Crossfire War – Major Leaders Converge on Middle East – Eve of Wider War

Crossfire War – RAPID FIRE NEWS=TEHRAN – RAMALLAH – DAMASCUS WATCH – West Asia – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: Tehran – Riyadh – Tripoli – Khartoum – Baghdad – El Arish – Beirut – Damascus – Gaza – Ramallah/Jerusalem – Cairo – Amman – Paris – Rome – London – Washington; Israel Conducts Pre-Dawn Raids in West Bank as Major World Leaders Converge on Region – German Chancellor – US Vice – President – Russia FM – Overshadowed by Tehran – Eve of Wider Regional War

Night Watch: RAMALLAH – As major world figures converge on Israel and West Asia this week Jerusalem is pursuing its policies of negotiating with moderates while attacking and arresting extremists. Xinhua reports 23 Palestinians have been arrested in the most recent pre-dawn raids by the Israel Defence Force (IDF) supported by jeeps and armored vehicles in several West Bank villages and cities. The cities were: Ramallah-Jenin-Bethlehem-Tulkarem and the arrested were members of Fatah, headed by Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, Islamic Jihad and Hamas. Israel has actually stated without these raids, conducted almost every night for more than a year, Hamas would be in control of the West Bank. There is no longer even the semblance of negotiation with Abbas anymore as Israel regards him as completely ineffective against the militants and may even suspect him of privately supporting attacks against Israel. [XINHUA]

Currently there is very little rocket fire coming from Gaza as Israel Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has stated Hamas is using the interim to receive more supplies from Iran. Cairo agreed last week to allow the Rafah Terminal to be open a few hours each day to permit weapons and supplies to enter Gaza which has maintained the peace between Hamas and Cairo after Tehran had Hamas explode open the terminal two months ago. Jerusalem’s negotiations with Cairo have achieved very little and that could be the reason for Egypt’s Minister of Intelligence General Omar Suleiman for canceling the third time his visit to Israel though Israel security consultant Amos Gilad is in Egypt right now. Despite the lack of official diplomatic contacts back door channels of communication/negotiation will be maintained including between combatants.

Knesset – This is taking place during and in some ways has overshadowed the three day visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel as she and other major world leaders are visiting the region and I doubt if any of them expected to be able to do so in an atmosphere of peace. The most ominous shadow is of course Tehran’s nuclear weapons program and I suspect the reason for the timing in these high level delegations regional tour is that they know this is the year the international community discovers just how many nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles Iran has produced. Tehran has made a mockery of its negotiations with Europe and the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna over its nuclear weapons program; negotiations Berlin helped lead and took very seriously. Now Germany, in the person of Chancellor Merkel, and the other leaders have no choice but to plan whatever joint military action they can as they may also know most of Iran’s arsenal is not meant for Israel. As has stated constantly Tehran’s foreign policy is extremely economic and there is no market for salt in the Dead Sea. The West is Iran’s main international rival and therefore is the target of most of the ballistic missiles that will be fired from Iran. Xinhua reports Berlin-Jerusalem had their first joint cabinet meeting in which the Foreign Ministers were present as defense arrangements between the two governments were outlined. [XINHUA]

Ramallah – All these meetings are being held without the significant participation and presence of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. If any of the Allied officials do meet him it may only be just to say goodbye as they all know Abbas is of no use to them. This Abbas may take as a major slight and personal insult that may have driven him back to his first love, supporting attacks and uprisings against Israel. Debka reports Abbas is now threatening Israel by having his Fatah organization join Hamas and other Palestinian militants in attacks, another uprising that will improve his standing with Hamas, the Palestinian community and Islamic heads of state that will be meeting in Damascus late this month. The Summit in Damascus will be used not only to justify the wider war against Israel and the West but to also welcome Abbas back into the fold of extremism. [DEBKA]

Balad Air Base – As Chancellor Merkel was addressing the Knesset U. S. Vice-President Dick Cheney was at Balad Air Base in Iraq sleeping through a mortar – artillery bombardment. The Jerusalem Post/AP report the air base has to routinely bombard areas miles away in an attempt to hit areas Islamic fighters have been active. This is at the start of Vice-President Cheney’s ten day visit to the region, meeting friend and foe: Baghdad-foe, Oman-foe, Saudi Arabia-foe, Israel-friend, Palestinian Territory-foe, Turkey-foe. All of those governments, with the exception of Israel, have strategic-military relations with Iran and want the removal of Western military bases from the region. [JPOST]

Damascus – Representing the government that will be the major foreign presence, after Tehran’s offensive foreign policy runs its course this year, Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov begins his “silent mission” tour of the region tomorrow March 19. Lavrov will visit Damascus-Ramallah-Jerusalem, with emphasis on Syria since Damascus is on the verge of entering the war with Israel at a moment’s notice in support of Hezbollah. This is definitely the eve of major fighting and Moscow is in a position to maintain close contact with an important enemy government Damascus since Moscow is the only Allied capital with large scale military contacts with Syria. In Israel Lavrov will listen to the military measures Israel has prepared to take against any threat or combination of threats on its border and in the Palestinian National Authority Lavrov may try to sound out other leaders to negotiate with beside Abbas. [RIA]

Next month, when all these tours and visits are over, the officials and their liaisons will compare notes and attempt to prepare some joint military operations against the mutual, immediate threat from Iran which has united them all for the duration of the war.

Willard Payne
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.