|Southwest Asia News Digest
Top Tory: Attack on Iran May Be Necessary
A senior British Conservative Party politician said "military intervention might have to be considered" against Iran, if diplomacy and sanctions fail to curb Tehran's uranium enrichment program. In an interview with the Telegraph May 18, former British Foreign Secretary and Defense Minister Malcolm Rifkind stated that in return for a "permanent and verifiable renunciation of nuclear weapons, and ceasing work on uranium enrichment," Washington should offer to restore diplomatic relations with Iran and guarantee "that its frontiers would be safe from military attack." However, if the Iranians were to reject such an American offer, and even if Russia and China blocked UN economic sanctions, European countries should join the U.S. in a financial boycott of Iran, he said. "If such measures still did not have the desired impact, military intervention might have to be considered." The Telegraph says that Rifkind is the first senior British politician to take this stance publicly.
Pentagon To Offer Weapons to Iran's Neighbors
Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Kohler claimed that reports of Iran's nuclear program have "awakened some major concerns" among its neighbors, according to an interview with Reuters May 19. Therefore, he said, "We're in a discussion with their services and their leaders to see what capabilities are required and how the United States can best fulfill those needs." Kohler is the head of the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which handles government-to-government weapons deals.
When asked which countries were involved, he said, "Let's just say everybody that is not Iran." Pressed to say whether the UAE, Kuwait, and the Saudis were included, he answered: "All of them."
Russian Foreign Minister To Tour Persian Gulf
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is touring the Persian Gulf May 21-24, stopping first in Saudi Arabia for two days, then going on to Qatar and Kuwait. The center of his talks will be Iran, but he will also address the Iraq crisis and the Palestinian conflict. According to a diplomat in Riyadh quoted by AFP May 17, the Saudis had asked the Russians to intervene, to try to prevent the UN from providing cover for a military strike against Iran.
Lavrov Threatened Veto of UN Iran Resolution
At the dinner given by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for the UN Security Council Permanent Five Foreign Ministers (U.S., Britain, Russia, France, China) plus Germany, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov exploded with anger, according to the Telegraph May 15: He arrived at the meeting "seething about a speech on Kremlin policies delivered by Dick Cheney ... in Lithuania. The Russian repeatedly complained about the comments, and then threatened to veto a Security Council resolution, drafted by Britain and France and backed by the U.S., that would force Iran to abandon enrichment of uranium." Lavrov also "accused the Americans of seeking to undermine efforts by Britain, France, and Germany to solve the crisis." He "singled out Nicholas Burns ... complaining about his criticism of Russian involvement in Iran's Bushehr nuclear plant." At that point, Rice burst out: "This meeting isn't going anywhere."
Iranian Nuclear Advisor Pays Visit to Washington
Mohammad Nahavandian, an advisor to Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, has been in Washington, according to Newsweek May 22. He met with officials of the International Crisis Group (ICG), which has a viable proposal for settling the nuclear conflict. At a meeting with ICG Middle East director Robert Malley, a former Clinton Administration official, Nahavandian "made a passionate case ... that current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was eager to broaden Tehran's tentative cooperation with Washington over Iraq to other subjects," including the nuclear issue.
At the same time, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who is on the ICG board, again came out for direct talks between Iran and the United States. He also said Iran is five to ten, or even 15 years away from having a bomb.
EIR Board Member Interviewed by Iranian Radio, TV
In an indication of the seriousness with which Iranian political circles continue to regard Lyndon LaRouche's analyses and proposals regarding the neo-cons' threats against Iran, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) interviewed Muriel Mirak-Weissbach of the EIR editorial board for 30 minutes on May 13, principally on dynamics in Washington and the U.S. generally as they affect relations with Iran and the prospect of war.
She was interviewed again by Morteza Jabbari of Iranian English-language radio on May 20.
Iranian President: Bush and Company Are Insane
Without mentioning any names, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated in a speech on May 19, "Those who get sad at the progress and happiness of others are suffering from mental and psychological problems, so they should find a way to cure themselves." In contrast, he said, "More than 2 billion people were happy and celebrated when they heard the news of Iran's nuclear achievement."
Lyndon LaRouche's frequent emphasis on the insanity of the Bush-Cheney crowd, and the interviews with psychiatrist Dr. Justin Frank in EIR, in which he discussed Bush's mental disabilities, have circulated widely in Iran.
European Union Offer to Iran Dead on Arrival
Iran on May 17 rejected an offer prepared by the EU-3, consisting of Britain, France, and Germany, aimed to resolving the impasse over Iran's nuclear program. The offer, or a draft of it, which was leaked to AFP among others May 20, offered Iran a European light water reactor, fuel supply guarantees from Russia, and a pledge by the EU to work towards "recognition of territorial integrity" of Middle Eastern countries. The EU also proposed that the U.S. allow Iran to buy commercial aircraft.
In exchange, Iran was to suspend all enrichment activity including research, and stop work on construction of a heavy water reactor. If Iran should reject the offer, the EU-3 proposed sanctions, including an arms embargo. The EU-3 has reportedly listed 15 targetted sanctions from which the UNSC can choose, as "proportionate measures." The sanctions are divided into "measures targetted against Iran's nuclear and missiles programs," and "political and economic measures." The draft goes so far as to say that, "in the event that Iran does not cooperate with the international community," sanctions could be adopted under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, a red line the Russians and Chinese will not cross.
Iranian President Ahmadinejad rejected the offer: "Do you think you are dealing with a four-year-old child to whom you can give some walnuts and chocolates and get gold from him?" Iran, he said, would not "accept any suspension or end" to its enrichment program.
Iraq Parliament Approves Cabinet Without Defense, Interior
The Iraqi Parliament May 20 has voted on, and approved each Cabinet nominee submitted by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. But the two most sensitive ministries, Defense and Interior, were left open, because there was no agreement among factions, and the U.S. and UK were interfering heavily to push their assets. Maliki will take over Defense, and his deputy will take over the Interior Ministry for a week. Then what? No one knows. A major Sunni faction walked out once this had been made known.
Meanwhile, in Basra, the militias and tribesmen now have a free hand in carrying out attacks; the police do not respond to reported attacks, fearing they will be targetted; the occupation forces are also losing control.
Imprisoned Fatah and Hamas Leaders Draft Peace Initiative
At the initiative of Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, now serving a prison term in Israel, a joint peace initiative has been drafted and signed by imprisoned leaders of Fatah and Hamas, the Israeli paper Ha'aretz reported May 13.
The document reads, "The Palestinian people, in the homeland and in the Diaspora, aspires to liberate its land and realize its self-determination, including the establishment of an independent state on all the land occupied in 1967, and to assure the right of return for refugees and the liberation of all prisoners and detainees.... We call on everyone to accept the changes in the Palestinian arena and expand the legitimacy of the PLO as the sole legal representative of the Palestinians and the supreme legal political address."
In addition to Barghouti, the document was signed by Sheikh Abel Halek Hatshe of Hamas. Since the imprisoned Palestinians are held in the highest regard by all Palestinian factions, the document will have tremendous support. It has significance first as a joint Hamas-Fatah agreement, and second, because it recognizes the 1967 borders, an implicit recognition of the right of Israel to exist, indicating that key leaders in Hamas have now taken this position.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said the document represents an implicit recognition of Israel's existence. "The document includes very important useful points that will contribute to remove some obstacles, but it needs more deep study," Haniyeh said. Palestinian President Abu Mazen called it an "important plan."