|Southwest Asia News Digest
Iraqi PM Blasts Rice for Encouraging Terrorism
"We're not on borrowed time," Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told a group of Western reporters Jan. 17, responding to a recent warning by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to that effect at Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings. In fact, he said, statements like this could very well embolden the terrorists, who would take such remarks as a sign "that they have defeated the American administration."
As for Bush's comments that the al-Maliki government has some "maturing" to do, and had botched recent executions, the Prime Minister said that, rather than advice, he needs more weapons from the Bush government.
"The situation would be much better had the United States immediately sent our security forces adequate weapons and equipment. Had they committed themselves more and with greater speed, we would have had a lot fewer deaths among Iraqi civilians and American soldiers," he firmly stated. He predicted that the need for U.S. troops could be quickly reduced, were sufficient weaponry provided to Iraqi forces.
The execution of Saddam Hussein was not a "revenge killing," al-Maliki said in response to Bush's charge. Bush isn't usually affected by pressure, he noted, "but it seems that the pressure has gotten [to him] to such an extent that it led to the President making this statement." Perhaps, al-Maliki added, "he has lost control of the situation."
Jordan's King 'Looking at Nuclear for Peaceful Purposes'
In an interview with Israel's daily Ha'aretz published on Jan. 19, King Abdullah II of Jordan warned that without progress toward peace between Israel and the Palestinians, a new, violent conflict could break out again, similar to last summer's Israel-Lebanon War. "So this is an opportunity to reach out to each other, and make sure that the crisis of this summer doesn't happen again. If we don't move the peace process forward, it's only a matter of time until there is a conflict between Israel and somebody else in the region. And I think it's coming sooner rather than later."
Asked about Iran's nuclear program, the King said, "The rules have changed on the nuclear subject throughout the whole region. Where I think Jordan was saying, we'd like to have a nuclear-free zone in the area, after this summer, everybody's going for nuclear programs. The Egyptians are looking for a nuclear program. The Gulf Cooperation Council is looking at one, and we are actually looking at nuclear power for peaceful and energy purposes. We've been discussing it with the West. I personally believe that any country that has a nuclear program should conform to international regulations and should have international regulatory bodies that check to make sure that any nuclear program moves in the right direction."
He also said Israel ought to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. "What's expected from us should be a standard across the board. We want to make sure this is used for energy. What we don't want is an arms race to come out of this. As we become part of an international body and its international regulations are accepted by all of us, then we become a united front."
Iraqi President Makes Historic Visit to Syria
In a statement to the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Anbaa published Jan. 21, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani described his visit to Syria as successful, saying: "President al-Assad showed strong interest in meeting the requirements of the Iraqi people and insistence on achieving security, and prosperity in Iraq."
The visit is another indication that the Bush-Cheney Administration's rejection of the Iraq Study Group's recommendations has isolated the White House from Congress, the American voters, from Middle East governments, and from the Iraqi government itself.
Talabani's state visit was the first such high-level visit in three decades, wire services reported on Jan. 15. The trip, which comes on the heels of Bush's speech announcing increased troop deployments to Iraq and threatening Iran and Syria, and while Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is touring the region, had been planned for some time. Originally Talabani and Assad were to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran, but the U.S. used its influence in Iraq to prevent that meeting.
On the eve of his departure, a statement from President Talabani's office said: "The aim of the visit is to evaluate and strengthen mutual relations for the benefit of both the countries." His delegation includes Interior Minister Jawad Bolani, Trade Minister Abdel Falah al-Sudani, Water Resources Minister Abdel Latif Rashid, and national security advisor Muwaffaq al-Rubaie. A number of lawmakers from various political groups will also be in the delegation.
Syrian sources stressed to EIR the importance of the visit, which comes at a time that Bush is threatening action against Syria and Iran. One source told EIR that a number of Syrians who had been killed by U.S. forces in Iraq, as "insurgents," had emigrated to Iraq decades ago, because of political differences with the Syrian regime. There have been many Iraqi Ba'athists, as well, who had left Iraq for Syria over the years, because of political differences. The source stressed that these elements were not "insurgents" who had crossed the border recently to join the resistance, as charged by the U.S. to justify an attack against Syria.
A well-placed Egyptian political figure told EIR he was very concerned, that, in fact, the U.S. might hit Syria first (before Iran), as a soft target. Talabani's visit will help create a political climate in which such an attack would be seen as deliberately sabotaging efforts by Syria to help stabilize Iraq.
U.S. War Is Killing Iraq's Children
A group of nearly 100 eminent British physicians and Iraqi doctors, backed by a group of international lawyers, has written to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, describing to him the horrendous conditions which face Iraqi children in British-run hospitals in Iraq. "Sick or injured children who could otherwise be treated by simple means are left to die because they do not have access to basic medicines or other resources," they wrote, according to a Jan. 19 report in the Belfast Telegraph. "Children who have lost hands, feet and limbs are left without prostheses. Children with grave psychological distress are left untreated." Hospitals lack oxygen masks, sterile needles and surgical gloves. Intermittent gas and electricity supplies mean boiled water cannot be regularly supplied. Water is contaminated because of failed waste and sewage disposal systems.
The doctors write that Britain, as one of the occupying powers, has to comply with the Geneva and Hague conventions that require the U.S. and Britain to "maintain order and to look after the needs of the population." But, they say, "This they failed to do and the knock-on effect of this failure is affecting Iraqi children's hospitals with increasing ferocity."
According to a recent Save the Children report, 59 in 1,000 newborn babies are dying in Iraq; only 50% of the pre-war number of doctors remain in the country; and as many as 260,000 children may have died in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-British invasion.