|Southwest Asia News Digest
Fallon: 'Realities of 30 Years of Non-Dialogue' with Iran
July 29 (EIRNS)Adm. William Fallon emphasized the necessity of dialogue with Iran, in what appear to be his first public appearances since he was forced to resign as chief of U.S. Central Command last March.
In remarks to the National Press Club today, he noted that the only real dialogue that has ensued over the past 30 years has been the exchange of messages and courtesies at sea during passages of U.S. naval ships in the Persian Gulf. He said that while there are significant issues with Iran, "we have to recognize the realities of 30 years of non-dialogue." In Fallon's discussion with talk show host Charlie Rose on July 28, he mentioned his efforts, while at Centcom, to engage with Iran. "The key issue," he said, "is how do you get them to start playing a constructive role rather than a destabilizing, unconstructive role they are playing now?"
Fallon also reported that when he first toured the region after becoming chief of Centcom in March 2007, regional leaders expressed concern about Iran's ambitions, but they also told him, "Don't start a war."
Ahmadinejad Hints at Positive Response to U.S. Shift
July 28 (EIRNS)Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad acknowledged signs of a shift in U.S. policy toward Iran, and said that Iran will respond positively if there is a genuine change on the part of Washington. He was speaking in an interview with NBC News.
After saying that the policy of the U.S. toward Iran for the past 50 years has been one of confrontation, Ahmadinejad continued: "Today, we see new behavior shown by the United States and the officials of the United States. My question is, is such behavior rooted in a new approach, in other words mutual respect, cooperation, and justice? Or is this approach a continuation in the confrontation with the Iranian people, but in a new guise?"
If this is just a continuation of the old process, Iran will defend its rights, Ahmadinejad said. "But if the approach changes, we will be facing a new situation, and the response by the Iranian people will be a positive one."
On the Geneva meeting on Iran's nuclear program, he said: "They submitted a package, and we responded by submitting our own package. They again submitted a work plan, and we submitted our own work plan. It's very natural in the first steps we are going to negotiate over the common ground as they exist inside the two packages. If the two parties succeed in agreeing over the common ground, that will help us to work on our differences as well, to reach an agreement."
Israeli Foreign Minister: Clock Is Ticking for Iran
Aug. 3 (EIRNS)Speaking to CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Israeli foreign minister and prime minister candidate Tzipi Livni, gave a short timetable on what she deemed the red-line for military action on Iran. When Blitzer asked if she agreed with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who had told Blitzer the day before that there are 15 to 36 months before Iran reaches the "line of no return," Livni replied, "Time is of the essence even more. We shouldn't wait for the point of no return." She said that the international community must apply tough sanctions immediately, since, "any hesitation from the international community allows Iran to progress on their nuclear program." When confronted with International Atomic Energy Agency director Mohamed ElBaradei's comments that an attack on Iran would lead to conflagration in the region, Livni replied, "It is a choice between bad options. But waiting doesn't create a better situation, but a worse one."
Asked about the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Livni claimed that her Palestinian contacts were telling her that the peace talks were very advanced, but that the proposed deadline set by President Bush, to have some agreement by the end of his Administration, might be unrealistic. "The time-line is less important than the content," Livni said.
Syrian Envoy to U.S.: Israel Has a Chance for Peace
July 29 (EIRNS)In an interview with Americans for Peace now, parts of which were aired on Israel's Army Radio, Syrian Ambassador to the United States Imad Moustapha called talks between Israel and Syria "an historic opportunity for Israel to make peace, not just with Syria and Lebanon, but with the whole Arab world." Calling on Israel to withdraw from the occupied Golan Heights as the price for peace with Syria, he said, "Israel must accept Syria's legitimate demand and understand that it will not achieve peace on the northern border as long as it is holding the Golan Heights. We offer the big thinglet's sit together, make peace, and finish once and for all this state of war. What could be better than that?"
In response to the statements, Peace Now Secretary General Yariv Oppenheimer called on Israel to complete negotiations with Syria while the current Knesset is still in power. "The government of Israel has an obligation not to miss this chance for peace with Syria, and to present a full peace agreement to the public," Oppenheimer told Army Radio.
On July 29, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert defended his decision to hold negotiations with Syria, in an address to graduates of the National Security program at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
"Israel's security organizations have shown maturity and broad strategic vision when they supported the need for dialogue with Syria from the start," Olmert said. "Israel's security establishment has a very significant role, perhaps an unprecedented one," in the negotiations. He warned, "The time will come when signals, as positive as they may be, [will not be] enough. Israel has been pressing for direct talks" with Syria.
Netanyahu Is First To Call for New Israeli Elections
July 31 (EIRNS)Israel is debating whether to hold new elections, now that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said that he will resign in September, after his Kadima party elects a new chairman.
The first to open his mouth was Likud party chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, who immediately called for new elections, saying that the resignation of Olmert has demonstrated that the current government is a "total failure," demanding a return "to the people and new elections." Polls show that the Likud would win an election.
Among the candidates who have put themselves forward for Kadima party head, Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz said if he wins, he would form a broad coalition that would include the Likud. Mofaz, a former chief of staff and defense minister, is now on a visit in the U.S. His campaign manager is the American Arthur Finkelstein, who had been Netanyahu's advisor in the past.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who is the frontrunner in the Kadima leadership race, has also said she would form a unity government with Likud.
As for the Labor Party, Isaac Herzog, the social affairs minister, said Labor would seek to help form a new government rather than go to a new election. But he admitted that it could be hard to form a new government, so elections could be held as early as March.
The Jerusalem Post quotes a political observer saying that the entire situation is a brilliant ploy by Olmert to stay in power: that Olmert might just remain prime minister longer then everyone thought. He would have to lead a caretaker government until a new one is formed, which could take months, and if it fails, new elections would have to be held, after which again a new government would have to be formed. This could continue well into next year. Olmert said he would push the peace process as long as he is in office.
Turkey Dismantles Its Gladio Stay-Behind Network
July 29 (EIRNS)Turkey is finally dismantling its NATO-linked Gladio stay-behind network, commented a Turkish intelligence source, on the indictment of the Ergenekon crime network. The latter was the center of a 2,400-page indictment identifying 85 suspects who were involved in planning a coup, as well as having carried out several assassinations and terrorist attacks.
The source said that all the other NATO countries have dismantled their Gladio operations, and now it is time for Turkey.
There is a general feeling, said the source, that foreign intelligence services are cooperating with the Turkish prosecutors, giving them access to secret documents and other evidence. He feared that Ergenekon was no longer useful to certain factions, so they are dismantling it, while they come up with something else.
On the question of the case against the ruling party now being deliberated in the Constitutional Court, he said that the court is not a above politics. He said there are powerful political circles in the country who want Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan out; he is the real target, not his AKP party as such.