July 16, 2006

Iran's War

I thought I'd try to compile a sampling of what the op-ed pages are saying this weekend on the new-old war in the Middle East. It's a war that doesn't really have a name just yet. It is being called the Israeli-Hezbollah War by some, but since its instigators are generally acknowledged to be directed from Teheran, let's be clear and call it Iran's War on Israel.

(By the way, PJM continues to do a terrific job of posting breaking news, opinion, and blog content on the war. Make it a regular stop.)

And before we get to the weekend pundits and columnists, some words from Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, are appropriate as setup... (from a post at Solomonia)

(on demands for "proportionality") "What exactly is the criterion by which one measures the proportion of more than a thousand missiles shot at innocent civilians against the measures that were taken by the State of Israel in the last few days? Can one measure the anxiety, the fear, the shocks, the lack of security of tens of thousands of people living day-in and day-out for almost a year under the constant threat of missiles shot at them? When was the last time that the European Union condemned this shooting and suggested measures, effective measures to stop it? We were waiting and waiting and waiting and everyone knows that Israel pulled out entirely from Gaza precisely in order to try and establish a new basis of cooperation and understanding with the Palestinians, when there can be no claim for any territory by the Palestinians in the south part of the country. And the response was terror and terror and terror and terror again...."

......I think that I don’t know of one democratic government in the world, one, one - those who support us, and those who preach to us - that would have sat and done nothing when a thousand missiles are shot at innocent civilians in the heart of the country. I can imagine that some of those countries that preach to us would have done a lot more in a more brutal and vicious and cruel way against civilian populations than what we did, the minimum that we are doing in order to defend our people...

Robert Satloff - The Rogues Strike Back:

Virtually overnight, an audacious Hamas raid has metastasized into a crisis that holds the greatest potential for regional conflagration in years. On a strategic level, the rogues' goal is almost surely to fuse the disparate crises into one--merging either the Hamas or Hezbollah front with Iran's nuclear standoff with the West, perhaps by the transfer of the captive soldiers to Iranian control, by direct involvement of Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the rocket fire against Israel, or by some other means.

If that happens, then Hamas and its fellow quartet members may achieve what Yasser Arafat was not able to accomplish with two intifadas--to regionalize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and thereby radically alter the strategic balance. And if Iran is able to exploit this crisis to show that its nuclear program earns it and its allies special treatment on the terrorism front, Tehran will have proven precisely how beneficial the decision to invest in a nuclear program really was. As the Iranian newspaper Kayhan, close to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, editorialized last Thursday, "Nuclear Iran is eradicating the nuclear prestige of Israel." That's the sort of rising star to which Syria would like to be hitched.

In Gaza and Lebanon, a battle between Israel and two of its enemies has now been joined. Its spread to two other enemies--Iran and Syria--is a stark and urgent possibility. Let us not mistake this conflict for a local skirmish, a pesky diversion from more serious business, like stopping Iran's nuclear program or building a free, stable Iraq. On the contrary, it is all of a piece.

RCP - Robert Tracinski:

If, in the face of repeated threats and provocation by an aggressive dictatorship, you refuse to go to war, the war will eventually come to you.

That's the meaning of Iran's de facto declaration of war against Israel--which is, ultimately, a new war Iran is waging against the US. Iran is so desperate for war with the West that it is bringing the war to us, openly and willfully initiating a regional conflict that may soon involve three of Iran's proxies--Hamas, Hezbollah, and Syria--fighting against America's proxy, Israel.

The danger for us is that, in seeking to avoid an unavoidable war with Iran, we have allowed Iran to start the conflict on terms that it believes will be most favorable to it.

David Ignatius - Washington Post:

Watching the events of the past few days, you can't help but feel that this is the rerun of an old movie -- one in which the guerrillas and kidnappers end up as the winners. Israel's fledgling prime minister, Ehud Olmert, wants to emulate the toughness of his predecessor, Ariel Sharon, but that shouldn't include a replay of Sharon's 1982 Lebanon invasion, a strategic mistake that spawned Hezbollah in the first place.

Hezbollah's action in seizing the Israeli soldiers was utterly reckless. That's the new part of this crisis -- that Iranian-backed radicals deliberately opened another front in a war that, in their minds, stretches from Gaza to Iraq. Watching Nasrallah's cocky performance at a news conference Wednesday, he seemed almost to be inviting an Israeli counterattack -- knowing that it would destabilize the Lebanese government of Fuad Siniora, which is one of the few solid achievements of U.S. policy in the region.

Jeff Jacoby

Gaza, Hezbollah, Iraq, Al Qaeda: It is all the same fight. ``No one should have any lingering doubts about what's going on in the Middle East," writes Michael Ledeen, an expert on terrorism and Iran. ``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."

Twenty-seven years ago was 1979, the year that Islamist radicals loyal to the Ayatollah Khomeini invaded the US embassy in Tehran and held dozens of American diplomats hostage for the next 444 days. Washington's response was weak and feckless, as it would be time and again in the years that followed. Only after 9/11 did the United States finally acknowledge that it was in a war with militant Islam and began fighting back in earnest. But not against Iran, which continues, unscathed and unrepentant, to stoke the terrorist fires. Its goals, unchanged since Khomeini's day, are to become the dominant power in the Middle East, to create Islamist regimes worldwide, to annihilate Israel, and to kill Americans.

