Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, March 10th, 2010
Syria announces that it wants to develop nuclear power now that Israel, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Turkey and the Emirates have also begun or announced plans for nuclear plants.
Rivals Israel, Syria Want to Build Nuclear Power Plants
Tuesday , March 09, 2010
Mideast rivals Israel and Syria on Tuesday each announced ambitions to develop nuclear energy, with Israel facing the prospect that its plan could bring new attention to its secretive nuclear activities.
The countries laid out their hopes at an international conference in Paris on civilian nuclear energy — which contributes far less to global warming than burning of fossil fuels but still evokes many concerns about long-term safety issues.
Also on Tuesday, Egypt announced it would aim for four nuclear plants by 2025, with the first starting in 2019, Reuters quoted an Egyptian minister. The announcements raise the prospect that the countries’ nuclear programs could come under the microscope of international inspectors to ensure that they don’t cross the forbidden line into weapons programs. Iran, for example, has come under intense pressure to show its nuclear program is peaceful. The United States is providing financing and training for nuclear power plans in Jordan. The United Arab Emirates in December awarded a South Korean consortium a contract to build energy-producing nuclear reactors.
Iran and North Korea, whose nuclear program has also drawn international scorn, were not invited to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development conference. Israeli Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau said nuclear plants built in Israel will be subject to strict safety and security controls, and even said his country would like to build them in cooperation with scientists and engineers from “our Arab neighbors.”
“Israel has always considered nuclear power to partially replace its dependence on coal,” Landau said. The program aims to help Israel secure its energy supplies and battle global warming. Israel currently uses coal and natural gas to produce electricity.
The effort by Israel, which has long been suspected to have a secret nuclear weapons program, runs the risk that its nuclear energy program will draw the eyes of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The construction of a nuclear reactor could draw international attention to Israel’s nuclear activities. Asked if Israel would allow IAEA inspectors to supervise any new project, Landau aide Chen Ben Lulu said only that Israel would follow all the relevant rules.
Israel has not signed the Nonproliferation Treaty, which aims to limit the number of countries capable of developing nuclear weapons. Separately at the conference, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad his country is looking at “alternative energy sources, including nuclear energy” to meet its growing demands for energy.
“The peaceful application of nuclear energy should not be monopolized by the few that own this technology but should be available to all,” Mekdad said, noting Syria’s growing population. He did not elaborate on specific nuclear plans.
Between the two countries, Israel is seen as closer to actually developing nuclear energy in terms of know-how and infrastructure. The idea of generating nuclear energy has been floating around for years in Israel. In 2007, one of Landau’s predecessors said he was working on a plan to build a nuclear power plant in Israel’s southern Negev desert. Landau met several months ago with the French Energy Minister Jean-Louis Borloo, and raised the idea of French-Israeli-Jordanian cooperation in developing a nuclear power plant.
Borloo was enthusiastic about that idea, Landau said. France derives more of its electricity from nuclear power than any other country and has a highly developed civilian nuclear industry — and Paris sees export potential.
It was France that, beginning in the 1950s, helped Israel build its nuclear reactor at Dimona. Israel is believed to have used that reactor to construct a stockpile of nuclear weapons. Israel has never acknowledged being a nuclear power, following a policy it calls “nuclear ambiguity.” Israel also has a smaller nuclear reactor for research at Nahal Soreq, not far from Tel Aviv. Landau’s office says no specific plans to set up a third nuclear power plant have been drawn up so far.
Iraq’s electoral commission expects as many as 180,000 exiles to cast ballots in 23 voting centers across Syria, and Iraq’s Sunni politicians are courting the exile vote. … According to the latest U.S. government report, few of the 2 million Iraqis who fled the country from 2004 to 2008 have returned…..
An estimated 60 percent of the refugees are Sunni Arabs; approximately 15 percent are Iraqi Christians. Their departure represents a dramatic demographic alteration in Iraq, yet the sectarian nature of the exodus has been largely overlooked. This shifting population is a huge loss to Iraq, a vast problem to neighboring governments, a collective tragedy for many caught up in it, and a significant indicator of the future health, stability, and viability of Iraq and the Middle East. Most in the exile population have never sought refugee status with the United Nations. Indeed, fewer than 10 percent have applied to be considered for resettlement to the United States, Europe, or Australia, which suggests the overwhelming majority still hope to return to Iraq and are waiting for some indication that they are welcome there. So far, the signals from the election campaign have not been positive…..
