Middle East: Sharon’s Deadly Assassination Squads

ARIEL SHARON appears to be biting the hand that feeds him. The assassination of another leading Hamas activist by an Israeli hit squad has further undermined George Bush’s efforts to put a lid on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict through its ‘road map’ peace initiative.

This apparent wrecking strategy of Sharon comes only weeks after the US Congress approved a massive $9 billion loans package to bolster Israel’s faltering economy.

US secretary of state Colin Powell, attending the World Economic Summit in neighbouring Jordan, barely concealed his anger at the Israeli government’s action. He said the murder of Abdullah Qawasmeh in Hebron was a “matter of concern” that “could be an impediment to progress”. However, Sharon had no regrets, saying the assassination was “a vital action designed to provide security for Israel’s citizens”.

In fact, such actions will guarantee a retaliatory strike against Israeli citizens by Hamas, which has spurned attempts by Egypt and the US-approved Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Abbas to secure a ceasefire from the various Palestinian militias.

Another indication of Sharon’s insincerity is his attitude to the ‘illegal’ Jewish settlements in the West Bank. These settlements on Palestinian territory have flourished since Sharon became PM in 2001, despite some token dismantling in recent days of some ‘hilltop settlements’. Sharon reportedly said last week that the settlers should continue to build, albeit more discreetly.

So it’s hardly surprising that most Palestinians are rightly cynical of the road map achieving anything positive, let alone a “viable Palestinian state”. What they see is only a continuation of the occupation, oppression and impoverishment as the Israeli government’s response to the Intifada.

Many Israelis also remain sceptical of peace under Sharon’s leadership. An Israeli newspaper opinion poll found that 40% of Israelis believe that the recent assassination attempt of Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi was a deliberate act to wreck the road map – 67% want these assassinations to stop to enable peace talks.

Not that the road map, with its lack of concrete measures to resolve such issues as the right of return of Palestinian refugees, the status of Jerusalem, the financing of a ‘viable Palestinian state’ etc. offers a way forward for the working classes of the region.

George Bush’s plan is designed to bolster pro-US Arab regimes whose populations are incandescent at the US invasion of Iraq and the continuing national oppression of the Palestinians.

The only viable solution to the wars, national conflicts, grinding poverty and extremes of inequality of the Middle East is the transformation of the region through the building of mass revolutionary socialist movements.

People’s Mojahedin – victims of imperialist rivalry

TWELVE MEMBERS of the exiled Iranian People’s Mojahedin (MKO) have set themselves alight in a number of European capitals, including London, in protest at the arrest and detention of 160 MKO members in France.

The French authorities are to investigate 17 MKO members for “conspiring with a terrorist organisation”. Eleven are being held in custody including MKO leader Maryam Rajavi.

The MKO is the political wing of the Mojahedin Khalq guerrillas who oppose the Iranian regime. The People’s Mojahedin, a curious blend of Islam and ‘Marxism’, was a prominent force on the left during the early days of the 1978-79 Iranian revolution before being banished under Ayatollah Khomeini’s regime (see the socialist 14 June).

Its 10,000-strong militia has military bases inside Iraq and had enjoyed the patronage of Saddam Hussein. These bases were bombed by US forces during operation ‘shock and awe’. The guerrillas have subsequently agreed to disarm since the US occupation of Iraq.

The MKO has found itself the victim of inter-imperialist rivalry between the EU, principally the French government and the US. The US has targeted Iran as part of an “axis of evil” that aids and abets terrorism and that is pursuing a nuclear weapons programme. It has opportunistically encouraged regime change during the recent student-led protests against Iran’s clerical leaders.

However, the French government is pursuing its own imperialist policy to cultivate its capitalist interests in the Arab and Muslim countries of the Middle East. This includes maintaining friendly trade and diplomatic relations with Tehran, hence the arrests of the MKO members at its Paris compound.

Anti-war MP demands an apology

REBEL ANTI-war Labour MP George Galloway has demanded a government inquiry after documents alleging that he took more than $10 million from Saddam Hussein were shown up as forgeries. Galloway calls for Tony Blair, “as head of the co-occupying power in Iraq, to investigate how this conspiracy came about.”

One of the papers that repeated the allegations, the Christian Science Monitor, has apologised but George Galloway may take action against other papers such as the Sun as well as against the Daily Telegraph which printed other accusations.

Galloway was one of the most prominent Labour MPs who opposed the war in Iraq and was suspended from the Labour Party for his pains. The press and New Labour are conducting a political witch-hunt saying that Galloway was in Saddam’s pay.

New Labour is now an openly capitalist party. Blair and his rapidly shrinking entourage cling to the coat-tails of George W Bush through whatever spectacular lies and excuses on the war he comes up with.

Blairites hope that this witch-hunt stops Galloway winning the nomination for the seat at Glasgow Central, which comes up this autumn.