Newsweek - The Hand Thjat Feeds the Fire:

According to terrorism analyst Magnus Ranstorp, an expert on Hizbullah who is now at the Swedish National Defence College, Hizbullah's decision-making council normally includes two Iranians. "Hizbullah is not a Lebanese organization, it's a proxy for Iran," says Ephraim Sneh, a former Israeli general and Labor Party member of the Knesset. "Nasrallah has never carried out an operation on this scale without his masters."

On Friday Nasrallah gleefully announced that his group had hit an Israeli warship off the coast of Lebanon. The vessel was badly damaged by the radar-guided weapon, identified by the Israelis as a C-802 antiship missile assembled in Iran. "There are very clear fingerprints of Iranian involvement," Brig. Gen. Ido Nehushtan told NEWSWEEK.

Lee Smith - Slate:

...the international community—especially the United States and France—has, over the last year, explained quite clearly that Hezbollah is a serious problem. Several U.N. resolutions, as well as almost every Western diplomatic initiative here, have emphasized the urgent need for the Lebanese government to disarm what the U.S. State Department calls a terrorist organization. Instead, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and other national leaders have insisted that Hezbollah is neither a terrorist group nor a militia, but is rather "the resistance" and nothing but "the resistance." In other words, we side with the Party of God and agree that their arms benefit all of Lebanon! And then, this week, the democratically elected government disclaimed responsibility for the actions of Hezbollah, which is part of the government. The Lebanese are not innocent bystanders; they did not tempt their fate, they ignored it.

NR Editors:

...Israel has to prove that it is a sovereign state, not to be trifled with or subjected to the bargaining of the Middle East bazaar. In short, it has to reinvigorate its deterrent threat against its enemies that has been vitiated by its unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and its weak response to provocations since then. Hezbollah demarcates Iran’s front-line with Israel. Its membership is about 8,000, but probably only a quarter of these are in any sense soldiers. They are already firing Katyusha rockets deep into Israel, causing casualties and sending people into shelters. Security Council Resolution 1559 mandates that Hezbollah stand down its militia, and the Lebanese government backed that resolution. In vain. Hezbollah thumbed its nose. Now is the moment for Israel to try to enforce it and get Iran off the back of everyone within reach.

The Hamas leader, Khalid Mashaal, has headquarters in Damascus, protected by the thugocracy of Bashar al-Assad, himself protected by Iran. The overpowering of Hezbollah might lead Hamas’s sponsors around the Middle East to conclude that they can’t engage in a proxy war against Israel with impunity. If not, the targeted killings of Mashaal and his lieutenants in Syria would be appropriate, and other targets there might beckon as well. It is right to eliminate terror masters, and beyond that, the weakening and humiliation of its wretched Syrian stooge would be a suitable reward to Iran for its mischief-making.

William Kristol - Weekly Standard:

Why is this Arab-Israeli war different from all other Arab-Israeli wars? Because it's not an Arab-Israeli war. Most of Israel's traditional Arab enemies have checked out of the current conflict. The governments of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia are, to say the least, indifferent to the fate of Hamas and Hezbollah. The Palestine Liberation Organization (Fatah) isn't a player. The prime mover behind the terrorist groups who have started this war is a non-Arab state, Iran, which wasn't involved in any of Israel's previous wars.

What's happening in the Middle East, then, isn't just another chapter in the Arab-Israeli conflict. What's happening is an Islamist-Israeli war. You might even say this is part of the Islamist war on the West--but is India part of the West? Better to say that what's under attack is liberal democratic civilization, whose leading representative right now happens to be the United States...

...The war against radical Islamism is likely to be a long one. Radical Islamism isn't going away anytime soon. But it will make a big difference how strong the state sponsors, harborers, and financiers of radical Islamism are. Thus, our focus should be less on Hamas and Hezbollah, and more on their paymasters and real commanders--Syria and Iran. And our focus should be not only on the regional war in the Middle East, but also on the global struggle against radical Islamism.

For while Syria and Iran are enemies of Israel, they are also enemies of the United States. We have done a poor job of standing up to them and weakening them. They are now testing us more boldly than one would have thought possible a few years ago. Weakness is provocative. We have been too weak, and have allowed ourselves to be perceived as weak.

UPDATE 7/16:

Newt Gingrich:

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich says America is in World War III and President Bush should say so...

...He said the reluctance to put those pieces together and see one global conflict is hurting America's interests. He said people, including some in the Bush Administration, who urge a restrained response from Israel are wrong "because they haven't crossed the bridge of realizing this is a war."

"This is World War III," Gingrich said. And once that's accepted, he said calls for restraint would fall away:

"Israel wouldn't leave southern Lebanon as long as there was a single missile there. I would go in and clean them all out and I would announce that any Iranian airplane trying to bring missiles to re-supply them would be shot down. This idea that we have this one-sided war where the other team gets to plan how to kill us and we get to talk, is nuts."

Summary of Israeli, Lebanese and Palestinian blog posts at The Truth Laid Bear. Wow! The blogosphere at its best.

Posted by dan at July 16, 2006 7:56 PM