The War in Context Christopher Dickey quote
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
Why is Israel destroying Lebanon?
By Patrick Seale, Al-Hayat, July 21, 2006

The longer Hizballah holds out, the greater Israel's problems with the international community, and the greater the pressure of Arab opinion on those Arab regimes that have so far stood shiftily on the sidelines.

Israel has always relied on brute force to ensure its security. Since its creation in 1948, it has sought to dominate the region by military means. This doctrine rests on the belief that the Arabs will never be strong enough, or capable enough, to challenge it. This is a fundamentally racist attitude.

But beneath the bluster and the muscle-flexing lies a deep-seated paranoia and insecurity, reflected in the conviction, shared by many of Israel's citizens, that the Arabs want to kill them and that they face a permanent existential threat. The choice, they seem to believe, is between killing or being killed. This dark view of their environment -- something of a self-fulfilling prophecy -- goes some way to explaining the extravagantly disproportionate nature of Israel's attacks and its blatant disregard for international legality and any semblance of morality.

Israel is able to behave in this way because it has been given extraordinary immunity by the United States. A striking aspect of the crisis is, indeed, America's total political, diplomatic and strategic support for Israel -- even to the point of rushing to give it $300 million of aviation fuel with which to continue smashing Lebanon!

America's gross bias has paralysed the Security Council, the G8 and the European Union. So great is American pressure that none of these bodies has been able to insist on an immediate end to the Israeli onslaught. Britain dutifully followed its American Big Brother in repeating the mantra that 'Israel has the right to defend itself', while even France, Lebanon's traditional protector, has tended to put the blame on Hizballah, rather than Israel, for the massive destruction and loss of life.

Terrorism is usually defined as the indiscriminate killing of civilians in pursuit of political goals. Is this not what Israel is doing in both Lebanon and Gaza? It is killing large numbers of Lebanese and Palestinian civilians in pursuit of its political aim of annihilating Hizballah and Hamas. By any objective standard, Israel is guilty of state terrorism. [complete article]

Comment -- This use of sheer might to crush all opposition is driven by a conviction that a sufficiently violent display of destruction will temper if not destroy the will of those among the enemy who survive. Israel is in the midst of teaching its enemies a lesson, yet the lesson they will almost certainly learn is not the one intended. The lesson will be: we can survive and Israel and the United States are not all-powerful.

Evidence of confusion at the center of power came today in news about America's role in the bloodbath (condemned here and elsewhere): the U.S. is now rushing the delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel. While the ethical and geopolitical implications of this have naturally garnered most of the attention, what this also seems to reveal is ad hoc planning taking place right in the middle of a massive military operation. Israel (with the United States at its side) has mounted a spectacular display of violent passion, yet it increasingly appears to be an equally spectacular display of lack of thought. Goliath, flaying wildly, turns out to be blind!
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Road through a landscape of death
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, July 22, 2006

A road of death and desolation coils through southern Lebanon.

It begins in Tyre, where 82 people killed in Israeli attacks this week were sheathed in hastily crafted wooden caskets Friday, their faces pointed toward Mecca, as custom dictates. Each coffin bore a number, and a name, sloppily handwritten on top. Under a blistering sun, they were lined up along a wall, smaller ones for children, including a still-born baby. Women in black uttered prayers; some sobbed in grief. As the temperature climbed, others lifted a corner of their veils to shield their drawn faces from the stench of death. Together, they waited for military trucks to carry the corpses to a temporary mass grave in an empty sandlot.

The road ends in Deir Qanun al-Nahr, a town of 3,000 in the hinterland beyond Tyre, where Fatima Diab and more than 100 other people huddled in a sweltering basement Friday, as Israeli strikes pummeled the villages and valleys around them. She arrived a week ago with no food, no spare clothes and no water. Three radios crackled with news of the war. People prayed. And at times, Diab tried to sleep in the cacophony of bombing and Israeli jets that, on this day, subsided only briefly. [complete article]
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Bush's profanity shows he has no clue about Arabs
By Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star, July 22, 2006

I have carefully read and considered US President George W. Bush's words to British Prime Minister Tony Blair that were inadvertently caught on an open microphone during the G-8 Summit in Russia last weekend: "See the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hizbullah to stop doing this shit and it's over" - and I respectfully conclude that Bush doesn't know shit about shit.

Bush's comment is worth analyzing because it is very telling of many things, all of them problematic for the United States and the Middle East region. In that single phrase of his, the American president compressed into two dozen words the cumulative negative consequences of Washington's unusual capacity to forge a self-defeating and counter-productive Middle East policy on the basis of a faulty analysis, in turn built on misreading local realities and not speaking to the main actors.

Almost every part of Bush's statement is either wrong or a consequence of bad foreign policy decisions by the US and Israel, who operate as a single entity for all practical purposes on the issue at hand. The first and most important problem with Bush's thoughts is to characterize Hizbullah's actions with a profanity. Many people, including myself, criticize Hizbullah for certain aspects of its policies. But history will no doubt record that its actions before this month to liberate South Lebanon from Israeli occupation have largely been supported by most Lebanese and Arabs, and have been seen as legitimate by most of the world. [complete article]
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After the flood
By Brian Keenan, The Guardian, July 22, 2006

Only last year, a friend of mine called to say she was intending to holiday in Lebanon and asked my advice. Without hesitation, I encouraged her to go. "Lebanon is beautiful and the Lebanese are a delight. They are courteous in the extreme, and their hospitality is overwhelming. They love their country and are more than delighted to share this exuberance with strangers.

"You can go skiing in the mountains in the morning and sun yourself on the beach in the afternoon; and the food is to die for. If you can go to the mountains, sit a while under the magnificent cedar and just let the place soak into you. The vistas are sublime. Take a copy of Kahlil Gibran's Thoughts and Meditations, read it slowly under the great tree's shade and you will see beyond the horizon."

I rabbitted on, remembering only the beautiful flower that Lebanon was and completely forgetting the poison hidden in its petals. But then I had every reason to forget the bleak history of this part of the world. A bloody inheritance of betrayal, assassination and religious animosity. I had also forgotten the covert and heinous foreign meddling by America, and Iran, and the invasion and occupation by Syria and Israel. All of whom, it seems to me, cared little about Lebanon and its people. I had believed that these proxy wars fought on the killing fields of Lebanon had been eradicated like the canker in the rose. [complete article]
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British minister condemns Israeli action
BBC News, July 22, 2006

Foreign Office minister Kim Howells has criticised Israel's bombardment of Lebanon, while on a visit to Beirut. He said Israel had not carried out "surgical strikes" and attacking the Lebanese nation was not the answer. Downing Street said the prime minister would stand by Mr Howell's comments, adding the British government had "always urged restraint on Israel".

Meanwhile thousands of people across the UK have joined demonstrations against Israeli attacks on Lebanon.

"The destruction of the infrastructure, the death of so many children and so many people. These have not been surgical strikes.

"And it's very difficult, I think, to understand the kind of military tactics that have been used.

"You know, if they're chasing Hezbollah, then go for Hezbollah. You don't go for the entire Lebanese nation." [complete article]
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Anti-war Tel Aviv rally draws Jewish, Israeli Arab crowd
By Lily Galili, Haaretz, July 22, 2006

More than 2,500 people on Saturday attended a mass demonstration against the war in Lebanon, marching from Tel Aviv's Rabin Square to a rally at the Cinemateque plaza.

The rally was the first of its kind protesting against the IDF's offensive in Lebanon. Unlike previous anti-war protests in Israel, major Arab organizations in Israel - among them Hadash and Balad - participated in the event in large numbers.
These Jewish and Arab groups ordinarily shy away from joint activity. They couldn't come up with a unifying slogan this time either, except for the call to stop the war and start talking. However, protest veterans noted that in the Lebanon War of 1982 it took more than 10 days of warfare to bring out this many protesters, marking the first crack in the consensus. [complete article]

Lebanese-Canadians decry Israel in protests across Canada
CBC, July 22, 2006

Thousands of Lebanese-Canadians staged rallies across Canada on Saturday to demand a ceasefire in their native land.

In Ottawa, 1,000 people marched on Parliament Hill, waving Canadian, Lebanese and Palestinian flags and demanding that Prime Minister Stephen Harper protect the civilians -- some of them Canadians -- who are being killed in Israeli attacks. [complete article]

Thousands protest in Australia against Mideast violence
AFP, July 22, 2006

More than 10,000 people have marched through Australia's largest city calling for an end to Israeli attacks on Lebanon. [complete article]

Shops, schools closed in Indian Kashmir to protest Israel
VOA, July 22, 2006

Shops and schools are closed in the main city of Indian Kashmir in protest of Israel's continuing air strikes on southern Lebanon. [complete article]

Protests erupt worldwide against Israel's 'genocidal war'
Daily Star, July 22, 2006

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets across the globe Friday to rally against the Israeli offensive in Lebanon, which one regional leader branded a "genocidal war."In Cairo, clashes broke out in Cairo between police and protesters who had gathered after prayers at the Al-Azhar Mosque in support of Lebanon and the Palestinians. [complete article]
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Why three Arab regimes are publicly aligning themselves against Hezbollah and Iran
By Marc Lynch, The American Prospect, July 20, 2006

[The Saudi, Egyptian, and Jordanian regimes] evidently see this crisis as an opportunity to demonstrate their value to the United States and conclusively put an end to American calls for democratization. The domestic power of Islamists has long been the trump card of these regimes, which have used the prospects of their electoral victory to frighten off American democracy enthusiasts. This gambit gained extra currency in Washington after the strong showing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt's Parliamentary elections and the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections. In this context, protests in support of Hezbollah probably serve the interests of the pro-American despots right now. The last week will put the final nails in the coffin of democracy promotion, if these regimes have their way: Why would America push for democracy when these regimes are so publicly helpful, and the publics likely to win elections so hostile? [complete article]
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Across the Middle East, sermons critical of the U.S.
By Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, July 22, 2006

In mosques from Mecca to Marrakesh, sermons at Friday Prayer services underscored both the David-versus-Goliath glamour many Arabs associate with Hezbollah’s fight against Israel and their antipathy toward the United States and its allies in the region for doing so little to stop yet another Arab country from collapsing into bloodshed.

"Our brothers are being killed in Lebanon and no one is responding to their cries for help," said Sheik Hazzaa al-Maswari, an Islamist member of Yemen's Parliament, in his Friday sermon at the Mujahid Mosque in Sana, the country's capital.

"Where are the Arab leaders?" he said. "Do they have any skill other than begging for a fake peace outside the White House? We don't want leaders who bow to the White House." [complete article]
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Annan: Lebanon en route to 'humanitarian disaster'
By Elise Labott, CNN, July 22, 2006

If there is no cessation of violence in the Israel-Hezbollah conflict and innocent Lebanese people continue to be killed or displaced, "I'm afraid of a major humanitarian disaster," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said.

"I hope that we move forward in the next day or two, things will crystallize, and that the parties will be prepared to do this," Annan told CNN's Larry King in an interview broadcast Friday. "Otherwise, Larry, I'm afraid of a major humanitarian disaster." [complete article]

The charter is on its last legs
By Salim Lone, The Guardian, July 22, 2006

Kofi Annan finally made the headlines yesterday with his call for an immediate ceasefire in the Middle East crisis. It was too little, too late. That the United Nations secretary general waited nine days before seriously speaking out has dealt a severe blow to the organisation's humanitarian image. That he twinned his criticism of Israel's "excessive use of force" with repeated condemnations of Hizbullah again showed how deeply in thrall to the US the world is. [complete article]

Lebanon president: We will fight invaders
CNN, July 22, 2006

President Emile Lahoud has urged the Lebanese to remain united in the face of an Israeli offensive against Hezbollah and logistical targets in Lebanon that was in its tenth day Saturday.

In an interview with CNN's Nic Robertson, Lahoud again called for a cessation of the violence and said that if a cease-fire can't be brokered, the Lebanese army is prepared to defend the country -- and Lebanese solidarity ultimately will save the nation. [complete article]

Palestinian chief says Israel uses captives to cloak its aims
By Ashraf Khalil, Los Angeles Times, July 22, 2006

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, in his most extensive public comments in more than two weeks, said the Israeli military offensives in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon were an attempt to establish regional dominance under the pretext of rescuing kidnapped soldiers, and he called for unity among the armed Palestinian factions.

"The aggression was there before the kidnapping of the soldiers," he said in a speech before Friday prayers. "This aggression has been preplanned by the leaders of the occupation, ... unfortunately with the cooperation of the American administration." [complete article]

Israeli buildup at Lebanese line as fight rages
By Greg Myre and Jad Mouawad, New York Times, July 22, 2006

The Israeli military massed armored vehicles near its northern border on Friday, called up several thousand reserve soldiers and warned residents of south Lebanon to flee, suggesting expanded ground operations may lie ahead in its war with the Lebanese militia Hezbollah.

But senior Israeli military commanders said they had little appetite for a ground invasion like the one they waged in Lebanon in 1982 and would probably continue relying on the air campaign in the short term to avoid the entrapments and casualties they believe are lurking in Hezbollah territory. [complete article]

See also, Israeli air raids destroy Lebanon TV, cellular towers (Bloomberg).

History revisited in Lebanon fighting
By Edward Cody and Scott Wilson, Washington Post, July 22, 2006

In this achingly beautiful but often tortured country, history is repeating itself, logging another chapter tragically similar to ones before it.

