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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Does Iran Want to Be Hit (First)?

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has gained the world's attention by making bold remarks about Israel, Jews, and Iran's supremacy. It reminds some of us of Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf---Saddam Hussein's last Minister of Information. However, it also reminds us of Adolf Hitler's explicit and announced intention to slaughter Jews. This last association has fostered a huge debate about the real nuclear capability of Iran and the exact timing of their nuclear development. This debate has centered on determining the right time to hit Iran's nuclear capabilities, to either eliminate them or damage them significantly to slow its path to the nuclear club. [more]

by Moderator @ 01:38 PM CST [Link]

Monday, May 29, 2006

Iranian peace overtures in 2003 and mysterious non-reaction

The now public 2003 Iranian letter offering a wide-ranging settlement with the US and Israel , should have provoked a positive reaction in Washington, but it didn't. The continued low key revelations of the existence of this letter since 2003, and especially in 2006, and Washington's non-reaction, should have provoked a media response, but they didn't do that either. Why does this remain "non-news?" Even abortive and insincere peace efforts of the Confederate States of America in the US Civil War were treated more seriously and given more attention. [more]

by Moderator @ 09:34 AM CST [Link]

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Palestinian face-off on Prisoner's document

When Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas challenged the Hamas-led government to adopt the national reconciliation document of the Palestinian prisoners last week, he created an ingenious challenge to the Hamas, to Israel and to the quartet and the roadmap for Middle East Peace. [more]

by Moderator @ 02:09 PM CST [Link]

Did Iran make a peace offer to the United States in 2003?

MidEastWeb has obtained a document that purports to summarize an Iranian reconciliation overture to the United States government in the spring of 2003, proposing broad concessions to the United States, including cessation of terror and adoption of the Arab peace initiative, in return for a softening of the US attitude to Iran. The letter was sent via the Swiss government, which represents US interests in Iran. The existence of such a letter was claimed by Flynt Leverett in a New York Times article of January 24, 2006. He wrote:

In the spring of 2003, shortly before I left government, the Iranian Foreign Ministry sent Washington a detailed proposal for comprehensive negotiations to resolve bilateral differences. The document acknowledged that Iran would have to address concerns about its weapons programs and support for anti-Israeli terrorist organizations. It was presented as having support from all major players in Iran's power structure, including the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. A conversation I had shortly after leaving the government with a senior conservative Iranian official strongly suggested that this was the case. Unfortunately, the administration's response was to complain that the Swiss diplomats who passed the document from Tehran to Washington were out of line.
( source - http://www.brookings.edu/views/op-ed/fleverett/20060124.htm )


by Moderator @ 03:35 AM CST [Link]

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Bad news from the Israeli side?

Ehud Olmert's convergence plan may turn out to be as bad as both its Palestinian and Israeli detractors insist that it is. As I have noted elsewhere, nobody knows what Ehud Olmert's convergence plan really involves, where the "border" of Israel will be set, who will recognize this border, whether the IDF will withdraw or what will happen to settlements outside this border. The Zionist right attacked the program in advertisements, editorials and blogs as defeatist capitulation to terror (see Olmert in Washington - a Guide to the Perplexed and see a reply at Israpundit) but in truth, it is not possible to take a stand on this plan as long as we don't know the details. As the details emerge, the plan looks less and less appetizing for anyone seeking at least a livable solution for Palestinians and Israelis. [more]

by Moderator @ 04:48 PM CST [Link]

Good news on the Palestinian side?

Palestinian factions are meeting today to hammer out a unity agreement that would supposedly settle jurisdictional and political strife between Hamas and Fatah. Thus far all, previously announced calls for unity and the rule of law have been followed by murders, bombings and kidnappings, but this attempt looks a bit more serious. It is prompted, perhaps, by the threat of Egyptian intervention if the violence continues. [more]

by Moderator @ 03:38 PM CST [Link]

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Olmert in Washington: A guide to the perplexed

The results of Ehud Olmert's visit to Washington could be predicted in advance, and in fact I predicted them: much ado about nothing. Olmert had wanted to get the blessing of the United States for his convergence plan (alternatively packaged as "realignment") and a strong commitment from the United States to stop the Iranian nuclear program. In fact, he had originally wanted to asked for $10 Billion in US aid to carry out the convergence or realignment or withdrawal plan. He got none of those things. You would never know that from reading some of the Israeli pundits who accompanied Olmert to Washington. Both Aluf Benn and Shmuel Rosner in Haaretz and Nahum Barnea in Yediot Ahronot opined that Olmert had gotten more or less everything he asked for. Another story in Yediot was titled Olmert gets Bush's blessing. [more]

by Moderator @ 09:29 PM CST [Link]

Monday, May 22, 2006

Olmert visits the emperor - convergence and roadmap to disaster

Israeli PM Olmert is in Washington to advance his agenda. It is not the first time a newly elected leader is going to Washington to win the approval of the Emperor. Haven't we seen this movie before? The most recent example was Mahmoud Abbas, who visited Washington, and got nothing twice.

Of the second Bush-Abbas meeting I wrote:

It seems like a re-run of the last time Abbas visited the Emperor. Bush said what he said, and Abbas said what he said, and everyone simled for the cameras.

