Western European News Digest
Senior German Social Dem Cites Hersh on Threat to Iran
Senior German Social Democrat Gernot Erler, who is chief foreign affairs spokesman of the Social Democrats, said that the problem with the U.S. position on Iran is that it is already preparing a military strike, carrying out covert operations in Iran and spying on targets for a potential attack. The report filed by Seymour Hersh in the Jan. 29 New Yorker has to be taken very seriously, and indeed, it has not been officially denied.
The other option, namely regime change in Iran, along the model of the recent change in Ukraine, also has to be taken very seriously, as Rice indicated with her naming Iran prominently as an "outpost of tyranny."
For a solution to the Iranian nuclear problem, it would be helpful if the U.S. officially joined the European team in the ongoing, grantedly difficult, talks with Tehran, this would also give more weight to the diplomatic effort, Erler said. One of the bigger, yet-unsolved problems is, he added, that Tehran wants sound guarantees concerning the Israeli nuclear potential, and the lifting of international economic sanctions.
'No Way' Blair Will Back Bush on Iran Attack
There is "no way Tony Blair could back George Bush in attacking Iran," said a senior British defense establishment source, in a discussion with EIR Jan. 26. The British Prime Minister "would be out immediately if he tried to do that," he said emphatically. This source has no illusions about any effective political opposition to Blair in Britain, and fears that, without any such attempted adventure on Blair's part, the Labour Party will likely win the upcoming national elections in May. There might be some kind of covert intelligence cooperation on Iran, but that would be maximum from the British side. If you look at what Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is saying, and even more the views of Blair's biggest rival, his Chancellor Gordon Brown, Blair "would absolutely not be able to support Bush on Iran," the source said.
Militarily, the U.S. could not invade Iran, to say nothing of Britain. The U.S. would have to "walk away" from its other military commitments in order to do anything against Iran, and it cannot afford to pull so many troops out of Germany, to say nothing of Korea, at this time. "The sheer logistics make it impossible," the source said.
"I think that there are far deeper reservations about trying something against Iran, within the U.S., than there were on Iraq," said the source, who knows the U.S. establishment very well. Even moves on sanctions and propaganda "are a high risk," he said. The U.S. would have "a hell of a ride" trying to get anti-Iran sanctions through the UN, he said. Sanctions would create a big destabilization of the oil markets, he said.
"I would not disregard the U.S. dropping a bomb on Iran's nuclear reactor," he said. This would be a U.S. operation: Israel would not participate, since it would backfire on Israel itself. "Cheney's remarks about restraining Israel, were total hypocrisy," the source said.
He then pointed to the Russian factor. Look at the deal on missiles just reached with Syria: "That will be setting feathers fluttering in Washington," he said. And, look at what Putin might do on Israel-Palestine relations. Russia is "in there, but sotto voce," he said. Putin may calculate soon, that he should put something into that situation, which would cause big concern in Washington," he said.
Blair: UK Is Preparing To Withdraw from Iraq
Confirming source reports received by EIR from military experts in Europe, Tony Blair said, in an interview to the Financial Times Jan. 26, that this is on the agenda. "Both ourselves and the Iraqis want us to leave as soon as possible. The question is what is 'as soon as possible'? And the answer to that is: when the Iraqi forces have the capability to do the job."
Blair said that, as soon as the elections have taken place, "we have got to sit down with the new government and look at how we manage the transition." He acknowledged that both the U.S. and UK were "looking with the Iraqis now at what are the timelines for the 'Iraqi-isation' [of the security forces] to be achieved." Without going into details, he did say deployment would shift. "There are areas where we would be able to hand over to those Iraqi forces. Remember, 14 out of the 18 provinces in Iraq are relatively peaceful and stable."
Blair was miffed at the idea that the U.S. and UK are occupying forces. "People still refer to this as an occupation by U.S. forces," he said. He explained that the forces are there by permission of the interim government, which, in turn, is authorized by the UN.
On the insurgency, Blair repeated that it is not the whole Sunni population, but admits there are former Ba'athists and others involved.
