Thursday, July 13, 2006

Latest articles on Iran and the Middle East

Hezbollah's attack on Israel serves not only to distract from Iran's defiance of the international community. It also plays into a propaganda campaign that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran has conducted in recent months, conflating the issue of Iran's nuclear program with what he has condemned as the intolerable existence of Israel. Also, by having Hezbollah strike now at Israel, the Iranian regime clearly means to neutralize Arab regimes that are fearful of Iran's spreading influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Knowing that Iran is behind Hezbollah's act of war, Israeli leaders -- who are openly warning of devastating strikes on Lebanon's infrastructure -- would be well advised to avoid a reflexive military response that lands Israel in an Iranian trap. If the regime in Tehran wants to provoke Israel to bomb Lebanese power plants, roads, and bridges, maybe this kind of military retaliation is not such a good idea.

The likely failure of diplomacy would not deter Bush from pursuing it, however. If and when it failed, he would be able to choose the military course, and no fair person could accuse him of not having tried to bring the world along to do what had to be done. At least he would know in his own mind that he had sincerely given diplomacy a chance. And when he ordered the strike on Iran, he would know that, whatever else could be said about him, he would not go down in history as the man who let the mullahs have the bomb.

America and these other nuclear powers are able to consummate their own strange courtship, they will likely catch the Iranians in a vise, just as they did when they adopted a similar approach with the Libyans a decade ago. And there's every reason to believe that, like the Libyans, the Iranians would come to see it's in their best interests to accept the carrots to get rid of the sticks. However, if the United States and its partners refuse to take these final steps together, it is very likely that the Iranians will once again slip through the gap between us. And that means, not too far down the road, we will all discover what it's like to live with a nuclear Iran.

Lebanon is the pond, the IAF bombs are the stones, and the hope in Jerusalem is that hurling enough of those stones into the Lebanese pond will produce a ripple effect felt as far as Teheran. Israel woke up Thursday morning finding itself facing a two front war - but not a traditional two front war, rather a two front terrorist war. And on each front it is facing one of Iran's proxies - Hamas in the south; Hizbullah in the north. One of the assumptions of the current campaign is that if you hit the proxy hard enough, its master will get the message. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert intimated this much Wednesday when he said he was certain the IDF actions would "echo in the right places and with the necessary strength."