News Round Up (Oct. 19 2007)

Nuclear Plant in Syria
Cheney hand seen behind leaks of 'misleading' stories.
According to current and former intelligence sources, the US intelligence community has seen no evidence of a nuclear facility being hit.

US intelligence “found no radiation signatures after the bombing, so there was no uranium or plutonium present,” said one official, wishing to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the subject.

“We don't have any independent intelligence that it was a nuclear facility — only the assertions by the Israelis and some ambiguous satellite photography from them that shows a building, which the Syrians admitted was a military facility.”

Oct. 19 (Bloomberg) — United Nations nuclear experts are examining satellite imagery of a Syrian site that may have been bombed by Israel last month because it was a possible nuclear facility, according to a diplomat familiar with the investigation. 

France:

Ibrahim Al-Humaydi of Al Hayat, wrote on October 19 Click here for source (Thanks to mideastwire.com for translation)
The Syrian foreign minister Walid Al-Muallem revealed to Al Hayat that he agreed with his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner on the margins of the meeting for the foreign ministers of the “countries neighbouring Iraq” to be held in Istanbul on the 2nd and 3rd of next November and that the success of this meeting might mean that the next step would be Kouchner visiting Damascus. He accused the Lebanese prime minister Fu’ad Al-Sanyurah of “cooperating” with his “partner”, the United Nations envoy to supervise the implementation of UNSCR 1559, Terry Rod Larsen, to “incite” against Syria and to “target the resistance” to serve “the American-Israeli plans” in a signal to Al-Sanyurah’s message to the Security Council and Arab League in which he accused Syria of supporting Fatah Al-Islam.

“Kouchner had talked to Al-Muallem on the phone while he was accompanying president Bashar Al-Assad on his visit to Turkey. The phone call lasted for 15 minutes and it was the first between the foreign ministers of the two countries since the assassination of the ex Lebanese prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri in 2005. This phone call came before Kouchner’s scheduled visit to Beirut along with his Italian and Spanish counterparts Massimo D’Alema and Miguel Angel Moratinos. Al-Muallem announced to Al Hayat that Kouchner informed him of the agenda of his upcoming visit to Lebanon and that the ministers “will meet with their troops working in Lebanon and the representatives of all the Lebanese movements to urge them to elect a compromise president that would help save Lebanon from more divisions”

“Al-Muallem added that the French foreign minister “confirmed the importance of cementing the Syrian-French relations and developing them and the importance of resuming the dialogue between the two countries about all the issues in the region and I welcomed this and confirmed to him that Syria is prepared and willing to resume the dialogue and develop bilateral relations with France”…” – Al Hayat, United Kingdom

Syria has begun dismantling the remains of a site Israel bombed Sept. 6 in what may be an attempt to prevent the location from coming under international scrutiny, said U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the aftermath of the attack. (By Robin Wright and Joby Warrick, The Washington Post)

some weapons experts question why neither Israel nor the United States made any effort before the secret attack — or in the six weeks since — to offer evidence to the International Atomic Energy Agency, a move that would trigger an inspection of Syria by the nuclear watchdog.

"The reason we have an IAEA and a safeguard system is that, if there is evidence of wrongdoing, it can be presented by a neutral body to the international community so that a collective response can be pursued," said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association. "It seems to me highly risky and premature for another country to bomb such a facility."

But John R. Bolton, the Bush administration's former ambassador to the United Nations, said Syria's secrecy — including its apparent move to clean up the site after the bombing — suggests that Damascus is pursuing a strategy similar to that of Iran, which the Bush administration believes is pursuing a nuclear weapons capability.

Turkey:
Ehsani writes:
Since my father currently lives in Turkey, I thought that it would make sense to hear his views about this visit. Set below is his impression:

The real star of this trip is Asma. She is an iconic figure in Turkey.

Every TV channel and newspaper article is memorized by her every move. To a certain extent, she has overshadowed her husband. Her looks, demeanor and attitude were enough to have her being described by the Turkish President as a “virtuous” lady in the official welcoming speech.

There is no question that the Kurdish issue has had a strong influence over this new rapprochement between the two countries. However, this is not the only common issue. This relationship has been on the mend for a number of years now. The free trade agreement is yet to be fully implemented but the framework is there. There is no doubt that more business will take place between the two countries in the near future. This is good for both countries but especially for Syria. Turkey offers an enormous potential for Syrian exports especially out of industries that require cheap labor. Syria will exploit this potential without a doubt once the geopolitical background allows for more investments to pour in. The quicker Syria can ditch socialism and red tape, the quicker the country can benefit from this relationship.

As a Turkish speaker and a person who has frequented that country for years, I am ecstatic that this relationship is on the ascendancy. It is a win-win for both countries. Asma is revered in Turkey. The Syrian first couple has developed a massive following by everyone there. Let us hope that this love affair will translate into more economic growth opportunities for our people.

Ankara's animosity toward the U.S. has its roots in much more than a genocide bill.
By Graham E. Fuller
October 19, 2007
Turkish-American relations are in crisis. But the House resolution declaring the World War I-era killings of Armenians a genocide is only one cause — and that's just a sideshow. Turkish-American relations have been deteriorating for years, and the root explanation is simple and harsh: Washington's policies are broadly and fundamentally incompatible with Turkish foreign policy interests in multiple arenas. No amount of diplomat-speak can conceal or change that reality. Count the ways:

* Kurds. U.S. policies toward Iraq over the last 16 years have been a disaster for Turkey. Since the 1991 Gulf War, the Iraqi Kurds have gained ever-greater autonomy and are now on the brink of de facto independence. Such a Kurdish entity in Iraq stimulates Kurdish separatism inside Turkey. Furthermore, Washington supports Kurdish terrorists against Iran.

* Terrorism: Turkey has fought domestic political violence and terrorism for more than 30 years — Marxist, socialist, right-wing nationalist, Kurdish, Islamist. U.S. policies in the Middle East have greatly stimulated violence and radicalism across the region and brought Al Qaeda to Turkey's doorstep.

* Iran: Iran is Turkey's most powerful neighbor and a vital source of oil and gas — second only to Russia — in meeting Turkey's energy needs. Washington heavy-handedly pressures Turkey to end its extensive and deepening relations with Iran in order to press a U.S. sanctions regime there. Though there is little affection between Turkey and Iran, there has been virtually no serious armed conflict between the two nations for centuries. Ankara sees U.S. policies as radicalizing and isolating Tehran further, which is undesirable for Turkey.

* Syria: Ankara's relations with Syria have done a 180-degree turn in the last decade, and relations are flourishing. Syrians — as well as many other Arabs — are impressed with Turkey's ability to simultaneously be a member of NATO, seek entry into the European Union, say no to Washington on using Turkish soil to invade Iraq, restore respect for its own Islamic heritage, develop new relations with the Arab world and adopt a genuinely balanced position on the Palestinian conflict. Ankara resists Washington's pressures to marginalize and stifle Damascus.

Correction:
The first presidential visit to Turkish President GUL was paid by  Kazakhistan President Nursultan NAZABGAYEV on October 1.  (http://www.zaman.com.tr/webapp-tr/haber.do?haberno=595260), not Bashar al-Assad.
Best regards, Kaan Kutlu ATAC, HAcettepe Univ.
Lebanon

Under the blueprint of the alleged treaty, the United States will provide the Lebanese army with assistance and training and intelligence while Beirut would allow the establishment bases, radar stations and other facilities.

The report added that the Americans wanted the Lebanese army's current doctrine, which describes Syria as a friendly state, Israel an enemy and Hezbollah as the "resistance" to the Israeli occupation, changed.

In his interview, however, Edelman maintained the United States was not putting conditions on Lebanon for assistance, saying it was up to the Lebanese to decide what strategy and military doctrine to adopt.

