|Southwest Asia News Digest
Global Leaders Call for Resolution of Arab-Israeli Conflict
In a teleconference encompassing Brussels, Washington, New York, London, and Amman Oct. 3, organized by the International Crisis Group (ICG), 115 global leaders joined in a call for a comprehensive resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Pointing to a "desperate need for fresh thinking and the injection of new political will," the statement issued by the signatories said talks between Israeli and Palestinian leadership must begin now to address issues of mutual security and the revival of the Palestinian economy. The statement also said the talks mediated or sponsored by the Quartet (United Nations, United States, European Union, and Russia) must also include Syria, Israel, and Lebanon.
ICG signatories, who include former President Jimmy Carter, former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, former Indian Prime Minister Inder K. Gujral, former NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson, former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, and former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, among a host of others, said the Middle East is presently "immersed in its worst crisis in years."
"Everyone has lost in this conflict except the extremists throughout the world, who prosper on the rage that it continues to provoke.... As long as the conflict lasts, it will generate instability and violence in the region and beyond."
Assad: Peace Could Be Negotiated Within Six Months
Syrian President Bashar Assad, in an interview appearing in the Spanish newspaper El Pais Oct. 3, said that if Israel and Syria were to begin peace negotiations, there could be an agreement within six months.
"Two sides are responsible for the current situationnot just one side. The situation is based on one topic only, the peace process ... and, perhaps, war, if peace is not established." He went on to say, "We have a clear vision, and events have proven that we foresee the future in the right direction. It is not based on the ideas of strength and weakness, but rather it is based upon values, history and human ambition, while the Israeli dream, unfortunately, is based solely on a strong army."
In response, Israeli Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer (Labor Party) said that Israel would agree to engage in peace talks with Syria in the event of an official Syrian approach. Ben Eliezer said that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would agree to hold negotiations if the Syrians entered without preconditions, and only if the recognition of Israel's right to exist were guaranteed. It is not certain what this means; the act of holding such negotiations implies recognition of Israel's right to exist. Also, since Ben Eliezer is from the Labor Party and Olmert is Kadima, it is not certain that Ben Eliezer can speak for the government.
Rice: Economic Strangulation of Palestinians To Continue
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, following a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni Oct. 5, said that the economic boycott of the Hamas-led government was effective, and that the international community will continue to maintain it, according to Ha'aretz and the U.S. State Department website.
Rice did not say what "effective" meant. It is indeed effective in causing massive suffering, hunger, and death throughout the occupied territories.
The previous day, Rice met with Palestinian President Abu Mazen, promising to "strengthen" him against Hamas. In her meeting with Olmert, she gave him a message from the Palestinian leader requesting a prisoner release, which Olmert flatly rejected. Yet, Olmert, like Rice said he, too, wanted to "strengthen" Abu Mazen.
In her joint press conference with Abu Mazen after their meeting Oct. 4, Rice said, "I told the President that we are very concerned, of course, about the humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian territories, about the economic situation." Further, "that we would double ourredouble our efforts to improve the conditions of the Palestinian people." It seems that Rice's crocodile tears are for the poor Palestinians who are being punished by the West for electing an Hamas-led government.
Saudi Ambassador: U.S. Should Talk to Iran
"Political rhetoric and bombast, and not constructive commentary" is what we often hear from the U.S., Saudi Ambassador Turki al-Faisal said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Oct. 4. Later, at the State Department briefing, a reporter asked for official reaction to the comment.
"We don't mind being criticized," Faisal said. "But it is the way in which Americans criticize ... that causes us concern."
"Americans want to see and hear about reform and change in Saudi society and political culture," the ambassador continued. "That is on the agenda, ladies and gentlemen. But we're not going to change just because you tell us to."
On Iran, Faisal said: "I think for the United States not to talk to Iran is a mistake."
On Israel-Palestine relations, Faisal called for implementation of the Road Map now. "We think that this may be a time for the United States to put its foot forward and do what it has been talking about within the framework of the road map."
New Plan Announced To End Iraq Violence
A new plan was announced to end the sectarian killings in Iraq which took a bloody toll Oct. 3 of 263 dead, many of them victims of what are believed to be "sectarian death squads." Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced a plan to end the crisis, with the support of both Sunni and Shi'ite parties in the Parliament. Without results, his government may fall.
Tensions are particularly high due to two mass kidnappings that occurred in Baghdad; at least 16 of a total of 40 kidnap victims are still missing. At least 118 were killed in Baghdad alone, including an intelligence officer and a colonel in the Interior Ministry. At least 145 people outside the capital were killed, including a leading al-Qaeda figure, Saad Tager Al-Rayashi (aka Abu Fadam).
Also, between Sept. 30 and Oct. 3, a total of 17 U.S. and UK soldiers lost their lives in Iraq.
Confronted with this worsening disaster on the Iraq front, Lyndon LaRouche commented that George W. Bush may pass from a merely potential, into an actual nervous breakdown, and come to be called "Woodrow W. Bush."
Maliki's four-point plan, which emerged after talks between both Sunnis and Shi'ites, aims to resolve disputes by giving each party a voice in how security forces operate against violence on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood level. Local committees will be formed in each Baghdad districtmade up of representatives of every party, religious and tribal leaders, and security officialsto consult on security efforts. A central committee, also made up of all the parties, will coordinate with the armed forces. "We have taken the decision to end sectarian hatred once and for all," Maliki told reporters. "We have vowed before Almighty God to stop the bloodshed."