|Southwest Asia News Digest
Behind Annapolis and the Iran NIE
Dec. 8 (EIRNS)The war party faction in the Bush Administration has suffered a pair of stunning political setbacks to their plans for further military confrontations in Southwest Asia. The danger of yet-another Persian Gulf war is not over; but the prospects of perpetual war in the world's oil patch is reduced, for the first time in a long while. See this week's InDepth coverage for full analysis of Washington's battle over Southwest Asia.
NIE Report on Iran 'Snatched' Netanyahu's Agenda
Dec. 7 (EIRNS)Under the headline, "How Netanyahu's Agenda Was Snatched," the Israeli daily Ha'aretz has a short interview with Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, commenting on how the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate has undercut his crusade against Iran's nuclear program. Journalist Yossi Verter writes that Netanyahu claims he started his campaign in 1996, when he addressed a joint session of the U.S. Congress. (This was also when Netanyahu was given the "Clean Break" report by U.S. neo-conservatives including Richard Perle and John Bolton.) Verter writes that "henceforth, the slogan he coined of which he is so proud, 'The year is 1938 and Ahmadineijad is Hitler,' will be greeted with raised eyebrows internationally. After all, what does Netanyahu know that 16 American spy agencies don't know?"
Netanyahu shrugs off the NIE, saying, "There will be other reports."
'Israel Won't Attack Iran Alone'
Dec. 7 (EIRNS)Commenting on the National Intelligence Estimate which concluded that Iran has closed down its nuclear weapons program, an unnamed Israeli Cabinet official told Time magazine, "It looks like this ends the military option against Iran for now. Israel won't attack alone. Iran's facilities are too many and spread far apart." This is also reported in the Jerusalem Post.
Ha'aretz adds a comment by Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai to the Knesset: "For now, Israel believes diplomatic pressure on its top enemy must be exhausted." But when asked if he believed an Israeli strike was possible, Vilnai said that "no option needs to be off the table."
LaRouche: Barghouti's Call for Peace Is Decisive
Dec. 3 (EIRNS)Marwan Barghouti, the imprisoned Palestinian leader, told a delegation of Knesset members visiting him in the Hasharon Prison yesterday, that the Palestinian people in both the West Bank and Gaza would support a peace agreement.
Barghouti is quoted by Ynet: "The end of the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict is near. All that is needed is a leader courageous enough to sign [an agreement]. I believe we are on the brink of a solution. If a permanent agreement is drafted, the Palestinian Authority will hold a referendum to approve it."
Lyndon LaRouche commented, "This is really significant. This one thing is really decisive. A lot of people are on the fence on this issue, but Barghouti is not. Our pushing of the Annapolis conference was the right thing to do."
As for the release by Israel of 429 prisoners today, LaRouche said, it "is a joke. Most of those slated for release would have been freed a few months from now anyway. Israel can free thousands of prisoners, not just 400. Abu Mazen [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] requested the release of more prisoners, but was denied by Israel." Israel is holding 9,000 Palestinian prisoners.
In response to the fact that Palestinian prisoners have no access to a public phone, Knesset Member Nadia Hilou (Labor) said, "This is especially bewildering when one takes into account that another security prisoner in Israel named Yigal Amir [Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassin] enjoys 24-hour access to a phone."
LaRouche and former Secretary of State James Baker III have called for Barghouti's release as key to furthering the peace process. Israeli Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer has also called for his release.
Barghouti is recognized as a legitimate leader of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement in the West Bank, and was elected as a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council in 1996. In April 2002, he was arrested and placed on trial before an Israeli court. He received a sentence of five life terms from the court, whose jurisdiction he refused to recognize during the proceedings. He has continued to be active politically in jail on behalf of an peace agreement. The fact that he called for the signing of such an agreement, lends crucial support to the post-Annapolis peace process.
Syrian MP: Mediated Talks with Israel Have Never Ended
Dec. 7 (EIRNS)While denying there were secret Israeli-Syrian talks ongoing, Syrian Member of Parliament Dr. Muhamad Habash said that mediated talks have never stopped. "Every time, the Israelis say there are secret contacts going on between Israel and Syria, but it soon becomes clear that these remarks are made simply for domestic political concerns in Tel Aviv. Syria doesn't need clandestine negotiations," Habash said in a press interview reported by today's Ynet. Nonetheless, "We're ready for public talks. If this is so, why engage in clandestine negotiations? The mediation between Syria and Israel has never ended. The Russians are aiding in the mediation as well as the Turks and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as well as a number of other countries that have mutual interests."
Laying out conditions necessary for peace, Habash said, "If half a million Palestinian refugees who are currently living on Syrian land are returned to Israel or their lands in Palestine, and the Golan Heights is reinstated as Syrian, then we would be able to say thank God and enjoy the long-awaited peace."
He warned of a continuing war danger: "The prospect that Israel might take some adventurous steps is reasonable to assume. In the last year, the Israelis decided to carry out some risky maneuvers, and they were on the losing side, and even today there are those who are pushing for war, even though Israel was on the losing side. The possibility that Israel were to infringe upon Syria's sovereignty is a possibility that exists and that we're not ruling out, although at the same time, we are not looking to reach this stage, and we do not want to escalate the situation." Warning that Syria would even attack Israel's Dimona nuclear reactor if necessary in an all-out war, Habash said, "The Dimona reactor is located within range of our missiles. Nothing will stop the fervor of the Syrian soldier and the Syrian warrior in this situation."
Olmert Spoke to Putin About Moscow Peace Conference
Dec. 7 (EIRNS)Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert telephoned Russian President Vladimir Putin on Dec. 6, and discussed, among other things, the follow-up Moscow peace conference proposed by Russia as a venue for Syria-Israeli talks.
A statement released by Putin's office, and reported in the Jerusalem Post Dec. 7, said Olmert called Putin to congratulate him on his party's victory in the Russian parliamentary elections, and to discuss the peace conference at Annapolis, the upcoming Paris donors' conference, and "preparations for the next international conference in the first half of 2008."
The two were said to have also discussed Iran and the new U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, which states that Iran has suspended its nuclear weapons program.
Another Annapolis Result: Iraq Declares PKK a Terrorist Organization
Dec. 5 (EIRNS)In a new, tertiary outcome of the Annapolis summit talks, Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of Iraq's largest Shi'ite party, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, said today that Iraq considers the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) a terrorist organization, and will not tolerate attacks launched by the group against Turkey from Iraqi soil, in comments reported by Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper. Al-Hakim added that he wants to ensure "that Turkish forces do not enter Iraq" and "that security in Iraq can be provided by Iraqis themselves."
Hakim's statement accords with EIR's recognition of the general success of the Annapolis summit. Of the most important accomplishments at Annapolis, was that Vice President Dick Cheney, and other war-party fanatics in the Bush Administration, were robbed of an opportunity to press, as they had intended, for an immediate military attack on Iran. According to some former senior officials, who spoke to EIR, Cheney had been banking on a breakdown of the Annapolis talks, and a discrediting of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who staked her reputation on some modicum of success in bringing together a wide array of regional and international players, to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, after a seven-year shutdown. One key Annapolis objective on the part of Cheney and his "permanent warfare/permanent revolution" grouping, was to create a war-like situation around the Kurdish issue, isolating Turkey. Cheney has lost this round.
Hakim said today at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in Washington, that Iraq cannot take any stance that could harm its neighbors, particularly Turkey.