U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill summed up the trial ahead: “The real test of democracy is not so much the behavior of the winners; it will be the behavior of the losers.” There can be no stability without political reconciliation and the exiles’ return. They are in daily contact with their families, waiting for word that is time to come back. The rest of the region is waiting, too.
Barak approves 112 new apartments in West Bank
By The Associated Press and Haaretz Service
Israel authorized the construction of 112 new apartments in the West Bank despite a pledge to slow settlement building, the government disclosed Monday – a decision that enraged the Palestinians a day after they reluctantly agreed to resume peace talks. Word of the new construction in the Beitar Illit settlement came amid a flurry of activity by the U.S. to try to salvage peacemaking.
…With the Interior Ministry adding insult to injury, (announcing a plan to build 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem, on top of the new settlements on the West Bank) the VP came out sort of swinging.
“I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem. The substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I’ve had here in Israel. We must build an atmosphere to support negotiations, not complicate them. This announcement underscores the need to get negotiations under way that can resolve all the outstanding issues of the conflict. The United States recognizes that Jerusalem is a deeply important issue for Israelis and Palestinians and for Jews, Muslims and Christians. We believe that through good faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem and safeguards its status for people around the world. Unilateral action taken by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations on permanent status issues. As George Mitchell said in announcing the proximity talks, “we encourage the parties and all concerned to refrain from any statements or actions which may inflame tensions or prejudice the outcome of these talks.”
Netanyahu and Pastor Hagee’s Lovefest on Eve of Biden’s Arrival in Israel
On 03.09.10, By Max
Vice President Joe Biden was greeted in Jerusalem with the announcement that the Israeli Interior Ministry approved the construction of 1600 new homes in Occupied East Jerusalem contrary to U.S. wishes and complicating Biden’s mission to help jump start the peace process. But Biden should have known that Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu intended to upset his plans by Netanyahu’s appearance with John Hagee.
The day after a series of talks between US Special Envoy for the Middle East George Mitchell and Netanyahu, and a day before Biden’s arrival, Netanyahu appeared onstage with Pastor John Hagee in Jerusalem. The occasion was Hagee’s Night To Honor Israel, an event the far-right Texas-based preacher arranged to tout his ministry’s millions in donations to Israeli organizations and to level bellicose rhetoric against Israel’s perceived enemies.
At the gathering, Hagee called Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “the Hitler of the Middle East” and denounced the Goldstone Report as “character assassination by an unbiased and uninformed committee.”
Netanyahu welcomed the crowd of 1000 American evangelicals to Jerusalem, a city he described as “the undivided, eternal capitol of the Jewish people. Then, he told them, “I salute you! The Jewish people salute you!” He used the rest of his speech to call for “tough, biting sanctions” against Iran that “bite deep into its energy sector.”
The price tag for Israeli intransigence
by Paul Woodward on March 9, 2010
The day before Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Israel — supposedly on a mission to help kick-start peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians — the Netanyahu government made its contempt for the Obama administration clear by approving new settlement construction.
They were quick to take offense — they being the Israelis! “While we welcome Vice President Biden, a longtime friend and supporter of Israel,” Danny Danon, the deputy speaker of the Knesset, told the Washington Post, “we see it as nothing short of an insult that President Obama himself is not coming.”
Washington on the other hand had no interest in creating a fuss about settlement growth — its impotence on that particular issue has already been amply demonstrated. Pushing for a real settlement freeze is passé. The new game is proximity talks and shuttle diplomacy. After 17 years of direct talks it’s now time to talk from a distance…
Israelis and Palestinians: Agreeing to Talk — and to Fail
By Tony Karon in Time Magazine
They won’t be talking directly to each other, but at least the leaders of Israel and Palestine have a common objective in the “proximity talks” the Obama Administration is launching this week. Unfortunately, that shared goal is not to reach a final agreement on a two-state solution to their conflict — both sides know better than to expect that U.S. special envoy Senator George Mitchell’s shuttling between Jerusalem and Ramallah will be able to bridge the chasm between their demands. Instead, the mutual goal in the latest round of talks is to avoid being blamed for their failure.
