|Southwest Asia News Digest
Palestinian 'State' Deal: These Ducks Don't Fly
Aug. 28 (EIRNS)In a desperate, last ditch folly, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made her 18th trip to Israel and the Palestinian National Authority last week, to try to secure a "lame ducks" legacy for President George W. Bush, and apparently, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. According to informed sources close to both the PNA and Hamas, which governs in Gaza, PNA President Mahmoud Abbas will have to refuse to sign the shameful offer, which was leaked two weeks ago by Olmert's office. Under the reported "offer," the Palestinians would receive Gaza and 93% of the West Bankbut only Area Awith the border of a future Palestinian state roughly coinciding with the current route of the Israeli Separation Wall. In exchange for the 7% of the West Bank that Israel would take, Palestinians would receive a portion of the Negev Desert adjacent to Gaza, equal to 5.5% of the area of the West Bank.
"Abu Mazen would probably be killed if he took such an offer," said a well-informed Washington source to EIR. It does not even mention Hamas, which still commands the majority of voting support in the Palestinian territories; it does not allow for Jerusalem to be the capital of the Palestinian state; and it doesn't provide for the right of Palestinians who were thrown out of their country, and have lived as refugees since 1948, to return to their Palestinian state.
When the deal surfaced in the Israeli press about two weeks ago, it was immediately rejected, but then Rice was dispatched to try to rescue it. She is now forcing a meeting to take place between Olmert and Abbas on Aug. 31. Sources close to the Palestinians say Abbas is under tremendous pressure to sign, but will hold out.
Both Olmert and Bush, who are pushing this plan, are on their last legsOlmert will be resigning after a vote for head of the Kadima party on Sept. 17, and Bush is already out to lunch, if not out of office, until January 2009.
U.S. Radar To Be Deployed in Israel
Aug. 28 (EIRNS)An agreement between Israel and the United States for the deployment of a U.S. radar system in Israel's Negev region means that there will be a de facto American base in Israel for the first time.
The radar system was agreed upon last month and is to serve as defense against Syrian and Iranian ballistic missiles. Until Israeli personnel are trained to operate the system, the radar will carry an American flag, be staffed by civilian personal under contract of the U.S. Defense Department, and have two U.S. soldiers stationed there as well.
Today's Ha'aretz comments that the deployment will have serious implications. Anyone attempting a missile attack on Israel would consider the radar a priority target, but at the same time, would have to take into account the implications of striking the American crew.
While this would increase Israel's deterrence, it would also restrict its freedom of action, since Israel would also have to take into account the risk to the lives of the American radar operators, if it decides to strike the Iranian nuclear installations or strategic targets in Syria. Therefore, Israel would require the approval of the U.S government for any attack.
Ha'aretz points out that the new radar would also facilitate a U.S. strike on Iran, by enabling the U.S. to deploy the anti-missile system quickly for defense against retaliation.
The deployment of the system began with the private initiative of Rep. Mark Kirk, a Republican from Chicago, who spent time as a Reservist in the U.S. Navy's command center during the second Israel-Lebanon War, when Israel's performance caused him grave concern. Ha'aretz points out that while the deployment was approved by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, there was very little discussion or in-depth study of its implications. Even the military establishment has reservations about accepting this new American gift.
U.S.-Iraq Agreement in Jeopardy?
Aug. 31 (EIRNS)Confidential sources told the Los Angeles Times that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki fired the negotiating team working on the strategic framework agreement with the United States, just as negotiations were reaching the "make-or-break" stage, and replaced it with three of his closest advisors, a reshuffle that some Iraqi officials warn risks sabotaging the agreement. One aide to Maliki also told the Times that, while there were expectations that an agreement was imminent, Iraq and the U.S. remain far apart on key issues, including the matter of immunity for U.S. troops in Iraq. The official said that if the agreement went to the parliament in its present form, it would never pass. Another Iraqi familiar with the contents of the talks, said the changing of the negotiators is a diversion. "They are avoiding the issue," he said. "They don't want a status of forces agreement. They don't want a security agreement."
U.S. intelligence sources have told EIR that the shift in negotiating posture by Maliki reflects a larger policy reassessment, among ruling Shi'ite circles in Iraq. According to the sources, Ayatollah Sistani, Maliki, SCIRI head Hakim, and, perhaps, even Mahdi Army leader Moqtada al-Sadr, have all concluded that their control over the country is sufficiently solid, that they no longer depend on a U.S. military presence, to secure their power. Thus, they are now moving far more aggressively, to get an early date for the pullout of American forces.
According to one Arab source, Sistani has recently issued a fatwa, forbidding any open-ended deployment of American forces on Iraqi soil. In recent weeks, Iraqi police have rounded up hundreds of leaders of the Sunni Awakening Councils, which have been working with U.S. troops, and this is cited as further indication of a power consolidation move by the Shi'ite coalition, in advance of the upcoming provincial elections.
Iraq Grants First Major Oil Contractto China
Aug. 29 (EIRNS)Iraq's first oil deal since 2003 is a $3 billion, 22-year contract with China National Petrolium Corp., reviving the 1997 agreement which had been negotiated under Saddam Hussein. China will provide advisors, workers, and equipment for the Ahdab oilfield southeast of Baghdad, according to the Iraqi Oil Ministry.
Security will be handled jointly by Iraqi and Chinese teams. China will not share in the profits, as in the 1997 contract, but will be paid for its services. The deal must be approved by the Iraqi Parliament. The oil will fuel a power plant, one of the largest in the country, which is now in the planning stage.
Chalabi Aide Arrested by U.S. Forces in Iraq
Aug. 29 (EIRNS)An associate of Dick Cheney's favorite Iraqi stooge Ahmad Chalabi, was arrested on Aug. 27 by U.S. forces at Baghdad airport. Without naming the individual, Ali al-Lami, U.S. officials said that the arrested man was implicated in "multiple criminal acts including bombings and attacks against Iraqi targets," including on June 24 bombing which killed four Americans and six Iraqis. U.S. officials also say that al-Lami was working with the "highest echelons" of the "special groups," which the U.S. military says are Iranian-backed militias operating in Iraq.
Al-Lami is also a senior official in the De-Baathification Commission, now known as the Justice and Accountability Committee, which is headed by Chalabi. "This incident shows the need for an end to the random arrest of Iraqis by the American forces, which are against the human rights outlined in the constitution," said Chalabi in a statement denouncing the arrest.