Sunday, July 16, 2006

Mideast update (sort of)

I've been reading newspapers, watching television (including from Israel and the Mideast), googling the news, and it's quite difficult to get a clear picture of what's happening and predict what's going to happen. My sense is that the G-8 statement was more favorable to the U.S. position (and by extension to Israel) than I would have expected. It stressed Israel's right to act in "self defence" and seems to suggest that Hizbollah and Hamas should return the kidnapped soldiers as first steps and as part of the conditions for cease-fire. There were also clear indications that the leading Arab-Sunni states, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt are hoping for Hizbollah's demise. I think that Israel could probably continue with the bombing for quite a while. I also don't think that the war would expand beyond Lebanon.

"War, What is good for? Absolutely Nothing"*

*O Jays

Even some of the guys and gals I trust in terms of understanding what's up in the world seem to be confused about the recent Mideast Madness. Leading think-tanker Steven Clemons thinks that Some Questions Regarding Israel's Objectives: Is Israel Trying to Curb America's Deal-Making in Middle East? while veteran Mideast watcher Robin Wright concludes thatStrikes Are Called Part of Broad Strategy U.S., Israel Aim to Weaken Hezbollah, Region's Militants, while Israeli journalist and peace activist Uri Avnery suspects Israeli-American collusion with an unidentified Lebanese "elites." In fact, my online pal Michael Sharon suggests that Ehud Olmert and George W. concluded a "secret accord" to oust Hammas during the Israeli PM's visit to Washington. (in hebrew). And also check-out my earlier posts on which historical analogies we need to apply (1967? 1973? 1982?) to understand Israel's moves (well, neither and all of them...). Since my main preoccupation is with the global/regional/structural/macro level,let me repeat my "thesis;" Bush's policies of remaking the Middle East, including the ousting of Saddam and the victory of the pro-Iranian Shiites in Baghdad, the election of Hamas, the withdrawal of Syria from Lebanon and the assertion of power by Hizbollah, as well as the Iranian nuclear crisis -- have also helped to shift the regional balance of power in favor of Iran and its proxies, reflected the the recent moves by Hamas and Hizbollah, all of which puts pressures on the U.S. and Israel to counter-balance them. Hence I agree with Robin Wright that they do share some common interests now. Like in 1973, the Americans are hoping that Israel will beat-up the other sides's proxy and then try to use its diplomatic power to shift the balance of power in its favor (recall that the U.S. ended up as the main winner after the 1973 War). But I'm very doubtful that Israel has the military power to oust Hamas and destroy the Hizbollah. The killing of Lebanese civilians is bound to produce an international backlash and force the American to press Israel to cease fire. Also in 1973 the Americans were willing -- they wanted -- to make a deal with Egypt. Today Washington is refusing even to talk with Hamas, Syria and Iran. I doubt very much that Iran is going to be drawn into the war (U.S. certainly doesn't want that to happen), although Israel might try to "humiliate" Syria's Bashar. Least-worst-case-scenario: Hostilities end through UN mediation and some commitment on the part of Lebanon (supported perhaps by the Arab League) to disarm Hamas, and the release of the Israeli soldiers to be followed by some Israeli gestures. I don't see any "solution" in Palestine/Israel in the short-term.