The Zeitgeist Politics

Global Politics with a focus on The Middle East

Posts Tagged ‘Ehud Barak

Irani & Israeli representatives discuss Nuclear Weapons

with 4 comments

”]”]Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pictured in the Natanz plant [Photo credit: AP]According to several eyewitness accounts and confirmed on the Israeli side, Iran & Israel had a rare face-to-face meeting at diplomatic level, at an Australia-brokered (K-Rudd Win!) conference in Cairo last month. News broke as an Egyptian official who witnessed it said said that Israel had been represented by former foreign minister Shlomo Ben Ami and Iran by its envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency Ali Asghar Soltanieh.

“During the first session Ben Ami and Soltanieh spoke,” he said, asking not to be named.
“We had round-table discussions … then there were cross-table discussions. It was rather polemical, with accusations.

“Soltanieh said the Iranians do not have a (nuclear) bomb and do not want the bomb but the Israelis said that was not true,” the official said, adding that he did not know if the Israelis and Iranians had also met bilaterally on the sidelines.

“This is not the first time (Israelis and Iranians have had contact) but I believe this is the first time they are present at this level of representation,” he said.

In one exchange, Mr Soltanieh asked Mr Zafary-Odiz: “Do you or do you not have nuclear weapons,” Haaretz said, citing unidentified participants in the meeting. The Israeli smiled but did not respond, the newspaper said.

Mr Soltanieh insisted Tehran did not hate Jews, although it opposed Zionism, the newspaper said. [The Australian]

So, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this is the first time since the Revolution that Iran & Israel have had talks at this level, how very interesting. Seems Iran is under pressure indeed. There has also been a lot of reporting about the recent talks between Iran, the international community and the IAEA. There are rumours flying around that an agreement with the Obama Administration over a resumption of diplomatic ties and an easing of sanctions will be reached, along with a presumable curtailing of the nuclear programme. While details are still fuzzy as they are being ironed out, I will ask you to consider the following things:

1. Pressure on the Iranian Government:

Since the disputed election in June, there has been mounting domestic pressure, along with mounting international pressure, on the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad government. An agreement that saves face for Iran and eases sanctions would presumably be a major coup and help to add legitimacy for the pair. I believe commentators are underestimating just how complicated the ‘saving face’ element is going to be, considering how steadfast the rhetoric from Ahmadinejad has been about not giving an inch to the international community over Iran’s right to nuclear power and uranium enrichment. Moreover, if the Iranian public considers the development of nuclear weapons forthcoming, as much of the international community does, then an agreement not to do so would mean allowing Israel to remain the Middle East’s only nuclear power. Nevertheless, if this is ironed out, it could mean a shoring up of the Government and a severe blow to hopes of internal regime change still presumably carried by Washington. Though, just how realistic these hopes were to start with is, of course, also questionable.

2. How much trust can be put into this government

One would expect that, in the absence of rigorous and regular inspections, Iran could still continue to make progress on uranium enrichment, albeit at a slower pace. Considering that the current climate of relations between Iran and the international community is not exactly one of goodwill, and considering the regime’s burgeoning influence internationally (in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan for example), it wouldn’t take much to surmise a level of deceit in any agreement Iran makes to actually halt uranium enrichment.

3. What about an Israeli first strike?

While Iranian deceit can be expected, Israel would have its hands tied. Again, I suggest that chances of an Israeli strike on Iran have been exaggerated. A strike would require agreement from the Obama Administration, and considering how much pressure Obama is under over Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine, such an agreement would be very unlikely. Equally, I have a feeling Obama is looking for an excuse for real leverage over Israel on the Palestinian question and the question of settlements. Frustrated already by stonewalling from Netanyahu, Israel would not want to anger its superpower backer any further by striking unilaterally. Also, considering the current unresolved controversy over the Goldstone Report, Israel is not exactly in unquestionable good graces with the international community. A unilateral strike on Iran, even without an agreement over nuclear capabilities, would always be a very risky venture for Israel given the shakiness of its current reputation.