The very fact that two decades after the start of the Oslo peace process, the two sides are no longer even negotiating directly but instead communicating via the Americans is a clear sign of just how grim the prospects have become for achieving peace through bilateral talks. Both sides, in fact, are showing up for the U.S.’s latest version of a peace process largely to prove a point. For the Palestinians and their Arab backers, who have given the latest round of talks just four months to produce results (a deadline not endorsed by the Obama Administration), their purpose is to demonstrate to the U.S. that no credible peace agreement can be achieved with the hawkish government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and that creating a viable independent Palestinian state requires that the Americans press the Israelis to do things they’re not going to do voluntarily. Setting conditions and deadlines is a way for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to offset the domestic political damage he suffers from participating in endless rounds of fruitless negotiations. Abbas was helped by the fact that the new talks were endorsed by the Arab League last week, but the tone of its statement is telling: “Despite the lack of conviction in the seriousness of the Israeli side,” said Arab League Secretary Amr Moussa, his committee agreed to back the talks “as a last attempt and to facilitate the U.S. role.”
The Israelis, for their part, need to demonstrate good faith and position themselves to blame the Palestinians, as they have done up to now, for the absence of a peace deal. And Israeli officials make no bones about the fact that they need to go through the motions in order to pursue their own priority: resuming talks, a senior Israeli official told the dailyYediot Ahronot, “would create an atmosphere in the Arab world and the international community that would allow the world to focus on the real threat — Iran.”
Netanyahu, after taking office, came around to talking of a two-state solution, which he had previously rejected, but at the same time he defined Palestinian statehood in terms too limited to be acceptable to the Palestinian leadership. Netanyahu had publicly opposed the offers made to the Palestinians by previous Israeli governments, and his government made clear last week that new talks would not begin from understandings reached with any of his predecessors but would instead start from scratch — a position vehemently rejected by the Palestinians. Of course, none of those previous offers had been accepted by the Palestinian leadership; it’s hard to see how offering less than the proposals previously rejected by Abbas, as Netanyahu appears set to do, is going to break the deadlock. But Netanyahu will argue that Israel is willing to talk directly and without conditions and to use the Palestinians’ refusal to do so as a basis to blame them for the stalemate.
Ibrahim Hamidi, al-Hayat’s bureau chief in Damascus interviewed the Turkish FM Ahmad Daout Oglu after his meeting with Mr Assad and other Syrian officials.
He says that “the groundwork has been prepared to resume indirect talks between Syria and Israel under Turkish auspicious,” and that “all US officials with whom he has met strongly support resumption of these talks”
داود أوغلو: الأرضية جاهزة لاستئناف المفاوضات السورية ـ الإسرائيلية
الثلاثاء, 09 مارس 2010
دمشق – ابراهيم حميدي
قال وزير الخارجية التركي احمد داود اوغلو ان «الارضية جاهزة» لاستئناف المفاوضات غير المباشرة بين سورية واسرائيل برعاية انقرة، لافتا الى ان جميع المسؤولين الاميركيين الذين التقاهم «يدعمون بقوة» اعادة اطلاق هذه المفاوضات. واعرب عن «التفاؤل القوي» بان «المناخ الجيد سيستمر» بين سورية ولبنان. ودعا الرئيس الفلسطيني محمود عباس ورئيس المكتب السياسي لـ»حماس» خالد مشعل الى «الوحدة ونبذ الانقسام»، اذ «يجب الا تفكرا بالاهداف السياسية، بل بمستقبل فلسطين باكملها».
وكان داود اوغلو يتحدث الى «الحياة» في ختام زيارة لدمشق اول من امس تضمنت لقاء الرئيس بشار الاسد استمر زهاء ساعتين.