As they did during Operation Litani in 1978, Israeli jets are raining bombs and missiles on what the government in Jerusalem describes as terrorist infrastructure planted among Lebanese civilians. As they did again in 1982, Israeli leaders talk of dismantling a terrorist organization to remove a threat to northern Israel.

Panicked Lebanese again are fleeing north. And the United States, true to its role in the earlier confrontations, is urging restraint but also backing Israel's demand that the Lebanese army rid the border region of terrorists by enforcing state authority.

Yet a look back over the past three decades suggests that the foe Israel is taking on today -- the Lebanese-based Hezbollah militia -- may be far harder to expel than the transplanted Palestinians it fought in southern Lebanon in the 1970s and '80s. [complete article]

See also, Under siege, Lebanon's deep factional rifts are exposed (McClatchy).
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Things come 'round in Mideast
By Tom Hayden, Truthdig, July 18, 2006

I can offer my real-life experience to the present discussion about the existence and power of an "Israel lobby." It is not as monolithic as some argue, but it is far more than just another interest group in a pluralist political world. In recognizing its diversity, distinctions must be drawn between voters and elites, between Reform and Orthodox tendencies, between the less observant and the more observant. During my ultimate 18 years in office, I received most of my Jewish support from the ranks of the liberal and less observant voters. But I also received support from conservative Jews who saw themselves as excluded by a Jewish (and Democratic) establishment.

However, all these rank-and-file constituencies were attuned to the question of Israel, even in local and state elections, and would never vote for a candidate perceived as anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian. I had to be certified "kosher," not once but over and over again.

The certifiers were the elites, beginning with rabbis and heads of the multiple mainstream Jewish organizations, especially each city's Jewish Federation. An important vetting role was held as well by the American-Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC), a group closely associated with official parties in Israel. When necessary, Israeli ambassadors, counsels general and other officials would intervene with statements declaring someone a "friend of Israel." [complete article]
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Radical Shiites in Baghdad rally for Hezbollah
By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times, July 22, 2006

Hundreds of radical Shiite Muslims, some wielding assault rifles and rocket launchers, marched Friday in support of the Hezbollah movement and its leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, in the capital's Sadr City district, home to loyalists of Shiite fundamentalist cleric Muqtada Sadr.

"Here we are, ready for your orders, oh Muqtada and Nasrallah," they chanted before Friday prayers, while holding up posters depicting both Shiite militia leaders as well as flags of Lebanon, where Israel is fighting Hezbollah militants. "Woe to you, Israel! We will strike you!" [complete article]

More troops to be deployed in Baghdad, general says
By Michael R. Gordon, New York Times, July 22, 2006

The top American commander for the Middle East said Friday that the escalating sectarian violence in Baghdad had become a greater worry than the insurgency and that plans were being drawn up to move additional forces to the Iraqi capital.

"The situation with sectarian violence in Baghdad is very serious," Gen. John P. Abizaid of the Army, the head of the United States Central Command, said in an interview on Friday. "The country can deal with the insurgency better than it can with the sectarian violence, and it needs to move decisively against the sectarian violence now."

The new Iraqi government announced last month that it was stepping up security efforts in Baghdad. The killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant who led Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, also prompted hopes that the tide of violence might subside.

But an intensifying cycle of sectarian attacks and revenge killings by Sunni and Shiite groups have engulfed the city. Many residents have been fleeing the capital. Two months after the new Iraq government took office, the security gains that "we had hoped for have not been achieved," General Abizaid acknowledged. [complete article]

Soldiers say ordered to kill young men
By Alicia A. Caldwell, AP (via Yahoo), July 21, 2006

Four U.S. soldiers accused of murdering suspected insurgents during a raid in Iraq said they were under orders to "kill all military age males," according to sworn statements obtained by The Associated Press.

The soldiers first took some of the men into custody because they were using two women and a toddler as human shields. They shot three of the men after the women and child were safe and say the men attacked them.

"The ROE (rule of engagement) was to kill all military age males on Objective Murray," Staff Sgt. Raymond L. Girouard told investigators, referring to the target by its code name. [complete article]
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Afghanistan close to anarchy, warns general
By Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, July 22, 2006

The most senior British military commander in Afghanistan yesterday described the situation in the country as "close to anarchy" with feuding foreign agencies and unethical private security companies compounding problems caused by local corruption.

The stark warning came from Lieutenant General David Richards, head of Nato's international security force in Afghanistan, who warned that western forces there were short of equipment and were "running out of time" if they were going to meet the expectations of the Afghan people.

The assumption within Nato countries had been that the environment in Afghanistan after the defeat of the Taliban in 2002 would be benign, Gen Richards said. "That is clearly not the case," he said yesterday. He referred to disputes between tribes crossing the border with Pakistan, and divisions between religious and secular factions cynically manipulated by "anarcho-warlords".

Corrupt local officials were fuelling the problem and Nato's provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan were sending out conflicting signals, Gen Richards told a conference at the Royal United Services Institute in London. "The situation is close to anarchy," he said, referring in particular to what he called "the lack of unity between different agencies". [complete article]
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Somali Islamist orders 'holy war'
BBC News, July 22, 2006

A Somali Islamist leader has ordered a "holy war" to drive out Ethiopian troops, after they entered the country to protect the weak interim government.

"I am calling on the Somali people to wage a holy war against Ethiopians in Somalia," said Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys of the Union of Islamic Courts. [complete article]
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'Diplomacy' is war
By Paul Woodward, The War in Context, July 22, 2006

"We are working tirelessly to help ease the plight of all innocent people who are suffering from violence: Lebanese, Israeli and Palestinian."

And while Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was uttering this shameless lie, the Bush administration was rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel.

It was once left to a humble lieutenant to make the absurd claim, "we had to destroy the village to save it." Now it is the job of the United States' diplomatic chief to tell the populace upon whom Israel is showering its wrath, America's bombs will help ease your plight.

How should the Lebanese and Palestinians express their gratitude as the U.S. dispenses its precision-guided bitter medicine?

After repeated demands and much handwringing, Condoleezza Rice is about to embark on her "Mideast mission", yet this mission really deserves no such name. Rice is not visiting the region; she is simply going to Israel (along with a side-trip to its Palestinian colony). In spite of the neocons' much repeated claim that Arabs -- quaking in their fear of the Islamist threat -- are quietly rooting for Israel, not a single Arab leader is currently foolhardy enough to risk being seen welcoming the secretary of state. The one exception is Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas but his willingness to meet Rice in the current circumstances will surely only reinforce his image, in the eyes of most Palestinians, as a U.S.-Israeli quisling. Indeed, for Rice to visit the West Bank and exercise a freedom that is not available even to the Palestinians' own prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, will simply underline America's disdain for the idea that Palestinians have the right to determine their own political order.

The Bush administration's greatest concern right now is not to stem the violence but to make sure the killing doesn't end too soon. Translate Rice's steady-as-she-goes "diplomacy" into plain English and the message is perfectly clear: The United States government wholeheartedly supports Israel's war aims and wishes God's speed in its efforts to destroy Hezbollah and Hamas.

"Total victory" might sound like a clean-cut way of resolving the conflict yet no one in Washington is naive enough to imagine that Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah is about to concede defeat. As Ari Shavit writes in Haaretz:
Despite the media euphoria and the patriotic spin, the aerial war led by Chief of Staff Dan Halutz is not heading for victory. In the best case, it is heading for a limited military achievement.

Following the humiliation of the ground forces by abductions in the north and south, the air force strikes are straightening the national spine and arousing combative instincts. But the hard truth is that the air force's hammer blows are hitting Lebanon harder than they are hitting Hezbollah. At least two-thirds of Nasrallah's war machine remains intact. The achievements in curbing the Katyusha fire are insufficient. There is no chance of dismantling the guerrilla army in a matter of days.
U.S. efforts to postpone peace are driven by an awareness that, as one official put it, "Israel's got the clock, but Hezbollah's got the time." Indeed, serious doubts are even being expressed by the likes of pro-Israeli military affairs commentator, Ralph Peters, who writes, "every day they hold out and drop more rockets on Israel, Hezbollah scores a propaganda win.... The myth of the IDF's invincibility just shattered."

The Bush administration says it fears a peace that won't endure yet through its actions it seems intent on making sure that war will never end.
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Lebanese defense minister: Army will fight ground invasion
Haaretz, July 21, 2006

Lebanon's army, which so far has sat on the sidelines of the violence raging in the country, will fight an Israeli ground invasion, Defense Minister Elias Murr said on Al-Jazeera television Thursday.

"The Lebanese army - and I stress - the Lebanese army will resist and defend and will prove that it is an army that deserves respect," he said.

In most of the previous Israeli attacks, including in 1978 and the 1982 invasion in which Beirut was occupied, the Lebanese army largely stayed out of the fighting. [complete article]

Siniora deserves full credit for wise leadership in Lebanon's darkest hour
Editorial, Daily Star, July 21, 2006

Amid all of the casualties and rubble of war in Lebanon, one of the most fragile entities here has remarkably remained intact, offering a glimmer of hope for the country's future. Lebanon's government, which is normally the first casualty of wars played out on the country's soil, has not only survived - it has surpassed every expectation.

The Lebanese government has become a focal point of the traffic of global diplomats who are still putting their shoulders to the wheel in an attempt to resolve the crisis. It has also become a call center for the coordination of humanitarian relief efforts across the country.

At the helm of the government is Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who has shown an enormous amount of wisdom and reason in the midst of an irrational war. In the earliest days of the conflict, Siniora urged all politicians to set aside their differences and rally around a common national cause. Under Siniora's leadership, the government has wisely deferred focusing on the issue of Hizbullah's unilateral decision to launch a military operation in northern Israel, and has put all of the questions that have arisen over this action aside until the guns fall silent. All other concerns are now second to his one and only priority: Lebanon. [complete article]

Nearly 20 percent of Lebanese population displaced by fighting
Haaretz, July 21, 2006

The United Nations estimated this week that 500,000 people have been displaced in Lebanon due to the fighting with Israel - nearly 20 percent of the Lebanese population. Between 130,000 and 150,000 are estimated to have fled to Syria, and about 45,000 are believed to be in need of assistance. [complete article]

Comment -- In spite of the Western media's servile repetition of U.S.-Israeli propaganda, it is transparent to the people and government of Lebanon that the war against Hezbollah is in all but name, a war against Lebanon. And while one of the most frequently repeated justifications for the war is "the implementation of U.N. Resolution 1559", those who grasp this document as their legal fig-leaf are themselves in flagrant violation of its first clause. The resolution adopted by the Security Council on September 2, 2004, calls for "the strict respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity, and political independence of Lebanon under the sole and exclusive authority of the Government of Lebanon throughout Lebanon."
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Israel paves way for ground offensive
The Guardian, July 21, 2006

Hundreds of thousands of people were warned to flee southern Lebanon today as Israeli military officers indicated that final preparations were being made for a ground offensive.

Israeli planes dropped leaflets telling residents to clear the zone after officials met to decide how big a force to send in, according to senior military officials. [complete article]

See also, Israel calls up reservists for push into Lebanon (The Times) and Thousands of IDF troops operating in S. Lebanon (Haaretz).
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In Mideast strife, Bush sees a step to peace
By Michael Abramowitz, Washington Post, July 21, 2006

As the president's position is described by White House officials, Bush associates and outside Middle East experts, Bush believes that the status quo -- the presence in a sovereign country of a militant group with missiles capable of hitting a U.S. ally -- is unacceptable.

The U.S. position also reflects Bush's deepening belief that Israel is central to the broader campaign against terrorists and represents a shift away from a more traditional view that the United States plays an "honest broker's" role in the Middle East.

In the administration's view, the new conflict is not just a crisis to be managed. It is also an opportunity to seriously degrade a big threat in the region, just as Bush believes he is doing in Iraq. Israel's crippling of Hezbollah, officials also hope, would complete the work of building a functioning democracy in Lebanon and send a strong message to the Syrian and Iranian backers of Hezbollah.

"The president believes that unless you address the root causes of the violence that has afflicted the Middle East, you cannot forge a lasting peace," said White House counselor Dan Bartlett. "He mourns the loss of every life. Yet out of this tragic development, he believes a moment of clarity has arrived." [complete article]

Comment -- The most dangerous form of clarity exists inside the minds of those whose convictions fix a crystalline awareness that is impervious to reason. Bush's "clarity" tells him that now is the time to uproot the "terrorist infrastructure," yet what he and Ehud Olmert are actually doing is tilling the land and planting seeds for a whole new generation of terrorists. By the time the world reaps the results, hopefully we will be wise enough not to need ask, why so much hatred?
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Nasrallah's game
By Adam Shatz, The Nation, July 21, 2006

By conducting a raid that was likely to provoke a brutal Israeli reprisal, Nasrallah may have gambled that the fury of the Lebanese would soon turn from Hezbollah to the Jewish state, thereby providing a justification for "the national resistance" as Lebanon's only deterrent against Israel. So far, Israel (with the full support of the Bush Administration) has played right into his hands, inflicting more than 300 casualties, nearly all of them civilians, and pounding the civilian infrastructure, eliciting sympathy for Hezbollah even among some Lebanese Christians. By striking at Israel's Army during its most destructive campaign in Palestine since 2002's "Operation Defensive Shield," Nasrallah must have known that he would earn praise throughout the Muslim world for coming to the aid of Palestinians abandoned by the region's authoritarian governments, a number of which have pointedly chastised Nasrallah's "adventurism." And by bloodying Israel's nose, Hezbollah could once again bolster its aura in the wider Arab world as a redoubtable "resistance" force, a model it seeks to promote regionally, especially in Palestine, where Nasrallah is a folk hero, and in Iraq, where Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the radical Shiite Mahdi Army, has proclaimed himself a follower of Hezbollah and has threatened to renew attacks against US forces in solidarity with the Lebanese. [complete article]

Hezbollah stands fast
Aljazeera, July 21, 2006

Hezbollah's leader has told Aljazeera that its leadership remains functioning, despite Israeli claims.

In an interview with the TV channel, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said that the two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah would not be released even "if the whole universe comes against us".

He said that the soldiers would be freed only as part of a prisoner exchange agreed through indirect negotiations. [complete article]

Analysts say Israel has not seriously damaged Hizbullah
By Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, July 21, 2006

Military analysts in Israel have begun to question whether the nine-day intense bombardment of Hizbullah positions in Lebanon is achieving its stated aim of destroying the militia's capabilities. [complete article]
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Fleeing for their lives into the grim unknown
By Megan K. Stack, Los Angeles Times, July 21, 2006

Asked where she was going, 65-year-old Zakiya Aour burst into tears. "Wherever we can," she said. Her 80-year-old husband had just undergone surgery and was still bleeding, she said. He sat on a bench and leaned dazedly against a walking stick, his eyes glassy.

The couple had arrived at a hotel lobby in Tyre with a small mountain of much-used luggage, a pet bird in a bright red cage and a grown daughter who was deafened in an Israeli missile attack in the invasion of 1982.

"I've heard people say that if the foreigners leave, get out because they're going to attack," Aour said. "Can't you do something for us?"

The displaced, who are washing up here with their elderly and babies in tow, spoke of villages besieged for days while missiles crashed down. Many seemed too dazed and exhausted to form articulate escape plans or think through the dangers they faced.

Civil structure appears to have broken down almost completely. Ambulances haven't been able to operate. The dead are rotting in the rubble of smashed homes. Food and clean drinking water are running out. Nearly 100 bodies have piled up in a poorly refrigerated container at a hospital in a Palestinian refugee camp close to Tyre; there's too much violence to pick up the dead or to hold funerals. [complete article]

In scramble to evade Israeli bombs, the living leave the dead behind
By Hassan M. Fattah, New York Times, July 21, 2006

Carpenters are running out of wood for coffins. Bodies are stacked three or four high in a truck at the local hospital morgue. The stench is spreading in the rubble.

The morbid reality of Israel's bombing campaign of the south is reaching almost every corner of this city. Just a few miles from the Rest House hotel, where the United Nations was evacuating civilians on Thursday, wild dogs gnawed at the charred remains of a family bombed as they were trying to escape the village of Hosh, officials said.

Officials at the Tyre Government Hospital inside a local Palestinian refugee camp said they counted the bodies of 50 children among the 115 in the refrigerated truck in the morgue, though their count could not be independently confirmed.

Abdelmuhsin al-Husseini, Tyre's mayor, announced on Thursday that any bodies not claimed in the next two days by next of kin would be buried temporarily in a mass grave near the morgue until they could receive a proper burial once the fighting ends. [complete article]

Angry words from those left waiting
By J. Michael Kennedy, Los Angeles Times, July 21, 2006

Sherrie Saadi, her face reddened by frustration and a day in the sultry Lebanese heat, didn't know where she would go for the night Thursday after American Embassy personnel turned her away and said she would have to return in the morning.

Along with her two daughters, the San Antonio nurse had been told only minutes before that the evacuation ship was full. All she had to show for more than nine hours of waiting was a sheet of greem paper that purportedly guaranteed her and her daughters a place at the head of the line when she returned. She couldn't imagine another day like the one she'd just been through.

"There were people who were fainting and passing out all over the place," she said bitterly. "We're the biggest country in the world and we can't do anything right." [complete article]
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Bunkered down for a war of attrition
By Sami Moubayed, Asia Times, July 21, 2006

Israel entered the war in Lebanon to liquidate Hezbollah. If it can free its two captive soldiers (seized on July 12), this would be a plus for the Israelis. But the real objective of the war is to destroy Hassan Nasrallah and his Hezbollah.

Israel succeeded in expelling Yasser Arafat from Lebanon in 1982 and it believes that with military might, it can do the same today to Nasrallah. The war has dragged on into its 10th day and looks as if it's going to be a long and deadly war of attrition - at the expense of innocent Lebanese and Israeli civilians dying on both sides.

Both Nasrallah and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have cornered themselves into difficult positions, making an exit strategy at this stage extremely problematical. Surrendering now without concrete gains for Lebanese and Israeli public opinion would be political suicide for Nasrallah and Olmert. [complete article]

Blackmail by bombs
By Azmi Bishara, Al-Ahram Weekly, July 20, 2006

The people who unleashed the brutal war against Lebanon are neither intelligent nor courageous. Quite the opposite; they are mediocrities, cowards and opportunists, but they happen to have military superiority. And they possess the keys to the machinery of a state, a real state, one that is secure in its identity, that has clear national security goals and channels of national mobilisation, as opposed to a long deferred project for statehood and a states built on the fragmentation of national identity. On the other side is a resistance movement operating in the context of a denominationally organised society, a Lebanese government neutralised to everything but sectarianism, and an Arab order parts of which are rooting for Israel to do what it is incapable, or too embarrassed, to do itself, which is to deal with the resistance as a militia because it foregrounds their own lack of national and popular legitimacy. [complete article]

The wrath to come
By Graham Usher, Al-Ahram Weekly, July 20, 2006

Israel's argument that it is no longer prepared to negotiate the fate of "kidnapped" soldiers is the easiest to rebut. Asked on Israeli TV how the two Israeli soldiers would be released without negotiation, Israel's Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni answered, "we will bomb the Beirut airport." Asked how this would help, she answered, "we will bomb the roads leading to airport." Freeing prisoners is obviously not an Israeli priority just now, whether in Lebanon or Gaza.

Israel's priority rather is "eliminating Hizbullah's military power from the Lebanese and regional equation," says one Lebanese commentator. It is using two means. The first is the deliberate destruction Lebanon's national infrastructure -- roads, ports, power stations, etc. -- to compel the Lebanese government to deploy its army on the Israeli border and disarm Hizbullah -- in other words "the implementation of UN Resolution 1559 by force."

In the likely event of this not happening, the second means is to disarm Hizbullah by attrition -- targeting its arms stocks, rocket launchers and headquarters and regardless of the civilian cost. The alarming aspect of this second goal is that many Israelis believe it can be done, with one commentator predicting an end to the military campaign "within a week."

It is all eerily similar to the hubris that accompanied the first weeks of Israel's 1982 invasion. Then too there were predictions that the PLO would be vanquished "within a week." The PLO fought for over 100 days. Hizbullah is an indigenous movement, with a solid Shia constituency which views it as their only protector. The idea that Hizbullah can somehow be "removed from Lebanon" is an Israeli fantasy. "We will never leave, even if Lebanon is reduced to scorched earth," says Hizbullah cadre, Abdullah Kassir. He means it. [complete article]

How could both sides have blundered so badly?
By Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, July 21, 2006

In each of its earlier wars, Israel fought and won against the conventional armies of Arab states. It always enjoyed superiority. But today's asymmetrical warfare is proving far harder for Israel to handle, and is exacting a deadlier toll. First came the Palestinian resort to suicide bombing, which tanks are powerless to defeat. Now come long-range rockets that have killed more Israelis in one week than Saddam Hussein's Scud missiles did in 1991.

It is true that Israel is no longer fighting for its existence as it did in 1967 and 1973, when Arab forces penetrated the country. Today's issue is the degree of pain the enemies of Israel's hardline policies can inflict. The state is secure but this crisis has heightened every Israeli's sense of individual insecurity.

That changes the political basis of all strategic calculations. What if long-range rockets of the kind that Hizbullah has were to replace the Palestinians' home-made ones? Will Israel not have to think seriously about a negotiated settlement of the Palestinian issue at last? [complete article]

A turning point
By Amira Howeidy, Al-Ahram Weekly, July 20, 2006

A few hours after Hizbullah's Katyusha rockets fell on Haifa, Israel's third largest city, three young Cairenes standing in front of a grocery shop in the Mediterranean resort of Marina were keen to make their views known.

"He said he was going to bomb Haifa, so he did," one of them said eagerly, in a voice loud enough for passers-by to hear. "Nasrallah is a man of his word, God protect him," said his companion.

Across the same street, in a seafood shop, the TV was switched to Al-Jazeera station, and the shop's staff were glued to the screen.

"What the hell does Israel think it's doing destroying Lebanon like this?" the shop's accountant told Al-Ahram Weekly. "Nasrallah did the right thing and we should all fight Israel, that's what we need to do, nothing else, fight to get our rights back."

As Egyptians follow the developments in the war on Lebanon with shock, it is the figure of Hizbullah's secretary-general, 46-year-old Al-Sayid Hassan Nasrallah, that seems to stand out, analysed, scrutinised and admired. Suddenly Egyptians have found a hero. [complete article]

Hezbollah, Hamas and Israel: Everything you need to know
By Alexander Cockburn, Counterpunch, July 21, 2006

As the TV networks give unlimited airtime to Israel's apologists, the message rolls out that no nation, least of all Israel, can permit bombardment or armed incursion across its borders without retaliation.

The guiding rule in this tsunami of drivel is that the viewers should be denied the slightest access to any historical context, or indeed to anything that happened prior to June 28, which was when the capture of an Israeli soldier and the killing of two others by Hamas hit the headlines, followed soon thereafter by an attack by a unit of Hezbollah's fighters.

Memory is supposed to stop in its tracks at June 28, 2006. [complete article]
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Grabbing the third rail
Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer interviewed by Paige Austin, Mother Jones, July 18, 2006

Mother Jones: You have been criticized from the left -- by Noam Chomsky and Stephen Zunes, for example -- for assigning so much blame to the Israel lobby in the paper that you end up absolving the United States government of any culpability. What about factors other than the lobby that were at work in shaping America's Israel policy, such as reliance on Middle Eastern oil?

John Mearsheimer: Many people, especially on the left, believe that American policy in the Middle East is driven in large part by oil interests -- and here we're talking about the oil companies and the oil-producing states in the region. This is an intuitively attractive argument, but there is little actual evidence that the oil companies and the oil-producing states are driving the United States' Middle East policy, and there's a lot of evidence that the Israel lobby is the main force behind the policy.

Just to take a couple of examples: if the oil companies and the oil-producing states were driving policy, the United States would favor the Palestinians over the Israelis. In fact, the opposite is the case. If oil interests were driving policy, the United States would not have gone to war against Iraq and the United States would have a much less confrontational policy toward Iran. But in fact the lobby was one of the main driving forces behind the war in Iraq and it is the lobby that has been pushing assiduously for a hard-line policy against Iran.

MJ: Couldn't America's historical affinity for Israel, or its sympathy with the country as a fellow democracy, also explain its support?

JM: The main reason there is a powerful affinity between Israel and the United States in our body politic is because we are not allowed to have an open and free-wheeling discussion about either Israeli policy or the relationship between the United States and Israel. For example, if we were to have an open and candid discussion about what the Israelis are doing in the Occupied Territories, there would be much less sympathy for Israel in the American public. And of course this is the principle reason why Israel's supporters go to great lengths to silence critics of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians. In essence, America's present relationship with Israel could not withstand public scrutiny. [complete article]
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Battered Lebanon counts the cost of Israeli onslaught
By Brian Whitaker, The Guardian, July 21, 2006

The catastrophic scale of destruction inflicted on Lebanon's infrastructure and economy by the Israeli bombardment was becoming apparent yesterday as government officials released details to the Guardian of the damage so far.

With countless homes wrecked, 55 bridges destroyed and numerous roads made impassable, factories, hospitals and airports hit and fuel storage facilities destroyed, estimates of the reconstruction cost already run into billions of dollars. [complete article]

Why the current attacks are worse than the seige of 1992
By Michael Young, Slate, July 20, 2006

I lived through Israel's appalling siege of West Beirut in the summer of 1982, and this latest round is more bearable but also much more alarming. Bearable, because in most parts of the country the lights are still on, there is water, and one can still find fresh food, gasoline, and can even sleep. During the West Beirut siege, the inhabitants had virtually none of this, even as the Israelis bombed the city at will.

But this time, the attacks are also more alarming, because they are not limited, as they were then, to a sector of the capital. All of Lebanon is a target; all access roads, airports, and ports have been blocked or are in constant danger of being attacked, and a much larger swath of civilians are in danger. According to eyewitnesses in southern Lebanon, including journalist friends of mine, the destruction of villages is the worst they've ever seen—both intense and systematic -- and it's not Hezbollah that is usually on the receiving end of the ordnance, it is civilians. Much the same is taking place away from the cameras in the northern Beqaa Valley, another majority-Shiite area. As for the Hezbollah stronghold in the Haret Hreik quarter of Beirut's southern suburbs, it has been reduced to dust. While this may have made it a legitimate objective, the suburbs have probably the highest concentration of inhabitants in Beirut, and virtually everybody has fled. [complete article]

Mission impossible
By Ian Black, The Guardian, July 20, 2006

"If you think you understand Lebanon, you haven't been properly briefed." This wise but slightly despairing advice used to hang in the office of the spokesman for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon - known by its acronym Unifil - when it still played at least a symbolic role in policing the volatile border between Israel and its northern neighbour.

