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June 29, 2006


Persian Whispers of Escalation in Meshaal’s Ears

By Steve Schippert | June 29, 2006

Escalation in the fighting in Gaza and the West Bank is looking imminent, as the new Hamas tactic of kidnapping and execution of Israeli civilians looks to trump the kidnapping of the IDF soldier over the weekend. The body of 18 year old Israeli citizen Eliahu Asheri has been found, reportedly burned, and the Popular Resistance Committees have claimed that he was executed for Israel’s failure to end the incursion. Aaron Klein reported from Israel that the body of a 62 year old man was also found. He had been missing since Friday. [TW Note: See update below.] Klein also noted that there were reports of many more kidnappings in the West Bank in what appears to be a clear tactic being employed by Hamas of abduction and execution, not unlike the tactics employed by al-Qaeda in Iraq. With this development, the Israeli incursion will no doubt no longer hinge solely on the fate of the captured IDF soldier.

Hamas' Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh blasted the United States for the incursion as he called on the UN to intervene, saying that the US had "given the green light to aggression." But the aggression has been primarily displayed by Hamas terrorists via Izzadin el-Kassam and Hamas’ various farm teams, including the Popular Resistance Committees, the Saladdin Brigade and the Army of Islam.

Even al-Jazeera noted that, regardless of the size of the Israeli incursion and the bombings and artillery barrages, no Palestinians have been hurt.

The “green light to aggression” was clearly given from Damascus, not Washington. For its sake, the US Secretary of State, Condolleezza Rice, criticized Israel for “not giving diplomacy a chance” to work. And if he is to be taken at face value, Hamas’ Gaza-based Prime Minister Haniyeh has found himself powerless as his calls for the Hamas-dominated PRC to release the captured Israeli soldier - and thereby end the incursion - have gone not only unheeded, but rebuffed. Simply put, at this point, Haniyeh has no effective or recognized authority over the Hamas operations, attacks, abductions and executions.

To understand who is calling the shots, one must first look to Damascus and Khalid Meshaal, Hamas’ ‘political’ leader who keeps Hamas headquarters operations in Damascus – along with Iran’s foreign policy arm, Hizballah - under the protective arm of Syria. But Meshaal does not and indeed cannot operate independently, especially when the effects include massive Israeli military response. Meshaal hears two birds chirping loudly in his ear, one chirping in the Arabic of his host and the other chirping in the Persian of the global terror masters.

It may be coincidence, but Iran has been relatively quiet in the past month, specifically Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose public comments are normally and regularly controversial and/or defiantly confrontational. If Iran is attempting to fly beneath the radar, one way of doing so is to have the collective radar redirected in another direction entirely. Iran has the influence and control to do precisely that through an Arab-Israeli escalation via Hamas & Hizballah proxies.

In late January, Recall that Ahmadinejad met with Hamas and Hizballah leadership in Damascus earlier this year, reportedly with Imad Fayez Mugniyah in tow. Much was made of this reported appearance by the notorious international operational leader of Hizballah.

Thomas Joscelyn noted and speculated that Iran wanted Mughniyah to be seen, sending a clear message. Wrote Joscelyn in January, "Why was Mughniyah at the terror summit? I would bet that the Iranians wanted us to see him there. They know that his presence indicated that terrorism was still their preferred foreign policy tool."

The terrorist arm connected to that preferred foreign policy tool is Hizballah, itself a creation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in 1980. The Iranian created, funded and guided Hizballah has been coordinating, arming and funding Palestinian terrorists, ever more increasingly since Hamas’ electoral victory gave Iran a new window of influence in both Gaza and the West Bank. Palestinian terrorists themselves have confirmed this. Zakariya Zubeidi, al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades’ Jenin leader said openly, "Without the help of our brothers in Hezbollah we could not have continued our struggle. They give us money and weapons. We coordinate our military operations.”

