The Beginning of a New War?
Will it Spill over on Iraq?
All hell broke loose on Wednesday in the Mideast, with a Hizbullah attack on the Israeli army and Israeli reprisals, and the Israeli dropping of a 500 pound bomb on Gaza. I roundly condemn Hizbullah's criminal and stupid attack on Israel and escalation of a crisis that is already harming ordinary Palestinians on a massive scale.
Likewise, the Beirut airport is not in south Lebanon and for the Israelis to bomb it and neighborhoods in south Beirut is a disproportionate use of force. The Israelis are actually talking about causing "pain to the Lebanese." That is despicable.
One thing is clear. This crisis will not leave the fabric of Lebanese politics untouched, and the danger of an unraveling is acute. And, it is clear that the withdrawal of Syria from Lebanon has given an opening to Israeli hawks to invade Lebanese territory again. It will not be good for Israelis if Lebanon collapses into a failed state again.
Rejectionists on both sides are to blame. The Oslo Peace Process could have forestalled all this violence, as Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin understood. But on the Israeli side, the then Likud Party of Bibi Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert derailed it. On the Palestinian side, Hamas rejected it. Had there been a peace process, prisoners would have been released in return for a cessation of hostilities, and there would have been no motivation to capture Israeli soldiers.
The lesson is that if you refuse to negotiate a peace, then you are likely to have to go on fighting a war.
I continue to worry that this outbreak of war in the Levant will exacerbate tensions in Iraq and get more US troops killed. Iraqi Sunnis generally sympathize with the Palestinians. And hard line Shiites like the Sadr Movement and the Mahdi Army are close to Hizbullah. Israel's wars could tip Iraq over into an unstoppable downward spiral.