Saturday, July 29, 2006

Peace Murmurs: Lebanese Roundup

There are rumors of peace terms emanating from corridors of power in various locations.
Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora secured a political victory by convincing Hezbollah government members to back his plan for a ceasefire with Israel but it remained unclear Friday whether the move went beyond symbolic value.

The announcement late Thursday that the government had backed Siniora's seven-point plan for a ceasefire came as ferocious battles continued in the south between Israeli forces and Hezbollah on the 17th day of Israel's offensive.

"The decision of the council of ministers is a surprise and one of the most important decisions taken for years," said the daily An-Nahar. "The government succeeded to address the international community with a single voice." In a speech to an international meeting on the Lebanon crisis in Rome earlier this week, Siniora laid out a plan for a ceasefire that demanded an exchange of prisoners between Lebanon and Israel and a pacification of their common border.

But even more crucially, the plan foresaw the Lebanese government exercising full sovereignty over its southern regions and the UN Security Council making an engagement to put the contested Shebaa farms area under United Nations jurisdiction.

Abu Kais at From Beirut to the Beltway analyzes the story behind the story. Have Nabih Berri and Fouad Siniora - and the Israeli incursion - maneuvered Hezbollah into agreeing to be disarmed?

Has Hizbullah agreed to disarm? That's what Elaph (Arabic) is now claiming. Hizbullah was reportedly concerned about a UN resolution under chapter 7 that would disarm it by force if necessary. Nabih Berri, Elaph claims, knew about Siniora's plan and agreed to it before the Rome trip, leaving Hizbullah without a political cover in the country. Elaph said Hizbullah chose the lesser of two evils and went with the Siniora plan, which would lead to its peaceful disarmament.

I wonder if Nasrallah's reported visit to Damascus had anything to do with this. If all this is true, then Hizbullah is finished as a military power. But the Assad regime and Iran are still there.

Meanwhile, YNET reports on the Hizbullah recruitment policy, how their training works and why even an official order to disarm might not be so easy to enforce:
[Shiite cleric Sayed] Ali and his men said they see the current fighting with Israel as a war of survival, not only for Hizbullah but for the Shiite faith.

He says the struggle is not just against Israel but also against the Lebanese Sunni. "If Israel comes out victorious from this conflict, this will be a victory for the Sunnis and they will take the Shia community back in history dozens of years to the time when we were only allowed to work as garbage collectors in this country. The Shia will all die before letting this happen again."

He warned that even if the international community asks Hizbullah to lay down its arms in the frame of a ceasefire he and his men will keep their arms.

"This war is episode two in disarming Hizbullah. First they tried to do it through the Lebanese government and the UN. When they failed, the Americans asked the Israelis to do the job."

He refuted Israeli claims the Hizbullah has been weakened: "Things are going very well now, whatever happens we are winning. If they keep bombing us we will stay in the shelters, and with each bomb more people support the resistance. If they invade they will repeat the miserable fate they had in 1982, and if they hold one square foot they will give the Islamic resistance all the legitimacy. If they want to kill Hizbullah they have to kill every Shia in the south of Lebanon."

"The real battle is after the end of this war. We will have to settle score with the Lebanese politicians. We also have the best security and intelligence apparatus in this country, and we can reach any of those people who are speaking against us now. Let's finish with the Israelis and then we will settle scores later."

Big Pharaoh reports on the fact that Nasrallah is suddenly the hero of the Arab world.
You can't imagine the euphoria we're feeling as a result of Hezbollah's ability to directly hit major Israeli towns such as Haifa and Afula today. Nasrallah did what no other Arab army has done in this conflict's history. Even the PLO when it was stationed in Lebanon didn't send missiles that deep into Israeli territories.

What about Lebanon being destroyed? No big deal! Who cares about Lebanon when you have a few guerrillas who managed to hit Israeli cities and force Israeli citizens into hiding. Even Gamal Abdul Naser and Yasser Arafat couldn't do it.

Michael Young, opinion editor of the Beirut Daily Star, interviews Walid Jumblatt, leader of the Lebanese Druse, in his mountain palace.

And there are reports of how Hezbollah operates in southern Druse and Christian towns, which is decidedly not for the benefit of either the Druse or the Christians. Not to defend them, but to use them to launch missiles, so that the Israelis will retaliate by hitting these villages and destroy them. Which will help Hizbollah in its propaganda war.

Lebanon.Profile provides anecdotal evidence to explain the complexity of Lebanese reality with all of its various and competing loyalties.

He also points to an article on the front page of the WSJ about Lebanese and Israeli bloggers talking across the front line.
The Internet has made it possible "to have a Beirut-Tel Aviv online IM chat in real time," Ms. Goldman wrote, on her On the Face blog. "That's what happened to me and this blogger a few nights ago. We chatted while he was sitting on the roof of his apartment building in Beirut watching missiles from Israeli planes fall on his city and describing it to me. He was carrying on an online conversation with another Israeli at the same time."

The Lebanese blogger, who runs the Lebanese Political Journal blog, won't disclose his identity because he believes his online chats with Israelis could be considered an act of disloyalty. He says in an email: "Chatting with Israelis from Lebanon during war is very awkward." But, he says, "One remembers that we are still humans regardless of where the borders lie."

Michael Totten points out the saying that Lebanon has more opinions than people. Sounds familiar.

Friday, July 28, 2006

To Be, or Not To Be, Chosen

In the Corner Jonah put up an intriguing quote about chosenness from Leo Strauss, that relates both to history and the current troubles, reconstituting the spiritual notion in historico-political terms.
Finite, relative problems can be solved; infinite, absolute problems cannot be solved. In other words, human beings will never create a society which is free from contradictions. From every point of view it looks as if the Jewish people were the chosen people, at least in the sense that the Jewish problem is the most manifest symbol of the human problem insofar as it is a social or political problem.

It garnered an interesting reply from a Corner reader: Jews and the Gnostics
From the point of view of Christians, the Jews are indeed the chosen people, and Gnostics hate that because they hate history. History is free, meaning that it is the arena of human freedom and responsibility. Creation is a free act of God, and being created in the image of God is being created in freedom, and one has to freely accept that freedom & the responsibility that goes with it. Gnostics, like pagans generally, believe that freedom is irrational and history is
meaningless. They can't stand the idea that God is free, that he has freely chosen the Jews, that through them he has taught us that human responsibilty matters- in fact, that everything matters.

Gnostics (and a great modern example is Yale University's Harold Bloom- Omens of the Millenium) cannot accept that the evil in the world comes from free human actions under the judgment of God. Their attitude is: It's not my fault- it's the Demi-urge's fault, it's the government's fault, it's that people are not enlightened, etc. So they seek one of two solutions: either they escape from history through various mystical practices, or they attempt to stifle freedom by the imposition of some
kind of totalitarianism.

This piece, at Drink Soaked Trotskyite Popinjays for War, also has an interesting resonance with the original quotation.
Drawing from the Romantic notion of the 'noble savage' uncorrupted by modernity, German volkisch thought idealised the simple peasant farmer who in some mystical sense shaped the landscape and was in turn shaped by it. This married easily with traditional anti-Semitism, for who else could serve as the very incarnation of this ideal's antithesis as the eternal wandering Jew - cosmopolitan, secular, and - perhaps above all - landless? Yet today we are being told that the only problem anyone has with the Jews is that they now have land - because it was taken from another. So different, yet the same. For many, but by no means all, there is an underlying theme that echoes down millennia and not merely centuries: the common denominator is the question of existence itself.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Where the bombs are falling

This map shows the effected areas in Beirut. It is quite a small area, contra to the impression you gain from seeing the news reports. Click on the map for a larger view.

Produce the UNIFIL Documents, Kofi!

Benny Avni provides more details about the Israel-UN imbroglio over the deaths of the four peacekeepers:
A senior U.N. peacekeeping operation official who briefed the press yesterday, however, said that on the day the deaths occurred, the only "known Hezbollah activity was 5 kilometers away."The official's briefing was conditioned on anonymity, but the undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations, Jane Holl Lute, supplied the Security Council with similar information at an earlier briefing yesterday.

"To our knowledge, unlike the vicinity of some of our other patrol bases, Hezbollah firing was not taking place within the immediate vicinity" of the base that was hit Tuesday...

A spokesman for the peacekeeping operation department, Nicholas Birnbach, told the Sun yesterday that when the U.N. official told reporters that there was no Hezbollah activity within three miles of the U.N. camp, she was referring only to the Monday incident and not to the time period of several days earlier described in the UNIFIL observer's e-mail.

Mr. Birnbach, however, declined to produce a UNIFIL report that would back up Ms. Lute's assertion that there was no Hezbollah activity in the immediate vicinity of the post, which was manned by three other observers beside Hess-von Kruedener.

Mr. Annan and the peacekeeping official yesterday said they now "accept" Prime Minister Olmert's conveyance of regret over the incident.

