Cutting through the bullshit.

Sunday 30 July 2006

Good news from Stratfor?

Once the phone line was back up this morning - I surmise the connection in the bodgy junction box down the street shorted out on account of the rain and has now dried out – I found this in an email from Stratfor:

Israel does not have the reach for Iran. The Israelis could launch nuclear weapons, but that simply isn't an option politically. As for Syria, if Israel toppled al Assad, his successor regime would be worse unless Israel would want to occupy Syria. The United States cannot pacify Iraq with 135,000 troops; Israel doesn't have that many to devote to an occupation. Plus, the IDF has never captured a major enemy city in its history, declining to go into Beirut. If attritional warfare bothers Israel, taking Damascus is not an option. The invasion of Syria is not on the table, although selective air attacks are possible.

The widening of the war is not a serious military option. A cease-fire at this time would be politically disastrous for Israel. It must, given its options, try to inflict a decisive defeat on Hezbollah, and a cease-fire would deny Israel that opportunity. The political effect on the region would be dramatic. It may well be that the Israelis have no appetite for casualties or counterinsurgency. It may be that their view of Hezbollah is that it is more an irritant than a threat. Nevertheless, the current evolution of this conflict forces them to make some dramatic decisions.

We note that the war is routinized. That should not be taken as proof that more dramatic events are not being planned. If it turns out that Israel declines major ground operations and accepts a cease-fire, the political map of the region -- geographically and psychologically -- would change decisively and to Israel's massive disadvantage. Thus we must assume that with cease-fires approaching and no decision on the ground, Israel will shift its strategy.

As I read it, this is encouraging news. It would seem that the Israelis have two choices – either mount a large scale counterinsurgency operation in southern Lebanon or accept the perception of defeat at Hizb’allah’s hands, again.

The second option is clearly unthinkable. The massing of troops on the border strongly suggests the first. Furthermore, as I have been saying for the last few days, the scorched earth carpet bombing of the area reeks of ‘draining the sea’, as does the edict that anyone found in the region will be regarded as a terrorist and therefore fair game.

From the reports that Israeli planes fired missiles at the UN observation post for six hours in spite of pleas by the occupants to desist, there would seem to be little remaining doubt that the post was targeted deliberately, as Koffi Annan asserted at first. This would have two important effects – it precludes ‘independent’ UN observation of its depredations from that particular post, and predictably has led directly to the withdrawal of others. It also offers a disincentive for any country considering deploying troops as part of a peacekeeping force. After all, who would send troops to face the Israeli meatgrinder that acts with impunity?

There is plenty of talk about Bush performing a backflip and insisting on a ceasefire in the near term. I am dubious. Hizb’allah has already won to a large extent by surviving this long on its feet. Israel and its US backers will want to reverse that perception. A counterinsurgency war of attrition will do a great deal more damage to Lebanon and the Lebanese and could disable Hizb’allah in the short term, but there would never be a decisive victory and that would just exacerbate Israel’s humiliation.

It would be nice to think that the Israelis will rethink their strategy and their whole raison d’être in light the disaster this stupid adventure has turned out to be for them. But that’s just a dream. A more likely scenario would be for them to take out their frustration on the Palestinians.

One of the reasons – the main reason – the US provides so much material and moral support to Israel is that it serves the interests of US imperialism to have them there snarling at any neighbours who threaten to get out of line. If Hizb’allah succeeds in undermining the myth of Israeli invincibility, it will reduce Israel’s utility to the US to practically nothing. That could lead to the US severing the umbilical cord that is really all that stands in the way of Israel’s economic and military implosion. Hope springs eternal.

Perhaps more importantly, Hizb’allah has inflicted a bloody nose on US imperialism. Say what you like about Hizb’allah, they, and the Lebanese people who have borne the brunt of the Israeli air war, deserve the world’s gratitude.

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