US ready to fight Palestinian UN bid to bitter end

[Under this kind of pressure, it is extremely likely that Abbas will fold-up and cave-in to Israeli/US demands.  The only thing that can counter this kind of Imperial pressure is sufficient Saudi counter-pressure.  In the next two weeks we can expect to learn the truth about whether the Saudis are playing "good cop" to America's "bad cop," or if they are serious in the opposition that is personified by Prince Turki's threatening articles in the Western press (SEE:  Veto a State, Lose an Ally).]

US ready to fight Palestinian UN bid to bitter end

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a joint meeting of Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (AFP/Saul Loeb)

WASHINGTON: The United States has decided to fight to the bitter end to convince the Palestinians to abandon their bid for UN membership, despite the rather small chance that the battle will succeed.

“We want to leave no stone unturned in our effort to get these parties back to the table,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday as two US envoys headed to the Middle East for talks with Israel and the Palestinians.

David Hale, a special US envoy for the Middle East, and White House aide Dennis Ross are to hold talks on Wednesday and Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

Their previous trip, just last week, yielded no results.

For weeks, Washington has deployed its entire diplomatic arsenal to try to persuade the Palestinians not to submit a formal request to become the 194th member of the United Nations, in the face of US and Israeli opposition.

The United States has repeatedly said that only direct talks between the two sides can lead to genuine Palestinian statehood, and the UN bid — expected on September 20 — will only raise tensions.

This week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and former British leader Tony Blair, who has been the special envoy of the so-called Middle East Quartet — the United States, Russia, United Nations and the EU — since 2007.

Clinton is due to speak with Abbas again before week’s end.

“The only way of getting a lasting solution is through direct negotiations between the parties, and the route to that lies in Jerusalem and Ramallah, not in New York,” she said Tuesday.

“We are redoubling our efforts, not only with both sides but with a broad cross-section of the international community, to create a sustainable platform for negotiations.”

Direct negotiations have been stalled for nearly a year. The Palestinians have vowed to not resume talks while Israel builds in annexed Arab east Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied West Bank.

The Palestinians have two options — if they present their bid in the UN Security Council, they will surely face a US veto.

If they go before the General Assembly, where they could ask to upgrade their representation from current observer status to non-member state, they have a very good chance of success, as Washington has one vote and no veto.

US President Barack Obama on Monday called the Palestinian bid for UN recognition a “distraction” and said it would not result in viable statehood.

“What happens in New York City can occupy a lot of press attention but is not going to change, actually, what is happening on the ground until the Israelis and Palestinians sit down,” he told reporters.

Washington and its European allies have worked all summer on a Quartet initiative that could break the impasse.

Nathan Brown, a Middle East expert at George Washington University, told AFP he is skeptical about any deal that could be reached.

“My sense of Palestinian politics is that any concessions or guarantees related to negotiations are not likely to be regarded as having much value, since serious negotiations of any sort seem very remote right now,” he said.

Aaron David Miller, a veteran US Middle East peace negotiator, said it is unclear what the United States is aiming for.

“If the objective is to create a formula for direct negotiations and nothing new has changed… in terms of what the parties would accept, I think it would be easier, frankly, to put up with the UN resolution, because I think that’s an easier choice than resuming negotiations that fail,” Miller told AFP.

“We may simply want to be perceived as going the extra mile, to do everything possible, to demonstrate that we understand how important this is and we want to try, no stone unturned, to make it come out ok.”

Miller offered two possible explanations for why Hale and Ross, and not Clinton herself, have been dispatched to the region.

He suggested that either the United States sees the Palestinian bid as a foregone conclusion and wants to maintain Clinton’s credibility, or it has sent the pair to launch “phase one” of a last-minute diplomatic offensive.

In the latter case, Clinton would be sent in for “phase two,” Miller said.

US Racketeers To Embarass PM Gilani Over His Iranian Gas Pipe Dream

[No matter how much hot air Gilani blows over joint Pak/Iranian projects, he knows that his American masters will never allow them to go forward.  Every time that he blows this horn, he is asking for another Imperial slap-down.  Pakistan is, and probably always shall be, an Imperial slave state.]

US likely to persuade Pakistan to abandon Iran gas pipeline project

ISLAMABAD: The US is likely to persuade Pakistan to abandon the multi-billion dollar Iran gas pipeline project when senior officials from the two sides open talks today in Islamabad to discuss energy cooperation.

The two-day discussion on energy cooperation under the banner of Pak-US strategic dialogue come in the backdrop of recent high-level exchanges between Islamabad and Tehran in which the two neighbours vowed to expedite gas pipeline project.

US Special Envoy for International Energy Affairs Carlos Pascual, who arrived here on Tuesday, will lead the American delegation while Pakistan would be represented by Water and Power Minister Naveed Qamar.

The talks are expected to be tense after Pakistan, despite US objections, renewed this week its commitment to the Iran gas pipeline project.

Washington has long been pushing Islamabad to stay away from the project warning that the economic sanctions on Iran could affect the pipeline.

In recent months, Pakistan has reached out to its neighbours including Iran and China in an effort to offset the possible fallout of its strained ties with the US.

Last week, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told the visiting Iranian foreign minister that Pakistan has decided to reach out to its neighbouring countries such as Iran, Afghanistan, India, China, Russia and central Asian states to improve its relations in qualitative terms.

Despite PM Gilani’s remarks, the energy dialogue appears to suggest that Pakistan considers the US help key to meeting its future energy demands.

Ahead of the talks, US envoy Pascual along with other officials met Qamar to review cooperation between the two countries in the energy sector.

According to an official statement, Pascual told the minister that the US is keen to address the energy issues and to support the future water and power projects in Pakistan.

Some programmes are already underway through USAID and more will be discussed for financial and technical cooperation in the Pak-US Energy Dialogue, he added.

During the two-day discussions, the two sides will discuss the possibility of US financing the Diamer Basha Dam.

The US had already agreed to finance part of the project despite Indian objections, which considered northern areas as disputed territory where the proposed dam is being built.

The US move will allow other international financial institutions to finance the mega project.

Naveed Qamar told the US envoy that Pakistan is looking forward to future projects and “the energy dialogue will help both countries to enhance their cooperation keeping in view the future electricity requirements”.

Published in The Express Tribune