Can there be any doubt that the same cooperation and coordination exists between Hizballah and Hamas as well, in addition to Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, et al? And where there is Hizballah, there is Iran standing behind, beside and over them, guiding the beneficiaries of their bankroll. Even to the skeptical must recognize the significance of Ahmadinejad’s openly publicized January meeting with his own new ‘Coalition of the Willing’ and and the fact that Hamas’ own headquarters are practically across the street from that of Hizballah in Bashar Assad’s Damascus.

Earlier this year, Hamas terrorists were arrested, charged with and confessed to smuggling weapons into Jordan from Syria. Jordan had found several weapons caches in the kingdom and the arrested men who confessed had "monitored Jordanian intelligence officers and foreign tourists, apparently for a possible attack." Recall for context the Hamas connections to the recent bombings of the tourist resorts in the Sinai in Egypt.

Factor in the new weaponry wielded over the weekend, with advanced anti-tank missiles that took out a world-class Merkava tank. Hamas is not acting alone. Not in Gaza. Not in the West Bank. Not elsewhere.

Israel knows this plainly and sent a message to Bashar Assad (and indirectly to Tehran) when IAF fighters served up a dawn wake-up call in the form of a sonic-boom, flying at low altitude directly above the Syrian dictator’s seaside home. Curiously, both Syrian state television and a commentator guest on CNN defiantly boasted that Syrian air defenses had fired on the flight of jets. Any anti-aircraft professional worth his weight in salt would inform them that, unless there was a splash or two, perhaps the reaction should be more reserved. The Israeli aircraft fired no ordnance and the Syrian anti-aircraft, if it indeed did fire (which is questionable), clearly missed. It was a message, not an attack.

CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer ominously teased the coverage of the Israeli flight as a sign of possible serious escalation of the conflict. While a serious further escalation of the conflict is not out of the question and quite possibly likely, the Israeli dry flyover is not the cause. It is in reaction to an existing escalation.

Though not as visible and as easy to report as a flight of IAF jets, the escalation has already existed - through both Hizballah and Meshaal - in the form of Syrian and Iranian direction. Through Syrian and Iranian command, cooperation, coordination, funding, training, and arming, Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups are currently fighting their sponsors’ war.

More executed Israeli civilians dumped on the streets of the West Bank and Gaza and this bloodless limited incursion will take on a whole new face.

[UPDATE: After speaking with Mr. Klein, I had incorrectly transposed his words and the body of a 62 year old man missing since Friday had not been found last night. He did advise today, however, that the elderly man was found this morning and had died of natural causes. Nonetheless, the kidnapping tactic remains. Our apologies to both Aaron Klein and our readers for the error.]

June 15, 2006

Gaza Strip

Israel Spoke Hamas’ Language to Halt Attacks

By Steve Schippert | June 15, 2006

It did not seem to get the attention deserved when Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's top political aide, Ahmed Yusef, said that attacks on Israel do not serve Hamas, a radical change in tone from just days ago. His words were an attention getter as he said of a planned renewal of the informal ceasefire with Israel, "Renewing the suicide bombings does not serve the interests of the Palestinian government. The government is against harming civilians on both sides, and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has acted decisively to stop civilians from being harmed, and even to stop rocket fire."

Suddenly Hamas has taken on a conciliatory tone, including conceding authority to Mahmoud Abbas to negotiate with Israel on a two-state settlement. There are two developments in play, both of them external to Hamas with one from the international community via an Egyptian delegation and the other from Israel in the form of frank and stark warnings to the Hamas leadership.

After more rocket attacks in less than two weeks of June than in all of May – which had seen the most rocket attacks in any month previously – Israel had responded by limiting their response to attacking the cells launching the Qassam and Katyusha rocket attacks. But following a weekend barrage that saw 38 attacks over a single 24-hour period alone, Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz decided that the only option short of loosing the dogs of war was to simply warn Hamas leaders directly and frankly. In Israel’s eyes, though Palestinians decried it as excessive, the response to date had been quite limited. But Peretz made it clear that this approach was about to cease saying, “But I have warned everyone that I have no intention of turning restraint into a strategy." Everyone meant everyone, right to the top of Hamas’ leadership.

