Iranian FM Manouchehr Mottaki meets his French counterpart in Beirut Monday. debkafile: The bargaining over an international force begins

Mottaki arrived in the Lebanese capital from Damascus shortly after French foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, who pointed to the importance of maintaining contacts with Tehran as part of efforts to resolve the crisis in Lebanon.
debkafile: Paris thus opens a direct track to Tehran and Hizballah to explore their conditions for accepting a multinational force, its format and mandate. When Condoleezza Rice said Monday morning that a lasting ceasefire and peace force must be achieved at the UN this week – and when Olmert declared that the war goes on and Israel will win – neither knew where the three-talks in Beirut Monday night would lead. It is increasingly apparent that Tehran and Nasrallah hold they key to determining the conditions for a cessation of hostilities.
debkafile‘s military sources reveal that Iran stepped squarely and openly into the Lebanon conflict Sunday, July 30, by taking over from Syria the arms supply route for Hizballah running through the Syrian-Lebanese border – which is why Israeli air bombardments have been concentrated on those crossing points since then. Tehran has decided it owns a key national interest in preserving Hizballah and its rocket capabilities as an effective military instrument against Israel.
debkafile‘s Iranian sources disclose that Iran’s leaders are not quite happy with Hizballah’s performance, having expected a far higher Israeli casualty toll and more extensive war damage. They are now considering upgrading Hizballah’s rocket arsenal with missiles that are heavier and of longer range than the Katyusha rockets thousands of which blitzed Israeli towns in the first 20 days of the war. These rockets may be fired from Syrian-Lebanese border locations.
To ward this development off, the Bush administration did not argue about the Mottaki-Douste-Blazy meeting although amounts to recognition by its senior partner in Lebanon, France, of Iran’s senior status in the Lebanon conflict. Washington hopes Paris can convince Tehran – and thus Nasrallah – to accept a multinational force set up by the UN Security Council. Monday, too, the UN Security Council set an August deadline for Iran to halt uranium enrichment or face sanctions. The Americans believe Tehran will be reluctant to fight the West on two fronts simultaneously and will therefore give way on Lebanon.
Iranian leaders have a different take on the reciprocal effect of the two crises. They regard Hizballah’s three-week stand against the IDF as raising the going price of their consent to a multinational force and will therefore hold out for generous US concessions on their nuclear program, including the lifting of the UN’s deadline.
In his talks with Mottaki, therefore, Douste-Blazy will take note of Tehran’s conditions for a deal and pass them on to Washington. debkafile‘s sources expect the Iranian FM to lay down an ultimatum: Unless the US gives way on the nuclear issue, hostilities in Lebanon will escalate and Tehran will deepen its involvement.

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