June 27, 2007

Feels like 1967, Redux - UPDATED

By Michael J. Totten

While the United States is psychologically preparing itself to lose the war in Iraq, the Middle East may be plunging headlong toward a catastrophe.
Israel is preparing for an imminent war with Iran, Syria and/or their non-state clients.

Israeli military intelligence has projected that a major attack could come from any of five adversaries in the Middle East. Officials said such a strike could spark a war as early as July 2007.

On Sunday, Israeli military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin told the Cabinet that the Jewish state faces five adversaries in what could result in an imminent confrontation. Yadlin cited Iran, Syria, Hizbullah, Hamas and Al Qaida.

"Each of these adversaries is capable of sparking a war in the summer," Yadlin was quoted as saying.

Yadlin said Hamas could be planning a major attack to divert attention away from efforts by the Palestinian Authority to isolate the Gaza Strip. He said Syria might be promoting such an attack.

Officials said Iran has direct influence over Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas. He said Al Qaida has increasingly come under Iranian influence and was being used by Iran and Syria in such countries as Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.
Joshua Muravchick is rightly concerned that the U.S. may be drawn in as well.
Democracies, it is now well established, do not go to war with each other. But they often get into wars with non-democracies. Overwhelmingly the non-democracy starts the war; nonetheless, in the vast majority of cases, it is the democratic side that wins. In other words, dictators consistently underestimate the strength of democracies, and democracies provoke war through their love of peace, which the dictators mistake for weakness.

Today, this same dynamic is creating a moment of great danger. The radicals are becoming reckless, asserting themselves for little reason beyond the conviction that they can. They are very likely to overreach. It is not hard to imagine scenarios in which a single match--say a terrible terror attack from Gaza--could ignite a chain reaction. Israel could handle Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria, albeit with painful losses all around, but if Iran intervened rather than see its regional assets eliminated, could the U.S. stay out?

UPDATE: A reader emails: My daughter just came from spending five months at Ben Gurion University in Beer-Sheva. She had a wonderful time studying, hiking, camping, student demonstrations, working in soup kitchens, skiing up north, petra...etc. She came home two weeks ago and just matter of factly stated that "everyone knows there is a war coming."

That is pretty much how the "Israeli street" feels right now according to just about everything I've heard and read lately.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at June 27, 2007 12:12 AM
Comments

Could the U.S. stay out?

Of course they could. When push comes to shove, if the Jewish state is isolated with its back against the wall, the West will mouth platitudes but do as much as it did in 1939.

Posted by: chairwoman at June 27, 2007 12:59 AM

a) Could, but almost certainly wouldn't. Because

b) Pushed hard enough, Israel would go nuclear on Iran, and Divil take the hindmost.

The overall upshot would be hard to predict, but the likely dominating factor would be (once more) the endemic and ineradicable Arab proclivity for being utterly unable to distinguish posturing from competence. And there are no cat-herders like T.H. Lawrence about to keep them focussed long enough to prevail.

Would PukinRussia come in on Iran's behalf? Maybe.

Posted by: Brian H at June 27, 2007 01:38 AM

There are a couple of obviously wrong things in these blockquotes. First, the idea that Iran is using al-Qaida is absurd on its face. Right-wing hacks who couldn\'t tell you who is Sunni and who is Shi\'a in the region have been trying to push this for a while now, and no one who has any credibility believes a word.

Second, the idea that democracies don\'t go to war against each other is also untrue. Last summer\'s war in Lebanon is a case in point: one (very imperfect) democracy went to war against and invaded another (also very imperfect) democracy. Furthermore, the idea that democratic states are generally attacked by undemocratic ones and not vice versa is equally suspect. We have just seen the US attack two undemocratic states in the last several years. Off the top of my head, I can\'t recall the last time the opposite was the case.

Posted by: Abu Lawrence at June 27, 2007 01:41 AM

Why do you (and others) keep calling us "the jewish state"? I mean, it is indeed a Jewish state, but nobody uses this term in Israel that way- I'm sure Yadlin didn't say "the Jewish state etc". I feel it portrayes (did I use the right term?) Israel in a specific way- a wrong way.

Posted by: yonatan at June 27, 2007 01:55 AM

There are a couple of obviously wrong things in these blockquotes. First, the idea that Iran is using al-Qaida is absurd on its face. Right-wing hacks who couldn\\\'t tell you who is Sunni and who is Shi\\\'a in the region have been trying to push this for a while now, and no one who has any credibility believes a word.

Second, the idea that democracies don\\\'t go to war against each other is also untrue. Last summer\\\'s war in Lebanon is a case in point: one (very imperfect) democracy went to war against and invaded another (also very imperfect) democracy. Furthermore, the idea that democratic states are generally attacked by undemocratic ones and not vice versa is equally suspect. We have just seen the US attack two undemocratic states in the last several years. Off the top of my head, I can\\\'t recall the last time the opposite was the case.

Posted by: Abu Lawrence at June 27, 2007 02:00 AM

I'm sorry, I just realised it was not you who wrote it..

Posted by: Yonatan at June 27, 2007 02:09 AM

Jeez, Lawrence.

1. The tired old assumption that Sunni extremists don't cooperate with Shia extremists is proven wrong almost daily. See Iran's well-known support for Hamas, the Taliban, and Iraqi Sunni militias.

2. Israel went to war against Hezbollah, not Lebanon, and the war was started by Hezbollah.

3. Hezbollah is not a democracy.

4. The United States was attacked from Afghanistan. In fact, the worst attack on the U.S. in its history came from Afghanistan.

5. Saddam Hussein violated the cease-fire that ended the 1991 Gulf War and resumed hostilities by shooting at American and British airplanes and trying to assassinate a former president. The U.S. shot back.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 27, 2007 02:19 AM

Iarael did not go to war against the democratic state of Lebanon last summer; it went to war against a terrorist proxy, sponsored and controlled by authoritarain and theocratic states (Syria and Iran), which has ensconsed itself within Lebanon's territory, and which kidnapped Israel's soldiers in Israeli territory at its sponsors' behest.

Also, Iran is shielding several high-level Al Qaeda operatives within its borders, although it calles its hospitality 'house arrest'. Most 'right wing hacks' not only know the difference between Sunni and Shia; they also know that Shia Iran is arming both of them in Iraq, as well as their Sunni enemies the Taliban in Afghanistan, has virtually turned majority Sunni Syria into a client state, and, in addition to the Shia Mahdi Army in Iraq and Hezbollah in Lebanon, its terrorist proxy organizations include Sunni Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The US invaded Afghaistan because they were openly hosting a terrorist entity called Al Qaeda within their borders - a location from where they staged, among other terror attacks, the 9/11 atrocities, as well as using the safe haven that the Taliban proferred them to establish terrorist training camps through which they then cycled tens of thousands of jihadi recruits from across the globe, many of which returned to their home states to more capably foment and stage terrorist attacks there.

As for Iraq, its tyrannical despot, Saddam Hussein, had killed more Muslims than any other human being in history and more human beings than anyone other than Hitler, Stalin and Mao (although Pol Pot possibly came close to a tie with him), had suborned the UN and the members of the UN Security Counci, via offers of fat oil contracts and bribes and kickbacks from the UN-misadministered oil-for-Food program, had engaged in two wars of aggression against his neighbors during his rule (and attempted to annex the second one, Kuwait, only leaving when he was driven out by a global coalition), had to be restricted from continuing genocidal ethnic cleansing military programs against the Kurds in the north and the Shia in the south by the imposition of no-fly-zones, which he routinely attacked, and was the only living head of state to have used chemical and/or biological weapons for the purpose of mass murder. He was alone among reigning leaders in bloodthirsty savagery, and it is a surpassingly GOOD thing that he no longer subjugates and oppresses the people of Iraq.

Posted by: Salamantis at June 27, 2007 02:21 AM

Yonatan: Why do you (and others) keep calling us "the jewish state"?