Likely while Peretz' warning was working its way to Haniyeh in secret through Shin Bet connections, the Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Tzachi Hanegbi, made a far more public warning to Hamas chairman and PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Over Israeli radio, Henegbi took a direct and public approach by saying, “Yassin and Rantissi are waiting for you, Haniyeh, if you implement the same stance of liquidating Jews, indiscriminate firing and suicide terror attacks aimed at paralyzing Israeli society again.”

Secretly, however, with the power to act directly that Hanegbi does not posses, Peretz sent his message straight to Hamas’ Haniyeh. He advised, "Return your arsenal to your storage rooms. We know where each storage room is...We won't allow this violence to harm Israeli citizens.” Included was the stark warning that failure to stop the attacks will result in blunt and sudden force and the elimination of the Hamas leadership through targeted strikes.

Message received.

Haniyeh understood clearly and relayed the message immediately to the Damascus headquarters of Hamas for action. But Khalid Meshal’s headquarters, safely removed from the direct line of fire, reacted to Haniyeh with some disdain, as one of Meshal’s aides responded that Hamas headquarters does not take orders from Gaza, but that they would “consider the request.” Apparently, consider they did.

It is now being widely reported that Hamas is openly and suddenly seeking a ceasefire with Israel. It is no coincidence that rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel fell silent since Tuesday, with the exception of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad Qassam attack Wednesday. This morning, however, four Qassams again slammed into Sderot while an Arutz Sheva television crew filmed, likely again the handiwork of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Hamas clearly sees the clear danger in supporting these attacks directly and has taken to publicly suing for peace with Israel. Speaking in Hebrew, which is notable in itself, Hamas' Ghazi Hamad said in an Israeli radio interview, "I spoke today with the prime minister and he said we definitely want quiet everywhere. We are interested in a ceasefire everywhere." He then added, "We have no problem to have an end to the rocket firing but on condition Israel stops all forms of military attacks against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank."

This is a clear and sudden change in tone from Hamas. It is a tone that is largely a response to Israel directly speaking their language: The language of force and threat. The ‘new tone’ also includes an agreement with Fatah to pull its militias from the streets of Gaza, though Hamas has agreed to this in the past. In return, Abbas’ Fatah has agreed to blend them into the PA Security Forces structure. Perhaps this time Hamas will honor the agreement under the additional direct pressure from Israel and the international community.

The ‘international’ pressure on Hamas comes in the form of an Egyptian delegation’s proposal that the Hamas government step down and cede to Fatah the power to negotiate with Israel. The proposal called for the Hamas-dominated Palestinian Legislative Council to focus responsibilities on internal affairs in what amounts to more of a stepping aside than a stepping down. Facing its own collapse, the Hamas government seems to find the winds blowing from all directions and appears to be seeking self-preservation rather than ideological conflict with Israel and the increasingly uphill battle internally with both Fatah and public Palestinian opinion.

Much of the language of the Egyptian proposal can already be seen in the conciliatory language used by Hamas in the past 24 hours, including moves and indications beyond suing for peace with Israel in response to the direct threat issued by Peretz. But Israel’s decision to speak Hamas’ language while holding a very real stick was likely the turning point in the Hamas decision to take a more conciliatory stance, if only for self-preservation.

Hamas’ statement that attacks on Israel “do not serve Hamas” should not be interpreted as an epiphany, but rather the simple recognition that they were about to feel a heat that they could not withstand. That the rocket attacks had fallen nearly silent is also a clear indication of who was behind the attacks, which did not begin after Hamas ending of the ceasefire lat4 last week, but well before.

June 10, 2006

Gaza Strip

Tipping Point: Hamas Ends Truce After Israeli Strike

By Steve Schippert | June 10, 2006

The first news reports read Israel Navy shelling Kassam launch sites in Gaza. A BBC account from an eyewitness immediately concluded as such saying, "It was a terrible scene, with blood everywhere. We could see a gunship in middle of sea, so we knew what had happened."

