November 21, 2006

Another Assassination in Beirut - Continuously Updated

The only thing that surprises me even slightly about today's political assassination in Beirut is that the victim was Pierre Gemayel, a Christian, rather than Fouad Seniora, a Sunni.

All the assassination victims after Rafik Hariri, a Sunni, have been Christians. But the most heated sectarian tension right now is between Sunnis and Shias. The Christians aren't in a fighting mood, but many say the Sunnis are. The Syrian regime cannot restrain itself from butchering its Lebanese enemies, but it looks to me like someone in Damascus just flinched.

Gemayel's father Amin was President of Lebanon from 1982 to 1988, during the civil war. His uncle Bashir was elected president for that term, but he was assassinated shortly before taking office.

Gemayel's party, the Kataeb, was an ally of Israel during the war.


UPDATE: Just spoke to a friend of mine in Lebanon. I did not realize until now that Gemayel was a member of the Lebanese cabinet. The Hezbollah/Syrian axis has been trying to bring down the government by pressuring three more members to resign. One down, two to go. Looks like the coup d'etat is in progress.


UPDATE: Abu Takla in the comments says "one more to go, not 2. If they assassinate one more minister, the cabinet is automatically dissolved, because it would lack the two-thirds + 1 it needs to be constitutional."


UPDATE: Another member of Lebanon's political cabinet, Michel Pharaon was targetted with assassination today. He survived. But if the bastards had gotten him, the government would have fallen and stage one of the coup would be over.


UPDATE: Hezbollah is planning massive street "protests" on Thursday. Tony Badran notes: "This assassination will likely ensure that if such street rallies do take place, clashes would erupt, as it's clear that the Syrians are set on that. (Just another reminder for the idiots who believe Syria is a force of "stability.") Syria has a primary objective that outweighs everything else: kill the Hariri tribunal, and redominate Lebanon at any cost. This is nothing short than a fight to the death for the Syrians. And, as these thugs have done throughout their bloody history, they will kill anyone."


UPDATE: "Anonymous Leb" in the comments says Abu Takla is wrong. The Syrian/Iranian/Hezbollah/Whatever axis needs to kill two more members of the cabinet to pull off their coup.


UPDATE: Mary Madigan is frustrated with fools who want to sit down and "talk" (in other words, cut deals) with Syria and Iran:

Discussions about Middle East politics remind me of a bit from a comic, Pearls Before Swine. One of the characters is a Zebra, who can't understand why the lions keep eating his fellow Zebras. So, he writes a letter to the lions filled with philosophical questions about peace, understanding and the nature of being, asking why can't they all get along, why can't they be friends..

The answer comes back from the lions "we eat Zebras becuz you taste gud."


UPDATE: The UN Security Council approved the tribunal that will put the Assad regime and its Lebanese tools on trial. Also, Abu Kais notes that March 14 is asking for massive turnout at Gemayel's funeral in downtown Beirut on Thursday, the same day that Hezbollah says it will take to the streets to topple the government. Lebanese live in interesting times.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at November 21, 2006 10:21 AM

Comments

Perhaps they are targetting Christians so as to pressure them to stop supporting the Sunnis?

Posted by: Final Historian at November 21, 2006 10:51 AM

I thought the christians supported the hizb. (aoun)

Posted by: tsedek at November 21, 2006 11:01 AM

Mike,
one more to go, not 2. If they assassinate one more minister, the cabinet is automatically dissolved, because it would lack the two-thirds + 1 it needs to be constitutional.

Posted by: abu takla at November 21, 2006 11:18 AM

Tse,

Only one Christian party is with the Hez. The Kataeb definitely is not.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 21, 2006 11:26 AM

Yup. Just one more to go. After threatening to topple the government by ANY MEANS POSSIBLE (Nasrallah did say he would not allow this "american" government to carry on), it seems the threats are coming to fruition.
Nasrallah's already mobilized his goons for "street protests" (What that REALLY means is that his people are ready for clashes on the street). Now there's talk of the March 14 "street" starting to mobilize, in reaction to this assassination.

Whoever wants a civil war in Lebanon (i'll leave you to guess who that might be) is very very close to getting their wish.

Posted by: bad vilbel at November 21, 2006 11:40 AM

Passport (Foreign Policy blog) says that this assassination means that the cabinet won't be able to form quorum.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 21, 2006 11:42 AM

Somebody brought up Aoun in an earlier comment. I wonder what the supporters of Michel Aoun think of him now that he has proven to have sold out to Syria and is only interested in getting the presidency at all cost. Aoun used to be my hero because of his blunt anti-Syrian statements in the 80s. My happiness after his return to Lebanon turned into disillusionment and disappointment. I feel betrayed.

I guess the butcher of Syria will continue to strike until he turns Lebanon into another civil war torn country. May he rot in hell.

Posted by: Mishka at November 21, 2006 11:49 AM

Thank u 4response, Michael T.,

Could anyone, if at all possible, explain how the balance of opposition groups and government supporters is assembled, please?

I thought 'the' christians were with the hizb and the sunnies were against - now i'm all confused....

Posted by: tsedek at November 21, 2006 12:08 PM

It strikes me that if a civil war does break out in Lebanon under the present circumstances, it could be a golden opportunity for a US invasion aimed at wiping out Hezbollah.

Assuming for the sake of argument that US forces were able to substantially destroy Hezbollah in the field, it could conceivably be a modern "splendid little war" that restores an elected government without any nation-building, eliminates a serious threat to both Lebanon and Israel, bloodies the Iranian terror machine and undercuts the mullahs' credibility at home. And all without any long-term occupation, which would make it (given the right media management, not a strength of the US in general or the Bush administration in particular) the exception that proves the rule of long-term engagement in Iraq.

Just too bad we don't have the troops to spare for an operation like that. Lebanon experts, does this make sense? Or would the non-Hizb Lebanese resist American troops as much/more than Hezbollah or Syria?

Posted by: Stacy at November 21, 2006 12:25 PM

Stacy: Lebanon experts, does this make sense?

No. It would take a long time to grind down Hezbollah. (See Iraq.)

And if the US invades Lebanon, most people there who are not right-wing Christians will be certain (although they would be wrong) that the U.S. only wants Syria out so that we and the Israelis can take over instead.

There is a lot of pro-Americanism in Lebanon, but there is also a lot of paranoia even in the March 14 bloc.

It is completely normal for them to experience modern-day imperial invasions, and many think the US is playing the same game that their neighbors are playing. Politics as they have always known it is about which foreign entity that applies brute force will dominate them next. The ideological differences between Syria, Iran, Israel, and the US get lost in the wash.

Knee-capping Assad would be easier, faster, more productive, and would kill far fewer people. You don't have to overthrow his regime to get an attitude adjustment. (See Libya.)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 21, 2006 12:35 PM

I'll be very surprised if Syria proves to be behind this. Too much risk for too little gain. It is a false flag operation, but whose?

Posted by: skip at November 21, 2006 12:48 PM

One of the biggest problems the US faces in the region and the main reason why an invasion of Lebanon would not play out well is that no one trusts them to 'stay the course.' The history of American intervention is riddled with 'cut and run.' See Hitchens article on the Baker and IraqI (http://www.slate.com/id/2154164/ ), Somali, Vietnam, IraqII etc.

I believe that if the US had a proven record in truly support the democratic and freedom-loving elements, more people would back them in the region. Middle-Easterners love winners. They question the US's desire to win?

Posted by: Dan at November 21, 2006 12:50 PM

Would the Israelis be behind this? just to add instability and blame it on the Hizbullah and Syrians so they have a pretext to stop the arms flow back to the Hizbullah -- and to prevent the US from talking with Syria as per Baker? Or maybe it was those evil neocons in the US? Or maybe the tooth fairy?

How would Jimmy Carter spin this one?

Posted by: Just asking at November 21, 2006 12:53 PM

Skip: I'll be very surprised if Syria proves to be behind this.

Ok, wise guy, who did it then? The Israelis? The Americans? The French?

Come on.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 21, 2006 01:01 PM

Sarajevo, 1914.

Posted by: Solomon2 at November 21, 2006 01:06 PM

Who's behind this?

Why does everyone keep looking only at Syria and not their hizbo stooges?

How could any of the killings have taken place without hizbo not involved? The Syrians certainly have the motivation and so has hizbo and it's hizbo's backyard.

Chaos is what these people thrive on.

Why is it that no one tries to take out fat boy Nasrallah and really try to change the mix?