Timur Goksel, the affable Turk who occupied that post for 20 of Unifil's 28-year existence, has long left his office in Naqoura on the Mediterranean, and is now an academic at the American University of Beirut, where he is well placed to help journalists seeking to understand the latest deadly interaction between the two countries.

"They are barely able to take care of themselves," he said of the UN peacekeepers. "How can you expect them to do their work?" [complete article]
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Despite ties to Hamas, militants aren't following political leaders
By Craig S. Smith, New York Times, July 21, 2006

Five men in black hoods emerged from a dimly lighted street of stark concrete houses and garbage-strewn lots. With Israeli drones buzzing overhead, they kept the meeting short.

"We ask America to stop supporting the Israeli aggressors," said the leader, who carried a new Czech-made Kalashnikov rifle while another shouldered a new Gaza-made rocket-propelled grenade launcher. After 20 minutes, they grew visibly nervous and disappeared into the shadows.

The men are members of the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the well-armed, highly organized military wing of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic movement that now governs the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Members of the militia led last month's raid in which they killed two Israeli soldiers and captured another, setting off the current crisis.

Despite its links to the Palestinian government, Palestinian and Israeli analysts say, the Qassam Brigades does not take orders from the governing leaders of Hamas. This is why, according to many accounts, the Hamas-led government itself was surprised by the Qassam Brigades' attack against the Israeli military post in June. [complete article]

The Israel we know
By Khaled Amayreh, Al-Ahram Weekly, July 20, 2006

Palestinians under military occupation have been watching with helpless anguish the gruesome images of Israel's campaign of murder and horror in Lebanon. For a people who have just buried an additional 100, victim to Israeli state terrorism which also targets schools, bridges and power stations, the merciless killing of Lebanese civilians and wanton destruction of Lebanon's infrastructure, clarion testimony to Israeli criminal savagery, are scenes all too familiar.

Equally familiar for the Palestinians has been the brazen approval by the Bush administration of Israel's murderous aggression, as well as the impotent silence and betrayal by brotherly Arab states and segments of the international community as a whole.

"What is happening in Lebanon doesn't surprise us at all. We ourselves have been -- and continue to be -- slaughtered by Israel on a daily basis while the Arabs are watching passively as if this was happening on another planet. The West is merely pleading with Israel to exercise a modicum of discretion while killing us," said a Hebron physician while watching dead Lebanese children and women being retrieved from under the rubble of a Tyre building bombed by Israeli warplanes.

Palestinian identification with Hizbullah has assumed several manifestations. Portraits of Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, now available everywhere, are pasted prominently throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This is significant given that Palestinians are Sunni Muslims and that Nasrallah is a Shia leader who, unlike predominantly Sunni Arab states in the region, has made the Palestinian cause a central theme, if not the raison d'etre, of Hizbullah. [complete article]
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Iran cleric accuses U.N. of tyranny
Reuters, July 21, 2006

The U.N. Security Council risks committing "a historic act of tyranny" against Iran if it passes a resolution demanding Tehran stop making nuclear fuel, powerful cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said on Friday.

U.N. Security Council permanent members are wrangling over the text of a draft resolution that includes the threat of sanctions if Iran fails to halt making enriched uranium, which the West argues will be used in atomic warheads.

"On our nuclear issue, we are now witnessing a cruel act," Rafsanjani told Friday prayers worshippers in Tehran.

"They are going to commit another historic act of tyranny against Iran, despite Iran announcing several times that it is ready to negotiate," he added, referring to the U.N. Security Council resolution. [complete article]

U.N. resolution would pressure Iran
By Colum Lynch, Washington Post, July 21, 2006

Britain, France and Germany on Thursday introduced a draft U.N. Security Council resolution demanding that Iran stop enriching or reprocessing uranium by next month or face unspecified sanctions.

The U.S.-backed resolution calls on states to prevent trade in ballistic missiles and nuclear technology to Iran. It also would require Iran to submit to more intrusive U.N. inspections than are required by the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty. The International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, would be instructed to report on Iran's compliance with the resolution sometime next month.

The move comes a week after the council's five veto-wielding members -- the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain -- and Germany admonished Iran for failing to suspend its uranium-enrichment program or respond to incentives offered by global powers. They unanimously agreed in Paris on July 12 to weigh Security Council sanctions against Iran if it failed to comply with their demands. [complete article]
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Sects' strife takes a toll on Baghdad's daily bread
By Sabrina Tavernise, New York Times, July 21, 2006

The front line in this city's sectarian war runs through Edrice al-Aaraji's old backyard. He is a Shiite and a baker. So are his two brothers.

For the past year, Sunni Arab militants have swept through their old neighborhood, a heavily Sunni district in northwest Baghdad that borders a Shiite area, forcing Shiites out of their homes and shutting their shops by killing customers and workers inside. One after another, bakeries, whose workers are overwhelmingly poor and Shiite like Mr. Aaraji, began to close.

Now, out of 11 bakeries in the area, northern Ghazaliya, just one, the Sunni-owned Al Obeidi on Center Street, remains open. The neighborhood, like a mouth with missing teeth, is almost entirely without the simplest of Iraqi needs, freshly baked bread. [complete article]

Bombings, shootings spike 40% in Baghdad
By Robert H. Reid, AP (via Boston Globe), July 21, 2006

Bombings and shootings soared by 40 percent in the Baghdad area in the past week, the US military said yesterday.

An American general said extremists were preparing "an all-out assault" on the capital in a decisive battle for the future of Iraq.

Iraq's most influential Shi'ite cleric issued his strongest call yet for an end to Shi'ite-Sunni bloodletting, urging all Iraqis to wake up to the "danger threatening the future of the country" and stand "side by side against it." [complete article]

Crackdown yields little security in Baghdad
By Julian E. Barnes, Los Angeles Times, July 21, 2006

More than a month after the beginning of a highly publicized security crackdown and the killing of militant leader Abu Musab Zarqawi, the number of daily attacks in Baghdad has actually increased.

Iraqi and U.S. forces began stepping up patrols, creating new checkpoints and conducting more searches June 14. But the initiative, Operation Together Forward, has not reduced the number of attacks in the capital, according to statistics released by U.S. military forces Thursday.

In the 101 days before the crackdown, an average of 23.8 attacks occurred daily. In the first 35 days of the operation, the average was 25.2 attacks a day. [complete article]
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Cost of terror war hits $430 billion
By Emad Mekay, IPS (via, July 21, 2006

Washington's self-styled "Global War On Terrorism" has cost the country at least 430 billion dollars over the past five years in military and diplomatic efforts, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the watchdog arm of the U.S. Congress.

The GAO warns that future costs may be difficult to estimate because of irregularities in how the Pentagon does its accounting and because of unforeseen events in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

The report comes only weeks before the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, which kick-started the U.S. war on terror. [complete article]
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Israel warns 300,000 Lebanese to leave southern Lebanon
By Edward Cody, John Ward Anderson and Debbi Wilgoren, Washington Post, July 20, 2006

Israel on Thursday told Lebanese residents to leave the southern sector of the country below the Litani River within 24 hours. The warning came a day after punishing airstrikes killed more than 50 people across Lebanon in the deadliest day since hostilities erupted July 12.

A large firefight between Israeli forces and Hezbollah guerrillas broke out Thursday evening on the Lebanese side of the border, the Israeli army said, according to the Associated Press. The army said its forces suffered casualties in the firefight but did not elaborate, the AP reported.

The al-Jazeera Arabic television channel reported that four Israeli soldiers died in the battle. Israeli forces crossed the border as part of their operations to push back Hezbollah guerrillas, who have continued firing rockets into northern Israel despite more than a week of massive Israeli bombing.

Some 600 people, many of them relatives of United Nations workers or U.N. staffers deemed nonessential, were being evacuated to a cruise ship off the war-ravaged city of Tyre, which lies several miles south of the Litani River. Many who remain in the port city appeared to be stranded , lacking the money or means to flee. Banks were shuttered, gasoline scarce and bombed roadways nearly impassable.

An estimated 300,000 Lebanese live south of the Litani River. It was not immediately known how many were heeding the Israeli warning to leave the area. [complete article]

U.S. now supports a buffer
By Paul Richter and Laura King, Los Angeles Times, July 20, 2006

Although wary of multinational peacekeeping operations, the Bush administration is working with allies to find a way to insert a robust military force and a civilian international presence in Lebanon to strengthen the frail government and break the grip of Hezbollah, U.S. and foreign diplomats say. [complete article]

Comment -- And the administration, its supporters, the Israeli government, and the majority of Israelis, apparently don't give a damn if a crime against humanity (forcible transfer of population) is what it takes to secure this buffer zone!

Srifa was a bustling hillside village. Then yesterday the Israeli jets came
By Clancy Chassay, The Guardian, July 20, 2006

Aliyah, 30, lay on a life support machine in the Jabal Amal hospital in a coma. She was one of a handful of survivors who made it out of Srifa, a village in south-east Lebanon. The man treating her put her chances of survival at less than 20%. "She has severe injuries and has lost a lot of blood," he said.

Fatima Ali Ashma was more fortunate, but not much more. She lay on a hospital bed struggling to breathe.

The force of the blast which overturned the mini van she was fleeing in crushed her chest, damaging her lungs. She sustained severe injuries to her neck and arm.

Speaking slowly and with difficulty, she described what had happened to her. "In the morning we woke up to find that 10 people in the village had been killed. The authorities told us that if we could leave we should get out. So we got in the car and left. As we were leaving, they bombed the road in front of us." There were 10 people in the van with Fatima: all were wounded. "No ambulance could get through. Everyone who could has left Srifa, but the dead bodies are still in the houses." [complete article]

No haven in a city paralyzed by dread
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, July 20, 2006

Tyre, a city of 60,000 before the war, 12 miles north of the Israeli border, is paralyzed by fear and dread. Hundreds of people have fled to the Tyre Rest House, a beachfront hotel, hoping for an evacuation. The city itself is deserted: No shop is open; few cars ply the streets, which are strewn here and there with rubble. In a traffic circle, a horse lazily grazed on grass, as a lonesome car alarm pierced the afternoon sky, drowned out every so often by the trail of Israeli jets and the thud of bombing.

Rumors swirl: that Israeli agents are on the ground marking targets, that in 24 hours there will be no way out left.

"It's not the end. This is only the beginning," said Katya Taleb, who got married last month. "It's the beginning of the end." [complete article]

Families of captives fear 3 men will be forgotten
By Jonathan Finer, Washington Post, July 20, 2006

Beni Regev said he believed the Israeli government and army were doing "everything they possibly can, as they should," to free his brother. But asked whether they should consider a swap for detainees held by Israel, as some Israelis have suggested, he did not hesitate. "Everything should be on the table," he said. "Let's talk." [complete article]

United against the U.S., Israel
By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times, July 20, 2006

One of the hottest-selling items in Mustafa Hahel's shop here off Baghdad Street is a poster showing the leaders of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah side by side, smiling pleasantly and surrounded by roses and daffodils. Portraits of the founder of Hamas are on sale just down the road.

"This is one country, Syria and Lebanon, and as for Iran, how can the average person be anything but grateful to Iran for supporting the resistance?" said Hahel, whose business lies outside one of the most famous shrines in Shiite Islam, the mosque of Sayeda Zainab.

If there is a crossroads for the Middle East's axis of fundamentalist Shiites, hard-line Sunnis and Arab nationalists, it must be in this dusty, gridlocked suburb of Damascus. Angrily dispossessed people have landed in succession from the Palestinian territories, Iraq, Iran and southern Lebanon, whose residents have been arriving dazed and tearful by the car- and busload for days.

There is broad opposition to the U.S. and Israel across the Middle East. But the resistance heroes, radical clerics and rogue heads of state dear to the residents of Sayeda Zainab include the late Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin, Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian leader Bashar Assad. They are the figureheads of an increasingly powerful alliance aimed at countering U.S. and Israeli policy. [complete article]

U.S. at odds with allies on Mideast conflict
By Robin Wright and Colum Lynch, Washington Post, July 20, 2006

The United States faces growing tensions with allies over its support of Israel's military campaign to cripple Hezbollah, amid calls for a cease-fire to help with the mounting humanitarian crisis.

European allies are particularly alarmed about the disproportionately high civilian death toll in Lebanon. They are also concerned that the U.S. position will increase tensions between the Islamic world and the West by fueling militants, playing into the rhetoric of Osama bin Laden and adding to the problems of the U.S.-led coalition force in Iraq.

"What there needs to be now is a cessation of hostilities," U.N. Deputy Secretary General Mark Malloch Brown told reporters yesterday. "The Middle East is littered with the results of people believing there are military solutions to political problems in the region." He said civilians are "very unfairly bearing the greatest brunt of the conflict." [complete article]
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House overwhelmingly backs Israel in vote
By Anne Plummer Flaherty, AP (via Yahoo), July 20, 2006

The House, displaying a foreign affairs solidarity lacking on issues like Iraq, voted overwhelmingly Thursday to support Israel in its confrontation with Hezbollah guerrillas.

The resolution, which was passed on a 410-8 vote, also condemns enemies of the Jewish state. [complete article]

Note -- U.S. Representatives who had the guts not to vote in lockstep with the Israel Lobby are: Neil Abercrombie (D), John Conyers (D), John Dingell (D), Carolyn Kilpatrick (D), Jim McDermott (D), Nick Rahall (D), Pete Stark, and Ron Paul (R).