However, Israeli Defense Forces said that there were no naval or air fire at the time of the incident, leaving ground artillery as the source. A suspension of all artillery fire was ordered by IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz and Israel’s southern commander, Major General Yoav Galant, said, "I express deep regret over the fact that uninvolved persons have been hit. We shall try to find a way to ensure not to harm the uninvolved."

carstrikeprc20060609.jpgThe IDF said that it “regrets any harm caused to innocent civilians," and offered medical assistance and evacuation. It said, however, that the strikes in the area were a continuation of its efforts to respond to and stop the wave of Kassam rocket attacks. Just hours before the beach incident, an Israeli airstrike was called nearby as members of the Popular Resistance Committees attempted to fire Kassam rockets into Israel. Their car was struck by a missile as they fled and secondary explosions indicated that the car was loaded with explosives when struck.

From the air, ground or sea, seven civilians on the beach were killed, including three children. A Palestinian video published by the BBC shows the aftermath on the Gaza beach. The incident has perhaps served as an unexpected unifying force, as both Fatah and Hamas immediately acknowledged their common enemy.

Hamas immediately declared the end of their informal truce with Israel, which had been largely recognized for over a year, though increasingly many believe Hamas has been using the Popular Resistance Committees as their proxy attacking force. In a leaflet later distributed by Hamas, renewed open warfare with Israel was declared imminent. It reportedly read in part, "The earthquake in the Zionist towns will start again and the aggressors will have no choice but to prepare their coffins or their luggage. The resistance groups ... will choose the proper place and time for the tough, strong and unique response."

The reference to a “unique response” stands out. Hamas and Fatah both have been stockpiling weapons since the Israeli pullout from Gaza, especially since the rise in internal tensions between the two factions, presumably in preparation for conflict amongst themselves primarily. That now is likely to change.

Many believe that Hamas' observance of the cease-fire with Israel has been primarily to both give them international political credibility leading into the 2006 Palestinian elections and also to build up its forces free from the duress of battle. Israeli officials believe Hamas has been preparing for large-scale attacks. To that end, the commander of Hamas' military wing, Abu Abdullah, recently in fact said in an interview with Aaron Klein, "In the last 15 months, even though the fighters of Hamas kept the cease-fire, we did not stop making important advancements and professional training on the military level. In the future, after Hamas is obliged to stop the cease-fire, the world shall see our new military capabilities."

Today, Hamas clearly felt obliged to stop the cease-fire, and the reference to a “unique response” in their announcement indicates a degree of confidence in these new abilities.

abbashaniyeh.jpgFatah has been long pre-occupied with their own violent internal political conflict with Hamas over negotiations with Israel and creating a two-state solution. It should be noted that Fatah’s military wing, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, has been largely and uncharacteristically quiet for weeks.

But today’s incident on the Gaza beach evoked a strident response from Fatah’s leader, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinian president condemned the attack as a 'bloody massacre', saying in a news conference, "What the Israeli occupation forces are doing in the Gaza Strip constitutes a war of extermination and bloody massacres against our people."

The ill-advised Israeli artillery strikes on the Gaza beach seem to have served to minimize the angry internal differences between Fatah and Hamas, serving to galvanize them at least for the moment. The degree to which the sands have shifted will be more clearly visible over the next 48 hours, largely determined by the actions of Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas’ reaction to them as well as that of the Palestinian general population. If Abbas smoothes the edge of his words over the next few days and the Palestinian population rejects them, he may feel compelled to maintain the rhetoric of a “war of extermination.”

But, in what must come as a relief to Israelis, Abbas has since announced that he still plans to announce the referendum date on Saturday, which has been expected to be June 31. If he backs that date up any considerable amount of time, that will give Hamas more time to stoke the angry call for war and revenge. This would be violent bad news for Israel if successful and would put the two-state referendum outcome in peril, which both Abbas and Israel have expected and Hamas has feared will pass. According to a poll by the Arabic Media Internet Network, 77% will vote (YES) to the (Prisoners’ Declaration), while 14% will vote (NO).

The next 48 hours will be the most important for the region and the conflict since the Hamas electoral victory in January 2006, perhaps even more so.

