Crossfire War – Rapid Fire News=Tehran – Ramallah – Gaza WATCH – West Asia – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: Islamic Jihad Fires Qassam Rockets After IDF Raid in Nablus – West Bank – Israel PM Olmert Meets Egypt Pres. Mubarak at Sharm el-Sheikh – Moscow Expresses Concern Over Situation in Kosovo
Night Watch: NABLUS – The fragile ceasefire agreement signed less than a week ago by Israel and Palestinian militants seems to be unraveling which should not be surprising since neither side took it seriously. Their real understanding was both sides would use it to make final preparations for the next wave of war. Haaretz/AP report the militant group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for firing four Qassam rockets Tuesday afternoon from Gaza at the Israeli town of Sderot which has been the main target of Qassam fire for the past eight years. The fire has multiplied since the 2006 war which was set off by the capture of an Israeli soldier by Hamas in late June. Islamic Jihad have stated the rocket attacks were in retaliation for an Israel Defense Force (IDF) operation Tuesday morning in the West Bank city of Nablus near An-Najah University when one of Islamic Jihad’s senior commanders, Taker Abu Rali was killed with another militant. The two were planning an attack and this is where both sides understanding of the ceasefire agreement differed. Jerusalem assumed the agreement only covered Gaza operations but Palestinian units assumed Israel would also halt its West Bank counter-terror operations which have prevented Islamic militants from having a major presence in the West Bank. [HAARETZ]
Sharm el-Sheikh – Last week Islamic Jihad stated any Israeli action in the West Bank would violate the ceasefire so with the fighting today I assume the ceasefire is over as we are about to witness another wave of attacks and responses. In the meantime the heads of the two governments most directly threatened by Tehran, through Palestinian militants, are holding a closed door meeting at the Egyptian Red Sea resort-conference center Sharm el-Sheikh. Egypt President Hosni Mubarak is hosting Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as I suspect they are attempting to coordinate joint operations when the war resumes. Both leaders should be aware the 2008 war will be much more extensive than the month long fighting of 2006 which was confined to Gaza and Lebanon. But since then not only have Hamas-Hezbollah been more heavily armed but both Damascus-Tehran will be entering. I believe Israel is more aware of the regional consequences and that the war will be used by Tehran to inspire more Islamic radicalism but I don’t think President Mubarak realizes the threat of the extremism that will be directed by Iran at him. Mubarak sometimes gives the impression of Pharonic insulation ruling at the top of a police state house of cards undermined by enormous corruption and that regional concerns are beneath him though he loves to feign interest and make pronouncements. [JPOST]
It is that corruption which has been Iran’s greatest weapon since corruption was the reason for the popularity of Islamic fundamentalism since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran led by the Ayatollah Khomeini. Those beliefs spread from Morocco to Indonesia and inspired the 1981 assassination of Mubarak’s predecessor Anwar al-Sadat. Sadat was assassinated because he no longer supported the Islamic agenda of wars with Israel which Egypt used to lead so Sadat shifted Egypt’s allegiance to the West a shift Mubarak has always supported which is why he is the only Islamic head of state to give no support whatsoever to the Jihad in any regional theatre, war with the West-Israel-Russia-India. And that is how Islamic governments deflected fundamentalists targeting them by supporting the foreign policy of the Jihad in at least one regional theatre. But Mubarak may not realize one of the Jihad’s targets is also Cairo-him since Tehran and other Islamic governments want an Egyptian head of state with no inclination to work with the West or Israel militarily. And that is what Hamas and Palestinian miltants growing influence may force him to do since they represent a very real current threat to his government especially with their close relations with Egypt’s main opposition group the Muslim Brotherhood.
Without question the main topic on the agenda of discussion, possibly the only topic, between Olmert-Mubarak is the constant weapons smuggling Palestinian militants are engaging in from Egypt through Sinai to Gaza. The Jerusalem Post/AP report Mubarak has pledged to keep the Rafah Terminal closed until the release of the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. But I suspect the real reason is Mubarak realizing to some extent the growing military power of Palestinian militants is something of a threat to him since Iran had Hamas explode open the terminal for twelve days in January which enabled Hamas to ship tons of weaponry by truck into Gaza. Olmert stated after their closed door meeting there were, “Many issues on the agenda”, but if the weapons smuggling does not end, “Then we will be compelled into military action.”
It is an action Mubarak may be willing to take part in and it has established another front in this regional theatre for control over Egypt between those who support Tehran and those who support Mubarak.
That is why I have always maintained Israel was never Iran’s main objective since there is no market for salt in the Dead Sea. Tehran knows and uses war against Israel as a way of generating more Islamic extremism which will be used not only to overthrow Mubarak but to also control the economy of the Suez Canal as their way of gaining more control over the Eastern Mediterranean.
Beirut – There are more warnings concerning stability in one of those Eastern Mediterranean countries-Lebanon by their new President Michel Suleiman. Xinhua reports Suleiman actually stated the country faced suicide if the factional fighting in the north continues as there are reports of more instability in other parts of the country. He made his warnings during a meeting with spiritual leaders at the Presidential Palace. Of course what is overshadowing Lebanon is the specter of major war resuming between Hezbollah-Syria-Iran/Israel which Lebanon will be engulfed by as in 2006. It is quite possible some of the militias are oblivious to that and are now attempting to carve up a piece of the country as their fiefdom. [XINHUA]
Beirut – TFL reported Minister of Parliament and former general Michel Aoun on Monday had warned of renewed violence but he was accused of “fabricating illusory battles.” This explosive situation is no illusion as armed groups fill vacuums the central government and army are too weak to control and I suspect no group in the country really wants a strong central government. [TFL]
Kosovska Mitrovica – B92 is reporting Moscow has added its voice to new warnings over stability in Kosovo. Yesterday it was one of the Albanian Mayors in Kosovska Mitrovica who called for more patrols in the north of the province which is mostly Serbian and refuses to recognize the authority of the Albanian government in Pristina. Today the concern is being expressed by Russia Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko. No details were given in Grushko’s remarks but Moscow may be aware there have been some incidents in Kosovo that nearly spread and that could eventually force the Serbian government in Belgrade to intervene in northern Kosovo in support of the threatened Serbian community. Moscow is calling for a resumption of negotiations between Pristina/Belgrade but that is not about to happen. [B92]
It is quite possible Moscow realizes that but wants to be on record as calling for negotiations. But in reality Russia is preparing to use the next war in the Balkans to re-start the war in the South Caucasus against Georgia as Brussels, the headquarters of both the European Union (EU) and NATO, becomes pre-occupied with Kosovo.