A paper tiger. That is how Osama bin Laden characterized the United States after Mogadishu. Whether the Obama administration will engage in a war throughout the Middle East is not the point of this article. The point is that Iran and Syria see his failed foreign policy as a sign of weakness. This will be an interesting week based on the situations unfolding in Syria, Iran and North Korea.
Certain he is safe from Western-Arab intervention, Bashar Assad Sunday unleashed an across-the board air and ground offensive against the last surviving rebel locations. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that starting Sunday noon, April 8, 30 towns and villages were hit simultaneously. For the first time since the outbreak of revolt thirteen months ago, heavy long-range artillery and air force helicopters pounded the rebel positions remaining in the northern mountains of Idlib near the Turkish border. The scale of the onslaught was such that it is hard to come by casualty figures, but they certainly run into hundreds.
The mountains of ordnance and numbers of tanks and artillery the Syrian army is pouring into the embattled sectors attest to Assad’s determination to root out with no holds barred the last rebel and protester however long it takes.
He probably never intended standing by his commitment to observe a ceasefire from April 10. He simply used the UN envoy Kofi Annan’s peace proposals to buy time to rout his opponents once and for all. Our military sources say the rebels, and especially the Free Syrian Army, don’t have the slightest chance of surviving Assad’s killing machine. As he lifts all restraints, the Syrian ruler is also certain he is backed to the hilt by Tehran and Moscow.
Our sources add that, just as Iranians is sure President Barack Obama will avoid military intervention in Syria, they are certain that their nuclear program is equally safe from a military offensive. Tehran was therefore emboldened Sunday to reject out of hand the core demands of the West to give up high-grade uranium enrichment and shut down their underground nuclear facility at Fordow.
So as not to bury the negotiations with the six world powers before they even begin on – the Iranian spokesman, atomic energy chief Fereidoon Abbasi left the door open a tiny crack: “We will produce 20 percent uranium to the amount needed for the Tehran research reactor and the reactors we are planning to build in the future,” he said.
That too was a typical Iranian exercise in deception. Since no one in the West has a clue to how many reactors requiring 20-percent uranium Tehran plans to build, the size of its stocks and the quantity reserved for building a bomb cannot be determined. Nevertheless, the European foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton later announced formally that the talks between the Six Powers and Iran would begin in Istanbul on April 14.