Hizb'allah's Fighting Ability

According to Bill Roggio at the Counterterrorism Blog:
The Israelis have confirmed that Hezbollah is fighting like a professional military. Their units are fighting at the company level at the least (Unit size of approximately 100 men), and perhaps in larger formations. Intelligence also confirms there is specialization within the Hezbollah units, including trained infantry, mortar teams, missile squads, and logistical personal. Iran has trained and organized Hezbollah's army into something far more deadly than a militia force. Hezbollah's core 'active' army is estimated at 3,000 - 5,000, with as many as 50,000 part time militia and support personnel that can be called upon to fight (20,000 is the average estimate).

Suicide Bombers Headed Towards Lebanon?

On the one hand, it's the UK Sun reporting, so take that for what it is worth.

On the other hand, we're talking about Ahmadinejad's Iran coming to the aid of the Shi'ites in sLebanon, which is entirely plausible.

And no such luck that this will dry up the supply of Shia suicide bombers to Iraq for a while, since "55,00...registered in Iran" though only 27 were chosen to be briefed and to take the "relevant courses", whatever that could mean. What is also means is that there are plenty left over.

In other similarly depressing news, there is now a campaign afoot to claim Israel has been using phosphorus bombs on people.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A Little Northern Sanity

Thank God for Stephen Harper, PM of Canada. He's right up there with John Bolton!

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Wednesday he doubts Israel's deadly attack on a UN observation post in Lebanon, which killed a Canadian observer, was deliberate...

"I certainly doubt that to be the case, given that the government of Israel has been cooperating with us in our evacuation efforts, in our efforts to move Canadian citizens out of Lebanon and also trying to keep our own troops that are on the ground involved in the evacuation out of harm's way," he said.

"We want to find out why this United Nations post was attacked and also why it remained manned during what is now, more or less, a war during obvious danger to these individuals."

I have these real peacenikky friends in Canada who were quite upset when Stephen Harper was elected.


Doves Molting Into Hawks


The last several years, since Arafat launched the second intifada, has shaken the illusions from the eyes of many a former dove in Israel.

Zeev Avrahami, freelance journalist who writes for Haaretz, and once spent 45 days in a military prison in Israel for refusing to serve in the reserves, recounts his journey away from the peace camp.

More News You Won't Hear in the MSM


As all the world now knows, Israel, yesterday, had the bad fortune to hit the UN observer post on the border and in the process, kill 4 UN peacekeepers. Kofi Annan immediately decried this as "purposeful."

Here's what you haven't heard about that observation post.

From an emailer to Melanie Phillips:
Retired Canadian General Lew MacKenzie - who is speaking in Toronto tonight at a Stand with Israel rally - was interviewed on CBC Toronto radio this a.m. He told the show's anchor that he had received an e-mail only days before from the dead Canadian observor who was a member of his former battalion. MacKenzie says that the message indicated in effect that the UN position was being used as cover by Hezbollah, who, MacKenzie explained, can do so quite freely as they are not members of the UN and not subject, therefore, to official condemnation. MacKenzie further took issue with the misleading reportage (citing CNN in particular) that suggests that Beirut is being bombarded by the IDF and that the city is in ruins. He said that the bombing is no where near the saturation levels that constitute a bombardment and the IAF have specifically targetted a twelve-block area that is, more-or-less, Hezbollah City, and only after dropping leaflets warning civilians to vacate well in advance of the planned airstrikes.

[UPDATE: Here's the audio link to the interview.]

As usual, Melanie's entire piece is well worth reading, as she deconstructs further the BBC with its notoriously anti-Israel coverage during this crisis.
The BBC has now become one of the most potent weapons of the enemies of civilisation. It is the most prominent cultural symbol of a society that has turned upon itself and is hell-bent on committing collective suicide.
Even the US using Israel to fight their proxy war comes up for castigation.

Monday, July 24, 2006

New Frontiers in Liberal Self Delusion, Here and Abroad

On the State Level, in Britain:

Britain has just decided not to go ahead with legislation that would make forced marriages in Britain illegal.

Seems like a pretty good law to mandate. So what is holding them back?

"Fears that the new law would stigmatise Muslims."

Between 2003 and 2005, 518 forced marriages were recorded in London, and in 2005 more than 140 in Bradford. Campaigners say those are merely the tip of the iceberg.

Most cases in Britain involve Muslim families, although the practice is not restricted to any particular religious or ethnic group. Most victims are aged between 16 and 20 and many suffer physical assault, death threats and false imprisonment, usually at the hands of close family members.

Suicide rates among young Asian women are more than three times the national average and about 12 women every year die as a result of so-called “honour killings”.

So what were the reasons given for the Government reversal. Baroness Scotland, the Home Office Minister, said that most of those consulted “felt that the disadvantages of creating new legislation would outweigh the advantages”.

In other words, no matter how bad the status-quo is, better to maintain it. Who cares about high suicide rates among Asian girls and honor killings, when, as the Muslim Council of Britain sugests, 'such a law might become "another way to stigmatise our communities".'

Now back on the home front, for some self-delusion on the individual level:

Meet Sheldon Drobny, a wealthy Jewish financier of the Democrats, and founder of Air America. This is the quality of his thinking:
[M[y conclusion is that the bloggers who violently hate Israel and see it in black and white terms are not really liberals. They may even be anti-Semites, but they are not representative of the liberal community that was so active in achieving racial and ethnic equality. It is a contradiction for a true liberal to be an anti-Semite. Furthermore, I would not put it past the right wing to flood the liberal blogs with hateful criticisms of Israel to advance a perception that liberals are anti-Israel or anti-Semitic. And I see Karl Rove's fingerprints all over this.

Hat Tip: The American Thinker

Sunday, July 23, 2006

A Little Reality Is a Marvelous Thing

Does everyone remember this accusation and how bad it made Israel look?

Nazareth: No one told us, the Arabs, to take shelter...

Residents of predominantly Muslim and Christian town accuse government of failing to sufficiently instruct residents on what to do when rockets hit; "If they had instructed us to take cover, as in Jewish towns, death of two children might have been prevented," Nazareth man says...

The rockets caught local residents unprepared, they related. "We knew it could happen to us too, but when no one is sounding the alarms or distributing instruction flyers, we just continued life as usual," Kubati said.

It turns out that Nazareth asked to be disconnected from the air raid sirens.

Home Front Commander Yitzhak Jerry Gershon told government ministers: "The city of Nazareth asked to be disconnected from the system of air raid sirens because it interfered with them on remembrance days for IDF martyrs and on Holocaust Day."

Gershon was responding to claims that the siren didn't work in the city when it came under rocket attack in which two brothers were killed last week.

Nasrallah Time Waster

Check out this Nasrallah game. It's hard and frustrating and takes a lot of patience and repetition, all of which imitates real world circumstances in this ongoing fight. And the strategy, once you figure it out, drives home an important point to keep in mind about how to win the real game, not just the video one. Er, I kinda played it a lot the end of last week.

This one is much easier.

[Hat Tip: Allison]

UPDATE: And one a related note: Lebanese TV Satire of Hizbullah - with subtitles. It's pretty funny.

Game Plan - Friedman on Lebanon and Syria

I just watched 30 minutes of Tim Russert interviewing Thomas Friedman about Lebanon. Interestingly, I agree with much of what he said [There's currently a certain amount of vaccum out there currently sucking out the hot air in liberal brains, allowing sense to restabilize itself - though I predict this phenomenon won't last very long. Soon enough the status quo will return. After all, the same phenomenon occurred after 9/11. For a different take on this issue, see Powerline's critique of the current status quo liberal position. And just to prove that this phenomenon is not occurring to "liberals" everywhere, check out the first two paragraph of this.]

And in this case, the reaction is heightened, at least among serious analysts, because no one appears to like the Iranians.

Speaking of which, Friedman covered a lot about the Shi'ite/Sunni axis I've previously below.

But the key to his "thesis" is that right now, the Bush Administration has to flip Syria from an Iranian ally to one willing to help the other side. Actually, this is how he phrased it. What would Henry Kissinger do in this situation? Picture a Republican with a big brain, and enough of a commitment to real politik that the ethics question is - to some extent - negligible. In other words, he perfectly understands the European position.

Nevertheless, the thesis makes sense. To a limited point.

First of all, Friedman forgot to mention that the leader of Syria, Bashir Assad, is an Allawite Shi'ite, and that is what cements the alliance with Iran, which keeps him in power. Nor Tim did mention this salient fact, which would have problematicized his analysis.

Neither did Tim bring up the obvious counter question. Which is how in h**l would anyone trust Syria to play a straight enough game right at this moment?

Nor did he address the concern that Josh Bolten mentioned to Tim Russert on MTP this morning; that the Administration had often spoken to Syria in the first term, and they had never followed through on any of their commitments.

As these are simple follow up questions, it shows a certain lack of engagement in the subject, that Russert was unable to think of them.

Note, in its postscript, Powerline post cited above is also extremely sceptical about riposting against Iran by turning Syria.

Related, this story is interesting:
SYRIA is prepared to tell the US the whereabouts of al-Qaeda cells in Lebanon, Britain's Sky News television reported today.