Some journalists do this. I don't. I think it's creepy.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 27, 2007 02:22 AM

Damn, Michael, ya beat me to it! (but just barely...;~)

Posted by: Salamantis at June 27, 2007 02:23 AM

6. I am neither right-wing, nor a hack.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 27, 2007 02:26 AM

7. I know the difference between a Sunni and a Shia.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 27, 2007 02:27 AM

Excuse me, but wasn't it a Democratic member of Congress, longtime ranking member of the Select Intelligence Committes and onetime prospective Pelosi nominee to head that them, Silvestre Reyes, who famously could not tell the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite? Or, at least, which of the two Al Qaeda or Hezbollah was?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silvestre_Reyes

http://public.cq.com/public/20061211_homeland.html

Posted by: Salamantis at June 27, 2007 03:14 AM

Mr. Totten,

You quote Major General Yadlin who states:

"Each of these adversaries is capable of sparking a war in the summer," Yadlin was quoted as saying.

What is his basis for this assumption? Anyone is "capable" of sparking a war in the summer, but what is their reasoning behind that supposed desire? Doesn't it come off the way neo-cons have been continually talking about Iran and before 2003 about Iraq?

Capabilities are one thing, and every smart general prepares for those possible capabilities. The bigger question is the reasoning. After last summer's actions I don't see anyone in the Middle East doing something as rash as that, except either Israel again or the United States again. The more likely actions by our "enemies" in the Middle East are things that we have continually been seeing. Small things that wear us down. The assassination of this person or that person. The occasional rocket launched into Israel. The continual wearing down in Iraq.

Where is the incentive for our "enemies" to start a major conflict this summer?

Posted by: Dan at June 27, 2007 03:26 AM

At night I accidently heard some comments on a British channel about suddenly rising prices of petrol in Iran and violent responses by the population. Then I switched to German channels and they were mute about this topic.

We should focus more on Iran. Michael, try to include some good links. I do nor want to be taken by surprize - not being able to anticipate some real changes in Iran. A place with similar capacities like Lebanon or Israel. I think we are a sort of (too much) mullahs believers...
Their involvements everywhere weaken them gradually like Soviet Union...would be nice to hear about common Iranians commenting on Hizbo, Hamas, Muktada etc.

Some Czech tourists visiting a private house in Iran even reported about US and Israeli flags as part of the inner "decoration". And of course deep disdain for EU (German/French) policies in the region.

Posted by: Czechmade at June 27, 2007 03:43 AM

Yonatan - The reason I said the Jewish State (I am Jewish BTW) was because that is how quite a large number of non-Jewish people here in the UK, and therefore, I presume, the rest of the West, perceive Israel.

The point I was making is that although these countries pay lip-service to supporting Israel, should there be a situation where assistance is actually needed, it will be the Jewish State, 'what a tragedy', and nothing will happen

Posted by: chairwoman at June 27, 2007 04:08 AM

Why not call Israel the Jewish state? It is supposed to be a Jewish state.

Doesn't the Qur'an remind us of the story that G-d allegedly told the Jews to settle in that very land via His prophet Moses?

If an idea is important enough to be mentioned in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim holy books, can we not take it as read that the term "Jewish state" is a correct one?

As for "Abu Lawrence", I am under the impression that many people don't know or ignore the cease-fire terms Iraq was under (Iraq was, for example, not allowed to shoot at American and British aircraft enforcing the no-fly zones but did so anyway) or believe that it is somehow appropriate or acceptable for an Arab leader to ignore agreements and shoot at whomever they want.

Hence many people consider the Iraq invasion a war started by America. However the idea that democracies don't start wars is one that was made up by those who are of the mindset explained above. Abu, you have to see the idea through the eyes of those who formed it. And from the point of view of those who know that Saddam signed a cease-fire agreement and who consider it an act of war if he ignores the terms, the idea rings true.

Also, Abu, why wouldn't Sunni and Shia extremists work together? Apart from the fact that we see it daily, I also note that both factions pretty much ignore everything the Qur'an says about Israel, the Jews, about how to fight wars, about how to treat enemies, and about how to treat women. Why is it obvious to you that they would adhere to the point about not co-operating with (those whom they would have to consider) heretics?

It's not western ignorance to see the facts and assume that the extremists have thrown away that last principle as well. But how do you reconcile your view with the fact that Iran does indeed support Hamas and Arab terrorism against Israel in general?

Posted by: Andrew Brehm at June 27, 2007 05:03 AM

Just wondering if it is coming up to budget time in Israel?

An Israeli friend of mine who is close to the defence establishment once joked that just before the budget cake is cut into slices, the generals always come into cabinet meetings with maps showing Israel and then big bold red or black arrows thrusting at its heart from everywhere else in the Middle East.

The idea being to scare the Be-Moses out of the civvy politicians and get a bit more dosh for the military...

This is not to say that Israel doesn't face threats.... but just wondering if perhaps they are being overplayed by the likes of Yadlin for internal political reasons... like funding?

Posted by: Microraptor at June 27, 2007 05:21 AM

Some Czech tourists visiting a private house in Iran even reported about US and Israeli flags as part of the inner "decoration".

The enemy of my enemy ...

Posted by: ZZZ at June 27, 2007 05:51 AM

Saddam Hussein, had killed more Muslims than any other human being in history and more human beings than anyone other than Hitler, Stalin and Mao (although Pol Pot possibly came close to a tie with him)

Actually Saddam cannot even touch Stalin's record for killing Muslims. In the late 1930s more than 50% of the population of Kazakhstan - probably more than 2 million people died in a deliberate famine created to destroy the nomad culture in the steppes. Not to mention the 100s of thousands of Chechens and Crimean Tatars who were deported and died on their way to "new homes" and the many thousands of Soviet Muslims who died as prisoners in the Gulag. I don't have the numbers but I'd be very surprised if the Great Leap and the Cultural Revolution under Mao were not responsible for Muslim deaths at least on the order of Saddam, probably far greater. For Saddam to touch Pol Pot as a general murderer, you must be including all the Iranians killed in the Iran-Iraq war. Saddam was evil, but as a mass murderer he was a piker.

Posted by: vanya at June 27, 2007 06:50 AM

I agree with Vanya but some how I do not feel love for Saddam anyway. Poor shlomil got what was coming to him. And long overdue.

Posted by: leo at June 27, 2007 07:39 AM

Just wondering if it is coming up to budget time in Israel?

Just wondering if it is coming up to budget time in Iran and Syria?

I'd guess that the recent, massive protests against the regime in Iran might be more relevant to this situation.

In any case, do politicians play political games around 'budget time' in Britain? Or in France or Burma or Malaysia for that matter. Is there any political group, anywhere in the world, that is not motivated by funding?

Why single out Israel at this point in time?

Posted by: mary at June 27, 2007 07:40 AM

"I'd guess that the recent, massive protests against the regime in Iran might be more relevant to this situation."

Osirak #2

a. Block strait of Hormuz for Iranian incoming petro traffic. Let everything else in without restrictions.
b. Bomb last Iranian refinery.
c. Seat back. Relax. Wait for pacifistic stink to subside.

I wonder if it will do ayatollahs in.

Posted by: leo at June 27, 2007 08:00 AM

I'd guess that the recent, massive protests against the regime in Iran...

There's a not-so-subtle difference between protests against gasoline rationing and protests against the regime.

Good news either way, but still.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 27, 2007 08:07 AM

Also, the "massive demonstrations" in the article you link to aren't massive at all, unfortunately.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 27, 2007 08:09 AM

Just want to ask one question here -- Josh Muravchik asks "if Iran intervened" in a war between Israel and the surrounding terrorists. How exactly would Iran intervene? I'm not aware that they have any capability to project military force outside their own country. Iran is a long way from Israel and even a missile attack would involve overflight of several hostile countries that can and would respond. They might load some troops on a boat and send it towards Gaza (as they regularly do with weapon shipments) but any such expedition would meet a bloody end at the hands of Israeli or US naval forces. The Iranian air force isn't capable of maintaining air superiority over its own territory, let alone protecting a foreign expedition, though its army may be a different matter.

