|Southwest Asia News Digest
Ha'aretz Worries that Washington Isn't 'Panicked' over Iran
May 4 (EIRNS)Amir Oren, a commentator for the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, warns that Israeli leaders have to be sure they make it perfectly clear that if Iran's nuclear program is not stopped, Israel will not hesitate to launch a military strike.
"Without a global realization that a clear threat of an Israeli Defense Forces operation against Iran exists, the effort to counter Tehran's acquisition of nuclear capabilities may dissolve. Tehran is no such threat at this time: An Israeli operation is being taken into account, but the assumption is that it ultimately will not take place. President Barack Obama says all the right things, but without a sense of panic, without successfully forming a global front against Tehran's nuclear program. The Iranians may conclude that when Obama reaches the crucial juncture, he will opt for restraint."
Oren writes that the Israeli policy of ambiguity, describing the military option as just "another option on the table," is bankrupt. "An existential threat is absolute and constitutes a casus belli.... The stuttering ambiguity provides no advantage: neither a deterrent against Iran, nor pressure on the rest of the world."
Amir Oren, who is not known as a war-monger, even criticized Defense Minister Ehud Barak for giving mixed signals. His article comes on the first full day of the annual conference of the Jabotinskyite-allied AIPACAmerican Israel Public Affairs Committeewhere "war on Iran" is the constant drumbeat.
Is U.S.-Israel Special Relationship on the Wane?
May 8 (EIRNS)The government of Benjamin Netanyahu is getting paranoid about the erosion of Israeli's "special relationship" with the United States, especially with the approach of Netanyahu's meeting in Washington with President Barack Obama on May 18.
Ha'aretz, quoting unnamed Israeli government sources, reports that Netanyahu's government is concerned that the United States has been conducting its Middle East diplomacy without coordinating with Jerusalem, as had the Bush Administration. They cite a statement by Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller, at the recent Geneva meeting on the Non-Proliferation Treaty, that the United States would like Israel to join the NPT. (Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.) Then there was the visit to Syria by State Department envoy Jeffrey Feltman and National Security Council member Dan Shapiro. Both visits occurred without first informing Israel. The Israeli sources even complained that Dennis Ross did not stop by Israel en route to and from his trip to the Gulf states. They fear that Obama sees ties with Europe and the Arab states on the same level as Israel.
Meanwhile, Uzi Arad, Netanyahu's national security advisor, was apparently able to get a visa to the United States, where he is to go in order to prepare for Netanyahu's May 18 meeting with Obama. Arad had been banned entry to the U.S. because of his ties to convicted spy Larry Franklin. Arad will be meeting National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones.
Obama Committed to Syrian Israeli Peace Deal
May 7 (EIRNS)Two U.S. envoys told Syria's government that President Barack Obama is committed to a Syria-Israel peace agreement.
"We conveyed ... President Obama's sincere commitment to pursue Arab-Israeli peace on all tracks, including on the Syrian-Israeli track," senior State Department official Jeffrey Feltman said, after meeting Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem in the Syrian capital. Feltman is in Damascus along with National Security Council member Dan Shapiro.
Moallem joined a growing number of Arab leaders who have denied a report which appeared in the pan-Arab al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper on May 5, that Arab states were considering changes in the Arab Peace initiative to make it more acceptable to Israel. Moallem told reporters before meeting Feltman and Shapiro, that there was no need for changes.
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa denied the report on changing the initiative, according to the Jerusalem Post. Moussa was backed up by Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki, who said, "I don't know where this idea came from. As far as Egypt is concerned, the idea does not exist and is not under consideration."
Special envoy of the Quartet of Middle East mediators, Tony Blair, met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on May 6. Blair to "convinced" Netanyahu to allow the transfer of $12 million to the Palestinian Authority account in Gaza. This is Palestinian money, so this is no favor by Netanyahu. No one knows what the two really discussed.
Netanyahu Establishes Iran Task Force
May 4 (EIRNS)Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has established a task force to consider alternatives for action against the Iranian nuclear program. The group has met several times ahead of Netanyahu's trip to Washington later this month, where he wants to make Iran the principal issue for discussion.
The group includes Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Strategic Affairs Minister and hardline former Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces Moshe Ya'alon, Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor, National Security Advisor Uzi Arad, former Mossad agent and longtime advisor to Netanyahu Meir Dagan. Arad, until recently, was barred from the United States since 2007, because of his connections to convicted Israeli spy, Larry Franklin. Netanyahu, Lieberman, and Arad, who had been director of the Institute for Policy and Strategy of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, are all part of the Anglo-Israeli faction that advocates military action against Iran, insisting that Iran is building a nuclear weapon. Both the U.S. intelligence community's National Intelligence Estimate, and the IAEA UN nuclear watchdog agency disagree with this assessment.
Egypt: Israeli Nukes Threaten the Middle East
May 5 (EIRNS)Contrary to what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, along with many other Israelis, claimthe so-called "moderate" Arab states do not fear a nuclear Iran more than Israel. The argument only plays into the British game to have Israel attack Iran.
In a five-minute video presentation to the AIPAC conference, Netanyahu said, "Something is happening today in the Middle East, and I can say that for the first time in my lifetime I believe that Arabs and Jews see the common danger. This wasn't always the case.... Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons."
Meanwhile, in Geneva, at the annual conference on the Non-Proliferation Treaty, a spokesman for the Egyptian delegate, according to the Jerusalem Post, told a group of editors that pressuring Iran to give up its nuclear program will fail, noting that these editors disregard Israel's nuclear capability, which is "the first and greatest threat to security in the region." Hossam Zaki said that nuclear weapons in some countries disrupted the balance of power and "encouraged other nations to address this imbalance by seeking to acquire nuclear weapons." He called for the UN to require all states, including Israel, to comply with the NPT.
President Hosni Mubarak said, during a meeting with the Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, that efforts concerning Iran's alleged program must be accompanied by parallel efforts to deal with the Israeli program.
Kerry: U.S. Has Abandoned 'Regime Change' Policy vs. Iran
May 6 (EIRNS)Speaking at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee which he chairs, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) stated that the United States is not seeking "regime change" in Iran. Agence France Presse quotes Kerry as saying, "We are not in 'regime change' mode.... Our efforts must be reciprocated by the other side: Just as we abandon calls for regime change in Tehran and recognize a legitimate Iranian role in the region, Iran's leaders must moderate their behavior and that of their proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas."
George W. Bush's point man on Iran, Nicholas Burns, a witness at the hearing, said, "I think it would be helpful if the American administration was to say overtly and clearly, 'that's [regime change] not our policy." Burns claimed that this had already been implicit at the end of the Bush Administrationbut Obama should make it explicit.
On the "military option," Burns said, "I do not believe it's time for the use of military force by the United States or by anyone else. I don't think it would work."
"I'm not familiar with any scenario where military force could actually fully stop a program that is based on scientific research and whose most important elements are really in the minds of the scientists of Iran," he said. Burns warned of "unintended consequences," adding, "We learned in Iraq that sometimes when you start a war, you don't know where it's going to end, and that's certainly the case with Iran," Burns said.
On the other hand, talk of sanctions, sanctions, sanctions, wove throughout the hearing.