|Southwest Asia News Digest
Palestine Negotiator: Annapolis Conference Failure Will Lead to War
Oct. 29 (EIRNS)Palestinian National Authority negotiator Ahmed Qureia, the former speaker of the Palestinian Assembly, addressing an event organized by the Israeli Meretz party, warned that the so-called Middle East peace conference being organized by the Bush Administration to be held next month at Annapolis, Md., could lead to a new war in the region.
"If the summit fails, frustration will win out over everything else and it will have a negative effect on the region," Qureia is quoted as saying in the Oct. 29 Ha'aretz. "I cannot predict exactly what will happen, but it may lead to more wars. I warn you against failure there, which will open the door for extremists and extremismand that door will be very difficult to close."
He said that the conference must come up with a clear timetable for resolving the key issues between Israel and the Palestinians, something Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert refuses to accept. Qureia also called for the evacuation of Israeli settlements. "But we need support from Israel, not with kisses, but with the evacuation of settlements."
West Bank Hamas Leaders and President Abbas Meet
Nov. 2 (EIRNS)Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with four West Bank Hamas leaders at the Muqata compound in Ramallah, following Friday prayers today, according to the Palestinian news agency WAFA. It is the first time that Abbas has met anyone from the leadership of Hamas since the collapse of the National Unity Government in June 2007, following allegations that Fatah faction leaders were plotting the assassinations of Hamas officials, which led to a Hamas move to oust all Fatah security and political officials from Gaza. The bitter split led Abbasunder Bush Administration and Israeli government pressureto declare a new government, which dissolved the elected government of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.
According to the New York Times, President Abbas today "hosted a group including Nasser el-din al-Shaer, former Deputy Prime Minister in the first Hamas government; Ahmed Abu Ruman; Hussein Abu Qweik; and Ayman Daraghmeh. They first attended prayers in a mosque in Mr. Abbas's compound, then met in his office."
The Palestinian Media Centre, affiliated with the PLO, which Abbas heads, reported on Nov. 1 that al-Shaer has criticized the Hamas leadership in Gaza. "As for the current division," reports the PMC, "al-Sha'er called on the factions to review their stances and look for reasonable solutions to reunite the Palestinians and overcome the crisis."
Last week, at the annual conference of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, political analyst Mark Perry, a co-director of the Conflicts Forum, called for the United States to stop its useless boycott of the popularly supported Hamas, and to immediately invite the organizationwhich won the majority in the 2006 Palestinian electionsto participate in the Middle East peace conference that Bush called for. Unless Hamas is included, warned Perry, the Bush meeting in Annapolis is doomed to "oblivion." Perry compared the Bush Administration's stubborn insistence that Hamas has no support, to the 20 years of U.S. relations that recognized Taiwan as the "real China."
U.S. Foreign Service Revolt Over Assignments to Iraq
Nov. 1 (EIRNS)Days after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced that her department would be making mandatory assignments of career Foreign Service personnel to staff the embassy in Baghdad, or to serve on reconstruction teams in some of Iraq's most volatile provinces, resistance to that policy broke out at an hour-long "town hall" event on Oct. 31 at the State Department. A department spokesman was quoted by the New York Times, saying that "very strongly held views" were expressed. One Foreign Service officer, who once worked as a political advisor with NATO forces, AP reported, characterized such assignments as a "potential death sentence." Rice's Iraq deputy David Satterfield maintained that large numbers of State Department personnel have signed up for duty at such posts, but the Times points out that the new order indicates a fundamental problem: Many of those who have signed up are entry-level employees, not experienced diplomats.
No New Iran Sanctions: Washington Blames China
Nov. 3 (EIRNS)A London meeting of officials of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany, failed to agree with Washington on a new round of sanctions against Iran. According to the Financial Times, U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns came out of the Nov. 2 meeting blaming China. "We are disappointed by the lack of cooperation by China on a third Security Council resolution. We don't think that China is moving with us," Burns said. He said the U.S. believes China has increased trade with Iran over the last six months, and is putting economic interests over solving the crisis. He said China is "sending the wrong signal" to Tehran.
There will be another meeting of the group after Nov. 19, when IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana deliver new reports on the state of Iran's nuclear program.
Hagel Urges Bush To Open Direct, Unconditional Talks With Iran
Nov. 1 (EIRNS)In a private letter to the President, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) urged Bush to pursue "direct, unconditional and comprehensive talks with the Government of Iran." The letter was originally sent on Oct. 17, but was recently obtained by The Washington Note and posted on its website.
Hagel warns in his letter that the Administration's diplomatic strategy is stalled, and "unless there is a strategic shift away from the current situation, I believe we will find ourselves in a dangerous and increasingly isolated position in the coming months," adding that he doesn't see how the actions now being taken will produce the desired results.
Encouraging President Bush to offer a completely different course for U.S.-Iran relations, of direct and unconditional talks, Hagel says: "An approach such as this would strengthen our ability across the board to deal with Iran.... It could create a historic new dynamic in US-Iran relations, in part forcing the Iranians to react to the possibility of better relations with the West. We should be prepared that any dialogue process with Iran will take time, and we should continue all efforts, as you have, to engage Iran from a position of strength."
"We should not wait to consider the option of bilateral talks until all other diplomatic options are exhausted," Hagel warns the President. "At that point, it could well be too late."
Steve Clemons of The Washington Note says that he has also learned that the Hagel letter made its way to Adm. William Fallon, the head of the U.S. Central Command, and that Fallon has let Hagel know that he concurs with the importance of considering the options which Hagel has presented.
Russia Will Not Join a New 'Holy Alliance' Against Iran
Oct. 31 (EIRNS)The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow issued a statement on Oct. 31 saying that Russia will not join a U.S.-led "Holy Alliance" to destroy the current regime in Iran. Instead, spokesman Mikhael Kamynin said, Russia holds firm to the belief that the nuclear disagreements with that Southwest Asian country must be tackled collectively and exclusively through persuasion in diplomatic talks.
Gulf States Propose Joint Uranium Enrichment With Iran
Nov. 1 (EIRNS)Times Online (UK) reports a proposal by Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal at the conclusion of King Abdullah's state visit to Britain, to defuse the conflict over the Iranian nuclear program: Saudi Arabia and a consortium of Arab Gulf states have invited Iran to enrich uranium jointly, under international inspection, in a neutral country such as Switzerland. The consortium, the foreign minister said, would be for all users of enriched uranium, and would distribute the nuclear fuel according to need. No further details are available at this time.
British To Deploy Fleet During Possible Attack on Iran
Nov. 2 (EIRNS)The British Navy announced it will deploy its Illustrious aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf along with a Type 42 destroyer and a Type 23 frigate next Spring. Two minesweepers and three support vessels will be included in the deployment, under the name of "Operation Orion 08." They will cruise for six months in the Gulf, the Indian Ocean, and the Red Sea. The Daily Telegraph in its coverage, reports, "Their presence may coincide with a crucial period in the West's confrontation with Iran," adding, "Observers believe that the spring is the last possible moment" for a strike against Iran by the Bush Administration.