The most Iran could do in support of its proxies is to send covert special forces, as they likely did in Lebanon last summer. Anything more overt than that would invite retaliation that the Iranian military can't defend against. IMO the right solution in case of a large-scale Hamas/Hezbollah/etc attack on Israel would be a joint US-Israeli conventional response, with the endgame being destruction-in-detail of all enemy fighters. Besides ending the immediate threat from terrorists, it would demonstrate that Iran is impotent to defend its clients when the chips are down. That would go much further to neutralize the Islamist threat than any military strike against Iran itself.

Posted by: Stacy at June 27, 2007 08:14 AM

Also, the "massive demonstrations" in the article you link to aren't massive at all, unfortunately.

That's true, 'massive' is the wrong word. They're scattered and numerous..

Posted by: mary at June 27, 2007 08:33 AM

Salamantis:

Actually, it was a Republican President who "famously could not tell the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite" until about January 2003, according to former U.S. diplomat Peter Galbraith:

(quote)
Oborne: I traveled to Boston to meet a former U.S. diplomat who had been a leading authority on Iraq for over a decade. A chance remark made just two months before the war, hinted at how the complexities of Iraq had bewildered Americans at the highest levels.
Peter Galbraith - former U.S. diplomat: January 2003 the President invited three members of the Iraqi opposition to join him to watch the Super Bowl. In the course of the conversation the Iraqis realized that the President was not aware that there was a difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. He looked at them and said, "You mean...they're not, you know, there, there's this difference. What is it about?"

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/12/8/215257/257

http://www.rawstory.com/news/2006/Ambassador_claims_shortly_before_invasion_Bush_0804.html

Posted by: Joshik at June 27, 2007 08:42 AM

They're scattered and numerous..

I don't even see "numerous" in the reports that I'm reading. You must have a different news source. Cite?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 27, 2007 09:48 AM

Mary wrote : "Why single out Israel at this point in time?"

Um.... because the article we are all responding to mentions an Israeli general positing the scary notion the country will face a war on five fronts as early as next month....?

Posted by: Microraptor at June 27, 2007 10:13 AM

12 gas stations torched in Tehran according to Baztab News (good Iran based information website).

http://en.baztab.com/content/?cid=3304

www.baztab.com

Posted by: Microraptor at June 27, 2007 10:18 AM
From here:
"These types of revolts are not new," said Mostafa Labbad, a Cairo-based Iran expert and publisher of Sharqnameh, an Egyptian journal about Iranian and Turkish affairs. "In Karaj and the outer parts of Iran, there are such rebellions every two or three months. They show the unpopularity of the country's economic policies."
Again, do not mistake sporadic riots in response to gasoline rationing for massive anti-government protests.

Also, look for the Iranian government to start pumping up the rhetoric in order to provoke a threatening tone or actions from the US. That's Ahmadinejad's M.O. when it comes to gathering political support.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 27, 2007 10:38 AM

I don't even see "numerous" in the reports that I'm reading. You must have a different news source. Cite?

The protests over petrol were a subsection of a larger group of protests and crackdowns that are currently taking place in Iran. According to the NY Times:

Iran is in the throes of one of its most ferocious crackdowns on dissent in years, with the government focusing on labor leaders, universities, the press, women’s rights advocates, a former nuclear negotiator and Iranian-Americans, three of whom have been in prison for more than six weeks.

The shift is occurring against the backdrop of an economy so stressed that although Iran is the world’s second-largest oil exporter, it is on the verge of rationing gasoline...

If 'massive' or 'numerous' doesn't capture the dissent/crackdown situation in Iran, maybe the NYTimes' 'ferocious' might be satifactory?

Posted by: mary at June 27, 2007 10:41 AM

Mary wrote : "Why single out Israel at this point in time?"

Um.... because the article we are all responding to mentions an Israeli general positing the scary notion the country will face a war on five fronts as early as next month....?

I thought we were supposed to look at all sides in a potential conflict. Why focus on Israel and not Iran, Syria, the US, Britain, Spain, Hezbollah, France, Saudi Arabia, etc.?

Posted by: mary at June 27, 2007 10:45 AM

Dan: What is his basis for this assumption?

I don't know. He's military intelligence, and I'm not. Neither are you.

Doesn't it come off the way neo-cons have been continually talking about Iran and before 2003 about Iraq?

So?

The finger points at the moon and the idiot looks at the finger.

After last summer's actions I don't see anyone in the Middle East doing something as rash as that, except either Israel again or the United States again.

Israel and the U.S. are retreating, Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria, and Iran are on the offensive. You need to pay more attention.

The more likely actions by our "enemies"...

Why put enemies in quotation marks? War is real and people die. It isn't a bumper sticker.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 27, 2007 11:03 AM

Mr. Totten,

I don't know. He's military intelligence, and I'm not. Neither are you.

Then why do you trust him to tell you the truth? How right have any military intelligence folks been these past few years about anything?

Israel and the U.S. are retreating, Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria, and Iran are on the offensive. You need to pay more attention.

I'm paying attention, and most of the war cries are coming from the United States, frankly. I don't see any evidence that Syria is planning some massive operation. Neither Iran. Neither, well anyone, but the United States. Israel's position is hard to read, seeing that they asked Nancy Pelosi to pass a message along to Assad that Israel was not going to attack them this summer. Why would Israel send Assad this message? Was Israel lying? Or are you saying that Assad doesn't care and will instead go ahead and do something foolish? That just doesn't make any sense.

And what incentive does Iran have to start some major regional conflict? They have absolutely no incentive. They are doing fine with the low-grade tit for tats. What evidence do you have that they are readying for something big?

Why put enemies in quotation marks? War is real and people die. It isn't a bumper sticker.

I put enemies in quotation marks because we really do not know who our enemies are, Mr. Totten. Take for example the US military claiming ridiculously that we're battling Al-Qaida in Iraq with this surge. Is that really the truth? Partially. I'm sure there are some Al-Qaida elements in Iraq, but everyone knows that Al-Qaida's presence in Iraq is quite small. Most of the battle is against Sunni insurgents. Then there is the ridiculous notion that Iran is supplying Sunni insurgents with bomb making material, even though Sunnis use those against Iran's Shi'ite brothers in Iraq. yeah, that makes sense, if you're on Bizarro World. So yes, enemies is in quotations until we start saying things like they really are instead of like how we wish to see them.

Posted by: Dan at June 27, 2007 11:51 AM

Microraptor,

This is not to say that Israel doesn't face threats.... but just wondering if perhaps they are being overplayed by the likes of Yadlin for internal political reasons... like funding?

Are you saying that those threats are definitely being overplayed?

And what exactly does he overstate? What he says here is indisputably true:

Yadlin said Hamas could be planning a major attack to divert attention away from efforts by the Palestinian Authority to isolate the Gaza Strip. He said Syria might be promoting such an attack. Officials said Iran has direct influence over Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas. He said Al Qaida has increasingly come under Iranian influence and was being used by Iran and Syria in such countries as Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.

Under those circumstances, is it not advisable for Israel to prepare for Israel to be attacked?

And the detailed estimates/evaluations concerning SAMs and Grad rockets in Gaza, etc, are not new.

The fact is that there isn't much especially new mentioned in this article at all. The shift is more psychological than material. Like Michael said, Israel and the U.S. are retreating, Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria, and Iran are on the offensive.

Posted by: MattW at June 27, 2007 11:54 AM

Wow, Dan. Tou-frickin-che.

Posted by: MattW at June 27, 2007 12:05 PM

One wonders what the current Middle East situation would be like had the US not invaded Iraq, but instead focussed on al Qaeda, Afghanistan, and, inevitably, Pakistan while retaining a significant reserve military capability.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 27, 2007 12:05 PM
Take for example the US military claiming ridiculously that we're battling Al-Qaida in Iraq with this surge. Is that really the truth? Partially. I'm sure there are some Al-Qaida elements in Iraq, but everyone knows that Al-Qaida's presence in Iraq is quite small.

Finger-gazer says what?

