|Southwest Asia News Digest
Netanyahu Pushing To Get into Israeli Government
July 2 (EIRNS)In an op-ed in today's Ynet, Likud Party chairman and Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu called for new elections: "A government draws its authority from the people," Netanyahu wrote. "The roots of this government have dried up, We must return to the people...."
Netanyahu believes, and recent polls have shown, that he would win such elections. He has promised to form a national unity government after victory. "In such a case I will approach all the heads of the Zionist parties in order to establish a national unity government that would take the Likud's path and rise to the great challenges still ahead of us."
As far as a unity government is concerned, speculation that it might come to pass was buttressed by the news that Netanyahu held a secret meeting on June 24, with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The meeting, which Netanyahu kept secret from his own party, was held to "update each other on the details of their recent visits to the United States," according to Ha'aretz June 25. Among those "details" was the content of Netanyahu's discussion with Vice President Dick Cheney, whom he met in Washington the week of June 18. Olmert was in Washington the same week, during which he met Bush and presumably, Cheney.
It is elsewhere reported in Ynet that Netanyahu will propose that the Likud hold early primaries, within the next three months, in preparation for early elections. Another sign that early elections are on the horizon was the July 2 Ha'aretz report that Labor Party chairman Ehud Barak has convinced his party that he should automatically become the party's candidate for Prime Minister, without have to go through another vote by the party.
An Israeli government including Netanyahu would be committed to new wars in the region, with the possible targets being Iran, Syria, and/or Lebanon.
Italian Parliamentarian: Israel Should Give Back Golan Heights
June 28 (EIRNS)After Lamberto Dini, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Italian Parliament and a former Prime Minister, met Syrian President Bashar Assad and other officials in Damascus, he called for Israel to initiate talks with Syria. In a June 28 interview with Corriere della Sera, Dini said that increasing numbers of Syrian youth are joining Islamic fundamentalist groups because they see no peace perspective for their country. This could change if "Israel decides to start political negotiations to give back the Golan Heights. After 40 years of occupation, Israel has undertaken no peace initiative. It is not clear what is the use of that occupation today. It surely does not provide defense. Syria is absolutely not in a condition to attack Israel. It does not have weapons able to threaten a nuclear power such as Israel."
Dini added: "My impression is that the same story is being repeated in Lebanon ... the consequences of which could damage everyone." Asked whether he sees Syrian responsibility for the Lebanese crisis, Dini said: "There was the suspicion that weapons would come from Syria to Lebanon. To avoid that, Damascus has closed the border crossings, leaving only one open. This creates serious economic damage, a reduction of trade, but Syria, a country already supporting 1.5 million Iraqi refugees, caused by the American invasion, has accepted even this sacrifice. If we then refer to the Hariri murder, what advantages could Syria have from that? The murder could have been planned by some who wanted chaos, dumping the responsibility on Syria."
Turkey Threatens PKK with Air Strikes Inside Iraq
June 29 (EIRNS)Sending a clear message to those who are arming the Kurdish PKK terrorists, ensconced inside Iraq along the borders and carrying out terrorist acts inside Turkey, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, in a live interview today with CNN-Turk, warned that the Turkish air strikes against Kurdish militant camps in northern Iraq may not necessarily need Parliament's approval. "It depends on the scope," Gul said, the New Anatolian reported on June 29.
Turkey has been pressuring Iraq and the United States to crack down on the terrorists of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, based in northern Iraq. The United States is opposed to a large-scale incursion, for fear of seeing the relatively stable part of Iraq slide into chaos. "If Iraq or the United States cannot stop the PKK threat, then we make the decision and go in," Gul was quoted as saying in an interview published on June 29 in the Radikal Daily.
On June 27, Turkish Chief of Staff Gen. Yasar Buyukanit asked the government in a televised speech to set guidelines for an incursion into northern Iraq. Buyukant had earlier accused "our allies," implying the United States, of arming the PKK. U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters, in response to this allegation: "We have no information about any such thing. When we do have such information, I would be glad to share it with you, but we do not know anything about this at this point."