Having said this, Israel is, at least publicly, not happy about this detail. Ehud Barak slammed the deal, and a high-level representative of the EU has stated in pretty strong words (snarky, even) that Israel has no part in these negotiations:

A senior European Union official told Israeli officials this week that Israel is not privy to the details of the exchanges between Iran and the Western countries regarding its nuclear program. “You do not understand the extent to which you are not in the picture. You do not know how much you do not know and what is happening in Iran,” he said.

Accordingly, a number of senior Israeli officials backed the European official’s statements by saying that the release of the draft of an agreement with Iran caught Israel by surprise. [Haaretz]

Ouch!

So all those things considered, I think an agreement is forthcoming and it will probably involve the shipping of nuclear fuel to France via Russia for enrichment, and then its return to Iran in the form of fuel rods. Let’s wait for the details and see what happens, a final deal is expected some time Friday.

Written by alexlobov

October 23, 2009 at 5:30 pm

Abbas helps bury the Goldstone Report, then regrets it.

with one comment

Muammar Qaddafi - Renewed Champion of the Palestinian cause on the Security Council? Photo: Mike Segar/Reuters
Muammar Qaddafi – Renewed Champion of the Palestinian cause on the Security Council? Photo: Mike Segar/Reuters

In the wake of the Goldstone Report, things were meant to be done! Action was meant to be taken! Perpetrators were meant to be put in the dock and have had various parts of them chopped off! Or something of that order… but surprisingly (I know I know, I’m just as surprised as the rest of you) that hasn’t quite happened. And it’s the usual suspects behind the not happening. We reported earlier that both Israel & the US condemned the report. But surely not the Palestinians right? RIGHT? Wrong.

It seems that Abu Mazen et al., have decided to be the good Israeli/US ‘running dogs’ that they are and help stonewall the report further:

Last week, Abbas withdrew Palestinian support for a vote in the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to have the report sent to the UN General Assembly for possible action. Such a vote would have been a first of many steps toward possible war crimes tribunals.

With the Palestinians out of the picture, the council set the report aside for six months. [Haaretz]

Now you may rightfully ask, has the old fool lost all his marbles? Why would he do something so crazy? I mean, isn’t this a chance for the international community to have a legitimate opportunity to see and assess the horrors that were committed in Gaza? Isn’t this a chance for the Palestinians to have some justice over the, you know, war crimes? Aren’t war crimes bad? If you are asking these questions, my friend, you are not very well versed in Middle Eastern politics. According to Abbas, the reason is as follows:

Abbas’ aides have defended the step, saying the Palestinians needed more time to win international support for the U.N. report. They said deferring action did not mean burying the report. [Haaretz]

The Palestinians, not being happy about this, have been raising hell on the streets:

With every day, there were more protests, marches and statements of condemnations, not only from his Hamas rivals, but also from human rights groups and intellectuals.

In Gaza, public outrage at Abbas reached a new level on Wednesday, when hundreds of posters criticizing the Palestinian president appeared in public areas around Gaza City.

The text on one poster under an Abbas photo read: To the dumps of history, you traitor, Mahmoud Abbas. Another had a big, black X over Abbas’ face. [Haaretz]

Having realised that this self-righteous anger could possibly damage his political prospects, Abu Mazen and his Fatah cohort have taken a few steps back, including admitting they’ve made “a mistake”, trying to lobby the Security Council through this man, naming and shaming countries who block the report (the horror!) and asking other Arab countries to push it through.

Norman Finkelstein seems to think there’s an altogether different reason, namely the Israelis having some audio evidence of the PA same some things that are decidedly not pro-the-Palestinian-cause, like… you know… being excited about the murder of more Palestinian children:

…a series of tapes in which Palestinian Authority officials could be heard urging Israel to continue the operation in Gaza. Israel threatened to reveal the material to media outlets as well as to the UN and this, in turn, resulted in the Palestinian retreat. It was further claimed that the Palestinians were shown footage showing a meeting between Abu Mazen, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and then foreign minister Tzippi Livni. In the course of the meeting, according to the report, Abu Mazen attempted to convince Barak to continue the operation. Barak appeared hesitant whereas Abu Mazen was enthusiastic. In addition, a telephone conversation recording between Abed Al-Rahim, secretary general of the Palestinian Authority and director of Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi’s bureau was presented. The Palestinian senior official can be heard saying that now is the time to bring ground forces into the Jabalya and Shati refugee camps. “The fall of these two camps will bring about the fall of the Hamas regime in Gaza, and will cause them to wave a white flag,” says Abed Al-Rahim. According to the report, Dov Weissglas told Abed Al-Rahim that such a move could result in the deaths of thousands of civilians. “They all voted for Hamas,” says Abed Al-Rahim, “they chose their fate, not us.”