Posted by: MattW at June 27, 2007 12:08 PM

In response to MattW....

No I didn't say that the threats were definately being overplayed... in fact if you read my post I asked if people thought they "might" be being overplayed. I wasn't making a statement, I was asking a question about budget rounds and the Israeli military, and I thought that this Blog might be a place to ask as there are many who post here who are well up on the Isreali military...

I have no idea if the threats are as imminent and dangerous as the Intelligence Officer in question makes out...

I was wondering aloud whether "if" it were budget time, that might account for the sudden very scary threat analysis.

According to MJT the officer said Hamas "could" make an attack, which Syria "might" back... meanwhile Iran has "influence" over Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas....

The first bits look like speculation, the second bits are hardly news... and therefore I asked whether the timing of this particular piece of stating the bloody obvious had anything to do with funding.

Obviously some of the more knee-jerk GIYUS type posters will see any refusal to take this Israeli intelligence officer at absolute face value as a sign that I am:

1. Anti Israeli
2. Anti Semite
3. Anti Democratic
4. Anti Logic and Reason etc. etc. (all nonsense and all very tiring)

But coming from Britain as I do, and remembering the fiasco of the 45 minute WMD claim from our own "Intelligence" services, I have a healthy skepticism when it comes to spooks and their predictions of imminent catastrophe...

But I was asking a question, not making a statement...

Posted by: Microraptor at June 27, 2007 01:17 PM

> They are doing fine with the low-grade
> tit for tats.

Are they? What did it cost them to resupply Hezbollah? How much will it cost them to keep money flowing into Gaza now that it's isolated? You know they used to actually get paid (Karine-A) by the Palestinians. Now the money flows the other direction.

I just heard on the radio that Iran subsidizes gasoline such that the people pay 1/5 what the government actually has to pay to import it. How much does that cost?

How much does that nuclear program cost?

maybe a showdown event would be in their interest now. maybe they could use it to build strength in Iraq. maybe a lot of things. Olmert, though widely believed to be totally incompetent, is still in office and actively in charge. That could be another inducement.

Interests can be complicated, and even if their Mediterranean clients get hammered by Israel, Iran could conceivably stand to gain from a war.

Posted by: Adam D. at June 27, 2007 01:44 PM

Adam,

Interests can be complicated, and even if their Mediterranean clients get hammered by Israel, Iran could conceivably stand to gain from a war.

If Iran sneezes the wrong way, the Bush administration will use it as an excuse to further their war in the Middle East into Iran. Iran knows this. They are not going to start the war, whenever it appears. It will not be Iran to start it, but the United States or Israel, under the false guise that it is a "pre-emptive" war.

Posted by: Dan at June 27, 2007 02:24 PM

DPU, intresting question. It is very hard to predict what it the most likely scenario. But the implied answer you seek, that is, "if Bush had only focused on Al Qaeda and ignored Saddam, all would be well in the world" ignores the indisputably hostile intentions of Saddam and of politically powerful factions of Iran's clerical leadership. It is quite dangerous to ignore the relatively unstable and mutually hostile leadership of major oil exporting states that generate sufficient income to purchase nuclear weapons technology.

Despite all the uncertainties involved in counter-factual historical speculation, however, a plausible "bad case" scenario (one can always imagine even "worse" scenarios so I have avoided the use of that term) to your question would yield a far worse mess than currently exists in the middle east.

For example, Saddam might have gotten sanctions lifted (as both France and Russia were eager to do), purchased nukes form the A.Q. Khan network (which would not have been exposed since the Iraq invasion certainly motivated Khaddafi to drop dime), and begun a full scale nuclear arms race with Iran. In turn, Iran would have likely attempted to purchase nuclear arms from its ally North Korean or perhaps even the A.Q. Khan network (Iran has refused to answer IAEA questions regarding A.Q. Khan technical documents in Iranian officials possession concerning shaping fissible material for nuclear weapons use).

By now, given the extreme animus between Saddam and the Ayatollahs and both of their track record of military miscalcualtions, the biggest tragedy might have been that large portions of both of Iran and Iraq might be glowing with the radioactive fall out from a short nuclear war. The rest of the world might be suffering from a world wide economic depression which would have resulted from a steep and sudden plunge in world wide oil supplies (an Iran/Iraq nuclear war would certainly close the straights of Hormuz and would likely knock most of the gulf states production off line for an extended period).

The above scenario illustrates that leaving Saddam unmolested was not without its own set of risks. It would have, indisputably, prolonged the suffering of the Iraqi people under his opressive rule. Further, the Iran/Iraq nuclear war scenario sketched above would have resulted in both the people of Iraq and Iran suffering far more than they have as a result of any of Bush's strategic or tactical errors.

Of course, the western "center left" would then take great comfort in the knowledge that, at least the west couldn't be blamed for the chaos that had engulfed the middle east, since it had been busy fighting only Al Qaeda, while Iran and Iaq purchased nuclear weapons. Despite this belief, Al Qaeda, to the extent is still existed (one could argue that the they might be able to gain in the long term by filling the power vacuum in wake of such chaos), would find a way to blame the west for an Iran/Iraq war. The low intensity struggle against the Jihadists would still be likely to grind on for many years to come.

Posted by: Mark-In-Chi-Town at June 27, 2007 02:27 PM

Microraptor,

I think you read my post in a different way than I had intended. I, too, asked a question ("Are you saying that those threats are definitely being overplayed?"), and made the point that much of what he said was true.

I also said things which backed up your 'healthy skepticism', ie, how the current estimates as to capabilities are "not new", but disagreed in terms of reading the change in momentum in the Middle East right now.

I was asking a question about budget rounds and the Israeli military, and I thought that this Blog might be a place to ask as there are many who post here who are well up on the Isreali military...

Fair enough. I'll have a stab. To my knowledge, there isn't a new budget any time soon, but there is a new defence minister who is a bit more hawkish than the last guy. Maybe the IDF is trying to ride that wave, such as it is.

More likely (or more prominent in their thinking, perhaps) is an apparent change in the wind that the current Israeli government is completely incapable of handling, and may not have even noticed. Those SA-7s were in Gaza, according to MI estimates, as long as 18 months ago. The Grads aren't new, either. Yes, quality and quantity of arms has been increasing since August 2005, but as has been pointed out, capability is not an issue without will. The change in the wind is that will.

Maybe. That's what this intelligence stuff is about. But even a skeptical Brit can surely see that Saddam launching missiles at Britain was much less likely than Hezbollah firing at Syria or Hamas truck bombing a shopping mall.

Posted by: MattW at June 27, 2007 03:03 PM

Gah. Hezbollah firing at Israel.

Posted by: MattW at June 27, 2007 03:04 PM

Dan: If Iran sneezes the wrong way, the Bush administration will use it as an excuse to further their war in the Middle East into Iran.

Iran sends weapons to Iraq that are used to kill our soldiers in battle. That is a declaration of war, and the Bush Administration pretends it isn't happening.

So do you.

No, Dan, you really are not paying attention.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 27, 2007 03:15 PM

Dan,

If Iran sneezes the wrong way, the Bush administration will use it as an excuse to further their war in the Middle East into Iran. Iran knows this.

Iran kidnapping British soldiers, supplying insurgents with arms that kill and maim coalition forces, arming and funding Hezbollah and Hamas, subverting the PA and Jordan, developing nuclear weapons and threatening to destroy Israel is not 'sneezing the wrong way'?

The U.S. is picking a fight, and will use any excuse to do it? Pick one from the list. Why hasn't the war started?

You also say that the U.S. would be waging pre-emptive (or "pre-emptive") war. So why should Iran worry about sneezing if the U.S. is going to attack them anyway, and "Iran knows this"?

Posted by: MattW at June 27, 2007 03:15 PM

Dan: Take for example the US military claiming ridiculously that we're battling Al-Qaida in Iraq with this surge.

You need to google "Arrowhead Ripper."

Or read this.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 27, 2007 03:28 PM

Dan,

Take for example the US military claiming ridiculously that we're battling Al-Qaida in Iraq with this surge.

