Friday, July 14, 2006

Casus Belli

While most in the West have been going about their business, enjoying the summer, and generally living their lives, momentous happenings have occurred in the Middle East.

The Iranians, having stalled for as long as they could, have finally run out of time diplomatically. The US-led diplomatic efforts to get Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions has reached an impasse due to Iranian intransigence, and the European powers have finally admitted that the matter must move to the UN Security Council and sanctions imposed on Iran.

The Iranians know that at the end of the day they'll lose in the UN, despite the assurances of their Russian and Chinese protectors. Therefore, anything must be done to move the story of Iran and its nuclear weapons program off of the world stage. Anything, that is, except stopping their development of nuclear weapons.

So, the puppetmasters start pulling the strings. North Korea launches numerous mid- and long-range ballistic missiles in an impromptu test. Hamas terrorists dig a tunnel under the border with Israel, attack an Israeli army outpost, and kidnap a soldier, dragging him back through the tunnel into Gaza and into hiding, and Hamas spokesmen claim responsibility, offering to trade him for hundreds of Hamas terrorists that Israel has imprisoned. Israel launches a massive military strike into Gaza, destroying Hamas-occupied Palastinian government offices, destroying infrastructure, and dividing the territory, as they search for their missing soldier.

The Israelis have tried bargaining with the Palestinians, and that didn't work. They've tried disengagement, withdrawing from Gaza and building a wall to separate the two sides, and that didn't work. The Palestinians, or enough of them, don't want peace or coexistence; they want to look out over the Mediterranean and see miles of Jewish corpses floating in the surf, and that is clearly untenable to Israel. I believe that Israel is going to try their only remaining option: killing enough angry Palestinians so that the rest are frightened enough to leave Israel alone. After all, what have they got to lose?

Iran, unprepared for the scale of Israeli operations against Hamas, and besieged by calls for assistance from its Hamas proxies, instructs Hezbollah, its proxies in Lebanon to conduct a similar operation on the Israeli-Lebanon border, which proves equally successful in that two Israeli soldiers are kidnapped and brought back into Lebanon and eight are killed. The escalation is designed to force Israel into diverting some of its forces from Gaza where Hamas is hard-pressed... but again Iran miscalculates. Israel has already mobilized considerable reserves, and these are unleashed against Lebanon while the pressure is increased in Gaza.

Iran has also miscalculated world opinion. Arab countries, after their pro-forma criticism of Israel, hold Iran and Syria and their terrorist proxies primarily responsible for the outbreak of hostilities. In Lebanon, most blame the incidents on Hezbollah and support for disarming the Iranian- and Syrian-backed terrorist group grows both inside and outside the government. The Lebanese have few illusions about the capabilities and will of the Israelis especially after such a provocation, and wish to have no part of war with Israel.

In Europe, support for Palestine is tepid, and most countries condemn Hamas for starting the conflict. The US, under George Bush, issues a terse statement holding Syria and Iran directly responsible for the crisis. The message to Israel is unspoken but clear: there will be no consequences for destroying Hamas and Hezbollah.

Make no mistake: this is a very dangerous time for the world. Hamas and Hezbollah will be devastated. Syria will see Hamas- and Hezbollah offices, and the homes of leaders, bombed. Syria is defenseless against Israeli air attack, and the Israeli Army would be in Damascus within days should the Israelis launch a ground attack. The Iranians realize this, and have warned Israel that any attacks against Syria would result in an Iranian counterstrike. However, Israel already believes itself to be under attack by Iran thru its Hezbollah and Hamas proxies, and the recent rocket attack against Haifa is believed to be the result of Iranian rockets launched by Iranian Revolutionary Guards units located in Lebanon. Israel will do what it believes is necessary to end the threat of Hamas and Hezbollah once and for all, and that will most likely include at least air attacks on Damascus targeted at Hezbollah leaders.

What will Iran do? Expect to see further escalation, perhaps by North Korea, perhaps in Iraq (al Sadr is Iran's proxy here). This crisis is the result of another miscalculation on its part; Iran truly thinks that the civilian populations of Israel and the West are timid, the leadership is politically constrained, and therefore we are unable to respond effectively. As to why Iran believes this, we have only to look at our own press and the attacks against the current Administration by the Democrats. Iran believes that Western media sentiment reflects popular sentiment and this popular sentiment, especially in America, has politically damaged George Bush to the extent that it has removed his ability to respond military to any threats, in the same way that popular sentiment crippled Lyndon Johnson and removed the US's ability to respond effectively on a strategic level against North Vietnam. Iran believes wrongly.

Most wars are started by miscalculations; one side believes that the other won't fight and so it escalates in an attempt to achieve its goals via intimidation. When the other party escalates similarly, the first party continues until the first blow is struck. By that time it is too late: both sides are committed to a course of action which involves fighting which continues until the conflict is resolved. Hitler didn't think the West would fight for Poland; Japan didn't think the US had the stomach to fight after the blow struck at Pearl Harbor; Saddam didn't think the US would respond military to his invasion of Kuwait, or to his refusal to comply with UN resolutions. Oops.

The Iranians didn't think the Israelis would fight, and they don't believe the US will, either, hence their clumsy attempts at intimidation. What will they do when, shortly, Israel destroys their proxies and kills its leaders, and then punishes Syria for its hand in the attacks? They will be facing considerable loss of prestige and power, and the eradication of two decades worth of work as the terrorist organizations they've invested considerable amounts of time and money are destroyed. They may even face attack from Israel, which may decide to strike Iran's nuclear sites as retaliation for Iran's support of Hamas and Hezbollah. Count on this happening if Israel has solid proof of direct Iranian attacks against it. And, the Israelis may get help in their strikes via the use of Iraqi airspace for refueling... and perhaps even US airbases in Iraq.

The Iranians, seeing the rest of the Moslem world through their malevolent eyes, overestimate the hatred of Israel and the US throughout the Middle East. They believe that if Israel and/or the US strikes Iran, fellow Moslems will arise by the millions to declare jihad against the Great and Lesser Satans. In their hatred of us, they overlook the fact that most of the Middle East, unlike Iran, is Arab, and that there is a considerable level of animosity against Persian Iran by its Arab neighbors. The Iraqis especially, both Shia and Sunni, have no love for their Iranian neighbors. If Israel or the US is legitimately provoked to strike Iran as a response to aggression, most Arabs will rationalize it away as "They deserved it." Iran is on its own here.

Machiavelli wrote, "Never do your enemy a small harm" and "If you go to stab the king, make sure that you kill him." The warning here was to finish what you start, because it is very dangerous to act so as to leave a slightly wounded and greatly angered enemy. This is the situation we face with Iran today. We need to finish what we start. We need to stab our foe, and ensure that he is dead. We need to realize that Iran is the heart of the terrorism problem against the US, the West, and the rest of the world. We need to cut out this heart, or put a stake through it, and end the threat once and for all.

And we need to do it sooner rather than later, before Iran gets nukes.

See this for more on Iran

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