As for Bush's policy, he said he was sure that Bush would seek a peaceful solution to the Iranian crisis, though, when asked if, theoretically, Iran might be stopped only by force, he answered, "Yes." He said he thought Bush would seek a peace between the Palestinians and Israel, too.
Blair Hires DLC Neo-Con To Win Conservative Votes
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has hired Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) neo-con Mark Penn to help him win Conservative votes. Penn, one of the triangulation gurus (with dirty Dick Morris) who misadvised Bill Clinton on pandering to the right wing, has been visiting Blair monthly since the autumn, according to the Telegraph Jan. 23, which reports that the meetings have been kept secret from most of the Cabinet. The Telegraph writes that its revelation will upset many Labour activists, who oppose the plan by Blair and his top election adviser Alan Milburn to make the campaign "unremittingly New Labour."
Penn's firm, Penn, Schoen & Berland, the Telegraph notes, represents such firms as American Express, BP, Coke, and several leading casino hotels. Labour MP Alan Simpson said: "My impression is that this kid from the casinos will turn out to be an expensive mistake."
UK Announces Change in Handling of Terror Suspects
British Home Secretary Charles Clarke announced Jan. 26 that terrorist suspects would be put under various restrictions, rather than being held indefinitely in prison, as is the case now, under the emergency "anti-terror" laws passed after Sept. 11. In late December, in a big political upset, a panel of Law LordsBritain's highest legal bodyruled that the detention in prison without trial of 12 foreign nationals in Britain, was illegal, and threw out the severest anti-terror measures.
Clarke's proposals are clearly an effort to blunt the effect of the Law Lords' ruling, by allowing house arrest for terrorist suspects. Also, in a controversial move, the Home Secretary, and not the courts, will be able to impose the new control measures.
Clarke said that terrorism suspects, both British nationals and foreigners, could be put under a series of restrictions, from limits on internet communication, curfews, electronic tagging, to house arrest. The new measures take account of the "more significant role" British nationals were playing in the terror threat, Clarke said.
Otherwise, foreign terror suspects will be deported, on grounds that they would not face torture or the death penalty if they were deported to their own nations, Clarke said. The nine foreign nationals still being detained in British prisons will not be released until legislation is passed for Clarke's proposals.
Meanwhile, the last four Britons who have been held in Guantanamo prison for three years, were returned to Britain Jan. 26. Their lawyers charge that they had been subjected to torture and require urgent medical treatment.
Blair Disputes Bank of England Over Housing Bubble
British Prime Minister Tony Blair claimed Jan. 24 that house prices are going to continue to rise, but Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee member Kate Barker warned of falling prices. Blair is launching an "affordable housing" scheme, a big election ploy.
Public-sector land is to be used to build "cheap" homesjust 60,000 pounds ($113,000)for some workers and first-time buyers. Teachers, nurses, and others, and first-time buyers can no longer afford homes in Britain. The government would continue to own the land on which the houses are built. Blair said that the plan is to ensure that "as housing prices rise, which they will do, they don't rise at a level that is so great that people feel that they're simply losing the chance to get into the market".
The whole New Labour economic "stability" is based on the huge housing price bubble in Britain.
Barker, however, in a speech to the Institute of Economic Affairs, said that house prices would likely continue to fall: "The likelihood of some decline in house prices, at least relative to earnings, seems now to be much greater than that of a significant increase."
Barker also warned that the fall of the dollar could be more of a risk to the economy than house prices: "The housing market is far from the dominant issue. It is perhaps not even the most important asset price, in the light of the significant decline in the dollar rate in the fourth quarter of last year."
Netherlands Legalizes Murder of Disabled Newborns
Officially, the debate is still going on among Dutch physicians and politicians, but so far, euthanasia is legalized only for adults. Several weeks ago, directors of the eight university clinics in the country published an open letter calling for euthanasia also against severely disabled newborns.
That is no longer a debate: The Dutch medical journal, Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde, just published an article reporting that 22 newborn children with spina bifida, a severe malfunction of the spinal bone marrow, have been killed, since 1997, already.