That seems less ridiculous than you both denying and admitting that American forces are fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq.

It is difficult to know if paying attention would help.

Posted by: MattW at June 27, 2007 03:44 PM

MattW,

That seems less ridiculous than you both denying and admitting that American forces are fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq.

I don't doubt there is a presence of Al-Qaida in Iraq. But it is nowhere near the amount continually paraded by the Bush administration and the military.

Here is General John Batiste stating it better than I can:

I also believe we cannot attribute all the violence in Iraq to al-Qaeda. There's a tendency now to lump it all together, and call it al-Qaeda. We have to be very careful with that. This is a very complex region. al-Qaeda is certainly a component. But there's larger components. al-Qaeda is a worldwide organization. It recognizes no national boundaries. And it's in areas where we ought to be focused.
Posted by: Dan at June 27, 2007 04:00 PM

Mr. Totten,

You need to google "Arrowhead Ripper."

I'm well aware of what the military wishes me to think is the end goal of operation "Arrowhead Ripper." Unfortunately, as is so painfully clear, the operation is not working right, most likely because the military did not plan for the right enemy.

I wish emotions were not so high right now, and we can all objectively look at the situation, calling things for exactly what they are, instead of what we wish they would be, but alas that is not the case. I'm actually surprised that you, of all people, Mr. Totten, give the US military in Iraq so much benefit of the doubt regarding our operations there. Have you not been observing how often they have lied to you these past four years?

Posted by: Dan at June 27, 2007 04:03 PM

Mr. Totten,

Iran sends weapons to Iraq that are used to kill our soldiers in battle.

Where is the evidence? When pressed, the US military in Iraq seems to have a hard time providing the proof for their accusations. The burden of proof is on the US military.

And of course, the US military itself discovered the very kind of bomb-making factory they accuse Iran of owning, right in Iraq, in Mosul. Do you remember this? I know February was a long time ago, but you should remember this kind of thing, Mr. Totten.

Two weeks ago, the Bush administration organized an intelligence briefing for journalists in Iraq to demonstrate that Iran was providing weapons to Iraqi insurgents. According to the anonymous briefers, the weapons -- particularly explosively formed penetrators or E.F.P.s -- were manufactured in Iran and provided to insurgents by the Quds Force -- a fact that meant direction for the operation was “coming from the highest levels of the Iranian government.”

Well. A raid in southern Iraq on Saturday seems to have complicated the case. There, The Wall Street Journal reports (sub. req.), troops "uncovered a makeshift factory used to construct advanced roadside bombs that the U.S. had thought were made only in Iran." The main feature of the find were several copper liners that are the main component of EFPs. But, The New York Times reports, "while the find gave experts much more information on the makings of the E.F.P.’s, which the American military has repeatedly argued must originate in Iran, the cache also included items that appeared to cloud the issue."

Among those cloudy items were "cardboard boxes of the gray plastic PVC tubes used to make the canisters. The boxes appeared to contain shipments of tubes directly from factories in the Middle East, none of them in Iran."

Possibly, the Times muses, "the parts were purchased on the open market" and then "the liners were then manufactured to the right size to cap the fittings."

But where were the liners made? The Army captain who led the raid doesn't know. From the Journal:

Capt. [Clayton] Combs said the copper caps were smooth and perfectly symmetrical, suggesting they had been made with a high degree of technical precision. He said he didn't know where the caps came from or whether they had been made in Iran. "That's the hard thing about this war," he said.

I thought we all have agreed that the Bush administration lied to America at the start of the Iraq war in 2003, and the reason being is because they falsely accused Saddam of things they had no evidence for. Why are you giving Bush the benefit of the doubt again? Why does he even deserve any benefit of the doubt?

Posted by: Dan at June 27, 2007 04:09 PM

Dan,

Did you follow my link so you can learn about Arrowhead Ripper? Please do so before continuing this conversation.

I'm going to Iraq in a week or so. It's pretty important that I know what the exact situation is there, so you might say I have a slightly better incentive to keep up on this stuff than you do.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 27, 2007 04:12 PM

Dan: Why are you giving Bush the benefit of the doubt again?

Why do you bother to listen to anything that idiot says? Seriously, Dan, George W. Bush isn't the center of the frigging universe.

I have friends and colleagues in Iraq, and I have been there myself. Bush is never the source of my information. I completely ignore him, and I suggest you do too.

Your obession with him, and your insistence on taking the opposite position on everything, is unhealthy. It turns you into a reactionary anti-puppet. You let him directly control what you think if you insist he must be wrong about everything.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 27, 2007 04:17 PM

The problem with accessing al Qaeda presence in Iraq is that AQ membership can be anything from highly-trained insurgents to unemployed teenagers with RPGs taking on the label because they want to be bad-ass terrorists. It's not like you need apply for a membership card or something. And Al Qaeda has always been a loose affiliation of groups rather than a tight group of political cadres.

Add to that the political incentives on all sides to identify friend or foe as AQ, and the situation gets pretty murky.

From all I've read, the AQ presence in Iraq isn't significant, and what presence there is is definitely not well-organized. That doesn't make them any less unpleasant, nor the insurgency less significant.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 27, 2007 04:24 PM

Mr. Totten,

Yes, I actually do know about Arrowhead Ripper. I know what its intended goal is: to "rid Baqubah of 'Al-Qaeda'." Unfortunately the plan will be a failure like all the previous ones that the military has undertaken, because the plan is inherently flawed. It is supposedly intended to rid the city of Al-Qaeda, which is a noble goal. But what does that have to do with bringing peace and stability to Iraq when the real culprit of destruction is sectarian violence? Does the US military not even realize that their own actions, their aggressive warfare only makes matters worse? They obviously don't. As such the plan will fail. Like the Operation last August which not only failed to stop the violence but led to an increase of about 20% in violence throughout the country.

Posted by: Dan at June 27, 2007 04:24 PM

Mr. Totten,

Why do you bother to listen to anything that idiot says? Seriously, Dan, George W. Bush isn't the center of the frigging universe.

Because his vote is apparently the only one's that matters when it comes to ending this foolish war.

Your obession with him, and your insistence on taking the opposite position on everything, is unhealthy.

I really don't take the opposite position on everything. Except Iraq. Any supporters of the war, I will be on the opposite end. This war has been arguably the worst foreign policy disaster in our country's history. That so many people still see positives coming out of our presence there, after all that has occurred and has been said in these past five years, does indeed surprise me.

I'd love to see "success" in Iraq. What exactly success means, well, who knows. We've shifted so much that it really isn't any wonder that our actions have had profoundly negative consequences.

Posted by: Dan at June 27, 2007 04:30 PM

by the way,

I have friends and colleagues in Iraq, and I have been there myself.

My sister is currently in Iraq. Trust me, I wish things were far better, and that we would have succeeded. In no way do I want to see my country humiliated by cave dwellers as it has been these past four years.

Posted by: Dan at June 27, 2007 04:31 PM

Dan: I really don't take the opposite position on everything. Except Iraq.

There is no point in talking to you then. Your opinion is dictated by the Bush Administration.

If Bush happens to agree with me about some detail or other, you will say I'm wrong for that reason, nevermind that I may actually know what I'm talking about and may have witnessed something for myself.

I suggest you find another forum. I'm not banning you, but discussion is pointless. You have nothing to add. If I want to know your opinion about something, I'll just check and see what Bush said today and then I will know.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 27, 2007 04:34 PM

Well I appreciate that you are not banning me. It's unfortunate however, because Bush really has not been right about anything regarding Iraq. Why would that suddenly change?

But as you say, this should not be about Bush. Fine then. Why do you give the US military the benefit of the doubt about Iraq? You can answer if you like. You can ban me if you like. You can ignore me as well. But I really would like an answer to that question.

Posted by: Dan at June 27, 2007 04:38 PM

I realize that this is a mid-east centric discussion, but let's not ignore the role of China. They are insinuating themselves into Africa in much the way European nations once did. They also have a "problem" with Islam in their eastern reaches and would like to divert radicals there. They also need oil badly, maybe more than us. Therefore it is not beyond thought that they have a plan for the mid-east as well. They have a large military-industrial complex as well and are known arms dealers.

