All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).

Wednesday, 16 August 2006

Right On: The Real Blunder In Lebanon

By Michael Freund, The Jerusalem Post.

Not since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait has a Middle Eastern leader made such a grievous strategic mistake, both in underestimating his foe and miscalculating the impact of his own course of action.

Inexperience at the helm combined with hesitation and uncertainty produced an unmitigated fiasco, one that raises serious questions about whether this person is truly fit to lead.

While many might view the above description as referring to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his handling of the war in the north, there is in fact another figure in the region, one to whom it would appear to be even more applicable. And that person is none other than Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Sure, Teheran and its ally in Damascus are no doubt celebrating Israel's agreement to the dubious UN cease-fire. If you listen carefully enough, you can probably still hear them clinking their glasses together as they toast the damage that was done to the Jewish state.

Over the course of a month, their nasty little proxy group in Lebanon managed to fire some 4,000 rockets at Israel, inflict grave damage to its economy and send a third of its populace into bomb shelters. They killed 156 Israelis, wounded more than 3,000 others, and pierced the country's aura of military invincibility.

But at the end of the day, these achievements, if one can call them that, will end up exacting a heavy price from Syria and Iran. Inevitably, the trouble they have stirred up in the region over the past month is bound to boomerang right back at them.

Indeed, by transferring advanced rockets and weaponry to Hizbullah, Teheran and Damascus have just unwittingly proven one of the Bush Administration's central contentions regarding the need for preemptive action against rogue states in the global war on terror.

The two countries have demonstrated that they are ready and willing to share missile systems with a terrorist organization, thus strengthening the case that they must be prevented from obtaining weapons of mass destruction at all costs.

This very point was at the heart of an important speech made by US President George W. Bush last October in which he outlined America's strategy for fighting terror across the globe. Speaking at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, Bush made clear that, "we're determined to deny weapons of mass destruction to outlaw regimes, and to their terrorist allies who would use them without hesitation."

Furthermore, he stated, "Any government that chooses to be an ally of terror has also chosen to be an enemy of civilization. And the civilized world must hold those regimes to account."

THUS, BY supplying weapons to Hizbullah, Syria and Iran have inadvertently provided concrete evidence for all the world to see of just how dangerous the combination of "outlaw regimes" and their "terrorist allies" can be.

In this respect, Israel is fortunate that the conflict erupted when it did, because had it occurred in another five or ten years, who knows what types of horrific weapons might then have been found in Hizbullah's arsenal.

And so, by inciting the start of hostilities last month in an effort to divert the world's attention from their nuclear program, Iran may actually end up achieving precisely the opposite.

Through their actions, Iran has just made the case, better than the most eloquent of Washington press spokesmen ever could, as to why they pose a grave and immediate threat to the entire free world with their obstinate pursuit of nuclear weapons. And it is this very same argument, which the Iranians have just unwittingly bolstered, that Bush may one day soon choose to make in justifying the need for possible military action against Iran to stop their drive toward nuclear weapons.

In other words, to borrow Lenin's phrase, Iran and Syria may have just sold the rope from which they themselves will eventually hang.

Moreover, the violence of the past month has also been an educational process of sorts for both the American and Israeli publics, underlining in very stark terms the danger posed by Iran and Syria.

Their intractable opposition to the West, and their willingness to wreak havoc on Israel and its citizens, only served to highlight their status as a menace that must be tackled as quickly as possible.

So if Bashar Assad and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad thought that igniting a war along Israel's northern border would somehow help them to save their own skins, they may soon find out just how sorely mistaken they were.

And, like Saddam, their blundering adventure abroad may yet come back to haunt them sooner than they imagine.

No comments: