Friday, July 21, 2006

War In Lebanon Now Looks Like A Protracted Affair And Iran Is Guilty

As Israel calls up reserves for a possible ground offensive into South Lebanon, and new rocket attacks hit Haifa, wounding at least 26 Israelis, as Hezbollah rejects a cease-fire proposal by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, it now appears likely the war in the Middle East will go on for the indefinite future.

Indeed, in an editorial this morning, and a column by its Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign columnist, Thomas Friedman, it's apparent that the New York Times, like I imagine many diplomats in this country and abroad, is beginning to look at longer term solutions to the conflict.

In its editorial, headlined, "More Than A Cease-Fire Needed," the NYT advocates a "robust resolution" by the U.N. Security Council, to encourage such a solution.

"Ideally," the editorial says, "the resolution would not only require all sides to stop fighting and authorize the deployment of a peacekeeping force, it would also order Hezbollah to withdraw from Israel's borders and begin to disarm -- and order Syria and Iran to stop supplying their client. The price for refusing should be international sanctions and complete isolation.

"The resolution should mandate the return of Israel's kidnapped soldiers and, finally, pledge major international contributions to help Lebanon rebuild from the destruction of last week and bolster its weak democratic government. If the Security Council isn't willing to issue such explicit demands or link them to clear punishments. the United States, Europe and key Arab states, who are also eager to see the fighting end and Hezbollah contained, will have to bring serious pressure on their own."

Friedman, meanwhile, warns in his column this Friday morning, "It is time that The World of Order gets its act together. This is not Israel's fight alone -- and if you really want to see a "disproportional" Israeli response, just keep leaving Israel to fight this war alone. Then you will see some real craziness."

Friedman, recognizing that Hezbollah's current assault has "global implications," concludes his column by saying, "The forces of disorder -- Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, Iran -- are a geopolitical tsunami that we need a united front to defeat. And that united front needs to be spearheaded by American leaders who understand that our power is most effective when it is legitimized by a global consensus and embedded in a global coalition."

Unfortunately, this is fairly pie-in-the-sky, in the sense that it's hard to conceive that either the fatally weak U.N. or such countries as Russia, China and France are going to join in putting pressure on Iran, which is the real nest of vipers here.

Harold Meyerson in the Washington Post earlier this week spoke of "the guns of July" and compared the situation to the outbreak of World War I. He's not just whistling Dixie, there is a real chance the present conflict could grow into a larger war.

As all this has been unfolding, the situation in Iraq has been worsening, with sectarian violence increasing. The L.A. Times this week reported that an actual civil war between Sunnis and Shiites is now occurring in that country. The hapless "government" of Iraq is powerless to stop it, and 130,000 American troops aren't being put to good use to stop it either. Meanwhile, Turkey is threatening to invade Kurdistan, and Iran continues to funnel in weapons to the Iraqi Shiites, some of which are used to kill American soldiers.

Iran is, as I say, the real nest of vipers, spewing its poison all over the Middle East. Can it be stopped short of war? I very much doubt it. "International sanctions and complete isolation," such as mentioned in the New York Times, would only cause a world oil crisis, and not spell an end to the Iranian danger. Iran must be taken care of, before, not after, it obtains atomic weapons.

Just this morning, the German government has revealed that it received a threatening letter from Iran's mad president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, again assailing Israel and making "unacceptable" statements about the Holocaust.

In another New York Times column this morning, former ABC newsman Ted Koppel, observes that a Jordanian intelligence officer has warned him, "the United States is already at war with Iran; but for the time being the battle is being fought through surrogates."

Koppel also asks, "Are the Israelis over-reacting in Lebanon?" His answer: "Perhaps they simply perceive their enemies' intentions with greater clarity than most. It is not the Lebanese who make the Israelis nervous, nor even Hezbollah. It is the puppet-masters in Tehran capitalizing on every opportunity..."


The L.A. Times has moved its reporter, Mike Kennedy, from Iraq, where he was on temporary assignment, to Lebanon, which he once covered for the Times. Kennedy, who has also lived in Israel, while his former wife, Becky Trounson, was Times correspondent there, probably has more Middle East experience than any other present Times reporter.


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