We do know that insurgents trained with Hizb'allah in Lebanon; but note, Al Qaeda is Sunni, so I imagine the current Syrian Government feels perfectly happy to sell out the Sunnis right now - despite the fact the majority of Syria is made up of Sunnis.

Also, they are not offering to give up any ties that will harm Iran's interests.

Finally, Friedman also addressed the point that Judith raised on Kesher Talk, that Hizb'allah has thoroughly wounded the hopes of Palestinians on the West Bank for an independent state, because, given the range of these rockets and missiles, which government is now going to suggest unilateral disengagement?

Only a suicidal one.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Looming Sunni-Shi'ite War?

Just heard a worrisome report on Hardball - Chris Mathews was interviewing former CIA Agent Bob Baer who, despite the shambles of a movie George Clooney turned his book into, still has insightful comments and a deep knowledge of the Middle East.

Apparently - and this I didn't know - several members of the new, America approved, current Iraq government spent some of thire years in exile from Iraq in Lebanon, with Hizb'allah. Which is why their ties are quite close. And also would account for the fact that PM Maliki of Iraq, a Shiite Arab whose party has close ties to Iran, denounced Israel yesterday.

Baer also talked about the Shi'ite arc, from Iran, through Iraq, through parts of Syria (the Alawite minority part - the nationality of Bashir Assad), through to Lebanon. And the fear that this arc will erupt is driving a great deal of the politics in the ME right now. Thus, the Saudi fatwa against Hizb'allah.

Baer proposed that if it emerges,"World War III" will be driven by a rift between Shi'ite and Sunni Moslems. And mentioned, in passing, that Sunni's he knows in Damascus are now beginning to leave.

Couple that with these thoughts from Lebanon.Profile @ Lebanese Political Journal about the feeling in Syria right now, where he's writing from exile, and it's an uncomfortable round of speculation.
Everyone is packing on weight. The stress response is to put on weight. Your body doesn't know when it will eat again. Everyone is consuming mass quantities. And we're all gaining weight. Our health is slowly deteriorating. Our mental health is worse.

We are all shocked. All of this toasting and eating, like much of Beirut's nightlife and fashion scene, is superficial cover-up for all of the internal scars. Champagne, wine, cars, and jokes do not make up for the loss of lives of family and friends, the loss of property, the loss of one's country.

The Syrians have made our stay wonderful. But of course they should be welcoming. We're reviving their distraught economy. Nothing could be better for Syria and Iran right now. Iranian President Ahmadinejad is in Damascus having meetings with President Assad. Contrary to international opinion, they have come out on top. The war against Hezbollah has destroyed the Middle East's most pro-Western country, while empowering the nations that work against Western interests. Now, President Bush is asking Secretary General Annan to ask Syria for help resolving the crisis. The Syrians are in a power position. Iran's nuclear program goes on. Lebanon crumbles.

[scroll at his site for related articles]
Is everything that Lebanon.Profile reports true? He's an honest reporter of events, so it is certainly true that this is the feeling in Syria at the moment as he gauges it - whether it proves true, or maintains itself, in the longrun or not. It could also be the prodct of the mental and emotional fog of war.

Or, the crumbling of prosperous, pro-Democrat Lebanon may represent a crumbling of what could have been a very important bulwark against the Islamist night that will never be built up again in quite the right way.

Still, as Mark Steyn noted, in a humorous opening, only a few months ago:
Do you worry? You look like you do. Worrying is the way the responsible citizen of an advanced society demonstrates his virtue: He feels good by feeling bad.
By that measure, I seem to be fulfilling my quotient of responsibility, of late days.

Israel may yet succeed with Hizb'allah in Lebanon. Or it may go partway and then stop. And one way or another, it is impossible to see, down the road, what will be the outcome of its policy either way. For good or for evil. Even if it's intentions are good. Just as Reagan never could have foretold what would come from his failure to pursue the precursors of Hizb'allah, who blew up the Marines, stationed in Beirut.

So, while I don't share the set of assumptions of Harold Meyerson, in this column, about the guns of July, nor his political world view by any means, I think he is asking a valid question.
I wonder if this is how the summer of 1914 felt?

Then, you will recall, the assassination of the Austrian archduke by a Serbian nationalist terrorist provided the senescent Austro-Hungarian Empire the excuse it had been looking for to wipe out the Serbian nationalists, which provoked the pan-Slavic nationalists at work for the czar to threaten the Austro-Hungarians with destruction, which led Germany's Kaiser to pledge retaliatory war against Russia, which prompted the French, who had an anti-German alliance with Russia, to begin mobilization. . . . Nobody wanted global conflagration, yet nobody knew how to stop it...

I review this familiar history for those of us (myself included) who've been wondering how the kidnapping of three Israeli soldiers (and the killing of eight others in the Hezbollah raid) has escalated in less than a week to what may be the brink of a cataclysmic regional war with ghastly global implications.
I don't see anything developing at anything like that speed. But, I must admit, this is a future outcome that is possible. And if we are led there, it will be through a series of unintended consequences.

The detritus of war becoming its mainstay.


UPDATE: Here's the transcript of the Bob Baer interview I referred to above:
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Bob Baer has been to Tehran and all over the Middle East. He‘s a former CIA operative and author of “Blow the House Down.” Bob, over all, what‘s the threat from this war to the United States?

BOB BAER, FMR CIA OPERATIVE: The threat is right now ideological.

Islam against the west, particularly the United States and Israel. Remember, that Beirut, 1982, is when Hezbollah started. It‘s the basis of bin Laden‘s hate toward the United States, so a civil war or a continuing war in Lebanon is going to do us no good in the long run.

MATTHEWS: Why not?

BAER: Well, you‘re going to get a lot of people that are angry and out to take revenge. It may take 10 years for them to do it. It may 20 years. It happened with bin Laden. Secondly Hezbollah could turn to terrorism. We don‘t see that right now because it would take an order from Iran to do it. Hezbollah is a very disciplined organization and it looks to the spiritual leadership in Tehran before it does anything.

MATTHEWS: Well, you say that—and certainly it‘s on the record that what spurred the creation of al Qaeda, which hit us on 9/11, was keeping our 10,000 troops in the holy land of Saudi Arabia, the sacred ground of Islam, in a way that showed contempt or indifference to their religious concerns. Do you believe that the blowing up of all the infrastructure in Lebanon is going to create the same kind of anomies?

BAER: Equally, because bin Laden has gone on the record and said that he considered running airplanes into buildings or attacking the United States, an American city, after watching the bombardment of Beirut in 1982, and that‘s what‘s happening today.

Obviously, the Israelis have known that we‘d expect that this would happen almost 20 years later, that we would be attacked for that bombardment which we had nothing to do, but this is the sort of consequence that comes out of warfare and bloodshed in the Middle East.

MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s, of course, historic. We can tell that from every war in history. Every time there‘s bloodshed and occupation and killing of people, eventually the occupied country gets even.

Let me ask you about this strange thing we‘re facing now with the Shia branch of Islam against the Sunni branch. In effect, we‘ve helped Iran build up more strength in the region because it‘s able to now enjoy the leverage they have with the majority in Iraq that they didn‘t have before.

Are they also going to have leverage through the use of Hezbollah? Have we basically put the Shia, the more militant groups of Shia, into the driver‘s seat in the Middle East?

BAER: Absolutely. And this is—you know, what happened when we invaded Iraq was we essentially turned the country over to radical Shia, and the leadership in Baghdad is radical Shia. I know most of these guys. In the ‘90s, they took refuge in the southern suburbs of Beirut, with Hezbollah. There‘s a close connection between the government in Baghdad and Hezbollah.

And what we‘re seeing now is the development of a radical Shia arc, which goes from Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus, and Beirut now, which is what has the Sunni—and that‘s Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf and Egypt and Jordan—so worried, and this is why they‘ve come out against Hezbollah.

MATTHEWS: You know, I‘ve heard that from the mouth of one of the leaders of one of those Sunni countries. As you just describe it is the wave he described it, the fear of an emerging Shia crescent across all the Middle East.

The Sunni governments which tend to be moderate are now being overwhelmed by something we may have had a hand in triggering, the continuity now from Tehran, through Baghdad, down through Beirut. We may have created our worst enemy. Do you believe that?

BAER: Chris, this is a catastrophe, Iraq, and this is going to go on for years. Iraq is going to change us. We‘re not going to change Iraq. I got calls from Damascus just before I got on the phone with you, and the Sunni are worried. They‘re leaving Damascus, afraid that this war in Lebanon is going to spread to Syria, and they‘re going to pay the Sunni. You know, they‘re going to flee to the Gulf, wherever they can.

The division between the Shia and the Sunni in the Middle East is our greatest threat to the United States. When people talk about World War III, it‘s not a traditional war against us from nuclear bombs or anything, it‘s from the split that will lead to a regional war which will ultimately and I repeat—will affect oil supplies.

Lebanese PM Calls for the Disarming of Hizb'allah. Then Retracts

And calls it a mistake in translation.

Corriere della Sera denies "the mistranslation," claiming they have the interview on tape.