Posted by: sean at June 27, 2007 05:00 PM

Dan: I'd love to see "success" in Iraq. What exactly success means, well, who knows.

Why is it that you have trouble answering that question, yet you are certain that everything Bush does is wrong?

Posted by: Kenneth at June 27, 2007 05:43 PM

Your obession with him, and your insistence on taking the opposite position on everything, is unhealthy. It turns you into a reactionary anti-puppet. You let him directly control what you think if you insist he must be wrong about everything.

:-)

Well put.

This is commonly referred to as "Bush Derangement Syndrome" on the right. It is a very, very common affliction among lefties, especially media lefties.

The great irony is that the right had a similar reaction to Clinton as the lefties are having to Bush, and many on the left recognized what was going on then... but are incapable of recognizing it among their fellow leftists.

Posted by: rosignol at June 27, 2007 08:20 PM

> Bush administration will use it as an excuse to
> further their war in the Middle East into Iran

Kinda misses the point. This is being managed as an economic conflict. The US and Israel gain marginal, but meaningful, advantage with every episode of fighting because their economies absorb the costs so much better.

The current gas riots in Iran are an obvious sign of that. It's possible, and this was the point I wanted to make, that Iran needs a showdown because the current war of attrition is working against them rather than for them. I'm not stating this as a fact, just saying it makes sense.

Posted by: Adam D. at June 27, 2007 08:59 PM

Dan: Why do you give the US military the benefit of the doubt about Iraq?

I don't give them "benefit of the doubt." I trust them, to an extent, because they're there and know what's going on. I also learn about Iraq from Iraqi civilians.

I trust soldiers more than spokesmen because spokesmen aren't paid to say what they think.

I don't completely trust anyone with a party line, but I'm aware that even those with a party line are right about certain things. They can't not be because the world is not black and white.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 27, 2007 09:24 PM

One wonders what the current Middle East situation would be like had the US not invaded Iraq, but instead focussed on al Qaeda, Afghanistan, and, inevitably, Pakistan while retaining a significant reserve military capability.

Wonder no further, because I'm fairly certain that you and your anti-American buds on the Left would be whining regardless of what course the U.S. had taken. If AQ wasn't in Iraq back then, they're there NOW, possibly in larger numbers than anywhere else on the planet, including Afghanistan and Pakistan. I'm fairly confident that if you don't want us fighting them in Iraq, you wouldn't want us fighting them anywhere else either. You'd simply replace 'Iraq' with anywhere else we happenned to be involved in. No difference. So you can keep second-guessing and "wondering", but leave the job of killing terrorists to those that actually believe the war on terror is real, not a bumpersticker.

Posted by: Carlos at June 27, 2007 09:47 PM

Some Czech tourists visiting a private house in Iran even reported about US and Israeli flags as part of the inner "decoration".

The enemy of my enemy ...
Posted by: ZZZ at June 27, 2007 05:51 AM

Actually, Persians still remember fondly the time when Persia had a Jewish Queen. You can look up the story of Esther.

Posted by: M. Simon at June 27, 2007 10:42 PM

"I don't see any evidence that Syria is planning some massive operation. Neither Iran."

Gee, you mean Assad didn't email you with his latest plans? Or you didn't read about it in the free Syrian press? You can't understand the middle east by relying on simple common sense. You represent a variation of the old adage that somebody who represents himself in court has a fool for a client.

Posted by: MarkC at June 27, 2007 10:44 PM

"IDF officers were the first to present their case. They presented "the essential defense needs," whose price tag was NIS 39 billion. They cautioned that "every shekel below this price will lead to an unacceptable security risk." Jerusalem Post June 24, 2007

LOL -- Looks like it may just be budget cycle time in Israel. And not only is there a new hawkish MOD, but there is also a new Chief of Staff who either needs some more dough to improve training, equipment, reserve upgrades, all of which fell flat last summer, or he will have to try to pry some shekelim out of the death-grip of the Air Force.

If Hamas, Syria, Hizb don't act now, while Israel STILL hasn't done squat to fix the potholes and sweep out the political dimwits, they're missing their best shot.

I have gotten the sense from a few Israelis I know that they do not see imminent war, but do anticipate Hamas getting nastier again, and Fatah letting the West Bank get wild. I think Abbas asking if its OK to invite Jordanian troops to the WB to maintain order is probably the most telling single detail.
As Michael Oren said, money and arms to Fatah is like investing in the Titanic.

Good luck and be safe in Iraq, MJT. Maybe you can corner Petraeus -- see if he knocks back boiling tea like the Kurdish generals.

Posted by: Pam at June 27, 2007 11:21 PM

I don't think there will be a war this summer, because I think Hamas will still be digesting their takeover in Gaza, and because I think, perhaps foolishly, that the disaster that befell Lebanon last summer is still sufficiently fresh that Hezbollah won't try anything foolish. I don't know to what extent Hizbollah will allow themselves to be a tool of Syria and Iran. However, the fact that the chief troublemakers in Lebanon recently have been Al Quaeda elements, and not Hizbollah, may provide some answer to this question.

The best chance for war this summer (and I hate to agree with Dan on this) is if the U.S. and Israel choose this summer to attack the Iranian nuclear facilities. Such an attack, in my opinion, is almost certain to take place before the end of the Bush administration, and possibly a lot sooner than that.

Then again, I could be full of shit.

Posted by: MarkC at June 27, 2007 11:39 PM

Yes, Dan, sectarian violence in Iraq is a huge problem, but perhaps the main catalyst that keeps it a huge problem there is Al Qaeda action. The great majorty of the large-scale suicide bomb attacks against Shia populations and shrines in Iraq are perpetrated by Al Qaeda, in order to instigate Shia reprisals against the Sunnis. The Sunnis themseleves have been growing increasingly tired of Al Qaaeda for some time. They chafe under the draconian restrictions that Al Qaeda strives to impose upon the Sunni population via violent coercion, and understand that in the absence of Al Qaeda provocation, the Shia would almost certainly be less hostile to them, and more forthcoming. This is why the Anbar Awakening began in Anbar Province, and has spread to other areas in Iraq. This is also why former Sunni insurgents are now fighting side by side with US and Iraqi Army elements in Operation Phantom Thunder (of which Arrowhead Ripper is a part). I think that the Shia are catching on that they are being played by Al Qaeda, also, and that the suicide bomb attacks upon them are issuing from Al Qaeda elements, and not from the Sunni community at large. This would explain why massive Shia strife has not ensued following the recent destruction of the Samarra mosque minarets, as it did after the earlier destruction of the Samarra mosque dome.

Posted by: Salamantis at June 28, 2007 12:13 AM

Microraptor:

"No I didn't say that the threats were definately being overplayed"

Always the weasel.

Posted by: Gary Rosen at June 28, 2007 12:40 AM

"Obviously some of the more knee-jerk GIYUS type posters will see any refusal to take this Israeli intelligence officer at absolute face value as a sign that I am:

...
2. Anti Semite
..."

How about playing the "greedy Jew" card to explain the military talk of threats (you know, those imaginary threats from Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas ...)

Posted by: Gary Rosen at June 28, 2007 12:45 AM

"One wonders what the current Middle East situation would be like had the US not invaded Iraq, but instead focussed on al Qaeda, Afghanistan, and, inevitably, Pakistan while retaining a significant reserve military capability."

Iran, Hamas, and Hizbullah would all love Israel, and peace and brotherhood would reign everywhere la-di-da.

Posted by: Gary Rosen at June 28, 2007 12:51 AM

Mr. Totten --

I don't think honestly that Israel's political leadership is up to the challenge, and will probably back down in the face of any provocation even Hezbollah invading Northern Israel or Hamas firing more and powerful missiles that hit Tel Aviv.

