|Southwest Asia News Digest
Sistani: Iraq's Sovereignty Must Be Protected
Oct. 29 (EIRNS)Top Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani issued a statement today saying that the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) should be negotiated with Washington in such a way that it does not harm Iraq's sovereignty.
"Ayatollah Ali Sistani insists that the sovereignty of Iraq not be touched, and he is closely following developments until the final accord has been clarified," said his office in the holy city of Najaf, south of Baghdad. The statement was issued after a visit by two Shi'ite MPs. The SOFA between the Iraqi government and the United States will legally allow U.S. forces to stay in the country beyond Dec. 31, 2008, when the UN mandate for their presence expires.
On Oct. 28, the Iraqi ministers called on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government to make changes in the proposed accord, after the prime minister criticized an attack by Iraq-based U.S forces inside Syria last weekend. The Cabinet demands more legal authority over U.S. soldiers, and has urged the prime minister to include in the accord a phrase that says: "confirm that Iraqi land would not be the center for aggression against its neighbors."
U.S. Tightens Screws on Iraq
Oct. 30 (EIRNS)The U.S. Defense Department has responded to Iraqi second thoughts on the Status of Forces agreement by jacking up the pressure. Over the Oct. 25 weekend, Gen. Ray Odierno, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, sent a letter to the government, threatening to shut down military operations and other vital services if Baghdad doesn't sign on to the agreement. According to McClatchy News, the U.S. would stop activities that support Iraq's economy, educational activities, and other areas. Tariq al-Hashimi, Iraq's Sunni vice president, said, "I didn't know the Americans were rendering such wide-scale services." He added, "Many people are looking at this attitude as a matter of blackmailing." According to McClatchy, other services provided by the U.S include protection of borders and oil transportation, and operation of the air-traffic-control system.
On Oct. 29, U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. David Perkins, in a briefing to reporters in Baghdad, described the U.S. military effort as one of the "pillars" of progress there, over the past five years. If you pull out that pillar, "you now seriously degrade, I think, the ability for the others to progress forward" in Iraq.
Olmert To Try To Resume Talks With Syria
Oct. 31 (EIRNS)Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he will try to resume indirect talks with Syria through Turkish mediation. This Fall, there have been five sessions mediated by the Turkish government. The last was in September.
Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller met on Oct. 26 for two hours with Syrian President Bashar Assad, during which Assad expressed a desire to continue talks with Israel. Moeller, who later travelled to Israel to meet Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, told the Israeli leader that Assad was "very serious." Assad also said that he was willing to hold direct talks, even while President George W. Bush was in the White House, if Israel accepted a "six-point document" which he had presented to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan last September. This document has not been made public, but, according to the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, it includes three points on the demarcation of the border between the countries, and three points on security issues. Olmert will meet with Erdogan to get the talks going.
Rabin Assassin: Sharon Influenced My Decision
Oct. 31 (EIRNS)In an unauthorized telephone interview with major Israeli media, Yigal Amir, the assassin of then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, was asked who influenced his decision to carry out the murder. He said "[Ariel] Sharon, Raful [General Raphael Eitan], and Gandhi [Rehavbam Ze'evi, another right-wing retired general] ... all the military experts, who said this agreement will result in disaster. There is no deed for a rabbi for this. This is not about a rabbi saying it.... I saw that all the greatest military experts said it's leading to disaster."
Rabin, who signed the Oslo peace accords with Yasser Arafat, was assassinated on Nov. 4, 1995, following a campaign of incitement in which Sharon, a leader of the right-wing Likud Party, participated. Both Raful and Gandhi, leaders of parties that were to the right of the Likud, were bitter enemies of the peace accords. Gandhi was assassinated several years ago by a Palestinian militant.
Knesset Member: Send Investment Advisors to Jail
Oct. 29 (EIRNS)Israel Knesset member and chairman of the Finance Committee Avishay Braverman said recently: "Thieves get sent to prison. What about investment advisors, who serve the interests of the investment banks that employ them?"
Braverman, speaking before an emergency meeting of the Small and Medium Enterprises Authority, added, "Anybody who thinks that while the U.S. gets pneumonia and Europe gets tuberculosis, Israel won't catch anything, doesn't understand the gravity of the situation."
Braverman is a trained economist and former president of Ben Gurion University and has been interviewed in the past by EIR.