Wednesday, July 12, 2006
This is a very significant new development in the war. It is an effort by Hezbollah to support Hamas in Gaza and divert Israeli forces. However, it is probably a very unfortunate development in the longer run for Palestinians, on the one hand, and Lebanese, on the other.
Israel is being tested and it strikes me is far more likely to react aggressively, and perhaps overreact, to the detriment of Lebanon and Palestinians. Furthermore, it is very unlikely the US or Europe will act meaningfully to restrain the Israeli military response. No sovereign nation can tolerate military incursions onto its territory and the seizure of its citizens. These are acts of war.
There has been some complaint about Israel's reactions in Gaza as "asymmetrical." Those complaints are, frankly, silly. Military actions in war are meant to be asymmetrical and lead to victory. They are not meant to be measured to achieve a stalemate.
In my view, Israel is likely to react very aggressively, and with limited restraints, to this recent provocation. It will not swap prisoners. And this in turn may fuel additional expansion of the Middle East War.
Addendum: I won't even get into the ridiculousness of the title of the NYT piece, which suggests an Israeli, rather than Lebanese aggression.
Update: Fox News is reporting that the US has positioned responsibility for the Hezbollah incursion on Syria and Iran. This gets terribly interesting:
1) does Israel bypass Lebanon (given the US steer) and attack Damascus directly after creating a buffer zone in southern Lebanon?
2) how does the timing of this incursion mesh with Iran's intention to respond to the US incentives proposal by August 22nd?
3) Does this accelerate and increase the likelihood of US-led military action on Iran?
4) How does this mesh with the announcement by the French today to refer Iran back to the UNSC for not negotiating in good faith?
I can't believe this isn't getting more attention today than it has thus far received.
Update 2, 4pm: from an occasionally unreliable source, Debka.com, a senior Iranian official (national security chief Ari Larijani, also their nuclear negotiator) has flown to Damascus. If true, this makes plain the linkages about which I speculated above. One step at a time, but I suspect the next 7 days will see a marked escalation in the Middle East.
Here is a report that Israel is soon to formally declare war:
This could get very interesting very fast, especially if Syria and/or Iran put in with Hezbollah and make some kind of counter declaration. We might be coming quickly to a showdown here, especially if we are (and if things get to a point, I think we are) obliged to take sides. It seems Assad's days might be about done in any case. Wherher we do the deed or Israel does makes little difference at this point. And taking him out might have a salutory effect on Tehran. (So much for my temporizing theory of a few days back.)
It's long been known that Iran is cozy with Syria... since the 80s. They had a mutual enemy in Saddam Hussein. Now they have us and the new Iraqi government. (but mostly us)
Also, Hezb-Allah is funded by Iran and supported (though not exactly controlled) by both Syria and Iran.
Damascus and Tehran might have something to do with this, but they might not. Political clients don't always behave themselves, and occasionally misbehave in order to manipulate their patrons. (Taiwan and North Korea come to mind)
If Hezb-Allah (but not the rest of Lebanon) suffers here, it would be a good thing. The Lebanese themselves are sick of Hezb-Allah and their violent, separatist tendencies; all they do now is cause trouble and them getting wrecked would remove an Iranian/Syrian pawn and make regional politics a little easier.
But if the fighting spreads to Lebanon proper, the Lebanese and Syrian armies might intervene. Things could get very messy.
Iran and Syria signed a'treaty of mutual defense' a few months back when it looked like our Marines in Anbahr province, Iraq were going to do 'hot pursuit' into Syria after Al Qada. 'Twill be interesting to see what it takes to get Iranian troops or missles imnvolved.
You have to consider one point: Whoever (Iran, Syria, Hezbollah) approved of this, believed they would get Good Things out of it. If Iran, they may be diverting attention from their nuclear program, or attempting to stir up the Muddle East. If Syria, they may be attempting to uproot democracy in Lebanon as they are “forced” into a re-occupation. If Hezbollah… well, they’re nuts, and anything that *censored* off the Jews is good by them. My worst fear is that Iran has *already* gotten a bomb assembled, and is fomenting this chaos in order to get it smuggled into Tel Aviv for their test.