Kofi Annan faults West for breakdown in Syria mediation efforts

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Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan on Thursday faulted western countries’ insistence on seeking a UN Security Council Chapter 7 resolution opposed by Russia and China in part for the breakdown of Syria mediation efforts he pursued as joint UN/Arab League Syria envoy earlier this year.

Annan, speaking at the Brookings Institution in Washington Thursday, said he was able to broker agreement among the major powers on a six-step Syria transition plan, at a meeting in Geneva in June attended by both US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

But immediately after the meeting, the US and European nations went to the UN Security Council to try to get a Chapter 7 resolution that Russia had made clear it opposed because such a resolution had been used to authorize NATO military intervention in Libya. Russia and China vetoed the measure, Annan quit a month later, and the Syria conflict has grown more militarized even as in recent weeks it has seemed to settle into a stalemate.

The Syrian conflict is “not winner take all,” Annan said. “Neither side [is going to] give up, unless presented with a [political] alternative.”

Military intervention is not the answer in every situation, Annan said, adding that in the case of Syria, he believes it would make things worse.

Syria will not implode, Annan said, it will explode, spreading instability and sectarian strife across the region, as increasingly witnessed. An estimated 30,000 Syrians have been killed in the 19 month conflict, that has sent large and potentially destabilizing refugee flows into Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and beyond.

“Some governments made the calculation that the fastest way to end the Syria conflict is to arm one side or other,” Annan said, warning, “that is only going to get more people killed.”

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Netanyahu lashes out at US: No “moral right to place red light” on Israel


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unleashed a stunning tirade against the United States and European allies Tuesday, lambasting “world” leaders for not publicly setting “red lines” or “deadlines” on  Iran, while urging Israeli restraint on military action.

“The world tells Israel: ‘Wait, there’s still time,'” Netanyahu said at a press conference Tuesday, the New York Times reported. “‘And I say, ‘Wait for what? Wait until when?’”

“Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel,” he continued.

“Netanyahu is going berserk,” a former Israeli official told Al-Monitor Tuesday. “By asking for red lines publicly, dialoguing with Obama through the media,” and by doing it on the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The Israeli leader’s latest broadside against the United States appeared to be set off by comments made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sunday, that the United States is “not setting deadlines” on Iran diplomacy.

“We are not setting deadlines,” Clinton said in an interview with Bloomberg News Sunday. “We have always said every option was on the table, but we believe …the diplomatic effort …but also pressure …[are] by far, the best approach to take at this time.”

The comment appeared to infuriate Netanyahu, who spoke in English as he lambasted international calls for Israeli restraint at a press conference with visiting Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov Tuesday. His tirade also followed the urging of restraint and vows of international resolve by a parade of European foreign ministers to Israel in recent weeks.

“Now if Iran knows that there is no red line, if Iran knows that there is no deadline, what will it do?” Netanyahu said.

But former Israeli Defense Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dan Halutz, speaking Tuesday in Washington, said that it would be a mistake to publicly spell out “red lines” on Iran–as Israeli political leaders are imploring the White House to do.

“Red lines are red the moment one is drawing them,” Halutz said at the Brookings Institution Saban Center for Middle East Studies Tuesday. “But at the time to take a decision, the color is not red. The situation is changing all the time. We live in a very dynamic world….You cannot stick to the decision to act accordingly later.” Continue reading

Iran envoy blames Israel for Bulgaria bus bombing


Iran’s UN envoy denied on Wednesday that Iran had any role in the July 18th Bulgaria bus bombing that killed five Israeli tourists, and charged Israel with plotting the attack. His comments came as Obama’s top counterterrorism advisor was in Israel to discuss the bombing probe, and as the chairman of the House intelligence panel said he believed Hezbollah carried out the attack under the direction of Iran.

“I believe there were certainly elements of Hezbollah [involved] and I believe it was under the direction of their masters in Iran,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Michigan) told The Hill newspaper Wednesday.

“I think the president needs to call Iran on the carpet very publicly and tell them what we know,” Rogers added. “This is his time to stand up and do something bold.”

Iran’s UN envoy Mohammed Khazaee said Iran condemned the Bulgaria bus bombing but then suggested it was part of an Israeli plot to blame Iran.

“The representative of the Zionist criminal regime leveled baseless allegations against my country on the issue of recent terrorist attack in Bulgaria and Iran’s peaceful nature of nuclear activities,” Amb. Mohammad Khazaee said at a UN meeting on the Middle East Wednesday, according to a statement sent to Al Monitor by the Iranian mission to the UN.

“Such terrorist operation could only be planned and carried out by the same regime whose short history is full of state terrorism operations and assassinations aimed at implicating others for narrow political gains.”

Israel’s deputy UN ambassador Haim Waxman said the comments are “appalling, but not surprising” coming “from the same government that says the 9/11 attack was a conspiracy theory,” UN correspondent Colum Lynch reported.

A spokeswoman for US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said the office had no immediate comment. “Our position on the Bulgaria attack has been well documented so far I think,” Erin Pelton, a spokeswoman for Rice, said by email.

Obama’s top counterterrorism advisor John Brennan met with Israeli officials in Jerusalem Wednesday to discuss the Bulgaria bus bombing probe. Earlier in the week he  traveled to Bulgaria for briefings on the investigation. While he deferred to Bulgarian authorities to announce any findings to date, he did add that “there are clear indications that Hezbollah and Iran have been involved in terrorist plotting against innocents in many parts of the world,” he said at a news conference with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov July 24, the New York Times reported.

Analysts said Iran’s use of terrorism had become more aggressive over the past year. Continue reading