How some sleep easy
Editorial, Jordan Times, July 20, 2006

The US Senate passed a resolution condemning Hizbollah, Syria and Iran, and expressing support for Israel's murder of civilians in Gaza and Lebanon. (Presumably the wording will be slightly different).

The resolution had been postponed because of some senators’ insistence on inserting a clause expressing "sympathy" with civilian casualties.

Well, that's alright then. The US has once again proved to be a country in which the highest principles of human values are protected and safeguarded, a paragon of justice and a model for the rest of the world to follow.

Unless, of course, you happen to be Arab, Muslim or unfortunate enough to be caught up in the Israeli army's unrestrained acts of naked brutality. Because, according to the US, Israel acts only in self-defence, whether it is killing children and families in Lebanon or in Gaza, or bombing airports, power plants, roads, bridges, levelling villages and similarly targeting other "threats to its national security."

There can only be one explanation. Racism. For while it might be expected that the US would denounce Hizbollah for conducting a cross-border raid that ended in the capture of two Israeli soldiers provoking an inevitable response, it cannot possibly be accepted that when that response is as indiscriminate, bloody and murderous as it is, no voices of criticism are heard from official circles in the US. [complete article]

Evangelical Christians plead for Israel
By Richard Allen Greene, BBC News, July 19, 2006

A week into one of the most severe crises the Middle East has seen in years, Israel is getting an influx of support from an unusual source.

More than 3,400 evangelical Christians have arrived in Washington to lobby lawmakers as part of the first annual summit of Christians United for Israel.

Delegates have come from all 50 states and have 280 meetings on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Pastor John Hagee said.

Pastor Hagee, the main organiser, said the event was the first of its kind.

"For the first time in the history of Christianity in America, Christians will go to the Hill to support Israel as Christians," he said. [complete article]
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The army protects the home front - not the other way around
By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz, July 19, 2006

When the artillery rumbles, Maj. Gen. (res.) Uri Sagi of Kfar Bialik, which is within Katyusha range from the Lebanese border, swims against the majority of analysts in generals' uniforms. Sagi, who headed the IDF Intelligence Corps for four years (1991-1995) and was also the OC of the Southern Command and the OC of the Ground Forces Command, is not overly enthusiastic about the political leadership's "determination," is not urging the military "to get rid of Nasrallah" and is also not excited by the Israeli public's "power of endurance." He points out the limits of force, time and tolerance. At a time when Yossi Beilin, Meretz leader, is suggesting abducting Syrians, Sagi, the retired senior officer, actually prefers talking to the Syrians.

"Whoever says that we have all the time in the world at our disposal, is not telling the truth to himself and to Israel's citizens. How long will be able to continue in this situation?" Sagi asks, concluding that sooner or later we will have to start talking, and sooner is best. "The air force's actions are important, but not enough to eliminate all of Hezbollah's infrastructure. To do that, would require a land operation, to which I strongly object.

"Hezbollah is patient. They are racking up achievements, such as a strike on a large city such as Haifa and the continuing paralysis of a fifth of Israel's population. The more time goes by, the greater the danger of more Kafr Kana-style debacles, and in a few more days, the world will forget that it all began with a Hezbollah assault and the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers. What will remain in the collective consciousness is that Israel is attacking citizens of a neighboring country and perhaps brought about the downfall of the weak government there and caused chaos in Lebanon." [complete article]

IDF: We need two weeks to end Lebanon operation
By Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz, July 20, 2006

The Israel Defense Forces estimate that 10-14 more days are necessary in order to meet the military aims of the operation in Lebanon.

According to General Staff estimates, it is possible to greatly intensify the scope of the attacks against the Hezbollah rockets, with special emphasis on their longer-range weapons, as well as strikes against senior members of the group's operational arm.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz said on Tuesday, during a meeting with senior IDF officers, that attacks against Hezbollah would continue "without letup and time limit." [complete article]

Hezbollah is still showing no signs of breaking
By Amos Harel, Haaretz, July 20, 2006

It was a bad news day. In the morning, Israeli forces in Lebanon clashed with Hezbollah near Avivim. Two soldiers were killed. In the afternoon, Hezbollah began to shell the entire northern region heavily. Scores of Katyusha rockets were fired and two children from Nazareth were killed. For eight days, the Israel Defense Forces has been pounding Lebanon and dropping thousands of tons of bombs on it, yet Hezbollah remains the same intransigent rival as before. It is showing no signs of breaking. [complete article]

To disarm shadowy guerrilla army, Israeli air power may not be enough
By Thom Shanker, New York Times, July 20, 2006

With its bombardment of Lebanon, Israel aims to accomplish the military goals of eliminating Hezbollah's ability to fire missiles over the border, cutting its lines of resupply from Syria or Iran and demonstrating -- under pain of chaos -- the cost to the Lebanese government of allowing the militant group to operate freely from its territory.

But recent combat history provides a chastening lesson that air power, regardless of its accuracy and punch, cannot defeat even a conventional adversary unless it is backed by ground forces. Thus, American military analysts monitoring the conflict caution that Israel may be unable to reach its goal of disarming a shadowy guerrilla army by missiles, bombs and long-range artillery alone. [complete article]

Hizbollah 'capable of sustained missile campaign'
By Stephen Fidler, Demetri Sevastopulo and Mark Turner, Financial Times, July 19, 2006

Hizbollah has built up an inventory of weapons that could allow it to sustain the tempo of its missile assault on Israel for at leastseveral months, say western analysts and intelligence officials. [complete article]

Military analysts question Israeli bombing
By Jim Krane, AP (via Yahoo), July 20, 2006

Analysts say Israel's targeting of civilian and government infrastructure overshadows its strikes on the offices and rocket launchers of Hezbollah guerrillas, whose capture of two Israeli soldiers triggered the attacks.

"This is a classic strategic bombing campaign," said Stephen Biddle, a former head of military studies at the U.S. Army War College now at the Council on Foreign Relations. "What the Israelis are trying to do is pressure others into solving their problem for them, hence the targeting of civilian infrastructure."

But the growing list of civilian casualties -- despite Israel's use of U.S.-designed precision-guided bombs -- could turn Arabs and others against the Jewish state and its key ally, the U.S., and still not fatally wound Hezbollah, said military analysts. [complete article]

Hezbollah's skill more military than militia
By Peter Spiegel and Sebastian Rotella, Los Angeles Times, July 20, 2006

Hezbollah's ability to use relatively advanced weapons in the last week of fighting against Israel, as well as the variety of its armaments, has surprised U.S. military experts, current and former officials involved in Middle East policy said.

Hezbollah has gained attributes more often associated with a national military — fixed training bases, rocket-launching facilities, well-trained artillerymen — than with a guerrilla or terrorist group, they said. [complete article]

Hizbullah talks tough as others search for cease-fire
Daily Star, July 20, 2006

A Hizbullah official said on Wednesday that the party is "setting long-term strategies for a long-term battle." "Despite all the Israeli aggressions, the resistance is still in an excellent condition," Mahmoud Qmati, vice president of Hizbullah's politburo, said after a meeting between his group and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. "Destruction will not lead to the weakening of the resistance; we still have a lot to do and there will be some surprises." [complete article]

Comment -- Unlikely as it might be, if Hezbollah really wanted to create a "surprise", they could unilaterally declare a ceasefire, deprive the media of the opportunity of portraying this as a two-sided conflict and let Israel condemn itself in the eyes of the world if it chooses to continue its bombardment of Lebanon.
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U.N. warning on Mid-East war crimes
BBC News, July 20, 2006

War crimes could have been committed in Lebanon, Israel and Gaza, a senior UN official has said.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said international law stressed the need to protect civilians.

There is an obligation on all parties to respect the "principle of proportionality", she said. [complete article]

Hundreds of migrant workers seek evacuation assistance
Reuters, July 19, 2006

With mass evacuations ongoing in Lebanon as a result of escalating Israeli attacks, a number of governments have requested assistance from the International Organization of Migration (IOM) in getting their migrant workers out of the country. Some don't have the means or even the documents needed to leave.

On behalf of the authorities of Sri Lanka, Philippines, Bangladesh, Moldova and Ghana, an IOM team arrived in Lebanon yesterday to assess the number of these foreign nationals who need help evacuating to a third country, namely Syria or Jordan. While many other nations have made their own provisions for the transportation of nationals out of Lebanon, these particular countries do not have the capability. [complete article]

See also, Bangladesh accuses Israel of 'state terrorism' over Lebanon (AFP).

Egypt opposition wants Arab-Israeli peace deals revoked
By Jailan Zayan, AFP (via Yahoo), July 19, 2006

Israel's crushing offensive in Lebanon prompted calls by Egyptian opposition groups for peace deals with the Jewish state to be revoked and oil and gas exports to be frozen.

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, the secular Kefaya movement and a group of opposition parties including jailed leader Ayman Nur's Ghad, rallied in calling for ties with Israel to be frozen.

In a joint statement, a group of ten Egyptian opposition parties demanded that Arab governments "cut all relations with (Israel), freeze all agreements with the enemy and expel ambassadors and diplomatic representatives from all Arab and Islamic countries." [complete article]
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Iran: We support Turkey's possible cross-border operation
By Harun Celik, Zaman, July 19, 2006

The Iranian Ambassador to Ankara, Firouz Dowlatabadi, has said Iran will support Turkey in case of a possible military operation against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq.

In an interview with Cihan News Agency concerning recent developments in the region, Dowlatadabadi said Turkey’s offensive against PKK terror is perfectly legitimate.

The Iranian ambassador estimates Turkey's entrance into northern Iraq to eradicate terrorist hideouts will not affect Iran.

"Turkey has the right to annihilate terrorists wherever they are found. Iran is ready to do its best to help Turkey," Dowlatabadi continued.

Ambassador Dowlatabadi said the American approach to the PKK is an example of a double-standard, noting, "Israel began to strike Palestine using captured Israeli soldiers as their excuse."

Turkey has a good case to fight against the separatist terror organization which martyrs Turkish soldiers every day.

"Countries that do not hesitate to kill dozens of people in revenge for the capture of two soldiers, do not have the right to prevent Turkey from suppressing terrorism in northern Iraq," Dowlatadabadi said in regard to America's "double standard." [complete article]

Turkish commandos on Iraqi border
By Mehmet Gokce, Seyhmus Edis, Zaman, July 20, 2006

Turkey, who warned Iraq and the United States just a day ago that it was "losing patience" over the presence of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) on Kandil Mountain, is now preparing for a cross-border operation.

Turkish troops close to the Iraqi border were put on alarm, and all military leave has been cancelled.

Commando squads were deployed to the Iraqi border and massive inland operations are now being prepared. [complete article]

Turkey moves forward on push into Iraq
By Lois Meixler, AP (via Yahoo), July 19, 2006

The Turkish military is moving forward with plans to send forces into northern Iraq to clear out Turkish Kurdish guerrilla bases, the prime minister said Wednesday.

But Recep Tayyip Erdogan also said officials were holding talks with the United States and Iraq in an attempt to defuse tensions. [complete article]

Erdogan: Turkey will decide on cross-border operation
Turkish Daily News, July 20, 2006

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an said on Tuesday, the decision to launch a cross-border military operation by the Turkish military into northern Iraq to destroy the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) bases there could only be taken and implemented by the relevant institutions in Turkey, not U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Ross Wilson or any other ambassador. [complete article]
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Iraq might force out Iranian militants
Los Angeles Times, July 20, 2006

Prime Minister Nouri Maliki on Wednesday accused a militant Iranian opposition group of meddling in his country's affairs and suggested that it could face expulsion from Iraq, where it has been based for 20 years.

The Iraqi leader said the Mujahedin Khalq, which is dedicated to toppling Iran's Islamist government, had become too involved in Iraq's political and social issues.

"It is interfering as if it is an Iraqi organization, despite the fact that it is considered to be one of the terrorist organizations and its presence in the country contradicts the constitution," Maliki said at a news conference. [complete article]
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Iraq: 38 tortured bodies found
CNN, July 20, 2006

Iraqi police found 38 tortured bodies and witnessed the slow release of five hostages amidst general violence throughout Baghdad Thursday.

Iraqi police recovered the 38 bodies showing signs of torture in the capital city during a 24-hour period ending Thursday morning. [complete article]

Thousands flee as Iraq violence deepens
By Ahmed Rasheed, Reuters, July 20, 2006

Tens of thousands of Iraqis have fled their homes in fear of sectarian violence that has worsened since formation of a U.S.-backed national unity government two months ago, official data showed on Thursday.

A day after the United States issued a stern warning to both Shi'ite and minority Sunni leaders to match talk with action on reining in "death squads" and "terrorists" from their respective communities, the Migration Ministry said more than 30,000 people had registered as refugees this month alone. [complete article]

Iraqi factions implored to end violence
By Andy Mosher, Washington Post, July 20, 2006

Iraqi and foreign officials implored the country's rival factions Wednesday to halt sectarian and political violence, while attacks across Iraq killed at least three dozen people.