But in a remark that is certain to anger the opposition, particularly Hezbollah which Washington brands as a terrorist organization, Edelman added: "I don't see any reason why Israel and Lebanon have to be enemies. Israel has peace treaties with two of its neighbors. I think in time there is no reason why there shouldn't be one between Lebanon and Israel as well." [AP]

Syria says U.S. interference in Lebanon threatens country’s stability, AP

Israel

A majority of Israeli lawmakers have signed a petition against any attempt by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to transfer parts of Jerusalem to the Palestinians,

Daniel Levy has written two excellent op-eds on Israel and Iran which appeared in Haaretz and the IHTribune. They can be read on his blog.

Comments (12)


1. why-discuss said:

Though there is little affection between Turkey and Iran, there has been virtually no serious armed conflict between the two nations for centuries

It is the only country (with Azerbajian and Afghanistan, I think) that allow Iranians in without a visa. Isn’t that a sign of affection?

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October 19th, 2007, 11:40 pm

 

2. Enlightened said:

Syria ‘open’ to diplomatic ties with Lebanon
Damascus ready to start relations with a ‘friendly’ new government
By Rym Ghazal
Daily Star staff
Saturday, October 20, 2007

BEIRUT: Syria reiterated on Friday that it respects Lebanon’s independence and is ready to open diplomatic relations, but only if the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora is replaced by a more courteous government. In a letter sent to UN chief Ban Ki-moon and published by the state-run news agency Thursday night, Syria said it respected Lebanese sovereignty and independence and was not interfering in Lebanon’s presidential elections.

“Syria is completely ready to establish full diplomatic relations with a Lebanese government that believes in friendly relations and not hostile ones like the current Siniora government,” the letter said.

The Syrian letter to the UN is a response to an earlier letter sent by Siniora to Ban last week in which the Lebanese government accused Syria of interfering in Lebanon’s internal stability and funding the Al-Qaeda inspired Fatah al-Islam group that was crushed by the Lebanese military two months ago.

“Lebanon requests the help of the Arab League and the UN to preserve its independence and stability and to protect it from domestic and foreign dangers,” Siniora said in his letter to the UN and the Arab League.

Syria, which dominated its smaller neighbor from 1976 until 2005, has never established diplomatic relations since colonial power France granted Lebanon independence in 1943.

In addition to calling for a different Lebanese government, Syria also accused the United States of interfering in Lebanese internal politics, saying its bias for one side against the other threatens Lebanon’s security and stability.

“The well-known blatant foreign interference by a superpower, which has so far deepened divisions between the Lebanese … poses a direct threat to Lebanon’s security and stability because it [the US] is clearly and openly siding with one Lebanese side over the other,” the letter said.

The US openly backs the government of Siniora and Washington has recently seen several high-profile visits by politicians from the parliamentary majority. After meeting with the head of parliamentary majority leader MP Saad Hariri, US President George W. Bush warned Syria last month against interfering in Lebanon’s presidential elections.
http://www.dailystar.com.lb

In the letter, Syria also accused Siniora and his supporters of “harming Syria’s image” and provoking Western countries against it.

But how seriously the letter by Syria will be taken by the UN is a matter of speculation, with some experts viewing this as an attempt by Syria to show good “faith and face.”

“Syria will have to prove the credibility of its declaration,” political analyst Shafiq Masri told The Daily Star.

Masri noted that Syria currently is playing a “triple” track game, with its recent efforts with Turkey and Iran on the one hand, and the peace conference in the US and the Lebanese-Syrian relations.

“Syria is trying to regain its political power,” said Masri, “but before it can do that, it has to prove it means what it says.”

“The UN wants Syria to prove what it is saying as so far there is evidence that arms smuggling is ongoing along its borders,” said Masri.

Both the UN and US has called on Syria to implement resolutions 1559 and 1701, both demanding an end to arms smuggling to militant groups in Lebanon, particularly Hizbullah and the Palestinian militias.

At the same time, Syrian President Bashar Assad was quoted as telling the Al-Hayat newspaper on Friday that he supports “any consensus president that believes in having positive relations with Syria.”

Assad also warned that “any explosion” in Lebanon, or Iran or Palestine or Iraq, “will spread beyond the Middle East.”

