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Prospects For A Compromise With Iran Have Dwindled

Prospects For A Compromise With Iran Have Dwindled (Hebrew Heading)


Middle East News Service

[ Middle East News Service comments: There are appear to be a technical error with the English version of this article with the first two paragraphs missing. Unfortunately the article contains some bad and scary news. I have hitherto regarded US sabre rattling on Iran as just that: sabre rattling and bluffing rather than anything real. Reading Eldar I’m being to doubt my earlier assessment ie war is now a distinct possibility.

Eldar does not tell us the identity of the European statesman whom he is quoting. But in the past he seemed to have had good contacts with the European Union’s diplomat in charge of the Middle East, Miguel Angel Moratinos, who is now Spain’s Foreign Minister and whop has recently visited the region.

As the article says [my translation – I’m sure Haaretz will amend the website soon] “Following meetings in recent weeks with Assad and Ahmadinejad, A European statesman is saying that there is no point in idle diplomatic talks. The time has come for sanctions to be imposed on Teheran , including blocking the Hormuz Straits.

“There is an increasing expectation in Washington that the Baker-Hamilton position paper on the Iraq crisis that will be presented soon to President Bush will deal extensively of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Zvi Rafiah, the former officer in charge of matters to do with Congress at the Israeli Embassy in Washington and who is well versed in US politics says that there is no need for guess work.” [Article continues below.]

Blocking the Hormuz straits which will stop Iranian oil exports will be seen by virtually all Iranians (including many who oppose the regime) as a declaration for war. Iran will retaliate. The US will then be “forced” to bomb Iran in “self-defence”. This is the most likely scenario. It is certainly a scary prospect. It is something for the Australian peace movement to start thinking about now –Sol Salbe.]

[Please note that Eldar deals with several issues in his People and Politics column. I have only included the Iranian segment as I prefer to deal with them separately. You can read full item on the website:

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/788623.html]

Better To Milk Lebanon Than Drink Golan Wine


By Akiva Eldar

Rafiah has the transcript of an interview James Baker, one of the document's authors, gave ABC television about a month ago. During the interview, the former secretary of state strongly suggested that the White House open direct talks with countries it was keeping at arm's length, including Iran and Syria.

"I believe in talking to your enemies," Baker declared, noting that as the elder Bush's secretary of state, he visited Damascus 15 times. Talking to your enemies does not constitute appeasement, he said. He even noted that the team drafting the document met with representatives from Syria and Iran to discuss the future of Iraq.

Baker is not Bush's only adviser who believes that in order to get out of the Iraqi quagmire, the United States must dip into the chilly waters of the Arab-Israeli peace process. Rafiah says that on the eve of the Iraq invasion, some tried to convince Bush that the road to Baghdad runs through Jerusalem and Ramallah. A few added Damascus to the list.

The president preferred the position of his secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, who recommended a direct flight. Now that the latter has vacated his seat, those who say the way out of Baghdad also runs through Israel and the territories are gaining strength. This time too, a few have added Syria to the list. Even fewer include Iran. "Before us is an outline of a process," summarizes Rafiah, "and the people guiding it are Baker and [former national security adviser] Brent Scowcroft, veterans of the elder Bush's administration, and not Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld, who came from the neo-conservative school."

Given the cool attitude toward Syria of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the statesman closest to the president, Olmert need not be concerned. A European diplomat said in a conversation several days ago that even Europe is not pinning any exaggerated hopes on Damascus. After several talks with government leaders there, including President Bashar Assad, the senior diplomat concluded that milking Lebanon, as he put it, interested the Syrian regime much more than wine from the Golan Heights.

His impression of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also led him to some pessimistic conclusions regarding the chances of diplomatically convincing Tehran to forego the nuclear option. He is against wasting time on pointless diplomatic talks, and says it would be better for the international community to devote its efforts to formulating effective sanctions against Iran.

Given the failure of lesser sanctions on Iran, some in the west are considering imposing a naval blockade on the Strait of Hormuz at the tip of the Persian Gulf, and damaging the country's oil income. Vice Premier Shimon Peres believes such moves would be effective if they were accompanied by a massive investment in developing alternative energy sources.

The European diplomat further noted that an Arab leader told him Iran and Syria are making every effort to thwart a prisoner exchange over captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit to sabotage the renewal of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Precisely because of this, he says, Israel should seek to open this channel, thus isolating Iran and Syria. In the meantime Ahmadinejad still cannot utter - even in closed meetings - the word "Israel," the diplomat said.

*************

[The independent Middle East News Service concentrates on providing alternative information chiefly from Israeli sources. It is sponsored by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the AJDS. These are expressed in its own statements.]

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