Crossfire War – ‘France Will Not Lower its Guard’- President Nicolas Sarkozy

Crossfire War – RAPID FIRE NEWS=TEHRAN – DAMASCUS – ANKARA WATCH – West Asia – Mediterranean Theatre: Tehran – Riyadh – Tripoli – Ankara – Gaza – Damascus – Beirut/Paris – Rome – Jerusalem – Cairo – London – Washington; “Nuclear Deterrence Life Insurance of the Nation” – France Pres. Nicloas Sarkozy – Launching of Nuclear Submarine – Washington Bombs Allies in Baghdad – Fighting Continues in Iraq Between Police – Mahdi Army

Night Watch: CHERBOURG – Speaking from Cherbourg, at the launching of a new class of nuclear submarine, Le Terrible, France President Nicolas Sarkozy stated, “France will not lower its guard” as he called nuclear deterrence the “life insurance of the nation. Anyone who threatened our vital interests will expose themselves to a severe nuclear response. Of course the security of Europe is at stake. It is a fact that France’s nuclear forces by their very existence are a key element in its security.” Gulf-Times/AFP report according to the Federation of American Scientists, which attempts to monitor nuclear weapons around the world, France possesses 348 nuclear warheads most of them ballistic missiles launched from submarines. France’s Air Force has 60 Mirage 2000-N fighter jets that are nuclear equipped and 40 Super Etendard fighter bombers, carrier based, that are also nuclear armed. There are plans to reduce the number of warheads by a third but I suspect that will be changed as Tehran’s offensive foreign policy becomes (f)allout this year. [GULFTIMES]

Le Terrible – President Sarkozy continued his remarks, mostly directed at Tehran, “Countries in Asia and the Middle East are rapidly developing ballistic capabilities. I am thinking in particular of Iran. Increasing the range of its missiles while serious suspicions weigh on its nuclear programme.” Last November 28 reported the serious concern France’s Foreign Ministry expressed over Iran’s new ballistic missile the Ashoura which Iran’s Defense Ministry announced only had a 1,250 mile range. Paris was understandably skeptical since Iran already had a missile with that range the Shahab-3 and therefore did not need to produce another one. The Ashoura’s range is probably comparable to the Chinese CSS-2’s range of 2,500 miles (4,000 km). Beijing sold 50-60 of them to Saudi Arabia during the mid-1980s and from Iran a missile with that range could reach Western Europe. [FRANCE24]

Tehran – As expected Iran Foreign Ministry dismissed President Sarkozy’s statements as “unrealistic”. [IRNA]

Shurta – There are more signs the ceasefire extended last month in Iraq by Mahdi Army leader Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is unraveling as there was heavy fighting between Iraqi police and Mahdi Army elements overnight. Gulf-Times/Reuters report the action took place in the southern Baghdad district of Shurta an area where the U. S. launched an operation Thursday. Units of the Madi Army last night attacked police patrols and a checkpoint where a U. S. military spokesman said, “They captured 17 policemen and forced them to take off their clothes. They then freed them in their underwear.” [GULFTIMES]

Until Thursday most of the fighting had been confined to the city of Kut 100 miles to the southeast and just forty miles from Iran’s border. Most of the Mahdi Army rank and file were never pleased with the ceasefire instituted by Tehran through Muqtada al-Sadr last August as Iran was not yet ready to increase attacks against the occupation. Tehran seems to be ready now since they had al-Sadr state two weeks ago the Mahdi Army could defend itself if attacked first.

Samarra – Washington continues to alienate potential allies by attacking them. France24/AFP report one of the anti-al-Qaeda units in Samarra in central Iraq, designated Awakening Councils, was attacked by a U. S. Apache helicopter air strike. The local leader, Abu Faruq, said his members were manning a checkpoint, wearing reflective vests when they were attacked killing six and wounding two. But according to the U. S. military five people “were spotted conducting suspicious terrorist activity.” With the fighting increasing around the country these claims and counterclaims will not only increase but it means no Iraqi units, whether the police, army or local militias, will be able to have enough support to operate effectively. Heavier fighting will create even more confusion. Washington continues to create more enemies with its burning bridges foreign policy. [FRANCE24]

Willard Payne is an international affairs analyst who specializes in International Relations. A graduate of Western Illinois University with a concentration in East-West Trade and East-West Industrial Cooperation, he has been providing incisive analysis to NewsBlaze. He is the author of Imagery: The Day Before.