|Southwest Asia News Digest
U.S. and Iran Express Openness to Talks on Iraq
White House press spokesman Scott McClellan said March 16 that U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad was authorized to speak to the Iranian government about issues specific to Iraq. Earlier, the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Ali Larijani, had endorsed a call from Iraqi Shi'ite leader Abdel Aziz Hakim for talks between Tehran and Washington. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley also said in a speech March 16, explaining the new defense doctrine, that the U.S. is prepared to have a conversation with Iran.
Hakim, the head of the SCIRI, in the Shi'ite United Iraqi Alliance (the largest political faction), made his proposal in a speech commemorating victims of the attacks in Sadr City days earlier. "We call on the wise leadership of the Islamic Republic [of Iran] to open a clear dialogue with the United States and to discuss points of disagreement over Iraq. Such a dialogue can only help Iraq," Hakim said.
Khalilzad had told Al Sharqiya TV March 10, that he was open to talks with Iran on matters of mutual concern.
Larijani, who is also lead negotiator in Iran's nuclear talks, responded positively: "Since Mr. Hakim, one of the influential leaders in Iraq, has asked us to talk to the Americans regarding the future of Iraq, therefore we accept to talk to them about Iraq. In the coming days, we are going to designate people who are going to carry out these talks," Larijani told the press, following a closed-door speech to Parliament. The goal of the talks, he said, would be to create an independent Iraqi government. According to the March 16 Washington Post account, Larijani also said: "We can create stability and security in the region, but not with the sort of rhetoric and language Mr. Bolton is using. What is needed is sensible people who can think of a long-term plan."
Iran's recent governments have been open to talks with the U.S., and, eventually, to restoring diplomatic relations, on certain conditions. In the past, these conditions have included unfreezing frozen assets, apologizing for past aggression (e.g., the Mossadeq coup), and dealing on an equal footing. It is not known what, if any, conditions are being posed at this time. Talks did take place in 1991, in the context of the Six-plus-Two meetings on Afghanistan.
Regional experts have repeatedly stressed, that there can be no solution to the Iraq mess, without the full, active participation of its neighbors, especially Iran, which has the most clout. The "LaRouche Doctrine" of April 2004 made this point the cornerstone of a viable policy to end the war and stabilize the region.
Interview with EIR Board Member in Arabic Press
A lengthy interview with EIR editorial board member Muriel Mirak-Weissbach was published recently in a leading Egyptian newspaper and several other Arabic publications. The interview was conducted during her early February visit to Cairo by syndicated columnist El-Sayed Hani for Al-Gumhuriya (the second-largest Egyptian daily, after Al Ahram), and was carried in many other newspapers as well. Hani, who had also attended a Cairo University forum in which Mirak-Weissbach participated, asked many questions about the Mohammed cartoons in Jyllands-Posten, who was behind the cartoons, the role of George Shultz, and the threat against Iran.
The interview in Arabic in Al-Gumhuria is available online at: http://18.104.22.168/algomhuria/2006/02/25/news/detail05.shtml
A speech by Mirak-Weissbach at Cairo University on a previous visit, on perspectives for changing U.S. policy towards Southwest Asia, has recently appeared in a book published in Cairo.
Establishment Writers Attack Bush War Rhetoric
President Bush's cheerleading for the Iraq war was excoriated by establishment op-ed writers March 16. Veteran Washington Post political writer David Broder, and New York Times columnists Bob Herbert and David Brooks published columns March 16 attacking President George Bush's continuing promotion of the war in Iraq, and more generally, the Administration's failure to understand the war it started.
Broder notes that that week's series of Bush speeches comes in the context of "deepening skepticism on the part of voters" about the war. After summarizing Bush's optimistic statements in a speech on March 13, Broder devotes the remaining half of the article to statements by former U.S. Central Command chief Anthony Zinni in his recent book and in a summer 2002 speech, that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was underestimating the manpower needs for the occupation of Iraq, and that getting rid of Saddam Hussein was no panacea for U.S. interests in the region.
Bob Herbert remarks that, "An ocean of blood has been shed in Mr. Bush's mindless war, and there is no end to this tragic flow in sight." He continues, "Everyone who thought this war was a good idea was wrong and ought to admit it. Those who still think it's a good idea should get therapy." The administration should be working with Congress on an exit strategy, but "Before that can begin to happen, the Administration will have to rid itself of the delusion that things are somehow going well in Iraq."
David Brooks relates that in the last week of March 2003, shortly after the ground invasion of Iraq, Fedayeen suicide attacks and serious resistance in Nasiriya led commentators in the U.S. and throughout the world to conclude that "the U.S. was not in the midst of a conventional war, but was in the first days of a guerrilla war," and media editorialists began calling for the deployment of more troops. According to a recent book, Cobra II, the debate inside the administration at that time was different. "The officers on the front lines saw the same thing the smart pundits saw, and in more detail." But Rumsfeld and Gen. Tommy Franks suppressed negative views about the progress of the war, and shut out the National Security Council. If Rumsfeld had made the necessary adjustments in that week in March 2003, Brooks says, "much of the subsequent horror could have been averted."
JCS Chief: No Proof of Iran Role in Iraq Fighting
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace (USMC) told a Pentagon briefing March 14 that he has no proof that Iran's government is involved in supplying weapons or personnel for fighting in Iraq. President Bush, however, made the claim on March 13referring to improvised explosive devices (IEDs)that "Some of the most powerful IEDs we're seeing in Iraq today include components that came from Iran." And Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said last week that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard had been operating inside Iraq. Pace, when asked if the United States had proof that the Iranian government was behind these alleged developments, responded, "I do not, sir."