Friday, August 04, 2006

Meet the New Middle East

I'm already nostalgic for the relative stability of the Middle East before the U. S. invasion of Iraq. The status quo ante where the war on terrorism meant the war on bin Laden was bliss compared to what's emerging as a result of the American invasion of Iraq and Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

Iraq: Another 3,000 American troops have been moved into Baghdad to deal with the sectarian violence. But the earth has shifted under the feet of the occupying troops in Baghdad and the Shiite areas to the Southeast. Shiite militias have essentially taken control of Basra from the British and the fight between Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents has displaced the resistance against occupation as the main arena of conflict in Baghdad. The American occupation army is in danger of becoming irrelevant.

The general picture in Iraq is extremely grim from the perspective of American interests. As the statements from Prime Minister Maliki and the Mahdi Army demonstration in Sadr City indicate, Iraqi Shiites are lining up behind Hezbollah. There's also the extreme danger that Anbar province could become even more of a haven for global terrorism in the future now that the American grip on cities like Ramadi and Hit is slipping.

Iraq is increasingly beginning to look like an ungovernable country where one of the dominant factions is lining up with our enemies Iran and Hezbollah and another faction will be playing host to bin Laden wannabes.

The reality of Lebanon is that Hezbollah is going to come out ahead as a result of the current conflict. The Israelis are not going to disarm Hezbollah, marginalize Hezbollah, or eviscerate Hezbollah. Instead, they're going to see a stronger, more confident, and probably better armed Hezbollah in the future.

What's happening in Lebanon is that the myth of Israeli invincibility is being shattered. The Israelis look indecisive. They thought that an intense air campaign would force the Lebanese government to dislodge Hezbollah in the South quickly. When that that didn't work, the Israelis were stuck. They didn't want to occupy Southern Lebanon again, but they didn't want to leave Southern Lebanon alone either. So the Israelis have been launching pinprick strikes into Hezbollah territory to take out Hezbollah infrastructure.

But Hezbollah has proven to be a much more formidable force than anyone anticipated and Israeli IDF has been taking its lumps in these operations. Following the lead of their Bush administration friends, the Israelis keep announcing success, but don't appear to have gained anything.

The final result is that the Israelis now look vulnerable and their enemies in the Palestinian territories certainly are taking notice. If the Israelis, Palestinians, and Hezbollah can't come to a workable settlement as a result of this round of fighting, the next round of armed conflict is going to be even worse.

Meet the new Middle East, even worse than the old Middle East.

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