Below the fold
Three very interesting reports from the Middle East. The first, from the Jerusalem Post describes an Israeli proposal to swap Jonathan Pollard for .... Marwan Barghouti.
Officials in Jerusalem claimed on Saturday that the US would free imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard in exchange for Israel releasing jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti.
According to Army Radio, Israel is set to offer the proposed prisoner swap deal in the next few months, following the unfolding anarchy in the Palestinian Authority. Seemingly, Israel intends to use Barghouti's release to strengthen the Fatah movement against the background of the much criticized rule of the new Hamas-led Palestinian government.
The second report is even more interesting, and also from the Jersualem Post.
Sources close to Jonathan Pollard - the Israeli agent imprisoned in the United States - warned on Friday that if Gil Pensioners' Party Chairman Rafi Eitan would be appointed a minister in Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government, Pollard would release classified information that could be harmful to Israel.
They claimed that the information would be detrimental to every former Israeli prime minister, including senior Kadima MK Shimon Peres, Channel 2 reported. Pollard is serving a life sentence after being charged with selling American state secrets to Israel. His operator was Rafi Eitan who served in the Mossad at the time.
The third is from the Times of London.
April 16, 2006 -- US plots ‘new liberation of Baghdad’
THE American military is planning a “second liberation of Baghdad” to be carried out with the Iraqi army when a new government is installed. Pacifying the lawless capital is regarded as essential to establishing the authority of the incoming government and preparing for a significant withdrawal of American troops.
Strategic and tactical plans are being laid by US commanders in Iraq and at the US army base in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, under Lieutenant- General David Petraeus. He is regarded as an innovative officer and was formerly responsible for training Iraqi troops. The battle for Baghdad is expected to entail a “carrot-and-stick” approach, offering the beleaguered population protection from sectarian violence in exchange for rooting out insurgent groups and Al-Qaeda.
There are many more details in the Times story. Those who have been following the pattern of US casualties will have noted that a whole bunch of extra casualties are coming in from MND-Baghdad. Of the 40 combat deaths this month, 12 involve Multinational Division, Baghdad. The mention of a possible "Battle of Baghdad" will not surprise those following recent posts on the Belmont Club.
The idea of swapping Pollard for Barghouti being bruited in Israeli circles will ring every conspiracy bell in the Middle East. Just what does Pollard have over Olmert's government? If he had something all along why could he not blackmail Olmert's predecessor in Kadima, Ariel Sharon? Why have his cards become so much more powerful? And why should Barghouti be so valuable to the US that it would reverse the policy of keeping Pollard in jail to secure his release?
There are lots of missing pieces in both these stories. End of history? It's only just begun.