|Southwest Asia News Digest
Gates: Military Attack Won't Stop Iran's Nuclear Program
May 2 (EIRNS)U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates offered a third alternative to sanctions or military attack to deal with Iran's nuclear weapons program, during testimony to the Senate Appropriations Committee on April 30. In response to a question from Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Gates said that "the only way to eliminate an Iranian determination to have nuclear weapons, in my opinion, is for that government to make that decision. Even a military attack will only buy us time and send the program deeper and more covert."
Gates proposed a combination of the usual diplomatic and economic pressures "with a diplomatic door that they can walk through if they choose to, so that they don't feel like they've been backed into a corner and have no choice but to go forward, plus trying to persuade them that their security interests are actually badly served by trying to have nuclear weapons ... and they will be less secure at the end than they are now."
Prince Turki: U.S.A. Must Engage with Hamas
April 27 (EIRNS)The New American Foundation was the venue for a conference on U.S.-Saudi Arabia relations in a "World Without Equilibrium." where Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former chief of Saudi Intelligence and former Saudi Ambassador to the United States, was the main Saudi speaker. Turki made two points: The U.S. should talk to Hamas, directly, immediately; and President Obama should tell Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he visits Washington this month that (paraphrased): The U.S. believes in a two-state solution, do you? I (Obama) believe that the Annapolis (2007) agreements are binding, do you? And that Netanyahu "needs to know the President means business."
Turki was on a panel that also included former National Security Advisor for Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski; former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel; Rita Houser of the New York Council on Foreign Relations; and Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Advisor under George H.W. Bush, who couldn't be present, but sent on-the-record remarks from a closed session held the night before.
What came out in the conference is that the none of the aid pledged by the Saudis, for example$1 billionhas been delivered for Gaza reconstruction, because Hamas "cannot get their hands on that money," as the Bush Administration used to say. Rita Hauser called the Gaza situation "lamentable beyond lamenting," and suggested that the U.S. let the Europeans, Arab League, and other countries negotiate with Hamasquicklyso that a unity government can be created.
Turki disagreed with Hauser on that, saying that the United States has to engage with Hamas itself, as you cannot isolate, ostracize, and reject a legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. He said there is an "imperative" that the U.S.A. engage with Hamas, and there is "no justification" to exclude them, "none whatsoever."
Brzezinski stated that there is no military action against Iran that can be justified. Under Secretary of State William Burns gave a keynote speech, and then answered questions off the record, put heavy emphasis on the commitment of the U.S. to diplomatic engagement with Iran.
Eighty Percent of Gazans Live Below Poverty Line
May 1 (EIRNS)International donors have promised $4.5 billion in aid to reconstruct the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, but nothing has been delivered to the Gaza Strip, where it is needed the most. The political blockade against Hamas, and the siege conditions Israel has imposed on Gaza, are responsible for the disastrous conditions.
The Hamas Labor Minister in the Gaza Strip, Ahmed al-Kurd, announced that unemployment in Gaza is 65%, while 80% were under the poverty line, and 85% are dependent on international relief organizations like the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
John Ging, UNRWA chief in Gaza, told a news briefing at the European Union headquarters in Brussels that none of the $4.5 billion pledged in aid to the Palestinian National Authority has reached Gaza, in part because the Israelis continue to keep the crossings closed. "Billions of dollars were pledged for recovery and reconstruction, and yet none of that can actually connect with those whose lives were destroyed," Ging said, as quoted in Ha'aretz.
Another UN official, Robert Serry, toured Gaza and said that "the situation is really alarming. Fulfilling the humanitarian needs and beginning early recovery is impossible without the adequate entry of fuel, cash, and materials needed for the repairs of damaged or destroyed homes, schools, clinics, and other urgent infrastructure repairs."
With thousands of Gazans still homeless, Serry warned, "in the absence of real progress on issues like Palestinian reconciliation, open crossings, secure borders, and a prisoners exchange, the potential for renewed violence is ever present."
Earlier in the week, Serry toured occupied East Jerusalem and urged Israel not to destroy Palestinian homes it claims were built "illegally."
Abbas Demands Israel Return to 1967 Borders
April 28 (EIRNS)In a speech given in Ramallah on the West Bank on April 27, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas challenged the definition of Israel as a "Jewish State."
Invoking international agreements, including the 2007 Annapolis conference, Abbas said, "A Jewish State: What is that supposed to mean? You can call yourselves as you like, but I don't accept it, and I say so publicly." Agence France Presse noted that Abbas emphasized that the term "Jewish State" was "extensively discussed" at Annapolis, and rejected by the Palestinians. Following that, Israel and Palestine reopened the peace negotiations.
Abbas added that the Palestinian Authority would recognize Israel as an independent country, only if Israel withdraws from "all of the land occupied by Jordan from 1948 to 1967," reported AFP. Abbas was immediately denounced by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, now headed by Russo-Israeli fascist Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman's ministry said that this proves the Palestinian Authority does not want peace. The Netanyahu/Lieberman government will make this a major topic at the upcoming American Israel Public Affairs Council (AIPAC) meeting in Washington.