The office of Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora on Thursday denied a report in the Milan-based daily "Corriere della Sera" that he called for the disarmament of Hezbollah.

Siniora`s office said in a statement that his words were distorted in translation from Italian to English.

"What the prime minister said is that the international community has not given the Lebanese government an opportunity to deal with the problem of Hezbollah`s arms, since the continuing presence of the Israeli occupation of Shebaa Farms is the reason for the weapons' location."

The statement continued, "the international community needs to assist us in persuading Israel to withdraw from Shebaa so that we can deal with the problem of Hezbollah`s arms."

"Corriere della Sera" said the publication stands by its report. "The interview was recorded," a senior staff member said.

On Thursday, the newspaper reported that the Shi'ite militia has been doing the bidding of Syria and Iran, and that it can only be disarmed with the help of the international community and once a cease-fire has been achieved in the current Middle East fighting.

"It's not a mystery that Hezbollah answers to the political agendas of Tehran and Damascus," Siniora was quoted as saying by Corriere. "The entire world must help us disarm Hezbollah. But first we need to reach a cease-fire."

He added Lebanon is still too weak to attack Hezbollah's stranglehold in the south of the country on its own.

So, did he have a change in perception over a few days, given the ongoing conflict? Or did he receive direct threats?

Zapped Again

Zapatero, Prime Minister of Spain, recently appeared wearing a Palestinian kaffiyeh.

Madrid - Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has come under criticism for posing with a Palestinian scarf on his shoulders after accusing Israel of using force "abusively" to defend itself, press reports said on Thursday...

Gustavo de Aristegui, spokesperson for the opposition conservative Popular Party (PP), called the photo "unfortunate" in the present Middle East situation. Sources of Zapatero's Socialist Party said he had not sought to be photographed in that way.
Hadn't sought it out. Old Zap simply showed his true colors.

YNET has more, on the new anti-semitism in Spain, cheer-led by Zapatero and his ministers:
Although many experts had foretold of the imminent disappearing of European Jews, nobody expected such a virulent explosion of anti-Semitism in Spain, not even under a Leftist government.

The first signal came on Monday, 5 December, when during a dinner with the Benarroch family, Zapatero and wife began claiming what Vidal Quadras, member of the European Parliament, described on the radio as "a tirade of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism".

By the moment the Benarroch couple had left the table to express their regrets, Zapatero was explaining his lack of surprise about the Holocaust: according to the people present, Zapatero claimed to understand the Nazis.
Ah yes. They're very understandable.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Why Hizb'allah Now?

Two interesting analyses about why Israel is currently limiting the attack to Hizb'allah and parts of Lebanon.

At the American Thinker James Lewis provides an answer as to why Israel is limited its strike just now only to Hizb'allah in Lebanon.
[T]here are two signs for the world to see: Israeli freedom to act as it wants, and the impotence of Syria and Iran to protect their proxies on the borders of Israel.

The IDF is attacking at a time and place of its choosing. If a country the size of Israel is going to tackle Iran, with ten times its population, it must first protect its own rear. The IDF cannot afford to have more than 10 thousand short-range rockets aimed at Israel’s population, all in the hands of Iran’s terror proxy, Hezbollah. For strategic reasons alone, therefore, it is imperative to clean out the threat to the rear before making any direct move again Tehran.

That does not mean the IDF is now committed to attack Bushehr and Natanz, the two most likely nuclear targets in Iran. But if it can cripple the threat from Hezbollah and Hamas for some time to come, it is clearing a strategic space to strike at Iran itself.

As always, Lebanon.Profile has valuable commentary. This time from Syria, a country where he is now a refugee. He points out, that unlike Lebanon, Syria is 100% united behind Hizb'allah:
the Syrian people seem unhappy that their government has not joined the fight. They are calling this, "The Final Battle." It's rather apocalyptic.

There are Hezbollah, Syrian, and Palestinian flags flying all over Damascus. In the old city, there are large Israeli flags taped to the narrow walkways forcing all pedestrians to trample on it. The Syrian people want the destruction of Israel and see now as the time to do it...

In the battle between Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hezbollah, Hezbollah is the weakest link. Lebanese political analysts for months have been arguing that Syria was weakest and connected all of the above named factions to one another. This was the thinking in mid-2005.

The Syrians were smart. They waited it out. They made it impossible for a coup...

The irony is that the Lebanese people, by and large, support the Western agenda. There is little positive sentiment for the Iranian or Syrian regimes and for Hamas. This is the diametric opposite of the Syrian people who fully support the destruction of Israel.

The Lebanese were trying to get rid of Hezbollah. They were not given the time it takes in this region to get anything done. Sadly, the West does not have time to wait. Iran refuses to cooperate, and Lebanon suffers.

Soledad O'Brien, CNN (TM) Milks the Narrative for All It's Worth

CNN seems to believe that Soledad O'Brien, one of their morning anchors, is only capable of going on location in situations where she can repeat the Katrina meme. They saw how "well" she did with that one [read puerile], in New Orleans. So, now that, as of yesterday, this has been christened by the Democrat leaders as the "emerging story," CNN has sent her off again to Cyprus with the same narrative firmly in place.

I suppose asking anything more of Soledad, than just a repeat of her canned, sputtering outrage at the US government might be - Oh God - asking her to think on her own.

So here she is, from the transcript of this morning's show, in all her glory with the "holy" narrative.

And I'm Soledad O'Brien at the port of Larnaca in Cyprus. This port, Miles, is where the bulk of people, the refugees out of Beirut have been coming.

Hot. It's 1:00 in the afternoon, a little bit after right now. Morning, obviously, where you are.

What we've seen today is a lot of action, actually starting overnight.

First of all, this Greek destroyer came in, 160 Greeks on board, about 100 other folks from other different countries. Four Americans on board as well.

And then a little bit later, early this morning, around 5:00 in the morning, just before sunrise, this big ship here came in with about 1,000 people on board. That's a rough estimate. Somewhere between 100 and 200 students.

And you might say, well, gee, that doesn't look like a cruise ship. And it's not. Conditions on board -- the description quite remarkable.

Got some pictures of those folks coming off just before sunrise, and you can see looking pretty dazed, looking pretty weary. Some of the people had been on that ship for hours and hours as they waited for it to load up before they were able to leave the dock in Beirut. And then the trip itself took approximately 11 hours. Many of those hours without any food and water, and the people were quite exhausted and wiped out.

We've got some, for the first time, some pictures, some videotape from on board that ship. It was taken by an American student who made her way out of Beirut. Pretty remarkable.

You can see the conditions as folks are crowded, packed quite closely on top of that -- that upper deck there. And she estimated the temperatures in the 100-degree range, which is what we're experiencing right about now as well. And she said it was just brutal for family members who tried to cover themselves with tarps or whatever and, you know, sleep on pieces of cardboard.

She also said that the ship, which is really a cargo ship for moving tractors and moving cars, not meant to hold all these people. Obviously, covered in flies. And it got to the point where children would just sleep out in the hallways, all just packed in there, covered with flies. And at some point they just gave up trying to do anything about it.
Oh my God! It's a refugee ship, bringing people out of a war zone. And it was crowded and uncomfortable and hot. And not up to cruise standards. That is a horrible, horrible scandal. Indict the Government! Impeach the President.

Meanwhile, now that I'm studying "the transcript," I hadn't realized how knee jerk anti-Israeli Soledad is. Here she is addressing a question to the CNN Arab affairs expert, Octavia Nasr:
Octavia, it's been interesting to see, as we've been reporting on what's been happening today and this morning and overnight, Israel hasn't been in Lebanon since 2000, outside of some incursions in. And it's unclear right now whether or not they're there to stay. But there have been reports of troops inside of Lebanon.

What's the impact in the Arab world of that news when the troops are out since 2000?
So it's unclear right now whether or not Israeli troops are there to stay?

In what universe is O'Brien living in?

Wait. Don't answer that. The universe of CNN.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Narrative Ahoy!!

Don't you know the MSM is no longer floundering without a narrative in sight and having to report on the war.

Finally - what a relief - finally - a narrative has been spotted.

The true, important story of lo! these last few days has finally been located. And now CNN and MSNBC can bring it to you.

And not only that! It ties into every other MSM narrative about the Bush Administration. Which is how you know it is real and true!

Don'tcha know - the story behind the story of the last few days is the incompetence of the Bush Administration.

Yes, that's right. It's not about Israel, or Hizb'allah or Iran or Syria. Nope. It's about the incompetence of the Bush Adminsistration

How do you figure?

Because "the slowness" of the American evacuation of refugees from Beirut is just another mini-Katrina.

How do I know? Because Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi said so. Thus providing the MSM - who are now gleeful they have a narrative, because before this they had to report on the war - at last, at last with the story behind the story.

See, it's all about Bush and his total incompetence.

Example 1:
[Wolf] BLITZER: Let's go to New York. CNN's Mary Snow is following this other part of the story, the growing criticism that these evacuees eventually are going to have to pay to get out of Lebanon -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the anger over the U.S. evacuation is building to the point that some on Capitol Hill are now bringing up memories of Hurricane Katrina.

...REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: ... that they know that this is not just another manifestation of the Katrina mentality that says, we're the government, we're suppose to be there for you in these extraordinary circumstances, but we're going to find an exception so that you have to pay.
Story in place, and now the MSM are up and running with it.

Example 2: From Lou Dobbs on CNN:
Andrea Koppel to Lou Dobbs: We saw as the day went on today, Lou, that the rhetoric was ramped up especially by Democrats who seized upon this issue, in particular using the K word, Katrina, comparing the United States' perceived slowness in responding to the Americans in dire need of getting out of Lebanon, comparing it to the slow reaction of the Bush administration after the Hurricane hit both Louisiana and Mississippi.

I saw the same meme repeated by David Schuster, on Hardball.

And also, brought up gleefully and smugly, by Paula Zahn again on CNN [transcript not yet available]. And also, moments ago, by Anderson Cooper.

And so, that little pesky problem, that some of us had lately noticed, about how many on the left had not a thing to say about this war, has been solved. Solved at last! Rejoice O ye faithful!

Now that Harry Reid has provided the Democrats with their storyline - and just how much in consulting fees did that one cost, one wonders idly - the MSM, faithful lackeys, has broadcast it to the world. And all the little talking points have been sent to all the party workers, I imagine from now on in, we'll hear plenty from the left. About the real moral of this story. It, too, showcases Bush's incompetence.

Well either that, or the fundamental lack of seriousness of the Democratic leadership.

Will update with more transcripts when they become available.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Hassan Nasrallah: His Life and Times

All you ever wanted to know and more about Hassah Nasrallah.

[Hat Tip: Cliff May at the Corner]

Reconsidering Iran: Bill Roggio, at Radio Blogger, discusses the fact that Iran's willingness to arm Hezbollah with sophisticated missiles on Israel's doorstep is giving the Israeli government headaches, since it now must factor in this data point when considering how Israel will face the emerging threat of a soon-to-be-nuclear armed Iran.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Putin's Doctrine of "Balanced Forces"

At the G8, Putin Criticizes Israel


The Middle East conflict threatened to plunge today's G8 summit of world leaders into crisis last night as President George W Bush and his Russian host took sharply opposing views of the escalating violence.

Mr Bush squarely blamed Hezbollah and Syria, one of the militant group's traditional backers, and remained staunchly uncritical of Israel - in stark contrast to Russia's President Vladimir Putin, who pointedly condemned America's close ally for its air strikes on Lebanon.

"The best way to stop the violence is for Hezbollah to lay down its arms and to stop attacking," Mr Bush said. "And therefore, I call on Syria to exert influence over Hizbollah."

Mr Putin, however, tempered his criticism of Hezbollah with condemnation of Israel, saying the abduction of the two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah guerrillas and the Israeli retaliatory air strikes were unacceptable. "In this context we consider Israel's concerns to be justified," he said, but added: "The use of force should be balanced."
And since this is a Russian criticism, no doubt the most applicable model that should be consulted is Russian behavior vis-a-vis the Chechens.
THE SPATE of terrorist attacks in Russia illustrates that President Vladimir V. Putin's hard-line policy in Chechnya is failing to resolve that conflict or to make Russians safer. Worse, it has led to a broadening of the Chechen conflict that threatens surrounding areas in the North Caucasus.

Still, Mr. Putin shows no sign of reversing his failed policy, promising only more of the same.

The Russian president has argued for two years that the war in Chechnya is over and that the situation in Chechnya is "normalizing." The past months disprove this argument.

Or how about this?

An estimated 26,000 Chechens from the villages of Kurchaloi, Sernovodsk and Assinovskaya fled their homes in the face of Russian terrorism. Chechen men were beaten and tortured. Many are feared dead. It is claimed, as well, that Russian soldiers took Chechen hostages and demanded ransom money for their release. "One hundred dollars per head if you want them alive," one Russian mediator allegedly declared.

Russian Gen. Vladimir Moltenskoi, Russia's top officer in Chechnya, frankly admitted the behavior of his troops. Itar-Tass quoted him as complaining of "widespread crimes in carrying out passport checks in Assinovskaya and Sernovodsk."

It is the formula of the Putin regime, as it was under Yeltsin, to deplore the useful terrorism of the Russian Army. Quite naturally, any admission of anarchy in the ranks is useful in depicting Russia's disorganized state. Admissions of corruption and wrongdoing by Russian authorities also satisfies Western observers that Moscow is struggling to correct abuses. At the same time, all of this serves to advertise Russian brutality to the country's enemies. This double-sided use of honesty is like a game of "good-cop, bad-cop." Gen. Moltenskoi is now the good cop. His officers in the field are the bad cops.

Is this what Mr. Putin considers balanced force? Or does he reserve one model for himself and another one for other countries? Or particularly for Israel?

Or does he believe that the status-quo between Israel and Hizb'allah should remain, now that there is a chance to resolve it at last?

At least 9 People Killed In New Barrage of Missiles Into Haifa and Surroundings

Martial Law Declared in the North

At least eight people were killed as Katyusha rockets hit three cities along Israel's northern coast, including Haifa, on Sunday morning.

Most of the fatalities were in an Israel Railways garage located near an Israel Electric Corporation installation on Haifa Bay, according to the Magen David Adom director general.

Following the strike, Israel Railways announced it was halting train traffic north of Binyamina...

A strategic installation on Haifa Bay was hit by another rocket, Channel 10 said.

Hizb'allah is threatening to hit the oil refineries in Haifa if attacks continue in Beirut. Can they aim that precisely? They are claiming that so far they have avoided them intentionally.

Debka reports:
Most of the casualties at the main railway terminal near Checkpoint in Haifa. Hizballah reports improved Grad rockets fired in its deadliest attack so far in reprisal for air raids against Beirut. Their range is 35-40 km.

London-based newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat quotes senior Iranian army official saying that:
In 2005, Hizbullah received the first shipment of huge 333 millimeter rocket launchers, as well as large quantities of ant-aircraft SAM-7 shoulder missiles and C-802 missiles, originally manufactured in China. The C-802 was used in the recent attack on the Israeli Navy ship off the Lebanon coast.

The official also said Hizbullah is in possession of four types of advanced ground-to-ground missiles: Fajr missiles with a range of 100 kilometers, Iran 130 missiles with a range of 90-110 kilometers, Shahin missiles with a range of up to 150 kilometers and a 355 millimeter rockets with a 150 kilometer range.

Channel 2 New in Israel is reporting that Nasrallah was wounded in the attack, though senior Hizb'allah officials are denying it.

It is reported by Al Manar he is to give an interview on Sunday to prove he is well.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Report: Hizbullah leaders leaving Beirut

Well there's a surprise. The heroes who started this war are now bailing out of it. And are moving under heavy security.

It seems to me, that there may very well be a correlation between this convoy of heroes moving south under security with their women and children and the fact that Israel bombed a fleeing convoy.
An Israeli air raid has killed at least 13 Lebanese civilians who were fleeing southern border areas.

Women and children were among those killed when the convoy was hit. "Bodies litter the road," an eyewitness said.
In its typical even-handed manner, the BBC headlines this as Israel kills Lebanese civilians. But why would Israel target a convoy "of civilians" if that convoy did not contain members of Hezbollah? It's against their ethos entirely.

In other news, Israel has posted 3 Patriot Missiles around Haifa. Haifa (as well as Ashqelon) contains critical industrial infrastructure, as well as a large population. If those sites were hit, it would cause a major explosion, far worse than any single missile attack.

Tiberias has now sustained its second barrage of Katyusha rockets.

UPDATE: And in fact, my suspicion above about the convoy, gains more ground, as top Israeli expert, Ehud Ya’ari reports on Channel 2, Israeli news that "the main civilian casualties in Southern Lebanon have been those of the families of Hizballah activists."

Hat tip on this update Not a Fish

Meanwhile the Situation Worsens Dramatically For Anti-Hezbollah Lebanese

A Lebanese family fording a river after IAF warplanes attacked
and damaged a bridge near Marjayoun on Thursday.

Lebanon.Profile is reporting that Israel is about to bomb or has already bombed downtown Beirut, and is dropping fliers in and near the American University of Beirut.
Israel just dropped fliers on the American University of Beirut campus and in the surrounding neighborhood.

The fliers are in English and say something to the extent of:

"The Lebanese people protect Hezbollah and will face consequences. Please, get out of Beirut."

This is from a 16 year old Lebanese American playing soccer on the field at International College next to the AUB dorms who told a friend who told me.

This is where I live.

Jesus Christ, it sounds like they just bombed a building behind me. That's the downtown!
He is becoming a refugee and heading to Syria, the last place he wanted to go.

Guess what? I'm leaving. Yep. Me.

Where am I going? Syria. Didn't want to, but I have to. The people we marched against are the ones you sent us begging to. The people who assassinated our leaders, kept us from having an operating democracy, and who armed Hezbollah are laughing it up because they've won the game because of you.

