|Southwest Asia News Digest
Lavrov: Next Peace Conference Will Be in Moscow
Nov. 28 (EIRNS)"The next peace summit between Israelis and Palestinians will be held in Moscow," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated today at Annapolis, according to the Russian news agency Interfax. Lavrov said the proposal had been greeted enthusiastically by the participants of the Annapolis meeting on Mideast peace, though no date has been set.
The prospect of a major Moscow role in the follow-up to Annapolis is something that Lyndon LaRouche had anticipated, in statements concerning the importance of Russian President Vladimir Putin's activity in negotiating aspects of the peace policy long before the Annapolis meeting. On Oct. 19, just after Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met in Moscow, LaRouche evaluated the three-hour meeting between the two: "It's very important. This is extremely important, because we know exactly what it is. The point is, that the question is Iran. It involves everything, including the U.S. policy on this missile-defense thing. And so, what Putin is going for, is to get a package which is attractive to a number of people, and see what can fly from it. It's obvious." LaRouche also said that the Putin-Olmert discussion would determine whether the Israelis would go to Annapolis.
On Lavrov's statement about a followup meeting in Moscow, the Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA) reported that Lavrov also said that Russia would broker peace talks between Israel and its northern neighbors, i.e., Syria and Lebanon. JTA quotes Lavrov as saying, "This is crucial not only for the solution of all key problems in Palestinian-Israeli relationsI mean the border issue, refugees, and the state of Jerusalembut also for approaching other spheres of the Middle East settlement, the Arab-Israeli conflict. I mean the Syrian and Lebanese areas."
Lavrov proposed a follow-up conference in Moscow in the Spring of 2008. Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa supported this idea, and said that negotiations should be expanded to include Syria and Lebanon as well. Discussion of a potential Moscow conference on the Middle East has been appearing in the Israeli press, suggesting this as a venue for an Israeli-Syrian peace initiative.
Israel Open to Negotiations with Syria
Nov. 28 (EIRNS)Miri Eisin, the spokeswoman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said today in Washington, that Israel would be in favor of negotiating a peace treaty with Syria. At a press conference at the National Press Club subsequent to the meeting of the Israeli and Palestinian leaders with President Bush, she replied to a question from EIR regarding Syrian participation at Annapolis: "Syria is a pivotal player in the region. And when you talk about peace with a neighboring country you have to think hard about the issues." She then noted Syria's support for Hezbollah and Hamas. "But they made a choice to come to the conference. There is then the possibility that through the process that has been opened, we can begin to also discuss with the Syrians. It definitely opens new avenues for discussion." She added, however, "I don't think you will suddenly see the announcement of an agreement as a result of some secret negotiations," playing down EIR's reference to possible back-channel talks going on. "But Syria is a pivotal player and Olmert has said several times that he would want to come to an agreement with them."
An Arab journalist covering the Annapolis summit indicated to EIR that his sources in Tel Aviv had told him that the Israelis had pushed hard to get the Syrians invited to Annapolis.
Eisin indicated that the road ahead would be difficult on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides, and that both parties had major obstacles internally to overcome. Nevertheless, she indicated that there have been "subtle changes" in the situation which have allowed the two leaders to begin discussions. "They are gradually building a bond of trust. Nevertheless, there are questions on the ability of being able to deliver on both sides. If we do nothing, bad things will happen. We can't re-explain the past, but we have to focus on the present."
Eisin also indicated that there were now parties at the table that were not there before, and that could make a difference, noting that it was the first instance of an Israeli leader speaking at an assembly where the Saudis and many other Arab countries were in attendance. "They're there and involved, not mediating the process, but supporting it," she said.
In response to a question about Syrian complaints about Israel taking too much water from the Jordan River, Eisin said that Israel "has one of the best programs for water utilization. We are cooperating with China, a very big country but with major water shortages, in the issues of efficient water management." If Israel can achieve agreements with its Arab neighbors, "Israel's technological potential can be used to the benefit of the world."
