|Southwest Asia News Digest
When It Comes to the Middle East, Rice Is Clueless
Sept. 10 (EIRNS)While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice continues to shuttle back and forth to the Middle East, and to issue false claims of progress on an Israel-Palestinian deal, sources close to both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas say that a peace deal is totally off the table, and that talks could soon be suspended altogether.
Lyndon LaRouche commented, "Once again, it is clear that Condoleezza Rice is totally clueless."
The sources, who have recently conferred with Palestinian officials, say that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has firmly rejected the so-called "interim" peace deal, promoted by Rice, and backed by the soon-to-be-replaced Olmert government in Israel. Under the terms of the offer, the Palestinians would only get 93% of "Area A"the sections of the West Bank around the cities of Bethlehem, Ramallah, Jericho, and Nabluswhere the PA already exerts full authority. The rest of the West Bank would be subject to future negotiation; Israel insists that areas where there are substantial Jewish settlements would be retained by Israel, in return for areas in the Negev Desert. The interim deal would foreclose any right of return of Palestinians to Israel, and would place a cap of 20,000 Palestinian refugees returning to a Palestinian state over ten years. One source close to Abbas confirmed that he had rejected the proposal outright, and said that if he were to accept the sellout offer, he would be "writing his own [political] death warrant."
According to one expert, the Palestinians will now focus on solving the conflict between Hamas and Fatah, in anticipation of new Palestinian Authority Presidential elections in early 2009, which Hamas stands a good chance of winning. The source suggested that reconciliation talks, now taking place in Yemen, could move to Qatar. The Emir of Qatar hosted the successful Lebanon talks earlier this year, and participated in last week's summit in Damascus, which also involved France, Turkey, and Syria.
Livni Likely To Be Prime Minister Pick in Kadima Primary
Sept. 14 (EIRNS)Kadima, the leading party of Israel's ruling coalition, will hold its primary on Sept. 17, which is likely to bring Foreign Minister Tzipli Livni into power as the next Prime Minister. Her closest challenger is Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz, who has said that war with Iran is "unavoidable." If Livni wins, she will have to attempt to put together a new coalition government; if she cannot, she would face an electoral challenge by Likudnik Benjamin Netanyahu. The Sunday Telegraph of London reports that Livni is likely to cut off the talks with Syria, quoting Livni that Syria not serious about cutting its ties with either Iran or Hezbollah.
Pentagon Wants To Sell Bunker-Busters to Israel
Sept. 14 (EIRNS)The U.S. Department of Defense announced on Sept. 12 that it intends to sell the Israel Air Force 1,000 new "bunker buster" smart bombs, Guided Bomb Unit-39 (GBU-39), which could be used against Iran. Congress has 30 days to object to the deal. Last week, it was reported that the U.S. was refusing a number of Israeli requests: for bunker-buster bombs; permission to use the Iraqi air corridor; refueling plans; and unidentified "advanced technological systems."
Turkey Caucasus Platform Gains Steam
Sept. 10 (EIRNS/Nouvelle Solidarité)The proposal for a Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform launched by Turkey shortly after the outbreak of the Georgia crisis is gaining steam. Turkey has officially approached Russia, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan to join in this effort.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Russia Aug. 12, where he met with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently visited Turkey for talks on the issue. The proposal, while first received with caution by Russia, is now being given very positive coverage in the Russian press, with Ria Novosti of Sept. 8 running an article entitled "Russia and Turkey launched the creation of a Caucus Security and Stability Platform" and another article in Kommersant of the same day.
On Sept. 6, the first discussions took between Turkish President Abdullah Gül and his Armenian counterpart, Serge Sargsian, when the latter invited Gül to attend the Turkish-Armenian World Cup soccer match in Armenia's capital, Yerevan. The trip, the first visit by a Turkish President to Armenia since 1991, was highly successful (the Turks won the match to boot), breaking the ice between the two countries, Gül received 65% approval in the latest polls of Turkish voters.
Gül travelled Sept. 10 to Baku, Azerbaijan for discussions with President Ilham Aliev as well. The big issue there is the continued occupation by Armenia of the disputed Nagorno Karabakh region, which lies within the borders of Azerbaijan. In 1993, Turkey had broken off relations with Armenia over its occupation, and Baku has said it could not join the Caucasus Platform until the issue is resolved.
Ahead of his visit to Baku, Gül, according to a report in the Turkish publication Zaman, expressed to the Azeri media "great pleasure with his visit to Armenia while looking forward to his visit to Baku. As he did in Armenia, he will bring up the question seeking a solution to the Nagorno Karabakh problem. Gül said all the nations of the region, including those proposed for membership in the Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform, should work to seek a resolution to this conflict."
The Caucasus Platform was examined during the recent visit in Moscow of Azeri Foreign Affairs Minister Elmar Mamediarov, while last week, Medvedev and Aliev spoke on the phone and decided to hold a summit where the question of Russian mediation between Azerbaijan and Armenia could be discussed, outside the aegis of the Minsk group of the OSCE, which until now had supervised that dialogue. The Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform could create the conditions for Turkey to finally enter into relations with Armenia, opening up their borders to trade, and giving Armenian products access to Turkish markets.
It should also be noted that these events are taking place after U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's visit to Georgia and Baku, and serve, at least on the part of the Azeris, to distance themselves from Cheney's hardline policies against Russia.
Assassination Could Threaten Lebanese Dialogue
Sept. 11 (EIRNS)A car bomb yesterday claimed the life of Salah Aridi, senior member of the Lebanese Democratic Party and top aide to Druze leader MP Talal Arsalan. The assassination of Aridi, while reminiscent of the long string of car bomb killings of leading political figures since the murder of former Prime Minister of Rafiq Hariri in February 2005, was the first bombing of a pro-Syrian opposition figure. The Druze community has been split between the forces of Walid Jumblatt, which have supported the government throughout the past crisis, and those of Arsalan, whose opposition party has been allied with Hezbollah.
Just days earlier, President Sleiman announced that a national dialogue would commence on Sept. 16 to continue the progress made in the Doha agreements in May, which ended an 18-month government crisis and led to his election. While all political factions expressed support for the national dialogue, many fear that the assassination, the first in almost a year, could disrupt the unity talks.
Just hours before the assassination, a senior diplomatic source in Beirut told EIRNS that while the Doha agreements were holding up well, nonetheless the Saudis and their British controllers were pouring money into various destabilizing organizations to upset national unity in Lebanon.
Iraq's Maliki Blasts Paul Bremer
Sept. 14 (EIRNS)Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the mistakes made by Paul Bremer, former U.S. head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (2003-04) caused no less danger for Iraq than terrorism. "The Iraqi administration and all government offices are suffering the consequences of Paul Bremer's mistakes," Maliki said, as reported by Iran's PressTV.