Lebanon's Is A Proxy War For The US & Iran; Terms Too Tough For Tehran's Offspring.
*** Walid Jumblatt Continues To Believe The Iran-Led Axis, Which Includes A Ba'thist Dictatorship In Damascus, Hamas In Palestine And The Streets Of The Arab World, Won't Last Long Enough For The Theocrats Of Tehran To Deploy Nuclear Bombs
*** Pakistan Is Said To Have Begun Enlarging Its Arsenal Of Atomic Warheads For The Sunni Side, While King Abdullah Al-Saud Warns Of A Big ME Conflagration
*** Muqtada Al-Sadr's Jaysh al-Mahdi, Modelled On Hizbullah, Is Itching To Launch A New Uprising In Iraq Against US Occupation
BEIRUT - The Third World War, which began with the 9/11 attacks on the US by the Neo-Salafi group al-Qaeda, now features a proxy war in Lebanon between the US and Iran; in this, Israel is fighting on behalf of the US in a cycle of confrontations which may eventually feature a US-led strike against the Shi'ite theocracy of Tehran. The US is at war with the two extremes of a 1.4 billion-strong Muslim World, the Neo-Salafis on the Sunni side and the militants of the Ja'faris on the Shi'ite side.
In Iraq, the Sunni and Shi'ite extremists are at war. In what seems to be the start of a much wider war between these extremists in the Muslim World, the Sunnis of Iraq have begun to count on American protection against fierce Ja'fari militia groups backed by Iran (see ood1-IraqSunnisSeekUSProtectionJuly24-06).
Yossi Ben-Ari, former Israel intelligence officer, says: "Israel has never enjoyed such broad American support for both its policies and military actions [in Lebanon] as it does today". However, writing in Ynet, website of the mass-circulation Yedioth Aharonoth, Gen. Ben-Ari said Israel should avoid being drawn into what he called an American "honey trap" in which the US used it as a proxy in its regional disputes with Syria and Iran as part of its worldwide war on terror.
The embattled Iraqi government has launched a new security plan for Baghdad as it struggles to contain escalating sectarian violence. The plan involves adding one more division of US and Iraqi troops of about 4,000 to retake areas controlled by Sunni insurgents or Shi'ite militias. The move follows a failed effort to stem a rising tide of sectarian bloodshed, particularly in Baghdad. This has dramatically surged, with the UN saying 6,000 Iraqis were killed in May and June. The worse atrocities have been in Baghdad, where people have been pushed out of their areas because of their sect, amid fears the city was being divided into Sunni and Shi'ite parts.
Hizbullah, which Washington describes as the most powerful terrorist movement in the world with secret cells spread out in Africa, Latin America, the US and South-East Asia, is more than a disciplined guerrilla movement in the region. It is a Ja'fari theocracy, a Lebanese branch of Iran's Ja'fari theocracy which also wants to set up such branches in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and other countries with Shi'ite communities where a local representative of Iran's Supreme Leader exists in each case, including Kuwait and other GCC states. The ultimate goal of Iran's theocracy is to establish a universal imamate where the missing al-Mahdi will return to rule the world.
Al-Qaeda is its Sunni counterpart with a messianic mission no less important than al-Mahdi's and wants to establish in Iraq a Neo-Salafi caliphate. This already has branches in the Taliban movement in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Chechnya, Somalia, etc.
Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah on July 26 vowed he would not accept any "humiliating" terms for a ceasefire with Israel in Lebanon. In a TV address Nasrallah said the conflict had entered a new phase and that Israeli incursions into Lebanon would not stop Hizbullah rocket fire into Israel. He has indirectly echoed the words of Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that Hizbullah will not be disarmed.
The Lebanese government and its Arab allies - a "reasonable group" led by Saudi Arabia and including Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait and other GCC states - are pleading for an immediate ceasefire with Israel. But the US insists a lasting solution in Lebanon needs to be agreed first - which is no longer Israel's prime condition: disarming Hizbullah and all other militia groups in Lebanon and spreading the government's authority throughout the country.
An international crisis meeting in Rome on July 26 failed to agree on a call for an immediate ceasefire, pledging only quick humanitarian relief and support for Lebanon's reconstruction. Nearly all the participants called for an immediate ceasefire. But the US blocked the call.
Foreign ministers from the US, Europe and the Arab world ended the talks with a stated determination to work towards the end of the war with "utmost urgency". US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said: "We all agreed we want most urgently to end violence on a basis that is sustainable".
The meeting came as the Israeli army suffered its highest casualties for years in the fighting in south Lebanon. Late on July 26 Israel said nine soldiers had been killed and 22 wounded in an assault on the town of Bint Jbail. Israeli air strikes on July 26 hit more than 50 targets across Lebanon, while Hizbullah fired 125 rockets into Israel. Maj-Gen Udi Adam, Israel's head of the northern command, said: "Given the progress over the last two weeks, I reckon it [the offensive] will continue for several more weeks". Later in the week Israel started an air war on Hizbullah.
Participants in Rome agreed terms for a lasting peace required the Lebanese government to deploy its forces throughout its territory and disarm all militias - including Hizbullah which sparked the war with the July 12 capture of two Israeli soldiers (see omt4-LebanonRegionalJuly24-06). The meeting also agreed that an international force should be authorised under a UN mandate to support the Lebanese army. The mandate was to be discussed at the UN Security Council (UNSC).
