|Southwest Asia News Digest
Worldwide Censure of Israel's 'Massacre' of Palestinians
International leaders condemned what they called a "massacre" of Palestinian children by the Israeli army, in a rare explicit use of the term. On Nov. 8, in Gaza, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) shelled a civilian area, and killed 19 civilians, including eight members of a single family. Hundreds of others were wounded.
Jordan's King Abdullah condemned "the ugly massacre that led to the martyrdom of a number of innocent civilians including children." From Syria, a Foreign Ministry statement called for the intervention of the United Nations. "Syria condemns strongly the state terrorism committed by Israel, and calls on Palestinians to unite their national line in face of Israeli crimes. The international community and the UN Security Council bear complete responsibility to stop these massacres and hold Israel accountable."
Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa called the Israeli attack an "incomprehensible massacre," and said he would call upon Arab officials to act.
Italian Foreign Minister Massimo d'Alema, said, "This morning, 18 people, women and children, were massacred ... an escalation of violence which I think is unacceptable." He called for an "international initiative to unblock the Palestinian situation.... It is clear that if this escalation of violence is not stopped, we risk returning to a climate of war."
The European Union joined in condemning the action. "The killing this morning of so many civilians in Gaza, including many children, is a profoundly shocking event. Israel has a right to defend itself, but not at the price of the lives of the innocent," EU external relations chief Benita Ferrero Waldner said.
Ritter Says: Negotiate with Iran
Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, in a commentary to appear in the Nov. 20 issue of The Nation, reports that he has recently returned from a trip to Iran. "The Iran I witnessed was far removed from the one caricatured in the U.S. media. I left with the frustrating realization, as had been the case with Iraq, [that] America was stumbling toward a conflict, blinded by prejudice and fear born of our collective ignorance," he wrote. Ritter evidently was able to talk with a broad cross-section of the population, ranging from the "old rich," families who became wealthy during the days of the Shah, to young members of the Revolutionary Guards. "My trip convinced me, that support for U.S. intervention does not exist to any significant degree, but rather resides solely in the minds of those in the West who have had their impressions of Iran shaped by pro-Shah expatriates who have been absent from the country for more than a quarter-century," he said. Even among those who yearn for a return to the secularized society of the time of the Shah, "the hope for such liberation [by the U.S.] has been tempered by the ever deepening disaster in Iraq."
On national security policy, Ritter said that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad actually has no authority over foreign policy, which resides with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Expediency Council. Ritter noted that, "while the Western media have replayed Ahmadinejad's anti-Israel statements repeatedly, very little attention has been paid to the Supreme Leader's pronouncementin the form of a Fatwa ... that Iran rejects outright the acquisition of nuclear weapons, or to the efforts by the Supreme Leader in 2003 to reach an accommodation with the United States that offered peace with Israel."
Ritter demolished the arguments that Iran is harboring al-Qaeda terrorists, noting that not only did Iran (as did Hezbollah) condemn the 9/11 attacks on the U.S., but almost went to war with the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan in the late 1990s.
Ritter warned that the path that the Bush Administration is on with respect to Iran "is a path that will lead to war."
Larijani, Lavrov Hold Talks on Iran Nuclear Program
On Nov. 10, after meeting in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Iran's negotiator on nuclear matters, Ali Larijani, said the current draft UN resolution, put forward by major European powers, was unacceptable. "We will review our relations with the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] if the United Nations adopts the European resolution without the amendments proposed by Russia," Larijani was quoted in news wires as saying.
Even if Russian amendmentswhich soften the proposed UN resolutionare included, that "will not make Iran change its mind" about developing nuclear power, he said. "We have to find a logical way to solve this problem." Larijani was to continue talks with Russian officials Nov. 11.
Russia continues to block threatening resolutions against Iran. "We consistently call for a negotiated solution to this problem," Lavrov said.
