According to a number of sources, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is planning to bring his first reactor on line sometime in September 2008, which is just about in line with what the Israeli Mossad had estimated back in 2003 when the full extent of Iran’s secret nuclear program became known.
The Iranian announcement came on the heels of a surprise announcement by the government of Israel confirming it had entered into third-party peace talks with Syria’s Bashar Assad. The surprising confirmation on Wednesday was the first acknowledged contact between the two parties in eight years, which will be mediated by Turkey. Equally surprising was a statement from the United States saying it had no objection to the talks. Previously, the U.S. had rejected any peace overtures toward Syria as long as it was sponsoring Hezbollah and Hamas. In fact, President Bush seemed to have been blindsided by the news. According to transcripts of an interview he granted to the Jerusalem Post, Bush responded to the news by stammering; “I expect an explanation, but I’m – he made a decision that he made – or no decisions have been made, except the idea of trying to get some dialogue moving, which is – and I know him well, and know that he is as concerned about Israeli security as any other person that’s ever been the prime minister of Israel. And so I presume the decision is made.”
Despite the White House’s official welcome of the news, privately, officials were furious. The New York Times quoted an “anonymous” (of course) “administration official” who called Israel’s unilateral move “a slap in the face.”
While Damascus and Jerusalem talk peace, Iranian-backed Hezbollah consolidated the gains it made in fighting against government forces in the streets of Beirut and elsewhere.
After six days of mediation between Hezbollah and the Lebanese government, Hezbollah emerged a clear winner in a settlement agreement in which Hezbollah was granted veto rights over the government, affirming its stature as “the preponderant military actor and the super political power in Lebanon,” according to political scientist Hilal Khashan of the American University of Beirut. Khashan told the AFP that “it was an excellent deal for the Hezbollah-led opposition and a major defeat for the U.S.-backed government.”
The deal was brokered by the Qatari government. The Arab League played a major part in securing the deal, with both Syria and Iran declaring their support for Hezbollah’s victory. Under the arrangement, Parliament will elect as president the current head of the Lebanese Army, Gen. Michel Suleiman. Gen. Suleiman will then appoint a new government – one in which Hezbollah holds enough seats to veto any decisions it doesn’t like – such as disarming Hezbollah.
Meanwhile, Israeli military sources say that Iran is continuing to ship weapons and ammunition, via Hezbollah, to the Hamas-occupied Gaza Strip, including rockets, missiles and rocket launchers. According to the Mossad, these shipments have been stepped up in recent months, reaching a peak in March-April. Using fishing boats, Iran has successfully smuggled Iranian-made 120 mm mortars with a range of up to six miles. The Mossad says that the smuggling operation is overseen by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard using Syrian ports and Hezbollah operatives.
Meanwhile, back in Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is fighting desperately to keep his job while he is under investigation by police on charges of obtaining money by fraud, breach of trust, money laundering and tax offenses, according to Haartez. And fears are rampant within Israeli circles that Olmert may be considering trading the Golan Heights in exchange for a peace deal he can trumpet to deflect attention away from his legal problems.
If one sits down and connects the dots, one ends up with a very different picture than the one being presented by the mainstream media suggesting the Syrian-Israeli talks are representative of a major breakthrough.
It is worth remembering that it was the Persians who invented chess, and Ahmadinejad seems to be controlling all the pieces. In the first place, Ahmadinejad knows that Israel will attack its reactor the moment that they take it on line. He’s been arming and training Hamas to serve as its proxy in the event of war, to harass the IDF on its flanks. To the north in Lebanon, Ahmadinejad has succeeded in rearming and re-equipping Hezbollah since the Lebanon War in 2006. The Mossad estimates Hezbollah is stronger now than it was before Israel invaded. Hezbollah has succeeded, for all intents and purposes, in taking over the Lebanese government.
Hamas controls all of the Gaza Strip. Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority barely has a handle on the West Bank – and in any event, would turn on Israel the second the opportunity presented itself.
Syria’s insistence on the return of the Golan Heights as a precondition for peace is a Trojan Horse – particularly considering the timing. It was only last September that Israel destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor that was only weeks from being operational. Syria has built one of the most formidable arsenals of missiles and rockets in the region, all of them aimed at Israel. From the Golan Heights, Syria would control much of northern Israel, as it did prior to losing the Golan to Israel in the Six Days War.
Israel is therefore surrounded with Hezbollah and Syria to the north, Hamas on both flanks, with al-Qaida sympathizers flooding in through Egypt and Jordan. Everything is in place for war except the pretext to start things off.
Starting up a nuclear reactor will do nicely.
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