Posts Tagged ‘President Sarkozy’

European diplomacy in Gaza crisis prepares trap for Palestinians

January 8, 2009

Global Research, January 8, 2009

Unlike the United States, which has given its unconditional backing to Israel and opposed all cease-fire proposals following Israel’s onslaught on the Gaza Strip, Europe has undertaken a series of diplomatic initiatives. There are currently a number of high-level European diplomatic missions in the Middle East.

On behalf of the European Union, EU Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner, chief diplomat Javier Solana and the foreign ministers of France, Sweden and the Czech Republic have traveled to the region. The Czech Republic currently holds the chair of the EU. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is in the region on behalf of the so-called Middle East Quartet (United Nations, US, EU and Russia). French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited the region on Monday and Tuesday in his function as co-chairman of the recently founded Mediterranean Union. The second chairperson of the Union is Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

All of the European representatives have called for an immediate cease-fire. They have discussed their proposals with Mubarak, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and—in the case of Sarkozy—Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. At the same time, all of the European delegations have ruled out any talks with Hamas, the immediate target of the Israeli aggression.

Many opponents of the Israeli attack on Gaza have welcomed the diplomatic initiatives by Europe. The speaker on foreign affairs for the German Left Party, Wolfgang Gehrke, for example, praised the intervention of the French president.

The Israeli peace activist Michel Warchawski has merely criticized these initiatives for being insufficient and for not moving quickly enough. On the web site of the French “New Anti-capitalist Party” he issued “an urgent appeal to all activists… to put pressure on their governments to intervene to stop the bloodletting and demand that they intervene now and not wait a day longer!” He went on to call for the dispatch of an “international force which places itself between the fronts and protects the people of Gaza.”

Such declarations fail to recognize the real character of the European interventions.

The first point to note is that no European government has condemned the Israeli aggression and called it by its real name—a war crime. Instead, they have justified the actions carried out by Israel—its 18-month blockade of the population of Gaza, its targeted assassinations of Hamas leaders and its bombardment of the densely populated and virtually defenseless territory—as legitimate acts of self-defense.

Before leaving for his trip, President Sarkozy publicly blamed Hamas—and not the Israeli military—for the plight of the Palestinians, citing the firing of Hamas rockets into southern Israel. The head of the Czech government and current president of the European Union, Mirek Topolanek, declared that the Israeli military action had a “defensive” character. And in a telephone call with the Israeli prime minister, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that the responsibility for the fighting lay “clearly and exclusively” with Hamas.

In appealing for a cease-fire, the European governments are first and foremost pursuing their own geo-political interests.

They fear that the ruthless methods employed by Israel will undermine the Arab regimes with which they have economic and political ties. The widespread popular anger over Israel’s actions is increasingly being directed against the Arab ruling elites, which collaborate closely with Israel and the US.

Ruling circles in Europe also fear a destabilization of Israel as a result of the latter’s brutal war in Gaza.

An editorial in the French conservative newspaper Figaro on January 5, entitled “Intervene Quickly for a Cease-Fire,” warned against such a development, declaring, “Immediate action is absolutely necessary because dissatisfaction will grow in tandem with the number of victims in this new Palestinian drama.” The newspaper added, “[D]espite the difficulties, it is necessary to conclude a cease-fire without delay because the worst may be yet to come: Any ground intervention in this densely populated area would have murderous consequences. And what would happen if Hezbollah opens up a second front in Lebanon? It is necessary to act quickly because the passivity of the US has created a vacuum which encourages numerous extremists.”

European governments, in particular France, also fear for stability in their own countries, home to millions of immigrants from North Africa and Arab lands. Many youth who have rebelled against intolerable conditions in the French suburbs in recent years are of Arab and Muslim parentage and identify with the Palestinians.

Last but not least, the Europeans regard the passivity of the US, occupied with a change of administrations and a deep economic crisis, as an opportunity to reestablish and strengthen their position in the Middle East. This applies particularly to France, which, following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, was one of the leading colonial powers in the region until it was later forced out by Great Britain and the US.

This point is also dealt with in the Figaro editorial, which states, “Because of the momentary absence of the Americans, the president of the Republic can hope to once again create a role for the Europeans.”

Since taking power, Sarkozy has worked systematically to strengthen the status of France in the Mediterranean region and the Middle East. This was the purpose of the Mediterranean Union founded in July of last year, as well as Sarkozy’s collaboration with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is regarded as a pariah in Washington. Sarkozy also maintains closer relations with Israel than any of his predecessors as French president.

Before setting out on his Middle East mission, Sarkozy boasted of his close relations in the region. “France bares a particular responsibility because it has been able to establish a bond of trust and friendship with all the concerned parties,” he said in an interview which was published in three Lebanese daily papers.

