|Southwest Asia News Digest
'The Strange Tale of Iran and Israel'
Feb. 7 (EIRNS)Alistair Crooke, one of the more sober commentators on the Middle East and a former member of the 2000 Mitchell Commission to the region, has written a commentary under the above title, for the February 2009 English edition of Le Monde Diplomatique, which demonstrates why only a Treaty of Westphalia-type approach will work to bring peace to the Middle East.
Crooke describes how Israeli strategy swung from pinning "their hopes on the non-Arab periphery," that is, Turkey and Iran, to deciding in 1992 that they had to make peace with the Arabs. This swing led the Israeli lobby to focus on the alleged existential threat from Iran (which the Clinton Administration felt to be exaggerated), and away from anger at Israel's leaders for betraying the late Vladimir Jabotinsky's Iron Wall approach by "supping with the enemyArafat and the Arabs."
Crooke uses all this to demonstrate that Israel and the U.S., after 2001, not only misread the Arab Middle East, but Iran's intentions as well. The misinterpretation of Iran's 2003 overture to the Bush Administrationwhich acknowledged U.S. security concerns about Iran's support for Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as its nuclear programas a signal that "pressure works," and that more pressure on Iran might lead to more such concessions, "may lead to a catastrophic error of policy."
Crooke concludes: "The U.S. swing towards a Manichaean vision of pro-Western moderation versus Islamist extremism has taken regional polarization well beyond Ben-Gurion's more modest objective (of the 1950s) of creating a balance of forces and deterrence. In their aim to break the resistance throughout the Muslim world to a secular, liberal vision for the future, the U.S. and its European allies instead provoked mass mobilization against their own project as well as radicalization and hostility to the West."
Israeli General: Israel 'On a Collision Course with Syria'
Feb. 4 (EIRNS)Unless Israel makes peace with Syria, the two countries will remain on a "collision course," said Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, who heads the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau, on Feb. 3. "We're on a collision course with Syria," Gilad told the ninth annual Herzliya Conference at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel. "We need to try and reach a peace agreement with Syria," he warned, or "there will be rockets in large numbers targetting Tel Aviv."
He revealed that in 2006, during the Lebanon War, Israel nearly went to war with Syria. "In the space of two years, we could face a hostile entity on our eastern borderfrom a nuclear Iran through Syria and down to Hezbollah and Hamas," Gilad said. He asked whether Israel truly had a military response to Syria over the issue of its support for Hamas and Hezbollah. In fact, he said, Israel would have little to gain in a war with Syria, which could cause the fall of President Bashar Assad's regime, and warned "there might be more extreme forces coming to power in Syria.... This would put us in a far more difficult situation. If I'm right, we need to exhaust all avenues of reaching a potential peace with Syria."
French Senator Meets with Hamas Leader Meshal
PARIS, Feb. 4 (EIRNS)Sen. Jean François-Poncet, vice-president of the French Senate Foreign Affairs Commission, met the week of Jan. 26 with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, at Hamas's headquarters in Damascus, in the context of a French Senate mission to the Middle East. François-Poncet was foreign minister under Raymond Barre (1978-81). His "independent mission" was actually sent by the Sarkozy government when the ceasefire in Gaza was adopted; government officials are not able to meet with Meshaal, as long as Hamas is still officially on the list of terrorist organizations. The mission was made public by the French Foreign Ministry.
After finding out about the Senator's meeting with Meshaal, Israel cancelled all the appointments planned for the Senate mission in Israel. According to François-Poncet, Hamas is open to a dialogue with Israel and has to be considered as a full discussion partner.
Interviewed in Le Monde, François-Poncet said that "Hamas is no longer the revolutionary and religious movement, as everyone described it. It has a real following among Palestinians, probably larger even than Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority. My sense is that Hamas is now definitely in the midst of negotiations with Israel. Hamas is still on the list of terrorist organizations, but we feel that that phase of its development is past."
"You don't think of shooting rockets as terrorist acts?" asks Le Monde.
François-Poncet: "The shooting is taking place in the context of the exchanges between Israel and the Palestinian movement in Gaza. You don't ask if the Israeli attack on Gaza is terrorist. One should not forget that the truce which Hamas had concluded with Israel and which was denounced three months ago, involved the possibility for the Gaza enclave to have normal relations with the outside. But the Israelis imposed an extremely strict blockade. This incited Hamas not to renew the truce and to start firing rockets. It was wrong, for sure, but that's part of the strong-arming that goes on in the Middle East."
Everybody will have to realize there must be a Palestinian government of national unity, reunifying Abbas and Hamas if any peace accord is going to hold, he said.
About the fact that Hamas's charter calls for the destruction of Israel, and whether that will change: "We talked about it. Mr. Meshaal brushed the issue aside. It's a charter, like the one the PLO had for a long time before renouncing it ... it seems to me at a stage where it's already depassé."
A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry reiterated the French position concerning Hamas: France is ready to talk to Hamas, "as long as they respect the principles which guide the peace process, and first of all, the renunciation of violence." On Jan. 20, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner qualified the movement as a possible "interlocutor," especially if a national unity government is created.
Saudis Out To Torpedo U.S. Talks with Iran
Feb. 5 (EIRNS)As plans are underway in Washington to open a formal dialogue with Iran for the purpose of improving relations, Saudi Arabia, an avowed enemy of Iran and a collaborator with Britain in undermining the United States and its allies' interest in the region, issued a statement saying 41 suspected al-Qaeda members wanted by Saudi authorities are currently in Iran.
The Saudi Interior Ministry on Feb. 3 released a list of 85 wanted terrorism suspects, all but two of them Saudis. One of the men on the list, Abdullah al-Qarawi, is a Saudi who has been operating from Iran for three years, the ministry claimed.
Whether these al-Qaeda operatives are in Iran, or not, the reason that the Saudis came out with this accusation is to rev up the virulent anti-Iran crowd associated with the now out-of-power neocons controlled by Dick Cheney. These individuals inside the United States had pushed for precision strikes on Iranian nuclear installations and accused Tehran of helping the anti-U.S. Taliban militants in Afghanistan. During these years, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who remained a powerless authority in Kabul, had repeatedly said that Iran had helped against the Taliban, a section of which is in league with Wahhabis maintained from Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi allegation will also have an impact on Washington's formulation of policy towards Afghanistan. According to the Obama Administration, Afghanistan's situation must be dealt with immediately. However, the Administration will realize that Iran is an important party that should be listened to.
Obama Administration Declares PKK Front a Terrorist Organization
Feb. 5 (EIRNS)Reversing the Bush Administration's policy, the U.S. Treasury declared PEJAK a terrorist organization. PEJAK is the Iranian wing of the Turkish Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which was being financed by former Vice President Dick Cheney's intelligence cronies to run terrorist operations into Iran. The PKK has been on the U.S. terror list for decades. Both organizations are deeply involved in trafficking opium from Afghanistan, across Iran, Iraq, and Turkey, and eventually into Europe.
PEJAK is a front for the terrorist PKK organization, said Stuart Levey, U.S. Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. "With today's action, we are exposing PEJAK's terrorist ties to the PKK and supporting Turkey's efforts to protect its citizens from attack," Levey said. PEJAK and its armed group, East Kurdistan Defense Forces, were created to appeal to Iranian Kurds, but the PKK controls the leadership, including Secretary General Hajji Ahmadi, who is a member of the PKK.
The action means that any bank accounts or other financial assets found in the United States belonging to PEJAK must be frozen. Americans also are forbidden to contribute money or do business with the organization, according to the Turkish daily Hurriyet.