|Southwest Asia News Digest
Turkey-Africa Summit in Istanbul
Aug. 19 (EIRNS)The Turkish Africa Summit began yesterday in Istanbul, with the participation of 50 of the 53 member-states of the African Union. "Solidarity and Partnership for a Common Future" is the theme of the conference, which will draft a declaration outlining areas of political, economic, and security cooperation. "I believe that a future-oriented perspective of cooperation in regards to Turkey-Africa relations will come out of the Istanbul summit," Ambassador Ertugrul Apakan, the Foreign Ministry undersecretary, told the conference. Turkey holds observer status with the African Union, and was declared a strategic partner at the last AU summit.
Six African heads of state are attending, including Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. The other countries are represented at the level of vice president, heads of government, foreign ministers, and senior government officials.
The volume of Turkey's trade with Africa in 2003 was $5 billion, and rose to almost $13 billion in 2007. An estimate for 2008 is $19 billion. The target for 2010 is $30 billion.
Israel, U.S. Condemn Iranian Missile Test
Aug. 20 (EIRNS)Iran's official news agency, IRNA, reported on Aug. 18, that its missile test of a two-stage rocket was successfully carried out, as a prelude to the "launch of Safir-e Omid, or Ambassador of Peace, a satellite to monitor natural disasters in the earthquake-prone nation and improve its telecommunications. The satellite [will have] data processing capability." The Iranian government has said that Iran hopes to launch four domestically made satellites by 2010. Russia had previously launched a communications satellite for Iran in a cooperative venture.
Iran has a developing space program, and www.flightglobal.com reports that Iranian Space Agency President Ahmad Talebzadeh has been elected chairman of the legal subcommittee of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space for 2010-11.
Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, issued a statement saying that Iran's "testing of rockets is troubling and raises further questions about Iranian intentions.... This action and dual use possibilities for their ballistic missile program have been a subject of International Atomic Energy Agency discussions and are inconsistent with their UN Security Council obligations."
It is not true that there is a prohibition against Iran developing rockets capable of launching satellites, but Aviation Week magazine immediately connected the rocket launch to the nuclear weapons issue on Aug. 18, saying that the test "is renewing concerns that the vehicle is also intended to test intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capabilities."
In Israel, the missile test was greeted with further statements against Iran. Knesset member Yitzak Ben-Yisrael (Kadima party), the former head of the Israeli space agency, said that Iran was trying to frighten Israel and the U.S., after the reports of possible military action against Iran, but he said that launching a satellite will give Iran no security. A former head of the Mossad, Ephraim Halevy, told an English-language Arab TV station, Al-Hurra, that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the "greatest gift" that Israel could receive, because his anti-Israel posture shows the world that Iran cannot be reasoned with, and he "unites the entire world against Iran."
Meanwhile, there are contradictory reports as to whether the two-stage rocket launch was successful.
White House Challenged on Iraq Status of Forces Agreement
Aug. 22 (EIRNS)With an Iraqi-U.S. agreement on the status of U.S. forces in Iraq reportedly near completion, one of the biggest questions continues to be the covert agenda of "permanent bases." A Washington intelligence source told EIR that a permanent air base in Iraq, with as many as 20,000 troops, is seen by the White House as a strategic priority for handling Central Asia and Russia.
While there is no final agreement that came out of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's trip to Iraq yet, National Security Council press spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters on Aug. 21 that the agreement with Iraq will not require Congressional approval or ratification by the Senate, since "it is not a treaty." The White House has asserted this before.
There continues to be opposition to this in Congress: On Aug. 1, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) and five co-sponsors introduced legislation that forbids President Bush from entering into a binding agreement with Iraq without Congressional approval, the Washington Post reports. In the House, Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.) says, "This is one of the biggest constitutional issues going, and it seems hardly anyone is paying attention." He has sponsored legislation requiring Bush to go to the UN for an extension of the mandate that covers U.S. troop presence past Jan. 10, 2010. Republican Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.) complained that "keeping Congress in the dark about these negotiations is the height of arrogance. Congress should be playing a major role in this process."
There is also opposition inside Iraq. Several of the coalition and opposition parties have demanded that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki bring the agreement to the Parliament for approval. On Aug. 22, several thousand members of the Mahdi Army of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, held a protest rally saying that the Status of Forces agreement would turn Iraq into a "colony of the United States." Al-Sadr, who has declared a ceasefire between his Mahdi Army and the U.S.-led occupation forcesnow going into its second yearhas been living in Iran, where he is studying in the city of Qom. Reports in the Arabic press today say that he plans to stay there, and only return to Iraq for short visits with his followers.
The draft agreement reportedly calls for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraqi cities by the Summer of 2009, and withdrawal of all U.S. combat forces by the end of 2010.
Iraqi Government Targets Sunni 'Awakening'
Aug. 22 (EIRNS)The Iraqi government is cracking down on members and leaders of the Sunni "Awakening" movement, according to the New York Times today. These are former insurgents who were put on the U.S. payroll. Some officials in the Shi'ite-dominated government want to dismantle the Awakening entirely, according to these reports.
A number of U.S. military officers point out that the Awakening, and not the "surge," was the principal reason for the decline of violence and attacks on U.S. soldiers in Iraq, starting in 2006, and disagree with the Iraqi government crackdown.
On Aug. 21, the New York Times reported that there are currently 100,000 Sunni tribesmen on the U.S. payroll as security forces, with a price tag of $25 million per month.
Witness's 'Cold Feet' Complicates Railroading of Olmert
Aug. 22 (EIRNS)Morris Talansky, the U.S. businessman who has been the prime witness in the Israeli bribery case against Prime Minister Ehud Olment, is now under FBI investigation in the United States, which threatens to derail the Israeli investigation of Olmert. According to the Forward and other news sources, Talansky's lawyer revealed that a Federal grand jury had been convened in Brooklyn last month.
Talansky's legal problems threaten to undermine the Israeli investigation of Olmert, since Talansky is refusing to return to Israel and testify as long as the U.S. investigation is open and he is in legal jeopardy. He is demanding immunity from prosecution in the U.S. as a condition for continued cooperation with Israeli authorities. Israeli prosecutors are asking that the U.S. investigation be halted.