|Southwest Asia News Digest
Carter: U.S. Criminal Policy Caused Disaster in Gaza
June 20 (EIRNS)Speaking at Ireland's eighth annual Forum on Human Rights yesterday, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said the U.S., EU, and Israel must end their policy of supporting Fatah over Hamas, or they will doom the Palestinian people to deepening conflict between the rival movements. He termed the Bush Administration's refusal to accept the 2006 election victory of Hamas as "criminal."
The Jerusalem Post reports today that monitors from the Carter Center had observed the 2006 election in which Hamas won 42% of the popular vote and a majority of parliamentary seats. Carter said that the election was "orderly and fair," and that Hamas won. Instead of supporting the Hamas move towards parliamentary politics, the U.S., Israel, and the EU tried to subvert the outcome. "That action was criminal," he said in a news conference after his speech. "The United States and Israel decided to punish all the people in Palestine, and did everything they could to deter a compromise between Hamas and Fatah."
He also said that the U.S. and others supplied the Fatah-controlled security forces in Gaza with vastly superior weaponry in hopes they would "conquer Hamas in Gaza"but Hamas prevailed because of its "superior skills and discipline." He said plans to send aid to the West Bank, while clamping down on aid to Gaza, would imprison its 1.4 million residents. He called for both territories to be treated equally. "This effort to divide Palestinians into two peoples now is a step in the wrong direction," he said. "All efforts of the international community should be to reconcile the two, but there's no effort from the outside to bring the two together."
Lavrov: Iran Is No Threat, ABM System Is No Answer
June 21 (EIRNS)Speaking in Tehran after a regional meeting on the Caspian Sea, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated: "We do not see any kind of threat from Iran." He went on: "Thus, we do not understand why, in order to justify the installation of a U.S. anti-ballistic missile system in Europe, you have to bring up the pretext of a genuine Iranian threat." He added: "On many occasions we have mentioned professional opinions, expertise, and analyses about the absence of such a threat," and pointed to President Putin's Azerbaijan proposal. "If, on the American side, there is a suspicion of such a threat, then Putin offered that such a suspicion could easily be removed through the information collected through the radar station at Gabala." (For more on Putin's proposal, see InDepth: "Missile Defense: Cheney's Nuclear War Doctrine," by Carl Osgood.)
As Lavrov made these comments, the defense chiefs of Russia and Azerbaijan were meeting, and confirmed their countries' readiness to host part of a U.S. missile defense system at the radar station in Azerbaijan, the Interfax news agency reported.
A report by the Iranian news agency IRIB quoted Lavrov as stating exactly whom the U.S. plan was targetting: "It is a threat against Russia and China." He also said, in answer to a question about the Azeri proposal, "As President Putin mentioned during his meeting with the Azeri President, we feel absolutely no threat from Iran's side."
On the Azeri-Russian Presidential talks, Lavrov said: "As they stated, the radars in Azerbaijan have been active for decades, and therefore, there is no need to put up an anti-missile site there." He said Russia was "preparing a proposal to be put forth during the upcoming Putin-Bush talks."
One day earlier, Lavrov said that the recent proposal made by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei, as an independent expert in talks with Iran, should be taken into consideration. This refers to ElBaradei's view that Iran's right to nuclear technology should be respected, and that demands for suspension of enrichment should cease. Lavrov also agreed with ElBaradei that Iran's nuclear issue should be settled in the context of Iran-IAEA cooperation, IRNA reported.
Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana were scheduled to meet over the weekend of June 23-24 in Lisbon, Portugal, to continue their talks.
UN Resolution for Palestinian Emergency Government Blocked
June 22 (EIRNS)An attempt by the U.S., France, and Great Britain to ram through a United Nations Security Council resolution to support the Palestinian emergency government set up by President Mahmoud Abbas, has been blocked by Council members Russia, South Africa, Indonesia, and Qatar. Even the Palestinian observer to the UN objected to such a resolution, which has now been taken off the table. This move followed an announcement of support to the emergency government by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his Middle East envoy, Michael Williams.
