All 3 entries tagged Middle East Crisis

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July 29, 2006

Should've seen it coming?

"Iran is omnipresent in Lebanon, not only with Hezbollah," said Ridwan al–Sayyid, an adviser to the prime minister and a professor of Islamic studies at Lebanese University. "They are strong, not like Syria, but they shape their presence in different ways. They are helping many, many organizations — Sunnis, Shias and Christians. They are benevolent." (March 2006)

"If there is an Iranian–American clash, it will be played out here," Ahmed Fatfat, the acting Lebanese interior minister (March 2006)

“Tehran and Damascus have strong incentives to turn Lebanon into a battleground to deflect attention from their own problems.” (Washington Times, February 2006)

Or a bolt out of the blue?

"There is without any doubt a growing Iranian influence not only in Lebanon but in the whole region," said Nassib Lahoud, a Maronite Christian who is a former ambassador to the United States and a legislator. "We are trying to build normal relations with everyone, and we refuse to turn Lebanon into a battlefield for regional and international powers." (March 2006)

"In the power vacuum left by the sudden withdrawal of Israeli troops and the flight of many of their allies in the South Lebanon Army, Hezbollah has started to operate in the south much as it does in the rest of Lebanon, as a kind of parallel government offering social services, development loans and reconstruction aid. Although it is still considered by the United States and other nations to be a terrorist group that bombed embassies and kidnapped Westerners in the 1980's with the help of radical patrons in Iran and Syria, Hezbollah has developed a different image in Lebanon… Sheik Nasrallah, who does not hold a government or parliamentary post, has acted deferential toward the official government, saying his organization has no intention of setting up a parallel or competing structure in the south." (NY Times, May 2000)

July 28, 2006

Bush's Poodle? Not quite.

The fact that accusations about the one–sided nature of the "special relationship" between Britain and the United States should arise during a conflict in the Middle East is interesting. Because from where I'm sitting it often looks more like Israel is the United States' poodle, engaged in the same relationship as the client states of the US and the USSR in the Cold War.

Rather than get involved in a war with Syria or Iran (which six months ago wasn't an entirely impossible notion), the current conflict in the Middle East is effectively between the proxies of the United States and Islamic Extremism. Cold War II, if you like.

This puts a different spin on the "Yo, Blair" problem. Certainly, it seems as if Condi Rice is more senior in the global hierarchy than Blair after Bush told him to stay out of the region and leave it to his Secretary of State. And yes, we're the only state who joined the U.S. in avoiding calls for an immediate ceasefire. And true, we went to Iraq because we wanted to stand "shoulder to shoulder" with the United States after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

But – so far – the relationship remains special because the Bush Administration isn't sending British troops out on a limb in conflicts that the U.S. wants to personally avoid. It's true that we're of secondary importance, but also true that we have the only government who has the full support of the world's only superpower. We do benefit, both politically and economically, from the special relationship. Sitting between two continents has massive benefits (just look at where all of the US's FDI in Europe goes), but requires us to make big sacrifices – one of which is an independent foreign policy.

We're not a poodle to the same degree as Israel is, but when we fail to push strongly for a ceasefire in the Middle–East, we do at best look like a wet–behind–the–ears Labrador.

July 27, 2006

Over–optimism from the Israelis?

From page 2–3 of today's Guardian:

[according to Israel] more than 200 Hizbullah fighters [have] been killed since the conflict began.

and Israel's northern command chief said:

in a number of weeks we will be able to declare a victory

this in spite of the statistic (on p3):

Hezbullah (sic) has 6,000 elite fighters and 20,000 trained fighters.

Based on those statistics, at the current rate it will take Israel precisely 130 weeks to come half-way to total victory. In the same amount of time they would kill 50,700 Lebanese citizens.

They seem to have fallen into the trap of the United States' War on Terror in believing that complete victory is even possible when dealing with a terrorist organisation.


I should add that my statistics are based on the Israelis' estimates. The independent figure is 31 confirmed Hizbullah deaths. Meaning it would take over 1700 weeks to kill all of the Hizbullah fighters…

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