June 6, 2006


Iran’s Oil Weapon: Fielded and Wielded

By Steve Schippert | June 6, 2006

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei threatened to disrupt Gulf oil shipments if America should “make the slightest mistake regarding Iran.” This disruption, repeatedly touted in the past by threatening to block the Strait of Hormuz by sinking tankers, is not the 'oil weapon' that should be immediately considered, though the blockage is a very real and plausible scenario.

While the White House has dubbed Iran's threat to disrupt oil supplies "theoretical", Iran’s Oil Weapon is not one of potential use by supply disruption. Iran has already fielded its Oil Weapon and wields it on a regular basis through manipulating the rate of its primary source of income through threatening rhetoric from Khamenei, Ahmadinejad and others within the regime’s political and military leadership.

Immediately after Ayatollah Khamenei’s open threat, crude prices spiked and US stocks dipped amid energy fears directly attributable to the public fire-breathing of Iran’s Supreme Leader and Spiritual Guide. Indeed, the crowds gathered for his speech chanted “Death to America!” at multiple points throughout. World oil markets seemed to chant “Oh no, what will we do?” What they – and the world’s consumers – will do is pay more for their reaction.

This is not necessarily to fault them for reacting to a threat that should be taken quite seriously. Nor is it a blind attempt to dismiss the myriad other factors in determining market price beyond Iran’s sphere of influence, such as rising demand, production disruptions in Nigeria and other factors. It is, rather, a seemingly rare simple acknowledgement of an Iranian threat already realized.

Some countries, such as Japan and South Korea, have curtailed oil imports from Iran over the past quarter in large part fearing a potential disruption by either Iranian design as threatened or US military action. It should be noted that Iran’s oil exports have not decreased as a result, as China has eagerly absorbed every barrel of slack.

Consider that after China voted to send Iran to the Security Council as part of a 27-3 IAEA vote in February 2006, Iran vowed to complete a pipeline to Pakistan even if India, who also voted against Iran, dropped out.

China has already spent $200 million in Pakistan to start construction on a new port to facilitate energy shipments and President Pervez Musharraf said that Pakistan is “interested in setting up a trade and energy corridor for China.”

With veto power within the Security Council and the heavy influence that comes with it, an increasingly oil-hungry China sits poised to establish lucrative and secure long-term oil and natural gas supplies from Iran. These long-term supply agreements could be potentially immune from major market fluctuations resulting from international tensions over the Iranian nuclear crisis and inflaming rhetoric emanating from the Iranian leadership that keeps Iran’s per-barrel primary income at unprecedented windfall levels while simultaneously inflicting damage to the American economy.

China and Russia, opposed to both sanctions and military action against Iran over its nuclear weapons program, admitted Iran as a partner in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, further illustrating what appears to be China’s partnership with Iran. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld spelled the illogic of Iran’s inclusion into the SCO when he said, “It strikes me as passing strange that one would want to bring into an organization that says it is against terrorism one of the leading terrorist nations in the world: Iran.”

According to the New York Times report, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore asserted that “Iran’s role in the Shanghai organization was a way for Russia and China to demonstrate their influence.” Said the prime minister, “Russia and China have reminded the West of their combined influence on world-turning events.” Their chosen manner of “assertion of influence” should be noted, choosing to include the world’s chief state sponsor of terrorism in a security organization ‘opposed to terrorism’ rather than support any punitive actions against them for their intransigence on the nuclear issue and use of proliferation networks for the acquisition of nuclear equipment and technology.

It appears that the Sino-Russo influence has afforded this non-consequential stance to dictate the offer made to Iran which was hand-delivered by Javier Solana on Monday. According to Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, the offer included assurances that no military intervention will be allowed. With Russia and China consistently and adamantly opposed to sanctions as well, Iran now has apparent safe haven, free of consequence unless the US devises sanctions outside the UN body.

