Friday, July 21, 2006

Iran's Stealth War Against Israel and the U.S.

If you haven't read it already, be sure not to miss this week's absolutely essential cover story at Newsweek, detailing Iran's behind-the-scenes strategy to destroy Israel and undermine American security interests in the Middle East. As Israel conducts a massive build-up of its forces along the country's border with Lebanon, it's important to take a step back to look at some of the larger political forces that are driving developments in the 2006 Middle East War.

The Newsweek story begins by citing Hassan Nasrallah's remarks after Israel's airstrikes last week on the Hezbollah leader's compound, where the militant chief warned of open-ended warfare between Israel and his Shiite Lebanese group. Here's an introductory excerpt from the story:

The crisis began in Gaza on June 25, when a corporal in the Israeli Army was taken hostage by Hamas guerrillas. Then it exploded across the region last week after Hizbullah guerrillas crossed into Israel to snatch two more soldiers, killing eight. Israel's reaction was swift, brutal and massive. Its forces took the whole of Lebanon hostage, treating the state on its northern border just as it treated the Palestinian territory to its south, tearing apart highways, blockading ports, blowing up the runways and fuel dumps at Beirut's international airport—setting out not only to free the hostages but to eliminate Hizbullah once and for all. Yes, this was war. Nasrallah was right about that.

But battles—and battle lines—are rarely if ever simple in the Middle East. Nasrallah knows that. So do the Israelis, who saw hidden hands behind the Lebanese and Palestinian militants. They accused Syria, which harbors the Hamas leadership in exile and has a longstanding alliance with Hizbullah in Lebanon, of complicity. But they also saw the long arm of their ultimate enemy, Iran—the creator of Hizbullah, a patron of Hamas, the ally of Syria, the provider of rockets that struck 22 miles deep into Israel last week and a missile that crippled an Israeli warship. Iran, developer of nuclear technology and eventually, perhaps, nuclear weapons.

The piece goes on to indicate that President Bush -- in an exclusive interview for the story -- has strong concerns over Iran's role in the Middle East, and particularly on the Iranian leadership's growing strategy of spreading chaos across the region. There are a number of components to the Iranian destabilization program that bear highlighting:

*** The creation of Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia also known as the "Party of God," which works as an Iranian proxy mounting relentless attacks and raids against Israel, including the current artillery barrage using Iranian funding and stores of the 13,000 medium- and short-range missiles provided by Tehran.
*** Staunch backing backing for the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas, an alliance that dates back to 1992, and one that continues to grow with Tehran's scheduled gift of $50 million to the new Palestinian government.
*** A Syrian-Iran alliance directed against Israel, guaranteeing unrestricted Iranian transit rights for Iranian arms shipments to Tehran's Hezbollah forces.
*** Iranian intelligence infiltration in Iraq, where Tehran's clandestine operatives have gone inside Iraqi militias, political parties, and security services.

The article highlights the incredible stakes at issue in Israel's current national security challenge. Israel's current crisis has revived national memories of the nation's earlier wars of independence and survival. The unprovoked Hezbollah attacks, moreover, have engendered an intense national solidarity (with polling data showing public support for Israel's response in the 80 percent range), marked by a clarity on the nature of the enemy (something lacking during the periods of Intifada, when at any moment a cafe or pizza parlor was likely to be blown to bits by a Palestian suicide bomber/murderer). The piece also gives credence to claims found among some commentators of the global nature to the current conflict, despite the localized nature of actual military hostilities.

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