The world hates George Bush more than any U.S. president in my lifetime. He is radioactive — and so caught up in his own ideological bubble that he is incapable of imagining or forging alternative strategies.
First contacts were made between Israel and Hizbullah via German mediators and the Red Cross, it was reported Friday in the London-based pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat.
According to the report, the contacts took place Wednesday and were intended to set the stage for a prisoner exchange as part of the comprehensive solution sought between the sides to end the fighting in Lebanon. [ynetnews]
Richard Armitage, a neoconservative, says that by attempting to eliminate Hezbollah will backfire. He also criticisied the Administrations stance with respect to Syria.
Here is a clipping of the NPR interview:
NPR: Are there parallels between that peacekeeping force and now?
ARMITAGE: Well, I remember with stunning clarity one of our Israeli interlocutors sitting in my office, telling me that, "Don’t worry about this peace in Galilee operation. We understand our neighbors very well. We understand them better than anyone. We know all the dynamics of the situation in Lebanon." And that turned out not quite to be the case.
I suspect that people in government now are also hearing that from Israel. Don't get me wrong - if I thought that this air campaign would work, and would eliminate Nasrullah and the leadership of Hezbollah, I think it would all be fine. But I fear that you can't do this from the sky, and that you're going to end up empowering Hezbollah, and perhaps introducing an element into the body politic in Lebanon that will take some great period of time to recover from.
NPR: An element into the body politic that as yet we do not know?
ARMITAGE: I think we do not know. And we’re not, as far as I'm concerned, using all the levers that we have, such as having the Secretary of State talk to the Syrians. I think they want to get involved. I think they want to become more central to a solution, and you might as well give them the opportunity. If they step up to it, fine. If they don't, we’ll know them for what they are.
The Israel Air Force on Thursday scored a successful direct hit against Hezbollah's missile command center deployed in Tyre, which has been primarily responsible for targeting Haifa and its surroundings. [Haaretz]
Top Israeli Cabinet ministers on Thursday decided not to expand the country's Lebanon offensive, Israel Radio reported. But they approved calling up three additional divisions of reserve soldiers. Meanwhile, a Hezbollah rocket hit a chemical plant in the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shemona, security officials said. [AP]
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert believes that the goal of the Israeli offensive have been met. Meanwhile Hezbollah rockets continue to rain down on Northern Israel, this indicates that the offensive has not been a success. Maybe if they would have targeted Hezbollah targets and not civilian infrastructure (the infrastructure that offered no strategic benefit to Hezbollah agents) they would have stopped the rocketing of Israeli territory.
More on what the US and Israel may have to concede.
[UPDATE] At Pat Lang's blog, Richard Sale writing about how this fiasco will affect Israeli security.
The destruction of Lebanon's infrastructure has incredibly damaged the image of the United States in the Arab world. In fact, the popular hatred of the United States in such moderate Arab countries such as Egypt and Jordan resulted in the leaders of those countries informing Condi Rice that she was not welcome there, which was why the summit took place in Rome.
A week ago I posted a story about Turkey's frustration with the Iraqi (and US) inability to control Kurdish terrorist operating in Northern Iraq.
Zaman newspaper (Turkey) is reporting the presence of 150,000 Turkish troops on the boarder of Iraq. They are on a high state of alert and any military leave has been canceled. Given the recent attacks on Turkish soldiers by the PKK (14 dead in recent days) this pending incursion by Turkey seems to be gaining legitimacy from Israel's recent actions and American inaction.
Turkey told the US administration, which is opposed to Turkey launching a cross-border operation into northern Iraq "unilaterally," that "the US should fulfill its responsibilities as an ally of Turkey and stop pursuing double-standard policies."
...diplomatic sources said: "Turkey offered to act in cooperation with its allies to eliminate terrorism entirely. Our allies should make similar efforts also. Allies with a common vision should cooperate."
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross fills us in on why this is such good news.
Reader Timothy Thompson reports that he has heard from well-placed Turkish sources that the State Department's position on the PKK shifted markedly two to three days ago, ultimately resulting in the present announcement. These sources believe that the announced cooperation forestalls Turkish plans of unilateral intervention. Turkey is now committed to only crossing the Iraq border with express U.S. approval and coordination.
Had Turkey intervened in Iraq unilaterally, it would have risked clashes with American-backed Kurdish units unaffiliated with the PKK and also would have created the possibility that a Turkish unit could accidentally engage Americans in a firefight. The fact that at least one potential flash point in the Middle East seems to have been resolved is unambiguously good news.
"The Rice doctrine" in thearters now! From the creators of the Iraq war 2, the Republican party's "utopian strain of neoconservatism" brings us the next failed state, Lebanon. The lead role played by nonother than Condoleezza Rice.
Once again the Bush administration is floating on a wave of euphoria. Israel's offensive against Hizbullah in Lebanon has liberated the utopian strain of neoconservatism that had been traduced by Iraq's sectarian civil war. And the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, has propelled herself forward as chief cheerleader. "What we're seeing here," she said, "are the birth pangs of a new Middle East." At every press conference she repeats the phrase "a new Middle East" as though its incantation is magical.
"[B]irth Pangs"? sounds to me like the "last throes"...
... According to the Rice doctrine, the US has deserted its historic role as ultimate guarantor of Israel's security by acting as honest broker among all parties. Rather than emphasising the importance of Lebanese sovereignty, presumably a matter of concern to an administration that had made it exhibit A in the spread of democracy in "a new Middle East", Rice has downplayed or ignored it in favour of uncritical endorsement of Israel's offensive. Rice's trip is calculated to interpose the influence of the US to prevent a ceasefire and to give Israel at least another week of unimpeded military action.
OK, so our actions (ours and the actions of our proxy in Israel) are going to make things better, everybody will love America after this. How clueless are these people? Let's see...
To the Bush administration, the conflagration has appeared as deus ex machina to rescue it from the Iraqi quagmire. That this is patently absurd does not dawn on those who remain in thrall to the same pattern of thought that imagined the invasion of Iraq would be greeted with flowers in the streets of Baghdad. Denial is the basis of repetition.
Hit rewind, play it again!
Anyone care to consult the "Office of Lessons Learned" this week, or the week before? Naaa, that would make too much sense.
I few days ago I posed the question, why did the IDF bomb all of Lebanon, including civilian infrastructure that was in no way strategic, when the immediate threat was Hezbollah and their missile embankments?
I think Israel took a page out of the US book and tried to "shock and awe" the Lebanese into submission for a variety of political goal. If so it has failed again. "This will be a disaster for Israel. Nasrallah will be seen in the world as someone who fired thousands of Katyushas on Israeli communities for weeks and came out unscathed." says Moshe Arens is worried. The man who was Three term defense minister for Israel. If you would have asked anyone who knows anything, they would probably laugh at the idea that Hezbollah would be able to target Israel unabated for 14 days. Had the Israeli military targeted the actual targets in this campaign, Hezbollah's military strength might be all but gone and, most importantly, not firing at Israel. The above link goes into detail about whether or not this criticism if justified, it says that this was not planed in advance. How could this situation not have been planed for? Anyone buying that?
From Hezbollah's view, the Israeli attack was a surprise. They didn't even exclusively bomb Hezbollah and they were caught off guard? Imagine if the Israeli forces had taken out the rocket launch pads? This war would be completely different if not over. They would have been able to severely weaken Hezbollah and opened the door for a UN or NATO backed Lebanese force with a government in Beirut that still - you know - roads, factories, ... If that avenue failed, then take out the Hezbollah positions in Beirut. (note: I realize that bridges and other connections to Iran and Syria are strategic, but there is a line that was crossed here.)
But instead we have a prolonged engagement in the region with rockets and missiles going both ways and the tacit approval by the US to keep it up for another two weeks. It is things like this that create blowback for Western nations. Picture it now, somewhere in the Muslim world there's a terrorist being born.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Monday, the 13th day of relentless confrontations in Lebanon, "the situation is very dangerous and necessitates quick action and any delay in ceasing fire will lead to further complicating matters."
Mubarak said Egypt has a package of proposals for ending the crisis, which broke out on July 12 following Hezbollah's kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border attack.
"After a cease-fire is reached, all the reasons behind the actual crisis could be dealt with, including the demarcation of the border in the Shabaa Farms region and the release of all detainees," Mubarak was quoted as saying by Egypt's Middle East News Agency.
Jordan and Kuwait:
In Kuwait, visiting Jordanian King Abdullah and Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah issued a joint plea for a cease-fire in Lebanon.
A joint statement stressed the "necessity for an immediate cessation of military operations and ending the killing of civilians and the destruction of Lebanese infrastructure."
The main "moderate" Sunni Arab state leaves the Administrations side and calls for a cease-fire.
"We requested a cease-fire to allow for a cessation of hostilities," Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said after an Oval Office meeting with Bush.
Why? Because "...they cannot afford to appear too supportive of American or Israeli interests for fear of alienating their own citizens." Because that would appear to endorse US foreign policy, and that breeds terrorists.
Lesson No. 1: Change in the mddle East occurs slowly and over time, but when it hist critical mass, surprises and disasters happen.
Lesson No. 2: Surprises and disasters are avoided when an expert, or a group, is tasked with dealing with the situation on the ground in a given region everyday.
Lesson No. 3: Withou ongoing negotiations and dialogue, there is no refrence point for dialogue when a conflict heats up
Lesson No. 4: "...even superpowers have to talk to bad guys. The absence of a diplomatic relationship with Iran and the deterioration of the one with Syria -- two countries that bear enormous responsibility for the current crisis -- leave the United States with fewer options and levers than might otherwise have been the case. Distasteful as it might have been to have or to maintain open and normal relations with such states, the absence of such relations ensures that we will have more blind spots than we can afford and that we will have to deal through surrogates on issues of vital importance to the United States. We will have to get over the notion that talking to bad guys somehow rewards them or is a sign of weakness. As a superpower, we ought to be able to communicate in a way that signals our strength and self-confidence.
Lesson No. 5: Neoconservative unilatralism has not and will not work.
So now we are softening our approach to improve our image in our various wars?
In Iraq we hope to pacify Ramadi without leveling it; the "anti-Fallujah strategy".
In Afghanistan we hope to regain the publics trust and support by handing out "toys, food, supplies."
Does all that go out the window with our outright support for Israeli aggression against all of Lebanon and did we have a choice?
[UPDATE] It has been alleged that the US military may have pushed for the torture of Iraqi prisoners. This is based on "interviews with military personnel and sworn statements in declassified documents" and begs the question, how far up the chain did this go?