All the while, Iran proceeds at breakneck pace in their nuclear efforts in an immensely expensive project fed nearly exclusively by the windfall oil proceeds. Proceeds manipulated in no accident and in no small part by the mullah regime's ratcheting rhetoric.

So when Ayatollah Khamenei declares that Iran in a far better position than the US, he is quite correct, regardless of American polls.

The Oil Weapon is without doubt already fielded and expertly wielded, both a convenient boon for the Godless Chinese dictatorship and an economic bane for the Great Satan.

June 1, 2006


US Offer to Iran of Nuclear Talks Widely Misunderstood

By Steve Schippert | June 1, 2006

Reading media reaction, whether as reportage or editorial, to yesterday’s statement by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the United States is open to direct talks with Iran on the nuclear crisis is largely disappointing. Nearly every report or editorial places an inappropriate emphasis upon the offer to Iran of direct talks without understanding – or at least properly explaining to news consumers – the profound significance of the prerequisite condition of the cessation of all enrichment activities.

The enrichment cessation demand – decidedly not a policy shift, reversal or concession – is mentioned by each, but readily discarded and supplanted by lengthy conversation and coverage of what direct talks with Iran may mean. This misplaced focus on ends rather than means puts the proverbial cart clearly and ill-advisedly before the horse.

Let us be clear: The enrichment cessation demand has never been nor will it become a negotiable point for the Bush Administration.

Let us also be clear: Tehran has made it unmistakable that enrichment is their right and that enrichment has never been nor will it become a negotiable point.

The cessation demand has each time in the past been rejected out of hand by the Iranian regime, whether made by the US, the EU-3 or Russia. The question is not whether the US will hold direct talks with Iran. The question is more appropriately: Will Iran’s enrichment cessation stance change in pursuit of direct one-on-one talks with the US?

That one of Iran’s reactions yesterday was to dismiss the American offer as “propaganda” certainly buttresses this stalwart position by the mullah regime.

If that still leaves some in doubt, within the context of Iran’s continued open defiance of IAEA and UN Security Council cessation demands, consider Iran's simultaneous announcement yesterday of open international bidding for the construction of two new nuclear reactors, expected to commence within two months. The Iranian position on nuclear enrichment could hardly be clearer.

If the American position on complete Iranian enrichment cessation is equally clear and remains equally consistent – and there is absolutely no indication beyond fearful speculation that this will change – then all of the ‘talk about talks’ clearly revolves around a moot point. Getting there via Iranian enrichment abandonment appears to remain as impossible today as it was last week, last month or last year.

With that clearly in mind, consider then the various quotes from both reportage and editorial reaction focusing on the ends without due consideration of the means.

New York Times - Bush's Realization on Iran: No Good Choice Left Except Talks: After 27 years in which the United States has refused substantive talks with Iran, President Bush reversed course on Wednesday because it was made clear to him — by his allies, by the Russians, by the Chinese, and eventually by some of his advisers — that he no longer had a choice.

The Boston Globe: Rice's choice for Iran: What Rice did not say is that the course reversal she announced yesterday also has the potential to provide the administration with a crucial policy option it had been denying itself. Until now, President Bush has confined himself to a choice between US backing for the fruitless talks that the EU3 -- France, Germany, and Britain -- has been conducting with Iran and a military option that no rational policy maker would wish to exercise.

BBC: Last diplomatic throw of dice? Two scenarios are opening up. There is a benign one and a malign one. In the benign one, the doves, led by the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, have won the argument in Washington. This, it is hoped, will lead to direct talks with Iran, which will agree on a package under which to end its enrichment of uranium. In exchange, it will receive a bag of goodies that will include help with civil nuclear power and trade concessions.

Detroit Free Press: U.S.: If Iran holds off, we'll talk The Bush administration reversed its policy, offering to join European talks with Iran about limiting its nuclear program -- if Iran "verifiably suspends" the enrichment of uranium, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday.

