Since February 2009 , this blog and Huib's 3 other Euroblogs are together at:

- In Europa Zu Hause [DE]
- L'Europe Chez Soi [FR]
- At Home in Europe [EN]
- In Europa Thuis [NL]

Monday, July 31, 2006

Is Israel Fighting a Proxy War for Washington?

Desperately looking for a comprehensive insight into the apparent contradictions and paradoxes of the ongoing bundle of conflicts in the Middle East, I first discovered in Ha'aretz, today (30/7), Ze'ef Schiff's analysis of Israelian misjudgment and failure, including an insight into the role of the Bush administration in using Israel as a proxy against Iran. Very worthwile, for Schiff is not a peacenik at all, but a staunch supporter of the use of military force. (See below: link).
And then, tonight, Tony Karon's ultimate analysis of what is happening. The article, copied below, appeared yesterday on his website ("Rootless Cosmopolitan") and resumes the content of two recent articles he wrote for, the web-based edition of TIME/CNN. But in this text he developes his diagnostics into a masterpiece of insight. It is published below.
Tony Karon came to the US from South Africa, and his perceptions are influenced by the downfall of the Apartheid Regime he experienced. He is of Jewish descent and certainly no enemy of Israel.
Please, read his brilliant analysis.

Rootless Cosmopolitan : "Is Israel Fighting a Proxy War for Washington?
by Tony Caron, USA.

Hizballah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said a curious thing Saturday: Israel has recognized reality and is ready for a cease-fire in Lebanon, Nasrallah claimed, but it is the U.S. that insists that it fight on.
And if you read the analysis of Ze’ev Schiff, the dean of Israeli military correspondents and an enthusiastic advocate of the military campaign against Hizballah, there’s a remarkable confirmation of Nasrallah’s analysis.

Schiff writes: (in Ha'aretz, 29/7/06, hr):
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is the figure leading the strategy of changing the situation in Lebanon, not Prime Minister Ehud Olmert or Defense Minister Amir Peretz. She has so far managed to withstand international pressure in favor of a cease-fire, even though this will allow Hezbollah to retain its status as a militia armed by Iran and Syria.

As such, she needs military cards, and unfortunately Israel has not succeeded to date in providing her with any. Besides bringing Hezbollah and Lebanon under fire, all of Israel’s military cards at this stage are in the form of two Lebanese villages near the border that have been captured by the IDF.

If the military cards Israel is holding do not improve with the continuation of the fighting, it will result in a diplomatic solution that will leave the Hezbollah rocket arsenal in southern Lebanon in its place. The diplomatic solution will necessarily be a reflection of the military realities on the ground.
Listening the millenarian rubbish pouring out of the mouths of Bush and Blair last Friday about this being a fight led by the U.S. and its allies for a “new Middle East” of freedom from tyranny blah blah — oblivious to the reality that every time Arab electorates have been given the option to vote in a democratic election, they have returned governments profoundly at odds with U.S. and Israeli policy, and the U.S. has ended up ignoring them, or trying to overthrow them… But repudiating Bush’s increasingly brittle and shrill rationalizations is not my purpose here (and Blair, quite frankly, knows better, which is why the court of history will judge him even more harshly).

I’ve always maintained that the “pro-Israel” position of the Bush administration, formulated and influenced by hardline American Likudniks (whom, it must be said, are hardly representative of mainstream Israeli thinking) is actually fundamentally bad for Israel.

Its infantile, aggressive maximalism precludes Israel from doing what it will take to live at peace with its surroundings, instead demanding a confrontational approach in keeping with Jabotinsky’s “Iron Wall” in which Israel’s survival depends on crush and humiliating the Arabs.

Bush may talk the language of “Arab liberation,” but his contempt for Arab democracy is plain — just look at his response to the Hamas election victory. His administration appears to be dedicated to a remaking of the Middle East on America’s terms through violent social engineering. The depth of their failure in Iraq appears not to have deterred them from another adventure in Lebanon, this time using Israel as their agent of “change.”

Plainly, the region has no interest in being remade in the manner in which Bush envisages. I strongly recommend the coverage of Rami Khouri, the excellent Jordanian analyst of Arab affairs at Beirut’s Daily Star, who makes clear that the region’s politics have indeed been remade, with the pro-U.S. autocracies having discredited themselves beyond repair, and the new motive force of Arab politics is the Islamist movement representing resistance to Israel and the U.S. and responsive, clean government in comparison to the autocracies.

Mark Perry and Alistair Crooke have argued thoughtfully that the most credible and viable policy for the U.S. to follow in these circumstances is to promote democracy and acknowledge that it will bring Islamists to power, and seeking to engage with that reality rather than continuing the vain path of seeking to violently suppress an increasingly popular movement.

Yet the Administration appears to have clung to its old instincts in the case of Lebanon. Indeed, they appear to have framed their response to the crisis as an opportunity to wage proxy war against Iran by seeking to militarily eliminate what they see as nothing more than an Iranian proxy. So when Israel launched its retaliation, probably expecting the Bush administration to set the limits and demand restraint, instead it found Washington saying “Don’t hold back on our account, in fact, make sure you finish them off…”

And seeking Hizballah’s defeat on the battlefield remains their objective. But with the zealous delusion that has characterized so much of what this Administration has done in the Middle East, it simply failed to reckon with reality and consequence. It’s premises were faulty, as we’ve discussed in a previous post — Hizballah can’t be beaten on the battlefield, it seems, and Israel very quickly began looking to a NATO force to pull its chestnuts out of the fire

  • (As I noted in my piece after the Rome meeting, this gives the Europeans far more leverage than washington would like over the shape of a cease-fire — they’re not about to go and fight Hizballah on behalf of Israel or the U.S. so they’re demanding a cease-fire as a precondition for going in. A cease-fire that would have to be agreed by Hizballah, in other words, that fact alone giving Hizballah a remarkable victory over the U.S. and Israel.)

After its air campaign failed to even slow the rate of Hizballah rocket fire into Israel, it sent in ground troops. They managed to capture Maroun al-Ras, but after days of fierce fighting in which they took heavy casualties, the Israelis actually pulled out of the battle for Bint Jbail. And Israeli officers had freely admitted there are at least 170 such towns controlled by Hizballah in southern Lebanon. And Israel has no appetite for reestablishing roots in the quagmire of southern Lebanon. That’s why it suddenly finds itself needing the international force more than anyone.

So, not only is Hizballah going to emerge stronger, having survived the onslaught and therefore have a substantial hand in shaping the cease-fire that will follow — and politically, while the Administration may have been hoping the Israeli campaign would turn Lebanese against Hizballah, the opposite has occurred:
A poll last week found that a solid 70 percent of Lebanese, across the board, supported Hizballah’s capture of the two Israeli soldiers that started the current confrontation: That breaks down as
  • around 95 percent of Shiites,
  • 70 percent of Sunnis,
  • around 40 percent of Druze and
  • 54 percent of Christians.
Far from turning on Hizballah as a result of its provocation, instead backed it to the hilt after two weeks of bombing. (Bombing will do that, I suspect — two dramatic terror hijack-bombings on 9/11, and the U.S. population was ready to follow Bush into an entirely unrelated military adventure in Iraq, remember?)

Not surprising, also, 86 percent of Lebanese in the same survey don’t believe the U.S. is an honest broker. And frankly, the Lebanon debacle will have sealed America’s fate in Arab eyes for a generation: When the next al-Qaeda attacks come on U.S. soil, I don’t expect there’ll be much hand-wringing or denial in the Arab world, blaming the Mossad for something they didn’t want to believe Arabs were capable of and so forth. And media outlets wanting to run “Why do they Hate Us?” specials can probably start writing them already.

I also noted in a different piece how the Lebanon crisis has further weakened the U.S. position in Iraq, particularly its ability to influence the Shiite-led government (whose leaders, after all, are ideological fellow travelers of Hizballah).

There will be other regional implications, such as gains for Syria. And I want to return to the issue of the cease-fire and prospects for Hizballah — it wouldn’t surprise me to see new proposals from the Lebanese government under which Hizballah’s armed forces would be incorporated into those of the Lebanese army. Probably not exactly what Condi had in mind.

But it also seems clear that Israel’s own position is weakened. It has once again aroused the hatred of the Arab world, and the disdain of much of the international community for its plainly excessive response, all in pursuit of reestablishing its “deterrent” capacity — but if Hizballah is left standing, and indications are that it will be, that deterrent capacity itself will have been undermined. And Israel will have to pay a diplomatic price too, being forced back into internationally supervised peace discussions with a view to settling the conflict on the basis of the 1967 borders, as Brent Scowcroft, of the grownup Bush [father, hr] administration so forcefully argues.

I can’t help thinking that for all of the enthusiasm of the neocon Likudniks, the Bush administration’s “New Middle East” policy is not only bad for the Arabs; it’s bad for Israel, too.

So far, Mr. Karon. At the moment I write this, Israel has agreed to a 48 hours' "suspension of aerial activity over Southern Libanon" over an UN enquiry into the Qana massacre. At the same time, it "orders" all civil population (one million persons!) to leave southern Libanon within 24 hours. Apparently hoping to get "a licence to kill" afterwards.
Let us hope, that a cease-fire will be imposed before that!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Lost in the Hypes - Gaza

Lost in the Hypes : Gaza
Few people think about the continuing Israeli invasion in Gaza and its incursions into the West Bank. Understandable. All eyes are on Lebanon and on the US.
But on a daily basis, people are killed, wounded, starved and deprived of medicaments in the Gaza strip.  
Imagine the outrage in the world, if the Lebanon invasion wouldn’t be there?
One of the possible explanations for the completely un-Israeli show of incompetence that is going on in Lebanon at the moment, could be, that it conveniently diverts the attention of the world from what is being done to Palestine.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Lebanese right of self-defense?

"Israel has a right to defend itself", it is said and repreated by Bush, every time he prefers to keep his hands clean in the Middle East.
And the Lebanese Government, democratically elected, victim of indiscriminate attacks on its energy infrastructure, its roads, its television stations, has it also such a right?
Who will be pleading for Lebanon's right on self-defense?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Energized Neocons Say Israel's Fight Is Washington's

The story of the Neoconservative plot to lure the U.S. (and its allies) into a new Middle East adventure (view our yesterday's post), is best told by an expert in Washington.
Here is article by Jim Lobe (July 18, 2006):

Energized Neocons Say Israel's Fight Is Washington's

by Jim Lobe

Seeing a major opportunity to regain influence lost as a result of setbacks in Iraq, prominent neoconservatives are calling for unconditional U.S. support for Israel's military offensives in Gaza and Lebanon and "regime change" in Syria and Iran, as well as possible U.S. attacks on Tehran's nuclear facilities in retaliation for its support of Hezbollah.

In a Weekly Standard column entitled "It's Our War," editor William Kristol Sunday called Iran "the prime mover behind the terrorist groups who have started this war," which, he argued, should be considered part of "the global struggle against radical Islamism."

He complained that Washington recently has done a "poor job of standing up and weakening Syria and Iran" and called on President George W. Bush himself to fly directly from the "silly [Group of Eight] summit in St. Petersburg … to Jerusalem, the capital of a nation that stands with us, and is willing to fight with us, against our common enemies."

"This is our war, too," according to Kristol, who is also a founder and co-chairman of the recently lapsed Project for the New American Century (PNAC)."

All of us in the free world owe Israel an enormous thank-you for defending freedom, democracy, and security against the Iranian cat's-paw wholly-owned terrorist subsidiaries Hezbollah and Hamas," echoed Larry Kudlow, a neoconservative commentator, at the Standard's right-wing competitor, National Review.

"They are defending their own homeland and very existence, but they are also defending America's homeland as our front-line democratic ally in the Middle East," according to Kudlow who, like Kristol and other like-minded polemicists, also named Syria, "which is also directed by Iran," as a promising target as the conflict expands.

The two columns are just the latest examples of a slew of commentaries that have appeared in U.S. print and broadcast media since Israel began bombing targets in Lebanon in retaliation for Hezbollah's fatal cross-border attack last Wednesday. They appear to be part of a deliberate campaign by neoconservatives and some of their right-wing supporters to depict the current conflict as part of global struggle pitting Israel, as the forward base of Western civilization, against Islamist extremism organized and directed by Iran and its junior partner, Syria.

This view was perhaps most dramatically expressed by former Republican Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, in an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday when he described the conflict as "the early stages of … the Third World War."

The effort to frame the current round of violence as part of a much larger struggle – and Israel's role as Washington's most loyal front-line ally – recalls the neoconservatives early reaction to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

Just nine days after 9/11, Kristol and PNAC – whose charter members included Vice President Dick Cheney, Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld, and half a dozen other senior Bush administration officials – released an open letter to Bush that called for the U.S. to retaliate not only against al-Qaeda and Afghanistan, but also against Israel's main regional foes, beginning with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) chairman Yasser Arafat.

In addition, the letter advised, "any war against terrorism must target Hezbollah. We believe that the administration should demand that Iran and Syria immediately cease all military, financial, and political support for Hezbollah and its operations. Should Iran and Syria refuse to comply, the administration should consider appropriate measures of retaliation against these state sponsors of terrorism."

"Israel has been and remains America's staunchest ally against international terrorism, especially in the Middle East," the letter asserted. "The United States should fully support our fellow democracy in its fight against terrorism."

While the Iraqi and Palestinian components of PNAC's agenda were soon adopted as policy and essentially achieved, neoconservative hopes that Bush would move on Hezbollah – as well as Syria and Iran – eventually stalled as U.S. military forces became bogged down in an increasingly bloody and costly counter-insurgency war in Iraq.

As the situation in Iraq worsened, neoconservative influence in and on the administration also declined to the benefit of "realists" based primarily in the State Department who favored a less aggressive policy designed to secure Damascus' and Tehran's cooperation in stabilizing Iraq and strengthen the elected Lebanese government of which Hezbollah was made a part.

