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Tuesday, January 6

The Hanukkah War: Day 10 in the Diplo and Battle Spheres and the cold reality of Iran's nuke weapon program underlying them both

Reuters Headline: Sarkozy says may be close to deal on Gaza
Reuters Fine Print: Sarkozy says small hope for a deal

In war we take our grim chuckles where we find them, so I'll start with the following unintentionally ironic report; filed at 10:35 AM Eastern Time, it suggests that Sarko the World Savior is temporarily stymied in his quest to bring peace to the Middle East.
TIRI, Lebanon, Jan 6 (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Tuesday a deal to end the Israeli offensive in Gaza was "not far".

"I'm convinced that there are solutions. We are not far from that. What is needed is simply for one of the players to start for things to go in the right direction," he told reporters during a visit to French U.N. peacekeepers in south Lebanon.

Sarkozy said he was returning to Sharm el-Sheikh to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak because there was "small hope" of such a deal.
Let us hope that the hope remains small. With the vise tightening on Hamas, the Israelis would be nuts to call even a temporary halt in the Gaza Battle Sphere. And John Batchelor's Rafak report on the weather in the Diplo Sphere is more realistic about deal-making:
The Arab League is not united about protecting Hamas, and therefore it has not put uniform pressure on the UN. What we may see here is the Saudi regime blocking the Arab League in order to let Iran's puppet Hamas die.

Tehran is without options as it cannot reinforce Hamas though the sealed Sinai border. The longer the UN does not move, the more I am persuaded that the Saudis mean to make an example of Hamas to show their post-Bush, post Iraq strength against Tehran.
That the Saudis now have great incentive to quietly back Israel against Iran is tragically underscored by Caroline Glick's observations for the Jerusalem Post in her January 5 editorial, Iran's Gazan Diversion? (H/T Center for Security Policy).

Leaving aside their usual official condemnations of Israel, Tehran has been curiously out to lunch on the matter of the Israel's war on Hamas. This has created a flurry of speculations about the reason for such a strange state of affairs, which Glick duly notes. However, she ends with this most chilling of speculations:
Alas, there is another possible explanation for Iran's apparent decision to abandon a vassal it incited to open a war [against Israel]. On Sunday, Iranian analyst Amir Taheri reported the conclusions of a bipartisan French parliamentary report on the status of Iran's nuclear program in Asharq Alawsat.

The report, which was submitted to French President Nicolas Sarkozy late last month concluded that unless something changes, Iran will have passed the nuclear threshold by the end of 2009 and will become a nuclear power no later than 2011. The report is notable because it is based entirely on open-sourced material whose accuracy has been acknowledged by the Iranian regime.

The report asserts that this year will be the world's final opportunity to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. And, as Taheri hints strongly, the only way of doing that effectively is by attacking Iran's nuclear installations.

In light of this new report, which contradicts earlier US intelligence assessments that claimed it would be years before Iran is able to build nuclear weapons, it is possible that Iran ordered the current war in Gaza for the same reason it launched its war in 2006: to divert international attention away from its nuclear program.

It is possible that Iran prefers to run down US President George W. Bush's last two weeks in office with the White House and the rest of the world focused on Gaza, than risk the chance that during these two weeks, the White House (or Israel) might read the French parliament's report and decide to do something about it.

So too, its apparent decision not to have Hizbullah join in this round of fighting might have more to do with Iran's desire to preserve its Lebanese delivery systems for any nuclear devices than its desire to save pennies in a tight economy.

And if this is the case, then even if Israel beats Hamas (and I eat my hat), we could still lose the larger war by again having allowed Iran to get us to take our eyes away from the prize.
I do not share Glick's pessimistic view of Israel's chance for victory in Gaza. If her speculation about Iran is correct, an Israeli victory in Gaza would be a hollow one. But no matter his reasons if the enemy is prepared to sacrifice a useful idiot, accept the gift.

However, the French parliamentary report may explain why Sarko has been running around the Middle East like a chicken with its head cut off.