The emergency government was created after a series of Anglo-American operations designed to destroy the Palestinian National Unity government came to a head around June 14.
Russia and South Africa have questioned the legitimacy of the emergency government, and argued for re-establishing a national unity government that includes Hamas. The South African ambassador said that Israel and the Quartet (the U.S., the EU, Russia, and the UN), were to blame for the situation in the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian envoy to the UN also opposed such a resolution, saying it would be an intervention into Palestinian internal affairs.
Netanyahu Meets with Cheney on Iran
June 22 (EIRNS)Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu, chairman of the right-wing Likud Party and leader of the Israeli opposition, met Vice President Dick Cheney in Washington on June 20. The major topic of discussion was Iran and stopping its nuclear program. The Jerusalem Post wrote that the two discussed the "Iranian threat" and that Netanyahu said that economic and political action should be taken against the regime, and that economic sanctions had the potential to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. "The world must not become accustomed to a nuclear Iran," said Netanyahu.
Commenting on the situation in the Palestinian territories, Netanyahu called for Jordan and Egypt to send troops into the West Bank to restore law and order. It is doubtful that either country is listening too closely to him.
While in Washington, Netanyahu also met with Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and former Republican Sen. Fred Thompson, both Presidential hopefuls.
Meanwhile, in Israel, the latest polls revealed that if elections were held now, Netanyahu's Likud Party would receive the largest number of seats, 29 out of a 120-seat Knesset, which would give Bibi the mandate to form a government.
French Envoy Visits Iran
June 21 (EIRNS)French envoy Jean Claude Cousseran, after visiting Lebanon, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, was in Tehran June 20, for talks with Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and others. Cousseran had earlier planned to visit Iran to discuss the nuclear issue, but the trip was cancelled. His current tour is concerned with Lebanon.
Mottaki said Lebanon's stability and security were of vital importance for Iran. "We welcome any effort to bring the Lebanese [factions] close to each other and are ready to give necessary help to settle problems in Lebanon and forge a consensus among different parties in the country," he said. This refers to the French proposal to have Lebanese leaders from all factions meet informally in Paris, IRNA reported.
Lebanese Defense Minister Claims Victory
June 22 (EIRNS)Defense Minister Elias Murr announced on Lebanese TV that, "The Lebanese army has destroyed all Fatah Islam positions. The army is combing the area," he continued. "The terrorist organization has been uprooted," and, "the military operation is over," adding "the Lebanese army has crushed those terrorists." However, he noted that the Palestinian refugee camp near the northern city of Tripoli, where Fatah al-Islami had taken control, would still be "a theater of operations and under siege" until the terrorists surrendered, as reported by CNN today.
A representative of the Palestinian Scholars Association, which has been mediating, said Fatah al-Islami "has declared a ceasefire and will comply with the Lebanese army's decision to end military operations." Murr said 76 soldiers had died and 150 had been wounded in the fighting, which broke out on May 20. Significantly, he said that there was no proof that the terrorists had links to Syria, and cautioned against assuming this.
Murr also said that there were dangers lying ahead for Lebanon. "Is there al-Qaeda in Lebanon? Yes. Are there terrorist organizations? Yes. More explosions? Possible. Assassinations? Possible." He also warned that the violence could spread to the UN forces in the South.
Regarding the political crisis, for some reason, the informal meeting of representatives of all Lebanese factions, scheduled for June 29 in Paris, has been postponed until mid-July, as reported in the Daily Star June 23. French President Nicholas Sarkozy met Saudi King Abdullah yesterday, and discussed Iran, Lebanon, Palestine, nuclear proliferation, and the war on terror, according to Arab News. The King played up France's role: "France has an international standing that places on the country huge responsibilities and roles that it must fulfill, particularly pertaining to the Middle Eastern issues," he said. "The world will listen to the voice of France, the voice of justice and fairness, under the leadership of President Sarkozy." To which Sarkozy responded, showering praise on the King: "The world needs the Kingdom in order to achieve peace. The world needs the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques [King Abdallah] to find a way out of tension and clashes."