Bush Administration, Basically, Takes Iraq As a Colony
Nov. 27 (EIRNS)On Nov. 26, as the Annapolis meeting was beginning, President George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki signed, via videoteleconference, a document intended to lead to setting the terms for a long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq. The signing was a curious event, in that Iraq did not attend the Annapolis meeting. One well-placed source in a major Arab country told EIR that Iraq's reason for not attending the meeting was essentially its lack of sovereignty. "What is Iraq really?" said EIR's contact, noting that the country doesn't know if it is Sunni or Shi'ite, or whether it will be divided or remain unified. Those matters are out of its government's scope.
Therefore, the language of the document is highly suspect. It states that the U.S. and Iraq "are committed to developing a long-term relationship of cooperation and friendship as two fully sovereign and independent states with common interests." The document sets forth principles in the political, economic, and security spheres, which belie that opening declaration. Among other things, those principles include keeping the largely American-authored constitution in force, giving U.S. investment in Iraq preference over other foreign investment, and providing "security assurances" not only against foreign aggression, but on internal security as well.
Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute told reporters that the agreement stems from a joint communiqué of Aug. 26, in which Maliki asked the United States for a long-term relationship. He described it as a "mutual statement of intent that will be used to frame our formal negotiations" in 2008. The size and posture of the future U.S. occupation force is supposed to be worked out in those negotiations, but withdrawal timelines or goals are not "anticipated" to be included.
The nature of the agreement is also such that it bypasses Congressional input; and, it is not anticipated that the agreement will lead to a formal treaty requiring ratification by the U.S. Senate.
U.S.-Iran Science Academies Continue Dialogue
WASHINGTON, D.C., Nov. 29 (EIRNS)In a report-back meeting today, members of a delegation from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), who visited Iran Oct. 13-22, at the invitation of Sharif University and the Iranian Academy of Sciences, described their visit, and called for increased "engagement" with Iran. The participants are fully aware that their activity, which they report is encouraged by the "highest level" of government in both the United States (State Department and Treasury) and in Iran, is a war-avoidance measure, to keep channels open and build trust, in a political situation which is dangerous and deteriorating. The Academy's bilateral cooperation with Iran's scientific institutions began in 1999.
The delegation met with Iran's vice president for science; held a workshop, titled, "Science, a Gateway to Understanding," with the participation of former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami; visited research centers; went to the holy city of Qom, where they met with Grand Ayatollah Mousavi Ardebili; participated in television interviews; and held a public lecture, attended by more than 1,000 people, which was broadcast live to universities all over Iran.
Dr. William Colgazier, executive officer of the NAS, explained that Iran has a "large science and technology infrastructure," and is a "leader in the Muslim world." He was seconded by Dr. Norman Neureiter, who was appointed the first Science and Technology Advisor to the Secretary of State in 2000. The delegation was met with "effusive friendliness," he said, and received greetings from the Iranian President, who had intended to meet with them but was engaged in the Caspian Sea conference at that time.
At a dinner in their honor, Iranian Vice President for Science Sadegh Vaez-Zadeh challenged the participants to help monitor and deter "inappropriate uses of scientific discoveries that cause harm," and that all subjects should be on the table. Khatami warned that a war between Iran and the United States would be a catastrophe "for both sides." Although the nuclear question was not formally discussed, in informal discussions, all of the Iranian scientists reaffirmed that Iran fully intends to develop civilian nuclear energy. Dr. Neureiter reported that they reject anyone making "demands," but none took seriously the accusation that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Many thought that the Iranian President's inflammatory rhetoric "contributes to the isolation" of their country.
Both sides agreed to increased cooperation for 2008, to include: a bilateral workshop in Iran on reducing earthquake damage; an exchange of science policy specialists, with an emphasis on young professionals; and opening channels of communication between Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Virginia with a counterpart secondary school in Tehran.
The Academy is trying to get other scientific and educational institutions involved in exchanges with Iran, and Glenn Schweitzer, a member of the delegation, stressed that no government funds should be used, as is the Academy's policy, so as not to be seen as a "regime change" agent by the Iranians.