Bashar Assad said Lebanon would be destroyed if he left. I didn't know the Israelis would play into his game. It's not surprising that Syrian-allied Hezbollah started the mess, but you guys are just vicious.

All my Hezbollah supporting friends are sticking around. They call the rest of us cowards. I guess we are. We want to do scientific research. We want our children to learn how to play the piano. We want to watch our stock porfolios burgeon. We can't do that here any more.

I tried to sympathize with you. I didn't support Hezbollah, and if you look at the posts before this conflict began, I was maligning the political parties that oppose Hezbollah for not doing enough.

I even gave you guys the benefit of the doubt at the beginning of this, as did most Lebanese. Even the Shia, Christians, and Druze in South Lebanon understood your position. Not any more.

Oh, well. I'm a refugee.
I've been worrying about precisely this outcome since the beginning of this confrontation. When the decent people, whose lives are effected this way, begin to hate Israel, it's simply tragic.

I don't see the option for ISrael to stop now, because if it does, Hezbollah will simply claim a propaganda victory for itself, and the whole thing will have to happen all over again.

But a renewal of the animus between decent Lebanese and Israelis - instead of an effort to work for peace, stability, prosperity and democracy - is a terrible reality.

And Michael Totten checks in from wherever he is to say the following:
The dictators in the region have always been happy to fight the Israelis to the last Palestinian. Now it looks like they're happy to fight the Israelis to the last Lebanese, too. And why not? Lebanon is a relatively liberal and almost half Christian sort-of democracy. Can't have any of that in the region if you're a totalitarian mullah. It suits Tehran just fine if the Jews slug it out with such people.

Bashar al-Assad promised to make Lebanon burn if his Syrian occupation soldiers were forced out of the country. No doubt he is ecstatic at this latest turn of events. His principal enemies are killing each other instead of teaming up against him like they would in a better and more intelligent world.

Israel and Lebanon are the two freest countries in the Middle East. They are the only countries, aside from tortured Iraq, that hold unrigged elections for parliaments and heads of state. The tyrants to their east have pulled quite a coup, haven't they? The two countries friendliest to America and to liberal Western values are now shooting each other. (The Lebanese army, which has cooperated with Israel in the past behind the scenes, is now firing anti-aircraft guns at Israeli planes.)

It's a catastrophe for Lebanon, which is now under siege because Iran took it hostage. It's a catastrophe for Israel, which could have, and should have, worked toward a peace process with the Lebanese. Lebanese are (were?) far and away the most likely of all Arabs to sign a genuine treaty at some point down the road. And it's a catastrophe for the United States. We have few friends in the region already, none of whom get along well with each other as it is.

Israel Official: Iran Helping Hezbollah


There were preliminary reports that Iranian soldiers in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard were helping Hezbollah after the missile struck Haifa, on Thursday.

Now this item is being reported more widely, following after the missile strike on the Israeli warship in the port of Beirut. From the AP:
A missile fired by Hezbollah, not an unmanned drone laden with explosives, damaged an Israeli warship off Lebanon, the army said Saturday. Iranian troops helped fire the missile, a senior intelligence official said.

One sailor was killed and three were missing.

The intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information, said about 100 Iranian soldiers are in Lebanon and helped fire the Iranian-made, radar-guided C-102 at the ship late Friday.

The attack alarmed Israel because initial information indicated the guerrillas had used a drone for the first time to attack Israeli forces.

But the army's investigation showed that Hezbollah had fired an Iranian-made missile at the vessel from the shores of Lebanon, said Brig. Gen. Ido Nehushtan.

"We can confirm that it was hit by an Iranian-made missile launched by Hezbollah. We see this as very profound fingerprint of Iranian involvement in Hezbollah," Nehushtan said in an interview with The Associated Press.

I provide more in depth analysis below in Israel Gives Syria Ultimatum.

Israel Gives Syria Ultimatum

The moment we have been waiting for.
London-based Arabic language newspaper Al-Hayat says Israel gave Syria 72 hours to stop Hizbullah's activity, bring about release of kidnapped IDF troops. 'Israel will not end military activity until new situation created that will prevent Syria, Iran from using terror organizations to threaten its security,' newspaper quotes Pentagon official as saying.
If the first ultimatum doesn't work, I hope the next one is delivered by way of a bomb. Remember how effective that bomb was that Sharon had directed at a deserted terrorist training camp in Syria. They called off their attack dogs immediately.

Big Pharaoh comments that reason that no bombs have yet fallen in Syria may be because:
Israel, the US, and many other countries might not be happy with Syria's behavior, yet they still want to see Bashar Assad in power. The removal of Assad might create a vacuum that will eventually be filled by entities that are more fearsome; radical Sunni Islamists are an example. This is the reason why Egypt's Hosni Mubarak is so keen that nothing will undermine the Syrian regime. He knows that if Bashar is to go and then followed by a Muslim Brotherhood take over, his own regime will be undermined since Egypt and Syria have a lot in common.
While he makes sensical remarks, there is also an endpoint to this kind of logic, when the tyrant moves beyond the rationale for keeping him in power. Syria, for several years now, with no punishment to itself, has been actively helping to wreak havoc in Iraq, and housing and facilitating the activities of the exiled Baathists from Saddam's court in their ongoing quest to destroy Iraq through civil war and ruin all the work done to restore that country to freedom, stability and prosperity.

Omar at Iraq the Model speaks eloquently on this issue here:
From an Iraqi perspective I believe that a powerful strike to Hizbollah will be in Iraq's national interest. Hizbollah is Iran's and Syria's partner in feeding instability in Iraq as there were evidence that this terror group has a role in equipping and training insurgents in Iraq and Hizbollah had more than once openly showed support for the "resistance" in Iraq and sponsored the meetings of Baathist and radical Islamist militants who are responsible for most of the violence in Iraq.

Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbollah have made it clear that their mission is to fight back the American plans in the Middle East, to me that is equal to saying that their mission is to stop Iraq from becoming a stable democratic country to prevent democracy from spreading to the rest of the region.

Now Syria is facilitating precisely the same kind of activity in Lebanon - with no regard for how much destruction is wrought in Lebanon, upon those Lebanese who only wish to be free of him and Hezbollah.

There comes a moment in time when the actions of petty tyrants move beyond the point when their neighbors will and ought to tolerate them based on the threat of a theoretical future. Have we now reached that time?

In an interview with Hugh Hewitt, former special ambassador Dennis Ross tangentially addresses this issue regarding the impression he had of Bashir Assad, after meeting him in person a few times.
HH: Dennis Ross, you've dealt with the older Assad. Did you have any dealings with the younger Assad, who's now president of Syria?

DR: I did meet him twice, and I found him to be someone who was fundamentally less aware of the real limits of power, someone who I found, unlike his father, to understand when you could push to a limit, when you understood that if you went over the line, you could damage yourself.

Has Assad now damaged himself to that limit, to a place where his actions must be addressed?

For three years now, Syria has been crossing that line in Iraq. And now Assad has helped manipulate hostilities to open up a second front, in his two front war against both his enemies, America and Israel.

I believe that the time has come when this must be addressed. When Syria must begin to face consequences for her wreckless, heedless, destructive actions upon the stage of the Middle East. Otherwise, Syria is likely to believe that whatever she does, whatever havoc she wreaks in the wars she is exporting, she will never be made to face any consequences at all. Which, in the final analysis, will only embolden her to greater acts. Hasn't America learned that lesson painfully enough from Osama? And from Iran?

For, of course, beyond Syria lies the threat of Iran, whose current government has been America's enemy since its rise. Who has instigated the murder of our soldiers and civilians. And who American has never made to face the consequences. No wonder Iran believes herself free to act with impunity.

However, Iran has now boldly showed us what she is willing to do with her missiles: to lend them to Hezbollah and fire them off to rain down indiscriminately upon Israel. And she likely provided her soldiers, members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, to fire or help Hezbollah fire the missiles that struck both Haifa and the warship sitting in the port of Beirut.
A senior Israeli intelligence official said Iranian troops helped Hezbollah fire a missile that damaged an Israeli warship off the Lebanese coast Friday night.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information, said about 100 Iranian soldiers are in Lebanon and helped fire the Iranian-made, radar-guided C-102 at the ship that killed one and left three missing.

This is a taunt for all the world to see. These missiles I give those who pay fealty to me now to strike Haifa and Safed and Tiberias. But next year, I will rain down nuclear warheads in Jerusalem.

Speaking of Iran, Radio Blogger is currently hosting two important interviews that analyze the role of Iran and its client-state Syria, as a provocateurs in the Middle East; and how Israel should react.

The first with Michael Ledeen, Iran expert. The second with Victor Davis Hanson, military historian and classicist. Both are quite sobering, but seem, to me, very much on the mark.

