DEBKAfile: Sarkozy is first Western leader to speak out loud about US plan to bomb Iran
August 28, 2007, 12:43 PM (GMT+02:00)
Bombing Iran: Catastrophic but real
Addressing 180 French diplomats Monday, Aug. 27, French president Nicolas Sarkozy said a nuclear-armed Iran would be unacceptable and the world must tighten sanctions while offering Tehran incentives to halt weapons development. “This initiative is the only one that can enable us to escape an alternative that I say is catastrophic: the Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran,” he said.
Sarkozy thus became the first important Western leader to declare with brutal frankness that Iran stands in peril of an attack on its nuclear installations.
DEBKAfile notes that he spoke out shortly after a long holiday in the United States and a day-long visit to the Bush family estate in Maine. His frank language – he called Iran’s nuclear ambition the world’s most dangerous problem – caused astonishment in diplomatic circles much like the jeans he wore on his visit to the US president.
Sarkozy did not indicate whether France would take part in an American or Israeli attack on Iran, but he did stress French backing for Security Council sanctions over Iran’s refusal to back away from uranium enrichment.
DEBKAfile’s diplomatic sources disclose that Sarkozy’s warning to Tehran was the bluntest but not the only one Tehran received of the Bush administration plans to bomb its nuclear facilities. Iran was discreetly warned by the Kremlin in early spring that an American attack was impending and would be coordinated with an Israeli strike against Syria. All three armies, the Iranian (plus Hizballah), Syrian and Israeli, have been deep in hectic war preparations ever since.
This war fever will be further heated by Sarkozy’s words. They certainly contradict Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak’s smooth assurance to the Knesset foreign affairs and defense committee, also on Monday, that he sees first signs of Syrian military suspense ebbing.
The French president’s reading of the situation was closer to that of the former US ambassador Edward P. Djerejian, whose impressions from talks with Syrian leaders last week were disclosed by DEBKAfile. Djerejian underscored the Syrian president Bashar Assad’s unshakeable commitment to Tehran’s foreign and military policies, even if his relations with Washington do improve.
Like Barak, Mohammed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is trying to pour oil on troubled waters. He sent inspectors to Tehran to collect understandings and so fend off the third round of sanctions promised at the UN Security Council next month.
The IAEA and Iran jointly announced Monday they had “agreed a timeline for implementing a plan to clarify Tehran’s nuclear program.”
Iran took this some steps further, claiming “the IAEA accepted that earlier statements made by Iran (on the issue of plutonium) are consistent with the agency’s findings and thus this matter is resolved.” Tehran also announced cooperation with a nuclear watchdog probe of an “alleged secret uranium processing project linked by U.S. intelligence to a nuclear arms program.”
Washington is not buying this show of Iranian compliance and zeal for cooperation with the world community. The US ambassador to the IAEA in Vienna pointed to “real limitations” in the timeline understanding and accused Tehran of “manipulating the IAEA as a way to avoid harsher sanctions.”
ElBaradei had previously called a military attack on Iran “madness.”
The assessments of Sarkozy and ElBaradei therefore veer dangerously between “catastrophe” and “madness.”