|Southwest Asia News Digest
Gates Warns Against Iran War
Nov. 17 (EIRNS)In an unusually detailed report, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, speaking at a Wall Street Journal CEO conference Nov. 16, warned against any military operations against Iran, on several grounds. Gates said that attacks on Iran would not eliminate its nuclear weapons program, but would in fact unify factions within the country, and make Iran's commitment to acquiring nuclear weapons even stronger. Gates made reference to growing distrust of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei.
When asked about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent assertion that "the only way to ensure that Iran is not armed with nuclear weapons is to create a credible threat of military action against it, unless it stops its race to obtain nuclear weapons," Gates rejected the formulation; he insisted that sanctions and diplomacy can, and are working.
"I personally believe they [Iran] are still intent on acquiring nuclear weapons," Gates said, "but also, the information that we have, is that they have been surprised by the impact of the sanctions." The sanctions "have really bitten much harder than they anticipated, and we even have some evidence that Khameini now is beginning to wonder if Ahmadinejad is lying to him about the impact of the sanctions on the economy, and whether he's getting the straight scoop in terms of how much trouble the economy really is in."
Gates said that "the only long-term solution to avoiding an Iranian nuclear weapons capability, is for the Iranians to decide it's not in their interest. Everything else is a short-term solution."
Will Palestinian Statehood Be Exchanged for 90-Day Settlement Freeze
Nov. 22 (EIRNS)Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet was expected to narrowly approve a three-month Israeli settlement freeze in the West Bank, in exchange for U.S. promises of $3 billion in military aid and, a commitment that the United States will not support any United Nations resolution recognizing Palestinian sovereignty.
But following a week of intense criticism by the smaller right-wing parties in Netanyahu's coalition, and by a large faction of his own Likud party, further obstacles are being imposed by the Israelis to any negotiated peace.
The Knesset is schedule to vote Nov. 22 on proposed legislationalready approved by the Israeli cabinetwhich would limit the Israeli government's ability to cede the captured territories east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights in any negotiated accord. Any ceding of territory would have to pass the Knesset by a vote of 80 out of 120 seats.
The 90-day freeze proposal was widely criticized following its announcement after the Hillary Clinton/Netanyahu meeting of Nov. 11. Knesset member Danny Danon (Likud) convened an emergency meeting with Samaria local authority chief Gershon Mesika, Beit El Mayor Moshe Rosenbaum, Elkana Mayor Tzadok Nehorai, other Judea and Samaria local authority officials and Likud activists. (Judea and Samaria is the Israeli name for the area that includes the Palestinian West Bank, and is under Israeli military occupation.) Danon declared: "If Netanyahu opts for a second freeze, we will consider parliamentary steps in resistance to a continuation of the freeze," reported Haaretz.
On Nov. 15, Shas party chairman Eli Yishai said that he would abstain in a cabinet vote on a new freeze if two conditions are met, one of them being a letter from President Obama promising that Israel can resume construction of settlements after 90 days. Yishai added that he also wants it made clear that all building for Jews will proceed in all of Jerusalem.
Former U.S. Ambassador Kurtzer Slams Obama for Sellout to Netanyahu
Nov. 20 (EIRNS)"Previously, U.S. opposition to settlements resulted in penalties, not rewards, for continued construction. Washington deducted from its loan guarantees to Israel an amount equivalent, dollar for dollar, to the money that Israel spent in the occupied territories," wrote former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer in a Washington Post op-ed which blasts Obama for rewarding Israel for its "bad behavior." Kurtzer zeroes in on the unprecedented buying of a mere 90-day pause in settlement buildingwhere the plans and machinery remain in place to start up immediatelyin return for $3 billion in advanced military equipment. It is also reported that Likud Prime Minister Netanyahu is also demanding that Israeli spy Jonathon Pollard be freed from U.S. prison in return for the 90 meaningless days of non-building.
Kurtzer, who also was U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, says that the United States has opposed settlement construction in territories seized by Israel during the 1967 War for more than 40 years. Obama is the first President to reverse that policy completely. Kurtzer had been a "vigorous supporter" of Obama in 2008, notes UPI, but now questions whether there is any strategic thinking behind Obama's policy.
Turmoil at AIPAC Over Espionage and Pornography Scandals
Nov. 22 (EIRNS)A civil lawsuit by former AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) political director Steven Rosen against that notorious Israeli lobby group threatens to blow up into a killer scandal. Rosen was fired by AIPAC in 2005, when he was indicted on espionage charges, and he sued his employer of more than a quarter of a century, soon after the Justice Department dropped the charges against him and another AIPAC official, Keith Weissman. A Pentagon accomplice, Larry Franklin, was prosecuted and reached a plea agreement, in which he admitted that he passed classified information on Iran to AIPAC's Rosen.
Rosen has charged that he was wrongfully fired from his job, and has threatened to expose a much larger pattern of spying for Israel and trafficking in classified documents, implicating the very top officials of the group. AIPAC has charged that the firing of Rosen was legitimate, and had to do with violations of an AIPAC employees code of conduct, barring, among other things, the use of AIPAC computers to view and download pornography. A recent 280-page deposition of Rosen by AIPAC attorneys, now in the public record, reveals the group to be a hotbed of perversion. Under interrogation by AIPAC's attorney, Rosen admitted that he used his office computer to view pornography, and that during "extreme sexual experimentation" periods, he may have used the AIPAC computers to solicit homosexual sex on the adult section of Craigslist, an online auction site.
Rosen insists that many top AIPAC officials, including executive director Howard Kohr, also spent hours viewing pornography on the job, and that Rosen was often called into Kohr's office by Kohr or his secretary, to get in on the fun. Rosen says he can prove that AIPAC's board was fully aware of his and other AIPAC officials' trafficking in government documents, and that what he did was fully sanctioned and standard practice for the group. Rosen is suing for $50 million in damages, but the real damage to AIPAC potentially goes way beyond the money. Profumo meets Portnoy and Jonathan Pollard?