|Southwest Asia News Digest
EIR InDepth This Week Features Iran and Palestinian National Authority
While talks between the European Union and Iran continue over the Iranian nuclear energy program, the Dick Cheney war faction targets Iran for internal destabilization, profiled in this week's article, "Neo-Cons Throw New Provocations at Iran." For a first-hand background report on "Palestinian Social and Political Expectations," EIR Online presents excerpts from a speech by Palestinian activist and parliamentarian Dr. Hanan Ashrawi in Washington.
Iraqi Electricity Grid Operating Below Pre-war Levels
The Iraqi electricity grid only produced about 4,400 megawatts before the war, while demand ranged from 3,000 MW to 6,500 MW, depending on the weather. Today, after two years and $1.2 billion spent rebuilding the Iraqi grid, the average daily output is just 4,000-4,200 MW, and is falling, reported the Washington Post on May 1. Over the last four months, power is available for less than 10 hours a day, forcing widespread use of generators for those who can afford them; in one cited case, 107 households were hooked up to a single generator. The shortage is a huge source of anger and dissatisfaction among the population, and has punctured the once-widespread belief in American technological superiority. With the U.S. now saying that it is the responsibility of the Iraqi government to rebuild the grid, the situation will not improve soon. The UN and World Bank have estimated that it will cost $12 billion through 2007 to restore the Iraqi electrical grid.
Bush-Abdullah Meeting: A Kiss Doesn't Make An Alliance
Someone should inform George W. Bush that a kiss doesn't make an alliance. The biggest attention-getter at the Crawford, Texas summit meeting between George W. Bush and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, was the pair of big, wet, clumsy kisses that Bushusing the traditional greetingplanted on the cheeks of the Prince as he arrived.
There was "nothing sexual" intended, quipped Adel Al-Jubeir, the spokesman for Prince Abdullah. And, the incident became more joked about than Vice President Al Gore's kissing his wife, Tipper, on the big screen at the Democratic convention of 2000. For the anti-Islam, anti-Arab Administration circlesreflected in the neocon-run New York Post"The Kiss" was given a particularly nasty treatment. The Rupert Murdoch-owned Post criticized Bush's welcome with a huge cartoon of a desperate President, holding an empty gasoline can, planting a big kiss on Prince Abdullah's behind.
Prince Abdullah arrived with a serious agenda, seeking primarily a U.S. commitment to a serious step forward in Israeli peace talks with the Palestinians after the promised Gaza disengagement. Bush, however, came off looking foolish: Begging for a 25-30-year commitment for low-priced Saudi oil to be delivered to the U.S., and as well as for billions of dollars of Saudi funds to be committed to Gaza "reconstruction"because the U.S. will commit no funds for the project.
One thing that international observers of these events have made clear is that the really important meetings with the Saudi Prince were with secretive Vice President Dick Cheneynot with Bush. The contents of those meetings have not been disclosed.
But one of the biggest pieces of fakery in the whole summit show is the White House-dictated lead to the joint communiqué, which proclaims that Bush was superseding what President Franklin D. Roosevelt had accomplished in his wartime meeting with King Saud in the six hours they spent together in 1943. Nothing could be further from the truth, said one Middle East scholar, who has seen the original news footage of the FDR-King Saud meeting; he told EIR that the level of respect that King Saud, and every other subsequent King of Saudi Arabia had for FDR cannot be compared with their feelings toward Bush. Unlike Bush and Cheney, FDR had respect for the King, and compassion for, and a desire to help, the developing Saudi nation.
Bush's kiss was no substitute for the alliance that FDR had forged on the basis of that respect and compassion.
As for the lengthy joint communiqué issued April 25, at the end of the Bush-Abdullah meeting, it did not reflect anything of the substance. The fact that the two leaders did not hold a joint press conference was an indication of the unresolved tensions between the two countries.
Washington-based sources in contact with members of Abdullah's entourage in Crawford told EIR that the two most important topics were the oil price crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian talks, i.e., progress on what is called the "Road Map" for peace. On both issues, the Saudis were at odds with the U.S., said the source, but the Bush Administration was described as being desperate in both areas, and made extensive promises to Abdullah about its intentions.
On the Palestinian front, the U.S. wanted money from Saudi Arabia to finance the running of the Gaza Strip when Israel disengages. The Saudis wanted a promise from the U.S. that Bush would force Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to resume, and that Israel would begin to leave the West Bank. Instead, the Saudis were told that the U.S. must make sure that the Gaza withdrawal occurs. Gaza is a must, insisted the U.S., and only then could the other Palestinian territories be discussed.
The Bush Administration asked for "patience," and "trust" in U.S. intentions, because there is nothing coming from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon beyond the Gaza withdrawal now. The Saudis reportedly did promise, in the interests of the Palestinian people, to give the requested post-withdrawal funds.
On the oil issue, what they could not agree upon concerned the Saudis' desire to own two oil refineries in the U.S. It was pointed out by Abdullah's spokesman, Adel al-Jubeir, that the U.S. does not have enough refining capacity to handle the additional oil, should the Saudis begin to send 1-2 million additional barrels per day, as Bush was requesting. The Bush Administration does not want to allow Saudi ownership of the two new refineries, claiming that this would violate national security.
A well-informed Washington source, who has been involved in Saudi relations with the U.S. for more than 25 years, described the Bush Administration as "very concerned" about the oil situation, because they suddenly realize that they have no guarantees of the oil that they need. The Administration is now trying to negotiate a 25- to 30-year deal in which they will have the Saudis increase their output, over present levels, by 7 million barrels of oil per day, which would be the equivalent of several countries signing on to oil deals with the U.S. But to increase production to that degree over the next decade would require billions of dollars of investmentsas much as $50 billion; the U.S. is demanding control of that new capacity, said the source. These issues are still being fought out, with the meeting failing to resolve them.
Israelis Flip Over Putin's Offer To Aid Palestinian Security Force
"If we expect Chairman Abbas to fight terrorism effectively, he can't do it with slingshots and stones," Russian President Vladimir Putin said after meeting with Palestinian Authority President and PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, reported Aluf Benn and Yossi Melman in the May 2 Ha'aretz. Following a trip that took him to Egypt, Israel, and the Palestinian National Authority capital of Ramallah, Putin offered 50 armored personnel carriers, two helicopters, and other military equipment to the new PA government, and also proposed to provide training for their security forces, during talks with Abbas. (For more on Putin's visit to the region, see Russia digest.)
But, immediately the Israeli government condemned Putin's offer. On the website of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs April 29, an Israeli "government source" was quoted as saying, "First let's see some steps toward peace and then it will be possible to strengthen the Palestinian security forces, which are meanwhile taking part in fighting against us." The Ministry also reported that "Israel has rejected a proposal by the United States to supply the Palestinian police officers in the West Bank with weapons," quoting the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz. But the Ministry website also admits that "American officials have told their Israeli interlocutors over the past few days that the Palestinian security forces need weapons to help maintain order in the territories." Israeli officials replied: "Let them first take the weapons from the terrorists." Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon opposed the aid from Russia and insists that the transfer of all military equipment to the Palestinian Authority be approved and coordinated by Israel.
Tragically, Sharon is digging in his heels, and will allow no further progress in supporting the new government of President Abbas. Putin has proposed an international meeting of the Israelis, Palestinians, leaders of the Quartet that drew up the "Road Map," and neighboring countries, as soon as the Gaza Strip "disengagement" is complete. Sharon has also rejected that meeting, which might afford an opportunity to move peace forward.