|Southwest Asia News Digest
Call for Nuclear Deterrence Between Israel and Iran
A new report, "Israel and Iran: From War of Words to Words of War," issued by the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), says that the "military option [for Iran] is the least desirable, and might push an already volatile Middle East into further hostilities, uniting anti-Western groups worldwide against the United States, Israel and their allies while isolating moderate Muslim forces," according to a report in the March 12 Jerusalem Post. Furthermore, an Israeli military strike would not destroy Iran's entire program, and while the U.S. could, it would be at a high cost.
The report, written by Yossi Mekelberg, warns that "an Israeli military operation against Iran would hurt Israel's long-term interests. It would be detrimental to Israel's overall security and the political and economic consequences would be dire and far-reaching." The report warns that the weakness of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government is a danger itself, because, "Weak governments can be more adventurous than stable ones, and herein lies the dangeras a successful operation in Iran might be a useful way to bury other bad news."
The report suggests that if Iran were to go nuclear, a regime of deterrence could be created if Israel changes its "nuclear doctrine from one of ambiguity to openness, while accepting that other countries, including Iran, may acquire a nuclear capability.... In this case, Israel should clarify and define its response in the event of a nuclear attack, supported by international guarantees." Such a policy "might also start a move towards negotiating arms control in the Middle East and the eventual removal of all weapons of mass destruction."
Olmert's Speech at AIPAC Raises Eyebrows
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's comments at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee meeting March 11, stating that a "premature" withdrawal of the U.S. from Iraq would threaten the safety of Israel, "raised eyebrows," according to the March 14 Jerusalem Post (see InDepth for "With Congress in Tow AIPAC Targets Iran, by William Jones). It was seen as a direct intervention into U.S. political debate, especially when so many Democrats, such as House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who are known to be critics of the war, attended. Even right-wing Likudnik Benjamin Netanyahu said, prior to Olmert's remarks, that it was not "desirable or appropriate" to enter the debate over Iraq.
Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz, who is also in the U.S., said there was discomfort over Olmert "injecting" himself into the Iraq question, according to a source close to Peretz. (Peretz held a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Gates during this visit.)
Olmert's comments were not heard by all the attendees because many had already left the conference to begin lobbying on Capitol Hill, for harder sanctions against Iran.
Japan Hosts Israel-Palestine Talks
Japan hosted a conference between Israel and the Palestinians, with the Israeli delegation headed by former Prime Minister Shimon Peres, and the chief Palestinian negotiator Saab Erekat, it was reported by Ha'aretz on March 14. Tatsuo Arima, Japan's special Mideast envoy, presided over the talks.
"Dialogue between Israel and Palestine is now more important than ever. We are hosting these talks in the hope that it will help them deepen mutual trust and foster dialogue," Arima said.
The proposal of former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for a series of economic projects on the West Bank will be discussed, including the financing of an agro-industrial park along the Jordan River, for which Japan has pledged to give $100 million. A separate, cabinet-level meeting was to be hosted by Foreign Minister Taro Aso, to formally launch the Koizumi proposal. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may visit the region in April or May.
Peres is pushing his "Valley of Peace" proposal at the conference, which calls for developing the Arava and Jordan Valleys up to the Yarmuch River, a 500-kilometer stretch that passes through Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian West Bank. Peres has identified the above-mentioned industrial park as one of the projects. Other proposed but yet-to-be-approved projects include a Red Sea-Dead Sea canal, a new airport at Eilat, on the Gulf of Aqaba, and desalination and agricultural projects.
Pentagon Engaged in Tense New Round of Planning for Iraq
In a page-one article, the March 12 Los Angeles Times reported that the Pentagon is undertaking another round of planning for Iraq, which "is taking place in an atmosphere of extraordinary tension within the Pentagon, which is grappling with a war about to enter its fifth year and going poorly on the ground while straining U.S. forces worldwide.
"At the same time, the war has created divisions within the Pentagon. Some support the new commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, who advocates using more American forces to protect Baghdad neighborhoods, whereas others back the position of Gen. John P. Abizaid, the retiring commander for the Mideast, who favored handing responsibility more quickly to Iraqis.
"A shift away from the buildup and toward a more advisor-based strategy would bring the administration more in line with the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel created by Congress to make recommendations on the war. The group called for a gradual reduction in U.S. combat forces. Kalev I. Sepp, a key advisor to the panel and an El Salvador veteran, was instrumental in getting the commission to back an expanded advisory effort.
"'That's exactly what I proposed to the Iraq Study Group, and that's exactly what ended up in the report,' said Sepp, an instructor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey."
The extensive article is under the heading "Fallback Strategy for Iraq: Train Locals, Draw Down ForcesIf the current 'surge' fails, planners suggest relying on advisors as the U.S. did in El Salvador in the 1980s."
Security Council To Consider New Sanctions Against Iran
On March 16, United Nations sources in New York reported that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had requested permission to address the UN Security Council on the question of Iran's nuclear energy program. Ha'aretz reported that there has been no opposition voiced to South Africa, which holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council as of March 16, and also that Iran had asked for visas for 38 people to accompany Ahmadinejad, including Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani.
There is no date yet set for the debate on a new sanctions resolution that has been introduced by Permanent UNSC member United Kingdom. It is understood that the U.S. played the major role in drafting the resolution.
The draft sanctions resolution came during a week that Iran was complaining that Russiawith which it has friendly relationswas not fulfilling its nuclear fuel delivery agreement. On March 13, the Russian publication Ria Novosti reported that some Russian specialists who were in Iran to build the Bushehr nuclear plant began to leave the Islamic republic, according to the Russian nuclear power agency. It is reported that, due to financing difficulties from the Iranian side, the Bushehr plant will not open as planned in September.
Iranian National Security official Ali Larijani said on March 12 that this delay proves there are no guarantees for fuel supplies. The Iranian Atomic Energy Organization put out a release criticizing the delay and disputing the Russian allegation that Iran still owes money.
Washington intelligence sources view the Russian delay as a sign of Moscow's frustration with Iran over its not seeing the global direction the crisis is goingespecially that the Bush-Cheney regime is driving for global war with Russianot Iranas its long term target. This week's EIR InDepth uncovers what Cheney is really up to (see "Can Arabs Stop Cheney's Drive for World War III?" by Jeffrey Steinberg).
Iran Expresses Support for a Stable and Strong Iraq
Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashimi was in Tehran the second week in March, heading a "high-ranking political delegation," meeting with Iranian First Vice President Parviz Davoudi, IRNA reported on March 12. Davoudi expressed Iran's support for a "stable and strong Iraq," saying, "Iranian policy favors strengthening of relations with neighboring Iraq, finding solutions to its problems and restoring tranquility and stability to the country soonest." He accused "arrogant powers" of interfering in regional affairs in order to continue to dominate the region, and urged regional states to remain "vigilant" and "foil the conspiracies of enemies" aimed at fomenting discord among Muslim sects, particularly Shi'ites and Sunnis. Iranian Minister of Information Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei said that Iraqi officials had requested help from Iran to establish stability and security in their country, and was positively responding to such request. "The Islamic Republic of Iran is especially concerned with the peace and security situation in Iraq," he said.
Pointing to the establishment of the headquarters to promote economic cooperation between the two countries, Davoudi said, "The Islamic Republic of Iran has allocated considerable, long-term credit for implementation of infrastructure, industrial, and trade projects in Iraq." He was optimistic more accords will be signed by the two sides in the near future, after Iraq's problems are solved.