“It could reach as far as Europe,” he said. – With agencies

This news piece startled me a little bit, and has me perplexed.. I think the divide between Syria and March 14 has the potential to widen even further with the letter delivered to the UN by the Seniora government. Hot on the heels of the Harriri visit, and followed by Jumblatts visit, this escalation has no merit unless the Bush administration has promised some solid support to the M14 group.

We are 3 days away from witnessing another round to elect a Lebanese president, with all the potential pitfalls of this process it would seem prudent at this stage that both sides tone down their respective positions just before the vote, while we have seen a de escalation of media rhetoric by both sides of the political divide in Lebanon, this course of action by M14 has the potential to ensure that a political vacuum is maintained.

I think that the Syrian government to use an Australian colloquial term here is “Flogging a dead horse” here, and this escalation by the M14 group is a major omen.

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October 20th, 2007, 12:07 am

 

3. Ziad said:

Interesting survey from Turkey :most hated nations are Israel,USA and IRAN.

Most loved nation:PALESTINIAN

http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=82948

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October 20th, 2007, 12:22 am

 

4. t_desco said:

“Lebanese reporter, Fida’ `Itani, has been writing a series of articles in Al-Akhbar dealing with the interrogation of Salafi activists in Lebanon, and they deal with the assassination plot against Rafiq Hariri. The series were ignored by the Lebanese and Arabic press–not to mention the American press busy with Paris Hilton updates–and the “Democratically-elected” government of Fu’ad Sanyurah took immediate action to prosecute Al-Akhbar for daring to publish. Here is an account from Mideast wire (no link):
“Fida’a Ittani of Al Akhbar, an independent pro-opposition newspaper, wrote on October 9:

“How was the assassination of Al-Hariri planned and who equipped the alleged suicide bomber Ahmad Abu Adas who carried out the attack? Who handled the monitoring? And where was the truck used in the explosion rigged with explosives? And who is the real suicide bomber? A force of the elite division of the internal security forces enters Roumieh prison and starts beating up some of the detainees in the prison accused of belonging to the Fatah Al-Islam organization and to a logistical support group for the Iraqi resistance known as the Hassan Naba’h group or the group of 13. Despite many reports about the discovery and foiling of an attempt to escape from the prison which were denied by the interior minister Hassan Al-Sab’a, the reports about cooperation of one of the prison guards with the Islamic extremists and the discovery of communications from inside the prison to outside of it were accurate. “But the attack on the detainees who suffered from beatings, searches, and insults that reached the extent of tearing apart Qur’ans and insulting their religious beliefs, returned the matter to a critical point in the relations that were managed indirectly between the detainees and active political factions in the country and posed new questions about the identity of this group and the charges against it. The group that was interrogated in batches includes members from many nationalities: Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria. The interrogation was carried out in the centers of the internal security forces and the confessions were signed by the head of the information branch in the internal security forces. This group was also interrogated by non-Lebanese security forces, including American and Saudi factions without the detainees learning who they were being interrogated by.” ”
As’ad AbuKhalil

(This is a part of the first article of the series, I think.)

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October 20th, 2007, 1:00 am

 

5. t_desco said:

EXCLUSIVE: The Case for Israel’s Strike on Syria
Official: Air Attack Targeted Nascent Nuclear Facility Built With North Korean ‘Expertise’

By MARTHA RADDATZ
Oct. 19, 2007

Israeli officials believed that a target their forces bombed inside Syria last month was a nuclear facility, because they had detailed photographs taken by a possible spy inside the complex, ABC News has learned.

The Bush administration has steadfastly refused to say anything about the Israeli raid on Syria, or to confirm what was hit. But ABC News has learned of the apparent mole and other dramatic and secret details about the events leading up to the airstrike, plus the evidence that supported it.

A senior U.S. official told ABC News the Israelis first discovered a suspected Syrian nuclear facility early in the summer, and the Mossad  Israel’s intelligence agency  managed to either co-opt one of the facility’s workers or to insert a spy posing as an employee.

