MORE WAR CLOUDS ON THE NEAR EASTERN HORIZON?
"I understand that we are not the United States, and the U.S., I believe, recognizes that they are not in our situation....I do not want to talk in terms of time limits, but I do not think that any development in the region can put the existence of Israel into question. I do not accept any such assessments....
If we navigate carefully, I consider this to be more an opportunity than a threat. However, we are powerful enough to deal with any deterioration along our northern border if this happens. We are not interested in this and we will not initiate it, but we follow what is happening in Lebanon, and the time has come to deal with it with greater determination....
It is a bizarre anomaly that it is a member of the United Nations but has a militia, with members of parliament and ministers, and an arsenal of 45,000 missiles and rockets that can hit all of Israel....
And they say they are ready to deploy it like in the past. We cannot accept this, we do not intend to chase down every individual terrorist, but we will consider the government of Lebanon, the country's infrastructure, as part of the equation with which we are confronted."
Israeli Defence Minister, Ehud Barak quoted in: "U.S. warns Syria: Stop arming Hezbollah immediately," 28 February 2009, in www.haaretz.com
"Al-Manar television reported that the leaders discussed 'the latest developments in the region, and Zionist threats against Lebanon and Syria.'
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchcher Mottaki also attended Friday’s meeting, the television station said, adding that Nasrallah had headed an 'important delegation' to the Syrian capital.
The meeting marks a significant step from Nasrallah who, with an Israeli death threat hanging over his head, rarely ventures from his Haret Hreik stronghold in Beirut’s southern suburbs....
Assad and Ahmadinejad on Thursday reiterated the closeness of ties between their two countries and the latter announced that Israel was 'on a path of disappearing.'
Nasrallah warned Israel in a speech earlier this month that Hizbullah would strike Israeli infrastructure should Tel Aviv initiate an assault on Lebanon.
Threats of dire repercussions from any attack on Israel have been issued with increasing intensity in recent months, mainly aimed at Beirut and Damascus".
"Nasrallah joins summit in Damascus," 28 February 2010, in www.dailystar.com.lb
QUESTION: Assad, during his meeting with Ahmadinejad in Damascus, rejected Secretary Clinton’s remarks yesterday that the U.S. asked Syria to move away from Iran and implied that Syria’s alliance with Iran and their resistance won over the U.S. and its allies in the region....
QUESTION: The question: What’s your reaction that he’s rejecting your asking him to move away from Iran?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, as the Secretary reiterated yesterday, we have expressed our concerns directly to President Assad about Syria’s relationship with Iran. I mean, this is ultimately a decision that Syria has to make. But I think as President Assad assesses Syria’s long-term interest, he need only look around the region and recognize that Syria is increasingly an outlier. We want to see Syria play a more constructive role in the region, and one step would be to make clear what Iran needs to do differently, and unfortunately, there was no evidence of that today.
Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley,"Remarks to the Press," 25 February 2010, in www.state.gov.
How seriously one should read the various press accounts and official and semi-official statements is difficult to tell at this point. Particularly since it could be argued that all this shadow-boxing between Hezbollah, Syria, Hamas and Persia vis-`a-vis Israel, will remain just that: shadow-boxing, rien-plus. On the other side, it could very well be argued that the now rather recurrent charges and counter-charges between the two sides is a harginger of either a re-match between Israel and Hezbollah `a la their last encounter in 2006, or even more seriously, the beginning of a slide into a semi-regional war between Israel and all of Persia's allies, as well as ultimately Persia itself. How likely is all this? At present I would surmise that while Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, et. al., in Tel Aviv, would dearly love to pay back Hezbollah for the Lebanon War of 2006, as a practical matter, Israel has little to gain, and, much to lose in any such re-match. Other than regaining fully its military prestige, diminished a bit since 2006. As a practical matter, I rather doubt, that Netanyahu (Foreign Minister Liberman being another matter entirely), has any wish to strike north against Hezbollah, much less Syria. On the other hand, it is entirely possible that if Hezbollah, were to begin to openly re-arm, especially with very advanced weaponry, and, if Hezbollah were to present Netanyahu with a plausible casus belli (such as moving rocketry close to Israel's northern border), then and most likely only then, would Israel care to strike a pre-emtive blow.
As for Hezbollah, Syria, et. al., here the picture is somewhat different. First, unlike Israel, the 'Party of God', and, more importantly its Syrian and Persian allies while having much to lose, also have a great deal to gain from another military campaign vis-`a-vis Israel. Both in terms of the actual fruits of any successful encounter, but, also the psychological and prestige gains to be won by successfully besting the 'Zionist Entity', and, its American patron. Perhaps most importantly, any such victory, which in actual fact means merely that the Israelis did not win the encounter, would introduce a deterrence variable for both sides for the first time in the Arab-Israeli dispute. Whereas previously, the notion of deterrence, was a one-sided variable in Israel's favor, in the case of an Israeli non-victory, it would also apply to the Arab side, AKA, to Persia and its allies. The end result being that Persia would then have carte blanche to proceed with its nuclear programme, notwithstanding any and all opposition to the same. Indeed, given the mentality of some scholars on the subject matter of the latter, one is almost tempted to believe that Persia has already acquired, such a deterrence factor (see: Michael O'Hanlon & Bruce Riedel, "Do not even think about bombing Iran," 1 March 2010, in www.ft.com). The upshot of all this, is that it is Persia and its regional allies, who I for one, believe are much more likely to take the plunge, or in the words of the summer of 1914: 'flucht nach vorn'. Especially, as any such outcome would on the face of it at any rate, help to cement the somewhat shaky internal position of the regime of Mullah's in Tehran. To conclude: do not be especially surprised at a sudden outbreak of hostility in the Levant in the near, perhaps indeed, the very near future.