Southwest Asia News Digest
Rice on Tour To Win Support for Hard Line Against Iran
Following U.S. Undersecretary of State Robert Joseph's trip to the Persian Gulf, and preceding Vice President Dick Cheney's visit to Lithuania, Kazakhstan, and Croatia, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is touring Greece, Turkey, and Bulgaria. The main thrust of her talks will be Iran, although officially she is discussing other issues. After talks with Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis in Athens April 25, Rice told the press, "The U.S. President does not take any options off the table, but we are on a diplomatic course here; ... that is the agenda the Foreign Minister and I discussed." Rice was besieged by a few thousand protesters. "Wanted for killing millions of people," read one banner with Rice's picture. Another called her a Nazi by turning "Rice" into "Reich."
U.S. House Passes Act for Iran Sanctions
The U.S. House of Representatives April 26 passed the Iran Freedom Support Act by a vote of 397 to 21; the act calls for tightening sanctions on Iran until it dismantles its nuclear program, the Washington Times reported April 27. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) said, "The measure reminds me of the 1998 Congressional resolution that called for regime change in Iraq, and I think that was the first step toward a very unpopular, expensive Iraq war."
Israel Raises Alert Status of Its Anti-Missile Batteries
The Israeli military has raised the alert status of its Arrow anti-missile batteries because of the rising threat of an attack on Iran, according to the Jerusalem Post April 24. If the U.S. were to attack Iran, Israel believes Iran would target Israel as part of its retaliation.
U.S. House Intel Committee Leaders: Why Attack Iran?
Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich), Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, when asked April 23 by Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace how close Iran is to developing a nuclear weapon, said, "We really don't know." An astonished Wallace noted that this is described as the major foreign policy challenge facing the country, "and you're saying we really don't know what's going on in Tehran?"
The ranking Democrat on Hoekstra's committee, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif) agreed with Hoekstra, but added, "I'm not comfortable that even if we knew more, that the White House would be listening clearly to the intelligence case. They apparently did not in Iraq.... This is not a time to be saber-rattling.... We don't know enough."
Russia Defense Minister: Iran Political Solution Essential
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, in Beijing April 25, said that a "political solution to the problem with Iran's nuclear program is the only waythere is no alternative." Ivanov made this statement after speaking to his Chinese counterpart Cao Gangchua. Ivanov stressed the two countries are in almost complete agreement on Iran.
Jordanian King: Israel Must Give Up Nuclear Weapons
Jordan's King Abdullah told the Spanish daily El Pais April 24 that Jordan is interested in a nuclear-free Middle East, and that this was also in the interest of Israel, which, he said, must give up its nuclear weapons. "If the world is demanding that Iran not develop nuclear weapons, it should also demand that countries which possess nuclear weapons disarm."
Iran Says Its Nuclear R&D Work Is 'Irreversible'
"Iran's uranium enrichment and nuclear research and development activities are irreversible," declared Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi April 23, at a weekly news conference. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Iran's program, he said, "contains an expert assessment, there will be nothing left to worry about." If the report "puts pressure on Iran, ... Iran will not abandon its rights and it is prepared for all possible situations and has planned for them." He said discussions with Russia about the Russian proposal were continuing.
IAEA Report Expected To Say Iran Not Cooperating
The IAEA issued its latest report on Iran's nuclear program April 28, and the U.S. and Britain have reacted by issuing statements calling for UN Security Council (UNSC) action this week, to make it mandatory that Iran halt its uranium-processing program.
While the report is confidential and will not be made public by the IAEA unless so instructed by its board of governors and the UNSC, press coverage anticipating its release said that it would declare that, despite the UNSC's request, Iran has not provided inspectors with any new information, and has accelerated rather than curbed its uranium enrichment.
The U.S. Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, said at his April 28 press conference at the UN, that the U.S. is ready to take action in the Security Council to move a resolution under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, making mandatory for all UN members the requirements of the IAEA resolutions, and that he plans consultations early in the week of May 1 in the UNSC and with governments. "We're prepared to work in the Security Council, he said, "but certainly not for an unlimited period of time."
A Chapter 7 resolution is used for "threats to peace, breaches of the peace, or acts of aggression," binds all UN members, and can authorize sanctions or military action.
The Washington Post reported April 28 that the U.S., UK, and France would begin pushing immediately for such a resolution, and then, if Iran balks, to move for sanctions either through the UNSC or "like-minded allies." It also reported that, as inspectors were finishing their report, Iran's deputy nuclear director, Mohammad Saeedi, submitted a written schedule for cooperation on several issues, and that the IAEA's report would note it.
China's UN Ambassador Wang Guangya, who heads the UNSC this month by rotation, reiterated China's opposition to invoking Chapter 7, AFP reported April 28.
Iraq Is in the Throes of Civil War
A Continental European military expert, in discussion with EIR April 24, said that Iraq is in the throes of a civil war. The number of attacks (bombings, killings, etc.) has risen to 120 per day in Baghdad alone, media reports to the contrary notwithstanding, the expert said. The Iraqi military and police are totally infiltrated by resistance forces. The saying goes: "In the daytime, the army, at night with the resistance."
There are 11 different militias involved in sectarian fighting: in addition to the well-known Badr Brigades of the SCIRI, Moqtadar al Sadr's Mehdi Army, Chalabi's personal militia and the Kurdish Peshmerga, there are 7 other militias organized along ethnic/religious sectarian lines.
In Israel, Kadima and Labor Parties To Form Gov't
Israeli acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Kadima Party and the Labor Party signed an agreement April 27 to form a coalition government. The agreement gives the Labor Party seven cabinet posts, including the Defense Ministry, to be headed by Amir Peretz. The Pensioners Party of Rafi Eitan will also join the government. Other parties expected to join the coalition are the Shas Party and the United Torah Judaism Party, both ultra-Orthodox.
Chirac Calls for Special Fund To Pay PNA Salaries
French President Jacques Chirac called April 28 for setting up a fund to pay the salaries of the 165,000 employees of the Palestinian National Authority. They have not been paid since the election of the Hamas government in mid-March, when Western donors cut off funds. The fund could be managed by the World Bank, Chirac said. He was addressing a joint press conference in Paris with visiting Palestinian President Abu Mazen. Chirac said that France would make the proposal May 9 at the Quartet meeting of the European Union, UN, Russia, and the U.S.
Abu Mazen told the press conference, "If we don't reach a solution, it will be catastrophic. The situation is very grave, complex and sensitive."
China and Saudi Arabia Sign Far-Reaching Agreements
Chinese President Hu Jintao met with Saudi King Abdullah, the Gulf Cooperation Council's Secretary General Abdul Rahman al-Attiya, and many Saudi businessmen. He signed five major deals, for cooperation in gas exploration, possible oil exploration, a joint venture to build a refinery in Qingdao city, as well as security cooperation and a defense system contract. Billionaire businessman Prince Walid bin Talal summed up the deals saying, "We are opening new channels; we are heading East." Abdullah visited China in January, and signed a landmark energy deal to expand cooperation in oil, gas, and minerals. The deals discussed during Hu's visit include a possible joint venture worth $5.2 billion.