|Southwest Asia News Digest
Senior Diplomats Warn Against Failure of Mideast Peace Talks
Oct. 13 (EIRNS)Two separate initiatives have been launched out of Washington, to ensure that the Middle East peace conference that the Bush Administration is planning for next month, has the possibility of succeeding.
The first is a bipartisan letter signed by former National Security Advisors Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, and six other retired senior figures. The other initiative is a statement released by the Israel Policy Forum, which was assembled by a team including retired ambassadors Samuel Lewis, Robert Pelletreau, Thomas Pickering, and Edward Walkerall with extensive experience in the region.
Both statements warn that the conference must produce substantive results that can be built upon in the future. "Because failure risks devastating consequences in the region and beyond, it is critically important that the conference succeed.... The outcome of the conference must be substantive, inclusive, and relevant to the daily lives of Israelis and Palestinians."
Petition Calls for Two-State Solution
Oct. 10 (EIRNS)A petition, signed by more than 600,000 Israelis and Palestinians, calling for a peace agreement, was presented to the public on Oct. 9. Drafted by the OneVoice Movement, the petition calls on the Israeli and Palestinian governments to reach a peace agreement within the next year based on a two-state solution, an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders, and the establishment of capitals for both states in Jerusalem. The organization will hold rallies in Tel Aviv and the West Bank city of Jericho on Oct. 18, that will be broadcast around the world in an effort to garner support for the two-state solution.
"Every minute delayed in ending the conflict is a minute gained by forces of militant absolutism committed to erase the possibility of a two-state solution," Daniel Lubetzky, the Mexican-born founder of the OneVoice Movement, told the Jerusalem Post. "If the Israeli and Palestinian heads of state demonstrate progress over the coming months, they will be able to eventually reverse the debacle in Gaza, by pointing to a positive alternative that will undermine extremism. But if they don't, the opposite will happen and fundamentalist extremist ideologies will spread to the West Bank ... and the world."
"The voice of the people is the critical element in reaching a viable solution for the region that has been missing in the resolution process thus far," Dr. Fathi Darwish, general director of OneVoice Palestine, told the Jerusalem Post. "If the Palestinian people want to end the occupation, and if the Israeli people want to ensure security and normalization with the Arab world, then each individual must play a real role to bring that about."
Founded in 2001, the non-partisan group has an advisory board that includes Ben-Gurion University President Avishay Braverman; Interdisciplinary Center President Uriel Reichman; Rabbi David Rosen, international director of inter-religious affairs at the American Jewish Committee; Sir Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the United Kingdom; MK (Member of the Knesset) Ephraim Sneh (Labor); MK Colette Avital (Labor); MK Rabbi Nissim Dahan (Shas); Meimad leader Rabbi Michael Melchior (Meimad); and MK Gilad Erdan (Likud). Others include former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Treasury Stuart Eizenstat; Amb. Martin Indyk, director, of the Washington, D.C.-based Saban Center for Mideast Policy; Amb. Dennis Ross of the Washington Institute; James Zogby, executive director, Arab American Institute; Palestinian Deputy Minister Ahmad Majdalani; Imad Shakur Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council; and Sheikh Taysir al Tamimi, Chief Palestinian Islamic Justice.
Iraq Commander: War Is 'A Nightmare with No End in Sight'
Oct. 13 (EIRNS)Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez (ret.), the top U.S. commander in Iraq from June 2003 to June 2004, has slammed the White House, the State Department, and the lack of leadership in Congress, for the disaster in Iraq. In a speech to a group of military reporters and editors meeting in Arlington, Va. on Oct. 12, Sanchez said that "America continues its desperate struggle in Iraq without any concerted effort to devise a strategy that will achieve victory in Iraq." He attributed this to the failure of the Bush Administration to "employ and synchronize its political, economic and military power"; to the failure of Congress to provide focused oversight; to partisanship in both the Democratic and Republican parties, that has led to political decisions "that have endangered the lives of our sons and daughters;" and to "America's lack of commitment, priority and moral courage in this war effort."
As a result, Sanchez said, "America is living a nightmare with no end in sight." The political leaders of the country "have unquestionably been derelict in the performance of their duty. In my profession, these types of leaders would be immediately relieved or court martialed," he said.
This is the first time Sanchez has spoken out publicly since he retired from the Army in 2006, and was, in many ways, the victim of the misleadership that he describes. He arrived in Iraq as the most junior three-star general in the Army, in the aftermath of the decisions by Paul Bremer, the U.S. proconsul in Baghdad, to disband the Iraqi army, and purge Ba'ath Party members from their jobs, which created the conditions for the insurgency that began to build up that Summer. Sanchez described Gen. David Petraeus's surge strategy as a "desperate attempt" by an administration that has not accepted the political realities of this war. "Continued manipulations and adjustments to our military strategy will not achieve victory," he said. "The best we can do with this flawed approach is to stave off defeat."
Iran-IAEA Talks Are Going Well
Oct. 10 (EIRNS)In accordance with the agreement signed by the UN nuclear watchdog IAEA and Iran on Aug. 21, technical talks to clarify outstanding questions have begun in Tehran. The talks may last two or three days; the latest reports indicating that the ongoing talks are fruitful.
As reported by Iranian news agency IRNA, the talks were co-chaired by Iran's Deputy Secretary for International Affairs Javad Vaeedi, and Deputy IAEA Chief for Safeguards Ollie Heinonen. Talks are expected to cover P-1 and P-2 centrifuges, IRNA reported. Iran uses a 1970s vintage of centrifuge, called P-1s, which are prone to breakdown if spun at high speed for long periods. It is researching an advanced P-2 model at sites off limits to IAEA inspectors. "The process is on track," said a senior Vienna diplomat familiar with IAEA-Iran contacts, adding that the two sides were meeting earlier than the previous plan of mid-October.
In these talks, Iran will present written answers to questions asked by the IAEA at their last round of talks. Subsequently, the IAEA will have the rest of October to raise more questions, if the organization finds it necessary. In November, IAEA Chief Mohammad ElBaradei will present a report as the IAEA assessment of the Iranian nuclear power program.
Putin Says Iranian Program Is Peaceful
Oct. 11 (EIRNS)Following talks with visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated his belief that Iran's nuclear program is peaceful. "We do not have information that Iran is trying to create a nuclear weapon. We operate on the principle that Iran does not have those plans," Putin said, according to international wires. Putin is due in Tehran on Oct. 15 for talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
At the same time, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov cautioned against any moves before the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has completed its report. As reported by Russia's RIA Novosti news agency, Lavrov said: "Until the IAEA reports on what is going on in Iran, until we receive these answers, it would be irresponsible to make any sharp movements. When we hear calls to use force against Iran, which has fallen foul of IAEA rules, then we question what this could lead to."