Posted by: ankhfkhonsu at November 21, 2006 01:12 PM

Concur with knee-capping Assad as MJT suggested. Similar tactic seemed to work quite well for our good friend in Libya.

Do not understand how any intelligent Lebanese could equate Israel/Syria/Iran/Hezbollah/US as equivialent entities.

What the Leb's want, or more accurately seem to wish for, really doesn't matter (re Civil War); Poland did not want Germany & Russia to invade their country in WWII. Perhaps I cannot "see the forest for the trees", but if a Nation's citizens are not willing, and do not, fight for their Nation then they will not have one.

Posted by: Ron Snyder at November 21, 2006 01:20 PM

Mischa,
Can you please explain to me how Michel Aoun has anything to do with what happened today? Maybe you are forgetting how many people that fought with him are still rotting in Syrian jails.

Yes politically Pierre Gemayel was from a different line, but when it comes to death this is a whole different story. We are all against such things and we all equally know who is responsible for such crimes. However, this doesn't change the issue of corruption among the February 14 forces, which is still something that needs to be dealt with.

Posted by: Omega80 at November 21, 2006 01:21 PM

Stacy,

As a "Lebanon expert" (har har), I'd have to agree with Michael here. The US invading Lebanon would do nothing but convince the non-christian populace that all the crap they're being fed by Iran, Syria and Hezbollah (namely that the US wants to dominate the Middle East and fight a war against muslims) is true.

Not to mention that Iraq (and many other conflicts prior) prove that you simply cannot subdue an indigenous population by force when you're a foreigner.

This is a mess that's gonna have to be sorted out by the Lebanese, and the Lebanese alone. Although they are going to need all the help they can get.

The problem here is a bit larger than Lebanon though. As long as Syria and Iran are not reigned in, this crap is not gonna go away. It's that simple. Not 2 days ago, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei said that "The US and Israel will be defeated in Lebanon" (meaning, his fight against the americans will be waged in Lebanon. How convenient). This is exactly what's happening today.

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at November 21, 2006 01:26 PM

tse -- check out mustapha's anatomy of an opposition for a good overview of who's who in the anti-government camp.

lebanon right now is really polarized between the two camps, so pretty much everyone who isn't on mustapha's list is allied with the pro-government forces (which include not only sunnis, but large numbers of christians, druze and others).

don't believe the propaganda about "the christians" being allied with hezbollah. overall, the majority of christians are NOT with hezbollah, especially since many long-time aounists are not on board with the FPM-HA alliance.

Posted by: carine at November 21, 2006 01:31 PM

I agree that "kneecapping" Syria is now necessary to avoid a larger conflict - but that may not be sufficient. For these reasons, I don't think Israel can be the one to do the job. Some sort of U.N. resolution would be in order, except everything is moving very fast now - doubtless by design. The surviving pro-Western cabinet ministers must take some sort of action immediately. In two days the coup may be complete, as Hezbollah will argue that its army in the street is the only way to prevent a total breakdown in public order in the absence of a "legitimate" cabinet.

Posted by: Solomon2 at November 21, 2006 01:40 PM

Assad feels free to play with matches because there is nobody to stop him. Who will step in? Israel? Not likely with the UN there. The French? Dream on. The Iraqis? Not this year, not next year.

Assad is in the catbirds seat because nobody will do anything.

Posted by: Strabo the Lesser at November 21, 2006 01:40 PM

quoted from a different thread whish describes objectivly the situation:

Questions and hypothesis:

Question: Why was Pierre El Gemayel killed? Why at this specific time?

Hypothesis:
To stop the opposition from toppling the goverment and to give the 14th February movement a shot in the Arm
Proof: Every time that the Harrirists/Jumblatists are cornered, a High profile assasination happens:
Examples: Harriri, Hawi, Tueni, Chidyak, and Now Gemayel

Question: Why was Pierre El Gemayel targeted specifically?
Hypothesis:
1. Pierre El Gemayel was a minister in the goverment so the murderers wanted to give the impression that this is someone who wants to topple the goverment
2. Pierre El Gemayel was deputy in Metn, and now they will want a by-election in Metn to "show" that GMA's popularity has declined,

Question:
Who Killed Pierre El Gemayel (RIP)? Who is to benefit?
Hypothesis:
1. The killer Someone who is benefiting from the current Goverment to stay in power, as well as has a HISTORY of murders Ex: Jumblat, Mossad, CIA, Mafia, Geagea

2. Someone in the opposition WILL NOT benefit from the death of Gemayel!!!! They did not benefit from any of the other deaths? Why would they benefit from the death of 1 out 71 deputies in the opposition?
Just does NOT make sense! Also, him dying does not make 1/3 of the Goverment "resigned"...His death helps in NO way the opposition.

3. Syria is scared to death from an attack from the US. They will not dare as much as do anything now, because they know the US needs to save face in Irak and may just attack them to show that they did "something" in the Middle East before next elections in 2 years. I hate the Syrian regime, but I do not see neither a benefit, nor a motive

Posted by: cynthia at November 21, 2006 01:45 PM

NB: GMA is general michel aoun christina opposition leader

Posted by: cynthia at November 21, 2006 01:47 PM

Ron Snyder: Perhaps I cannot "see the forest for the trees", but if a Nation's citizens are not willing, and do not, fight for their Nation then they will not have one.

Goading Lebanese into a war is part of the plan to reconquer the country.

Civil war won't get them out of this mess. Only a war with Syria will do that.

Lebanon winning a war with Syria is about as likely as Kuwait winning a war against Iraq.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 21, 2006 01:56 PM

Someone in the opposition WILL NOT benefit from the death of Gemayel!!!! They did not benefit from any of the other deaths? Why would they benefit from the death of 1 out 71 deputies in the opposition?
Just does NOT make sense! Also, him dying does not make 1/3 of the Goverment "resigned"...His death helps in NO way the opposition.

You're protesting a bit too much here, cynthia. Caps and pixellated shouting don't promote an image of sincerity.

If you used fewer caps and exclamation points, your theory would still be nutty, but it would be sincerely nutty.

Posted by: mary at November 21, 2006 01:57 PM

Cynthia, if the government falls does that not at least potentially help "the opposition"?

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at November 21, 2006 02:00 PM

Michael,
Just to let you know that your original post was correct and Abu Takla's comment was wrong.

Quoting the Lebanese constitution article 69

http://www.oefre.unibe.ch/law/icl/le00000_.html#A069_

"The Government is considered resigned ... if it loses more than a third"

Losing a third is not enough for the government to resign.

So if this is an attempt to force the government to resign they need to kill two more ministers, otherwise, it can't be that.

Even then, technically the resignation of the other ministers has not been accepted so I donnow what the law says about that.

Posted by: Anonymous Leb at November 21, 2006 02:01 PM

"Not to mention that Iraq (and many other conflicts prior) prove that you simply cannot subdue an indigenous population by force when you're a foreigner."

Not exactly. It can be done; see China in Tibet for a successful example.

What history proves is that the US is unwilling to do what is necessary to subdue an indigenous population by force when you're a foreigner. Which is pretty nasty stuff, so I agree - stay out.

On the other hand, I wouldn't mind a little show of US force of the "more rubble, less trouble" variety. My proposal - next time Assad is in an area with a reasonably low population density, hit him with a tactical nuke. Not only will it cause a Syrian regime change, which can hardly help but be for the better, it will also make Iran think twice about whether they really want to get into nuclear brinksmanship games with us.

Never gonna happen though. Sigh .... if only Bush wasn't such a mush-eating liberal wimp.

Posted by: Ralph Phelan at November 21, 2006 02:03 PM

Cynthia: Someone in the opposition WILL NOT benefit from the death of Gemayel!!!!

They will if one more March 14 cabinet member gets killed. And since another cabinet member was scheduled for assassination today, I'd say your defensive "theory" is shit.

March 14 is rather unlikely to kill itself so March 8 can take over. Try again. And please use fewer exclamation points next time.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 21, 2006 02:05 PM

Thanks for the correction and the link, Anonymous Leb.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 21, 2006 02:08 PM

Ralph Phelan: My proposal - next time Assad is in an area with a reasonably low population density, hit him with a tactical nuke.

Never gonna happen when a routine air strike would do the job just as well. No Western country will take out one guy with a nuclear weapon.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 21, 2006 02:10 PM

On the other hand, I wouldn't mind a little show of US force of the "more rubble, less trouble" variety.