For Mark Steyn fans, he weighs in with commentary on the situation at radio blogger here. Where, among other things, he reminds us that the roots of the current Islamist cult of death arose from the genesis of the Palestinian movement.
MS: I think it is one war. You know, I think we forget how much of the present depravity derives from the Palestinian situation. Going back to 1971, the Palestinians assassinated this guy in an Egyptian hotel. They shoot him dead in the lobby, and as he falls to the parquet, the guys who killed him rushed forward and start drinking his blood. You know, a lot of the death cults started in this...with this particular situation, and it is metastasized, and I think it is one war.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Big Pharaoh's Dad Offers the Wisdom of His Experience

The Big Pharaoh's dad was a general in the Egyptian army during the 1967 war:
This idiot Nasrallah. He is so funny. He keeps on issuing threats, he has no idea what he is talking about. What Israel is doing to him now is just gentle padding on the shoulders. Abou Shakha dah didn't see what we saw. Israel fought on 3 fronts in 1967 and it was hell. I was there, I saw it all. He has no tanks, no boats, he has nothing except a few toys he got from Iran and it seems abu shakha dah don't know that Israel confronted 3 of the most powerful armies in the region at the same time. If Israel wanted to brutally crush him it can do so in 1 hour.

[*Abu Shakha dah literally means "this guy with the piss". We use this slang term to refer to a grown up whose capabilities is of a baby who wets himself.]

We've also all been agog with speculation as to why the Saudi's are blaming Hezbollah, not Israel, for the latest round. Charles at LGF called it a flying pigs moment of the day.

BP offers three reasons:
First, Hizbollah has just set the region on fire and Saudi is not so happy about it. Second, Saudi Arabia is very concerned at the amount of influence Iran is now having in its neighborhood via its surrogate Hizbollah. Three, Hizbollah's unilateral decision to engage with the Israelis is against the interests of the group of Lebanese politicians who superseded the Lebanon revolution. This group includes Saudi Arabia's man in Lebanon Saad Hariri.

Wow! Check out this unbelievable letter that Charles Johnson is quoting from the Lebanese Foundation for Peace.
Dear Prime Minister,

It was about time,

We Lebanese congratulate you on your recent actions against the Hezbollah terrorist infrastructure in Lebanon. We urge you to hit them hard and destroy their terror infrastructure. It is not Israel who is fed up with this situation, but the majority of the silent Lebanese in Lebanon who are fed up with Hezbollah and are powerless to do anything out of fear of terror retaliation.

Since Israel's forced withdrawal in 2000, pulling out due to pressure from the Clinton Administration, Hezbollah has not for one day ceased its terror incentives, acts of war and provocations at the border. Hezbollah, with the help of Syria and Iran, turned Southern Lebanon into a terror base supported by 12,000 Iranian missiles threatening every initiative for Peace in general and the security of Israel in particular.
Read the whole thing.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Rockets Strike Haifa

As all the world now knows, rockets launched - presumably by Hezbollah from Lebanon - have hit Israel for the first time.

What is less known is that the Hezbollah leadership is denying responsibility for it.
Hizbullah Denies It Hit Haifa

Hizbullah terrorist spokesmen announced a few minutes ago that its members were not involved in the Katyusha rocket attack on Haifa around 8 p.m. The announcement indicated that Hizbullah leaders are not in control of their members.
Got that?

Hezbollah leaders are not in control of their members, nor their members arsenals.

Either that, or they really, really want to hit Haifa, but without suffering the consequences of having their buildings in Beirut bombed.

UPDATE: I just heard Jennifer Griffin on Fox News reporting from Israel that there is some suspicion that members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, in cahoots with Hezbollah and working side by side with them, may have fired the rockets that hit Haifa, which allows Hezbollah "technically" to deny firing them.

UPDATE II: Jeff Goldstein, via ACE obviously heard the same report about the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Which is good, because I haven't seen other online confirmation of it yet. Apparently this was first reported on Israeli radio.

UPDATE III: Allahpundit at Hot Air has the video of Jennifer Griffin's report. He notes, via LGF, that CNN filed a similar report about the missile.

UPDATE IV: Vinnie at My Pet Jawa has photos of different missile and rockets and does some explaining.

UPDATE V: The All Seeing Eye at My Pet Jawa reports on a Stratfor report, that Israel is calling up its reserves, and that Stratfor's analysts are thereby predicting an incursion into the Bekaa Valley. Peretz is also stating that at the end of this operation, things won't return to the status quo. Which would be good, except that it is Peretz stating it. So who knows how much will power is behind that statement.

Bring It On Baby!

As if the world did not have enough craziness this particular day, Drudge is reporting in a preliminary way that: VALERIE PLAME SUES CHENEY, ROVE, LIBBY... DEVELOPING...

Plame and her husband Joseph Wilson allege that Cheney & Co. outed her as a CIA agent in retaliation for Wilson's criticism of the White House's rationale for invading Iraq, according to a U.S. District Court complaint... In the federal complaint, which does not specify monetary damages, but seeks compensatory, exemplary, and punitive awards, Plame and Wilson charge that the defendants's actions have led them to "fear for their safety and for the safety of their children."

UPDATE: Heh! Just thinking about all that discovery on what Joe Wilson was really doing in Niger - whose one cash crop is uranium of the legal and illegal kind - and who his contacts were! Won't that be fun!

Macsmind calls this suit a dream come true. Mark Levin and John Podhoretz are also looking forward to the aggressive discovery process.

Here's Mark Levin:
Plame, and her detestable husband Joe Wilson, may well have blundered. To the extent possible, through depositions and document production, Cheney and Lewis's lawyers should get to the bottom of the real scandal, e.g., who exactly is Valerie Plame, what was her role in sending her husband to Niger, who were all of her contacts, what media sources did she speak to, what politicians did she speak to, and on and on. And the same with her husband.

The world is at war and these fools bring this lawsuit. Another 15 minutes of shame.

Here's John Podhoretz:
Thank You, Valerie Plame

This comes less than a day after Robert Novak made it blatantly clear that the revelation of her CIA employment and her name was absolutely not part of any conspiracy - and that the CIA's chief spokesman himself said nothing to him about the danger he might put her in by naming her. Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you, Valerie. Because, you see, if the suit is summarily dismissed, she and Joe will be laughingstocks. And if it goes any further, Dick and Karl and Scooter will have the right to do discovery - and then, I believe, Val 'n' Joe will reap the whirlwind.

Tom Maguire points to the fact that the Wilsons will have a hard time gathering classified evidence.
Well - I stand by my position that the plaintiffs will have huge problems gathering (presumably classified) evidence and recreating secret grand jury testimony, not to mention establishing damages and demonstrating that the defendants were not simply acting in their capacity as public officials.

From Clarice commenting at JustOneMinute: What a coincidence--there is a new book deal--and it was announced on the same day as this suit: "Ex-CIA Officer Finds New Memoir Publisher. That will play well in court. Along with the Vanity Fair vanity piece.

The Same War

What is Iran's Current Aim in Sparking the Middle East to Erupt?

Remember last month when the world was so focused on Iran's nuclear ambitions? Heard any talk about that recently? It's a way to distract attention from their pet nuclear project moving forward.

Minneapolis attorney Andrew Jacobson writes out a crystal clear summation of Iran's reasons for fomenting serious trouble for Israel at this particular moment in time, hosted at Powerline. This is his concluding points:
12. Hezbollah's, Hamas's and North Korea's provocations have all occurred within a week of the date that the Iran situation is referred to the Security Council for what will likely be further endless hand wringing and inaction by that feckless organization.

13. Only two countries have the military will (maybe) and capability (probably) to possibly stop Iran from moving forward with its nuclear program — Israel and the U.S.

So here is my observation/theory - Iran has orchestrated much (if not all) of the current unrest and violence in order to: (i) distract attention from its nuclear weapons program, (ii) tie down Israel militarily in order to reduce the chances that Israel could unilaterally (or in combination with the U.S.) launch a preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, (iii) scare the American public (and politicians) into rejecting any unilateral military option against Iran for fear of further inflaming the Mideast (e.g., "Geez, we've already got huge issues in North Korea, Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan, we can't possibly afford any further foreign entanglements" or "We better not do anything to Iran, we might further inflame the Mideast, threaten our oil supply and the U.S. economy" (Lord knows we don't want to pay $%/gallon for our SUV's)), and (iv) create world furor against Israel (and indirectly the U.S.), to further raise the stakes and international opposition to any unilateral military strikes.

Yesterday, I concluded my post, It's War, Says Israel with this statement:
The United States in Iraq and Israel on its two borders, are fighting tentacles of the same enemy.

This war against terrorism has become, clearly enough, the same war after all."

Today, Michael Ledeen devotes an entire column, The Same War, to this hypothesis:
No one should have any lingering doubts about what’s going on in the Middle East. It's war, and it now runs from Gaza into Israel, through Lebanon and thence to Iraq via Syria. There are different instruments, ranging from Hamas in Gaza to Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon and on to the multifaceted 'insurgency' in Iraq. But there is a common prime mover, and that is the Iranian mullahcracy, the revolutionary Islamic fascist state that declared war on us 27 years ago and has yet to be held accountable.

