Next stop: Syria?
Israeli commentator Uri Avnery is brilliant and demonstrates it once again jn A Nice Little War in which he warns that if the Israeli leaders sense that the perception is that the Hizbollah is "winning," they'll be tempted to target Syria which can be defeated by Israel in a conventional war:
When it becomes clear that nothing is helping, that Hizbullah goes on fighting and the rockets continue to fly, the political and military leadership will face bankruptcy. They will need to pin the blame on somebody. On who? Well, on Syrian President Bashar Assad, of course.
How is it possible that a small "terror organization", with a few thousand fighters altogether, goes on fighting? Where do they get the arms from? The finger will point towards Syria.
Even now, the army commanders assert that new rockets are flowing all the time from Syria to Hizbullah. True, the roads have been bombed, the bridges destroyed, but the arms somehow continue to arrive. The Israeli government demands that an international force be stationed not only along the Israeli-Lebanese border, but on the Lebanese-Syrian border, too. The queue of volunteers will not be long.
Then the generals will demand the bombing of roads and bridges inside Syria. For that, the Syrian air force will have to be neutralized. In short, a real war, with implications for the whole Middle East.
As he points out:
When Napoleon did not know what to do next, he invaded Russia. If we don't stop the operation, it will lead us to war with Syria.
Condoleezza Rice's stubborn struggle against any attempt to stop the war shows that this is indeed the aim of the United States. From the first day of George Bush's presidency, the neo-conservatives have been calling for the elimination of Syria. The deeper Bush sinks into the Iraqi quagmire, the more he needs to divert attention with another adventure.
By the way: one day before the outbreak of this war, our [Israeli] minister of national infrastructures, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, took part in the inauguration ceremony of the big pipeline that will conduct oil from the huge Caspian Sea reserves to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, just next to the Syrian border. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline avoids Russia and passes through Azerbaijan and Georgia, two countries closely aligned with Israel, like Turkey itself. There is a plan to bring a part of the oil from there along the Syrian and Lebanese coast to Ashkelon, where an existing pipeline will conduct it to Eilat, to be exported to the Far East. Israel and Turkey are to secure the area for the United States.
And he asks:
Must the sliding into a war with Syria happen? Is there no alternative?
Of course there is. To stop now, at once.
When President Lyndon Johnson felt that he was sinking into the morass of Vietnam, he asked his friends for advice. One of them answered with five words: "Declare victory and get out!"
We can do that. To stop investing more and more in a losing business. To be satisfied with what we can get now. For example, an agreement that will move Hizbullah a few kilometers from the border, along which an international force and/or the Lebanese army will be deployed, and to exchange prisoners. Olmert will be able to present that as a great victory, to claim that we have got what we wanted, that we have taught the Arabs a lesson, that anyway we had no intention of achieving more. Nasrallah will also claim a great victory, asserting that he has taught the Zionist enemy a lesson it will not forget, that Hizbullah remains alive, strong and armed, that he has brought back the Lebanese prisoners.
True, it will not be much. But that is what can be done to cut losses, as they say in the business world.
That can happen. If Olmert is clever enough to extricate himself from the trap, before it closes entirely. (As folk wisdom says: a clever person is one that gets out of a trap that a wise one would not have got into in the first place.) And if Condoleezza gets orders from her boss to allow it.
On the 17th day of the war , we must recognize that soon we will be faced with a clear choice: to slide into a war with Syria, intentionally or unintentionally, or to get a general agreement in the north, that will necessarily involve also Hizbullah and Syria. At the centre of such an agreement will be the Golan Heights.
Olmert and Peretz did not think about that in those intoxicating moments on 12 July, when they jumped at the opportunity to start a nice little war. But then, were they thinking at all?