|Southwest Asia News Digest
Countermoves vs. British/Cheney Mideast War Drive
April 27 (EIRNS)Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan is mediating peace moves between Syria and Israel, and the whole effort is bypassing opposition from the Bush Administration, according to high-level sources in the region, who spoke to EIR April 27. Erdogan met recently with Syrian President Bashar Assad, and both Syrian and Israeli officials confirmed afterwards that Turkey is formally mediating between the two countries. According to one source, a meeting between President Assad and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert could take place in the near future, as both sides agree on most features of a treaty that would return the Golan Heights to Syria, in exchange for security guarantees, including security of Israel's northern border with Lebanon.
Ironically, one feature of such an agreement, according to an Arab source familiar with the talks, is that Syria would continue to play a significant role in assuring the stability of Lebanon, and the transition of Hezbollah from a military to a political organization, fully integrated into the Lebanese governing process. One source also pointed to the meeting on April 27, at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, between Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, as another aspect of the same "independent of Washington" diplomatic initiatives. Abbas returned from a visit to Washington, angry that President Bush refused to pledge to pressure Israel to halt settlement expansions. Abbas, according to Palestinian sources, saw Bush's refusal as a clear indication that no substantive peace deal will be reached before Bush leaves office.
The moves reflect a push-back against the war drive clearly coming out of the London-directed Cheney circles in Washington. But, to the extent that the effort is blind to the British factor, the best intentions will not translate into adequate war avoidance measures.
LaRouche Denounces Syria-North Korea Plutonium Hoax
April 25 (EIRNS)Lyndon LaRouche denounced the recent accusations against Syria and North Korea as another Dick Cheney swindle, on behalf of London, aimed at throwing all of Eurasia into permanent war and chaos. On April 23, members of the House and Senate armed services committees had received a closed-door video briefing, alleging that a military facility, in a remote area of Syria, which was bombed and destroyed by an Israeli Air Force attack in September 2007, was the site of a secret plutonium reactor, and that Syria was months away from being able to build a nuclear bomb. Within 24 hours of the testimony, the 12-minute video was leaked to the media.
LaRouche cited high-level U.S. intelligence sources, who said the video was a hoax, and that there was no evidence of any nuclear material at the site. At the time of the Israeli bombing, qualified U.S. and Israeli sources had reported that the target of the raid was a military storage facility, which had new, modern air defense components. It was only a month later, that right-wing Israeli circles began circulating the claim that the site was a secret nuclear reactor.
LaRouche further charged that Vice President Cheney, the leader of the war party inside the Bush Administration, is out to wreck the ongoing Six-Party talks on North Korea, despite the fact that the longstanding diplomatic effort is the only foreign policy success that the Bush Administration can claim after nearly eight years in office.
According to several current and retired U.S. intelligence officials contacted by EIR, CIA analysts are convinced that the video evidence, including the alleged "eyewitness photographs," are phony, and that the question of alleged Syrian-North Korean nuclear weapons cooperation is "a non-issue." As one source put it, the site has been already destroyed by the Israelis, there was no plutonium or uranium at the location of the bombing, and there is no military option against North Korea.
The question is: Will George Bush cave in to Cheney and throw away the one single accomplishment of his administration?
Israel Not Pleased with Charges vs. Syria, North Korean
April 25 (EIRNS)According to Israeli press reports, the Israeli government does not like the Bush Administration's testimony on alleged Syrian-North Korean nuclear cooperation, and fears that it is embarrassing Syrian President Bashar Assad to the point that he might have to stage some sort of "retaliation" against Israel.
The Israeli daily Ha'aretz wrote, "senior Israeli defense establishment officials expressed concern that the official American release of details about the strike would embarrass Syrian leader Bashar Assad, and lead him to take a more aggressive stance toward Israel." They say that this makes "Assad vulnerable, internationally and domestically." These sources "warned that Israel must be cautious and avoid embarrassing Assad unnecessarily." Therefore, Israel is maintaining its silence on the issue, as it has done since the air strike last September.
Ha'aretz reports that Defense Minister Ehud Barak opposed the release of any new details on the attack or the alleged nuclear ties between Damascus and Pyongyang, arguing that this would only push the Syrians into a corner and would escalate tensions.
Ha'aretz goes so far as to say that "Jerusalem and Damascus have tried their best to bolster each other this week with declarations on their willingness to renew negotiations on the Golan Heights, in an effort geared to cool the atmosphere before the revelations in Washington. In talks with reporters, senior officials in Israel complimented Assad's seriousness and maturity and described him as a worthy successor to his father."
Abbas Critical of Bush's Non-Peace Process
April 26 (EIRNS)Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reported that he failed to convince U.S. President George Bush, during their meeting in Washington, to implement the Road Map for peace. "Frankly, so far nothing has been achieved.... We demanded the Americans implement the first phase of the Road Map that talks about cessation of settlement expansion," Abbas told Associated Press.
Bush's response was that he was "focusing on the bigger picture," but in reality, according to Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, instead of finishing his term in office with an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, Bush would be satisfied with a statement of principles.
In response, Abbas said, "We don't want a declaration of principle, because we had one," which was the Oslo Peace Accord of 1993. "Now we want a normal agreement. And then we can go for the details."
Abbas said he told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the Bush Administration should at least talk about Israel returning to the 1967 borders, but even this it would not do. "We demanded that they talk about the '67 borders," Abbas said, and then, expressing anger, he continued, "None of them talks about the '67 borders." In summing up his talks in Washington, Abbas said, "We have made clear our position to the President, to the State Department, and to the Congress. And now our position is very clear to all of them."
Proposal for Iran Nuclear Program Presented at Senate Hearing
April 24 (EIRNS)A proposal to break the Iran nuclear stalemate, co-authored by former U.S. ambassador Thomas Pickering, was presented to a Senate hearing today by one of its co-authors, MIT nuclear scientist Dr. Jim Walsh. At the hearing, held by a Senate Homeland Security and Government Reform subcommittee, the Pickering proposal was endorsed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
(The Pickering proposal is discussed in an article by Jeffrey Steinberg, in the April 25 issue of EIR.)
This is a "reality-based proposal," Dr. Walsh told the hearing, which had as its general theme the failure of the Bush-Cheney Administration to stop or even slow down Iran's nuclear policy. The Luers-Pickering-Walsh proposal would allow Iran to establish a uranium-enrichment facility on its own territory, which would be managed by a multinational consortium. Walsh said that he has had discussions about Iran's nuclear program with over 100 Iranian officials, including members of the Expediency Council, and a five-hour meeting with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Feinstein, who appeared with Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) as "special Congressional witnesses" to urge direct talks, without preconditions, with Iran, stated that there have been back-channel discussions going on between the U.S. and Iranconfirming the more detailed statements by Pickering in the April 14 London Independent, that back-channel discussions have been underway for five years on the Iran nuclear issue.