وقال الوزير التركي، ردا على سؤال عن مدى دعم الادارة الاميركية استئناف المفاوضات غير المباشرة بين سورية واسرائيل التي توقفت بعد الحرب على غزة في نهاية 2008: «نحن نتشاور دائما مع (الموفد الاميركي) السناتور (جورج) ميتشل والوزيرة (هيلاري) كلينتون وزملائنا الاميركيين. كلهم يدعمون اعادة اطلاق هذه المحادثات». واضاف انه لا يستطيع «الحديث نيابة عن الاسرائيليين» الذي اعلنوا رفض الوساطة التركية، لكنه قال:»اعتقد بان الارضية اكثر جهوزية واستعدادا حاليا لاعادة اطلاق العملية»، لافتا الى استعداد سورية لاستئناف المفاوضات غير المباشرة من حيث توقفت. واكد:»انني متفائل بان المفاوضات ستستأنف. لا استطيع تحديد التوقيت، لكني متفائل جدا».
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Tuesday that Israel has agreed to permit Ankara to resume its former role as mediator between Israel and Syria. This contradicts recent statements from Israel that Turkey’s fiercely anti-Israel statements since Operation Cast Lead disqualify it from playing this role in the future. The prime minister was quoted by Turkey’s NTV television, telling members of the press in Saudi Arabia that talks that broke off during the former Olmert administration between Jerusalem and Damascus may resume “at any moment’. (Yeshiva World News)
Turkey’s Domestic Controversy Unfolds Amidst Increasing Ties with Iran
By Shayan Ghajar, insideIRAN.org
Events the past few weeks in Turkey indicate that a sea change is occurring in the nation’s domestic politics. Prime Minister Erdogan’s maneuvering against the traditionally untouchable military marks a new phase in Turkey’s history. This shift in Turkey’s domestic politics follows a more gradual but no less relevant shift in its foreign policy, and likely indicates even greater changes to come. Mutual trade, investment, and tourism are growing between Turkey and Iran, and the two nations are increasingly in accord on three of the regions biggest security issues, namely the Middle East peace process, Iran’s nuclear program, and Kurdish separatism.
Simultaneously, American policy has been increasingly out of step with Turkey’s vision for its future. The recent American congressional vote to declare the Armenian deportations and relocations a genocide will certainly have damaged Turkish-American relations for the foreseeable future, and will be yet another factor in Turkey seeking alternative allies in the region.
Diplomatic contact between Iran and Turkey has increased in frequency and intensity in recent months, starting with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s visit to Iran in October 2009. Concurrently with Erdogan’s visit, Iran announced that Turkey was investing $4 billion into Iran’s South Pars gas field, which holds one of the largest gas reserves in the world. Shortly after Erdogan’s visit, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated that there are “no limitations to increasing ties” with Turkey.
New Republic’s Marty Peretz: The Multitudinous Disasters Of The Obama Administration. Here: On Syria And Iran
2010-03-08 22:04:10.188 GMT
A Delusional Left, a Hysterical Right, and a Sullen Center: Have American Politics Ever Been This Bad? The Oscars Made Some Good Calls This Year. So Why Am I Still Disappointed? How an Obscure Nomination Fight Turned Into a Hinge Moment for the …
I’ve written myself about the Obama administration’s more-than-flatfooted policies on Syria (here, here, and here) and Iran (here, here, and here). So I am particularly gratified when I find myself in alignment with Barry Rubin, a truly brainy scholar with a slight polemical touch. His latest analysis is below.
Syria is a galling instance of the president’s obsessions … and for several reasons. A weak country, both economically and militarily, its only possible political sway is to exacerbate the hatreds of its neighbors towards Israel.
“……… “This dialogue is going nowhere,” said Rafic Khoury, chief editor of the independent daily Al-Anwar, referring to national defence strategy talks that resumed on Tuesday at the presidential palace before being adjourned until March 15. “Hezbollah, as well as Syria and Iran, clearly stated recently their strategy of resistance against Israel,” he added.
The talks, which were launched in 2006, have repeatedly been adjourned because of the successive political crises that have shaken Lebanon. The last round was held in June 2009. The stated aim is for Lebanon’s Western- and Saudi-backed majority and a coalition led by the Iranian- and Syrian-supported Shiite militant group to agree on a national defence strategy as concerns neighbouring enemy Israel…….
“Syria and Egypt are competitors when it comes to attracting foreign investments,” writes Ehsani two. “Egypt is looking for $10 billion of foreign investment a year. Jordan is too. Lebanon has seen capital come into its real estate sector. Syria has set a target of attracting $85 billion over 5 years, which will not be easy at tall.”