Because that strategy has worked so well in the past?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 21, 2006 02:16 PM

next time Assad is in an area with a reasonably low population density, hit him with a tactical nuke (Ralph Phelan)

Please tell me this is a joke

Posted by: Dirk at November 21, 2006 02:19 PM

Because that strategy has worked so well in the past?

It worked in Libya.

What would you rather do? Cut a deal with Assad? Have you seen his list of demands? It includes the reoccupation of Lebanon.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 21, 2006 02:19 PM

The March 14 Force is calling for a massive attendance at Pierre Gemayel's funeral service, which has been re-scheduled from Wed. to Thursday, according to a dpa wire service report. Now, isn't Hez supposed to be hitting the streets at about the same time?

Posted by: mrp at November 21, 2006 02:23 PM

It worked in Libya.

Do you really think that the situations are comparable? That an attack on Syria will have the same results as attacking Libya?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 21, 2006 02:30 PM

Besides, Syria is not going to be attacked by the US. They are part of the key to getting out of the disaster in Iraq, and there's no way that a second war is going to fix anything. Besides, the military forces are needed to bomb Iran, then try to protect the US supply lines to Baghdad from the combined retaliatory attacks of Syria and the southern Iraq Shiites.

Sigh.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 21, 2006 02:33 PM

AlGhaliboon ....where are you???

i would love to hear you say something.....this is not the time for you to lay low, or are you in the catering department of the Thursday gathering????

i am sick and tiered of you thinking we owe you something,( ma terkabneh)!!!

me and you are gonna bcm buddies on this blog or in Lebanon, i can guaranty you that!!!

Posted by: unsound diaspora at November 21, 2006 02:36 PM

Do you really think that the situations are comparable? That an attack on Syria will have the same results as attacking Libya?

Yes.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 21, 2006 02:36 PM

Yes.

Good luck with that then. I think that'll work out even worse than Iraq.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 21, 2006 02:38 PM

unsound diaspora: AlGhaliboon ....where are you???

I asked him to leave. Too much Hezbollah propaganda was stinking up the place.

Yes, he probably is in the catering department for Thursday's scheduled festivities.

I have things to attend to today, but I'll be back later...

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 21, 2006 02:39 PM

I'm not talking about regime-change, DPU.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 21, 2006 02:39 PM
  • Cynthia, give me a break. You're either being intentionally obtuse, or you're grasp of cause-effect is beyond childish.
  • This wednesday-thursday should make for an interesting (and by that, i mean all hell breaking loose) day. With the funeral and the calls from both sides to bring their people on the street, tensions will be running high. If ever there was a reminder of April 13th, 1975, this is it.
Posted by: bad vilbel at November 21, 2006 02:40 PM

I'm not talking about regime-change, DPU.

I know. But aside from the understandable desire to lash out at a dictatorship that is causing some problems, there are a number of consequences to such an attack. I'm not an expert in Middle Eastern politics by any means, but I can see a number of undesirable consequences.

For a start, a US attack on yet another Muslim/Arab country is going to inflame some passions, and not just in Syria. You will see things heat up considerably in Iraq, for example, and Iraq is already red hot.

Another potential victim of unrest is Pakistan. The dictatorship there is hanging by a thread, and a US attack on Syria may well put nuclear weapons in the hands of extremists.

There are other concerns, and I doubt I've even thought about the tip of iceberg.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 21, 2006 02:46 PM

skip:

I'll be very surprised if Syria proves to be behind this. Too much risk for too little gain.

What has Syria got to lose? The Assad regime has concluded that a protection racket writ large is what works best for them. That have wreaked havoc in Iraq for three and a half years, and they just see Bush defeated in a mid-term election, and the Washington feedback loop coalescing around the conventional wisdom that the U.S. has to cut a deal with Syria and Iran to get itself out of Iraq. They have probably concluded that the U.S. lacks the political will to do anything about Lebanon. And they may be right.

Oh, yeah, the U.N. might pass a resolution condemning them. Tee-hee... stop it!

Posted by: SWLiP at November 21, 2006 02:50 PM

Mary Madigan is frustrated with fools who want to sit down and "talk" (in other words, cut deals) with Syria and Iran

It might occur to some, including Mary, that there has been a sudden change in US Middle Eastern policy (or at least the signs of approaching change) in the form of the return of the "realist" faction of the Republican party (the "fools", I guess) is that the previous policy has turned out to be a complete failure, and the most dangerous region of the world is now fairly singed and in danger of igniting completely.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 21, 2006 03:02 PM

I'm skipping ahead here and haven't read most of the comments, so perhaps my question has been answered, but nevertheless, here it is:

People here act like all Syria and Hezb have to do is kill enough members of the government and the government falls. This seems to me quite strange. I mean, if you VOTE out certain members of a government, fine, the government has to fall. But just killing people off and then saying, "Hey, you guys don't have a majority-- new elections!"

Seems pretty... strange.

What's the point of Syria and Hezb. going through with these assassinations to begin with? Why not just say they don't recognize the government, pull out and attack it.

Posted by: semite1973 at November 21, 2006 03:03 PM

Actually, Abu Takla, the constitution says that if more than one third is lost, then it falls ("if it loses more than a third of the members specified in the Decree forming it"). In other words, if there is less than two-thirds. Not 2/3 + 1.

Posted by: Tony at November 21, 2006 03:18 PM

So one less Lebanese politician is walking the earth? Who cares? All this hysteria -- they've been acting this way for thousands of years. Not a big deal in the larger scheme of things. Lighten up.

Posted by: Abu Dis Abu Dat at November 21, 2006 03:22 PM

Michael - thanks for the link. I wish I could find a link to the original "Pearls before swine" cartoon - the drawings were half the story

Posted by: mary at November 21, 2006 03:22 PM

A minor correction: the barely literate animals with the taste for zebras ("zeebas") in Pearls before Swine were crocodiles, not lions.

Posted by: pat buchanatar at November 21, 2006 03:24 PM

It might occur to some, including Mary, that there has been a sudden change in US Middle Eastern policy (or at least the signs of approaching change) in the form of the return of the "realist" faction of the Republican party (the "fools", I guess) is that the previous policy has turned out to be a complete failure

The realist faction was also a complete failure. That's why the policies changed. If scientists worked the same way as politicians do, they'd abandon their 'flat earth theory' for an 'earth is the center of all things' model, and once that was proven wrong, they'd just go back to 'flat earth.'

The only President who dealt with the Iranian thugs in an effective way was Bill Clinton. When Iran was making too much noise at one point, he presented the Iranians with a list of all of their spies, worldwide, with the implied threat that we would take a few of them out. The Iranians quieted down.

I'd suggest that we do the same with the Syrians, and make the point by capturing a few agents, sending some proof of life, death, whatever. These thugs aren't frightened by our military might as much as they're threatened by Mossad or even the CIA.

Posted by: mary at November 21, 2006 03:31 PM

Mary: Have you not been following the news lately? The United States can not speak harshly to ununiformed terrorists that they capture on the battlefield.

With what can the CIA threaten the Syrian agents? 24 hours of continuous knock knock jokes? That may even been seen at too cruel.

Now the Mossad, that is another story.

Posted by: SirGlubb at November 21, 2006 03:41 PM

Here is an exerpt from the guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1434183,00.html

Might shed some light on who and why...
"
As if to emphasise the point, one politician championing the anti-Syrian protests, Pierre Gemayel of the rightwing Christian Phalange party (whose militiamen famously massacred 2,000 Palestinian refugees under Israeli floodlights in Sabra and Shatila in 1982), recently complained that voting wasn't just a matter of majorities, but of the "quality" of the voters. If there were a real democratic election, Gemayel and his friends could expect to be swept aside by a Hizbullah-led government. "

Posted by: ross at November 21, 2006 04:10 PM

I'd suggest that we do the same with the Syrians, ...

Suggest away. Seems like a pony hunt to me though. As I said, an attack on the Syrians will pooch the chances of salvaging Iraq.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 21, 2006 04:11 PM

Kuwait asked for our help in saving their State (simplified point, I know).

And the reason Lebanon is not formally/officially/loudly asking for our (and not the hapless U.N.) help is that they would rather be taken over by Syria?

Will Israel allow Syria to occupy Lebanon?

Not a glib comment, but it is unfortunate that Lebanon doesn't have huge oil deposits, else we (U.S.) would probably find a way to help them.

Posted by: Ron Snyder at November 21, 2006 04:15 PM

Assad must be laughing right now.

He called our bluff and waited us out on his support for the insurgency in Iraq. Now the U.S. has all but asked Assad to please, stop killing our troops. For the mightiest power in the history of the world to reverse policy and ask him for help is bad enough.

Since we've said we're leaving Iraq one way or another, with or without Syrian help (but preferably with), what does Assad have to lose by doing this now? If the U.S. wants Syrian help, the U.S. will still have to pressure Israel on the Golan Heights and ease up on the Lebanon issue. If the U.S. doesn't want Syrian help, how could their current situation be made worse given the U.S. is leaving the Middle East in a few months time? Either way, he gets a shot at seizing Lebanon.

Thanks, 'realists'. The March 14th leaders are being murdered and the Jordanian monarchy is freaking out (the Israeli government is still unaware that anything bad is happening). Assad sleeps soundly.

Posted by: Matt at November 21, 2006 04:15 PM

Thanks, 'realists'.

In the scenario that you are describing, Assad has some leverage because a retreat from Iraq is required without the nation turning into a province of Iran and Syria. That is hardly the fault of the realists.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 21, 2006 04:25 PM

Mary, telling the Iranians which of their agents and assets we know about is a good way to halt flow of information we're gathering on Iranian intelligence operations. The listed people would be retired, reassigned, cut out of the loop or used to spread disinformation. After that happens, we would be in an even worse position to prevent Iranian terrorist attacks.

Posted by: Matt at November 21, 2006 04:26 PM

"Assad has some leverage because a retreat from Iraq is required without the nation turning in to a province of Iran and Syria. That is hardly the fault of the realists."

No, it isn't. If we'd told the Syrians in mid-2003 to either put troops on the border and stop insurgents heading to Iraq, or be left with a military Iceland would sneer at, the last three years would have been different. Not good or ideal, but certainly better.

There is no reason whatsoever why that couldn't have happened any time between then and now. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. So, 'realists' have come up with a plan that is already demonstrably worse than 'staying the course'. Is it Bush's fault for screwing up, then accepting this sick idea of a strategy, or the people who thought it up? Both, but the Bush administration is increasingly 'realist' in its policies, if not its aspirations.

Posted by: Matt at November 21, 2006 04:41 PM

Little more Rubble little less Trouble.

It’s a cute saying for what is intrinsically very nasty business. Especially when you talk about using nuclear weapons. There are consequences far beyond the immediate effect of the blast zone, even for tactical nuclear weapons. In order to be fully contained, nuclear explosions at the Nevada Test Site must be buried at a depth of 650 feet for a 5-kiloton explosive...

A one-kiloton explosion will produce 41 billion curies one minute after detonation…test site workers are fleeing the area after the unexpected release of radioactive material from the Des Moines test on June 13, 1962… Approximately 11,000,000 Curies were released unexpectedly into the atmosphere. Get the point; lots of radiation no matter the size of the explosion. Tactical nuclear weapons are also designed to explode on contact to limit the size of the blast damage. Ground burst detonations have the effect of sending up a much larger cloud of radioactive dust that caries in the winds for a long time so you better have the wind blowing in the right direction or the side effects to the general populace downwind will be considerable. We have Weapons that could insure his decapitation while not doing near as much damage to our image and standing in the world as well as to the psyche of those of us with a conscious when the gruesome results are splattered across the tube.

I believe Assad is an enemy and I don’t have a problem with dealing with him in a kinetic manner but I don’t particularly want to be the side that begins to create uninhabitable pockets of radioactive wastelands until it becomes inevitable. Not by choice by need.

Posted by: piscivorous at November 21, 2006 04:45 PM

If we'd told the Syrians in mid-2003 to either put troops on the border and stop insurgents heading to Iraq, or be left with a military Iceland would sneer at, the last three years would have been different.

As it turns out, the foreign insurgents were not the big problem. That was an insurgency that could be handled. What is causing Iraq to fail are ethnic groups that are competing for power and resources. I think there would have been very little difference if the relatively small numbers of foreign insurgents had been turned back by Syrian border patrols.

Conversely, if the US military has been fought to a standstill by a small number of foreign jihadists, well, that ain't too good either.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 21, 2006 04:52 PM

Only one idiot wanted to nuke Assad. Presumably 'the Middle East' isn't a densely populated area, so a cloud of radiation floating about would be no big deal.

Posted by: Matt at November 21, 2006 04:52 PM

This is fallout from the US elections, partially. The Syrians and the Iranians see (accurately, in my opinion) that the US has lost the will to fight in Iraq. The Baker-instigated trial balloons about "engaging with Syria and Iran" to "stabilize" Iraq are proof that the US is about to bug out. They know now that they can act with impunity. So that is exactly what they are doing.

The rest is the inevitable conclusion to the Syrian-Iranian strategy. It is obvious that should things get out of hand in Lebanon, the UN force will act as the human shields they need to protect them from the Israelis. This was their plan all along. If Israel hesitates to act because of the UN, mission accomplished. If Israel attacks anyway, they will immediately come into conflict with the UN, in which case mission accomplished. Even now, when Israel is just flying reconaissance to monitor arms smuggling (which the UN is of course doing nothing to stop), the Frogs are wetting themselves and are barely able to prevent themselves from firing on the Israelis. If fighting erupts I have no doubt whatsoever that the Frogs, at the least, will fight with Hizb'allah against Israel.

The Syrians and Iranians have played the world like a violin. It is all working out just as they planned.

Anyway, Occam's Razor. Any instability in Lebanon helps Syria and Iran. Lebanon is the only place from which Israel can be easily attacked by land (the Golan is too heavily defended and a Syrian defeat there leaves Damascus wide open to Israel). A coup in Lebanon by Hizb'allah simply means that Syria is that much closer to re-absorbing Lebanon which, in their view, was unjustly taken from them by the League of Nations after WWI. They have never accepted Lebanon's independence. Anyone who thinks this is not a power play by Syria to re-assert control over Lebanon is, at the least, naive.

Also, the Christians in Lebanon are on their last legs. Their numbers are down to 1/3 of the population. Lebanon was originally created so that the Christians could have a state where they would be free of Muslim domination. That point is pretty moot now, it seems to me. There are not enough Christians left for that to make sense anymore. Lebanon, as we have known it, is probably history

Who benefits, indeed.

Posted by: Ephraim at November 21, 2006 04:52 PM

Agreed, the Iraqi insurgency makes up the bulk of the enemy. That said, the Zarqawi effect made negotiation with the pissed off Sunni tribes harder for us and them. It is only in the latter period of the Iraq war the Sunni tribes have turned on al-Qaeda.

It is also only fairly latterly that the Sunni-Shia (and. to some extent. Kurd) splits have become a major source of killing (as opposed to political disagreement).

Posted by: Matt at November 21, 2006 04:56 PM

"If fighting erupts I have on doubt whatsoever that the Frogs, at the least, will with with Hizb'Allah against Israel."

Briefly.

Posted by: Matt at November 21, 2006 04:59 PM

double-plus-ungood

I don’t really think you get the situation when you say “and there's no way that a second war is going to fix anything.” It would not be a second war we would be involved in just a third front in the war we are currently fighting. That last time we fought an esoteric war was WWII. In it we were fighting several campaigns with numerous fronts during each.

Posted by: piscivorous at November 21, 2006 05:00 PM

Mat

Yes it was only one idiot, and there is one in every crowd, but they should be educated so that the idiocy can be extricated from adult discussions.

