ABBAS REJECTS KERRY’S SECURITY PLAN – while US ex-CIA chief says Assad victory could be the best outcome to Syria war

Syrians in London picket the Saudi embassy
Syrians in London picket the Saudi embassy

PRESIDENT Mahmud Abbas has rejected US proposals for Israel to keep troops in a future Palestinian state along its border with Jordan, a Palestinian source said on Friday.

Following a meeting on Thursday evening with US Secretary of State John Kerry in the West Bank city of Ramallah, ‘President Abbas has rejected the ideas presented by the secretary of state’, a Palestinian official said.

Abbas also gave Kerry a letter on ‘Palestinian red lines,’ the source added, singling out ‘the refusal to recognise Israel as a Jewish state.’

Abbas ‘rejected the ideas on security because there is not a third party.’

This refers to a plan by former US national security adviser James Jones under which a third party would deploy along the Palestinian-Jordanian border.

The Palestinian official said that ‘all disputed issues must be settled.’

Israeli and Arab media reports say the plan envisaged by Washington would see Israel maintain a military presence on the border after a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

An international force would be acceptable to the Palestinians, but Israel opposes such a solution.

Abbas’ comments were made public as Kerry met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem in his latest attempt at promoting an elusive Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

In early December, Israel’s deputy defence minister ruled out any compromise on security in the Jordan Valley.

‘From the Israeli point of view, there will not be any Palestinian presence at the crossing points,’ said Danny Danon, who is a radical member of Netanyahu’s rightwing Likud party.

‘An Israeli civilian and military presence in the Jordan Valley is essential.’

Over 94 per cent of the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea area is prohibited for Palestinian use, with the land either declared a closed military zone or reserved for illegal Israeli settlements.

The Jordan Valley forms over 30 per cent of the occupied West Bank.

l Ex-CIA chief Michael Hayden has warned that the dissolution of Syria could spread chaos in neighbouring countries, and trigger the dissolution of all of the artificial states created after World War I by the Sykes-Picot agreement.

The ‘sectarian bloodbath’ in Syria is such a threat to regional security that a victory for Bashar al-Assad’s regime could the best outcome to hope for, the former CIA chief said on Thursday.

Washington condemned Assad’s conduct of the conflict, and threatened air strikes after he was accused of targeting civilians with chemical weapons and has demanded he step down.

The United States is also supplying millions of dollars in ‘non-lethal’ aid to some of the rebel groups fighting Assad’s rule.

But Michael Hayden, the retired US Air Force general who until 2009 was head of the Central Intelligence Agency, said a rebel win was not one of the three possible outcomes he foresees for the conflict.

‘Option three is Assad wins,’ Hayden told the annual Jamestown Foundation conference of terror experts.

‘And I must tell you at the moment, as ugly as it sounds, I’m kind of trending toward option three as the best out of three very, very ugly possible outcomes,’ he said.

The first possible outcome he cited was for ongoing conflict between ever more extreme Sunni and Shiite factions.

The rebel groups are dominated by Sunni Muslims, while Assad is generally backed by Syria’s Alawite, Shiite and Christian minorities.

And the second outcome, which Hayden deemed the most likely, was the ‘dissolution of Syria’ and the end of a single state within the borders defined by a 1916 treaty between the French and British empires.

‘It means the end of the Sykes-Picot (Agreement), it sets in motion the dissolution of all the artificial states created after World War I,’ he said.

The British diplomat Mark Sykes and a French counterpart Francois Georges Picot divided the Middle East into zones of influence that later served as the frontiers of independent Arab states.

A breakdown in the century-old settlement could spread chaos in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, Hayden warned.

‘I greatly fear the dissolution of the state. A de facto dissolution of Sykes-Picot,’ Hayden said.

‘And now we have a new ungoverned space, at the crossroads of the civilization.

‘The dominant story going on in Syria is a Sunni fundamentalist takeover of a significant part of the Middle East geography, the explosion of the Syrian state and of the Levant as we know it.’

Fighting erupted in Syria in early 2011, and has since evolved into a full-blown civil war after NATO powers intervened supporting Islamist militias, So far the conflict has claimed an estimated 126,000 lives.

Assad, backed by Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia, is locked in combat with a diverse group of Sunni rebel factions which are increasingly dominated by hardline jihadist groups backed by the US and the UK.

• Iranian negotiators halted nuclear talks with major powers to return to Tehran for consultations on Thursday after Washington blacklisted a dozen companies and individuals for evading US sanctions, state media reported.

‘The Iranian negotiators interrupted the talks with the P5+1 for consultations in Tehran,’ a negotiator told Iran’s official IRNA news agency.

The negotiators had been discussing the implementation of a landmark interim accord agreed last month with the P5+1 – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany.

The decision to halt the talks in Vienna came hours after Washington blacklisted a dozen overseas companies and individuals for evading US sanctions on Iran.

The move prompted two top senators to bow to White House pleas not to introduce new sanctions in Congress.

But it risked angering Tehran after repeated warnings from Iranian officials in recent days that any additional punitive measures would be a violation of last month’s agreement.

Under the interim deal reached in Geneva, Iran agreed to freeze parts of its suspect nuclear programme for six months in return for some $7 billion in relief from Western sanctions as it negotiates a final, comprehensive accord to allay suspicions it is seeking a weapons capability.

The United States also agreed to refrain from slapping new sanctions on Iran, but senior administration officials argued that Thursday’s measures were taken as part of the existing sanctions regime which had forced Tehran to the negotiating table.