When asked whether the government would ask the Parliament to authorize the military to carry out an incursion before Turkey's general election scheduled to be held on July 22, Gul said: "Every kind of scenario is ready and on the table."
Out of Tune: Blair and the Quartet
June 28 (EIRNS)On June 27, the United Nations News Center announced that "Mr. Blair, who also stepped down today [as British Prime Minister] has been named Representative, a position in which he will bring continuity and intensity of focus to the work of the Quartet in support of the Palestinians, within the broader framework of the Quartet's efforts to promote an end to the conflict in conformity with the Roadmap."
Blair's appointment, announced just hours after he moved out of 10 Downing Street, was reported as a unanimous Quartet decision, but, in fact, there has been much skepticism about his appointment. The announcement came only after Russia agreed to drop its reservations.
Many voices in the Middle East, including Hamas spokesmen, expressed dismay at Blair's appointment, and word has begun to leak out of profound disagreement among Quartet members themselves.
While German Chancellor Angela Merkel described Blair as a man of great political experience, her Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, complained of a lack of consultation with members of the Quartet before the appointment was made. Press reports said that Washington had formally recommended Blair without prior consultation with other Quartet members. Steinmeier said that Blair would receive a closely defined mandate focussing on "institution building in and political strengthening of the Palestinian authority." Steinmeier stressed that the limitation on Blair's role was due to the fact "that the Quartet itself wants to keep the political task of shaping the Middle East peace process in its own hands." Steinmeier also stressed the difference between Blair's position and that of EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana. "Solana is a member of the Quartet, while Blair will be working for the Quartet," Steinmeier said. "The difference is clear."
Italian General Warns Against Plan To Replace Hezbollah
June 26 (EIRNS)Lt. General Fabio Mini, a former commander of KFOR NATO forces in Kosovo, warned in a published interview with the Rome daily La Stampa today, that the current UNO mission in Lebanon could end in a catastrophe. "Hezbollah has unilaterally left the territory in Southern Lebanon," Mini is quoted as saying. This was "a political choice" in order not to interfere with the UNO mission that, at the moment, is welcome. "But they made a mistake: They saw a lot of soldiers being deployed and they thought that they would take care of occupying the territory. This was a mistake. UNO soldiers cannot do anything," Mini said.
"And now, the bad awakening: There is somebody, I do not know who, let us call it a third unwanted party, which evidently is against Hezbollah and wants to undermine its role, and has decided to fill that vacuum." Mini refers to Fatah al-Islami but, contrary to the mainstream media, refuses to call it "al-Qaeda." This third party wants "first of all to damage the myth of Hezbollah, demonstrate that it does not control southern Lebanon any longer. More generally, since [Hezbollah] is both a radical force and also a party interested in politics and government, there is somebody who has decided to play more radical." For the UNO mission, under Italian command, the situation is very delicate. The mission risks ending up in a cul-de-sac.
UN Peace Keepers Killed in South Lebanon
June 25 (EIRNS)Six UN peacekeepers were killed and four others were wounded in Lebanon, in an apparent suicide car bomb attack today. All were members of the Spanish Army. Speaking from Madrid, Spanish Defense Minister José Antonio Alonso said, "We are working on the theory of a terrorist attack. In the last few weeks there have been many incidents which have destabilized Lebanon. We were on high alert and we have stepped up security."
The car bomb which killed the UN forces, was detonated by remote control in the Marjayoun-Khiam valley, about 10 kilometers from the Israeli border. A Spanish colonel told AFP, "This attack was very well prepared in advance. The bodies of two of the victims were blown several meters by the force of the blast."
No one claimed responsibility, but Sunni groups similar to the Fatah al-Islami are suspected. EIR has reported that Fatah al-Islami has been identified as a covertly supported operation of the Cheney forces and the Prince Bandar bin Sultan network in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. Hezbollah has condemned the attack as an attempt to destabilize the country, and announced on June 26 that it has launched its own investigation.