I am haunted by a conversation that Malcolm Hoenlein had a year or so ago on the radio with John Batchelor about Iran's threat to the EU3 if they didn't halt their attempts to brake Iran's nuclear weapons program.

Malcolm recounted that Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, "Europe, we can set you on fire. Remember Paris?"

I well remember the fires in the 2005 Paris riots and so does all of the European Union. That is more reason to be thankful that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has continued to hang tough in her defense of Israel's invasion of Gaza. She is doing so at grave risk to her political career.

With the stark prognosis of the French parliamentary report before her, perhaps Merkel decided that she has no choice but to stand resolutely by Israel on the matter of Gaza. If so, that would be an acknowledgement that Israel should not be required do all the heavy lifting with regard to Iran's nuclear threat.

(As to where the parliamentary report leaves the famous equivocations in the 2007 NIE summary of Iran's nuclear threat: in history's trash can. Beyond that, what can I say about the 2007 NIE summary that I haven't already said?)

And what of the stand of the third member of the EU3 with regard to Gaza? Today Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown has expressed great concern about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and proposes an immediate ceasefire but with these caveats:
"... an immediate ceasefire, which means of course no rocket attacks into Gaza as well as no Israeli troops in Gaza. It also means an end to the tunnels and the arms trafficking. And it also means something else that is necessary to complete that: the opening up of the borders under international supervision."

Asked what form the international supervision should take, the Prime Minister replied: "We will need international engagement. It is not possible to see a solution to this without some kind of international engagement that will protect the security of the Israeli people and will create the viability for open borders to be given to the Palestinian area in Gaza."
Gaza is honeycombed with hundreds of tunnels, many of them opening into the living quarters of Palestinians. To actually shut down the tunnels would mean room-by-room search and destroy missions. So when his words are stripped of Diplo Speak I venture that Gordo is saying in a pig's eye do I support an immediate ceasefire.

As to international supervision, I hope that he's not referring to the kind of international supervision found at Lebanon's borders. From Glick's Gazan editorial:
In 2006, [Israel's government] supported a ceasefire that empowered outside actors -- in that case the UN and Europe -- to enforce an arms embargo against Hizbullah and to act as Israel's surrogate in preventing Hizbullah from reasserting control over South Lebanon.

In the event, as government critics like myself warned at the time, these outside actors have done nothing of the sort. The European commanded UNIFIL force in Lebanon has instead acted as a shield defending Hizbullah from Israel. Under UNIFIL's blind eye, Iran and Syria have tripled the size of Hizbullah's pre-war missile arsenal. And Hizbullah has taken full control over some 130 villages along the border.
But let us end with a look at the Battle Sphere. From Batchelor's Rafak piece, filed January 5 at 9:47 PM:
Southern Gaza is the battlefield

[...] The IDF has divided the Strip into three segments. The most critical area is from Khan Yuonis to Rafak ... . Much of it is rolling sand dunes that rise from the beach to a flat sweeping sandy field to the wire. What happens in the Khan Younis to Rafak corridor will determine the fate of the Hamas gang.

When the IDF moves in to secure Rafak it is the coup de grace. Rafak is a miniature Fallujah; heaps of poured concrete houses pushed close together in a naked landscape of sand and ruins. House to house, like Fallujah. The IDF taught the Americans how to conduct urban warfare against hired, drugged-up, trapped and suicidal jihadis. Now it is the teacher's turn.
I see that Sarko has not let the ground grow under his feet in Egypt:
SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (Reuters - 8:56 PM GMT) - Egypt said on Tuesday it was proposing an immediate ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza, to be followed by talks on long-term arrangements including an end to the blockade of Gaza.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak presented the proposal in a brief statement after talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. [...]
The Reuters report has details of the plan, such as they are.
Here's John Batchelor's latest post, Trapped and Abandoned, published at 2:28 PM today but just now making the rounds. Can Hamas pull a rabbit out of the hat? Not likely when they're the rabbit.
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