Wednesday's bombings, shootings and kidnappings did not approach the carnage of the previous two days, when two attacks south of Baghdad each killed more than 40 people, or the death tolls that last month averaged more than 100 Iraqi civilians a day, according to a U.N. report. The deadliest incident Wednesday was an apparently coordinated small-arms and bomb attack that killed seven people and wounded seven in Baghdad. [complete article]
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The Taliban's silent partner
By Robert D. Kaplan, New York Times, July 20, 2006

When the American-led coalition invaded Afghanistan five years ago, pessimists warned that we would soon find ourselves in a similar situation to what Soviet forces faced in the 1980’s. They were wrong -- but only about the timing. The military operation was lean and lethal, and routed the Taliban government in a few weeks. But now, just two years after Hamid Karzai was elected as the country’s first democratic leader, the coalition finds itself, like its Soviet predecessors, in control of major cities and towns, very weak in the villages, and besieged by a shadowy insurgency that uses Pakistan as its rear base.

Our backing of an enlightened government in Kabul should put us in a far stronger position than the Soviets in the fight to win back the hinterland. But it may not, and for a good reason: the involvement of our other ally in the region, Pakistan, in aiding the Taliban war machine is deeper than is commonly thought.

The United States and NATO will not prevail unless they can persuade Pakistan’s president, Pervez Musharraf, to help us more than he has. Unfortunately, based on what senior Afghans have explained in detail to American officials, Pakistan is now supporting the Taliban in a manner similar to the way it supported the Afghan mujahedeen against the Soviets two decades ago. [complete article]
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Whose war is it?
By Paul Woodward, The War in Context, July 20, 2006

The average American might be woefully uninformed about international affairs, but the latest CNN poll indicates that most Americans, even when their view of the world comes through a distorted lens, still have reasonable judgement. 65% polled think that America should stay out of the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, 57% say they have more sympathy with Israel, and 4% sympathize with Hezbollah. That's a far more complex picture than Hillary Clinton's blunt assertion that all Americans stand united behind Israel. Hezbollah might in fact be heartened to learn that currently they apparently have a higher level of support in the United States than Ralph Nader had in the 2000 presidential election! Moreover, had the pollsters asked a more appropriate question -- who do you sympathize with more: the Israelis or the Lebanese? -- I have little doubt that as an expression of simple humanity, most Americans (at least those with access to balanced reporting) would express sympathy for the principal victims of the current violence: the people of Lebanon.

Having said that, the fact that almost two-thirds of Americans think that the U.S. should stay out of the conflict suggests a gross lack of awareness about America's influence in this war. Washington's loose hold on the reins is mistakenly being interpreted as the posture of a passive bystander. In fact, under relentless pressure from the Israel lobby, the administration has provided the Israeli government with unequivocal support. U.S. opposition to a ceasefire and its use of an Orwellian expression -- "premature peace" -- makes it clear that this war is America's just as much as Israel's. According to the Financial Times, U.S. support probably even extends to sharing intelligence on targets. As Israel's principal military backer, providing coordinates on where to aim the munitions, the U.S. can by no stretch of the imagination be regarded as staying out of the conflict! Indeed, this is an Israeli war where as much of the strategic thinking seems to be done on K Street as it is inside Israel. Olmert and his backers may have turned over all the tactical decisions to the generals, but this is a war being drafted in English just as much as Hebrew.

As they rise from the ashes, American neoconservatives are trying to couch the conflict in the broadest possible terms. In a classic divide-and-rule strategy, the Middle East conflict is no longer an Arab-Israeli conflict but a war against Islamism in which a nascent force of Arabs is coming together as "an anti-Hezbollah coalition." Behind the local threat posed by Hezbollah and Hamas, the overarching danger comes, needless to say, from Iran. Yet, truth be told, the neocons worst nightmare is the risk that their nemesis might cut a deal and sign a long-sought nuclear agreement.

While a conspiracy theory parading as conventional wisdom is that Iran prompted Hezbollah to snatch Israeli soldiers in order to distract attention from stalled negotiations with Tehran (a theory whose logic seems contorted, to say the least), a much more plausible explanation for the timing of this war is that Israel (and its neocon supporters) see a rapidly closing window of opportunity. If in the next few weeks Tehran is willing to make a compromise on its nuclear aspirations, with the Bush administration utterly bogged down in Iraq, it would be goodbye (at least for now) to those long-nurtured dreams of an end to the Islamic regime.

The slowness of the regime's nuclear deliberations probably signals nothing more than its difficulty in forging a consensus. Moreover, the fact that even after Israel had started pounding Lebanon, Iran would announce that Western incentives form an "acceptable basis" for talks, hardly squares with the image of a regime that is willing to spark a regional war in order to further its nuclear ambitions. As the Financial Times reports, "Tehran has long suspected Washington is trying to torpedo a negotiated nuclear settlement as a means to isolate or even overthrow Iran's Islamic Republic." There is every indication that Iran's suspicions are well-founded.
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Israel's outrageous attacks
By Saree Makdisi, Los Angeles Times, July 20, 2006

No Arab can forget that terrorizing an entire population from its homes is the tactic that was used to seize possession of Palestine in the spring and summer of 1948. Not everyone will leave. Many will reject Israel's imperious warnings - what right, they will ask, does Israel have to terrify us into flight from our homes? In any case, most of them have nowhere to flee to - and even if they did, Israel has destroyed the bridges and is bombing the roads out of the south.

In a week of vindictive bombardment, Israel has destroyed the infrastructure that Lebanon spent a decade building. Under the cover of misleading headlines, such as one that read "Israel Pounds Hezbollah Strongholds," Israel has in fact bombed towns and villages, provincial centers and Beirut.

Israel has killed Christians, Sunnis and Shiites, old and young, men and women, from the great Phoenician cities of Sidon and Tyre to more humble towns — Chtoura and Juniyah, Damour and Naame, Jiye and Baalbek, Khiam and Batrun.

It has wrecked roads, bridges, a lighthouse, ports, tunnels, electrical pylons, water mains, fuel depots, gas stations, power plants, houses, shops, schools - and even a milk factory. It has repeatedly blasted the international airport that was the symbol of Lebanon's rebirth from 15 years of war.

Where, when or if Lebanon will ever get the funding to rebuild what Israel has smashed remain open questions. When Israel finally relents, it will leave Lebanon without a functioning infrastructure - and the lives of nearly 4 million people altered beyond recognition.

That, of course, is explicitly the point of this outrage. Israel's army chief bragged that he would set Lebanon back "20 years." That is what is happening - as a silent world watches. [complete article]
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U.S. weapons, know-how fuel Israel's military
By Jim Wolf, Reuters (via Yahoo), July 20, 2006

Israel's latest military operations reflect a fighting machine bolstered by U.S. weaponry, jet fuel and technology transfers -- and more is on its way.

From 1971 through 2005, U.S. aid to Israel has averaged more than $2 billion a year, two-thirds of which has been military assistance, according to the U.S. Congressional Research Service.

U.S. military grants to Israel totaled $2.28 billion in fiscal 2006 ending September 30, according to a new tally in the Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs, a nonpartisan magazine.

The U.S.-supplied arsenal includes F-16 Falcon fighters built by Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co.-built F-15 Eagle fighters and AH-64 Apache attack helicopters.

Deliveries of Israel's latest order of 102 F-16Is -- a special variant built at a reported cost of $4.2 billion -- are to be completed by the end of 2008. [complete article]
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Bush's brutal folly in Beirut
By Tony Karon, Rootless Cosmopolitan, July 20, 2006

Once again, the Israeli government has led the Bush Administration up a blind alley in the Middle East, and left it lost and exposed. That much was clear from the fact that Condoleezza Rice's "ceasefire" mission to the region will get off to leisurely start early next week - a delay that would seem almost criminally tardy if the object were to save Lebanese (and Israeli) civilians from the escalating bloodshed. But that isn't the objective; the purpose of the delay is to "look busy" while running diplomatic interference for Israel to get a full two weeks of bombing the crap out of Lebanon. The U.S. insists it is concerned for the lives of Lebanese civilians. Well, more than 200 have been killed already, and the bodies are piling up every day. Curiously enough, not many Hizballah fighters are being killed, probably because they expected this onslaught and have taken cover. So what we can expect is another week of Lebanese civilians taking a pounding. [complete article]
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U.S. official: Israel needs time to 'defang' Hezbollah
By Elise Labott, CNN, July 20, 2006

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will not go on a peace mission to the Mideast before next week, giving Israel time to "defang" Hezbollah, a senior administration official said Wednesday.

Rice, who's set to travel to New York to meet with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Friday, has said the U.S. would support a cease-fire in the seven-day conflict between Israel and Hezbollah "when conditions are conducive to do so." [complete article]

Comment -- As each day passes, the Bush administration's role in this frenzy of destruction gets closer to that of Ariel Sharon as he stood by during the Sabra and Shatila massacre. This time around, the Israelis are doing their own dirty work, but American complicity is no less now than was Sharon's, twenty-four years ago.
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A protracted colonial war
By Tariq Ali, The Guardian, July 20, 2006

In his last interview - after the 1967 six-day war - the historian Isaac Deutscher, whose next-of-kin had died in the Nazi camps and whose surviving relations lived in Israel, said: "To justify or condone Israel's wars against the Arabs is to render Israel a very bad service indeed and harm its own long-term interest." Comparing Israel to Prussia, he issued a sombre warning: "The Germans have summed up their own experience in the bitter phrase 'Man kann sich totseigen!' 'You can triumph yourself to death'."

In Israel's actions today we can detect many of the elements of hubris: an imperial arrogance, a distortion of reality, an awareness of its military superiority, the self-righteousness with which it wrecks the social infrastructure of weaker states, and a belief in its racial superiority. The loss of many civilian lives in Gaza and Lebanon matters less than the capture or death of a single Israeli soldier. In this, Israeli actions are validated by the US. [complete article]
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In break with Bush, Iraqi leader assails Israel
By Edward Wong and Michael Slackman, New York Times, July 20, 2006

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq on Wednesday forcefully denounced the Israeli attacks on Lebanon, marking a sharp break with President Bush's position and highlighting the growing power of a Shiite Muslim identity across the Middle East.

"The Israeli attacks and airstrikes are completely destroying Lebanon's infrastructure," Mr. Maliki said at an afternoon news conference inside the fortified Green Zone, which houses the American embassy and the seat of the Iraqi government. "I condemn these aggressions and call on the Arab League foreign ministers' meeting in Cairo to take quick action to stop these aggressions. We call on the world to take quick stands to stop the Israeli aggression." [complete article]
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At Lebanon port, war's displaced wait for boat that doesn't come
By Hassan M. Fattah, New York Times, July 20, 2006

They came here by the hundreds on Wednesday morning -- men, women and children from all over south Lebanon, chasing a rumor that an evacuation ship would come, and braving roads made deadly by heavy bombardment for even a slim chance to board.

While thousands of people have been evacuated from Beirut, that city remained an unattainable destination for most in the south, cut off by repeated, continued Israeli air and artillery strikes. And so Tyre, a seaside town in the thick of the combat zone, has become the port of last hope for many.

United Nations staff members and some vacationing Europeans were told a few days ago that a ferry would come to Tyre for them and that they should meet at the Rest House resort for boarding. But word quickly spread, and suddenly refugees from towns throughout the area flooded the hotel, where they gathered for any chance to get on the boat, turning the resort into a makeshift refugee center.

"I have no idea where we're going to go or what we’re going to do. All I know is we have to do something quickly," said Yolanda Abu Khalil, a native of Puerto Rico, who had traveled from Fort Worth, Tex., to the south of Lebanon on vacation with her Lebanese-American husband. "We have been running for our lives for several days." [complete article]
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Britain fears assault on Hezbollah will backfire
By Bronwen Maddox, The Times, July 20, 2006

Britain fears that Israel's assault on Hezbollah is failing to cripple the guerrilla group and that continued bombardment will bring huge civilian casualties in Lebanon for little military gain.

The rising concern that any further Israeli military action could intensify the crisis, expressed by senior officials yesterday, strikes a much more urgent tone than the American position, which accepts a continued Israeli campaign to crush the Shia militant group.

Yesterday was the heaviest day for civilian casualties since Israel's bombardment began last week, with at least 63 killed and scores more wounded. A total of 315 Lebanese, mostly civilians, have been killed and hundreds injured since the start of the Israeli offensive. [complete article]
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Israeli censor wielding great power
By Benjamin Harvey, AP (via Yahoo), July 19, 2006

Here's some news you may never hear about Israel's war against Hezbollah: a missile falls into the sea, a strategic military installation is hit, a Cabinet minister plans to visit the front lines.

All these topics are subject to review by Israel's chief military censor, who has -- in her own words -- "extraordinary power." She can silence a broadcaster, block information and put journalists in jail.

"I can, for example, publish an order that no material can be published. I can close a newspaper or shut down a station. I can do almost anything," Col. Sima Vaknin said Wednesday.

Israel believes that as a small country in a near constant state of conflict, having a say over what information gets out to the world is vital to its security. Critics say the policy is a slippery slope not fit for a democracy. [complete article]
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United States to Israel: you have one more week to blast Hizbullah
By Ewen MacAskill, Simon Tisdall and Patrick Wintour, The Guardian, July 19, 2006

The US is giving Israel a window of a week to inflict maximum damage on Hizbullah before weighing in behind international calls for a ceasefire in Lebanon, according to British, European and Israeli sources.

The Bush administration, backed by Britain, has blocked efforts for an immediate halt to the fighting initiated at the UN security council, the G8 summit in St Petersburg and the European foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels.

