|Southwest Asia News Digest
Biden Follows Mitchell to Mideast
March 7 (EIRNS)Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Israel yesterday, one day after Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell, in what is being billed as a two-pronged diplomatic offensive. First, Biden's trip is intended to bolster the Mitchell mission, which aims to start four months of "proximity talks," during which Mitchell will shuttle between Israeli and Palestinian delegations, to attempt to reach a final two-state solution. The second prong is Iran, where the United States, according to U.S. intelligence sources, is pushing a combined sanctions and diplomacy policy, for the time being, aimed at getting Iran to belatedly agree to the proposal of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it swap its low-enriched uranium for fuel rods for its isotope reactor. Israel is believed to be seriously contemplating military strikes against Iran, which the U.S. opposes.
According to one well-placed Egyptian source, during his recent trip to Washington, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was rebuffed on a series of new weapons requests, including mid-air refueling systems and other weapons that could be used in a strike on Iran. According to the source, Israeli officials are concerned that the next round of Israel-Palestinian talks will have Mitchell at the negotiating table, a prospect that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly not looking forward to.
The Mitchell and Biden trips have been preceded, in the past two months, by visits by top Obama Administration and military officials, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, and CIA Director Leon Panetta. Those trips were centered on warning Israel not to take unilateral action against Iran. In a TV interview today with CNN's Fareed Zakaria, CENTCOM Commander Gen. David Petraeus confirmed that the United States has moved from a diplomatic phase to an international sanctions phase against Iran, but that he believes that the Iranian Supreme Leader has not yet decided to actually build a nuclear bomb.
Lyndon LaRouche has emphasized that so long as Barack Obama is in the White House, the prospects of any American success, particularly in such a difficult situation as the Israel-Palestine conflict, is near zero. The idea that Obama would cross London and jeopardize the nearly century-old imperial Sykes-Picot vice-grip on the region, is a non-starter. Obama recently ignored protests by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and asked Quartet envoy Tony Blair, a rabid proponent of military action against Iran, to serve as Mitchell's partner in the new round of Israel-Palestine peace talksan overt act of sabotage against his own Administration's efforts.
Obama Deep in British Trap on Iran Sanctions
March 4 (EIRNS)Under British and Israeli pressure, U.S. President Barack Obama is backing a British-directed timetable to get tough on Iran. To this end, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and National Security Council Asia specialist Jeff Bader were dispatched to China to try to get agreement on sanctions, such as cutting off delivery of refined petroleum.
The Chinese response, both at the UN and in Beijing, has been to stress again that sanctions are not appropriate, and that all avenues of diplomacy have not yet been pursued to resolve the nuclear issue. Several members of the UN Security CouncilChina, Turkey, Lebanon, Brazil, and Russiaare opposing sanctions, but the pressure is on from London and from the Netanyahu regime in Israel to push for the sanctions now.
In contrast, during Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's trip to Brazil, the joint communiqué issued by her and Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Luiz Nunes Amorim did not mention sanctions at all. The section on Iran said that the two "expressed their serious concern with the evolution of the nuclear situation in Iran. They recognized the right of all signatories to the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] to develop nuclear programs for peaceful purposes and encouraged Iran to take the necessary steps to strengthen the international community's confidence in the peaceful nature of its program by fully cooperating with the IAEA and complying with the obligations contained in the relevant UNSC resolutions. They reiterated their commitment to the pursuit of a positive diplomatic outcome to these issues." U.S. media played this as "Clinton rebuffed by Brazil" on sanctions.
Back in New York, Obama's Rice-ist, UN Ambassador Susan Rice, is pushing for sanctions that are a form of economic warfare. In lockstep with British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, Rice told the UN Sanctions Committee yesterday that Iran's "ongoing violations and ... behavior show a continued pattern of disregard" for the "concerns" of the international community. Lyall Grant said that Iran is "acting duplicitously and illegally," and that it must be forced to "change its course." France's Deputy Ambassador Nicolas de Rivière was quoted saying that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recent report was "damning" and that "time is up" for Iran. Rice denied reports that a draft resolution by Britain, the U.S., and France had already been put into circulation.
China Offered Exemption from Iran Sanctions in Return for UN Vote
March 5 (EIRNS)For sanctions against Iran to be effective, the United States requires a strong international agreement, including with China, stated a well-informed Washington-based intelligence source to EIRNS on March 5; and to achieve this, the Administration is offering China exemptions from the sanctions, so that Chinese companies will not be negatively impacted. This tactic was also reported in the Washington Post today. Our source noted that China is Iran's biggest trading partner, and has $90-120 billion invested largely in Iranian oil and gas fields. Iran is also one of China's major importers.
"The purpose of the sanctions is to pressure Iran, not punish China," said the source, and therefore, the United States is trying to design "smart sanctions" that will target the Revolutionary Guard companies and command structure which are assuming control over Iranian defense ventures, including nuclear research facilities.
That is the intent of the Obama Administration's national security team, but there are two views on how to handle Iran, the source said: One is that patience and serious pursuit of diplomatic channels will eventually lead to an agreement with a leading faction in Iran. The second viewespecially from the British and Israelisis that Iran is only using the negotiations to stall, while it secretly escalates its program for building nuclear weapons. The "smart sanctions" would not involve economic warfare and militarized methods, such as a naval blockade of ships delivering refined petroleum products, or intercepting vessels at sea, which are being pushed by the international war party.
China clearly adheres to the view that, eventually, the negotiations with Iran will reach a satisfactory agreement, and that the United States needs the moral backing of the United Nations for the sanctions to work, said the source.
Brzezinski Says Keep Talking to Tehran
March 6 (EIRNS)In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski warned that a preemptive attack on Iran's nuclear facilities should be avoided. Above all, he said, "keep talking to Tehran."
The crux of Brzezinski's recommendations is to try to stop Iran's nuclear program; and if Tehran continues to pursue this, it should be made to pay. However, there's a chance that Iran isn't seeking to possess actual nuclear weapons, but is trying to become "more like Japan, a proto-nuclear power" with a demonstrated ability to make nuclear arms without actually crossing the line.
But it's impossible to know, he stated. If a halt to the nuclear program can't be negotiated, "then I think we have no choice but to impose sanctions on Iran, isolate it." But sanctions alone won't "determine the outcome."