In this issue:

Arab States Move To Reconcile Palestinian Split

Syria 'Not Pessimistic,' About Middle East Peace

WHO, UNRWA Appeal to Israel: End Sanctions on Gaza

U.S. Congressional Group Tries To Cast Doubts on Iran NIE

Russia, Iran Reach Agreement on Bushehr Nuclear Plant

From Volume 6, Issue 51 of EIR Online, Published Dec. 18, 2007
Southwest Asia News Digest

Arab States Move To Reconcile Palestinian Split

Dec. 11 (EIRNS)—Khaled Meshal, the head of the Hamas movement, arrived on Dec. 7 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for talks with Fatah, mediated by Saudi Arabia and other Arab governments, to reconcile these two main Palestinian factions.

Speaking from Riyadh, Meshal said his movement was willing to make far-reaching concessions to resolve the rift with Fatah, including handing back control of Gaza and the security services to the authority of Palestinian President Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), and re-establishing a centralized government for both Gaza and the West Bank, reported the Saudi-owned al-Sharq al-Awsat, based in London.

Syrian officials told the daily that efforts to bring Fatah and Hamas together through the mediation of Saudi Arabia, were part of a comprehensive Arab effort to bring the internal Palestinian crisis to a resolution. A Fatah leader in the West Bank, Hatham Abed al-Kadr, said Egypt has also been in mediation efforts, reported the Israeli daily Ha'aretz.

Hamas has also made an approach to the United States. Ahmed Yusef, advisor to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, has sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, saying that Hamas is interested in opening a dialogue with the U.S. and European Union.

Lyndon LaRouche gave this analysis: "This also solves a problem for Israel. It gets this problem off their backs. So it works for all sides." On the mediation of the Arab states, "I think that that may have gotten some support from the meeting that just occurred among the Gulf [Cooperation] Council. That was not a military meeting; it was just a quasi-diplomatic one. But it's extremely important....

"The big frustration for Dick Cheney and for some people in London, is the fact that it's rather difficult now for Cheney and Co. to pull off the strike on Iran—because the military position of the United States would be devastated by opening such an attack. And with the collapse of the value of the dollar, they would have to be absolutely insane and totally British to do this kind of thing.

"It also has some problems in London, where people are playing some factions, and playing games—some are across party lines, and some are according to party lines—so it is extremely interesting.

"I don't think we can make predictions, but we can make estimates.... The Gulf Council and similar kinds of things, the regional pressures, regional interests, are now coming into play, which is what I was hoping they would do.... It has worked so far."

Syria 'Not Pessimistic,' About Middle East Peace

Dec. 8 (EIRNS)—Syria's ambassador to Washington, Imad Mustapha, issued a positive statement on hopes for progress in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, while warning that Israel's continued occupation of Arab lands and its killing of Palestinians could wreck negotiations.

Part of the complex chain of events which led to hopeful results at the Mideast peace conference at Annapolis last month, was Lyndon LaRouche's firm support for the process, especially his endorsement of Israeli President Shimon Peres's September call for Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations.

Referring to that peace summit, the ambassador told Lebanon's Daily Star: "It may go into the footnotes of the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but it can be the start of something, and I am not going to be very pessimistic. Negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis are happening right now as we talk; there is always this possibility—remote or not—that something might happen, something positive."

He called for a comprehensive peace which includes a "changed reality on the ground," and an end to "policies of occupation." He said that normalization of relations with Arab states could not take place "if Israel continues to occupy territories and kill our people."

WHO, UNRWA Appeal to Israel: End Sanctions on Gaza

Dec. 10 (EIRNS)—United Nations officials called today for swift action to end the fuel and electricity shortage, mainly caused by Israeli sanctions, which have aggravated a health crisis in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. Reuters reports, "The World Health Organization (WHO) and UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) are appealing to all parties involved to ensure that in the future all health facilities in Gaza are supplied with the appropriate amount of electricity and fuel...."

Israel began restricting fuel supplies in October. On Oct. 30, the Israeli Supreme Court gave its approval to the cuts. On Nov. 30, the Israeli Attorney General, while approving other sanctions, said fuel and electricity should not be further cut.

In Brussels today, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad urged Israel to lift its blockade on Gaza. Back in October, the European Union warned Israel against imposing "collective punishment" on the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, by reducing the territory's fuel supplies.

U.S. Congressional Group Tries To Cast Doubts on Iran NIE

Dec. 12 (EIRNS)—A forum held today on Capitol Hill gave an indication of some of the disarray caused among both neoconservative Republicans and their Democratic sidekicks, by the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran.

Set up under the auspices of Rep. Peter Hoekstra (Mich.), the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, and Democrat Brad Sherman (Calif.), the group called the NIE "another failure of the intelligence community." The two Congressmen, backed up by Republican Ed Royce (Calif.), took issue with the report. "I have real concerns about the NIE," Hoekstra said. "It has been met with great skepticism by both the Israelis and by the British." He also said that the NIE "lacks credibility with our NATO allies."

Sherman went through how the "weaponization" which, according to the NIE, had been stopped in 2003, was only a minor element in the development of a nuclear bomb, and that the more important element was the enrichment of uranium, which Iran is continuing. Therefore the sanctions regime had to be tightened. Royce complained that the publication of the NIE had prevented the implementation of a tougher sanctions regime by the Security Council. Sherman called for strict adherence to the Iran Sanctions Act and the Iran Non-Proliferation Act. In addition, Sherman said he was working with some of his Democratic colleagues on legislation that would punish private companies doing business with other companies that are doing business in Iran. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) had already started to target companies with business connections in Iran two years ago. Sherman and his cohorts want to take this one step further.

The only voice of sanity at this event came from Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Tex.), who came apparently to make a statement on the matter. She said that the U.S. should take the opportunity of the hiatus brought in U.S.-Iran conflict by the NIE, to try to build bridges to Iran—for instance, by setting up exchanges with academics and scholars. Rep. Diane Watson (D-Calif.) called for more detailed intelligence with regard to Iran's activities, so that the U.S. doesn't bungle into another war in the region.

Russia, Iran Reach Agreement on Bushehr Nuclear Plant

Dec. 13 (EIRNS)—The Russian and Iranian governments have reached an agreement to complete construction of the Bushehr nuclear plant in Iran, Atomstroieksport president Sergei Schmatko announced today. The announcement came just a few hours before the foreign ministers of the two governments were scheduled to hold talks in Moscow, where the Iran-Russia Economic Commission is meeting.

Schmatko reported that "difficulties with the Iranian client are resolved," and that he would be releasing more details on the agreement by the end of this month. Without specifying a date, he also indicated that Russia would go ahead with the delivery of nuclear fuel, about six months before it would be needed to begin operations at the Bushehr plant.

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