|Southwest Asia News Digest
Clinton Exposes Israeli Lie on Alleged Secret Agreements
June 7 (EIRNS)U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has exposed the lies being pushed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, that there was a secret agreement between the Bush Administration and Israel to allow for "natural growth" in existing Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. Speaking at a press conference on June 5 with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu at the State Department in Washington, Clinton said there is no evidence of any such agreement.
"I do not recall any agreement between Israel and George Bush's previous government, according to which Israel will be authorized to extend the construction of settlements in the West Bank," Clinton said. "There is no memory of any informal and oral agreements. If they did occur, which of course people say they did, they did not become part of the official position of the United States government. And there are contrary documents that suggest that they were not to be viewed as in any way contradicting the obligations that Israel undertook pursuant to the Road Map. And those obligations are very clear."
Israeli attorney Dov Weisglass, who served as former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon's go-between with the Bush Administration, had written an op-ed this week in the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, claiming that there was a secret agreement allowing Israel to build in existing settlements.
Clinton was reiterating what President Barack Obama said on June 4 in his address to the Muslim world in Cairo, where he stated, "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements; it is time for these settlements to stop."
Clinton repeated this on ABC TV's "This Week" on June 7.
In a related development, President Obama has postponed moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Based on legislation passed by Congress in 1995, moving the U.S. Embassy is at the discretion of the President, who must formally make that decision.
Envoy Mitchell May Visit Syria
June 1 (EIRNS)Presidential Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell may go to Syria for high-level meetings in the near future, reports the London Financial Times today. This would be the highest-level meeting by a U.S. official since the Bush Administration withdrew the American ambassador in 2005, amidst a concerted assault on Syria, as had been outlined in "Clean Break," the neocons' screed on regime-change, written for Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996. In Washington, the repair of U.S./Syria relations is considered to be an important step away from the "Cheney doctrine."
Damascus is also an important factor in the Palestinian relations, since Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal has been living there since the mid-1990s, after he left Jordan in the wake of an Israeli attempt on his life.
U.S. Military Delegation Will Also Visit Syria
June 3 (EIRNS)As a result of the mediation of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, U.S.-Syrian relations are again moving forward, according to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius.
In a telephone conversation on May 31 between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem, there was what Ignatius calls "a mini-breakthrough" in relations, in which Syria agreed to let a delegation of U.S. military officials visit Damascus, where they will discuss joint efforts to stabilize Iraq.
Syrian officials had reportedly been angered by the Obama Administration's announcement last month that the U.S. was renewing sanctions against Syria, and describing Syria as posing an "extraordinary threat" to the United States.
Imad Moustapha, the Syrian Ambassador to the U.S., hailed the prospect of a military visit. "The Bush Administration used to accuse us of aiding the insurgents, and we used to say it was untrue," he said. "We said we needed to sit together and discuss the issue, but they would not do that." But with the Obama Administration, "we have a very different context," Moustapha continued. "This Administration wants to address all issues. We believe this is a very strong opportunity to cooperate with this Administration."
Source Confirms U.S. Efforts to Improve Relations with Syria
June 4 (EIRNS)A well-placed Washington intelligence source told EIR that the David Ignatius report on Sen. John Kerry's intervention to get U.S.-Syria relations back on track, is accurate. After Obama's provocation against Syria, Kerry stepped in with several telephone calls to President Bashar al-Assad, discussing how to improve relations. Kerry had held lengthy discussions with al-Assad, and in March 2008, Kerry and his wife had dinner with al-Assad and his wife.
The Clinton-Kerry-Mitchell grouping is part of a senior policy group within the Democratic Party which has been pushing for opening relations with Syria since long before the 2008 elections. Kerry made several trips to Syria during the Bush Presidency, in an attempt to normalize relations between the two countries. But, according to Ignatius, the Syrians refused the military cooperation several weeks ago, after Obama attacked Syria with repeats of George W. Bush/Cheney-type "axis of evil" language, when Obama renewed the Congressionally mandated sanctions against Syria.
EIR's source also stressed that Foreign Minister Moualem had a close working relationship with the Clinton Administration when Moualem was Syria's Ambassador to Washington, and that this personal relationship also will be a factor in restoring ties.
Iranian Foreign Minister Meets Sarkozy
June 3 (EIRNS)Manoucher Mottaki, Foreign Affairs Minister of Iran, was received today by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in the company of French Foreign Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner. The meeting was held at Iran's request, and the French Presidential office reports that it was set up in full transparency with the "5+1" diplomatic group on Iran, in an attempt to re-engage the Iranians on stopping their uranium enrichment program. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had just declared that Iran refuses to restart negotiations unless they occur in the context of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It is impossible to imagine that the question of France's new naval base off the Iranian coast will not be raised.
This is the first meeting of a high-level Iranian official with Sarkozy since the latter was elected in May 2007, and the first time he has met with an official of a lower rank.
However, in the meantime, other diplomatic contacts have occurred. Sarkozy received Ali Akbar Velayati, who is now a diplomatic advisor to Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, in October 2007. Also, Kouchner met with Mottaki on the sidelines of the recent Davos Forum.
Turkish Trade Collapses Further
June 2 (EIRNS)Turkish exports for May collapsed by 39.97%, as compared with May 2008, to $7.3 billion. Mehmet Busukeksi, chairman of the Turkish Exporters Assembly, said that in the first five months of 2009, exports amounted to $108.4 billion, a decrease of nearly 10% compared with the same period in 2008. He forecast a 14.4% contraction of developing economies. Commenting on the ongoing talks with the IMF, he cautioned about moving too fast in coming to an agreement, obviously because of the conditionalities. He said, "We may need fresh cash from the Fund, but this is a serious issue and should not be done haphazardly," adding that hastiness would damage Turkish small businesses.