August 7, 2006

Things have reached a dangerous state in the Middle East, with the continued fighting between Israel and Hezbollah presenting all sorts of opportunities for things to go awry and further escalate. Syria’s army is now on a war footing, and it appears Lebanon’s government has finally begun to realize that Israel is not going away until the Hezbollah problem is resolved one way or the other. The diplomatic initiative working its way through the UN is DOA as a result of a number of Arab nations pushing for immediate Israeli withdrawal, and its clear that all the combatants in the conflict – both operational and tactical – recognize the UN as nothing more than a bunch of paper-pushers and resolution-seekers without any teeth.

I find it interesting, therefore, Lebanon’s and the Arab League’s request for a change to the proposed American-French draft resolution to include a call for “immediate withdrawal of some 10,000 Israeli troops from its soil”. They obviously know there’s no way Israel would agree to such a demand, which begs the question why they are calling for something they know will be rejected in the first place. It could only be for one of two reasons: 1) they want the current conflict to continue in the hope of further escalation into a regional conflict or that Israeli resolve will be diminished as time goes on; or 2) they want the current conflict to continue to further diminish Hezbollah as a military and political force within the region.

I think either of these reasons is plausible. The Arab street holds no love for Israel, so option 1 seems the most logical reason for the diplomatic initiative hold-up. But I personally believe it’s option 2 that is at work here. First of all, Saudi Arabia’s ongoing criticism of Hezbollah would seem to hint at a greater dissatisfaction by Arab governments with Hezbollah’s ill-advised (and, in the case of Iran, ill-timed?) provocation that led to the current conflict. Second, it’s hard to believe Lebanon’s government and civilian population can continue to support Hezbollah knowing its continued presence in that country will only lead to greater damage and destruction inflicted upon its infrastructure and economy.

There is, however, another angle that no one (at least to my knowledge) has sought to explore here – which is, Iran’s interest in this whole matter. Which is, that no matter what happens diplomatically or militarily between Hezbollah and Israel, Iran wins. Common wisdom says that Iran’s support of Hezbollah – both politically and, in the background, militarily – is indicative of Iran’s desire for it to succeed against Israel, but it’s my view that Iran has much more to gain by an escalation of hostilities that either brings Syria into the conflict, or even sees Hezbollah neutralized or defeated. Believe me, it’s not as far-fetched as you might think.

First of all, Hezbollah’s defeat would be viewed as its punishment for provocations and/or actions taken without Iran’s sanction or knowledge, thus showing like-minded countries or groups that you better tow Iran’s line or face a similar fate. Second, Iran can say it supported Hezbollah, but the latter’s defeat or failure only illustrates the need for a more powerful leader (guess who?) and forceful effort if Israel is to be both humbled and defeated once and for all. Finally, the current conflict provides Iran with a excellent opportunity to view what is and isn’t working militarily as its makes its own plans and preparations for armed conflict with Israel somewhere down the road.

While the world focuses on Israel and Lebanon, Iran bides its time as the 800-lb. gorilla no one wants to deal with.

The uncomfortable fact, however, is that whether it’s Israel, the U.S., or some future coalition of nations, sooner or later (and I believe events are pushing things towards sooner), Iran’s menace is going to have to be dealth with militarily. National Review’s Barbara Lerner opines that the time is now, restating something she has effectively argued before.

While no one wants to see current events spiral out of control and into a regional or, at worst, world-wide conflict, the sad truth is that, whether it’s today or weeks, months, or years from now, if you’re gonna strike Iran, better to do so at a time and making of your own choosing than theirs. There are no easy answers to what is happening – and will happen – in the Middle East; one must recognize, however, that in the oriental mindset (and, by that I’m talking the “Eastern” vs. “Western”), it is brute force, overwhelming power and steely resolve, not polite, limp-wristed diplomacy, that is most understood and respected. As the war between Israel and Hezbollah rages on and diplomats in New York and in capitals across the world seek a resolution via polite diplomacy, Iran waits, playing the U.S., the West, and the U.N. for chumps, knowing that its time is coming. How successful it will be at that time will all depend on the West’s resolve for dealing with a real and looming threat in a way no U.N. resolution or form of diplomacy can.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 14:12 | Comments (0)
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