The Nether-World

January 21, 2007

Spot The Obstacle to Peace

Filed under: Bush, Iran, Iraq, israel, Syria, US Politics — netherworld @ 9:54 am

Amidst all the turmoil in the Middle East, there are some attempts being made in certain diplomatic circles to try and stabilise the region. One country however seems to be doing its level best to scupper these small efforts. No prizes for guessing who it is.

DUBAI (AFP) – Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is urging the United States to talk with Syria, claiming in an interview that Damascus “supports” Iraq in fighting the insurgency.

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Syria on Saturday condemned insurgent attacks on the U.S.-backed Iraqi army and security forces, describing them as “terrorism”, in another shift in the Damascus government’s position toward its neighbour.

BERLIN (AFP) – US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has reiterated Washington’s opposition to talking to Syria or Iran to get their help in easing unrest in Iraq.

Here’s some other examples that I referred to obliquely in a previous post.

Israeli officials have confirmed that the Foreign Ministry knew about a series of peace talks that have taken place in Europe between Syrians and an Israeli team headed by a former senior diplomat. The teams discussed Israel handing back the Golan Heights, which it has occupied since the Six Day War in 1967, to Syria under a formula providing for President Bashar Assad to stop giving support to Hamas and Hizbollah and to distance his regime from Iran.

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The White House denied media reports that Israelis and Syrians reached understandings for a peace treaty in secret unofficial talks over the past two years.

Oh, and there’s this.

Iran offered the US a package of concessions in 2003, but it was rejected, a senior former US official has told the BBC’s Newsnight programme.

Tehran proposed ending support for Lebanese and Palestinian militant groups and helping to stabilise Iraq following the US-led invasion.

And these are just examples of what has been happening on various diplomatic fronts. Only a lunatic would want the various wars in the Middle East to continue, only a lunatic could think that a disastrous policy can be put right by repeating it, and only a lunatic would want to start yet another war in the region. Unfortunately, a lunatic is running the United States of America.

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January 20, 2007

Did Israel Try To Carry Out Its Plan To Nuke Iran?

Filed under: Bush, Iran, israel, Syria, US Politics — netherworld @ 8:40 am

I posed the title of this post as a question because I have no idea if this is true or not and I don’t know how to verify it. It seems so outrageous that I can hardly believe it but with everything else going on around Iran at the moment and the recently revealed Israeli plans for a nuclear attack on Iran (since denied), maybe there is some truth in this.

Israeli Nuclear Strike On Iran Turned Back

A recent strike by nuclear-armed Israeli Air Force fighter-bombers bound for targets in Iran was turned back after being intercepted by U.S. fighters over Iraq, this reporter has learned.

Two sources have independently confirmed the encounter, which took place on January 7, 2007. Though the first informant offered few details beyond an initial tip, a second source long-known by this reporter to have well-placed U.S. and “non-U.S.” military and government contacts provided specific information regarding the raid, which was aimed at the radical religious ayatollahs holding ultimate power in Iran.

Israeli nuclear strikes are not unprecedented. Soon after Desert Storm, U.S. Navy pilots told this reporter in Kuwait how in late 1990 Israel made good on its pledge to respond in kind to WMD attacks by launching nuclear-armed aircraft against Baghdad following a lethal assault on Tel Aviv by Scud missiles tipped with chemical warheads. That air strike was called off when the Americans refused to provide the vital IFF codes needed to fly through U.S.-controlled airspace.
Read on

As I said, I can’t verify the source and I don’t know much about American and Israeli military protocols, but it’s certainly a scary article. There are however plenty of other reports about Iran which suggest that war could break out very soon indeed.

Tensions between the USA and Iran have been mounting alarmingly since the recent kidnapping of Iranian diplomats and consular workers and the raid on a consular office in northern Iraq. Some of this has been widely reported, the sending of another American aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf, National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley refusing rule out the possibility of US forces striking across the border or the Russian delivery of state-of-the-art anti-aircraft missiles to Iran for example. Other news items are appearing on less well known news sources. For example, in recent days, there have been reports that Iran shot down an American pilotless spy drone. America has also denied that there was an Iranian missile strike on a US warship in the Gulf.

Whether these stories are true or not, one thing seems certain and that is that the crisis is escalating to a point where any small incident could kick off a huge conflict. In other words a war could soon be unstoppable even if America and Iran did try to row back, something neither party is showing any signs of doing. There have been several reports saying that America will have all its pieces in place some time in February and that there is a plan to attack Iran from the sea as early as April this year.

