July 12, 2006

The Danger Spreads

[AND much more on these issues, and I answer some criticisms of this post, here: It's Much Later than We Think: Why It is Not "Our War."]

[Another Update added at the end.]

[OH, BROTHER: I've said it before, and I'll say it again: It's All About Iran. As I wrote:
If for whatever particular combination of reasons the attack on Iran doesn't come before the November elections (and perhaps even as early as this summer), it will certainly come before the end of Bush's term.
Drudge is now hawking this latest story:
Israel has information that Lebanese guerrillas who captured two Israeli soldiers are trying to transfer them to Iran, the Foreign Ministry spokesman said. Spokesman Mark Regev did not disclose the source of his information.
One more time: They want a wider war. They've already decided to attack Iran.

And is there even one prominent figure trying to call a halt to this madness? If there is, he or she is doing so very, very quietly, and appears to be having no effect at all.

JUST TO ADD: I didn't state this earlier, primarily because I consider it so painfully obvious. There is an alternative to this increasingly out of control spiral of events. If the Bush administration wanted to, they could bring all the pressure at their disposal to bear on the various parties involved -- which pressure is fairly monumental, it should be noted -- and arrange for an immediate cease fire, to be quickly followed by intensive negotiations. The negotiations might not work in the end, but at least a period of reprieve would give everyone a chance to catch their breaths, and reconsider where this path is leading.

Of course, that assumes that peace, and not war, is the administration's objective. Since we invade and occupy countries that never threatened us, and because this administration has all but interred diplomacy for good, the evidence is now close to absolutely conclusive that this is not, in fact, the administration's aim. And so we continue to Our Date with Armageddon.]

Just the other day, I wrote:
By now, we all surely know that if they want the intelligence to show that Country X is a "grave" and "growing" threat, they will find it or manufacture it. So once you're debating what the intelligence shows or fails to show, the debate is over. The war will inevitably begin. This is the point I've made with regard to Iran repeatedly. The administration's plans are entirely clear: they intend to attack Iran. The only questions are when, and what the specific "excuse" will be.
And now the Bush administration has still one more excuse. The always reliable and perceptive Jim Lobe explains:
The sudden opening Wednesday by Lebanon's Hezbollah militia of a second front in Israel's ongoing campaign against Hamas militants in Gaza presents the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush with an escalating crisis that, until now, it has preferred to ignore.

The immediate question it faces is whether to maintain its strong backing for military action by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert or to engage in active diplomacy to prevent any further escalation and end the violence.

That the stakes are extraordinarily high was made clear not only by Olmert's decision to send the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) into Lebanon for the first time since Israel's withdrawal in 2000, but also by a White House statement issued Wednesday afternoon that promised to hold Syria and Iran "responsible for [the Hezbollah] attack and the ensuing violence."

"This is potentially very dangerous," Bassel Saloukh, a political scientist at the Lebanese American University in Beirut, told IPS in a telephone interview. "If the Americans take this to legitimate a strike against Iran or Syria, then I think it will escalate with devastating consequences."


While the Bush administration has urged restraint on all sides, its repeated backing for Israel's demand for the soldier's release and its rejection of Hamas appeals for a cease-fire or negotiations for a prisoner swap have been seen in the region as giving Olmert virtual carte blanche to pursue his offensive.

"The combination of our own diplomatic disengagement, our blaming Syria and Iran, and our giving the Israelis a green light [for their military campaign] has inflamed the entire region," according to Clay Swisher, a former State Department Middle East expert and author of the Truth About Camp David, who just returned from Lebanon last week.

It was in this context that Hezbollah shelled Israeli civilian and military targets and attacked an IDF border patrol Wednesday, reportedly killing seven soldiers and abducting two others, effectively creating a second front along Israel's northern border.

Washington, which was clearly caught off guard by Hezbollah's move, responded twice in the course of the day. In a statement released in Paris, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice charged that Hezbollah's action "undermines regional stability" and called on all parties to "act with restraint to resolve this incident peacefully and to protect innocent life and civilian infrastructures."

"Syria," she said, in an apparent reference to Damascus' historic backing for Hezbollah, "has a special responsibility to use its influence to support a positive outcome."

In a more ominous statement several hours later, however, a White House spokesman issued the statement warning that Syria and Iran, which has also been a major sponsor of Hezbollah, will be held "responsible" for the attack and its consequences.
You should read Lobe's article in its entirety. And with regard to the administration's willingness to manufacture excuses for military action out of thin air, note the expert quoted later in the piece "who stressed that Syria's and Iran's role, if any, in encouraging Hezbollah to attack was 'entirely speculative.'"

It's going to be a very long, very hot, and very dangerous summer.

UPDATE: Digby has some interesting further observations about all this. I've added a few more thoughts in the comments over there, including the following:
Mojo writes: "There are so many possible outcomes, as mentioned in comments above, and none of them are good." The same was true of Iraq, and it didn't stop them. And they were warned about literally everything that has happened.

But you need to keep *their* perspective in mind: "rearranging" the Middle East from top to bottom has been an explicit part of their plan for at least a decade. It's not a secret conspiracy, or something they only talk about in darkened cellars. They've been completely open about it. We tend to think they don't really mean it, because the consequences are so obviously devastating.

But from their point of view, those devastating consequences are a necessary and even a "good" thing. If there is widespread devastation, it makes the "rebuilding" that much easier.

And just think about all those contracts...
Well. Is it too early for a drink?