Germany is also pursuing its own interests in the Middle East. German diplomacy proceeds more quietly than that of Sarkozy—not least because of the country’s past role in the Holocaust—but it is just as ambitious. While Sarkozy has traveled to the Middle East with the media in his wake, German Chancellor Merkel and her foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, have been in telephone contact with the main players. In recent years, Germany has played a key role in the formation of the police and legal authorities in the nominally autonomous Palestinian regions.

The ceasefire pursued by the Europeans corresponds to their imperialist ambitions. Rather than securing the liberation of the Palestinian people and any easing of their misery, the European powers are intent on establishing a more effective means for their repression. To this end, they require the services of a reliable police force. The most likely candidates for such a role are the Egyptian regime of strongman Mubarak and the Palestinian Authority backed by the US and headed by Abbas.

While Israel intensifies its bombardment and ground war in Gaza, the Europeans are attempting to reach a deal that suits Tel Aviv and Washington. According to the French newspaper Le Monde in its report on the discussions of EU delegations with the Egyptian government, France regards an end to the smuggling of weapons into Gaza as decisive in winning Israeli agreement to a cease-fire. To this end, it is necessary to establish even stronger controls over the border between Egypt and Gaza, most likely through the deployment of an international force.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung suggests additional motives. The real aim of the Israeli offensive, the newspaper writes, is to drive the Palestinians into the Sinai desert and “give Egypt part of the responsibility for the 1.5 million Palestinians.” It goes on to say that “the situation would be almost comparable to the Six Day War of 1967: Arab war refugees fled at that time from Israeli troops into neighbouring Arab states and stayed there permanently. In the current case, Israel could offer an end to hostilities if a neutral power agreed to supervise the cease-fire. Egypt is a potential candidate. Cairo would be tasked with holding Hamas in check and making sure that people had something to eat. It would assume partial responsibility for administration of the Gaza Strip.”

The Süddeutsche Zeitung concludes that the US would be prepared to accept such a solution and would exert pressure on Cairo, along the lines that “We are Israel’s closest ally and Cairo’s most important source of finance. Mubarak knows that nobody else is available.”

The British Financial Times comes to a similar conclusion. The newspaper writes that Egypt suspects Israel’s “real aim in Gaza consists of transferring responsibility for the Strip and its inhabitants to Cairo.” The paper quotes a high-ranking Egyptian official who complains, “We are the victims of an evil game… when we open the borders and then have a huge refugee problem, what will happen? Should we transfer the population of Gaza into the Sinai?”

Such commentaries make clear that the European diplomacy has a sinister character. Following a war which could well involve the deaths of thousands of Palestinians and the expulsion from Gaza of hundreds of thousands, the Europeans are preparing a solution aimed at ensuring that Gaza remains a huge prison. In collaboration with Israel, the US and Europe, the administration of this prison would be handed over to Egypt and the Palestinian Authority.

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Iran, Syria and Uncle Sam

October 8, 2008

Dr Abdul Ruff Colachal

Only USA has the right to categorize people and nations according to its imperialist formula. Thousands and thousands of Muslims have been killed so far by the US terror forces in the company of other “democratic” nations of the “secular” West. Declared by the USA, Uncle Sam, as the rogue states or axis of evils, Iran and Syrian have been under the Washington’s close watch. Condemned by Israel, Iran is on its final stage of developing nuclear facility and has declared it would share the technology with all Islamic nations interested in the nuclear technology. USA-led UNSC has slapped three rounds of sanctions and a “final warning” to drop its nuclear ambitions.

The US administration suspects Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon and there are a number of competing views in Washington about what President Bush should do. Some Republican hawks are in favor of taking military action against the Islamic state. Iran denies that it has ambitions to build a nuclear bomb and says its nuclear program is for civilian purposes only. There has been much speculation that the US or Israel may try to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. But why is unnecessarily Washington concerned about Iran?

In this nuclear era, Tehran considers its right to have nuclear facility and other advanced technology and warned the USA against any attempts to deny Iran the benefits of advanced scientific and technological progress. USA and it western allied have been coercing Iran to fall in line and stay away from nuclear weapons. Iran says it will continue enriching uranium, which it says is for civilian purposes only, despite the latest UN resolution calling on it to stop.

As a usual stunt to bully the weak nations that disobey the dictates of the USA, the Bush administration also accuses Syria of sponsoring terrorism, by supporting the Palestinian elected Hamas and Islamic Jihad and letting “Islamic militants” enter Iraq from its territory. It also accuses Syria of backing the Lebanese Shia’s militant group Hezbollah, which fought Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon and is still involved in border conflicts with Israel.

