February 25, 2010

Israel, the U.S. and the Arab World

Ahmadinejad Craves Zionist-Free Middle East

Associated Press and Jerusalem Post
February 25, 2010

The United States should pack up and leave the Middle East and stay out of regional affairs, Iran's president said Thursday during a visit to Damascus that follows a string of US efforts to break up Syria's 30-year alliance with Teheran.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Arab nations will usher in a new Middle East "without Zionists and without colonialists."
"[The Americans] want to dominate the region but they feel Iran and Syria are preventing that," Ahmadinejad said during a news conference with Syrian President Bashar Assad. "We tell them that instead of interfering in the region's affairs, to pack their things and leave."
He said that "if the Zionist regime wants to repeat its past mistakes, this will constitute its demise and annihilation."

Ahmadinejad said Iran, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon will stand against Israel.

Assad signaled his strong support for Iran, saying America's stance on Iran "is a new situation of colonialism in the region."

A string of high-profile visits to Damascus in recent months — from the US, France, and now Iran — shows Syria's strategic importance in the Middle East.

US President Barack Obama is determined to engage with Syria, a country seen as key to peace in the region but which the State Department has long considered a state sponsor of terrorism.

Ahmadinejad's trip comes amid rising US tension with Teheran over the country's nuclear program. The US and others believe Iran is hiding nuclear weapons development under the guise of a civilian energy program. Iran insists that its intentions are peaceful.

Still, Assad could be open to a breakthrough with the Americans. He is hoping for US help in boosting a weak economy and for American mediation in direct peace talks with Israel — a recognition that he needs American involvement to achieve his top goal of the Golan Heights.

But Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday that the recent decision to send the first US ambassador to Syria in five years does not mean US concerns about the country have been addressed.

Speaking to lawmakers, Clinton said the nomination of career diplomat Robert Ford is a sign of a "slight opening" with Syria. But she said Washington remains troubled by suspected Syrian support for terror groups in Iraq and elsewhere, interference in Lebanon and Syria's close relationship with Iran.

Former President George W. Bush withdrew the last US ambassador to Syria in 2005 to protest its actions in Lebanon after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which his supporters blamed on Syria.

Washington also has retained its sanctions on Damascus. The sanctions were first imposed by Bush and renewed by Obama in May.

Arab Islamist and Terror Chiefs Called to Tehran for Anti-Israel War Planning

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report
February 25, 2010

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has summoned all the terrorist groups Tehran sponsors -- Islamist and radical Palestinian -- for a broad gathering Saturday, Feb. 27, to finalize their roles in military operations against Israel in the event of a Middle East conflagration. This is reported by debkafile's Iranian and intelligence sources.

It will be the sequel to the preliminary discussions Ahmadinejad held with Syrian president Bashar Assad and heads of the Lebanese Hizballah and Palestinian Hamas Thursday, Feb. 25, during a brief visit to Damascus.

The guests of honor at the Tehran parley will be Hamas leader politburo chief Khaled Meshaal and Hizballah deputy leader Naim Kassem.

The Lebanese Shiite group's secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah will not be there because he never leaves his Beirut bunker for fear Israeli assassins will catch up with him, especially since the high-profile Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was killed mysteriously in Dubai last month.

And Nasrallah is not alone; some of his fellow terror chiefs hesitate to show their faces outside their strongholds -- even in friendly Tehran -- since the Dubai police disclosed that three of the suspects in the Mabhouh killing, carriers of Australian passports, departed Dubai for Iran. They were said to have travelled by sea ferry to Bandar Abbas, central headquarters of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, before flying out of Tehran international airport to unknown Far East destinations.

The Arab terrorist chiefs infer that even the Iranian capital and Revolutionary Guards headquarters are no longer secure against penetration by the Hamas commander's assassins.

The Iranians have therefore decided that their official statement on the conference, due to end Monday, March 1, will name only a few of the participants; the presence of many other key figures will be kept secret

According to debkafile’s Iranian sources, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, assisted by a large team of aides, will lead the proceedings and steer them toward conclusions and decisions in line with Iran’s regional goals. The conference, called to pull together Iran and its allies' preparations for war with Israel, will be presented officially as an effort to reconcile the feuding Palestinian factions.

Few will find this believable, especially when Hamas attends the conference on its own, except for several radical Palestinian splinter groups, and representatives of the rival Fatah and Palestinian Authority were not invited.

Presidential bureau personnel have performed most of the staff work on planning and the roles assigned the various organizations in any conflict with Israeli and/or Israeli forces. Senior members of the Revolutionary Guards and other sections of Iran's armed forces will be recruited to chair discussion panels and subcommittees aided by specialists in guerrilla and terror warfare.

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