Posted by: piscivorous at November 21, 2006 05:07 PM

~~~~~Posted by carine at November 21, 2006 01:31 PM~~~~~

Thank you Carine, I'll check it out. Appreciate it!

Posted by: tsedek at November 21, 2006 05:09 PM

Matt:

Ba-Dum-bum!

I was thinking of saying that myself, but I figured I'd leave it out there for someone else to take a shot.

We "gave" Lebanon to Syria as a prize for their "support" in Gulf I. If Baker's ideas are adopted, this time they'll get it for good.

Posted by: Ephraim at November 21, 2006 05:09 PM

In it we were fighting several campaigns with numerous fronts during each.

This is not WW II, and the problems faced and the strategies involved are not the same.

To bring up just one potential problem that I mentioned earlier, should Syria get bombed, and the resulting Islamist backlash in Pakistan cause the government to be overthrown, Jihadists will then have their hands on not only nuclear weapons, but medium-range delivery systems. How should that be handled?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 21, 2006 05:13 PM

It is also only fairly latterly that the Sunni-Shia (and. to some extent. Kurd) splits have become a major source of killing (as opposed to political disagreement).

Yet this scenario was predicted as far back as 1991. It was likely inevitable, and again, better guards at the Syrian border would have made scant difference.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 21, 2006 05:16 PM

Correction to post at 5:00 PM

Meant to say "...existential war was WWII" not "...esoteric war was WWII"

Posted by: piscivorous at November 21, 2006 05:24 PM

DPU,

Why are you connecting events in Syria and Pakistan?

I'd like to know what you propose. "Talking" isn't an answer by itself. What should the results of these talks be? What should the U.S. give Syria in exchange for "help?"

Assad demands Lebanon, the Golan Heights, and immunity in the butchering of Lebanon's elected leaders. Would you hand him any of those if you could? If not, what's there to talk about?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 21, 2006 05:28 PM

Mary, telling the Iranians which of their agents and assets we know about is a good way to halt flow of information we're gathering on Iranian intelligence operations. The listed people would be retired, reassigned, cut out of the loop or used to spread disinformation. After that happens, we would be in an even worse position to prevent Iranian terrorist attacks.

No it's not. They already know where Clinton got the information, the MEK.

In any case, Clinton's bluff worked, and that's the point. We're not dealing with Russians, we're dealing with Ahmadinejad and his ilk, dimwit thugs in bad suits. If we want to know how to deal with them, we shouldn't be reading John Le Carre, we should be reading Mario Puzo. Or Carl Hiassen.

The tactic of asymetric warfare leaves the terrorists and the top leaders, like Nasrallah, protected from attack, but the mid-level bankers, politicians, propaganda types, etc. are entirely unprotected. Iran, Hezbollah and Syria's mid-level people are cannon fodder, and we should take advantage of that.

Posted by: mary at November 21, 2006 05:47 PM

A minor correction: the barely literate animals with the taste for zebras ("zeebas") in Pearls before Swine were crocodiles, not lions

oops. Thanks for the correction. I saw this cartoon a few years ago, so I forgot some details. The part I remember most clearly was the zebra sighing at the end..hope I got that right.

Posted by: mary at November 21, 2006 05:53 PM

Actually one can draw many parallels on a strategic level to WWII and the current conflict we are in. At the broadest philosophic level it is an existential struggle to defeat a fascist dictatorial philosophy, as was WWII. The overall strategy is to take the fight to the enemy’s territory and defeat them there. It is the tactics that differ but one can still draw parallels on a broad basis to the strategies we used to defeat both the Germans and Japanese. Bite off a chunk the enemy’s territory, pacify it a reasonable state and then take the next bite. The actual tactics used to do this are what are different. Instead of applying brut indiscriminate force we are trying to fight a humane war, an oxymoron at best, and liberate populations instead of pulverizing them into submission. One can argue about the efficacy of fighting this way, but at this instance in time and in today’s world it is the political reality we live in. That may change in the future only time will tell.

As far as Pakistan’s vulnerability to regime change it is a concern that has to be considered but it should not veto actions necessary to peruse our strategic interests. We have plenty of discrete boots on the ground in Pakistan and should have a pretty good idea where the goodies are stashed and sufficient air resources to insure that the stockpiles are rendered useless and inaccessible if push comes to shove.

Posted by: piscivorous at November 21, 2006 05:54 PM

We're not dealing with Russians, we're dealing with Ahmadinejad and his ilk, dimwit thugs in bad suits.

Where did you get the idea Ahmie-boy & Co. are stupid? They're not. They say outrageous things because they've been outrageously successful doing so.

Posted by: Solomon2 at November 21, 2006 05:59 PM

Ceterum censeo, Hizbollah delenda est.

Some problems don't go away when you ignore them.

I feel somewhat vindicated in my initial assessment of the Israeli-Hizbollah conflict as "pointless." Hizbollah is re-arming and seems if anything less restrained than before. UN peacekeepers have almost fired on Israel while winking and nodding at Hizbollah.

The one bright spot here is that the Assad regime is apparently going on trial, though with the UN involved it seems likely to accomplish little or nothing in the end.

Posted by: TallDave at November 21, 2006 06:06 PM

I feel somewhat vindicated in my initial assessment of the Israeli-Hizbollah conflict as "pointless."

As do I, although I would much rather be wrong.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 21, 2006 06:09 PM

Solomon2: Where did you get the idea Ahmie-boy & Co. are stupid?

I don't know if Ahmie-boy is stupid, but Papa and Boy Assad definitely aren't. They play four-dimensional chess, and they almost always win.

The only times they've lost (1967 and 2005) is with their conventional military.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 21, 2006 06:12 PM

I mean, for God's sake, Assad has convinced Israel and America that he is part of the solution.

Christ!

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 21, 2006 06:13 PM

I'm not convinced that Syria is "part of the solution" - rather the reverse. How much has U.S. policy really changed since the election, as opposed to MSM-promoted political fluff? The next Congress isn't even in office yet.

However, it's noteworthy that although Bush has blamed Iran and Syria for this, he also has called for a U.N. investigation. The implication, of course, is that nothing will be done anytime soon, if ever. We'll see if a "correction" is issued tomorrow.

Posted by: Solomon2 at November 21, 2006 06:20 PM

I mean, for God's sake, Assad has convinced Israel and America that he is part of the solution.

Well, Assad and Ahmadinejad haven't convinced anyone here that they're part of the solution. I doubt that the average Israeli thinks they're part of a solution. They've only convinced some politicians, media types and diplomats that they're a solution.

That says a lot more about the relative intelligence of politicians, media types and diplomats than it does about Assad and Ahmadinejad.

Posted by: mary at November 21, 2006 06:25 PM

For what it's worth, this is what I just read on Yahoo news with a Reuters tag...

"...A political source close to Hezbollah said Tuesday's murder would force it to revise its plans. A Hezbollah official said the timeline of the protests would now have to be pushed back..."

Posted by: allan at November 21, 2006 06:27 PM

A Hezbollah official said the timeline of the protests would now have to be pushed back..."

Don't believe it. Note that Nasrallah was busy staying quiet today. That was to be expected, because he had just told all his followers to be on 6- to 12-hour notice. He didn't have to say anything more because everything is now ready. He's just tasting the wind, waiting for the right moment to tell everybody when to move and light the kindling.

Posted by: Solomon2 at November 21, 2006 06:32 PM

It does not take much presence to conclude that the end sate of the Israeli-Hezbollah was less than desirable. But to describe it as “pointless” may be somewhat harsh. There were valuable lessons learned in the skirmish and the Israeli’s are beginning to take the steps necessary to counter the tactics used and the fortifications that confronted them in Southern Lebanon. Yes Hezbollah is rearming and recruiting reinforcements but they are still faced with defending physical territory and structural fortifications that the Israeli’s now know the nature and extent of. It’s hell to have to take the same ground twice but the knowledge gained is not of insignificant.

Secondly I believe that it has opened some eyes in that part of the world to a danger that has long been hidden below the surface. Many of the Suni leaders in the ME have long feared to openly oppose the growing tentacles of influence of Persian Iran in traditional Arab ME. We saw some push back at the beginning of the skirmish and it may be possible to leverage this opening if the Iranians and Syrians continue down this path. It is the task of the diplomats to pry this opening wider so that our allies and we can step through and do what needs to be done. Unfortunately diplomacy takes time and Iran through its Hezbollah proxy seems to realize this and is pushing things at a rate not conducive to extended deliberation.

Posted by: piscivorous at November 21, 2006 06:44 PM

Does anyone think that there might be "other" reasons for this assassination, such as a rival family power struggle type thing. I'm not sure how Lebanon works, but I've heard that lots of power is held by families, and its quite important to whom one is related.

