|Southwest Asia News Digest
Powell Calls for Negotiations with Syria and Iran
Feb. 10 (EIRNS)Former Secretary of State Colin Powell (ret.) told CNN's Wolf Blitzer today that the United States "should be talking to the leaders of states that we have significant disagreements with." When Blitzer baited him by asking, "Including state sponsors of terrorism?" Powell responded: "I was talking to Syria during the time that I was Secretary of State. I visited Damascus on a fairly regular basis. They were always tough conversations. Sometimes I came away with no progress. Sometimes I got things done. Sometimes I did things that helped Israel. But you have to talk to folks that you may not necessarily like, and you can't put down impossible preconditions for conversation. You can't say, give me what I want before I will talk to you. That doesn't work. It won't work with Syria. It won't work with Iran."
"So yes, I would be talkingwe have an embassy that's open in Damascus, Syria. So I'd send the ambassador back and begin a dialogue. I would talk to Iran.... We're talking to them in Baghdad every few months about security matters, and if we can do that in Baghdad with our ambassador ... I don't see why we can't speak to them in other fora ... about the full range of issues that have kept us in this situation with each other since 1979. It's time to move on."
Powell said the surge in Iraq had failed on the political end, "which was the whole reason for the surge in the first place." And, he backed up the military chiefs on the inability to sustain the high U.S. troop levels in Iraq: "My own judgment ... is that it can't be kept up indefinitely at the size of 140,000...." Neither the Army nor the National Guard has increased in size since the war on Iraq and Afghanistan started, Powell said, so soldiers, "when they're in their third deployment and, maybe, looking toward a fourth deployment" have to "make choices"like leaving the military. He referenced Army Chief Gen. George Casey, and Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, referring to these "stresses" on the Army.
Powell said he is offering his advice to all the Presidential candidates, but has not yet decided who he will support, "Republican or Democrat or independent."
Ahmadinejad Receives Invitation to Egypt
Feb. 5 (EIRNS)Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad intends to visit Egypt some time over the next month, accepting an invitation from Cairo extended over the Feb. 2-3 weekend, which was the first such invitation since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, when Cairo cut its ties with Tehran. The invitation was extended through the Iranian Speaker of Parliament, Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel, who held talks in Cairo over the weekend with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
The Iranian student news agency ISNA reported on Feb. 4 that Ahmadinejad plans to visit all Arab states, including Egypt.
According to the Israeli daily Ha'a retz, as he was leaving Egypt, Haddad-Adel made clear Iran's desire to improve relations with Cairo: "Our meetings with senior officials in Egypt were held in a friendly atmosphere. We are ready for additional cooperation between the two countries."
Iran's nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, also made a recent visit to Cairo, on behalf of Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini. Larijani met with high-level Egyptian personalities, as well as diplomats and representatives from professional unions.
Right-Wingers Put Up $1 Million To Oust Olmert
Feb. 8 (EIRNS)Israel's Channel 2 reports that unidentified U.S. and Israeli businessman and political figures are ready to put up $1 million for information that could lead to a criminal investigation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The report featured a recording of a conversation between an unnamed businessman and a private investigator who was hired by the group to gather incriminating information on Olmert.
The investigator asked the businessman, "A number of senior personages on a global level are behind this initiative. The situation today is that Olmert is bad for the Jews. You know no less than me that he's very bad for the Jews. And there is a group of people who have taken upon themselves [to oust him from power], very wealthy peopleon a global level."
When the businessman asked who these people were, the investigator answered: "Good Jews, and I have been sent to take care of the matter and try to remove this person [Olmert] from where he is. There is a large jackpot involved. I wanted to interest you in both the jackpot and the ideology. I am trying to find material in all different places; that Olmert received bribes, that he deceived." He said that if they find incriminating evidence that leads to a prosecution, they could earn a million dollars.
If elections were held now, the big winner would be Likud Party chairman and George Shultz ally Benjamin Netanyahu. The Shas Party, which is a member of Olmert's ruling coalition, is preparing for early elections, according to today's Ha'aretz. Shas chairman Eli Yishai is quoted as saying, "I don't know how long this government will keep going; I assume there will be elections soon, perhaps even before the local authorities elections scheduled for November." Shas has been threatening to leave the coalition if Olmert divides Jerusalem, in an agreement with the Palestinians. Polls show that if elections were held today, Netanyahu's Likud Party could get six seats more than the combined number that the ruling Kadima Party and Labor Party could win, thus making Netanyahu a shoo-in as prime minister.
Suicide Bombers in Dimona, Israel
Feb. 4 (EIRNS)A suicide bomber blew himself up in the city of Dimona, Israel, today, 10 km from Israel's nuclear reactor, which is just outside the city. One person was killed and 11 were wounded; another bomber was shot before he could explode his charge. Ha'aretz, citing unnamed Fatah sources, said the bombing was carried out by the Army of Palestine, a wing of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. This is the first suicide bombing in Israel since January 2007. In apparent retaliation, the Israel military killed a member of the Popular Resistance Committees in the Gaza Strip.
It is reported that the bombers entered Israel through Sinai, after being able to enter Egypt from the Gaza Strip through the uncontrolled border.
Meanwhile, Egypt is calling for the European Union, Palestinian National Authority, and Hamas to control the Gaza-Egypt border crossing. In a bid to end the border crisis, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, telling him that he wants the border reopened under the previous arrangements, in which the EU monitors worked with the Palestinian Authority to man the crossing. Mubarak called for Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to come to an agreement to cooperate on running the border crossing. The EU monitors left the crossing when Hamas took full control of Gaza.