OpinionJournal: Condi's Iran Gambit - Ahmadinejad gets the direct talks he wanted.: When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad publicly released a long, insulting letter seeking direct talks with the U.S. last month, President Bush dismissed it as unworthy of reply. But yesterday Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice delivered the real U.S. answer: Yes. In a surprising policy reversal, Ms. Rice offered to negotiate directly with Iran's mullahs if they first suspend all uranium enrichment and cooperate with United Nations arms inspectors.

Of the above, only The Detroit Free Press immediately emphasizes the fact that Iran has consistently refused enrichment cessation demands. This is absolutely critical to understanding the true intent of the offer, which is to expose Iran’s true intentions of indigenous nuclear weapons capability and not nuclear power. This exposure is being pursued systematically, step by step.

What is on display is a concerted final stretch effort to secure a significant Chapter VII resolution with the support of Russia and China, complete with efforts to assure Iran nuclear power it says it desires (and other sweeteners) and real consequences should Iran remain defiant. Vital Perspective presents this aspect well.

The last two major steps in exposing real Iranian interests - which most believe are not in nuclear power but nuclear weapons - are now culminating. First, in Europe’s recent offer of nuclear power plant construction, nuclear fuel supplies and painfully favorable non-nuclear trade incentives, satisfying Iran's stated nuclear power desires. And finally, in the US offer of direct participation in international multi-party talks with Iran, satisfying the underlying Iranian desire for recognition and potentially providing the ability to drive a wedge between the American and European strategic unity on the Iranian nuclear crisis.

But so long as both steps contain the enrichment abandonment pre-condition for Iran, neither attempt is likely to see Iranian participation, decisively demonstrating Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

The Opinion Journal editorial surprisingly dismisses this nearly altogether as seemingly far too unlikely. While it is not unreasonable to fear the worst from Foggy Bottom, perhaps Ms. Rice deserves more credit for fortitude than given. Consider the following line that immediately followed the above-quoted Opinion Journal text.

The Secretary of State seems to have convinced Mr. Bush--over the doubts of Vice President Cheney and others--that this was the only way to prevent the U.S. from being isolated as our European allies ran for cover and Russia resisted any U.N. sanctions. How this new U.S. concession will impress the mullahs to give in is now Ms. Rice's burden to demonstrate. Good luck. [Emphasis added]

Good luck indeed…if “impress[ing] the mullahs to give in” is what defines Condi's Iran Gambit.

But, couched in the steadfast pre-condition that it is (and should be), Condi's True Iran Gambit is not the risk of concessions and thus direct talks with Iran. Condi's True Iran Gambit is rather the risk of Iran actually publicly accepting such an offer as is, committing the US to talks (and more delays) with undetermined parts of their clandestine nuclear program as of yet unknown and therefore knowingly unverifiable. Regardless of potential words offered by the current Iranian regime, their nuclear intent can hardly be clearer than that already demonstrated, even within the past three years, much less the past two decades.

America backing itself into a diplomatic corner by a surprise public acceptance (and accompanying clandestine defiance as previously demonstrated) from Iran is the real danger of the ‘gambit’. If Iran calls the American bluff, there will be definite trouble at Foggy Bottom – and much jubilation at Turtle bay.

Note with significance that Iran, while dismissing it as ‘propaganda’, has yet to officially reject it. Surely they are pondering precisely the same as these words are written.

Until such time, much of the current worry (or celebration, depending on perspective) will likely prove for naught so long as the Bush Administration maintains its consistent and proper demand of complete enrichment cessation. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said, "We will not give up our nation's natural right, we will not hold talks over it. But we are ready to hold talks over mutual concerns."

For those concerned over perceived potential American concessions to the world’s primary state sponsor of terrorism, we are no closer to appeasement than last week, last month or last year. For those pleased by the perceived ‘major policy reversal’ by the Bush Administration, we are no closer to a diplomatic solution, either. So long as Iran maintains the ‘No enrichment, no dice’ stance opposite the American and European (let alone the also ignored IAEA and UN Security Council) ‘No enrichment, period’ position, nothing has changed.

What is nearer being achieved, for those still somehow unconvinced, is the outright removal of any and all perceived Iranian ambiguity and doubt about its nuclear weapons quest.

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