July 14, 2006

Even More Shit Hits the Fan in the Middle East

Time to turn to more informed sources than yours truly for enlightenment.

Here's Juan Cole:
One thing is clear. This crisis will not leave the fabric of Lebanese politics untouched, and the danger of an unraveling is acute. And, it is clear that the withdrawal of Syria from Lebanon has given an opening to Israeli hawks to invade Lebanese territory again. It will not be good for Israelis if Lebanon collapses into a failed state again.

Rejectionists on both sides are to blame. The Oslo Peace Process could have forestalled all this violence, as Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin understood. But on the Israeli side, the then Likud Party of Bibi Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert derailed it. On the Palestinian side, Hamas rejected it. Had there been a peace process, prisoners would have been released in return for a cessation of hostilities, and there would have been no motivation to capture Israeli soldiers.

The lesson is that if you refuse to negotiate a peace, then you are likely to have to go on fighting a war.
Here's Robert Fisk:
It's about Syria. That was the frightening message delivered by Damascus yesterday when it allowed its Hizbollah allies to cross the UN Blue Line in southern Lebanon, kill three Israeli soldiers, capture two others and demand the release of Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails.

Within hours, a country that had begun to believe in peace - without a single Syrian soldier left on its soil - found itself once more at war.

Israel held the powerless Lebanese government responsible - as if the sectarian and divided cabinet in Beirut can control Hizbollah. That is Syria's message. Fouad Siniora, Lebanon's affable Prime Minister, may have thought he was running the country but it is President Bashar Assad in Damascus who can still bring life or death to a land that lost 150,000 lives in 15 years of civil conflict.

And there is one certain bet that Syria will rely on; that despite all Israel's threats of inflicting "pain" on Lebanon, this war will run out of control until - as has so often happened in the past - Israel itself calls for a ceasefire and releases prisoners. Then the international big-hitters will arrive and make their way to the real Lebanese capital - Damascus, not Beirut - and appeal for help.
Today's SMH Editorial:
EVERY army understands the perils of fighting on two fronts. Yet that is what Israel is facing as it threatens to bomb Lebanon "back 20 years" while at the same time pushing into the Gaza Strip... The kidnappings are deplorable, but Israel's overwhelming military response is no solution. History has taught this lesson in these very theatres of conflict over and over again... Only two years ago, Israel's former prime minister, Ariel Sharon - a military strongman who led countless campaigns against Palestinian militants before pulling out of Gaza - swapped hundreds of prisoners for a kidnapped Israeli businessman. Ultimately, human life is more important than bellowed slogans of no compromise. The only way out of this bloody cul de sac is for one, or both sides, to back down.
Paul Richter of the LA Times says Bush cannot keep doing nothing as a matter of policy:
THE Bush Administration, having overlooked warnings to pay closer attention to worsening security in the Middle East, is suddenly confronting a frightening eruption in fighting that threatens not only to swamp Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts but to inflame the entire region.

The Administration has stood on the sidelines as Israel battled Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, sticking to its policy of watching from a distance. But with the eruption of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah that strategy no longer appears possible for the White House - if it ever was.

The emergency comes as the Administration finds itself overstretched on every diplomatic front, including Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
Robin Wright at WaPo quotes (heavily) Bush officials and analysts blaming Iran and Syria, but points out that options for the USA are limited:
"They have sanctioned themselves out of leverage on Iran," Malley said. "They have cornered themselves out of a lack of influence on any of the parties that are driving this -- Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and Iran. Counseling restraint or condemning actions is pretty meager when you think of the influence the United States should be wielding."
Jim Lobe says the attacks present Bush with a stark choice: either start embracing genuine diplomacy (not the cowboy version) or "maintain its strong backing for military action by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert."
As hinted by the difference between the statements by Rice and the White House, the choice may provoke a major fight within the administration, particularly between State Department officials, who have long argued in favor of a more active and evenhanded U.S. role, particularly in trying to revive an Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and Elliot Abrams, Bush's senior Mideast adviser on the National Security Council staff, who, according to Chris Toensing, director of the Middle East Research and Information Project, "has been inclined to give Israel fairly free rein."

Until now, Rice has generally deferred to Abrams on Israel-Palestinian issues, but, with the conflict threatening "to become a regional conflagration, the administration may be forced to consider a different approach," he said.
Oh, and let's not forget that wingnut bloggers and neo=cons have been holding up Lebanon's "Cedar revolution" as a model of ME success for some time now. Here's ITM's distinctly un-Arab-like view on the latest violence:
I don't know for sure what made Hizbollah do what they did this morning but I can make some guesses starting from the fact that Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbollah collectively form one big axis of evil in the Middle East with connected interests and shared goals so the abduction of the two Israeli soldiers looks like an act planned to serve the interests of the members of the axis without the least regard to the harm it can bring upon Lebanon...

BLAH BLAH BLAH ... putting the international community, America and Israel in a position where they have to fight (militarily or politically) on more than one front... BLAH BLAH BLAH ....

From an Iraqi perspective I believe that a powerful strike to Hizbollah will be in Iraq's national interest... They want a war and I think they're going to get one.
Omar and Mohammed Fadhil, the only two pro-US, pro-Israeli Arabs left in the Middle East. I guess you gotta follow the money and play to your audience, right boys?


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