Friday 14 July 2006

Israel Crosses the Line

And you read it here first…

by Justin Raimondo

The Israeli offensive against Iran – until now, purely polemical – morphed into military action the moment the IDF crossed the border into Lebanon and took on Hezbollah. As our regular readers know, this turn of events was predicted in this space three months ago:

"War with Iran will probably not begin with a frontal assault by the U.S. and/or Israel on Iran's alleged nuclear weapons facilities, or even a skirmish along the Iraq-Iran border. Look to Lebanon and Syria for the first battlegrounds of this developing regional war. The Israelis know perfectly well that Iran's nuclear ambitions, if they ever materialize, are not an immediate threat: their real concern is their volatile northern border, where their deadly enemies – Hezbollah – are an effective obstacle to Israeli influence. The Israelis are also looking to exploit growing opportunities to make trouble in Syria, where the restive Kurds are their reliable allies, and the brittleness of the Ba'athist dictatorship is an invitation to regime change."

The suggestion, by Professors John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, in their now famous "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," that the Iraq war was fought for Israel's sake, and against our own interests in the region, was received in many quarters with outright horror, and not only from the Amen Corner. Noam Chomsky and Stephen Zunes both objected to this thesis of an Israel-centric foreign policy: Israel, they insist, is the "junior partner" of the American hegemon, and is only acting at the behest and under the de facto control of its masters in Washington.

The war's aftermath, however, tells a different story. Examined in light of Israel's postwar actions – the unilateral "withdrawal" from Gaza, the absorption of more territory and the building of more settlements on the West Bank, the war against Hamas, and now the re-invasion of Lebanon – the chief (and only) beneficiary of the new regional balance of power is clear enough. The American invasion and occupation of the Mesopotamian heartland has empowered the Israelis as never before – and now they are on the offensive, carving out a greatly expanded sphere of influence extending into Kurdistan as well as Lebanon, bringing closer to fulfillment the old Zionist vision of an empire stretching "from the Nile to the Euphrates."

The U.S., on the other hand, has considerably reduced leverage in the region. Our troops in Iraq are exposed, vulnerable to the Iranians – and stalemated by the Iraqi insurgency, which shows troubling signs of extending into Shi'ite areas. As the Israelis advance, with American support, Sunni and Shi'ite factions in Iraq – including those in the governing Shi'ite coalition – are radicalized, and turn their fire on the Americans.

Yet the U.S. is still shilling for the Israelis, blaming Syria and Iran for acts that occurred well outside the purview of the mullahs and the increasingly isolated regime of Bashar al-Assad. Meanwhile, in the UN, we are bringing the issue of Iran's nuclear power program to the Security Council, pressing for a confrontation that can only end in $200-per-barrel oil.

In 1996, a group of pro-Israeli Americans – including Richard Perle, James Colbert, Charles Fairbanks Jr., Douglas Feith, Robert Loewenberg, David Wurmser, and Meyrav Wurmser – prepared a policy statement for then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that proposed a strategy of regime change as the only solution for Israel's growing encirclement and isolation. The main problem, they averred in "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," was Syria, and the troublesome border with Lebanon:

"Syria challenges Israel on Lebanese soil. An effective approach, and one with which American can sympathize, would be if Israel seized the strategic initiative along its northern borders by engaging Hizballah, Syria, and Iran, as the principal agents of aggression in Lebanon."

But this could occur only if Iraq was taken out first:

"Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria's regional ambitions."

With Saddam out of the way, the second phase of the "Clean Break" scenario is unfolding before our eyes. And the propaganda war is going just as well as the military aspect of the campaign: the Israelis are no fools. They realize they can't proceed without the tacit complicity of the U.S. and the Europeans, who must be made to look the other way as the IDF commits war crimes on the ground. Under the pretext of avenging the "kidnapping" of one of their soldiers – and, more recently, two more – they have unleashed a military assault planned well in advance of the allegedly precipitating incidents.

This is surely one of the most threadbare excuses for a war ever uttered. One wonders how Israel's spokesmen can say it with a straight face. Soldiers in wartime are captured, not "kidnapped." If Hezbollah has "kidnapped" those two Israeli soldiers, then how do we describe the jailing of thousands of Palestinians, including hundreds of women and children, on the basis of their alleged sympathy for Hamas – now the democratically elected government of Palestine? In any case, it appears, according to this report, that Hezbollah has some Israeli competition when it comes to the business of kidnapping.

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