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March 16, 2008

War Drums In The Middle East - Is War Between Israel, Hezbollah, And Syria Likely?

Topics: Middle East News and Perspectives

Is a war about to ignite between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon? If so, is it likely to involve Syria as well?

According to Israeli security officials, Israel has placed its security forces on higher alert, beefed up security at diplomatic missions abroad and advised Israeli travelers to put off trips to Muslim states for fear Lebanese militants will carry out a revenge attack at the upcoming end of the mourning period for the assassinated arch-terrorist/military commander of Hezbollah Imad Mughaniyeh approached. Mughaniyeh, one of the world's most wanted men who was linked to a series of attacks that killed hundreds of Americans, was killed in a car bomb blast in Damascus.

[...] Hezbollah and its Iranian patrons blame Israel for the Feb. 12 car bombing that killed Imad Mughniyeh, a Hezbollah leader suspected of masterminding a series of spectacular attacks against U.S. and Jewish targets. The Israeli government has denied the charge, although military officials have been vaguer, refusing to confirm or deny involvement.

Immediately after Mughniyeh's killing, Israel briefly put its military and embassies on alert, and advised Jewish institutions worldwide to do the same, fearing a large-scale revenge attack. Although Israel has no information about specific planned attacks, a heightened alert has been ordered now, too, with the customary 40-day mourning period for Mughniyeh ending Saturday, security officials said.

... Inside Israel, security forces have been instructed to be especially vigilant against possible attacks by Hezbollah cells in Palestinian territories, officials said. Hezbollah is already suspected of involvement in a deadly attack on a Jerusalem religious seminary earlier this month (link inserted).

Let's recall that Shi'ite Muslim Hezbollah and its main backer, Iran, accused Israel of being behind the assassination of Mughniyeh, and that Hezbollah threatened Israel with "open war" during a "fiery and emotional" speech broadcast at the funeral of Imad Mughniyeh. Let's also recall that Israel recently conveyed a warning to Syria through a third party that it would hold Damascus accountable if Lebanese Hezbollah launched attacks on Israel. Then there's the threat of "open war" by Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah, and there's no way to ignore the problem of Hamas in Gaza, and of course - Iran - all of these being big problems and kindling for war. So, what's the real likelihood of war, who will it be between, and where is it likely to occur?

When it comes to the Middle East, no one's crystal ball has a chance in hell of being anywhere "on the money." But for now, I'll lay my bets on the most likelihood being as Asharq Alawsat has suggested: "A war between Hezbollah, Israel and Syria in Lebanon," possibly extending into Syria.

Our take home message here is: Next MidEast War Just A Rocket Away ...

The Middle East will continue to be the source the gravest threats to U.S. security, whether in the long-term form of a nuclear-armed Iran or the short-term one of an unforeseen multistate war. So the candidates must be pressed about how they would handle a chain reaction in which events in Gaza suddenly engulf the entire region. To borrow an old slogan: It's the Middle East, stupid.
Meanwhile, Israel's chief concern is Iran. And as we sleep, Iran is hell bent on attaining a nuclear weapon and working hard to do so sooner rather than later. As one analyst has said, "All the events in the region are dwarfed in comparison to the Iranian nuclear threat." When Iran gets it's nuclear weapons, all bets are off.

And Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's nuclear policy just got strengthened.

Posted by Abdul at March 16, 2008 9:41 PM



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