KUWAIT CITY: Washington will launch a military strike on Iran before April 2007, say sources. The attack will be launched from the sea and Patriot missiles will guard all oil-producing countries in the region, they add. Recent statements emanating from the United States indicate the Bush administration’s new strategy for Iraq doesn’t’t include any proposal to make a compromise or negotiate with Syria or Iran. A reliable source said President Bush recently held a meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Dr Condoleezza Rice and other assistants in the White House where they discussed the plan to attack Iran in minute detail.

When you couple news like this with news of America’s rejection of Iranian concessions as far back as 2003, and ofAmerica’s dismissal of the widespread reports of possible peace talks between Israel and Syria which would do much to ease the tensions in the region, you have to wonder what bush is planning. It looks like the planned attacks are not going to be “surgical strikes” as was previously suggested, but a whole scale war which would devastate the region.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. contingency planning for military action against
Iran’s nuclear program goes beyond limited strikes and would effectively unleash a war against the country, a former U.S. intelligence analyst said on Friday.

“I’ve seen some of the planning … You’re not talking about a surgical strike,” said Wayne White, who was a top Middle East analyst for the State Department’s bureau of intelligence and research until March 2005.

“You’re talking about a war against Iran” that likely would destabilize the Middle East for years, White told the Middle East Policy Council, a Washington think tank.

When you put all these different reports together, a very frightening picture emerges. What we are hearing far less of are diplomatic moves in the UN or effective restraining of Bush and his insane neo con agenda from the Democrat dominated Congress. The US Congress seems like the only force able to prevent the coming devastation, but have the saner voices in both parties got the strength, courage and will to do what is necessary?

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January 15, 2007

Another Roundup of Middle East Turmoil

Filed under: Bush, Iran, Iraq, israel, Palestine, Syria, US Politics — netherworld @ 8:24 am

Condoleezza Rice’s latest trip to the Middle East cannot be described a peace-making mission. The motives for her trip appear to be to drum up support for the destabilisation force Bush is sending to Iraq, and to poison the minds of Arab leaders even more against Iran in preparation for what is looking ever more likely to be another Middle East war. However, some Arab leaders have had the temerity to impose conditions on the USA in exchange for their support. The price is US engagement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And so once again Condoleezza has to pretend that she wants to see a Palestinian state and is able to win meaningful concessions from the Israelis.

“I have heard loud and clear the call for deeper American engagement,” she said after talks in Ramallah with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

So far she has met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah of Jordan. Today she will meet Ehud Olmert and then go on to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to promote war. It won’t escape the attention of these Arab leaders that she has absolutely nothing new to offer. What she will try to gain is unconditional support for more chaos in Iraq and new Chaos in Iran and beyond by telling them that all this is in their interest.

In advance of her visit, the secretary of state said she was not bringing new proposals but would be listening, talking and looking for creative solutions.

At a press conference she had to deny that USA was too distracted by concerns about Iraq and Iran to have effect on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The Palestinian people have waited a long time for their own state… and if there is anything that I can do and that the president can do to finally realise that day, why wouldn’t we want to do that?”

The answer to that of course is that the Bush administration is so pro-Israel and controlled by Zionist lobby groups like AIPAC that it cannot possibly be considered as a fair arbiter in any negotiations and is responsible along with Israel for the appalling conditions in which the Palestinians are forced to live. America has had plenty of opportunities to restrain the worst excesses of Israel and has failed to do so every time.

Still, Condi should be able to drum up enough support for Bush’s nefarious plans in the region. Iran is disliked and feared by many Arab countries, and by spreading the fear of Iranian influence over Iraq (even though it was America’s invasion that created this problem) as well as pretending that sending another 20,000 troops into the quagmire will somehow make the situation more secure for the region she’ll probably get enough support to give a veneer of legitimacy to her plans. Bush needs this support because it certainly doesn’t exist back home where even the Republicans are in open revolt over the “surge” plans.

Bush has finally been forced to acknowledge that the invasion has made Iraq more unstable, but he still maintains that despite some mistakes he did the right thing.

But pressed on the issue, and told by a Fox News interviewer that Iraq was “much more unstable now, Mr President,”, Mr Bush replied: “Well, no question, decisions have made things unstable.”

He added: “I think history is going to look back and see a lot of ways we could have done things better. No question about it.” But toppling Saddam was not a mistake. “We liberated that country from a tyrant. I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude and I believe most Iraqis express that.”

