Gates visits Kabul, beats Ahmadinejad to the post
An Iranian official in Kabul denied president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had delayed his visit to the Afghan capital Monday, March 8 when US defense secretary Robert Gates arrived unannounced in Afghanistan that day.
All the same, the Iranian president postponed his trip "at the head of a high-ranking delegation" for talks with President Hamid Karzai by 48 hours to Wednesday.
Ahead of his trip, Iran claimed to have launched production of its first cruise missile, the short-range Nasr 1 (Victory 1), which was claimed by Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi Sunday, March 7 to be capable of destroying warships of up to 3,000 tons when launched from the ground or sea vessels.
The new weapon imperils US naval carriers and US and Israeli submarines stationed in the Persian Gulf.
The next Nasr version will be designed for launching from helicopters and submarines, said Vahidi.
Last month, Tehran inaugurated production lines for new Qaem (Rising) ground-to-air and Toofan (Storm) surface missiles.
debkafile's Iranian sources say Tehran and its allies Syria and Hizballah feel they are in the midst of rapid military and diplomatic momentum compared with American ineptness and Israeli inertia.
Sunday, Ahmadinejad set the scene for his visit by calling the September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers of New York "a big fabrication" and "a provocation" to justify America's war on terror and invasion of Afghanistan.
The Iranian president thus let loose a verbal offensive to undermine the legitimacy of the US military presence in Afghanistan in the eyes of its population, at a time when the new Afghan strategy composed by Barack Obama last year is in full swing with 30,000 extra US troops on the way.
Ahmadinejad used the same trick when he denied the Nazi Holocaust ever happened in order to question Israel's right to exist.
This time, he aimed at two targets: His arrival in Kabul was meant to coincide with the US Vice President Joe Biden's arrival in Israel, only he was beaten to the post by defense secretary Gates.
Biden's overriding mission (alongside the US envoy George Mitchell's effort to revive Israel-Palestinian peace talks) is to make sure Israel does not exercise its military option against Iran's nuclear facilities in view of the fading prospects of international harsh sanctions.
The Iranian foreign ministry spokesman poured salt on Western wounds Sunday by asserting that "sanctions would not materialize" in view of the lack of consensus among the six powers working to halt Tehran's nuclear program.