It is very good news that the White House immediately denounced Iran and Syria, just as Ambassador Khalilzad had yesterday tagged the terrorist Siamese twins as sponsors of terrorism in Iraq. For those who doubt the Iranian hand, remind yourself that Hezbollah is a wholly owned subsidiary of the mullahcracy (with Syria providing some supplies, and free run of the territory), and then read what Iraq the Model had to say yesterday, Wednesday:

Hizbollah is Iran's and Syria's partner in feeding instability in Iraq as there were evidence that this terror group has a role in equipping and training insurgents in Iraq and Hizbollah had more than once openly showed support for the “resistance” in Iraq and sponsored the meetings of Baathist and radical Islamist militants who are responsible for most of the violence in Iraq.

Ledeen, however, disagrees that the Iran motivation for fomenting chaos now throughout the mid east is the upcoming UNSecurity debate on its atomic ambitions.
There's a lot of fanciful analysis of the recent expansion of the war, revolving around a general 'why?' and a more specific 'why now?' Someone said that Iran was trying to distract world attention from the upcoming U.N. showdown over the mullahs' atomic program, which seems silly to me. A U.N. debate serves Iran's interest. It deflects attention from our growing awareness of Iran's centrality in Iraq, and the urgency of going after the regimes in Tehran and Damascus. That is where Iran's doom lies, not in the endless charade about the nukes...

Don't think for a moment that they worry about victims in Gaza or Lebanon. They are delighted to see Israel fighting on two fronts, because they will use the pictures from the battlefield to consolidate their hold over the fascist forces in the region. After a few days of fighting, I would not be surprised to see some new kind of terrorist attack against Israel, or against an American facility in the region. An escalation to chemical weapons, for example, or even the fulfillment of the longstanding Iranian promise to launch something nuclear at Israel. They meant it when they said it, don't you know?

Finally, we have Yossi Klein Halevi's article in The New Republic, Battle Plans:
The next Middle East war--Israel against genocidal Islamism--has begun. The first stage of the war started two weeks ago, with the Israeli incursion into Gaza in response to the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier and the ongoing shelling of Israeli towns and kibbutzim; now, with Hezbollah's latest attack, the war has spread to southern Lebanon. Ultimately, though, Israel's antagonists won't be Hamas and Hezbollah but their patrons, Iran and Syria. The war will go on for months, perhaps several years. There may be lulls in the fighting, perhaps even temporary agreements and prisoner exchanges. But those periods of calm will be mere respites.
Read the whole thing.

Big Gloat Moment

Completely off topic, but I just heard a report on CNN about the negative effects of the Larry Summers ouster on Harvard University fund raising, and I can't help gloating.

Apparently, Larry Ellison is not the only big donor reneging on, or rethinking a sizable donation to Harvard. So, too, is Mort Zuckerman (100 million dollar gift) and one of the Rockefellers, whose gift has downsized from over the 100 million dollar range, to the 10 million dollar range at this moment. And a few others I don't recall at the moment. Apparently, this amounts to 2/3s of the donations that were expected at Harvard this year.

They deserve it for their disgraceful behavior in permitting the far left putsch on Summers to succeed.

Now back to regularly scheduled Mid East updates.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Reporting From the Arab Side: The Way Things Look the Other Way Around

Here are the accounts of what is going on from the posts of a few Arab bloggers, all of whom are opposed to Hezbollah's incursions. These accounts are all very poignant, as the writers are conscious of the idiocy of Hezbollah's long planned attack and filled with details we would not otherwise come across so easily. It is quite sad what Hezbollah has instigated, at this moment, with Lebanon well along in its economic and political recovery.

Lebanese Political Journal: Hezbollah Surpised By Their Own Attack

The Lebanese Bloggers: Breaking News Flowing

Rantings of a SandMonkey (writing in Egypt): It has begun.

The comments in all three of these accounts are interesting, where you can see individuals from different political factions within Lebanon and Egypt, respectively, and perhaps other countries as well, arguing with each other. And some Israelis commenting as well.

It's so important that these bloggers are there and are posting their frustration with the situation - to keep us well aware of the human face of the other side.

It's War, says Israel, reports Ha'aretz

The current count of Israeli dead is 8 soldiers.

Hizbullah terrorists infiltrate Israel territory, kidnap two IDF soldiers; three reserve soldiers killed during raid, four others killed as their tank drives over bomb during search for abducted troops; eighth soldier killed trying to retrieve comrades’ bodies. Northern Command chief: We assume two abducted soldiers are alive; there are blood stains at the scene. Hizbullah says soldiers in 'safe place.'

IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz advised the government to authorize a harsh operation that would "change the rules of the game."

Prior to the special cabinet session, Defense Minister Amir Peretz authorized a series of operations against Hizbullah strongholds in southern Lebanon.

Does anyone have confidence in Israel's defense with Amir Peretz as Israel's Defence Minister. That continues to be a bad joke. Maybe it's time for him to resign and for a hawk and a tactician to take his place. Someone that the Arab countries around Israel fear respect.

Meanwhile, Lebanese Prime Minister is eschewing all responsibility for the actions of Hezbollah. And decrying the response of Israel that followed in its wake.
Lebanon PM: We weren't aware of and don't take responsibility for attack.

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said on Wednesday the Lebanese government did not condone a cross-border Hizbullah attack against Israel.

"The government was not aware of and does not take responsibility for, nor endorses what happened on the international border," Siniora told reporters after an emergency cabinet meeting. He condemned the Israeli retaliation and said his government would call for a UN Security Council meeting.

Israel has responded to Hezbollah's act of war by hitting hundreds of targets in southern Lebanon.
The IAF struck a Hizbullah post and two bridges in southern Lebanon overnight Wednesday as the number of targets hit by the Airforce since fighting erupted after the kidnapping of two IDF soldiers, reached into the hundreds.

Herb Keinon explain that while Olmert knows that Syria is the local actor instigating the Hezbollah's operation, at this point, in the sight of the world, that move would be far harder to explain, than retaliating against Lebanon. So, while Syria deserves the punishment, it is Lebanon Israel is attacking.

Hizbullah is no longer a renegade, Islamic militant organization in Lebanon's south. Hizbullah is now a member of the Lebanese government, holds a ministerial portfolio, and in that sense is to Lebanon what Kadima, Labor, Shas and the Pensioners party are to Israel.

As a result, Israel feels it has greater international legitimacy to lash out against Lebanon, than against Syria. The Lebanese government cannot deny responsibility for Hizbullah, since Hizbullah is in the Lebanese government.

In addition, UN Security Council resolution 1559 called on Lebanon to dismantle the armed militias, but that is something the Beirut government never did. The international community, Israel is arguing, also bears responsibility for not forcing Lebanon to implement that element of the Security Council resolution.

Israel will act in Lebanon, but, as Olmert said, it will act in a manner that will "echo in the right places" an allusion to Syria. If the message is picked up in Syria, the hope in Jerusalem is that it will also impact on what is happening in Gaza as well. The underlining assumption in Jerusalem is that Assad can press Khaled Mashaal to release Shalit and end the Kassam fire in the south.
As another means of directly impacting Gaza, Israel has just now blown a gaping hole into the Foreign Ministry building in Gaza city.

And that will also show Lebanon what Israel is capable of doing to Lebanon's government buildings, should she wish to do so and if Hezbollah does not return the soldiers Hezbollah captured.

Meanwhile, the connection of Hezbollah's border transgression to Syria and Iraq has not gone unnoticed in Washington.
The White House on Wednesday demanded the immediate release of two Israeli soldiers captured by Lebanon's Hizbollah guerrillas and blamed Syria and Iran for the attacks.

"We condemn in the strongest terms Hizbollah's unprovoked attack on Israel and the kidnapping of the two Israeli soldiers," said Frederick Jones, spokesman with the White House National Security Council.

"We call for immediate and unconditional release of the two soldiers," Jones told reporters in Germany, hours before President George W. Bush was to arrive for meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"We also hold Syria and Iran, which directly support Hizbollah, responsible for this attack and for the ensuing violence," Jones said.

The United States called the attack "an unprovoked act of terrorism" aimed at exacerbating Middle East tensions.

Hizbollah, which is backed by Syria and Iran, captured two Israeli soldiers and killed up to seven Israelis Wednesday, in what Israel described as an act of war by Lebanon that would draw a "very painful" response.

Interestingly, in a related matter, Michael Ledeen points to this paragraph on the role of Iran and Syria in Ambassador Khalilzad's recent speech on Iraq.
...we have to be candid in acknowledging the challenge posed by a few countries, such as Syria and Iran. Tehran has played a role in providing extremist groups with arms, training, and money. The Iraqi government is increasingly concerned about Iran's destabilizing actions. Iran must decide whether it is irreconcilably opposed to a stable, strong, and democratic Iraq. If Iran persists in its unhelpful actions, the Iraqi government, as well as the United States and other friends of Iraq, will need to consider necessary measures to deny to Tehran the ability to undertake destabilizing policies.

The United States in Iraq and Israel on its two borders, are fighting tentacles of the same enemy.

This war against terrorism has become, clearly enough, the same war after all.

On Syria as the sponsor of the Iraqi insurgency, see, too, Laurie Mylroie's recent important article in the NYSun, excerpted at length here.