|Southwest Asia News Digest
Arab Mass Strike Continues; Egypt Cancels Request for IMF, World Bank Loans
June 27 (EIRNS)As EIR reported in its June 24, 2011 issue, the Egyptian population's distrust of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and the rise of renewed belief in the national sovereignty is one of the hottest debates in the continuing revolution.
In this context, the interim government cancelled a request for a $3 billion loan from the IMF and a $2.2 billion loan from the World Bank, reported the Financial Times of London on June 25. Finance Minister Samir Radwan said the loans were "not necessary" at the current time, and that there was popular opposition to the loans.
In an EIR (June 24) interview, "The Key to Egypt's Future Is the American Economic System," an Egyptian citizen reported that the opposition to the IMF blackmail of Egypt's economy is extensive. "The suspicion among the population toward these two institutions was already abundant before the fight began," he said, and that with "Egypt having unemployment rates of over 35%, and a flood of newcomers to the labor market every year," there is no justification for becoming further indebted to international banks.
The Egyptian citizen also warned that taking more IMF/World Bank/European Union loans would only make the situation worse since "the early installments will go mostly to cover the deficit in our budget and repay interest on previous loans."
Shaky Netanyahu Defiant as U.S. and Israel Experts Attack Iran War Drive
June 27 (EIRNS)Speaking at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. on June 23, former Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, Gabi Ashkenazi, said sanctions against Tehran are "less costly than all the other options," and should be pursued instead of military threats, but he also asserted that it is necessary to keep "all the options on the table." Ashkenazi, who is currently a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, joins ex-Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who last month said a military strike on Iran would be a "stupid thing." A similar viewpoint was dominant at the June 2, 2011 meeting of the Atlantic Council, where the Council's Iran Task Force released its report, "Iran Sanctions: Preferable to War, But No Silver Bullet."
Importantly, Ashkenazi's statements occurred at the same time that about 4,000 delegates were attending Shimon Peres's Israeli Presidential Conference in Jerusalem where a defiant Bibi Netanyahu addressed the crowd, swaggering and boastful, but encountering an audience that was very critical.
Netanyahu is on shaky grounds, according to Washington intelligence sources, and a recent report in the American Jewish newspaper, The Forward. Reporting on the Jerusalem conference, Forward's J.J. Goldberg wrote that "mistrust of Netanyahu is growing to unprecedented proportions in the security establishment ... the Prime Minister had a very public feud last year with the outgoing military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, who was known to be an opponent of military action against Iran. Since then, a host of ex-commandersincluding most of the living ex-chiefs of the military and intelligence serviceshave come out as public critics of Netanyahu's policies, on both Iran and the Palestinians."
To compensate, Netanyahu has taken a series of retaliatory actions, not against the Iranians, but against Israel's own military luminaries. According to the Forward, just before the start of the Peres conference in Jerusalem, Netanyahu publicly pulled the diplomatic passport of Dagan, one of Netanyahu's leading opponents. At about the same time, Netanyahu refused a request to delay a Cabinet vote on Jewish settlements made by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who was traveling at the time. The controversial vote "removed approval of settlement construction from ... Barak, whom settler leaders accuse of tying their hands," reported the Forward. The approval of settlements was put directly in the Prime Minister's office.
According to well-informed U.S. intelligence sources, however, the U.S. and Israeli opposition to a war against Iran is based on the success of covert operations, including computer interference and other high-tech sabotage that has slowed down Iran's uranium enrichment program. That is far from a good, or reliable guarantee of war avoidance; hence the continued concern within the U.S. military that Netanyahu's Israel will launch a strike against Iran as early as this year.
One desperate hope being discussed by some Netanyahu opponents is that his coalition government will fall and bring about new elections in which a Kadima-led government could come into power. The scenario for the fall of the government is based largely on criminal allegations against Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The Israeli National Police have already obtained a criminal indictment against Lieberman. At any time that the indictment is unsealed, the Netanyahu government could fall.
Iran's Bushehr Nuclear Plant To Be Operational in August
June 27 (EIRNS)After many months of delay, the Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran is expected to become operational and connected to the nation's energy grid by the end of August, according to the Mehr news agency of Iran, quoting statements from Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi today.
Salehi's announcement was seconded by Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, according to the Russian state RIA Novosti news agency. "The project has been completed and everything has been ironed out," Ryabokov said.
Salehi, who was formerly the head of the Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said the plant will reach 40% of its full capacity around mid-August and will be connected to the national power grid by the end of that month. Salehi explained the technical problems that resulted in delays since October of 2010. The Bushehr plant was built by Russia in an agreement with Iran that dates back to 1995; it operates under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).