"It's clear the Americans have given the Israelis the green light. They [the Israeli attacks] will be allowed to go on longer, perhaps for another week," a senior European official said yesterday. Diplomatic sources said there was a clear time limit, partly dictated by fears that a prolonged conflict could spin out of control. [complete article]

America's deadly messenger
By Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz, July 19, 2006

Across from UN headquarters in New York, Senator Hillary Clinton (Democrat, New York) stood at a small podium adorned with the symbol of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations to give a speech in praise of Israel. Behind her and at her sides - a group of men in gray: Israel's Ambassador to the UN, Danny Gillerman, the chairman of the Conference of Presidents, Malcolm Hoenlein, the Israeli Consul General in New York, Arye Mekel. Mummified in their neckties in the sweltering heat of the east coast, serious of mien, nodding. "We will stand with Israel, because Israel is standing for American values as well as Israeli ones," Clinton said. Here you have it - the whole foreign relations Torah on one slightly perspiring foot.

Much was said here on Monday about the American secretary of state's forthcoming trip to the Middle East, a trip that her spokesman promised in the daily briefing to journalists. However, it isn't the trip that is the story, but rather its absence, its postponement to an unknown date. And when it comes, the spokesman said, the secretary will deal with the causes of the crisis - the violent actions of the Hezbollah in the area of the border and beyond it. President George W. Bush, who with his typical Texan charm was caught cussing into an open microphone, also did not leave much of an opening for interpretation: Not only is America not opposed to the Israeli attack, but also it is encouraging it. And for a reason that connects well to the one that Clinton mentioned: It represents a clear American interest. [complete article]

Comment -- For anyone who doubts that this is a war of choice for Israel (and its quiet American partner), consider the simplicity of the script:
they started it;
Israel has the right to defend itself.
These two claims get repeated like a mantra as they are used to deflect every question about the legitimacy, wisdom, or morality of the Israeli onslaught.

300 killed, 1,000 wounded, half-million displaced - how is this a justifiable or proportionate response to Hezbollah's attack?

They started it;
Israel has the right to defend itself.

Lebanon's civilian infrastructure has been pummelled for eight days. Targets now include the country's largest dairy farm, a paper mill, a packaging firm, and a pharmaceutical plant. This has gone way beyond striking back at Hezbollah - it is an attack on the state and population of Lebanon.

They started it;
Israel has the right to defend itself.

And what is America's message to the people of Lebanon?

As soon as we've taken care of our people, you'll have to take care of yourselves while the Israelis finish their "work" - but we'll be praying for you.

Examining Israel's 'right to defend itself'
By Michael Byers, Toronto Star, July 16, 2006

Two years ago, over lunch, I debated self-defence with the lawyer who advises the Israeli Defence Force.

The lawyer in question is a colonel with a Harvard doctorate; the invitation came while I was a visiting professor at the University of Tel Aviv.

After just a few minutes, my host cut to the chase:

"There have been a number of missile attacks along our northern border," she said. "We're going to respond with air strikes against some Hezbollah installations in southern Lebanon next week. What do you think?" [complete article]

Latest targets of air blitz: milk and medicine
By Lysandra Ohrstrom, Daily Star, July 19, 2006

Israel switched gears in its military campaign against Lebanon Monday and Tuesday, launching a series of debilitating air strikes against privately owned factories throughout the country and dealing a devastating blow to an economy already paralyzed by a week of hits on residential areas and crucial infrastructure.

The production facilities of at least five companies in key industrial sectors - including the country's largest dairy farm, Liban Lait; a paper mill; a packaging firm and a pharmaceutical plant - have been disabled or completely destroyed. Industry insiders say the losses will cripple the economy for decades to come.

"I think the picture will be much worse than we can possible imagine when the whole thing ends, but the direct damage from yesterday's attacks to the industrial sector alone will take years to recover from," said Wajid al-Bisri, the vice-president of the Lebanese Association of Industrialists (LAI). [complete article]

Lebanon is facing a vast humanitarian crisis
By Megan K. Stack, Los Angeles Times, July 19, 2006

Nonstop battles between Israel and Hezbollah have wreaked a massive humanitarian crisis in Lebanon, driving as many as 500,000 people from their homes, according to United Nations estimates.

The frazzled refugees who have flooded Beirut are struggling to find food, water and medicine. They sleep chockablock in city parks, abandoned basements and sweltering schools in the capital. [complete article]

While thousands of Westerners flee Lebanon, many of the poor and stateless are stranded
By Christopher Allbritton, Time, July 19, 2006

Despite the relative quiet in Beirut on Tuesday, the jittery sense of desperation is getting worse. The Westerners are being evacuated, but that's not necessarily good news for the Lebanese staying put. Once the Westerners are gone, people on the streets wonder what will hold the Israelis back. The lull in the bombing, in fact, is widely seen as a deliberate break by the Israelis to allow the foreign nationals to get out.

And yet for all the press that the Western evacuation is getting, there's another group of refugees that isn't being noticed. Lebanon has a large population of Iraqis, Sudanese and Somalis, as well as guest workers from the Philippines and Sri Lanka, who are too poor to pay their way out. And their governments are either ineffective (Iraq, Sudan) inattentive (the Philippines, Sri Lanka) or non-existent (Somalia), and have not offered any resources for these people. [complete article]
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It's not just about Hezbollah
By Trita Parsi, Asia Times, July 20, 2006

As fighting between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah persists, an Israeli strategy of enlarging the conflict seems to be crystallizing.

Neo-conservative pundits in the US have pointed an accusatory finger at the usual suspect, Tehran, arguing that Hezbollah was pushed by Iran to open a new front against Israel to capitalize on Israel's involvement in Gaza and to draw attention away from the controversy around Tehran's nuclear program.

Recalling Hezbollah's close ties to Iran and Syria, both Washington and Tel Aviv argue that the clashes must have the support and blessing of these two states.

Such a conclusion rests on the assumption that Tehran and Hezbollah could have predicted Israel's reaction to the ambush and kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers.
[complete article]

Comment -- And this raises a question that challenges a fundamental presupposition in the script for this war: Did Hezbollah "start it"? Or did Hezbollah unwittingly provide Israel with a causus belli for a war Israel was just itching to fight?

Converging upon war
By Robert Blecher, MERIP, July 18, 2006

"WAR" proclaimed the three-inch headline in Ma'ariv, Israel's leading daily, the day after Hizballah launched its cross-border attack on an Israeli army convoy on July 12. With the onset of Israel's massive bombing campaign in Lebanon that evening, its aerial and ground incursions into Gaza were transformed into the southern front of a two-front conflict. But are the two fronts, in Lebanon and Gaza, part of a single war? Speaking in such terms risks misidentifying what really links Israeli actions on its northern and southern borders.

For many in Israel, the two fronts are conjoined in a war against a unified "axis of terror and hate created by Iran, Syria, Hizballah and Hamas," in the words of Tzipi Livni, the Israeli vice prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, "that wants to end any hope for peace." Ben Caspit, one of Ma'ariv's leading columnists, put it more colorfully: "Israel is dealing with radical, messianic Islam, which extends its arms like an octopus, creating an axis from Tehran to Gaza by way of Damascus and Beirut. With people like these there is nothing to talk about. The fire of a war against infidels burns in them." The only fitting response in this situation is a military one, claimed Ron Ben-Yishai in the newspaper Yediot Aharonot, in order to "create a new strategic balance between us and radical Islam." This belief has wide support among Israelis: only 800 protesters showed up at a demonstration in Tel Aviv on July 16 against the escalating fighting. Such a showing pales in comparison to the 20,000 people who turned out when a similar coalition organized a protest at the outset of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. [complete article]

Nasrallah's terms of surrender will be hard to change
By Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz, July 19, 2006

After all that has taken place so far in Lebanon, nothing has succeeded in altering the basic equation: Any diplomatic solution will have to pass through the Lebanese political grinder and gain Hezbollah's agreement. "Everything is up in the air" according to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, including direct and indirect talks with Hezbollah, and therefore nothing has changed since before the outbreak of fighting

The question is not only what will stop Israel's onslaught but also what will the conditions be that will allow Hassan Nasrallah to nod approvingly. Mediators heard about what may work in a meeting with Nabih Berri, a "contact person" to Hezbollah, the speaker of Lebanon's parliament and head of Amal, another Shi'ite group. According to Berri, even if the United Nations decides to deploy a "significant" force to south Lebanon, it will need Nasrallah's approval, otherwise such a force will be involved in incessant fighting and Israel will continue to suffer missile attacks. [complete article]
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Back to Beirut, ready to defy Israel
By Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star, July 19, 2006

I must be one of the few people in the world trying to get into Beirut, rather than flee the city that is being bombarded daily by Israel, with explicit American approval. Israelis should grasp the significance of this, if they ever wish to find peace and a normal life in this region.

My wife and I were on a trip in Europe when the fighting broke out last week and we could not return directly to our home in Beirut. So we have returned to our previous home in Amman in order to find a reasonably safe land route back into Lebanon. I want to return mainly because steadfastness in the face of the Israeli assault is the sincerest - perhaps the only - form of resistance available to those of us who do not know how to use a gun, and prefer not to do so in any case, for there is no military solution to this conflict.

Of the many dimensions of Israel's current fighting with Palestinians and Lebanese, the most significant in my view is the continuing, long-term evolution of Arab public attitudes to Israel. The three critical aspects of this are: a steady loss of fear by ordinary Arabs in the face of Israel's military superiority; a determined and continuous quest for more effective means of technical and military resistance against Israeli occupation and subjugation of Palestinians and other Arabs; and a strong political backlash against the prevailing governing elites in the Arab world who have quietly acquiesced in the face of Israeli-American dictates. [complete article]
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Hizbullah winning over Arab street
By Dan Murphy and Sameh NaGuib, Christian Science Monitor, July 19, 2006

With Israel's confrontation with Hizbullah and Lebanon lurching closer to all-out war, winds of anger are blowing through the Middle East that are likely to strengthen the political hand of radical Islamists from Egypt to Saudi Arabia.

Since the fighting began, at least 24 Israelis, 12 of them civilians, have been killed and at least 175 Lebanese, nearly all civilians. In recent weeks, about 200 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed in a separate showdown between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group who won power in elections earlier this year.

The confrontation - coupled with the rising civilian toll - also poses a serious threat to US interests in the region.

Islamists who are hostile to Israel and the US - and to their Arab allies who have criticized Hizbullah - are shoring up support, increasing the chances they will seize power if the elections President Bush has urged for the region take place.

Iran is making new friends, as is Syria. And if history is a guide, a new wave of outrage could bring new recruits to terrorist groups, much as Israel's occupation of parts of Lebanon in 1982 fueled the rise of Hizbullah. [complete article]
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U.N. force in Lebanon offers harsh realities and lessons
By Hassan M. Fattah and Warren Hoge, New York Times, July 19, 2006

Buried in the rubble of one of the homes demolished in Israel's relentless bombardment of southern Lebanon was a stark illustration of why the United Nations' peacekeeping efforts have been seen as ineffective.

A Ghanaian member of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, known as Unifil, was killed along with his family here on Sunday by an Israeli bomb. And more than 24 hours later, peacekeeping troops could not even leave their base to dig out his body, because the short trip to his house was too dangerous.

"They are barely able to take care of themselves," said Timur Goksel, who spent 20 years as an official with Unifil, and now lectures at American University in Beirut. "How can you expect them to do their work? It's a mini-force with small engineering capacity and a narrow area of operation right along the border. What can anyone expect them to do?" [complete article]
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Missile war is a new challenge to Israel's long rule of the sky
By Scott Wilson, Washington Post, July 19, 2006

Israel and the radical Islamic groups Hamas and Hezbollah are waging war for the first time largely in the skies, exchanging rocket fire, artillery rounds and airstrikes in battles that military officials and analysts here say could redefine the regional conflict for years to come.

Both militias are now drawing on longer-range arsenals to send missiles deeper into Israel. The launch sites are hard to detect, and the short-range rockets reach targets in seconds, making interception nearly impossible. Israel dominated air power in earlier years but now faces a fresh challenge from the crude rockets that Hezbollah and Hamas are using to strike Israeli cities. The war of the missiles could also render less relevant the large-scale ground operations that the Israeli military relied on in the past. [complete article]

Notes from northern Israel: In the line of media fire
By Jonathan Cook, Electronic Lebanon, July 19, 2006

Several Israeli armaments factories and storage depots have been built close by Arab communities in the north of Israel, possibly in the hope that by locating them there Arab regimes will be deterred from attacking Israel's enormous armoury. In other words, the inhabitants of several of Israel's Arab towns and villages have been turned into collective human shields -- protection for Israel's war machine. [complete article]
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With Israeli use of force, debate over proportion
By Steven Erlanger, New York Times, July 19, 2006

The asymmetry in the reported death tolls is marked and growing: some 230 Lebanese dead, most of them civilians, to 25 Israeli dead, 13 of them civilians. In Gaza, one Israel soldier has died from his own army's fire, and 103 Palestinians have been killed, 70 percent of them militants.

The cold figures, combined with Israeli air attacks on civilian infrastructure like power plants, electricity transformers, airports, bridges, highways and government buildings, have led to accusations by France and the European Union, echoed by some nongovernmental organizations, that Israel is guilty of "disproportionate use of force" in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon and of "collective punishment" of the civilian populations. [complete article]
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Widespread support for war among Israeli public
By Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, July 19, 2006

Israel's military operations against Hizbullah have broad support from across the country's political spectrum with 86% of the population backing the action, according to a poll in yesterday's Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

Asked what Israel's next move should be, 58% said they thought the military should keep fighting until "Hizbullah is wiped out". In the north of Israel, where several hundred Hizbullah rockets have landed in the past week, the percentage of those who support military action was significantly higher.