Was that worth a trip to Washington??? You tell me.


by Moderator @ 03:03 PM CST [Link]

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Iranian unclear weapons program and the world's unclear response

That's not a typo. What is unclear about the Iran nuclear situation? Just about everything. To begin with, Iran claims they are not intent on developing nuclear weapons, but everyone assumes otherwise. One reason to be skeptical about Iranian intentions is a revelation by the former chief of staff of the Pakistani army, Mirza Aslam Beg, who claims Iran asked Pakistan for a bomb:

In the AP interview, Beg detailed nearly 20 years of Iranian approaches to obtain conventional arms and then technology for nuclear weapons. He described an Iranian visit in 1990, when he was army chief of staff.

"They didn't want the technology. They asked: 'Can we have a bomb?' My answer was: By all means you can have it but you must make it yourself. Nobody gave it to us."


by Moderator @ 09:22 PM CST [Link]

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Ahmedinejad's Letter to Bush - Take II

The letter of Iranian President Ahmadinejad to President Bush continues to stir controversy. That is very likely precisely what Ahmadinejad had in mind. His Holocaust denial speeches, his speeches about a "world without American and Zionism" (as Juan Cole pointed out, Ahmadinejad didn't literally say "wipe Israel off the map" - so what? He did say "a world without America and without Zionism") and this letter all seem to have one purpose. They are playing to a regional Muslim audience where such proclamations are often viewed with favor. This is Ahmadinejad's bid for regional leadership, to become the new Nasser or Saddam of the Middle East. Arab commentators have noted this, and not all the comment is favorable.


by Moderator @ 11:29 AM CST [Link]

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Palestine and Israel - No Road and No Map

Anyone watching the dismal state of Israeli-Palestinian relations must be dismayed by the non-results of the May 9 meeting of the quartet overseeing the implementation of the Road map for Middle East peace. The roadmap was supposed to proved defined milestones that would be implemented under the supervision of the quartet, and would lead to a peace settlement. The deadline for creation of a Palestinian state has come and gone. There is no state. The deadline for reform of Palestinian security services has come and gone. The "security services" are a macabre joke. The deadline for dismantling Israeli illegal outposts in the West Bank has come and gone. The outposts are mostly still there, though there is yet another plan to map them and we are promised action, "real soon."

Negotiations for final status, called for in the roadmap, are not in sight. On the contrary, the Hamas government of the Palestinians insist that they will never negotiate a peace treaty with Israel. In Israel, there is a government that pays lip service to negotiations, secure in the knowledge that the Hamas will never negotiate. Therefore, it is clear that there is no road and no map. The management of the Israeli-Palestinian problem has gone off the road a long time ago and is in the process of falling off a cliff. The stop at the bottom will be painful. The quartet envoy, James Wolfensohn, quit in disgust and frustration. [more]

by Moderator @ 01:34 PM CST [Link]

Ahmadinejad's letter to Bush: Worse than we could imagine

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's announcement that he was sending a letter to President George Bush excited great optimism about the possibility of opening direct channels of communication between Washington and Tehran. These would, it was thought, clear up the minor and silly misunderstandings that have beclouded US-Iran relations and defuse the crisis over Iran's nuclear program.

Instead, Ahmadinejad's letter reveals that the situation may be far worse than most people in the West expected. It is an extraordinary document in every respect. It is a sermon rather than a diplomatic missive. Even more worrisome, the letter is not just the work of one man. The Iranian foreign ministry billed the letter as "proposing new solutions for getting out of international problems and current fragile situation of the world"".

The "new solutions" offered by Ahmadinejad are these: [more]

by Moderator @ 12:33 PM CST [Link]

Monday, May 8, 2006

Where are the Palestinians going?

The quartet is meeting to decide the future of its Middle East policy. One would think that it is about time. The Roadmap for Israeli-Palestinian peace expired in 2005, by which time there should have been a Palestinian state and peace. There is no state, and a constant rain of Qassam rockets (four at one time this morning) falls on southern Israel, and occasionally within Gaza.

Unfortunately, it appears that the only subject to be discussed at the meeting is the most urgent one of how to meet the humanitarian needs of the Palestinians. The United States insists on continued boycott of the Hamas, while the French and Russians favor allowing the World Bank to distribute the funds:

by Moderator @ 02:50 PM CST [Link]

Sunday, May 7, 2006

Hamas, the Arab Peace Initiative and reality

Interest was renewed in the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 after Arab League Secretary Amr Mousa urged the Hamas to adopt it as a way of legitimizing themselves and ending their international isolation. In turn, Hamas spokesmen or spokesmen for Hamas spokesmen announced that the Hamas "would" accept the initiative, or that they had not accepted the initiative. The game of "keep 'em guessing" has been going on since the election of the Hamas government on March 28. [more]

by Moderator @ 09:13 PM CST [Link]

Monday, May 1, 2006

Iran - High Noon?

If Iran wanted to get the attention of the world, they certainly succeeded. Announcing that you are developing "nuclear technology," that you "don't give a damn" what the international community thinks, and that you want to achieve a "world without America and Zionism" is bound to raise some eyebrows, as well as the price of oil. There doesn't seem to be a good way to resolve the problem short of economic sanctions, which would probably result in an Iranian oil embargo and a great deal of unpleasantness, and might not be effective.


by Moderator @ 02:05 AM CST [Link]


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