|Southwest Asia News Digest
Turkish President in Historic Visit to Iraq
March 24 (EIRNS)Turkish President Abdullah Gul has made the first visit to neighboring Iraq by a Turkish head of state in over 33 years. This visit, on the heels of Gul's visit to Iran, and after meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, could become a key component of the kind of regional cooperation for the stabilization of Iraq that Lyndon LaRouche outlined in 2004 in "The LaRouche Doctrine." In 2007, the same point about engaging all of Iraq's neighbors was made in the report of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. But under the Bush-Cheney regime, this approach was not allowed. Until Israel's Gaza War was launched in December 2008, Gul played a central role in the three-way peace talks with Israel and Syria.
Gul met in Iraq with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and Nechirvan Barzani, the Prime Minister of the autonomous Kurdish region. The Kurdish separatist issue has been the cause of Turkey's long rift with Iraq, and for the last two years, Turkey has carried out air strikes and hot pursuit ground actions into Kurdish Iraq, claiming that the region was being used to safehouse the narco-terrorist PKK (Kurdish Workers Party). The PKK has been running terrorist attacks inside Turkey.
After the discussion with Barzani, Gul told reporters, "Once the PKK is eliminated there are no bounds to what is possible: you [the Iraqi Kurds] are our neighbors and kinsmen." Barzani told journalists, "We are determined, and we confirm again, our territory will not be used to attack Turkey."
The landmark visit to Iraq was also the occasion to discuss water, which Iraq badly needs from Turkey, because of two years of drought. The visit is also important because of President Obama's upcoming trip to Istanbul in early April after the G-20 meeting.
Palestinian Negotiator Slams Netanyahu's Phony 'Economic Peace'
March 28 (EIRNS)Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, in a Washington Post op-ed today, attacked Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu's phony "economic peace" plan as a ploy to extend the occupation of Palestine. "Rather than ending the occupation, Netanyahu has proposed an 'economic peace' that would seek to normalize and better manage it," wrote Erekat. "Instead of a viable Palestinian state, his vision extends no further than a series of disconnected cantons with limited self-rule."
Erekat warned that the patience of Palestinians was not "unlimited."
Calling for a complete halt to settlement construction in the occupied territories, he wrote, "The new Israeli government must unequivocally affirm its support for the two-state solution and the establishment of a viable, independent, and fully sovereign Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, and it must commit to past agreements between Israel and the PLO. Without these commitments, Palestinians have no partner for peace."
Erekat praised President Barack Obama's renewed commitment to peace efforts, writing that the U.S. must play the honest broker in "a just and lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis."
Hamas Chief Meshaal Hails Obama's 'New Language'
March 23 (EIRNS)The political leader of Palestinian Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, noted, in an interview to the Italian daily La Repubblica, that "a new language towards the region is coming from President Obama.... The challenge for everybody is for this to be the prelude for a genuine change in U.S. and European policies. Regarding an official opening towards Hamas, it's a matter of time."
Meshaal continued, "The great powers need us in order to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. Our weight in resolving the Palestinian question stems from our roots in society, in the people who have voted for us and who will do so again."
Iran and NATO Hold First Meeting
March 27 (EIRNS)Official representatives of NATO and the Islamic Republic of Iran held their first meeting ever on March 9. NATO Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs Martin Erdmann and Iranian Ambassador to the European Union Ali-Asghar Khaji held the first meeting between the two sides since the Iranian revolution three decades ago. The topic of discussion was Iranian cooperation with the NATO mission in Afghanistan.
"The Iranians have problems with drugs and refugees flowing out of Afghanistan [and] so do we," NATO spokesman James Appathurai is quoted by Associated Press. "There is certainly a common interest there. This is another good step in engaging Iran in the international community's effort [in Afghanistan]. I'm sure there will be follow-up meetings."
This follows statements by NATO's military commander, Gen. John Craddock, suggesting that individual member nations could strike deals with Teheran to supply their forces in Afghanistan via Iran. Teheran is expected to attend a conference on Afghanistan next week at The Hague, Netherlands, that also will be attended by the United States.
U.S. Welcomes Iranian Participation in Conference on Afghanistan
March 26 (EIRNS)A U.S. State Department spokesman stated today, in response to Iran's announcement that it would participate in a UN-sponsored conference on Afghanistan conference on March 31 at The Hague:
"We welcome an Iranian participation in the conference in The Hague. We have not yet been officially notified by the organizers that they have accepted, but I am speaking from the press accounts that we have both seen, you and I, that if this is, indeed, the case ... then it is a welcome move, because we do want this conference to be a regional conference. A regional conference would be incomplete without Iran. Iran does share a border with Afghanistan, and that border is strategic.
"The Iranians have not always played a helpful role in Afghanistan. We are hoping that their attendance here is a demonstration that they are planning to play a positive role in regards to Afghanistan."
Spokesman David Diguid also said that "no substantive meetings are planned with Iranian officials at this time," but "the Iranians will be around the table. They will speak; we will listen to them. We will hear their points of view, and they will also hear our points of view in a discussion about Afghanistan."