Sunday, July 16, 2006

Iran-US war

I presented my reasons for believing an American-Iranian war is nigh-inevitable in a response to a comment posted to me in http://lebanesebloggers.blogspot.com/, which I copied here in order for my answer to make sense. :)

Suha said...
Sagi,

I agree with no.1 of your analysis.As for no.2, I think the war between Iran and Israel/US is taking place right now. Or at least, the parties waging the war hope to settle their scores on Lebanese territory.

Iran promised to give its answer on the nuclear issue mid-August (strange coincidence?). The war on Lebanon will largely influence the outcome of negotiations with Iran which, to the consternation of Arab rulers, aspires to be the major regional player. I do not think the Iranians are crazy. I think it (and lapdog Syria) only want recognition at the end of the day. The war on Lebanon might very well be its baptism by fire. Or it could be a wild card lost.

That's what I think. What do you think?

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Suha,

I more or less agree with you completely: The timing of the soldiers' kidnapping seems all too convenient for it NOT to be ordered by Iran, and frankly - they're the only ones standing to gain anything from this fight. I also agree with you about Iran's aspirations, the fear it causes in many Arab rulers, and I'm willing to accede that Ahmadinejad is probably not insane (though you'd have a hard time believing that after hearing him ranting about Israel on TV).

It's funny (though not really "ha-ha" funny) you've used the wild card metaphor. When I talked with my friends earlier today, I've likened Iran's pushing Lebanon into a conflict with Israel to a card player willing to lose a valuable card for some other gain. Sigh... "I'll see your Lebanon and raise you a regional war". Perhaps a chess sacrifice methapor is more fitting... :(

The saddest thing is, Israel was more or less sure to react the way it did: A chance to finally rid ourselves of a hostile Iranian militia on our Northern border is percieved as simply too good an opportunity to miss... So now there's war... With Syria probably praying it won't be dragged into it and Teheran's cackling.

The one thing I don't agree with you on is about how the war with Iran will be fought... Certainly, the Israel-Lebanon conflict is the beginning, but I don't believe it will end there:

Wars are fought when both sides believe they have something to gain, or when both can't back down. See the current conflict: Israel wishes to neutralize a serious risk and gain a peaceful Northern border, Iran wishing to buy more time or just sow discord (hard for the US to gain Arab support for the war against Iran when hated Israel is busy fighting one of them) - and there you have it. War, with your poor country taking the brunt of it.

With the US and Iran, I fear there's a similiar no-escape situation: The US is VERY unlikely to accept a nuclear Iran, especially considering their current "war on terrorism" agenda. There are other reasons - certainly they believe Iran's bid for power needs to be checked - but I think the nuclear issue will be the deciding factor. Iran, on the other hand, or at the very least - Ahmadinejad - seems unable to back down on the bomb issue. I think the regime there is not as stable as it presents itself: There's a growing layer of intelligentsia that's chafing under the theocracy they're living in, and it seems to me Ahmadinejad put too much of his personal prestige on the "Iran deserves nuclear power" thingy for him to back down and survive politically... So we've got two players that won't - probably CAN'T - back down, and the clock starts ticking...
So, why are we having this war, or rather - why NOW?

While the kidnapping of two Isrealy soldiers by Hizbullah was a MAJOR provocation, and one that nobody expected Israel to ignore - it was hardly the first time since the IDF's withdrawal fron southern Lebanon that Nasrallah's acts provided Israel with a casus belli.So again, why now?

I believe there are two major reasons:

1) The Syrian withdrawal: As long as Syrian troops were stationed in Lebanon, there would've been little hope of its goverment attempting to disarm Hizbullah and taking responsibility for the Southern border. Further - as long as the Syrian occupied Lebanon, it was implicitly understood that they would be held reponsible for any war-like acts coming from there.

The Syrian leadership stands to gain practically nothing from a war with Israel while standing to lose quite a lot, and that's why Israel - while not exactly happy to have Syrian troops stationed in Lebanon - prefered this state to the current one: While Syria controlled Lebanon, it was held accountable for it: Anything major coming out of Lebanon towards Israel would've entailed an Israely attack on Damascus, which they could ill afford. The accountibility of centeralized regimes to any war-acts coming from their terriotory is key to stopping and avoiding wars: A country surrenders and stops fighting when its army cannot protect it any more. A militant group like Hizbullah, that's probably more strongly allied with Iran that its native Lebanon, can keep fighting with little regard to the country crumbling around it. A no-man's-land situation like the one currently existing in Lebanon is simply an unacceptable risk to Israel, especailly now, which brings me to reason 2 for the war:

2) The approaching Iran-US war: Perhaps I'm overly pessimistic, but I believe all signs point to this war happening within a couple of years at most: I'd be happy to share my reasoning, if anyone wishes to hear it, but it's immaterial to my point; When this war happens, it's almost sure to involve Israel: The only realistic way for distant Iran to engage Israel is with rockets and missiles. Ballistic missiles can be shot down - at least with some degree of success - and the difficulty and expense of manufacturing them limits their usage. Short and medium range rockets - like the ones being fired by Hizbullah right now - cannot be shot down and can be produced and fired in huge numbers.

Simply put, Israel cannot afford a neighbouring country being used as a missile launching platform in the coming war - especially one that cannot be made to stop these launches by a standard military action (see above). Considering the possibillity of Iranian non-conventional warheads being provided to Hizbullah - the magnitude of the risk becomes one that no country will ever accept and will go to any lengths to neutralise.

For everyone's sake, I hope Lebanon's goverment will be able to survive and take full control of the country, and that the Israely goverment do its best to assist it after the shooting stops.
Heh. Well, my first ever Blog entry.

My name is Sagi and I'm a resident of Tel-Aviv, Israel. I've started this Blog in order to share some of my thoughts about the ongoing Israely-Lebanese conflict: I'm aiming for an unbiased as possible analysis of the war (knowing full well it's high-nigh impossible when you're on one of the sides involved), and I'm especially interested in the realpolitik factors behind it.

I originally posted my theories as comments in the excellent http://lebanesebloggers.blogspot.com/, which I can't recommend enough. If you want live coverage of the war by ordinary people living smack-bang in the middle of it, you should go there. If you're a "kill all Arabs 'cause they're all terrorists anyway" sorta person you MUST go there. Don't get me wrong: I'm rather Hawkish in my views and very much security conscious, so no mushy "we're-all-a-happy-family-of-friends" here - but reading some of the comments made by intelligent, rational and likeable people that just happen to have some very unpleasent neighbours... Well, it certainly makes de-humanizing that much harder.

Oh, and a small caveat: Some of the guys (and gals) commenting there certainly hate our guts. :) Consider that before going there if you're thin skinned.

So, enough with the introductions: