What a difference an election makes

September 17, 2007

France says must prepare for possible war with Iran:

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Sunday his country must prepare for the possibility of war against Iran over its nuclear programme, but he did not believe any such action was imminent.

Seeking to ratchet up the pressure on Iran, Kouchner also told RTL radio and LCI television that the world’s major powers should use further sanctions to show they were serious about stopping Tehran getting atom bombs, and said France had asked French firms not to bid for tenders in the Islamic Republic.

"We must prepare for the worst," Kouchner said in an interview, adding: "The worst, sir, is war."

(Emphasis added)

What a welcome change from the craven, corrupt, anti-American administration of Jacques Chirac. President Sarkozy and his foreign minister have a very clear view of the dangers posed by a nuclear-armed Iran governed by millenarian loons, and they aren’t afraid to state it plainly, even if it means cooperating with les Cowboys.

Anyone check the temperature in Hell, lately?

LINKS: More at FullosseousFlap’s Dental Blog, Blue Crab Boulevard, Contentions, and Fausta’s Blog, who notes that Iran has flipped the bird at France.

If Belgium vanished, would anyone notice?

September 17, 2007

Dutch writer Michael van der Galien speculates on the possible break-up of Belgium, a country that hasn’t been able to form a government for five months, and the two halves of which couldn’t care less about each other:

Language, though, is not where the differences between the two parts end. The northern region does not just speak Dutch, it is also much richer than the south. The south of Belgium is less developed and has a smaller population. While 58% of the Belgian people live in Flanders (Dutch speaking), only 32% live in Wallonia (the French-speaking part).

The relationship between the two regions has always been troubled. They have always fought about who should hold the most power and why. Furthermore, the two main groups have always lived independent from each other: neither side communicates with the other. One famous saying is that the only things all Belgian have in common are “the king, the football team, and some beers.”

Belgium proves how difficult it is to have two different peoples (with two different histories and with two different cultures) make up one country. This year the arguments (about power and influence) have escalated, and some are now calling on Flanders to separate from Wallonia. Some experts have already stated that if Belgium were to split up, nobody would notice and everybody would be better off.

As the European Union government grows in power, nation-states become more and more irrelevant in Europe. None more so than a small nation created by cobbling two very different people together as a buffer state. Belgium I think represents a potential trend in Western Europe, as old regions and nations assert their independence in a larger EU framework. If Flanders and Wallonia split, is it so unthinkable for Catalonia or Brittany, both of which retain strong cultural identities? Would northern Italy want to get rid of the economically backward south?

Could the old Powers of Europe fall apart from exhaustion?

LINKS: More at The Economist.


Osirak, the sequel?

September 17, 2007

The Internet’s been abuzz lately with speculation about the Israeli air-raid nearly two weeks ago on a secret facility in northeastern Syria. At first thought to be an attack on weapons being shipped from Iran to Hizbullah in Lebanon, rumors now swirl around the possibility that this was a nuclear weapons research station, and that the material had come from North Korea:

IT was just after midnight when the 69th Squadron of Israeli F15Is crossed the Syrian coast-line. On the ground, Syria’s formidable air defences went dead. An audacious raid on a Syrian target 50 miles from the Iraqi border was under way.

At a rendezvous point on the ground, a Shaldag air force commando team was waiting to direct their laser beams at the target for the approaching jets. The team had arrived a day earlier, taking up position near a large underground depot. Soon the bunkers were in flames.

Ten days after the jets reached home, their mission was the focus of intense speculation this weekend amid claims that Israel believed it had destroyed a cache of nuclear materials from North Korea.

The Israeli government was not saying. “The security sources and IDF [Israeli Defence Forces] soldiers are demonstrating unusual courage,” said Ehud Olmert, the prime minister. “We naturally cannot always show the public our cards.”

The Syrians were also keeping mum. “I cannot reveal the details,” said Farouk al-Sharaa, the vice-president. “All I can say is the military and political echelon is looking into a series of responses as we speak. Results are forthcoming.” The official story that the target comprised weapons destined for Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi’ite group, appeared to be crumbling in the face of widespread scepticism.

Andrew Semmel, a senior US State Department official, said Syria might have obtained nuclear equipment from “secret suppliers”, and added that there were a “number of foreign technicians” in the country.

Asked if they could be North Korean, he replied: “There are North Korean people there. There’s no question about that.” He said a network run by AQ Khan, the disgraced creator of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, could be involved.

The Times article makes it clear that few believe this facility was just a warehouse for Hizbullah-bound weapons. The presence of North Koreans is a very suspicious sign that something unusual was up: North Korea right now is in the midst of very sensitive negotiations to (supposedly) take down its nuclear program. Was Syria acting as a hiding place wherein the North Koreans could continue their research, in return for sharing? It’s telling that North Korea quickly denounced the attack, while they usually stay quiet on affairs outside their own area. And it’s long been suspected that Syria has been hiding WMDs smuggled out of Iraq before Saddam’s fall, so doing the same for Pyongyang would fit a pattern of behavior. (I should note, however, that there’s no hard evidence that Syria has Iraqi WMDs in storage. Just strong suspicions.)

Another possibility is that this research was for Iran’s benefit: perpetually strapped for cash, North Korea may have agreed to sell its stocks to Iran, so they could accelerate their own program. In that case, Syria, an Iranian client, would be a convenient shipping point.

Of course, the nukes could be for Syria’s own use, too. They’ve long been known to be developing chemical weapons, though nuclear weapons were considered beyond their financial grasp. However, if they are getting outside help from Iran, North Korea, and the Khan network, they might well have been working to adapt their supply of SCUD missiles to carry them. In a confrontation with Israel, playing the "we have nukes" card would dramatically change the power-balance between Damascus and Jerusalem.

And thus Israel could not tolerate even the possibility of Syria getting them. Just as with the raid against the Iraqi "Osirak" reactor in 1981, Israel, when convinced its national security is at stake, has shown it will take whatever action it deems necessary, world opinion be damned.

Besides the destruction of the compound itself, there are several messages in this latest Israeli action. First is the one to Syria and its leader, Chinless Wonder Bashar Assad: "Not only will we never allow you nuclear weapons but, by the way, boy, we can penetrate your expensive air-defense systems at will." (And, since the Russians were the main providers of this AA system, this is a lot of egg on their faces.)

Second is a message to Iran: "We hit Syria, whose air-defenses are better than yours, and don’t think we won’t hit you, too. Distance is not a problem." You can bet the black-robed fascists rulers in Tehran are paying close attention. (And probably wondering about all the money they, too, paid the Russians for their air-defense weapons.)

Third is to us and the Europeans: "Do something about Iran or we will do it for you, perhaps triggering a regional war."

There’s one other question. This Syrian "agricultural station" was on the other side of the country, 50 miles from the Iraqi border. Yet there was an Israeli commando team there to paint the target. How’d they get there? I suppose they could have traveled across Syria, but I somehow doubt it. I also don’t think they were airdropped all the way from Israel. But, just 50 miles to the east, their primary ally and patron has a large army with plenty of resources for staging special forces operations. And that same ally has a strong interest in not letting Iran or Syria get their hands on nuclear weapons.

Did the Israelis have active American cooperation in this raid? I’d like to think so.

Whatever the truth of the matter, the Israelis have provided an object lesson in how to deal with thugs: make it clear what you will and will not tolerate, and then act on it. Appeasing people who will only take advantage of your gestures of good faith and then spit in your eye is a recipe for disaster. They will gladly come to the all the conferences you want and say whatever they think you want to hear in their press releases, but the end result is the same: unless they are convinced you will use overwhelming force, rogue nations and their leaders will do whatever they want and laugh in your face.

It’s a lesson we’d do well to remember.

LINKS: More from the Center-Right at Jihad Watch, Atlas Shrugs, The Strata-Sphere, Little Green Footballs, Blue Crab Boulevard, and Captain’s Quarters. On the Left, the view at Firedoglake is typical.