|Southwest Asia News Digest
Some Administration Officials Have Decided To Attack Iran
Joseph Cirincione, director for non-proliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote in Foreign Policy online March 27, "For months, I have told interviewers that no senior political or military official was seriously considering a military attack on Iran. In the last few weeks, I have changed my view. In part, this shift was triggered by colleagues with close ties to the Pentagon and the Executive Branch, who have convinced me that some senior officials have already made up their minds. They want to hit Iran.... What I previously dismissed as posturing [by the White House], I now believe may be a coordinated campaign to prepare for a military strike on Iran."
UN Security Council to Iran: Suspend All Enrichment Work
The UN Security Council on March 29 called on Iran "to take the steps required by the IAEA Board of Governors" to build confidence in its nuclear program's peaceful intent, and particularly to again suspend "all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, to be verified by the IAEA." The UNSC requested a report be filed in 30 days with the IAEA Board and the UNSC, by the IAEA Director General, on the process of Iranian compliance.
The Washington Post March 30 notes that the statement is not legally binding, and carries no explicit penalties if Iran does not comply. It also reports that the Europeanspushed by the U.S.originally proposed a much stronger statement, but watered it down to secure the support of Russia and China. The Europeans and U.S. agreed to drop language that proliferation "constitutes a threat to international peace and security," and that the UNSC is charged under the UN Charter with addressing such threats.
The Iranian chief representative to the IAEA in Vienna reportedly told Associated Press that it is impossible to go back to suspension, adding: "The enrichment matter is not reversible." However, the Iranian Foreign Minister is quoted stating in Geneva, that Iran is willing to continue talking with the IAEA.
Iran Sanctions 'Not Introduced' at Foreign Ministers' Meeting
Following the UN Security Council demand that Iran suspend all uranium enrichment, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the Foreign Ministers of the U.K., France, Germany, Russia, and China met in Berlin March 30 to discuss possible next steps. In a brief press conference after the meeting, Rice, Frank-Walter Steinmeier (Germany), and Jack Straw (U.K.) particularly stressed the unity of the "international community" on the issue and demanded Iran come into compliance. Philippe Douste-Blazy (France) stressed that what was expected, was "the complete suspension of nuclear activities in Iran," pending IAEA monitoring. Sergei Lavrov of Russia said that, "the sole solution for this problem will be based on the work of the IAEA, and we will also be demanding full cooperation of Iran with the IAEA."
During the question period, Rice and Lavrov were asked whether sanctions had been discussed in the meeting. Rice responded that she did not introduce the subject. Lavrov added that, "Indeed this was not introduced, and in principle, Russia doesn't believe that sanctions could achieve the purposes of settlement of various issues.... The IAEA has reported that it cannot yet testify that there is no military aspect of this program, but, at the same time, the last report of the IAEA says that it cannot also assert that there is a military aspect to the Iranian nuclear program.... We prefer very strongly to base our specific actions on specific facts, and in this particular case, the facts could be provided by the IAEA. So far, they have not been provided."
Arab League Head Calls on Arab States To Enter Nuclear Club
Amr Moussa, head of the Arab League, at the opening of the League's summit in Khartoum March 28, said, "I would like to call on the Arab world to enter into the world of peaceful use of nuclear energy with all speed and momentum. This is a legal right ensured for all states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty."
Israel: Peretz Seeks Coalition To Corner Olmert on Social Issues
Israeli Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz promises to give Kadima Party Chairman Ehud Olmert a very hard time as Olmert tries to form a coalition government, according to Ha'aretz March 31. Peretz is using his position as head of the second-largest party, with 20 seats in the Knesset, to reach out to other parties that are willing to join together to confront Olmert on socioeconomic issues.
He has initiated talks with the Meretz Party (five seats) on a possible merger, or at least a formal alliance, for a total of 25 seats. Meretz has said it will propose to President Moshe Katzov that he ask Peretz to form a government instead of Olmert. That is unlikely to happen, but will make Olmert sweat a bit.
Peretz has also held talks with the orthodox Shas Party (12 seats) to create a common front on social issues. This would strengthen both parties' hands in coalition talks. This three-party bloc would constitute 37 seats.
The Pensioners Party should have been an additional, natural partner in this bloc, but with ex-Mossad agent "Dirty" Rafi Eitan at its head, it will propose that Olmert form a government. (See InDepth, "Netanyahu Smashed: It's the Economy, Stupid!" by Dean Andromidas for comprehensive coverage of the Israeli elections.)
Hamas Prime Minister: A Just Peace or No Peace
In a commentary in the London Guardian March 30, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh accused the U.S. and Europeans of "scandalous double standards" in trying to force Hamas to make statements and commitments by cutting aid, and other punitive measures, while it does nothing to pressure Israel. Haniyeh points out that, while the West threatens to punish the Palestinians for freely electing Hamas, Israeli political parties run in elections calling for the expulsion of all Palestinians from Israel, and Kadima campaigned on a program that defies UN resolutions.
Haniyeh makes clear his desire to move towards a peace agreement, presenting the same demands as the Palestine Liberation Organization and accepted by the international community:
"No plan will ever work without a guarantee, in exchange for an end to hostilities by both sides, of a total Israeli withdrawal from all the land occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem; the release of all our prisoners; the removal of all settlers; and recognition of the right of all refugees to return."
He added: "On this, all Palestinian factions and people agree, including the PLO, whose revival is essential so that it can resume its role in speaking for the Palestinians and presenting their case to the world." This statement recognizes that, according to the Oslo Accords, the PLO is officially responsible for international negotiations, and also shows that there is a negotiating partner.
Sharon, Netanyahu Sabotaged Hamas's 1997 Truce Proposal
Man in the Shadows, a book by former Israeli Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy, to be published in Britain April 4, reveals that Hamas, through the good offices of Jordan's King Hussein, proposed a 30-year truce with Israel in 1997. A few days after the proposal was made, the Mossad carried out an unsuccessful assassination attempt against Hamas leader Khalid Meshal. The attempt was foiled when Jordanian police captured two of the four agents involved. King Hussein was so enraged that he threatened to take military action. At that point, Israel agreed to release Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, a decision that had to be made by then-Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai, the moderate in the government at the time.
This report leaves little doubt that the assassination was planned by Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu to sabotage the peace initiative by Hamas and King Hussein. Hussein always thought the assassination attempt was part of an Israeli plot to overthrow his monarchy and turn Jordan into Palestine. Soon after Sharon became Prime Minister, he ordered the assassination of Yassin.