Many political leaders in the 1990s accepted the continued Syrian presence as a necessary counter-weight to the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon. Syrian involvement in its neighbor was formalized by two treaties signed in 1991. Once the Israelis withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, pressure grew for the Syrians to pull out. Opinion in Lebanon is divided between those who support Syria ‘s presence in their country and those who do not. However, threat of Israel to Lebanon has been a major issue.

Iran’s pro-Islamic move

Not only Iran had a revolution to revitalize Islamic way of life, it has also made strenuous efforts to reach out to Islamic world, particularly the Arab nations in the “terrorism” era and under threats from the US-led anti-Islamic nations. After the fall of Saddam’s government in Iraq, it is Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad who has been keeping the Islamic torch up against the anti-Islamic looters, challenging in the process the world most important power, though currently under serious economic crisis.

Iran has been making efforts to make up with its Islamic neighbors and chart out an Islamic program for all Muslim nations so that the anti-Islamic block of nations cannot try to invade any of the Muslim nations in future. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board comprises of 35 members elected annually by the body’s highest policy-making body, the General Conference of all member states. Syria and Iran had both been competing for the seat reserved for a Middle Eastern and South Asian country. Iran and Syria have both been accused by some countries of engaging in clandestine nuclear activity.

Recently, Damascus allowed IAEA inspectors to visit the site at al-Kibar in June but has refused any follow-up trips. Iran, also accused by some countries of clandestine nuclear activity, dropped its bid for a seat on the IAEA board, saying it wanted to make way for regional ally Syria to join instead. On Oct 03 Friday, Syria dropped its bid for a place on the IAEA board, leaving the post open to Western-backed Afghanistan. Both had been vying for the same seat on the board, representing the Middle East and South Asia (Mesa) group. The body had been facing a divisive and unprecedented vote on the issue.

Iran was keen to make Syria a member of IEAE, but opposed by Uncle Sam. “The Islamic Republic has officially refrained from pursuing its right to be nominated to the board to pave the way for the membership of Syria,” Tehran has dropped its bid for a seat on the board of the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA. Iran wanted to make way for its regional ally Syria to become a board member instead. Syria has the backing of the Arab League, which makes up a significant proportion of the regional group.

World moves according to US whims and fancies only. Only Russia opposes this nasty global pro-US and pro-imperialist trend. USA got Afghanistan into the IAEA, finally. Earlier, USA made Ban Ki-moon the UN Secretary General. Opposition to Syria’s election – and Iran’s before its withdrawal – is led by the US, which wants the seat to go to its close ally Afghanistan.

Iran and Syria have announced that they have formed a mutual self-defense pact to confront “threats” now facing them. Tension increased after former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who had called for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from the country, was killed in a bomb attack in Beirut on 14 February. Iran is under pressure from the US over its nuclear program, while Syria has come back into sharp focus after the apparent assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. USA and many in the West accuse Syria of involvement in the attack, a charge Damascus denies.

What is Syria’s involvement in Lebanon? The Syrian troop presence in Lebanon dates back to 1976, when it intervened in Lebanon’s civil war to protect the Christian minority against what looked like the imminent victory of radical Palestinians and pan-Arabists. Syria saw that as a threat to its stability.

Syria

US-Israel combine has indeed taken the Iranian whistle quite uncomfortably and of late does not even give out any ultimatum to Iran scrapping its nuclear mission. The US has already imposed a number of sanctions against Syria as well. Last year, it banned US exports to Syria, apart from food and medicine. It also stopped Syrian aircraft from flying to and from the US and froze the assets of Syrians suspected of violating a law designed to “halt Syrian support for terrorism” passed in 2003.

USA has forced the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to probe Syria’s nuclear sites.  Syria has denied the allegations as “ridiculous and the government was “co-operating with the agency in full transparency. IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei said Syria’s co-operation had been “good”, but it needed to show “maximum co-operation” for the agency to draw any conclusions. A Syrian officer reported to have been in charge of facilitating the IAEA probe was killed in unexplained circumstances last summer, further delaying the proceedings.

The IAEA investigation follows US allegations that Damascus was close to completing a nuclear reactor at a secret location, which was bombed by Israel last year. The head of Syria’s nuclear program has said that the country’s military sites will remain off-limits to international nuclear inspectors. Damascus said it would co-operate with IAEA inquiry only if it did not threaten its national security. The watchdog is investigating claims of a secret Syrian nuclear program.

Israel destroyed a nuclear reactor site in an air strike in 2007. Syria denies any nuclear proliferation or hiding any activities from the watchdog. The International Atomic Energy Agency has been investigating Syria over US intelligence allegations that it was building a secret, plutonium-producing reactor. Preliminary inspections by an IAEA team have shown no evidence of the US allegations.

