|Southwest Asia News Digest
Iran UN Ambassador Counters Lies About IAEA Findings
An op-ed in the New York Times April 6 titled, "We Do Not Have a Nuclear Weapons Program," by Iran's UN Ambassador Javad Zarif, is a cogent, powerful, and convincing commentary that begins with the very point that Lyndon LaRouche has repeatedly made. Zarif writes, "There need not be a crisis. A solution ... is possible and eminently within reach."
Zarif says that Iran has a strong interest in enhancing the integrity and universal application of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran considers "regional stability to be indispensable for its development." Iran has "gone beyond its international obligations and allowed the [IAEA] to repeatedly visit military sites." He also says that it was the EU-3Britain, France, and Germanythat ended the talks with Iran, and Iran has tried to get the talks back on track. Zarif releases an eight-point proposal that Iran gave to the EU-3 in December to try to restart the talks.
Zarif praises the Russian Federation for offering a "thoughtful possibility for a deal," and says Iran wants to find a negotiated solution. He says these kinds of productive ideas for negotiations work, not "pressure and threats."
Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton threatened that if Iran didn't comply with U.S. demands in 30 days, the U.S. will impose harsh import sanctions against Persian rugs and pistachios.
Did U.K. Defense Ministry Meeting Discuss Attack on Iran?
The London Telegraph reported April 2 that a meeting would take place April 3 at the U.K. Ministry of Defense to discuss military options against Iran, but BBC put out a wire saying no such meeting would take place. According to the Telegraph, the meeting was supposed to include Gen. Sir Michael Walker, Chief of Defense Staff, Lt. Gen. Andrew Ridgeway, Chief of Defense Intelligence, Maj. Gen. Bill Rollo, Assistant Chief of General Staff, and officials from the Foreign Office and Prime Minister's office. The meeting was to address the consequences of an attack on Iran, including economic consequences. This news came on the heels of the visit to Britain by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, during which she discussed Iran with Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, among others.
Iran Tests Missiles During Maneuvers, Renounces Oil Weapon
Brig. Gen. Hossein Salam, commander of the Revolutionary Guards Air Force, announced April 1 that Iran had successfully tested a "new-generation missile capable of hitting different targets at the same time," and capable of evading anti-missile defense systems.
The announcement came in the context of maneuvers, from March 31 to April 6, in the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman. The Revolutionary Guards Corps' Navy and Air Force, the regular Army and Navy, the volunteer Basiji militias, and the Iranian police, participated in the maneuvers, which had the Straits of Hormuz as one focal point. About 17,000 combatants are participating along with 1,500 gunboats, and all types of fighter planes, bombers, and helicopters.
Iran also tested an underwater missile during the maneuvers. Rear Adm. Ali Fadavi announced, "Today we have successfully tested a high-speed underwater missile with a speed of 100 meters per second, which is able to overcome the enemy's sonar and radar." He said the missile was the second-fastest in the world of this type, and could destroy large warships and submarines.
At the same time, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, in speeches March 30 and 31, stressed that although Iran would stick to its enrichment plans, it would not use oil as a weapon, would not leave the NPT, and would renew its proposal for an international nuclear fuel consortium, in Iran, under IAEA strict supervision.
Iraqi PM Jaafari Rejects Anglo-American Order To Quit
Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari is refusing to step down, after being ordered to do so by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.K. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. In an interview with the Guardian April 5, after the visit by the Anglo-American team, Jaafari said, "I heard their points of view, though I disagree with them." He argued that he should stay in his position, as candidate for Prime Minister, because he was democratically elected to do so. "There is a decision that was reached by a democratic mechanism and I stand with it," he said. "We have to protect democracy in Iraq and it is democracy which should decide who leads Iraq."
He said Iraq had to be part of the planned Iran-U.S. talks on Iraq and defended his having brought Moqtadar al-Sadr into the political process.
One reason Jaafari is opposed by the U.S. and U.K., according to Arab sources, is that he is unpredictable, and could move against the occupiers. After the bombing of the Shi'ite mosque, he had called for an investigation, in fact.
Following the Rice-Straw visit, there was an uproar in Iraq, among many different political forces, who saw the visit as an interference, an insult, and a move that has further complicated an already difficult situation.
U.S.-Iran Talks on Iraq Apparently on Hold
Addressing the proposed talks between the U.S. and Iran on Iraq, State Department spokesman Sean McCormick said, "We don't have a timetable for such a meeting. As for whether there will be a meeting, we will see," according to wire stories April 8. This comes days after the Iranian wire services, citing an NSC source, reported that the talks would be held beginning the week of April 10, with Iraqi participation, in Baghdad.
European Union Will Keep Aid Flowing to Hamas Government
Marc Otte, European Union envoy based in Brussels, told the Jerusalem Post April 7, that the EU will approve contact with Hamas-led ministries of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to ensure the flow of humanitarian and other aid to the PNA. This is to allow the transfer of funds that pay for electricity and other services and infrastructure operated by the PNA. Otte said this was "technical" contact as opposed to "political" contact, which has yet to be approved. He said this contact was necessary. "If the electricity breaks down, you have to repair a power station, you can't just send an e-mail," he said. Meanwhile U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the U.S. will bypass the PNA by transferring its $300 million in aid to the UN Refugee Relief and Works Agency.
French, Indian Envoys Have Reportedly Met With Hamas
The front against Hamas organized by Israel and the Bush Administration may be cracking. Russia has already had meetings with Hamas. Reportedly, representatives of France and India have now had meetings with Hamas as well. According to Ha'aretz April 3, Hamas spokesman Abu Zuhri said that "Meetings were held in Gaza two months ago with French officials. There is an understanding by France of the necessity for the European Union to reconsider its position regarding Hamas, and they have promised to make an effort with other European countries in this regard." As might be expected, French Ambassador to Israel Gerard Araud denied that there were any contacts. It is also reported that a representative from India held meetings with Hamas in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Hamas FM States Conditions for Recognizing Israel
In an interview with the Times of London April 7, Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar stated the conditions for the Hamas government to recognize Israel. He said it takes two states to recognize one another. The Palestinians have not yet been offered the terms for what their state will consist of. "The PLO recognized Israel on the borders occupied from 1948 to 1967, meaning 78% of Palestine. The other side recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian society without any square meter. Is this a bilateral recognition? Is it fair? We are not here speaking about '48 or '67, we are speaking about what they are going to offer. This is the first point. The second is, if Israel is ready to respect the rights of the Palestinian people? There are several questions concerning the right of return. We have more than 5 million Palestinians living in exile. What is the fate of such people: to live forever in intolerable conditions in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and everywhere?"
If an offer is made, he said, not only is it necessary for the Hamas government to accept it, but also for the Palestinian people and its institutions, including the legislative council to agree.
"If Israel has the right of return, to bring people who have no relation to Palestine after 3,000 years," he said, "I think we [have] by the same implementation, the principle of right of return to come back to our land. We left only in 1948."
U.S. Ambassador: Lebanon Must Go with IMFor Else
U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman told the American-Lebanese Chamber of Commerce that Lebanon had to go with the IMF, or else. Feltman said Lebanon had to go with "reforms." "In designing a comprehensive reform plan," he said, "the U.S. government is urging the government of Lebanon to work closely with the IMF." He referred to Lebanon's near bankruptcy in not-so-veiled terms, and said the country "is living on borrowed funds and borrowed time."