In that context, the current conflict represents a golden opportunity for the neoconservatives to reassert their influence and reactivate their Israel-centered agenda against Hezbollah and its two state sponsors.

"Iran's Proxy War" blazed the cover of this week's Standard, which also featured no less than three other articles, besides Kristol's editorial, underlining Iran's sponsorship of Hezbollah and Hamas and the necessity of the U.S. standing with Israel, if not taking independent action against Tehran and/or Damascus as recommended by Kristol himself.

A major theme of the new campaign is that the more-conciliatory "realist" policies toward Syria and Iran pursued by the State Department have actually backfired by making Washington look weak.

"They are now testing us more boldly than one would have thought possible a few years ago," wrote Kristol. "Weakness is provocative. We have been too weak, and have allowed ourselves to be perceived as weak," he went on, adding that, "[T]he right response is renewed strength," notably "in pursuing regime change in Syria and Iran [and] consider[ing] countering this act of Iranian aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.

"The notion that U.S. policy in the region has become far too flaccid and accommodating is echoed by a number of other neoconservatives, particularly Michael Rubin, a prolific analyst at the hard-line American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and protégé of Cheney confidante and former Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle.

In a companion Standard article, Rubin qualified recent State Department policy as "All Talk and No Strategy" that had emboldened enemies, especially Iran, to challenge Washington and its allies.

In another article for National Review Monday, bluntly titled "Eradication First," he elaborated on that theme, arguing diplomacy in the current crisis will only be successful "if it commences both after the eradication of Hezbollah and Hamas, and after their paymasters pay a terrible cost for their support."

"If … peace is the aim, it is imperative to punish the Syrian and Iranian leadership," he wrote.

Above all, according to the neoconservatives, the U.S. position in the region is now inextricably tied to the success or failure of Israel's military campaign.

In yet another Standard article, titled "The Rogues Strike Back: Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hezbollah vs. Israel," Robert Satloff, executive director of the hawkish, pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy, argued that "defeat for Israel – either on the battlefield or via coerced compromises to achieve flawed cease-fires – is a defeat for U.S. interests; it will inspire radicals of every stripe, release Iran and Syria to spread more mayhem inside Iraq, and make more likely our own eventual confrontation with this emboldened alliance of extremists."(Inter Press Service)


Jim Lobe, works as Inter Press Service's correspondent in the Washington, D.C., bureau. He has followed the ups and downs of neo-conservatives since well before their rise in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

My comment: A strong European reply to this adventurous spinning is needed. But it seems far away.

France pursues its own agenda in Libanon, Blair ("Yo Blair!") goes along with Bush and Angela Merkel has other priorities.

What a mess!

Monday, July 17, 2006

William Kristol gone completely mad in the Financial Times of London

Thank you, FT, for printing timely this outrageous opinion article. It explains, from whom president Bush got the idea to say, several times during the last days, that Israel shouldn't forget that the real enemies are Iran and Syria. Bush is the weakly standard. Here we get the real one.

But: Beware! In the fall of 2001, few people took the Neocons' appeals for an attack on Iraq seriously. It seemed then as outrageous as "Weekly Standard"'s Kristol's actual outcry for a nuclear war in the Middle East.

And, ironically, the heading in the Financial Times has it wrong: Kristol doesn't say that Bush should go to Tel Aviv , but:

"to Jerusalem , the capital of a nation that stands with us, and is willing to fight with us, against our common enemies. This is our war, too."

Europe has to be unambiguous, united and outspoken, this time: No second Iraq in our backyard!


Friday, July 07, 2006

Roaming Charges: Mandelson and Verheugen against Reding?

Sources: Sarah Laitner for the FT in Brussels (July 4)
and: EU (see left column)
Viviane Reding, the EU Commissioner for telecommunications, stands firm for her proposals to cap the extra charges Telecom Companies impose on their customers, when they call to or from foreign networks in Europe.
Viviane Reding
After attacks from the interested companies (who claim that 15% of their profits originate with roaming charges) and from the class of mediators (see preceding post), now, two heavyweights in the European Commission, Mandelson and Verheugen indicate that they will not support the Reding proposals entirely.
The most recent discussions deal with the question, if it would be sufficient, to cap the extra costs companies are charging each other, or if the EU should cap the extra charges for consumers.
In the first case, companies would remain free to charge their clients whatever they like. In the second one, consumers with contracts with smaller companies (mainly from smaller countries), would be effectively protected against this anomaly. For, we should repeat it every time, these consumers have no other choice than to contract with one of the local companies that provide mobile telephone.
It is worthwile, to follow closely these developments. And that is what we are going to do here. As long as necessary.
Related Posts with Thumbnails