As a result, the Israelis obtained many detailed pictures of the facility from the ground.

The official said the suspected nuclear facility was approximately 100 miles from the Iraqi border, deep in the desert along the Euphrates River. It was a place, the official said, “where no one would ever go unless you had a reason to go there.”

But the hardest evidence of all was the photographs.

The official described the pictures as showing a big cylindrical structure, with very thick walls all well-reinforced. The photos show rebar hanging out of the cement used to reinforce the structure, which was still under construction.

There was also a secondary structure and a pump station, with trucks around it. “It was unmistakable what it was going to be. No doubt in my mind,” the official told ABC News. But there was no fissionable material found because the facility was not yet operating.

The official said there was a larger structure just north of a small pump station; a nuclear reactor would need a constant source of water to keep it cool.

The official said the facility was a North Korean design in its construction, the technology present and the ability to put it all together.

It was North Korean “expertise,” said the official, meaning the Syrians must have had “human” help from North Korea.

A light water reactor designed by North Koreans could be constructed to specifically produce plutonium for nuclear weapons.

When the Israelis came to the CIA with the pictures, the U.S. then got the site’s coordinates and backed it up with very detailed satellite imagery of its own, and pinpointed “drop points” to determine what would be needed to target it.

The Israelis urged the U.S. government to destroy the complex, and the U.S. started looking at options about how to destroy the facility: Targeters were assembled, and officials contemplated a special forces raid using helicopters, which would mean inserting forces to collect data and then blow the site up.

That option would have been very daring, the official says, because of the distance from the border and the amount of explosives it would take to take down the facility.

The options were considered, but according to the official, word came back from the White House that the United States was not interested in carrying out the raid.

But as ABC News reported in July, the Israelis made the decision to take the facility out themselves, though the U.S. urged them not to. The Bush administration, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates leading the way, said the Israelis and the U.S. should “confront not attack.”

The official said the facility had been there at least eight months before the strike, but because of the lack of fissionable material, the United States hesitated on the attack because it couldn’t be absolutely proved that it was a nuclear site.

But the official told ABC News, “It was unmistakable what it was going to be. There is no doubt in my mind.”
ABC News

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October 20th, 2007, 1:09 am

 

6. Akbar Palace said:

Professor Josh,

Perhaps instead of the usual links to “Jews”, “Israel”, “Neocons”, etc.

Instead try: “Syria”, “WMD”, “Nuclear”, “Assad”

Thanks.

IAEA/UN:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071019/ap_on_re_mi_ea/nuclear_syria;_ylt=AhbfKiYeGAl31criCjG2eqtw24cA

Mole:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20071019/wl_nm/nuclear_syria_mole_dc;_ylt=ArVk6jkb2HapBOypY8eY6Rlm.3QA

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October 20th, 2007, 1:48 am

 

7. majedkhaldoun said:

Israel attack on syrian building on september 6th

prove my point again, that Israel is the cause of most trouble in the middle east

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October 20th, 2007, 2:24 am

 

8. Enlightened said:

Robert Fisk latest on the arming in Lebanon!

Robert Fisk: Secret armies pose sinister new threat to Lebanon
Published: 19 October 2007

Lebanon is peopled with ghosts. But the phantoms now returning to haunt this damaged country –the militias which tore it apart more than 30 years ago – are real. Guns are flooding back into the country – $800 for an AK-47, $3,700 for a brand-new French Famas – as Lebanon security apparatus hunt desperately for the leadership of the new and secret armies.

Only last week, they arrested two followers of ex-General Michel Aoun – the pro-Hezbollah opposition’s apparent candidate for president – for allegedly training pro-Aounist gunmen. After themselves being accused of acting like a militia for arresting Dario Kodeih and Elie Abi Younes, the Lebanese Internal Security Force issued a photograph of Christian gunmen holding AK-47 and M-16 rifles. Aoun’s party replied quaintly that “they were just out having fun with real weapons but were not undergoing any military training”. Fun indeed.

