Western European News Digest
Italian Government Happy with U.S. Election Results
Prime Minister Romano Prodi is among the few European leaders who have offered a comment on the U.S. vote, Corriere della Sera reported Nov. 8. "The fact that, immediately after the election result, Rumsfeld resigned, gives a particular significance to these elections. Besides the domestic issues, the Iraq issue became more and more forcefully present."
Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema, asked for a comment on Rumsfeld's ouster, said: "That is democracy, baby," adding that "I look with interest toward the next two years, because this result can produce either a paralysis or a change in the Bush Administration." A change would be necessary, D'Alema said, because "Europe, without America, will not be able to achieve its foreign policy goals."
In a clear signal that the neo-cons have been weakened, Michael Ledeen made a very depressed TV appearance in Italy on a popular talk show Nov. 9. Ledeen complained that Bush's nominee for Rumsfeld's replacement as Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, is in favor of direct talks with Syria and Iran, and not for regime change.
German Supreme Court Declares EU Charter Dead
In a ruling which implies the final death knell for the EU Charter plan, the Constitutional Court of Germany ruled a in early November that the charter cannot be ratified by Germany, because it has already been invalidated by the "no" in the referenda in France and in the Netherlands.
The charter has (unfortunately) been ratified by the vast majority of the German Parliament (Bundestag), but President Horst Koehler, also in view of an injunction by a group of parliamentary dissidents filed with the Court, has refused to sign the document, saying he wants to see the Court's ruling, first.
With that ruling, the Presidential signature is off, and so is the charterin the biggest member country of the European Union. How Chancellor Angela Merkel can "revive" the charter, as she announced for her EU presidency for the first half year of 2007, remains a mystery. The Court ruling is binding upon Germany.
Pope Calls on World Leaders To Halt Bloodletting in Gaza
In his blessing to 20,000 pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter's Square in Rome Nov. 6, Pope Benedict XVI called on world leaders to work for the immediate resumption of "direct and serious negotiations" to bring an end to the bloodshed in the Gaza Strip. Noting that he has followed with "grave concern" the reports of Israeli military operations there, which began on Nov. 1, he said he wanted "to express my closeness to the civilian populations suffering the consequences of acts of violence.... I ask you to join me in prayer to the almighty and merciful God, that he may enlighten the Israeli and Palestinian authorities, as well as those of nations with particular responsibility in the region, ensuring that they make every effort to put an end to bloodshed, increase humanitarian aid initiatives, and favor the resumption of direct, serious, and concrete negotiations."
German Analyst Sees Threat of 'Lame Duck' War Strike
At a public event on "The Future of the Mideast," held in Wiesbaden, Germany Nov. 8, Andreas Zumach, arms-control expert and book author and columnist for left-wing media, said that there are "problematic elements" inside the Democratic Party: people who think like Republican neo-cons about Iran and Islam.
He reported that at a Berlin seminar of the (Green Party's) Heinrich-Boell Foundation last week, Martin Indyk spoke as a representative of that Democratic current, calling for the formation of an "axis of the good"the USA, Europe, Israel, and the Sunni Arab states like Egypt and Saudi Arabiaagainst the "axis of evil." Indyk said that the Americans would win over the Europeans with some new initiative for peace in Mideast, which would, however, only produce a "Palestine Bantustan," not a real Palestinian state.
In response to a question from EIR about the red-hot danger of a U.S. attack on Iran between now and the end of January, Zumach said first that the big war danger, which he saw between Condi Rice's Mideast tours in June and October, fortunately did not materialize; however, he agreed that "indeed, these weeks between the election and the State of Union Address are highly dangerous, because Bush and his people know that even if the Democrats conquer a majority in only one house of the Congress, all the investigations will start again, and they will face impeachment. It makes a lot of sense, therefore, for Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and so on, to try a trick to get out of that. I hope it will not happen, but it can happen, the attack on Iran." (Obviously, these remarks were made before the firing of Rumsfeld, and the securing of both houses of Congress by the Democratsed.)
Zumach added, in a response to another question, that he has been told by military, intelligence, and political experts in the USA and Germany that an Iran war is not likely because 1) the USA is bogged down in Iraq, and will not open another front; 2) because there is opposition in the U.S. military; 3) because neither the Europeans, nor the Russians and Chinese would support it; and 4) because it would unleash incalculable conflicts with the entire Islamic world. Zumach said, however, that he is not convinced by these arguments, because the hard facts are that, "the Americans have everything already stationed right there, in the Persian Gulf: aircraft carriers, cruise missiles, and so on, and it has nothing to do with the rest of the military. It only takes a decision by the White House, and then the attack will begin at 5 a.m., and at 6 a.m., we will learn about it on the news. I hope it will not happen, but that is the situation." Zumach said, in response to another EIR question, that "indeed," another Tonkin incident, "real or pretended," might provide the pretext for the attack.
Unilateral British Moves Continue: 'Secret' Meetings in Syria
As evidence of the diverging foreign policy efforts of the UK relative to the U.S., Sir Nigel Sheinwald, chief foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Tony Blair, held "secret" meetings with Syrian President Bashar Assad and other Syrian officials, in Damascus on Oct. 30. Although the fact of the meetings was made public by the Syrian government, their contents have not been revealed, although it is all but certain that Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon were discussed. Sheinwald then travelled to Japan to meet Yuriko Koike, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's national security advisor, where they discussed the North Korean nuclear issue.
According to columnist David Ignatius, Sheinwald's trip was not kept secret from the Bush Administration; he was in Washington the week before going to Damascus. Ignatius claims Sheinwald discussed with Administration officials various proposals of the Iraq Study Group led by James Baker III, but this can not be confirmed. One day after Sheinwald's meeting with Assad, the Bush Administration accused Syria and Iran with trying to bring down the Lebanese government, which both countries, as well as the Lebanese government, denied.
Sheinwald participates in the weekly video-conference with President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Prime Minister Blair, and Blair's Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell.
In addition to being Blair's top foreign policy advisor, Sheinwald, a 30-year Foreign Office veteran, is also head of the Defense and Overseas Secretariat, which is responsible for delivering Whitehall's foreign, security, defense, and counterterrorism policy to the government, and also heads the central crisis-management facility. Sheinwald is expected to be named ambassador to Washington next year.