Good point Abed! Gaza’s children are not Palestinian children, they are Hamas children, the spawn of Satan himself. They are either Hamas voters already, Hamas sympathisers or have Hamas tattooed on their backsides from birth. At best they’re collateral damage. Welcome to the ‘politics’ of the Middle East, ladies & gentelmen.

So… about those war crimes…

with 4 comments

Alleged use of white phosphorus over Gaza

For months since Operation Cast Lead in Gaza people have been crying ‘war crimes’ at Israel and baying for blood, particularly focusing on the use of White Phosphorus in civilian areas. Well now, something of note has actually finally happened! For those of you not yet clued up on the news, I will let Haaretz sum it up for me:

The report, compiled by a commission headed by former war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone, accuses both Israel and the Palestinians of actions amounting to war crimes during the December 27 to January 18 battle in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

On the day after Yom Kippur, the UN Human Rights Council, which appointed Goldstone, will be convening in Geneva for a special session on the report. Foreign Ministry sources said Tuesday that they expect Arab states will begin to prepare a draft resolution which will call for the report to be transferred to the UN Security Council. In a worst-case scenario, the Security Council could decide to transfer the matter to the International Criminal Court. Under such circumstances, the ICC could issue international arrest warrants for senior Israeli officials who were involved in Cast Lead.

Note, “worst-case scenario” which, for those of you have been keenly watching this conflict for some time now, is an extremely unlikely scenario. As we know, the powers that be are usually very reluctant to actually *do* anything about the conflict or intervene in any particularly direct manner. “Arrest warrants for senior Israeli officials” is practically unheard of.

To prevent this relatively unlikely scenario, Israeli PR has gone into overdrive for the second time this year, the first time being directly after Operation Cast Lead which was believed to have damaged Israel’s international reputation (Heaven knows why, probably all those dead and bloodied Palestinian children on Al Jazeera English), it seems with support for Israel among the public abroad slipping, action must be taken!

So basically it’s telethon time in the Knesset. The big boys are going to get on the phone quicksmart, call around all their international Presidential chums (focusing on the Big 5 Security Council permanent members reportedly) and allay their fears of war crimes. Their focus is believed to be the suggestion that supporting this report would somehow set a precedent making it harder for world leaders to deal with terrorists. Good point, I know all the other world leaders need to leave their options open… like for example, killing 1200 civilians in 3 weeks and using lots of white phosphorus on them and whatnot, I mean why not hey?

Also I believe that The Regev has been deployed. All cower in fear.

”]”]The Regev in trademark Its ok, guys pose [Picture credit: Mondoweiss]Shimon Peres has gone on the offensive, claiming that the report “makes a mockery of history” as it “fails to distinguish between the aggressor and a state exercising its right for self defense.” Ehud Barak called it “a prize for terrorism” while Danny Ayalon said that the report “is a cynical attempt at role reversal in blaming Israel for war crimes instead of terrorist organizations.” [Thanks Haaretz]

Most people, myself included, think that little is going to come of this. Do not forget the realist political sphere that we circle around in, people. As mentioned above, the powers that be generally don’t like getting involved directly and are generally comfortable with Hamas being ‘the terrorists’ and Israel being the usually justified but sometimes slightly misguided defenders. Amir Oren for Haaretz says the following:

When the smoke of Goldstone’s report clears, the IDF and the government can emerge from the bunker to find that little damage has been done. Israel’s cooperation is needed in the diplomatic arena.

Mondoweiss is pretty angry. I myself expect little by way of progress on this issue any time soon.

PS. In case you were wondering, Hamas didn’t much like the accusations of war crimes, slamming the report, denying such allegations as using civilians and ambulances for cover. Oh and apparently, Hamas “has no intention of harming civilians”. Umm… lol.

UPDATE: Here is the full text of the report, all 574 pages of it.

Written by alexlobov

September 17, 2009 at 2:37 am

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.