|Southwest Asia News Digest
Report Says 'Humanitarian Aid' Can't Resolve the Gaza Crisis
June 21 (EIRNS)The dire situation in Gaza cannot be resolved simply by providing humanitarian aid, according to a report issued on June 14 by the International Committee of the Red Cross. The ICRC notes that Israel's blockade of Gaza, about to enter its fourth year, is choking off any possibility of economic development; Gazans suffer from severe unemployment and poverty, and the quality of Gaza's health-care system has reached an all-time low.
"The whole of Gaza's civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility," says the ICRC report. "The closure therefore constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel's obligations under international humanitarian law."
Among crisis situations cited by the ICRC are:
* Almost one-third of Gaza's farmland has been incorporated by Israel into a "buffer zone."
* Israeli restrictions on fishing have left 90% of Gaza's fisherman "poor" or "very poor," and many have no choice by to sail into no-go zones, risking being shot by the Israel Navy.
* Gaza suffers an acute electricity crisis, with power being interrupted an average of seven hours a day. This has devastating consequences for hospitals and the primary-care health system.
* Fuel shortages have forced hospitals to cancel all elective surgery and accept emergency cases only, three times this year. Pediatric hospitals can no longer function. Laundry services have shut down. Fluctuations in electricity have damaged sensitive medical equipment. Stocks of medical supplies are at an all-time low, forcing hospitals to re-use such items as ventilator tubes and colostomy bags.
* Water supply: Gaza's aquifer is being damaged, with raw sewage being discharged into waterways. Drinking water is unfit for consumption, and the risk of infectious diseases is high. "The current situation is critical and may lead to an irreversible trend in the degradation of underground fresh water," said Javier Cordoba, who oversees the ICRC's water and sanitation activities in Gaza. "Large-scale projects, such as the construction of a desalination plant, must be undertaken to meet water-supply needs without further exposing the aquifer. The closure must be lifted so that the $4.5 billion pledged by donor countries over a year ago can be put to use."
U.S. Congress Imposes Inflammatory Sanctions on Iran
June 25 (EIRNS)The U.S. House and Senate have both passed a new unilateral Iran sanctions bill, targeting Iran's petroleum sector and the Revolutionary Guard. The bill, coming out of House-Senate conference, goes beyond the Administration's own desires, and does not grant blanket exemptions to any countries. In order to get Russian and Chinese support for the latest UN Security Council resolution, the Obama Administration had agreed to limit the scope of the Security Council language, so as not to harm China, which depends on Iranian oil flows. British puppets on Capitol Hill are pushing not only a confrontation with Iran: The sanctions bill, as now presented out of conference, would also target U.S. allies that provide refined petroleum to Iran, and that have dealings with Iranian Revolutionary Guard-controlled companies. This includes the European Union, Russia, and China.
The Senate passed the bill by a 99-0 vote, and the House passed it 408-8. This followed the announcement on June 21 of an agreement reached by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) on combining the previously passed Senate and House bills.
In another reflection of an intensification of the war drive against Iran, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim told the Financial Times on June 21 that Brazil has scaled back its efforts to mediate between Iran and other countries over Iran's nuclear program, after massive pressure came down against the agreement Iran made to swap its low enriched uranium. "We got our fingers burned by doing things that everybody said were helpful and in the end we found that some people could not take yes for an answer," Amorim said, in clear reference to President Obama.
"We were directly involved in seeking a solution and we were encouraged to do that," Amorim said, "and then when we produced a result, it had no consequence. On the same day that the agreement was produced, before it had even been analyzed, the immediate response was the request for a [UN] resolution" on sanctions.
In still another move against Iran, on June 16, the Obama Administration announced that it was adding almost two dozen more Iranian entities and individuals to the U.S. sanctions list. Stuart Levey said the list includes 17 more Iranian banks, Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-linked construction and energy firms and individuals, as well as 27 Iranian-government front companies. This came after EU ministers announced their own set of sanctions under UNSC Res. 1929, adopted earlier this month.
Turkey Closes Airspace to Israel
June 28 (EIRNS)Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on June 28 that Turkey has closed its airspace to Israel, according to the state-run news agency. The Anatolia news agency quotes Erdogan as telling reporters at the G8/G20 meetings in Canada, that Turkey had imposed a ban on flights after the May 31 Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla. He did not elaborate. Eight Turks and a Turkish-American were killed in the raid. Israel says its commandos were acting in self-defense. Turkey withdrew its ambassador and canceled joint military drills in response to the raid. It has said it would reduce military and trade ties and not return its ambassador unless Israel apologizes. Turkey is also demanding that Israel return the seized aid ships, agree to an international investigation, and offer compensation for the victims.
The G-8 communiqué said, "We also welcome and commend" Brazil's and Turkey's efforts on the issue of the Tehran Research Reactor.
British Begin Evacuating Families from Iran
June 22 (EIRNS)The British have begun the evacuation of the families of their Embassy staffers, according to the Guardian, in a move which clearly signals preparations for something worse to happen. The British Foreign Office advised against non-essential travel to Iran. British diplomats told the Guardian that further worsening of Anglo-Iranian relations was likely.
Following a meeting between Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and the Iranian Parliamentary National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, Press TV reports that Ali Larijani, the Speaker of the Parliament, called for "revision" of ties with Britain, in light of its intervention into the internal affairs of Iran. The Israeli daily Ha'aretz, citing Iranian news agencies, reports that an Iranian MP, Mahmoud Amadi, said today, "In the meeting yesterday we concluded to summon Iran's ambassador to London for a limited time for some explanations and a complete report of events and Britain's interference in Iran's internal affairs." A senior Iranian government source said he could not confirm the report.
The Iranian authorities have refused permission for students to demonstrate in front of the British Embassy. "Iran's Interior Ministry condemns Britain's interference but has granted no permission for the gathering outside the British Embassy in Tehran on Tuesday."