The Financial Times on July 27 quoted diplomats as saying the US appeared to suggest the force should deploy to assist the truce, while France said it should follow a political agreement which settled all disputes between Lebanon and Israel. Lebanese Prime Minister Fou'ad Siniora said his country was being "cut to pieces". He said Lebanon needed humanitarian assistance, "but it needed an immediate ceasefire more".
By July 28, Israel's campaign had killed more than 600 people, mostly civilians, devastated Lebanon's infrastructure and displaced almost a million people. In Israel at least 50 people had been killed. Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah on July 26 told al-Arabiya TV: "We fight a guerrilla warfare...the important thing is what losses we inflict on the Israeli enemy". His group vowed it would not accept "humiliating" terms in a truce. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the Rome meeting the crisis remained "horrendous" and repeated his call for Syria and Iran - both not invited to the talks - to join in efforts to end the hostilities. China called on the UNSC to condemn the "co-ordinated artillery and aerial attack" by Israel on a UN observer post in Lebanon which killed four observers including a Chinese. But the US rejected any suggestion of deliberate targeting.
Few ceasefires in the Middle East amount to more than an opportunity for the combatants to reload. The FT on July 26 warned: "the conflict is on the point of spreading like fire across a region enraged by Israel's wanton destruction of an Arab country, with the full support of a US administration that purports to be Lebanon's ally".
Secretary Rice started her tour of the region in Beirut on July 24. But no sooner had she moved to Jerusalem on July 25 than Israel resumed massive air strikes on Beirut's teeming southern suburbs, the heartland of Hizbullah. The message she brought to both parties was that there would be no return to the status quo ante. Hizbullah had to pull back from the border, disarm and hand back the two Israeli soldiers. The chances of this happening are virtually nil.
Hizbullah was spawned by the Israeli invasion of 1982, and its warfare forced Israel finally to abandon its occupation in May 2000. The FT noted: "Washington appears to believe diplomacy is about achieving Israel's unrealisable war aims by other means... Ms Rice blithely asserts that we are witnessing 'the birth pangs of a new Middle East'- an unfortunate metaphor set against the... the death-rattle of a recently resurgent, pro-western Lebanon. But the point is that fighting could now easily spread, and not just by sucking in Hizbullah's patrons in Syria and Iran".
Israel's assault on the Shi'ite part of Lebanon has inflamed the Shi'ite majority in Iraq - the community preventing a total meltdown of the US occupation. Muqtada al-Sadr's Jaysh al-Mahdi, modelled on Hizbullah, which fought alongside it in the 2004 siege of Najaf, is itching to launch a new uprising against the US-led occupation of Iraq. Even Grand Ayatullah Ali al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of the Shi'ites, is reportedly on the verge of withdrawing his tacit but vital support for the American project. Sistani has condemned Israel's attack on Lebanon.
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia - another ally of the US who, despite his fear of Iran-led radicalism - on July 25 warned "there will be no other option but [regional] war" unless Israel stopped attacks on the Lebanese and Palestinians.
Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz on July 25 said Israel would occupy a strip inside south Lebanon with ground troops until an international force could take its place. The announcement raised the prospect of a more protracted Israeli involvement in Lebanon than the leadership previously signalled or publicly sought. But later in the week, as Hizbullah put up strong resistance and killed 9 Israeli soldiers, the Israeli cabinet adopted a more cautious approach and indirectly assured Damascus that Syria would not be attacked.
Rice secured Israeli commitments to allow relief into Lebanon and said she would press Israel to ease border restrictions for Palestinians. But she left without any sign of a quick end to Israel's military campaigns in Lebanon or the Gaza Strip.
Rice received a warm welcome from PM Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem, in contrast to the much cooler receptions she had in Ramallah. She pointedly characterised Mahmoud Abbas as the "duly elected president" of the PA and said "the Palestinian people have had to live too long" under harsh conditions. But just as pointedly, she did not respond to his urgent appeal for ceasefires in the region, to ease what he said was suffering "beyond the capacity of any human being to endure".
Rice and Abbas discussed the release of an Israeli soldier who was seized by Palestinian militants on June 25, setting off the current crisis in Gaza. But Abbas has little influence. Hamas, which controls the PA cabinet, is demanding a swap for a large number of Palestinian prisoners. Hamas was one of three Syria-backed factions which claimed responsibility for seizing the soldier. Beirut has adopted four Hizbullah conditions for a settlement as its own: giving the small Sheb'a Farms to Lebanon; the return of three Lebanese prisoners held by Israel; an end to Israeli flyovers into Lebanese air space; and a map showing the location of Israeli land mines in south Lebanon. The Beirut cabinet confirmed this on July 27.
The issue of Sheb'a Farms has been the public rationale for allowing Hizbullah, alone among civil war-era Lebanese militias, to keep its arms: that it was resisting continued Israeli occupation.
Rice did not suggest a ceasefire in either conflict was imminent, but sought to present the dual crises as a chance to reshape the region. She said: "It is time for a new Middle East. It is time to say to those that don't want a different kind of Middle East that we will prevail. They will not". Rice and other Bush administration officials have repeatedly blamed Hizbullah for starting the crisis in Lebanon. While strongly supporting Israel, the Bush administration does not want to see the democratically elected Lebanese government harmed by the current conflict. Rice said: "I have no doubt there are those who wish to strangle a democratic and sovereign Lebanon in its crib. We, of course, also urgently want to end the violence".
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|Publication:||APS Diplomat News Service|
|Date:||Jul 31, 2006|
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