go on allowing foreign powers to set nation against nation, ethnicity against ethnicity and sect against sect so they can steal their assets and further their own global hegemony?

Instead of division there must be healing. Instead of petty squabbles there must be unity.

Instead of mutual suspicion the groundwork for trust must be laid.

Unless this region comes together, speaks with one voice and breaks the pattern as the Palestinians have just managed to do, it is likely to end up broken up into feuding territories hanging on to Uncle Sam�s coattails and vulnerable to his mood swings forevermore.

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at

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