|Southwest Asia News Digest
'Bush Intends To Attack Iran Before the End of His Term'
May 20 (EIRNS)Israel's Army Radio reports that U.S. President George W. Bush intends to attack Iran before the end of his term, according to an official in Jerusalem. The official claimed that a senior member of the President's entourage said, during a closed meeting, that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were of the opinion that military action was called for.
However, the official added, "the hesitancy of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice" was preventing the administration from launching such an attack. The official said that developments in Lebanon, where Hezbollah has the upper hand, were advancing the idea of an American attack.
In Bush's opinion, Hezbollah's show of strength was evidence of Iran's growing influence: "The disease must be treatednot its symptoms."
The Jerusalem Post reports that in an address to the Israeli Knesset during his visit to Israel last week, Bush said that "the President of Iran dreams of returning the Middle East to the Middle Ages."
"America stands with you in firmly opposing Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions," Bush said. "Permitting the world's leading sponsor of terror to possess the world's deadliest weapon would be an unforgivable betrayal of future generations. For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon."
Brits Keep Beating the War Drum To Attack Iran
May 21 (EIRNS)London's International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) continues the drumbeat for an attack on Iran, in a report saying that 13 countries in the Middle East, except war-ravaged Iraq, have embarked on plans to build new nuclear power plants or to revive the existing ones [horrors!] following Iran's decision to start enriching uranium in 2006.
Mark Fitzpatrick, an IISS expert on non-proliferation and editor of the study, said: "We take it for granted that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon," adding that Iran could theoretically produce enough uranium for one by 2009.
"Iran's program could become a powerful regional proliferation driver, building on regional rivalry, security concerns and one-upmanship. For the time being, these considerations are contributing to a regional surge in interest in nuclear energy. The question is how to keep this interest confined to purely civilian nuclear programs," the London Daily Telegraph reported on May 21, quoting IISS chief executive John Chipman.
Beyond Iran, Britain is seeking regime change in Egypt. Inciting the Cheney-led neocons in the United States, the IISS claimed in its report that Egypt, which already possesses a solid grounding in nuclear technology, could be the first to build a bomb.
"If any country in the region were to follow Iran in developing a latent nuclear weapons capability, however, Egypt may be the most likely candidate," Chipman was quoted.
French Foreign Minister Confirms Contact with Hamas
May 20 (EIRNS)French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner confirmed reports that France has maintained contacts with Hamas, through a former senior French diplomat who had met with Hamas officials, including Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah and Mahmoud al-Zahar. Yves Aubin de La Messuzière, a former ambassador, had told Le Figaro that the senior Hamas officials reiterated the offer made by Hamas leader Khaled Meshal, that Hamas will accept the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. Meshal made this commitment to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, whom he met last month in Damascus.
Kouchner said the meeting was private, but he did comment, "There is a need for contacts, but it is not about relations with Hamas. We must be able to talk with each other if we want to be able to play a role."
In response to this report, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack was quoted by AFP as saying, "We don't think it is wise or appropriate." Both official U.S. and European Union policy has been not to meet with Hamas officials.
Netanyahu Leads Attack on Olmert's Syria Initiative
May 23 (EIRNS)As could be expected, Likud party chairman Benjamin Netanyahu is leading the right-wing assault against Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, over the latter's opening of talks with Syria.
"There is wide agreement from right to left that the diplomatic process cannot be used to shelter politicians in distress," Netanyahu said, claiming that Olmert is using this to cover up his legal problems, the Jerusalem Post reported today. "Most of the public knows the prime minister expedited the talks with Syria and set the exact time for revealing them, in order to distract from the investigations against him." He said that Syria is "an inseparable part of the axis of evil." Nonetheless, the Post concludes by quoting an earlier statement by Olmert, pointing out that Netanyahu himself had initiated talks with Syria when he was prime minister, sending his own moneybags, Ron Lauder, to Damascus for secret talks with then-President Hafez Assad.
Right-wing activists tried to disrupt a speech which Olmert was delivering at a ceremony of the Jewish Agency.
Is Corruption Probe a Right-Wing Move To Oust Olmert?
May 24 (EIRNS)Is the latest criminal investigation of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert a right-wing conspiracy to oust the prime minister, because of his policy of seeking peace with Syria? According to a report in the Jerusalem Post, the prosecution's chief witness, U.S. fundraiser Morris Tolansky, is linked to a group of ultra-conservative rabbis who want to bring down the Olmert government.
Yehoshua Meiri, spokesman for the Council of Torah and Kabbalah Sages, told the Post that the rabbis met with Tolansky and gave his "halachic approval" to testify against Olmert. The approval was sought because Tolansky would be acting to harm another Jew.
While Tolansky admits having received a blessing from Rabbi Haim Kaniesky, a member of the organization, he denies that it was a "halachic approval." Tolansky belongs to a circle of Orthodox Jews who want to "liberate" the Old City of Jerusalem.
"Talansky is a high-profile member of an orthodox circle which supports the liberation of Jerusalem, meaning the buying up of real estate in the capital," Meiri told the Post. "This circle formed business links with Olmert, not for the purpose of corruption, but because they supported him ideologically. But when Olmert announced during the Annapolis conference last November, that he was prepared to relinquish parts of east Jerusalem and Jewish sovereignty over the Temple Mount, Olmert's Orthodox backers felt he had betrayed them. Suddenly, they had a fifth column in their midst."
The Council of Torah and Kabbalah Sages network overlaps the "Temple Mount Faithful" fanatics who are linked to the murder of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.