In this issue:

Bering Strait Tunnel Plan Reported on Arabic News Website

Lawmakers Seek Dialogue with Iran; Cheney, White House Stonewall

Experts: Iran Won't Have Nukes for Eight Years

U.S. Holds Biggest-Ever Military Drill in Bahrain

Human Rights in Iraq Worsen Under U.S. Occupation

From Volume 6, Issue 18 of EIR Online, Published May 1, 2007
Southwest Asia News Digest

Bering Strait Tunnel Plan Reported on Arabic News Website

April 24 (EIRNS)—An optimistic response came when the Saudi news website reported today that "Russia is planning to build the longest tunnel in the world under the sea, and is intending to present the project to the governments of the U.S.A. and Canada."

The report emphasized that "the tunnel will connect Siberia to Alaska, and a great part of it will be used for building oil and gas pipelines, electricity and fiber optic cables. The tunnel will include a motorway and railway." It added that "the cost of this gigantic transport project, $65 billion, will be quickly paid back through the revenues created by the transit of goods between the countries in the region." The report also noted that "many countries around the world have shown great interest in the project, especially Asian economic giants China, Japan, South Korea, and of course Russia and the U.S., who have been looking for partners in the state and private markets."

An important aspect of the report was the great sense of optimism it created in the readers. This was reflected in the commentaries sent in to by readers from Arab countries and Arab-Canadians and Arab-Americans. These commentators also urged the Arab states to learn from Russia, Canada, the U.S., and Asia, and build a major network of railroads and bridges throughout the Arab world from the Gulf to North Africa (see this week's InDepth for "Russian-American Team: World Needs Bering Strait Tunnel!").

Lawmakers Seek Dialogue with Iran; Cheney, White House Stonewall

April 24 (EIRNS)—Two members of the U.S. Congress said today that the Bush-Cheney Administration is doing everything in its power to prevent anyone from engaging in a dialogue with Iran. Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-Md.), a co-founder of the Dialogue Caucus in the U.S. Congress, said that the White House opposes members of Congress travelling to Iran, and he said that he understands that this also applies to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who reportedly has been invited to Iran by the Speaker of the Majlis (the Iranian parliament). Likewise, the Administration won't allow any Iranians to visit Washington.

Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) pointed to the fact that the U.S. continues to hold five Iranian diplomats as hostages, even though they were captured in Kurdistan, and were not involved in any activity against the United States. Even though Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice strongly urged that they be released, Moran said, "the Darth Vader of foreign policy—the Vice President—intervened to make sure they were not released."

"As long as this Administration is in power," Moran continued, "they will use Iran as a foil." Moran was especially concerned that the Administration will try to get out of the war in Iraq, by widening it to Iran.

Moran also pointed to the situation with Syria, where he said U.S. negotiators had come very close to getting an agreement between Syria and Israel, but then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the press that the Americans didn't want them talking to the Syrians.

Moran also said that both Defense Secretary Robert Gates, as well as Secretary of State Rice, are more open to a dialogue with Iran, but the White House remains opposed. And, he declared, "as long as that policy is determined in the Vice President's office, there'll be no real substantive change."

Both were speaking at a forum sponsored by the George Mason University Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Experts: Iran Won't Have Nukes for Eight Years

April 24 (EIRNS)—The technical difficulties faced by Iran are so great, that it would take at least four years to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one bomb, and up to eight years to produce a deployable weapon, say specialists quoted in today's London Daily Telegraph.

Despite Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's claims made on April 9, that Iran had begun "industrial scale" uranium enrichment, Prof. Norman Dombey of Sussex University pointed out that, "It's very difficult to enrich uranium.... It calls for several different scientific and engineering disciplines. Iran hasn't yet shown that it has mastered the problem." Explaining the problems involved, Dumbey estimated that Iran will need about two years just to master the process of running centrifuges, then another two years to produce enough weapons-grade uranium to make just one bomb. Then, it would have to master the technology of building a warhead that is capable of being delivered by a missile.

International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohammed ElBaradei has likewise stated that it may be eight years before Iran could have an operational nuclear weapon.

Gary Samore, of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, is quoted by the Telegraph as saying: "Washington feels it has time to play out the diplomatic hand because Iran is having trouble solving technical problems with its centrifuge machines.

"The belief in Western intelligence circles is that a large portion of these machines are likely to break if Iran attempts to operate them at high speeds necessary for enrichment."

U.S. Holds Biggest-Ever Military Drill in Bahrain

April 24 (EIRNS)—With the threat of a military strike against Iran by the United States growing rapidly, the U.S. Navy's base in the Gulf Kingdom of Bahrain and several Bahraini agencies, including the special forces, conducted today the biggest emergency response exercise ever held in the island, the U.S. Navy reported.

More than 800 U.S. service members and Department of Defense personnel took part in the exercise, dubbed Desert Sailor 07, less than a month after the U.S. Navy had conducted the biggest war games at sea on Iran's doorstep.

"Desert Sailor 07 is designed to bring the host nation and the U.S. Navy ... together to function as a single crisis management team that will work together to solve any potential issues brought about through a mass casualty scenario," the statement of the U.S. Navy spokeswoman said. She pointed out that a similar crisis management drill was conducted in March 2005, adding hastily that this drill was not related to the regional developments.

The exercise involved the U.S. Navy base in Bahrain, not ships at sea, and participants included the Navy's explosive ordnance disposal and emergency response teams, Reuters reported.

Human Rights in Iraq Worsen Under U.S. Occupation

April 26 (EIRNS)—A new United Nations report on human rights in Iraq, shows graphically the discrediting of the Cheney-Bush Administration, and its isolation from countries and international institutions which supported the U.S. "War on Terror" five years ago. Now the UN, which in 2003 set up offices in occupied Iraq in close cooperation with the United States, denounces the U.S. occupation for destroying human rights, and it is denounced in turn by the White House.

The report of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), released today, details that human rights in Iraq have deteriorated during the U.S. occupation. It documents concerns that torture is still an issue at government-run detention centers, and that since the new security plan for Baghdad has gone into effect, 3,000 people—in some cases, entire families—have been taken into custody. The report also states that 200,000 Iraqis have fled their homes since December 2006 alone, bringing to 736,422 the total number of refugees who have fled their homes since the bombing of the al-Askari Shrine in Samarra on Feb. 22, 2006.

Unlike past reports issued by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, this one does not contain official statistics of violent deaths, because the Iraqi government decided not to make the data available to the UNAMI. The January report issued by the UNAMI placed the number of Iraqi citizens killed in 2006 at 34,000. U.S. officials in Baghdad and the Iraqi government have said that the report is inaccurate and based on unreliable sources. According the UNAMI, its sources were victim reports and eyewitness accounts.

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