Syria is the power the USA sees behind the scenes in neighboring Lebanon and has some 15,000 troops stationed in the country. The US, supported by the UN Security Council, has for years demanded that those troops be withdrawn. Last year, the Security Council passed resolution 1559, which called for their withdrawal, and concern has been building in Washington over what it sees as Damascus’s foot-dragging in response to the resolution.

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has said recently it would be a catastrophe if a peaceful solution could not be found to the Iranian nuclear row. Assad was speaking after a meeting in Damascus with French President Nicolas Sarkozy aimed at improving bilateral ties. The leaders also held discussions on Syria’s relations with Israel.

In the 1980s, there was much animosity between the two rival Baathist leaders, President Hafez al-Assad and Saddam Hussein of Iraq. The US, while not blaming Syria directly for the assassination of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has recalled its ambassador for consultations. This is a common way of displaying diplomatic displeasure. Syria was the only Arab country to support Tehran during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. Syria and Iran also both provide support for Hezbollah.

France and Syria

At the beginning of February, President Bush showed support for the negotiations in his State of the Union speech. He also indicated that he would be working for regime change in Iran but not by force. On the other hand, Britain, France and Germany have been leading the international effort to negotiate with Iran.

Of late France has taken interest in resolving the crises in the region, on Palestine, Syria and Lebanon. French President Sarkozy’s two-day visit to Syria – which was formerly ruled by France under a mandate of the League of Nations – is the first by a Western head of state in five years. He hosted Assad in July and he appears determined to bring Syria, a long-time foe of the US and Israel, back into the international fold. Relations between Paris and Damascus had plummeted after the murder of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri in 2005. Syria’s critics accuse Damascus of being behind the assassination.

During the Paris summit, Syria and Lebanon, an important ally of France, agreed to open embassies in each other’s capitals for the first time since the 1940s. In a joint news conference with Sarkozy, Syrian President Assad said that any attack on Iran over its nuclear program would be a catastrophe. He said it was clear there was no trust between Iran and other countries but that Syria would continue to work towards a solution through conversations with both Iran and France. In a newspaper interview earlier, Sarkozy said that Syria could “provide an irreplaceable contribution to solving Middle East issues and it is important that Syria plays a positive role in the region, adding that peace in the Middle East “passes through” Syria and France.

Sarkozy has offered French support for direct peace talks between Israel and Lebanon, when the time was right. Assad said his country was “in the process of building foundations for the peace talks” and would need help from the US and others for direct negotiations to take place. Both parties have talked about a new era in relations but that Sarkozy will be under pressure from his Western allies to show that engagement with Syria can work. And Syria must decide how flexible they can be on the key contentious issues.

The two presidents will be joined by top officials from Turkey and Qatar for talks on Lebanon and Syria’s indirect peace talks with Israel. Ankara has been mediating for several months in the Israeli-Syrian talks, while Qatar brokered a deal in May to resolve Lebanon’s prolonged political crisis.

Meanwhile, Israeli officials have warned that Europe should be “very careful in its relationship with Syria “. Tel Aviv is unhappy over any better understanding among the West and Islamic world. “Except for a slight change in tone, Syrian policies have not changed,” said foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor, criticizing Syria’s connections with the Palestinian movement Hamas and the Lebanese Shia’s “militant” group Hezbollah. On the strength of US support and armament, Israel wants to dictate its own term to Palestinians, Lebanese and other Arabs.

US game of Sunni vs. Shia

USA has been capitalizing the divide between Sunni and Shia. Western experts say the leaders of several Sunni countries in the region are worried about the rising influence of Shiite Iran. The two nations kept their wary relations until the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 made them both nervous. Syria, feeling particularly vulnerable, pushed for a mutual defense pact with Iran that included parts of Lebanon, then under Syrian control.

USA is also keen to split the support from Islamic world for Iran. As if to appease Tehran, Washington has recently given rare approval for a research body to open an office in Iran, although it stressed United States policy had not changed. The American Iranian Council was given a license to establish a presence in Tehran by the US Treasury Department. The US state department, which guides the policy for issuing non-governmental organization (NGO) licenses to places under US sanctions, like Iran, Sudan and Cuba, said the move did not signal any change in policy. Iran also did not see any positive thinking in Washington, either.

Dr Abdul Ruff Colachal has been a university teacher, and has worked in various Indian institutions like JNU, Mysore University, Central Institute of English FL, etc. He is also a political commentator, researcher, and columnist. He has widely published in India and abroad, and has written about state terrorism.


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