In this issue:

Palestinians Tell British: You Want To Trap U.S. in Wars!

Pope Meets with Leaders of Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Israel

Fatah Leader Barghouti Calls on Hamas To Support Elections

State Dept.: U.S. Pursuing Diplomacy With Iran, Not War

Iran's Rafsanjani Elected Assembly of Experts Leader

Did U.S. Policy Change Trigger Karbala Battles?

From Volume 6, Issue 37 of EIR Online, Published Sept. 11, 2007
Southwest Asia News Digest

Palestinians Tell British: You Want To Trap U.S. in Wars!

Sept. 7 (EIRNS)—Palestinian refugees in Jordan sent a scathing letter to British Foreign Office Minister for Middle East affairs Kim Howells, in which they express a clear understanding of the history of British Empire, and its current game of destroying the United States, by entangling it in war in Southwest Asia to serve British interests. The refugees, who were driven out of their homes in the town of Ein Karem near Jerusalem in 1948 by Jewish terrorist groups, were responding in their letter to Howells' statement in August, that "it was not logical that all Palestinian refugees would return to their villages in Israel."

"Your logic, Minister," they said, "is the logic of the pirates of the time of Queen Victoria, and the logic of those [British soldiers] who hung the Egyptian peasants in Dinshwai village, and those who forced opium on China, and those who killed ten thousand of the people of India. Your statements in Amman show that you still use that logic."

The letter referenced current British policies in the region, saying: "Your games can no longer fool anyone. People know now that Britain does not want a solution to the Palestinian issue, but rather it wants it to remain a thorn in the side of the region. We also know that fanatical Jews, especially those in the United States, follow the dictates of Britain, which wants to fool them, and lure them and America into a war with Iran, exactly as it lured the U.S. into the war in Iraq, in order to enable Britain to fight the people of the region to the last American soldier."

They added: "We also know that your country is behind the Neo-Conservatives, to the extent that you alleged that Tony Blair was one of them in order to endear him to the White House."

The letter, which was published in the Qatari daily Al-Raya yesterday, described how the British Empire created all the crises in the region, especially by orchestrating the Israeli takeover of Palestinian land. It asked how any sane person could accept former British Prime Minister Blair as a "peace broker," when it was his government and previous British governments that had conspired to create the Palestinian tragedy.

Pope Meets with Leaders of Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Israel

Sept. 8 (EIRNS)—Pope Benedict XVI is conducting a series of meetings with leaders of Southwest Asia, discussing the crisis there. On Sept 5, Farouk al-Charaa, Vice President of the Syrian Arab Republic, met with the Pope, to whom he hand-delivered a personal written message from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Vatican reported that the discussions including the "hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees" taken in by Syria and "the decisive contribution the Syrian Arab Republic can make to the grave crises affecting many people in the Middle East."

On Sept. 6 the Pope received Saud al-Faisal, Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Vatican reports: "Subjects of mutual interest were discussed, " which included "implementation of joint initiatives in favor of peace."

Also, on Sept. 6, the Pope received Israeli President Shimon Peres. Their discussions included "the recent renewal of contact between Israelis and Palestinians and the effort to restore peace to the Holy Land."

Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Sfeir is also in Vatican City for meetings. All the leaders also met with officials of the Vatican Secretariat of State, and Italian leaders.

Fatah Leader Barghouti Calls on Hamas To Support Elections

Sept. 3 (EIRNS)—Imprisoned Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti of Fatah, called on Hamas to accept early elections as the only means to settle internal Palestinian differences. He also criticized "the bloody coup by Hamas [which] has clearly destroyed the bridges between Hamas and Fatah." He made the comments in a written interview granted the Associated Press, and appearing in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz. "The ball is in the court of Hamas," he said. "It hasn't initiated anything, and is monopolizing rule in the [Gaza] Strip, using force. It is clear that the road for dialogue is closed."

"The military coup carried out by Hamas dealt a big blow to the nascent democratic experience," Barghouti said. "We should head toward presidential and parliamentary elections at the same time. This should be done as a way out of the current crisis. Hamas should approve these elections."

But Barghouti also warned his own Fatah movement, that if it doesn't hold internal elections and carry out internal reforms, elections could endanger the group's role in the occupied territories entirely.

