Friday, February 15, 2008

The Summer War redux; this time in the spring?

Well it looks like Israel is gearing up to go another round with Hezbollah and possibly Hamas, too. Ehud Barack, Israel’s defense minister, recently threatened to eliminate Hamas in Gaza and on Wednesday the Mossad apparently tied up a loose end from the Summer War with Hezbollah in 2006. The senior Hezbollah commander, Imad Mughniyeh, was assassinated in downtown Damascus by a car-bomb, near an Iranian school and a Syrian intelligence office, according to the WaPo. Naturally, Israel denied any involvement, but they deny they have the bomb, too, so that and two bucks will get you a cup of coffee.

Mughniyeh was reportedly in charge of the very successful effort to defend southern Lebanon during the Summer War, so it would seem that Israel intended to get such a talented opponent out of the way before resuming the war, this time, of course, getting it right. As always in these matters, who knows for sure what is going on, but the fact that they decided to go after this guy now -- a person who has been on Israel's and the United States' target list since the 80's -- is a bit of odd timing unless you consider; that Israel has really had it with Hamas in Gaza; the political situation in Lebanon is in complete chaos; they're not buying the latest US NIE that Iran has stopped it nuclear weapons program; and Ehud Olmert hasn't got a leg to stand on in preventing the IDF from starting another war if they want to.

Sure a war right now would pretty much blow W.'s and Olmert's Annapolis peace initiative out of the water and dash W.'s hopes for his dream of a legacy in that regard, but the IDF never lets domestic or foreign political considerations get in the way when it comes to defending what it thinks is Israel’s national security interests. Maybe, W. has an inking of this, that's why he's got his PR flaks talking up his anti-AIDS legacy in Africa these days.

Certainly, knocking off such a celebrated Hezbollah hero is guaranteed to elicit a violent response from Hezbollah. Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah, dutifully playing along, is now talking all out war. The WaPo reports that Nasrallah issued a video accusing Israel of striking outside of the "traditional battlefield" and promised a borderless war against Israel, which can only mean attacks on Israeli targets anywhere in the world. Nasrallah, says, "You have crossed the borders. Zionists, if you want this type of open war, then let it be, and let the whole world hear: We, like other people, have a sacred right to defend ourselves, and everything we can do to defend ourselves, we will do."

Obviously, neither side is content to just use Lebanon as their cannon fodder this time around. And when the inevitable retaliation by Hezbollah occurs -"The big . . . question arising from the killing in Damascus is not whether Hezbollah will respond, but how and when," Israeli columnist Yossi Melman, writes [AP] -- where ever it occurs, Israel will surely respond in kind and round and round we go, where it stops nobody knows.

I'm assuming both sides are thinking this is a good time to get their war on; it’s almost springtime, the traditional season for murder and mayhem. Iran is probably content to get its dire economic situation at home out of the political debate with parliamentary elections coming up and Israel probably figures the US media's fixation with the battle between Hillary and Barack will keep most American's attention off the IDF's characteristically disproportionate response upon the civilian populations of both Gaza and Lebanon. And if the US elections don't do the trick, there's always Pakistan's coming disintegration to focus the mind.

Something tells me W.'s presidency is really going to go out with bang this year: A war in Lebanon could easily spill over into Iraq, which is right next door to Iran -- expect Muqtada al-Sadr to end his ceasefire if things get hairy for Hezbollah -- which is right next door to Afghanistan, which is right next door to Pakistan. And while that's all going on, maybe China decides to take care of their little Taiwan problem, or the new premier of Russia, Vlad the Impaler Putin, figures this is the right moment in history to regain some respect for the Russian Bear in Kosovo. At the best of times, this administration has never been able to walk and chew gum at the same time. Let's see W. & Co. do both plus juggle of bunch of knives and ride a unicycle on a banana peel.


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