Olmert is still in power, and his performance has been and continues to be miserable. He waves a "Peace in our time"™ flag about with proposals to Abbas to release more terrorists to him, and has signaled to Hamas that he'll release anyone for Gilad Shalat.

I do think there will be war though, because Olmert's weakness is provocative. Syria must think one big push can regain the Golan Heights (though likely they are wrong). Egypt and possibly Syria as well might entertain notions of destroying Israel for good. Hezbollah might also entertain the notion that with the weak and inept Olmert at the helm they might be able to destroy Israel or at least seriously wound it. Likely a partially right assumption, outside their bunkers they are vulnerable but Olmert is as weak as the leaders of the Third Republic.

But the real issue is this: Both Bush and the Democratic Congress (he has in my political judgment thrown in the towel and joined them politically) have made the strategic calculation to throw Israel to Tehran in the hopes that allowing Iran to nuke Israel off the map will "appease" them and allow for a US retreat/surrender in the Middle East. Maxine Waters and others in the Congressional Black Caucus have called for an immediate withdrawal from AFGHANISTAN as well as Iraq, so retreat and surrender to Fortress America is in the air. Bush picked a fight with his Republican Base over Amnesty and Open Borders BECAUSE in my view he decided to join with Democrats rather than anything else. In many ways GWB resembles Bill Clinton (it's not a compliment) particularly his erratic policy shifts and endless triangulation.

Egypt has a large and fairly competent military, it probably could beat Israel now absent nuclear weapons in attrition warfare. Israel's best bet is to strike Tehran's nuke facilities and major cities with it's nukes, killing yes sadly millions of Iranians (to prevent Iran from simply restarting it's program it's entire infrastructure must be destroyed). To avoid being nuked themselves in a year or so "off the map." Tehran is quite serious about nuking Israel out of existence, it's a policy put in place by Khomeni and has been the principal objective of successive governments since the Islamic Republic's inception. [Iran's elite of course will be safely tucked away in bunkers, and the population is massive and thus "expendable" -- they had no problem sending boys of 10 to clear minefields against Saddam, so this is nothing new.]

Israel's awful policy choice is to "be nice" and accept the second holocaust, a complete nuclear destruction, or strike first, be hated as they are anyway, and live. The idea that America will intervene is wishful thinking. No Democrat will strike Iran to save Israel, and this seems very popular within the Party. GWB has made his peace with Dems so he won't act either.

From that perspective it really doesn't matter what Hamas or Hezbollah do, since their capacity absent nuclear weapons to kill Israelis is measured in the tens of thousands not all of them. Though I'm sure the weakness of the Olmert Government only encourages attack like a weak antelope in a front of a pride of lions. The real danger though being an Iranian nuclear strike in a year or two.

Certainly the Olmert Government has shown it will back down when TV coverage shows Arab casualties and rubble. TV of course never shows nor will it ever show Israeli casualties or rubble. All the tanks and planes and artillery sit useless without the will to use them and accept casualties (theirs and Israel's) and destroy the enemy. Olmert does not have that will.

Olmert possibly could buy time by killing 40-60% of military age men in Gaza, moving out the rest to Egypt, and making Gaza a depopulated free-fire zone to restore deterrence, show willingness to be dangerous despite negative press, and show a downside to attacking Israel of which there hasn't been one since 1967. Sadly I don't see that and even Barak can't cover Olmert's incompetence, wishful thinking he can bargain with the corpse of Fatah, or that the Americans will come and save him.

Best guess: some meaningless distractive war where Israel once again caves to media pressure, followed by an Iranian strike that wipes out Israel within a year. I wish I could be optimistic but I just don't see it.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at June 28, 2007 12:54 AM

Mike, compare Dan's writing with those of a YEC and be amazed how closely their respective reasonings resemble each other. To put it another way, Dan is a larval creationist.

Posted by: Alan Kellogg at June 28, 2007 01:10 AM

"One wonders what the current Middle East situation would be like had the US not invaded Iraq, but instead focussed on al Qaeda, Afghanistan, and, inevitably, Pakistan while retaining a significant reserve military capability."

"Iran, Hamas, and Hizbullah would all love Israel, and peace and brotherhood would reign everywhere la-di-da."

And Saddam would never ever again gas Kurds or slaughter Shi'ites and neither would his crazy sons.

And the fact that the country between Syria and Iran would still be ruled by an anti-Semitic fascist would not make it easier for Iran to send weapons to Syria to be used against Lebanon and Israel.

And Abbas would openly side with Israel against Hamas even though the government of Iraq would still be the PLO's major source of income.

(I wonder whether those who ask these questions spend even five minutes thinking about the answer before they do.)

Posted by: Andrew Brehm at June 28, 2007 02:07 AM

Austrian sniper rifles that were exported to Iran have been discovered in the hands of Iraqi terrorists, The Daily Telegraph has learned.

More than 100 of the.50 calibre weapons, capable of penetrating body armour, have been discovered by American troops during raids.

A Steyr HS50 rifle, Austrian supplied rifles, arms trade, Iran equipping Iraq insurgents
The Steyr HS50 is a long range, high precision rifle

The guns were part of a shipment of 800 rifles that the Austrian company, Steyr-Mannlicher, exported legally to Iran last year.

The sale was condemned in Washington and London because officials were worried that the weapons would be used by insurgents against British and American troops.

Within 45 days of the first HS50 Steyr Mannlicher rifles arriving in Iran, an American officer in an armoured vehicle was shot dead by an Iraqi insurgent using the weapon.

Over the last six months American forces have found small caches of the £10,000 rifles but in the last 24 hours a raid in Baghdad brought the total to more than 100, US defence sources reported.

--But there is no evidence that Iran is supporting the insurgents in Iraq.

Dan, please pay attention.

Posted by: Aaron at June 28, 2007 03:26 AM

Not sure what a "larval creationist" is, but I cannot see Dan's letting a few facts get in the way of his preconcieved opinion. Reminds me of FP.

At the risk of drawing ire from segments of the audience, I sent a few more care packages ($8.95 flat fee via USPS) to random GI's and would encourage others to do so, even if you are against the ware. Grunts on the ground deserve our personal support irrespective of what the military & political Masters do.

Posted by: Ron Snyder at June 28, 2007 03:28 AM

"One wonders what the current Middle East situation would be like had the US not invaded Iraq, but instead focussed on al Qaeda, Afghanistan, and, inevitably, Pakistan while retaining a significant reserve military capability."

Let me see, US troops invading Pakistan, a country that has nuclear weapons and tons of Islamic militants, including those involved in numerous terror plots...KSM was a Pakistani, you know.

yeah, I'm sure that would be a better world than we have now.

p.s. Oliver Willis also mentioned invading Pakistan as something we should be doing...is this the new meme?

Posted by: Aaron at June 28, 2007 03:30 AM

MJT,

WRT Dan, save your breath. He seems to think Iraqis live in caves.

Posted by: Matt at June 28, 2007 03:51 AM

Gary Rosen writes:

"..always the weasel..."

and...

"How about playing the "greedy Jew" card to explain the military talk of threats (you know, those imaginary threats from Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas ...)"

(sigh) Gary... Your Ritalin tablets are in the little plastic bottle by your cot. Your carer must've forgoten all about you this morning...

Posted by: MIcroraptor at June 28, 2007 04:50 AM

"Iran, Syria, Hizbullah, Hamas and Al Qaida."

With enemies like that, Israel hardly needs friends.

1. Iran: backward, corrupt, years away from making a bomb.
2. Syria: ditto, except they will never have a bomb.
3. Hamas: thugs in control of a piece of dirt.
4. Al Qaida: no threat to you if you don't stamp their visas, which Israel doesn't.

In short, a total fantasy. Israel's in no danger whatsoever.

That doesn't mean that the Israelis aren't being wound up by their crazy leaders. But they are in no danger of destruction, none.

Posted by: diana at June 28, 2007 05:26 AM

Aaron: Oliver Willis also mentioned invading Pakistan as something we should be doing...is this the new meme?

