A New Deal In West Asia? – Praful didwai

Swiss radiation experts have confirmed the worst suspicion of independent observers of West Asia – that the death of Palestine Liberation Organisation leader Yasser Arafat in 2004 in France was not natural. Doctors were unable to specify the cause of Arafat’s death, which occurred barely a fortnight after he vomited during a meeting and then lapsed into a deepening coma. No autopsy was conducted then.
However, after analysing 75 samples from Arafat’s recently exhumed belongings, the experts have concluded that he was poisoned with polonium-210, a powerful radioactive isotope – the ‘smoking gun’! After the experts’ report, it’s clear that Arafat’s killing is a far greater scandal that the 2006 assassination of former Russian spy and government critic Alexander Litvinenko, which caused an uproar and led to several investigations.
Arafat’s killing too should occasion investigation under UN auspices to establish who fired the ‘smoking gun’ so that the culprits can be punished. Arafat was effectively in Israeli custody. The compound housing the Palestine Authority was for years surrounded by Israeli troops, who controlled entry and exit, and regulated the movement of goods, etc.
Israel must be made to come clean on the assassination. It’s to be seen whether its protectors in the west, who claim a commitment to truthfulness, fair play, and responsibility to punish crimes, bring Israel to book. They have so far comprehensively failed, and encouraged Israel to behave like a rogue state.
Israel has a shameful record of using biological and chemical weapons against non-combatant civilians. In 1948, Zionist gangs working under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion, who became Israel’s first prime minister, adopted a policy of genocide towards Palestine’s original inhabitants to evict them to occupy their land.
The International Committee of the Red Cross says these gangs besieged the well-fortified Palestinian city of Acre, and poisoned its water supply with typhoid bacteria. Zionists also engineered cholera outbreaks in Egypt and Syria.
According to Avner Cohen, an authority on Israel’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, Israel’s use of them derives from Ben-Gurion’s doctrine: “the destruction of the Palestinian society in Palestine is a necessary condition for the establishment of the state of Israel… If Palestinians cannot be removed by massacres and expulsion, they shall be removed by extermination.”
Israel has repeatedly used poison gas against Palestinians. It tried to poison Hamas leader Khaled Mashal in 2001. A 2003 BBC documentary ‘Israel’s Secret Weapon’ records these nefarious activities.
The use of such weaponry against civilians is punishable under international law and the Chemical Weapons Convention. The Israeli state must be brought to justice: in the past, it blithely ignored an International Court of Justice judgement declaring illegal the Apartheid Wall it’s constructing to blockade, divide and strangulate the Palestinians and their land.
We need a powerful international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign to mount public pressure on Israel – as in the South African apartheid regime’s case – to stop behaving like a bandit and persist with its illegal occupation of Palestine and countless crimes against its people. Yet, the same state adopts a holier-than-thou attitude to oppose a settlement of the crisis over Iran’s nuclear programme through talks with P-5+1 (the Security Council permanent-five plus Germany), which France recently scuppered.
France, Israel and Saudi Arabia form a troika that stridently opposes a reasonable agreement with Iran which leads to its recognition as a normal and responsible state in return for accepting restraints on nuclear activities.
Saudi Arabia is so strongly opposed to reconciliation with Iran that it rejected a temporary Security Council seat. Israel hates Iran for arming Syria and the Hezbollah, the sole military force that has fought Israel to a standstill. France is keen to exploit Saudi disaffection by selling arms to it and containing growing Iranian regional influence.
Israel ludicrously demands that sanctions against Iran must not be lifted unless Tehran abandons uranium enrichment altogether – and dismantles its 19,000 centrifuges, which have produced an estimated 6,800 kg of 3.5 percent enriched uranium, and 186 kg of uranium enriched to 20 percent, which can be upgraded to the 90 percent-plus-enriched material needed for a Hiroshima-type bomb.
Iran is also building a heavy water reactor at Arak, which is an efficient producer of plutonium, usable in Nagasaki-type bombs. Israel wants Iran to be prevented from completing the reactor – if necessary by militarily attacking it, as it has been urging the US to do, and threatened to do unilaterally.
Israel’s opposition would have sounded less hypocritical had it not itself had a full-fledged nuclear weapons programme, with a stockpile of 200-plus warheads, probably twice bigger than India’s or Pakistan’s. Iran has the legal right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes.
Iran’s nuclear activities can be closely monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency, especially if Iran agrees to sign its Additional Protocol which mandates strict inspections to ensure that no material is diverted from peaceful to military uses.
Even after the P-5+1 talks failed, Iran has displayed moderation. It hasn’t resumed 20 percent enrichment, and slowed down its nuclear activities – for the first time in years, according to IAEA inspectors – and installed very few advanced centrifuges since President Hassan Rouhani took office in June. Iran has also signed just an agreement with the IAEA to allow its inspectors to visit Arak.
An agreement that freezes 20 percent enrichment and converts the existing material into plates that cannot be used to make a weapon, and further transparency in nuclear activities, in return for a graded lifting of the sanctions that are hurting it economically, seems do-able.
A precondition is that President Barack Obama doesn’t cave in to the naysayers, contains the Zionist lobby in Washington, and works for a thaw with Iran by continuing the conversation begun in October with Rouhani.
Obama’s welcome recent call for “patience” in dealing with Iran is a sign that Washington is showing some recognition of the changed ground realities in West Asia-North Africa, in which Iran has emerged as a major strategic player which provides a useful counterweight to Saudi and Qatari influence, while acting as a positive force in Iraq.
No less important is Iran’s potential contribution to stabilising the situation in Afghanistan after the US and its allies withdraw from there next year. Iran, with India and Russia, has been a major influence in the Northern Alliance, which cooperated with the US in driving Al-Qaeda out after September 2001.
Normalisation of US-Iran relations augurs well for the Middle East. It will strengthen the moderates in Iran and make way for more internal democracy and freedom. The moderates can breathe easy because a ‘regime change’ in Iran, Obama has made clear, isn’t on the US agenda. Western acceptance of Iran as a normal state will also exercise a healthy influence on Saudi Arabia. Already, some Saudi commentators are urging that “reconciliation with Iran is in the interest of everyone…”
A new cooperative security structure in West Asia could hopefully – at least eventually – facilitate an agreement on Palestine, ending Israeli occupation. That’s still a long shot. But major changes do seem afoot in West Asia. They must be heartily welcomed.