Yes, that’s right, he actually thinks Iraqis should be grateful for the murder and mayhem that that has engulfed their country because of the invasion. I don’t know which Iraqis he’s been talking to but 90 percent of them seem to think they were better off under Saddam Hussein.

Not content with wrecking one country, the Bush administration is now working flat out to try and wreck another. The recent incidents in Northern Iraq (authorised by Bush) where Iranian diplomats have been arrested and a consular office raided have increased tensions between the US and Iran. These diplomatic incidents look like being the first moves in an attempt to provoke a conflict. America is now threatening to “deal with” Iran and Syria over their alleged support of insurgents while Iran is demanding the release of its kidnapped diplomats. The White House is emphatically refusing to rule out an attack on Iran.

The attack could take the form of air strikes or cross-border raids, most likely it will be both. The legality of such action hasn’t been discussed; the last time the UN was mentioned vis-à-vis Iran was last month when limited sanctions were imposed. Whether or not the US Congress can prevent its commander in chief make another even more catastrophic foreign policy blunder is unknown, but we have already seen how much respect Bush has for legal processes.

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November 28, 2006

Bush and Blair’s Stable Middle East: Progress or More Despair?

Filed under: Afghanistan, Bliar, Bush, Iran, Iraq, israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria — netherworld @ 7:57 am

The news coming from the Middle East this week, as well as providing us with the usual overdose of despair, is also showing some faint glimmers of change if not exactly hope in some of the hotspots.

In Palestine the tenuous cease fire between the Israelis and the Palestinians seems to be holding… just, and we are finally hearing some more positive language coming from Olmert which may just be the beginnings of a peace initiative, although it is far too early to say for sure and everyone has seen positive developments quickly collapse into renewed violence. However the cease fire, prisoner exchange and possible talks about a viable Palestinian state are developments which are to be welcomed and encouraged. One has to wonder what initiated this change of heart. Is it a realisation that Israel cannot simply murder its way to a peaceful solution (after several months of relentless attacks, massacres, demolitions and assassinations resulting in over 400 Palestinian deaths, most of them civilian, the rocket attacks continued unabated)? Is it pressure from Washington as Bush prepares to visit the region and needs at least something that will play well with the folks back home (it certainly won’t be from Iraq)? Perhaps both sides are exhausted and need a pause in order to re arm and prepare for another cycle of violence. Possibly it is a mixture of all these things.

In Iraq of course, it is very difficult to see anything positive as the country crumbles further into anarchy. If it wasn’t so tragic, it would be amusing watching the US and British governments try to use any wording they can to describe the situation without uttering those fateful words ‘civil war‘. However, civil war is exactly what is happening, or to be more precise, civil wars may be a better term because the country is so fractured now. It’s now obvious to everyone that the Bush/Blair axis does not have the faintest clue what to do about the catastrophe it has created. Talking to Iran and Syria, previously unthinkable, is now very much on the agenda. While Bush and Blair contemplate this very obvious climb down, the Iraqi leader has gone to Iran to plead for help and has received a promise of assistance. Just what form that assistance will take and how effective it will be remains to be seen, however, it is a change and the closest thing to a positive development happening.

In Britain there has been more talk of troop withdrawals, but again the rhetoric displays the bankruptcy of ideas. It has been more or less acknowledged that troops in the region are contributing to the violence, and also acknowledged that withdrawing them is likely to increase the violence in the short term. The decision seems to be to announce a withdrawal of some (possibly most) British troops by the end of next year while admitting that some troops will be in Iraq for many years to come (probably confined to bases and under siege). Hardly a clear strategy. Of course, the remainder of the so-called coalition of the willing will be out of Iraq much sooner. America is not making any such announcement. The USA is still deliberating on whether to send even more troops into the quagmire as if that would improve matters.

Another hotspot in the news again is Lebanon which also looks close to descending into chaos again. Hizbollah’s threat to leave the government unless it was given greater representation could be a body blow to the pro Western administration. The assassination of Pierre Gemayel, Lebanon’s anti-Syrian industry minister has obviously added to the pressure on Lebanon and also Syria, which has been accused of the murder without a shred of evidence. It is interesting that the killing took place just as Syria was making positive noises about coming in from the cold and helping ease the tension in Iraq. For Syria to murder a Lebanese Cabinet Minister at this time is hardly in its best interests, so we have to ask ourselves who would benefit most from the renewed chaos in Lebanon and and more pressure on Syria as well as who is best placed to carry out such an assassination. Hopefully the tension in the Levant will be allowed to calm down in order for all parties to focus on the far more dangerous situation in Iraq.

Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon are the three civil wars (potential or already started) that Jordan’s King Abdullah warned that we could be facing next year. Not exactly the advance of freedom and hope in the greater Middle East promised by Bush and Blair when they lied their way into the Iraq war and now try to lie their way out of it. But there is also the quagmire in Afghanistan to consider. That conflict is not going well either and America and Britain are having trouble finding other NATO allies to join them in their mission. Far from rushing to join in the fun, NATO countries are looking for a way out of that mess.

While there is very little to get exited about in terms of stability in the region, there is a noticeable change in the air. America’s stranglehold on the Middle East might well be coming to an end. An attack on Iran now looks less likely as the US realises that it needs Iranian cooperation and that Iran seems to be holding the best cards and knows how to play them. Also it will be much harder to attack Iran now that the CIA has said that it has found no proof that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. This with the possibility of a peace initiative in Palestine and Iranian and Syrian cooperation in Iraq does give us some reason to hope, however small that hope is.

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November 2, 2006

Iran’s Response to American-Led ‘War Games’ in the Persian Gulf’

Filed under: Bliar, Bush, Iran, israel, Syria, US Politics — netherworld @ 11:12 am

I have been posting recently about the covert build-up of American and allied war ships in the Persian Gulf for the purpose of military exercises organised by the U.S.-led 66-member Proliferation Security Initiative. The stated objective of these exercises is to practice maneuvers to stop ships bound for Iran that might contain nuclear materials. The unstated objective is to intimidate the Iranian regime although the Americans are saying that they want Iran to take notice of their fire power.

“From Iranian news reports we know the exercise got the attention of Iran,” Robert Joseph, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said Friday.

Well, how could the Iranians fail to pay attention to a hostile foreign armada off their coastline? Needless to say the Iranian regime criticised the exercises.

Iran called the two-day maneuvers “adventurist,” but the Foreign Ministry said the Islamic Republic’s response would be “rational and wise.”

“We are watching their movements very carefully,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said in Tehran, adding that the exercises would not improve security in the gulf, through which about 20 percent of the world’s oil transits.

The Iranians have also said that they are unconcerned as they have the ships under close observation.

“US warships move regularly in the Persian Gulf and in the Sea of Oman, and we have them under surveillance,” said the navy’s commander Sajad Kouchaki, quoted by the Iranian press on Sunday.

“The presence of two US warships shows the aggressive and dominating character of the Americans,” he added.

“If they want to threaten the Islamic republic of Iran we are capable of keeping them under control. The Iranian navy does not believe in such a threat and has the enemy completely under control,” he said.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told reporters that “Iran does not believe that these maneuvers constitute a threat”.

Despite their nonchalance, the Iranians have responded to this provocation with some exercises of their own. This was a fairly predictable move and demonstrates that the regime is as defiant as ever, and while Iran’s statements of being unconcerned with the war games in the Gulf may be a bluff, its determination to protect itself is not.

TEHRAN, Iran: Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards test-fired dozen of missiles, including the long-range Shahab-3, during the first hours of new military maneuvers, Iranian state-run television said Thursday.

The report said several kinds of short-range missiles were also fired in a central desert area of Iran during the maneuvers, which came two days after U.S.-led warships finished an exercise in the Gulf that Tehran described as “adventurist.”

“We want to show our deterrent and defensive power to trans-regional enemies, and we hope they will understand the message of the maneuvers,” said the head of the Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, in an apparent reference to the US and other western powers.

The general said the 10-day maneuvers, named “Great Prophet,” would take place in the Gulf, the Sea of Oman and several provinces of the country. He did not specify how many troops were involved.

This was the sort of escalation I was concerned about when I wrote this post. Now we will have to see what America (under the guise of the ‘international community’) will do about this latest development. If the Bush administration continues to escalate the situation, it could develop into a crisis very quickly. We already know that Bush and his government are in desperate trouble at home and about to lose an election, a fact that the Iranians are also well aware of.

America has also been threatening Syria again too, accusing the Assad regime of trying to topple the Lebanese government. This at a time when Blair is trying to build bridges with the Syrians in order to do something to try and rectify the terrible mess he and Bush have created in the Middle East. It doesn’t seem to be an initiative the Bush administration or Israel approve of. I think it would be naive to think all these events are unrelated.

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