|Southwest Asia News Digest
Barak Quits Labor Party To Save Netanyahu; War Danger Escalates
Jan. 17 (EIRNS)Israeli Labor Party leader and Defense Minister Ehud Barak has left the Party, along with four other Labor Members of the Knesset, so that he can stay in the coalition government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israeli sources have told EIR that Barak had coordinated the operation with Netanyahu (Likud party) and that the operation was not only "politically ugly," but that it has also created a very "dangerous" situation, raising the chances of war in the region.
Netanyahu's office told the daily Ha'aretz that Barak's decision to split the Labor Party was done in full cooperation with Netanyahu. "The procedure was carried out like an elite General Staff operation," Netanyahu's aide told Ha'aretz. Soon after, Netanyahu applauded Barak's move, saying, "The government has grown much stronger today ... and this is important for Israel. The whole world knows, and the Palestinians know, that this government will be around for the next few years, and that it is with this government that they should negotiate for peace." His message was seen as being directed at Washington, even more than at the Palestinian Authority.
Ha'aretz reports that Barak and Netanyahu started planning the move after it was revealed that senior Obama Administration officials (most likely Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's faction) had told Ha'aretz that the Administration was enraged at Barak for having misled them for a year and a half about his persuasive powers with Netanyahu. His split from Labor is apparently his answer.
On Jan. 11, the three Labor Party ministers and the rest of the Labor Knesset faction left the government. Upon handing in his resignation, former Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog denounced Barak, saying the Labor Party has finally "got rid of a hump on its back. Barak's masquerade is over."
Former Minister for Minority Affairs Avishay Braverman, in announcing his resignation, also denounced Barak, saying he was simply joining Netanyahu's Likud party, "Barak is splitting from the Labor Party to become Likud B, if all goes well or Lieberman A in the worst case." His reference is to fascist Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman of the Ysrael Beiteinu party.
Industry Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer also resigned, and will become temporary head of the Labor Party. He attributed his resignation to his commitment to the peace process, saying that "the peace issue is existential for the State of Israel." He added that the late Prime Minister and Labor Party leader Yitzhak Rabin "is rolling in his grave."
Barak took four other Labor Party members with him, in the split, including Deputy Defense Minister Matin Vilnai. According to Knesset rules, as long as he has a caucus of five Knesset members, he can stay in the government, as he has decided to do. His new party will be called Atzmaut, or Independence.
The Labor Party now has eight seats in the Knesset. The Meretz party, which has three, has called on Labor to form a caucus around a social democratic perspective. With the loss of these seats, Netanyahu's coalition still has 63 Knesset members out of a total of the 120 in the Knesset.
Kadima Leader Livni Calls for New Elections
Jan. 17 (EIRNS)Israel's Kadima party chairwoman and leader of the opposition, Tzipi Livni, issued a call for new elections, following Ehud Barak's resignation from the Labor Party. "The Netanyahu government has lost its legitimacy today and is living off small political maneuvers," she said. Kadima is reiterating its call for elections.
While Barak's defection does give Netanyahu added leverage, particularly with an Obama Administration that had banked on the Minister of Defense to be a channel of war-avoidance, there is also some truth to Livni's claim of a loss of legitimacy. According to one senior U.S. intelligence source, the Netanyahu government has, indeed lost significant popular and institutional support, over the failure to achieve anything other than the collapse of the peace process. The source noted that senior retired Mossad officials, now associated with Kadima and Labor, have been regularly meeting to discuss Israel's national security interests, and the two parties continue to maintain quiet channels of negotiation over a possible challenge to Netanyahu. "The next 90 days will be critical," the source concluded. He added that Barak shares Netanyahu's view of the Iran threat, and that this was a crucial factor in Barak's defection from Labor.
Protesters in Jordan Demand Prime Minister Resign
Jan. 15 (EIRNS)In what is being described as a "day of rage" 5,000 Jordanians demonstrated throughout the country, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Samir Rifai, because of high prices for bread and foods. Security forces deployed but made no arrests. In response, King Abdullah, the real power center in the country, ordered prices and taxes on some foods and fuels to be slashed. The government has already allocated $225 million in the 2011 budget to subsidize prices for bread and other staples, and will use the same funds to cut fuel prices, and create jobs.
Turkey Plans 18 Transborder River Dams To End 'Water Wars'
Jan. 11 (EIRNS)The Turkish government is determined to put an end to the British geopolitical game of fomenting water wars in the Middle East, by building no fewer than 18 dams on rivers traversing its borders. Unnamed Turkish officials told Zaman of Jan. 11 that the dams will provide water, flood-control, and electricity for Turkey, and will be constructed in cooperation with Iraq, Syria, Iran, Georgia, Bulgaria, and Greece, which all share borders with Turkey.
The foundation for the first dam will be laid on Jan. 31 across the Orontes River, known as the Asi River in Turkish, which flows from Syria to Turkey. The ceremony will be attended by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Turkish and Syrian authorities believe the project should put an end to speculation about a war between the two countries over depletion of water resources, and will have far-reaching positive effects in the long run.
Turkey also plans to construct 14 dams on its frontier with Iraq, primarily on the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, to provide water and electricity for Turkey and Iraq.
The prime ministers of Turkey, Greece, and Bulgaria are expected to meet in March to discuss the construction of various dams, including on the Maritsa and the Tunca rivers.
The dam planned by Turkey and Iran on the Aras River includes the construction of thermal and hydroelectric power plants, which are expected to generate 16,000 MW of electricity each month.
Georgia and Turkey agreed in November 2010 upon a dam on the Kura River, which, again, will include a hydroelectric power plant, with the electricity to be shared by the two countries.
Turkey also plans to complete the Ilgsu Dam on the Tigris River in the near future, a hydroelectric project which is one of the largest undertakings of the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP). Syria has objected to construction of the dam in the past, but now welcomes it, as it should end water shortages in the Summer months.
The GAP is one of Turkey's most ambitious infrastructure projects, modeled on the famous Tennessee Valley Authority. Begun over 20 years ago, the GAP envisions 22 dams, to provide 7.4 GW of electricity, water management, irrigation, and flood control. Located in southeastern Turkey, the project covers 10% of the country's land area, and 20% of its arable land. The project calls for the development of infrastructure of all types required for integrating the entire region, including transportation, power, schools, etc.