Palestinian President and Fatah leader Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) signed new election rules, to the disadvantage of Hamas, but cannot hold elections in the Gaza Strip unless he receives the approval of Hamas.

State Dept.: U.S. Pursuing Diplomacy With Iran, Not War

Sept. 4 (EIRNS)—Despite the recent press reports about U.S. military plans for devastating air strikes on Iran, the State Department says that there has been no change in U.S. policy.

At today's State Department press briefing, EIR correspondent William Jones asked: "There are reports from Pentagon Planning that much of what's going on with regard to the various scenarios over an attack on Iran, which goes on the whole time as a part of general planning, is becoming more intense, more focused. One person indicated that, 'It's scary,' is how he commented on it.

"We've also had the statements from the President, from others, talking about the danger of nuclear holocaust in Iran. The rhetoric has been increasing. And I was wondering, are we moving from the diplomatic track toward something more serious, or is that diplomatic track, with regard particularly to the uranium nuclear weapons, still fully on?"

State Department spokesman Tom Casey responded: "I'm not sure where that interpretation is coming from, but certainly there's been no change in U.S. policy. The President's made it clear, the Secretary has and others as well: We are dealing with Iran's nuclear program through a diplomatic process, working with our colleagues in the Security Council, as well as the Germans.

"Certainly, as you know, no President ever takes any options off the table. But I can't point you to any information that would lead me or anyone else to conclude that there has been any decision made to change U.S. policy with regards to Iran's nuclear program.

"And that means what we're looking for right now is completing discussions with our friends and allies in the Security Council, moving toward another sanctions resolution on Iran, all the while continuing, again, to hold out the prospect for the Iranians that they have an opportunity to take a different course: engage in negotiations with us if they suspend their uranium enrichment programs and activities, and achieve what they say their stated desire is, which is a civilian nuclear program, even while being able to assure the rest of us that they aren't using that as cover to build a nuclear weapon."

However, with Dick Cheney still in office, anything is possible; including airstrikes again Iran.

Iran's Rafsanjani Elected Assembly of Experts Leader

Sept. 4 (EIRNS)—Hashemi Rafsanjani, former Iranian President and head of the Expediency Council, was elected head of the Assembly of Experts for the body's fourth term, the Iranian news agency, IRNA, announced this morning. Rafsanjani won by 41 votes out of 76, against Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, who got 34. The man Rafsanjani is replacing was Ayatollah Ali Meshkini, who passed away on July 30 at the age of 86. The death of Meshkini, known as a hardliner, was reported as the first phase in a fight for power inside the country's leading institutions. Rafsanjani is considered a moderate, whereas Jannati is a hardliner.

The Assembly of Experts is made up of 86 members, who were elected through nationwide elections on Dec. 15, 2006, for a nine-year term. The Assembly is responsible for electing the Supreme Leader, monitoring his performance, and, if necessary, removing him from office.

Did U.S. Policy Change Trigger Karbala Battles?

Sept. 3 (EIRNS)—On Aug. 28, a gun battle left over 50 people dead, in the Iraqi city of Karbala, which is revered by the Shi'ite branch of Islam. Initially, the uprising was blamed on rival Shi'ite militias, but now it appears otherwise. An article that first appeared in the Sept. 2 Los Angeles Times revealed that it was the appearance on the scene of a rival Shi'ite leader, Ammar Hakim, which sparked the violence.

Recently, Hakim has been courted by U.S. operatives, as a possible replacement for the struggling Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki. Hakim, although schooled in Shia seminaries in Iran, is well known to Western operatives, since his father, Abdelaziz Hakim, has been head of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council for years. Now that the elder Hakim has lung cancer, his son has taken on those responsibilities. Ammar Hakim has another feature which no doubt endears him to Western leaders: He is in favor of privatization of the Iraqi oil wealth.

Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtadr al-Sadr, head of the Mahdi Army, over 200 of whom were arrested since the Karbala fighting, has demanded an immediate, "professional and neutral" investigation into the incident, to which Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki has now agreed. It is also being reported that al-Sadr is "standing down" as the militia's leader, until a "restructuring" can be done, to root out traitors to his cause.

Al-Sadr aide Salman al-Feraiji blamed the United States for the outbreak in Karbala. He told the Associated Press, "They drove a wedge between Shi'ites and Sunnis, and now they want a Shi'ite-Shi'ite rift."

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