The two also discussed progress on the Bushehr nuclear power plant, after which Larijani reiterated Iran's openness to a Russian compromise proposal under which uranium needed for any future Iranian nuclear program would be enriched at Russian facilities, thereby preventing Iran from mastering the sensitive technology on its territory. "This proposal was never rejected and it remains on the negotiating table," he declared.
Iran Calls on UNSC To Act Against Israeli Military Threats
Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's Ambassador to the United Nations, submitted a complaint to Secretary General Kofi Annan and the Security Council Nov. 11, following threats against Iran by Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh.
Zarif criticized the Security Council for its "inaction" in dealing with Israeli policies and practices which, he said, is emboldening the Israeli government "to continue and even increase its defiance of the most basic and fundamental principles of international law and the United Nations Charter."
Referring to a letter written Oct. 23 by the Israelis to the UN, and circulated as document A/61/538-S/2006/841, Ambassador Zarif said that the document "is yet another failed attempt and tired smokescreen by the Israeli regime to distract the international community's attention from the real and serious threats that the said regime poses to international and regional peace and security."
He further blasted the letter as "an attempt to deflect the UN's attention from the daily illegal Israeli threats to resort to force, as well as its horrendous cases of resorting to force, occupation, and aggression, against the countries in the region."
Zarif listed Israel's threats against Iran:
"On November 10, 2006, Ephrain Sneh, a Deputy Minister in the Israeli regime's cabinet, threatened that the said regime may launch a pre-emptive military strike against Iran's peaceful nuclear program and said, 'I consider it a last resort. But even the last resort is sometimes the only resort.'
"On October 19, 2006 [Prime Minister] Ehud Olmert, in a blatant threat against the Islamic Republic of Iran, said that Iran would have 'a price to pay' if it does not relinquish its peaceful nuclear program. He also said, 'We have to prepare for the struggle to prevent this capability being attained,' and further threatened that Iranians 'have to be afraid of the actions that may be taken by the Israeli regime.'
"On May 15, 2006, Josef Olmert, who works closely with the Israeli Mission to the United Nations in New York, threatened at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles that 'Israel will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear capability, and will launch a unilateral military strike if necessary to destroy Iranian nuclear facilities' ... [and further] said that 'Israel can't wait for the hope of regime change in Iran because time is running out.'
"On March 7, 2006, Moshe Ya'alon, the former Chief of Staff of the Israeli regime's military, said at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., that 'Israel has a military option to counter Iran and decision-makers must take the Israeli military option into consideration.' " Zarif reported.
Zarif called on the UN to act against these threats by "unequivocally condemning them and demanding that the said regime abandon its policy of flouting international law and the UN Charter," and for it to "cease and desist immediately from resorting to the threat of use of force against members of the United Nations." He asked that his letter be circulated as a document of the General Assembly under agenda items 13, 14, and 100 and of the Security Council.
Israeli Leader Plans Ethnic Cleansing of Arabs
Israeli fascist Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman called the Israeli Arab minority a "problem" that requires "separation" from the state, in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, reported by Ha'aretz Nov. 6. Lieberman is quoted, "Minorities are the biggest problem in the world."
Asked if Israel's Arab citizens should be forced out of the country, he said, "I think separation between two nations is the best solution. Cyprus is the best model. Before 1974, the Greeks and Turks lived together and there were frictions and bloodshed and terror. After 1974, they constituted all Turks on one part of the island, all Greeks on the other part of the island, and there is stability and security."
Lieberman did not say that the separation resulted from war and ethnic cleansing, nor that the so-called "stability and security" are because there are thousands of UN peacekeeping troops there, nor that a state of war continues to exist on the island.
Arab Israeli Knesset member Mohammed Barakeh denounced Lieberman's interview and charged, "Until a week ago, these were statements by a Member of the Knesset. Today, they are those of a Deputy Prime Minister. If there is no appropriate response from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, it means the government is adopting these positions, and it will turn into a government with a new, fascist agenda."
Olmert issued a statement merely saying, "Lieberman's recommendations are not mine. That is not the position of the cabinet and Lieberman knows that."