As the Taliban was set up in the first place by the ISI, and as Pakistan is the only nuclear power with a failed state status, and as the ISI and Pakistani military are both corrupt and riddled with fundamentalists, and as Musharraf seems to be on the verge of dying mysteriously in a plane crash, I'd say that the concern is more than a "meme", although some might be more comfortable to dismissing it as such.

It certainly isn't "new" concern either. Maybe you've only started paying attention to it recently?

At any rate, I wasn't calling for invasion of Pakistan. You seem to have read something into my comment that wasn't there.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 28, 2007 09:47 AM

But they are in no danger of destruction, none.

What will you say if you are proven wrong?

I know! - "Oops.."

Posted by: Mappa at June 28, 2007 10:22 AM

I have read (don't remember where, so take with a grain of salt) that Israel still has plenty of friends in Iran left over from Shah days. They probably have a better handle as to what's going on in Iran than anyone. I don't think they're too concerned in the short term over Iranian nukes, although that still leaves them with plenty on their worries list.

Posted by: drlemaster at June 28, 2007 10:34 AM

Diana, why cannot one be corrupt, backward and still threatening?

Hamas: thugs in control of a piece of dirt.

Those thugs and their buddies, controlling an adjacent piece of dirt, managed several suicide bombings per month, for several months.

Al Qaida: no threat to you if you don't stamp their visas, which Israel doesn't.

Israel has a list of al-Qaeda members?

Posted by: MattW at June 28, 2007 10:37 AM

Just a comment on Michael's latest update to this thread about how the "Israeli street" feels that there is a war coming. I'm here in Israel for the summer and I have to say that everyone I have asked about the possibility of war this summer says they don't think it will happen. Now, the people I'm talking to are not part of the government - they're just ordinary Israelis, so they're not getting any secret briefings. So I guess there's more than one "Israeli street."

And another point - I was in Israel last summer at this point, and I left Israel two days before the war began. The subject of Lebanon and Hizbollah never came up in conversation with my friends and acquaintances, so what the Israeli street thinks now may be just as uninformed as it was last summer.

Posted by: Rebecca at June 28, 2007 12:14 PM

The U.S. has shipped MOAB bombs to Israel recently as a protective package. The MOAB bomb is not nuclear, really packs a wollup! It can destroy several blocks with only one bomb. Israel doesn't like using nuclear either -(remember - it's their back yard also). Israel has stated however, that if attacked "as a last resort," they will take everybody down with them.

Posted by: Sid Cowan at June 28, 2007 03:30 PM

"What will you say if you are proven wrong?"

I won't be.

See you in six months.

A year ago, some nitwit in the Israeli defense establishment was predicting that IRan was "six months" away from getting a nuclear weapon.

Yawn.

You can't be corrupt and backward and a threat to a well-armed, sophisticated, well-organized military power. That's what's called an axiom.

Also axiomatic: Israel isn't gonna be launching any wars if the US doesn't give them jet fuel. But I think that's probably beyond the ability of anyone in this comment thread to comprehend.

I'm not worried about a war between Israel and "Hamas." Should that happen (unlikely), Israel will crush Hamas in about 4 hours.

Posted by: diana at June 28, 2007 03:40 PM
You can't be corrupt and backward and a threat to a well-armed, sophisticated, well-organized military power.

Pakistan is incredibly corrupt and indisputably backward, yet they managed to beg, borrow and steal technology and equipment to build nuclear weapons.

North Korea is backward enough to make the lack of serious corruption moot, and yet it too has built nuclear weapons.

Saddam's Iraq had chemical and biological weapons, while Syria is thought to have them today. Libya was working steadily towards nuclear weapons.

Etc.

WMDs are what's called "force multipliers". Those states have (or had, as appropriate) the ability to threaten well-armed, sophisticated, well-organized military powers. Whether they were likely to make good on that ability is besides the point. The contention that Israel's state enemies are not a threat because they're barely out of the Third World doesn't hold water.

I'm not worried about a war between Israel and "Hamas." Should that happen (unlikely), Israel will crush Hamas in about 4 hours.

Really? Like what happened in 2006? Or in 2004? Or 2002? Or during the 1990s?

Posted by: MattW at June 28, 2007 04:07 PM

I daren't ask about the ""s around Hamas.

Posted by: MattW at June 28, 2007 04:09 PM

Double Plus Ungood,

I have indeed been paying attention to Pakistan and your summary is spot on.

"One wonders what the current Middle East situation would be like had the US not invaded Iraq, but instead focussed on al Qaeda, Afghanistan, and, inevitably, Pakistan while retaining a significant reserve military capability."

Ahhhhh, I see, your plan is to "focus" on these countries until they change their ways. (I assume you would not have invaded Afghanistan, but focused on them, too, right?) Maybe you could provide a better verb that explains what you actually mean?

Okay, that may be too snarky. What would you suggest we do to Pakistan that we are not already doing? If you don't want to invade them (probably wise) then why don't we have the same resources available now as in the case if we did not invade Iraq? Its not like we don't have enough CIA/State people to handle Pakistan...

I believe Oliver Willis wanted us to send in special operations teams...which me might already be doing, but any large "focus" on the border region would probably not be taken kindly by the people or government of Pakistan. I think I'd personally rather negotiate with North Korea than try to fix Pakistan.

Posted by: Aaron at June 28, 2007 07:11 PM

p.s. Oliver Willis also mentioned invading Pakistan as something we should be doing...is this the new meme?

No. As with most ideas the lefties are peddling these days, it's a retread.

There is a recurring fantasy that occasionally comes up in leftie-land (usually among eurosocialist types) about the US getting into a war that it cannot win. The idea is that a royal ass-kicking is what it'll take for the US to "learn it's lesson, come to it's senses, and abandon it's violent interventionist/capitalist/etc ways".

Posted by: rosignol at June 28, 2007 09:04 PM

So what drugs did you shoot up, 'raptor, to come down from your frenzy where you called another poster a "c*nt" for having the temerity to disagree with you? After that you were nice and calm and dispassionate when you read Hamas' murderous genocidal charter.

Posted by: Gary Rosen at June 28, 2007 11:57 PM

Oh Gary, I didn't insult Lil'Mamzer because I disagreed with them (and I apologised for that slip of mine anyway) I insulted them because I thought their comments about Alan Johnston's plight were callous in the extreme, and that anyone who kidnaps journalists - whether or not you agree with what said journalist writes - is an enemy of free speech.

As for the Hamas Charter, do you think I agree with all that because I didn't start gnashing my teeth and using bad language? I'm not going to use bad language on this blog - or any blog - again, because it's needless... and if someone takes the time to provide me with a sensible link, I will read it and appreciate the time they took to try and be informative. It doesn't mean that I agree with what they linked to.

Besides, I don't need to take narcotic drugs to experience an alternative to reality, Gary. I just log onto this site and read comments and analysis by the likes of your good self.

Posted by: Microraptor at June 29, 2007 03:40 AM

Off topic....

Hezbollah documentary on Youtube....

Whaddya'all think? Come on all you Hezzie-haters and Hezzie-huggers.... and all those in between...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBZczJw3u6w

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jtsJgFePB8&mode=related&search=

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KvQHMiUyCM&mode=related&search=

IMHO The new defensive lines north of the Litani (Part 3) are interesting... that is, the "nectarine" plantations where these guys get arrested.... and the bunker footage... and the arms dealing moonlighting Hezbollah/Amal dudes...

;)

Posted by: Microraptor at June 29, 2007 05:35 AM

That reader E-mail regarding the man's daughter in Israel is the same thing I've been hearing around Beirut. I was in Rabieh and heard a report about Hizbollah preparing for a new summer war (that's all I need being here). Many of the more educated people in the country are convinced Hizbollah/Syria/Iran are planning on launching a new war.

The Christians here are really upset about how Hizbollah is running around like a state-within a state here. They can't do anything about it, they have too much power. The Shia Hizbollah supporters (I know 2 from Marjayoun at my school) I have talked to say "we don't want a war but it may come this summer."

Posted by: Phillip at June 29, 2007 11:53 AM
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