|Southwest Asia News Digest
UN Security Council Divided on Resolution Against Iran
The UN Security Council held a brief meeting May 4 on a British-French draft resolution against Iran, but, as expected, reached no agreement. Both China and Russia have said they oppose sanctions, the threat of sanctions, and the threat of military action against Iran. China or Russia could veto the resolution, even if a majority of the UN Security Council voted for it.
The draft resolution which was submitted on May 3 does not call for either sanctions or military action, but simply makes it mandatory that Iran cease its uranium enrichment by putting the resolution under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, and states that the Council "intends" to impose "further measures" should Iran not comply.
The resolution is dangerously vague. A retired high-level U.S. diplomat warned, in a discussion with EIR in the last week of April, that Cheney's warmongers could "float four carrier groups" through any ambiguity that the international community leaves concerning possible military action against Iran. The U.S. is pushing for a 14-day, or maximum 30-day deadline for Iran to comply.
The Permanent Five members of the Security CounselRussia, the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Chinaare scheduled to meet at the level of Foreign Ministers on Monday, May 8, in yet another attempt to reach an agreement that China and Russia will not veto.
Bolton: U.S. Would Impose Iran Sanctions Without UN
U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton said May 2 that if the UN Security Council does not act, the U.S. would form a coalition to impose sanctions on Iran without a UN mandate. He was testifying before the House Subcommittee on National Security.
Iran Recognizes That U.S. Threats Are Not Just Psywar
Iranian Oil Minister Najad-Hosseinian, acknowledged that a U.S. military strike may be in the offing, following talks in New Delhi on the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline May 2. This is new; the Iranians have usually characterized U.S. threats as psywar.
Although European governments are naively taking reports of a new Iran-"Contra" program as a de facto assurance that the Bush Administration has postponed any big air-war campaign against Iran until after the November elections, such assurances are not all that solid, particularly so long as Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld are still in office, and are steering U.S. national security (see this week's InDepth article, "Iran Contras," by Jeffrey Steinberg).
Consistent with this change, the Iranian government has sent a letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, through it UN Ambassador, Javad Zarif, protesting Washington's threats of military aggression as "in obvious contravention of international rules and the principles of the United Nations."
IAEA Report on Iran's Nuclear Program Cites Knowledge Gaps
The IAEA Director-General's report on Iran's nuclear program, presented to the UN Security Council on April 28, says that while "all the nuclear material declared by Iran to the Agency is accounted for," after more than three years of IAEA efforts to seek clarity about all aspects of Iran's nuclear program, "the existing gaps in knowledge continue to be a matter of concern." "Any progress in that regard requires full transparency and active cooperation by Irantransparency that goes beyond the measures prescribed in the Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocolif the Agency is to be able to understand fully the 20 years of undeclared nuclear activities by Iran."
The report also said that Iran has agreed to some transparency measures requested by the IAEA and that Iran does not want to break off contact with it nor say there is no room left for further talks.
On May 5, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that as far as Russia is concerned, inspection of Iranian facilities has been inconclusive in determining whether Tehran has the ability to develop weapons of mass destruction.
U.S. Establishment Figures Call for Breakup of Iraq
Senator Joseph Biden (D-Del), the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Council on Foreign Relations head Leslie Gelb effectively called for the breakup of Iraq, in a New York Times op-ed May 1 titled, "Unity Through Autonomy in Iraq." They say that it is now "increasingly clear that [U.S. President George] Bush does not have a strategy for victory" in Iraq. Rather, "he hopes to prevent defeat and pass the problem along to his successor." They outline a six-point program that begins with partitioning the country into Sunni, Shi'ite, and Kurdish regions, and "enticing" the Sunnis to join, with cash payoffs if necessary. Bush could give orders for "redeploying" the troops from Iraq, by 2008, to be followed by a regional conference by the UN or other body, to "pledge respect" for the new Iraq.
Ayatollah Al-Sistani Calls for Reining in Militias
In an unusual move, Iraqi Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani met with Prime Minister-designate Nouri al-Maliki, and reportedly said it had "become necessary to have weapons only in the hands of government forces," the Washington Post reported April 29. Sistani said the government must "rebuild these forces on sound, patriotic bases so that their allegiance shall be to the homeland alone, not to any other political or other groups."
U.S. Policy Against Hamas Likely To Backfire
Geoffrey Aronson, a Washington-based expert on Israeli politics and the Palestinian territories who spoke at the Middle East Institute on May 5, warned that the U.S. policy against Hamas is likely to backfire. Aronson said that U.S. policy, which is largely driven by the legal construct of the State Department's terrorist list, is to financially starve the Palestinian Authority with the expectation that the Hamas government will collapse, leading to new elections and the return of Fatah to power. He said that this expectation does not stand the test of what's actually happening on the ground in Gaza and the West Bank. Instead, he said, an implosion of the Palestinian Authority is more likely to leave Hamas as "the only man standing." Among the Palestinians, he said, "there's a great deal of confidence that whatever options evolve, Hamas is best placed to pick up the pieces."
Among the Israelis, he said, there is a different view. (Actually there are many views, but they're more tempered by the fact that the Israelis have to live next door to the consequences of whatever policy is adoptedunlike the Bush Administration.) The view of the moderates in Israel; that is, those who say "we can't let people starve," Aronson said, is typified by former Justice Minister Dan Meridor, who told him, "We would rather have a rogue nation on our borders than no nation at all." The Israelis would rather have Hamas maintaining some modicum of order rather than a social implosion which would result from the complete collapse of the PA government.
Wolfensohn Resigns; Questions Aid Cuts to Palestinians
James Wolfensohn, the former head of the World Bank, announced his resignation as the special envoy of the Quartet of Middle East mediators, comprising the U.S., the United Nations, the European Union, and Russia. In a special report he drafted ahead of his resignation, he called on the international community to address the Israeli-Palestinian crisis without delay in order to prevent severe consequences for the whole region and for world peace. He called into question the credibility of the Quartet for resolving the conflict. (For a full report, see "Israel's Government: What Chance for Peace? by Dean Andromidas, in this week's InDepth.)
Israeli Chief of Staff: Israel Will Not Invade Gaza.
In a round of interviews granted to the leading Israeli newspapers May 2, Israeli Chief of Staff, General Dan Halutz said that reinvading the Gaza Strip will not stop the Qassam rockets that the Palestinians launch from there.
"We were in Gaza for 38 years. In all the years of fighting in Gaza, we never managed to cut the number of Qassam's to zero," Halutz told Ha'aretz. "There is one school of thought in the defense establishment that argues that we need to reenter Gaza to curtail the Qassams. I oppose this. The army is not the main advocate of this approach. Others within the defense establishment are touting it.... I think it would be futile to reenter Gaza at this point if we don't want to find ourselves back in the quagmire."
On Iran, he told Ynet that Israel must wait for the international community to act. "We first of all let the international community find what it wants to find; I think that is appropriate. We are part of the international community; we are not the sheriff of the region here. We should not get carried away, and speed ourselves up, and carry out acts that are not in the right place, not the right time, before others try and do what has to be done."
Halutz spoke against the idea of setting a military deadline on Iran. "Why talk about deadlines? We are following what is happening, we are monitoring and looking, and the term deadline is not good, because it establishes a line that, once crossed, one must act. This obligation is not on our shoulders at this time, because the world understands that this is its task ... I suggest we should not jump the gun."