Posted by: jonny at November 21, 2006 07:22 PM

Syrian UN envoy Bashar Al-Jaafari just accused Israel of comitting the assassination.

The guy accuses Israel every time he stubs his toe.

Posted by: jonny at November 21, 2006 07:25 PM

jonny: Does anyone think that there might be "other" reasons for this assassination, such as a rival family power struggle type thing.

No, especially because another member of the cabinet was targetted for assassination on the same day, right after Hezbollah and Iran threatened to topple the government, and right after Lebanon, the United States, and France warned that this is exactly what was going to happen.

This is a coup d'etat in slow motion.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 21, 2006 07:36 PM

My question, rooted in my ignorance of this point: What exactly is supposed to happen if the government falls? An election? A Constitutional crisis?

Posted by: James M. at November 21, 2006 08:31 PM

Just a comment on the "Syria is playing the world like a violin" sentiment. I disagree. Syria is only able to do what it does in Lebanon because Lebanon does not demand enough attention to the rest of the world. Lebanon is always the second, third priority, even in times of near total chaos. The only country that cares significantly and consistently is Israel -- which, in the backwards ways of world opinion, actually enables Syria to do what it pleases. I don't think Syria is playing four-dimensional chess as much as circumstances grant them a much stronger hand in Lebanon than you'd expect.

And the main thing that would counter Syria is for the Lebanese predicament to hold the focus of one or more world powers not named Israel -- the US, France, Great Britian, the UN collectively, Germany even. While the US or France would be the most likely candidate, the only requirement is that they be as serious about Lebanon as Syria is.

Posted by: MikeB at November 21, 2006 08:34 PM

Michael, I totally agree with you. Most of us Lebanese know very well that the blood trail leads all the way to Damascus from the murder olf Kamal Jumblatt, to Bashir Gemayel, Harriri, Tueini and all the way to Pierre today. I think "knee-capping" the Butcher of Damascus would turn him into a wuss and it won't take the US much to do that, just a couple of JDAMs compliments of President Bush will do. No nation rebuilding and no troops on the ground would be required. I voted for Mr Bush twice, I hope he won't turn his back on Lebanon like his dad did.

To OMega80, my question was off topic as I had said. I never presumed that there was a link between Aoun and today's murders. I was just wondering as a I live away from Lebanon if anyone else shared my disappointment in Michel Aoun's alliance with Hizbollah and Syria. As I said, I had thought the world of him at one point and now I spit every time I hear his name because I never thought he could stoop so low. Thank you for enlightening me. I realize from your response that he must still be popular. Shows you how much I know...

Posted by: Mishka at November 21, 2006 08:46 PM

Well I'm convinced that large-scale military intervention in Lebanon isn't in the cards. Given that, what would "kneecapping Assad" consist of? And, is he really in control or are there others, even more diabolical, waiting to push him aside if he wavers (even if the waver is due to members of his family being publicly murdered as with ghaddafi)?

I ask all that because to my knowledge, Syria has demonstrated itself over the years to be especially irrational and basically impossible to "do business with", even by local standards.

Posted by: Stacy at November 21, 2006 08:46 PM

I feel like I'm stuck in a bad B-movie where the bad guy is running amok and keeps getting away with one crime after another while the hapless good guys remain perplexed and two minutes too late. Rice (presumably at Bush's behest) and Olmert (at the behest of his own feckless insanity) are evidently under Assad's spell. Or perhaps Assad has the most extensive collection in the world of X-rated pictures of former and current heads of state? There is absolutely no plausible explanation for Assad's gravity-defying airwalk of the past four years.

I've got an idea: we wake up from this bad dream and talk to Syria and Iran. Get them in the room together to save time. Tell them that we finally believe that they have declared war on us and that we are going to act accordingly. Demand an apology and reparations for the hostage incident. Indict them for Khobar Towers and the Marine barracks in 1983. Tell them we want immediate access to their nuclear facilities. Give them a week to decide and then destroy all their military installations, blockade their gasoline supply, and then begin testing our biggest bunker busters on their nuclear sites. Tell them that we can sustain a recession a lot easier than they can survive in power without their instruments of terror. They've been playing a bluff hand for 27 years. Time to call.

As if there is ever going to be peace in the Middle East without disposing of these two regimes.

Posted by: PD Quig at November 21, 2006 08:47 PM

But to describe it as “pointless” may be somewhat harsh. There were valuable lessons learned in the skirmish and the Israeli’s are beginning to take the steps necessary to counter the tactics used and the fortifications that confronted them in Southern Lebanon.

OK, so they'll be all ready when they have to go to war again, and the only downside is they'll have to go to war again.

Let's update our entry on the Israeli-Hizbollah conflict in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Mideast to "mostly pointless."

Hizbollah's center of gravity lies in Tehran, and unless we shut down the money/weapons flowing from the mullahs, nothing we do in southern Lebanon short of nuking it will affect Hizbollah much.

In the end, a land war in Iran is out due to our infantry being tied down in Iraq, so our only viable military option is probably to seize the oil port and refineries, cutting off Iran's ability to sell oil and fuel anything motorized. Maybe that doesn't seem warranted now, but just wait. The real fun starts when Iran gets nukes.

Posted by: TallDave at November 21, 2006 08:48 PM

Whoever said that Syria is in the catbird seat sure got that right. All this talk about attacking Syria is pointless, wishful thinking. If anyone gets attacked, it will be Iran cuz of the nukes. And after the debacle in Iraq, no one is going to risk an attack that might topple Assad and leave another failed state in the region. All Assad has to do is be a little better than that scenario, and he's safe.

Any attack that doesn't topple him (MJT's scenario) will only gain him sympathy in the Arab world. It won't cause any change of heart like Khaddafi. In the end, Khaddafi had nothing to gain by confronting the west, and the U.S. had little to lose by attacking him. In the present case, Syria has a lot to gain, and the U.S. a lot to lose.

The Americans are now coming to him, asking for his help in Iraq (for the life of me, I don't understand how he can really help there). Why shouldn't he think that in the fullness of time, they won't ask for his help in Lebanon also? He just has to be patient and play it smart.

And for all of this, he's barely had to lift a finger. Just sweat out some saber rattling by the U.N.

Catbird.

Posted by: MarkC at November 21, 2006 09:35 PM

Michael and Anonymous Lebanon:
the cabinet will be automatically dissolved if one more minister resigns/dies because:
-Hizbullah ministershave already resigned: 6
-Pierre Gemayel assassinated: 1
-Former minister of the interior resigned earlier and the current minister is "acting minister": 1

this is one third of the cabinet,
one more dies and it is automatically dissolved.

Horrible.

Posted by: Abu Takla at November 21, 2006 09:36 PM

Stacy 12:25 pm suggests,

**It strikes me that if a civil war does break out in Lebanon under the present circumstances, it could be a golden opportunity for a US invasion aimed at wiping out Hezbollah. **

Not likely because. . .

Bush had a golden opportunity to do an air attack operation on Moqtada and his Blackshirts while they marched en mass 6 abreast in Sadr City, but deferred to al Maliki instead.

We need the help of the non-baath Sunni from surrounding countries, the Kurds and the Christians.

With our support, they could deal with Hizbollah, however it is a little on the late side.

In any case, the Hez should never be recognized as a legitimate authority or government for Lebanon. Systematic murder should disqualify them, not reward them.= TG

Posted by: TG at November 21, 2006 09:59 PM

I don't know if Ahmie-boy is stupid, but Papa and Boy Assad definitely aren't. They play four-dimensional chess, and they almost always win.

The only times they've lost (1967 and 2005) is with their conventional military.
-MJT

...then the thing to do is stop playing 4-d chess and switch the game to "my military vs your military". Unlike 4-d chess, the US is really good at the 'conventional military' game.

I mean, for God's sake, Assad has convinced Israel and America that he is part of the solution.

What keeps Assad on the throne is the belief (no doubt promoted by Assad) that the alternative to him is the Muslim Brotherhood.

IMO, whacking Assad while leaving the rest of the Syrian government more-or-less intact would simply result in the most ruthless General on hand being appointed in his place- and unlike Assad, the replacement would have a very clear understanding of what happens when you push the US too far.

----------

I've got an idea: we wake up from this bad dream and talk to Syria and Iran. Get them in the room together to save time. Tell them that we finally believe that they have declared war on us and that we are going to act accordingly. Demand an apology and reparations for the hostage incident. Indict them for Khobar Towers and the Marine barracks in 1983. Tell them we want immediate access to their nuclear facilities. Give them a week to decide and then destroy all their military installations, blockade their gasoline supply, and then begin testing our biggest bunker busters on their nuclear sites. Tell them that we can sustain a recession a lot easier than they can survive in power without their instruments of terror. They've been playing a bluff hand for 27 years. Time to call.
-PD Quig

We've put off dealing with Iran for too damn long. It's going to come to this sooner or later, and it's better for us if it's sooner. If we wait until 'later', they'll have nukes.

Posted by: rosignol at November 21, 2006 10:23 PM

rosignol, a military strike will provoke Iran to launch missiles at the gulf's oil fields.

If we go to war against Iran, we have to accept the end of middle-east oil.

Posted by: Jordan at November 21, 2006 11:35 PM

While I despise the Syrian terror-ocracy and hate with a passion the way it has aggressively worked to destroy every effort to bring peace to Israel, the PA and Lebanon, the list of suspects for this one might also include:

* al Qaeda
* Palestinian groups in Lebanon
* Hizballah cells working for Iran rather than Syria

Al Qaeda groups, in particular, have motives here:

* They want to destroy non-Islamist governments.
* They want failed states where they can operate freely. Lebanon has a great location because they could attack Israel from it.
* They hate Shiites with a passion, and if they can start a civil war in Lebanon in which Sunnis, Shiites and Christians are killing each other, it could radicalize Lebanese Sunnis.
* Al Qaeda would prefer to kill Shiites and Christians rather than Sunnis, though it will kill Sunnis too.

Of course, this is where my thought falls down. Nasrallah and his bunch are very much alive. Only those who oppose Syria are being mysteriously and professionally assassinated.

And Syria plays by "Hama Rules."

Posted by: Zvi at November 21, 2006 11:44 PM

Abu Takla,
Fatfat is only a minister "bil wikeleh", Sabe3's resignation has not been accepted and he is till a minister and still gets his salary.

He can whenever he wishes resume his duties (and he sure will if that will help saving Siniora's government)

I believe Hezbollah's demonstrations will be canceled or at least postponed for a while and instead the government will gain momentum in order to try and bring down the president, but they will unfortunately fail.

We'll see in a couple of days.

Posted by: Anonymous Leb at November 22, 2006 01:02 AM

@quoted from a different thread whish describes objectivly the situation:by cynthia

If objectively means ruling out Syria as a perpetrator from the very beginning you're right. Otherwise the topic you refer to is mostly unbased gut-feeling from a pro-Syrian point of view. The usual Israel, US, Harriri, Mossad, CIA, France (!?)-conspiracies.
It makes for interesting reading, though.
(for those interested: lfpm.org/forum/)

Posted by: PaulM at November 22, 2006 02:30 AM

rosignol, a military strike will provoke Iran to launch missiles at the gulf's oil fields.

If we wait until a time of Iran's choosing, the missiles will be nuclear-tipped instead of conventional explosives.

The time to hit them is sooner, nor later.

I know it's going to cost. I think it will cost less now than it will a year from now.

It'll be a lot easier to rebuild oilfields that have just been bombed- see Kuwait after GW1- than oilfields that have been nuked.

If we go to war against Iran, we have to accept the end of middle-east oil.

It's going to end one way or another. A middle east with Iran as the regional power will cut us off in any case.

The theocrats in Iran have been on a collision course with the US since '79. It is long past time we realized that.

Posted by: rosignol at November 22, 2006 02:49 AM

nods to rosignal. flame to nuclear morons.....

if you knew cr-p you would know nuc's can

kill everything

except buildings, structures and I would guess

practically all of the oilfields.

Posted by: j weller at November 22, 2006 06:47 AM

Maybe the c.... joqs will try to human shield oilfields.

LOL

P/S jw

Posted by: j weller at November 22, 2006 06:49 AM

No matter how this shakes out, I fear that Israel will be the big loser. Baker's discredited "realist" policy (a true misnomer), seeks to pressure on Israel for more concessions as the cure for all that ails the Middle East - whether it be moderating the Palestinians, Muslims killing Muslims in Iraq, political instability in Lebanon, or controlling the Apocalyptic tendencies of Iran.

Baker and Company can sing Kumbaya and blame the Israelis until the cows come home. Unfortionately, it sends the precise wrong message: When the US is in a bind it will sell out its allies for short term illusory gain.

Posted by: Happy_Ruthy at November 22, 2006 10:21 AM

J Weller,

Rosignol and I are the fresh thinking, thin edge of the wedge*, although, NOT leading off with Nukes.

The little people of Iran, [who have no soft spot for US, I don*t blame them], want to be free of the suffocating grip of Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs.

Our target is the precision bunker busting of the 24 Nuclear plants. Not direct hits but rather the water and power lines.

Our aim should be to avoid the population and their assets like oil and industry.

A disruption in ME oil will damage our economy, but allowing inflamed Iran to burst on its own timing will do that anyway.

I can only see an advantage by taking preventive control now and to hell with Bush re-election wishes a year and a half away. = TG

Posted by: TG at November 22, 2006 10:31 AM

This is my potentially ignorant question: Where is Turkey in all of this? Does anyone know? It seems to me that all of this nonsense is a hairsbreadth from involving the Turks, and the inevitable Article 5 invocation that would follow.

Or are they simply not interested in this Lebanon/Syria/Israel/Iran conflict that is brewing?

Or is it history that prevents the Lebanese from speaking with the Turks?

Posted by: Michael in Colorado at November 22, 2006 12:33 PM

Michael J....
You stated: "Lebanon winning a war with Syria is about as likely as Kuwait winning a war against Iraq"

Kuwait did win a war against Iraq...with direct US Coalition intervention.

The problem of the Syrian conduit for terrorism just might be shut down by action via Iraq from the east. Very possible.

Posted by: John A at November 22, 2006 02:46 PM

They apparently caught Syria via Sandmonkey link read this -

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

SANA: Syrian National News Agency Inquires About Pierre Gemayel's Assassination 55 mins Before it Occurs!!

Al Seyassah daily learned from authoritative sources in Beirut, that one of the editors of the Syrian National News Agency (SANA) placed a phone call to a pro-Syrian Lebanese newspaper at 3:05 pm on Tuesday. The caller inquired about the details of the assassination of Lebanese Minister for Industry Pierre Gemayel, raising eyebrows at the Lebanese newpaper. The timing of phone call was 55 minutes before the assassination was carried out.

Ten minutes after the call was place, the Syrian editor placed another phone call in order to apologize for a misunderstanding.

http://www.alseyassah.com/alseyassah/First_12.asp
posted by debate at 10:57 PM
http://blacksmithsoflebanon.blogspot.com/2006/11/sana-syrian-national-news-agency.html

Posted by: Mike Nargizian at November 22, 2006 02:47 PM

Looks like the Syrians are caught RED-HANDED!

What is this idiocy of taking over government on the basis of killing off a certain number of ministers?

Is this a new United Nations approved method of claiming political control?

This whole mess could be reversed if the UN was properly nullified and a new world governance with principle came into force called the UNITED DEMOCRATIC NATIONS.

The Oil for Food scandal is enough reason to abandon the United Nations gang and start fresh. Not to mention all the other scandals.

These great world class ideas never start off perfect. They have to be renewed periodically. For the UN, refinement is long overdue. = TG

Posted by: TG at November 22, 2006 03:10 PM

Just a comment on the "Syria is playing the world like a violin" sentiment. I disagree. Syria is only able to do what it does in Lebanon because Lebanon does not demand enough attention to the rest of the world. Lebanon is always the second, third priority, even in times of near total chaos.

That's precisely what I mean and precisely why I say Iran and Syria are playing the world like a violin (although Syria is just Iran's ventriloquist dummy at this point).

They are betting that no one has the stones to take them on, that regardless of how bad people may feel about Lebanon's demise, no one will care enough to do anything about it. So far, they have been proven correct. Just as Michael said, there are veteran diplomats, supposedly rational, experienced and savvy negotiators, who believe that they can get Iran and Syria, sworn enemies of the US, the very people who are behind the violence and who stand to gain the most from its continuance to help the US "stabilize" the situation. There are no words in the English language that can adequately describe such abysmal stupidity, such utter cravenness. If that's not playing the world like a violin, I don't know what is.

I mean, think about if for just a moment: Israel proved unwilling to commit to doing what was necessary to destroy Hizb'allah (Olmert overrulled the IDF's battle plan that would have accomplished this), and when the Hizb'allah-engineered civilian toll got too high, the UN stepped in and stopped it and installed a force that is nothing but cover for Hizb'allah's rearmament. Bush was repudiated in the election and as a result the US is signalling that it is going to be leaving Iraq, the sooner the better.

I mean, what do Iran and Syria have to fear now? That the French are going to tell them to stop or something? Please. Iran and Syria have shown that they have the necessary ruthlessness to impose their will on Lebanon, and they are betting that the world will do nothing to stop them.

So far, everything is going their way.

Posted by: Ephraim at November 22, 2006 04:37 PM

Sigh. Ugh. Yes, my friends, we have had YET ANOTHER person, several messages above, says:
"For a start, a US attack on yet another Muslim/Arab country is going to inflame some passions"

Like, who gives a holy crap? Inflame some passions?!?! What a concept! What a concern! The definition of "Muslim Street" might best be: "Those Who Seethe. Endlessly."

And by the way: The Muslim Street is not the vast unwashed masses of Muslims. It's the 20% or so who are rancoteurs, helplessly angry against their own God, who appears to have forsaken them, and Boy Are They Pissed. The rest - who are NOT the Muslim Street - are just keeping their heads down, trying to survive the insanity around them. (Perhaps THEY should be armed surreptitiously, so they don't have to hide in fear so much. Perhaps a few more dead seethers on the streets would be a very good thing. Another cartoon riot, twenty seethers dead! Suspects unknown, myterious neighborhood bullets in the night. Next cartoon riot, surprise! Only a quarter of the seethers showed up! And they were strangely subdued in their seething.)

So let the Muslim Street seethe more openly. There is not one thing we can do that will make them stop seething. I couldn't care less. It is utterly unimportant to me how much they seethe before they break out into their next violent spasm. Who cares?
Sheesh!

Posted by: Mike Devereaux at November 22, 2006 05:47 PM

here are veteran diplomats, supposedly rational, experienced and savvy negotiators, who believe that they can get Iran and Syria, sworn enemies of the US, the very people who are behind the violence and who stand to gain the most from its continuance to help the US "stabilize" the situation.

My theory is that because so many diplomats are trained to be affable and to eat pie with a fork, U.S. diplomats start thinking they're "just like the rest of us." Problem is, one can't always tell, behind a sweet smile and a sensible-sounding proposal, the treachery and unfaithfulness lurking underneath, either in one's interlocutor or his distant chiefs. Although the President and his spooks may know, that information doesn't get passed back down the line.

A U.S. diplomat can spend a large part of his career lost in this mixed forest of diseased oaks, fallen logs, entangling vines, and poisonous fungi. It's no wonder that some of them don't grasp that they cannot see the woods through the trees.

Posted by: Solomon2 at November 22, 2006 06:56 PM

Off the cuff and without a lot of thought:

The US is not going to take this opportunity to attack Lebanon, Syria, Iran or anyone else. Bush needs to open another front like I need a hole in the head. But... the US has a friend in the neighbourhood who might be more motivated to get involved.

I don't for an instant believe that Israel killed Gemayel and I don't believe Israel has any interest in further destabilising Lebanon. But if Lebanon should descend into civil war, I would not be the least surprised to see Israel take the opportunity to go after Hizbollah again. Pretty much the whole of Israel believes another round is inevitable anyway; what better time than when HB is simultaneously engaged with other enemies? And Israel has very good reasons not to want to see HB dominate Lebanon, which would put Syria (in reality) and Iran (in effect) right on Israel's northern border. Israel's goals are limited: to break Hezbollah's offensive capacity, black the eye of Syria and show the Arab world that Iran's winning streak can be stopped. It can probably do this by completing the job south of the Litani that it started in August. If it's both serious and lucky it can probably succeed on the second attempt, and if there's already a civil war it won't force the Christians and Sunnis to line up with the Shi'ites.

So far as UNIFIL is concerned, I don't think they would be a problem. If there's a civil war UNIFIL would face the option of choosing a side or pulling out. They would pull out. The bigger danger is that Israel's entry would pull Syria and/or Iran into the conflict - but I think they would be more likely to rely on pouring support into Hizbollah and pushing Hamas et al to attack Israel from the Territories.

If I was Olmert, I think I would be telling the generals to complete their post-August analysis ASAP. If I was Nasrallah, I suppose I would most likely leave the government teetering on the brink in hopes of increasing my influence without starting a civil war - but another option might be to bring down the government and then immediately provoke another war with Israel in an attempt to bring Christian and Sunni factions into line behind me as the only credible military force in the country.

On a personal note: Greetings to Bad Vilbel. I'm happy to run into you again and hope you have a good Thanksgiving. I'm sorry for the way things are going in the country you love. (If you remember me, it would be as Paul M - my usual name, but someone else is already using it in this thread).

Posted by: PJM at November 22, 2006 08:01 PM

A bit of belated proof-reading: For "HB" read "HA". Put it down to sleep deprivation.

Posted by: PJM at November 22, 2006 08:28 PM

J Weller,

Rosignol and I are the fresh thinking, thin edge of the wedge*, although, NOT leading off with Nukes.

I concur that leading with nukes is unnecessary- the mullahs are the problem, not the Iranian population- but I'm pretty sure the enrichment facilities are hardened, possibly to the point where they are impervious to conventional weapons.

Those enrichment plants have to stop enriching, one way or another. I don't care if it's because the plants have no electricity, because the hardware in the plants have been crated up and shipped out of Iran, or if the plants are slag encased in trinitite.

The little people of Iran, [who have no soft spot for US, I don*t blame them], want to be free of the suffocating grip of Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs.

Some do, some don't.

I'm afraid that $60+/barrel oil has made it possible for Ahmadinejad to buy himself quite a bit of popularity. American forces going in are unlikely to be welcomed with flowers, and it will probably be necessary to kill a great many people who honestly believe that America is satan mainifest in this world. I don't see a way around that.

Our target is the precision bunker busting of the 24 Nuclear plants. Not direct hits but rather the water and power lines.

If that'll stop enrichment, I like it. Just have a plan B in case it doesn't work, and a plan C if the backup plan doesn't work. Enrichment must stop, one way or another.

Our aim should be to avoid the population and their assets like oil and industry.

If it was possible to remove the government and immediately proceed to reconstruction I would agree, but it is abundantly clear that we don't have the manpower for that. Keeping Iraq from degenerating into a civil war is requiring the bulk of our deployable forces, and Iran's territory and population is considerably larger than Iraq's is.

We can't do them both simultaneously, but Iran isn't going to wait until Iraq is stabilized. They have a window of opportunity, and they are using it. Whatever else they may be, they aren't stupid...

What we need to do is change the game from what Iran's good at to what the US is good at, and buy time to expand the military to the point where it would be capable of doing such a thing. That is going to take years.

Oil revenues are how Iran is paying for the nuclear program.

We have to slow down or stop the nuclear program.

Do you have an alternative? I hope you see something I've missed, because the options I'm coming up with are pretty ugly.

A disruption in ME oil will damage our economy, but allowing inflamed Iran to burst on its own timing will do that anyway.

I concur.

I can only see an advantage by taking preventive control now and to hell with Bush re-election wishes a year and a half away.
=TG

What Bush does is largely irrelevant with regards to 2008... Nobody from the Bush administration is going to be running, not Cheney, not Condi, not Rumsfeld, so they don't have to worry about their own careers, nor do they have to worry about tainting a candidate with their decisions.

In any case, I vote for candidates, not parties, and will vote for the candidate I think has the best approach to dealing with the national-level problems I think are most important. Usually, that's the Republicans, but if a non-insane Democrat with some good ideas comes along, I'll consider voting for them.

Posted by: rosignol at November 22, 2006 11:12 PM

And by the way: The Muslim Street is not the vast unwashed masses of Muslims. It's the 20% or so who are rancoteurs, helplessly angry against their own God, who appears to have forsaken them, and Boy Are They Pissed. The rest - who are NOT the Muslim Street - are just keeping their heads down, trying to survive the insanity around them. (Perhaps THEY should be armed surreptitiously, so they don't have to hide in fear so much. Perhaps a few more dead seethers on the streets would be a very good thing. Another cartoon riot, twenty seethers dead! Suspects unknown, myterious neighborhood bullets in the night. Next cartoon riot, surprise! Only a quarter of the seethers showed up! And they were strangely subdued in their seething.)
-Mike Devereaux

I've seen some people arguing that is exactly what is happening in Iraq.

I am uncertain if that is an accurate description. The 'seethers' can get weapons just as easily as anyone else, and are already passionate and motivated to take action. And then there are the people willing to use force to attain power, and the simple criminals who want the chaos to continue so that they can profit from it, and the sectarian and tribal score-settling, and so on.

The world is complicated.

Posted by: rosignol at November 22, 2006 11:29 PM

Yes, and at the same time, simple as well.

When are the North American masses going to put down the new Play station 3 or whatever and pay attention?

http://counterterrorismblog.org/

It is spreading and I bet they can*t believe how we are sleeping through it.= TG

Posted by: TonyGuitar at November 23, 2006 03:28 PM
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