What now worries the Lebanese authorities, however, is the sheer scale of weaponry arriving in Lebanon. It appears to include new Glock pistols (asking price $1,000). There are growing fears, moreover, that many of these guns are from the vast stock of 190,000 rifles and pistols which the US military “lost” when they handed them out to Iraqi police officers without registering their numbers or destination. The American weapons included 125,000 Glock pistols. The Lebanese-Iraqi connection is anyway well established. A growing number of suicide bombers in Iraq come from the Lebanese cities of Tripoli and Sidon.

Fouad Siniora’s Lebanese government – supplied by the US with recent shipments of new weapons for the official Lebanese army – has now admitted that militias are also being created among Muslim pro-government groups. Widespread reports that Saad Hariri – son of the assassinated ex-Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri – has himself created an embryo militia have been officially denied. But a number of armed Hariri supporters initially opened fire into the Nahr el-Bared Palestinian camp after its takeover by pro-Al-Qaida gunmen last April. Hariri’s men also have forces in Beirut (supposedly unarmed) and again this is denied. Those who suspect the opposite, however, might like to check the register of the Mayflower Hotel in the western sector of Beirut.

The Fatah Al-Islam rebels who took over Nahr el-Bared last April – 400 died in the 206-day siege by the army, 168 of them soldiers – also used new weapons, including sniper rifles. In a gloomy ceremony last week, the military buried 98 of the 222 Muslim fighters who died, in a mass grave in Tripoli. They included Palestinians but also men from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Yemen, Tunis and Algeria.

Among the militants of Fatah Al -Islam still sought by Lebanese authorities are three Russians – “Abu Abdullah”, Tamour Vladimir Khoskov and Aslan Eric Yimkojayev – all believed to be from the former Soviet Muslim republics. A fourth Russian citizen, Sergei Vladimir Fisotsk, is in custody in Beirut. Along with three Palestinians member of Fatah Al-Islam, he faces a possible death sentence.

Siniora’s government is well aware of the dangers that these new developments represent – “such a situation could lead to a new civil war”, one minister said of the military training taking place in Lebanon – in a country in which only the Hezbollah militia, classed as a “resistance” movement, hitherto had permission to bear arms. But Hezbollah too has been re-arming; not only with rockets but with small arms that could only be used in street fighting. Aoun’s supporters were allegedly practising with weapons near the town of Byblos north of Beirut but there are reports of further training in the Bekaa Valley.

Military outposts manned by Palestinian gunmen loyal to Syria have reappeared in the Bekaa, closely watched by a Lebanese army which was severely blooded in the Nahr El-Bared fighting. Sayed Mohamed Hussein Fadlallah, one of the most senior – and wisest – Shi’ite clerics in Lebanon, warned last Friday: “Rearming as well as the tense and sectarianism-loaded political rhetoric, all threaten Lebanon’s diversity and expose Lebanon to divisions.” Fadlallah stated that the US – which supports Hariri – wished to divide the country. The American plan to chop up Iraq, it seems, is another ghost that has crept silently into Lebanon.

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October 20th, 2007, 3:03 am

 

9. majedkhaldoun said:

حق الأكراد أن نقف معهم ضد الأتراك، حتى لا تمر دباباتهم من الإقليم. وحث الحكومتين الحكومة العراقية والاميركية على أن تدافع عن كردستان كما تدافع عن بغداد ضد الإرهابيين.

this isn what abdulrahman al Rashed said,in the middle east newspaper.
Turkey has the right of self defence,those terrorist they stay in northern Iraq protected by Talbani and barazani,and they believe that USA is protecting them, I believe Turkish army must arrest them,since they killed several turkish soldiers,and no arabic country should help protect those terrorist,it will be short war,and will not take more than two weeks.
Talbani said that Assad crossed the red line,he must understand that his people crossed the red line.

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October 20th, 2007, 4:40 am

 

10. Akbar Palace said:

majedkhaldoun said:

prove my point again, that Israel is the cause of most trouble in the middle east

Now that Eygpt and Jordan have signed peace treaties with Israel, I think you would agree that Israel is the least of their concerns.

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October 20th, 2007, 11:39 am

 

11. Akbar Palace said:

prove my point again, that Israel is the cause of most trouble in the middle east

Majedkhaldoun,

Yesterday, Islamic terrorists killed more innocent Muslims than Israel has killed in the past year (under a state of war).

Again, this disproves your point, “that Israel is the cause of most trouble in the ME”.

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October 20th, 2007, 4:13 pm

 

12. Friend in America said:

It appears Putin’s message last week is taking effect.

Today Global Securty Hotline
Iranian President Rushes Home Before Nuclear Talks

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad abruptly headed home today to address “strong criticism” that Western diplomats are expected to direct at Iranian negotiators during nuclear talks in Rome this week, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, Oct. 23)…Full Story

It appears Putin’s message last week is taking effect:

Global Security Hotline
Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Iranian President Rushes Home Before Nuclear Talks

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad abruptly headed home today to address “strong criticism” that Western diplomats are expected to direct at Iranian negotiators during nuclear talks in Rome this week, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, Oct. 23).

Ahmadinejad cut a visit to Armenia short because of concerns about what an Iranian diplomat called Iran’s “internal political situation” as well as talks expected to begin over Tehran’s controversial nuclear activities.“Today we are expecting strong criticism addressed to Iran,” the diplomat said, following the resignation of top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani.

The talks in Rome with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana this week “will certainly be a chance to understand the Iranian position, especially after the doubts raised by the resignation of Larijani and his replacement [Saeed Jalili],” Italian Foreign Minister Massime D’Alema said late yesterday (Agence France-Presse I/Yahoo!News, Oct. 23).

The Associated Press reported yesterday that Larijani’s resignation over the weekend might have distanced Ahmadinejad from Iranian conservatives who had been his allies.

Opponents of the Iranian president have contended that his defiant tone over Iran’s uranium enrichment program, which Western powers have suspected could be aimed at nuclear weapons development, has unnecessarily isolated the country.

Ahmadinejad could continue to suffer politically for the departure of Larijani, who was widely considered a more moderate voice in negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, AP reported.

A group of 183 mostly conservative Iranian lawmakers approved a statement yesterday praising Larijani’s track record as Iran’s top nuclear diplomat in an apparent expression of disapproval that he was replaced, according to AP.

Some analysts have suggested that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader who has final authority in all Iranian governmental decisions, might have approved Larijani’s ouster in order to foist more responsibility for the outcome of nuclear negotiations on Ahmadinejad,. That could give the supreme leader greater pretext to change the course of Ahmadinejad’s policies if the U.N. Security Council approves new sanctions on Iran.

“Larijani’s replacement leaves no pretext for Ahmadinejad to justify his failures in the future. His failures, despite being given a free hand, will only facilitate his humiliating exit from Iranian politics,” said political analyst Hamid Reza Shokouhi (Ali Dareini, Associated Press/International Herald Tribune, Oct. 22).

Ali Akbar Velayati, Khamenei’s senior foreign policy adviser, has expressed regret over Larijani’s resignation, AFP reported.

“In the very important and sensitive situation where the nuclear issue is at the moment it would be better if this (the resignation) did not happen or at least it was prevented,” Velayati said (AFP I, Oct. 23).

Meanwhile, U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei argued yesterday for allowing time to continue nuclear negotiations with Tehran, saying that Iran would need between three and eight more years to develop a nuclear weapon, Reuters reported.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said after meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy that ElBaradei should see Iran as a greater potential threat.

“If Baradei thinks Iran can have a bomb in three years and it doesn’t bother him, well it bothers me,” Olmert said.

“The Iranians are not as close to a bomb as they would lead people to believe but they are not as far away as I would like them to be,” he added (Jon Boyle, Reuters I/Washington Post, Oct. 22).

Olmert said yesterday that French and Israeli leaders have “identical” opinions of the magnitude of the potential threat of Iran’s nuclear program, AFP reported.

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October 23rd, 2007, 9:52 pm

 

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