There is a small peace movement in Israel which has organised a number of demonstrations in recent days, but on the whole the country is firmly behind their government's actions. In the newspaper poll only 17% said the next move should be for the Israeli government to announce a ceasefire and begin negotiations. [complete article]

Israel leaves the Scuds behind
By Zev Chafets, New York Times, July 19, 2006

We've taken Hezbollah's best shot and we're still standing. "We will win," Mr. Olmert told the Knesset on Monday, and this simple assertion became an instant headline and a rallying cry. Mr. Olmert's confidence is based on military capacity, of course -- fully unleashed there is very little the Israeli Army can't accomplish against Hezbollah (and beyond) — and on his faith that George W. Bush will give him the time and the international support needed to finish off Hezbollah. [complete article]

The way we war
By Etgar Keret, New York Times, July 19, 2006

We long for a real war to take the place of all those exhausting years of intifada when there was no black or white, only gray, when we were confronted not by armed forces, but only by resolute young people wearing explosive belts, years when the aura of bravery ceased to exist, replaced by long lines of people waiting at our checkpoints, women about to give birth and elderly people struggling to endure the stifling heat.

Suddenly, the first salvo of missiles returned us to that familiar feeling of a war fought against a ruthless enemy who attacks our borders, a truly vicious enemy, not one fighting for its freedom and self-determination, not the kind that makes us stammer and throws us into confusion. Once again we're confident about the rightness of our cause and we return with lightning speed to the bosom of the patriotism we had almost abandoned. Once again, we're a small country surrounded by enemies, fighting for our lives, not a strong, occupying country forced to fight daily against a civilian population.

So is it any wonder that we're all secretly just a tiny bit relieved? Give us Iran, give us a pinch of Syria, give us a handful of Sheik Nasrallah and we'll devour them whole. After all, we're no better than anyone else at resolving moral ambiguities. But we always did know how to win a war. [complete article]

See also, Fighting in Lebanon produces its first conscientious objector (Haaretz).

Comment -- It's understandable that Israelis with a fortress mentality -- always alert to the danger from unfriendly neighbors -- take pride in their ability to defend their homeland. But this conviction -- we know how to win a war -- is a dangerous delusion. Israel's war never really ends and the finality sought on the battlefield is in truth a fantasy that the enemy can be so effectively crushed that the threat has been annihilated. All previous experience proves that the enemy rises up again and that ultimately there is no substitute for reconciliation. And it's no use Israel lamenting "we have no partner for peace" if again and again through its wanton brutality it fuels the enmity of foes.
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As the world looks elsewhere, death toll rises in Gaza
By Ned Parker, The Times, July 19, 2006

Ahmed Al-Kafarnah wept for his dead brother yesterday as tank shells shook the northern Gaza Strip. While world attention is focused on Lebanon, there are still casualties at the original front of Israel's current campaign.

"I wish that I was the one who was killed and not him," said Ahmed, 17, standing on his roof, where his brother, Muhammad, 22, was struck in the chest by a sniper's bullet early on Monday morning. Ahmed's words were interrupted by new explosions. "My brother didn’t run with militant groups. He used to fix washing machines. He was a smart thinker and a believer," he said.

Muhammad is one of 106 Palestinians to have died in the Gaza offensive, which began on June 28, and another 300 have been wounded, according to Jomaa al-Saqaa, of al-Shifa Hospital. The Israelis have made multiple incursions and airstrikes in an effort to rescue Corporal Gilad Schalit, who was abducted three weeks ago by Hamas in an attack that left two soldiers dead. Last night an Israeli armoured column clashed with militants near the Maghazi refugee camp. [complete article]

Palestinians die in Israeli raids
BBC News, July 19, 2006

At least nine Palestinians have been killed in fresh Israeli operations in Gaza and the West Bank. Under heavy gunfire Israeli tanks entered Mughazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip before dawn. At least six Palestinians, including a number of militants, were killed in the latest incursion in a three-week operation in Gaza by the Israelis. [complete article]
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Civil war spreads across Iraq as bomb at Shia mosque kills 59
By Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, July 19, 2006

A civil war between Sunni and Shia Muslims is spreading rapidly through central Iraq, with each community seeking revenge for the latest massacre. Yesterday a suicide bomber driving a van packed with explosives blew himself up outside the golden-domed mosque in Kufa, killing at least 59 and injuring more than 130 Shia.

In the past 10 days, while the world has been absorbed by the war in Lebanon, sectarian massacres have started to take place on an almost daily basis, leading observers to fear a level of killing approaching that of Rwanda immediately before the genocide of 1994. On a single spot on the west bank of the Tigris river in north Baghdad, between 10 and 12 bodies have been drifting ashore every day. [complete article]

In Iraq, civil war all but declared
By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times, July 19, 2006

U.S. and Iraqi government leaders have argued that the 150,000-strong foreign troop presence has kept the country from descending into full-scale civil war. But many Iraqi officials fear the threshold has been crossed.

"What is happening in Iraq is a disaster and a tragedy," Adnan Dulaimi, a Sunni Arab leader, said in an interview.

"It's bloodshed and killing of the innocents, killing the elderly and women and children. It's mass killings. It's nothing less than an undeclared civil war." [complete article]

Iraqi death toll rises above 100 per day, U.N. says
By Kirk Semple, New York Times, July 19, 2006

An average of more than 100 civilians per day were killed in Iraq last month, the United Nations reported Tuesday, registering what appears to be the highest official monthly tally of violent deaths since the fall of Baghdad.

The death toll, drawn from Iraqi government agencies, was the most precise measurement of civilian deaths provided by any government organization since the invasion and represented a substantial increase over the figures in daily news media reports. [complete article]
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Coalition 'retakes Taleban towns'
BBC News, July 19, 2006

US-led and Afghan forces say they have retaken two Taleban-held towns in the southern Afghan province of Helmand.

Taleban fighters had seized the areas of Garmser and Naway-i-Barakazayi earlier in the week. [complete article]
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Conservative anger grows over Bush's foreign policy
By Michael Abramowitz, Washington Post, July 19, 2006

At a moment when his conservative coalition is already under strain over domestic policy, President Bush is facing a new and swiftly building backlash on the right over his handling of foreign affairs.

Conservative intellectuals and commentators who once lauded Bush for what they saw as a willingness to aggressively confront threats and advance U.S. interests said in interviews that they perceive timidity and confusion about long-standing problems including Iran and North Korea, as well as urgent new ones such as the latest crisis between Israel and Hezbollah.

"It is Topic A of every single conversation," said Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank that has had strong influence in staffing the administration and shaping its ideas. "I don't have a friend in the administration, on Capitol Hill or any part of the conservative foreign policy establishment who is not beside themselves with fury at the administration." [complete article]
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Bush blocked ethics inquiry, Gonzales says
By Neil A. Lewis, New York Times, July 19, 2006

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that President Bush had personally decided to block the Justice Department ethics unit from examining the role played by government lawyers in approving the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping program.

Mr. Gonzales made the assertion in response to questioning from Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and chairman of the committee. Mr. Specter said the Office of Professional Responsibility at the Justice Department had to call off an investigation into the conduct of department lawyers who evaluated the surveillance program because the unit was denied clearance to review classified documents.

"Why wasn't O.P.R. given clearance as so many other lawyers in the Department of Justice were given clearance?" Mr. Specter asked.

Mr. Gonzales replied, "The president of the United States makes decisions about who is ultimately given access," and he added that the president "makes the decision because this is such an important program." [complete article]
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Retaliation case of Arab specialist at FBI advances
By Dan Eggen, Washington Post, July 18, 2006

The Justice Department has concluded there is "reasonable cause" to believe that senior FBI officials retaliated against the bureau's highest-ranking Arabic speaker for complaining that he was cut out of terrorism cases despite his expertise.

An internal investigation by the department's Office of Professional Responsibility found "sufficient circumstantial evidence" that Special Agent Bassem Youssef was blocked from a counterterrorism assignment in 2002 after he and U.S. Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) met with FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III to discuss Youssef's complaints.

Mueller had approved a transfer for Youssef just days before the meeting, but it never occurred and Youssef was never informed of Mueller's decision, according to the report. Investigators also said the FBI "has provided no rationale" for its failure to promote Youssef, although one former senior FBI manager said Mueller was "appalled" that Youssef had complained to a congressman about his treatment. [complete article]
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Cease-fire efforts stepped up
By Laura King and Megan K. Stack, Los Angeles Times, July 18, 2006

Diplomatic efforts to end the Mideast bloodletting moved to the fore Monday, with Israel for the first time signaling willingness to accept a cease-fire based on a pullback of Hezbollah guerrillas from the volatile Lebanese frontier and the release of two captured soldiers.

Britain and the United Nations called for deployment of a peacekeeping force, a proposal Israel said would not stop Hezbollah attacks but would hamper the Jewish state's ability to strike back.

Even Iran and Syria, Hezbollah's primary supporters, appeared to join those searching for a way out of the raging 6-day-old battle between Israeli forces and the Shiite Muslim group that has left Lebanon's infrastructure in ruins and terrorized Israelis living under a hail of rocket fire. [complete article]

Comment -- The New York Times, perhaps echoing Hillary Clinton's conviction that all Americans stand behind Israel, does not seem to want to give its readers the impression that Israel has any interest in a ceasefire. It's current top online headline: Israeli general says Lebanon offensive will last weeks. While others have attached significance to the fact that Ehud Olmert did not repeat his demand for Hezbollah to be dismantled, according to the Times, "In a televised speech to the Israeli Parliament, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed to continue the offensive until Hezbollah freed two captured Israeli soldiers, the Lebanese Army was deployed along the border, and Hezbollah was effectively disarmed." The following, however, is the relevant text from Olmert's speech:
And in Lebanon, we will insist on compliance with the terms stipulated long ago by the international community, as unequivocally expressed only yesterday in the resolution of the 8 leading countries of the world:
- The return of the hostages, Ehud (Udi) Goldwasser and Eldad Regev;
- A complete cease fire;
- Deployment of the Lebanese army in all of Southern Lebanon;
- Expulsion of Hizballah from the area, and fulfillment of United Nations Resolution 1559.
No one should exagerate the likelihood that Israel (or the Lebanese government) will be successful in pushing Hezbollah north, but neither should the diplomatic significance of shifting from "dismantled" to "expelled from Southern Lebanon" be ignored. Moreover, Israel's readiness for a ceasefire has been reiterated today by its foreign minister Tzipi Livni.

Meanwhile, Washington's position is that a ceasefire "won't help." So what should we infer: The Israeli government is ready for a ceasefire, but the Israel Lobby is not? Or is this simply the kind of double-talk that has become standard operating proceedure among civilized democracies?
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It's not too late to say enough
By Yitzhak Laor, Haaretz, July 18, 2006

Israel has not been defeated in Lebanon because it has not bombed sufficiently and has not destroyed enough. Only self-censorship and the mystification of the Israel Defense Forces for many years have prevented the Israelis from learning what the IDF did to the Lebanese, and what the IDF's conceptual limitations are, as an organization whose strength is great and whose wisdom is definitely not. Only the insufferable status of the IDF in Israeli society has prevented Israelis who emerged by tooth and nail from the Lebanon War from pointing to the senior officers and saying: Enough. [complete article]

'It is madness. Why is no one doing anything to stop this?'
By Nicholas Blanford, The Times, July 18, 2006

As director of the Jabel Amel hospital in Tyre, Ahmad Mrowe is no stranger to the violence that has racked this area for decades.

But as casualties soared and even ambulances and his own hospital were targeted by Israeli warplanes, the doctor said that the latest Israeli onslaught was the worst he had ever seen. "It is incomparable, much worse than anything before," he said, as he stood in a sweltering corridor packed with relatives of the victims.

A humanitarian disaster is unfolding in southern Lebanon where the Israeli war machine, determined to destroy Hezbollah once and for all, has been pounding the scruffy villages that dot these stony hills and valleys. [complete article]

More than 100,000 flee Lebanon for Syria
AFP/Reuters, July 18, 2006

More than 100,000 people have crossed into Syria from Lebanon over the past five days to escape Israeli attacks, Syrian authorities say. [complete article]

Westerners flee Lebanon
AP, July 18, 2006

Westerners fled by land, sea and air Monday as Israel sent ground troops into Lebanon briefly and Hezbollah rockets knocked down a three-story house in northern Israel. However, there were signs of movement on the diplomatic front to end the worst fighting in 24 years. [complete article]

Israeli onslaught will strengthen, not weaken, Hizbullah's popular appeal
Editorial, Daily Star, July 18, 2006

Despite the mounting civilian death toll in Lebanon, and despite increasing evidence of Israeli violations of international law, the heavyweights in the international community are once again following the lead of US President George W. Bush, who has effectively given a green light to Israel's destruction of Lebanon. With the exception of Russia, which seems to be reluctant to jump fully onboard the international bandwagon for fear of jeopardizing its relations with Iran, the world powers have taken the view that UN Security Resolution 1559 ought to be enforced - and Hizbullah disarmed - before any cease-fire is put into effect.

In the meantime, Israel is pressing ahead with its bloody military campaign, which one Israeli official has said could be completed within a week. In the short-term, Israel may succeed in laying waste to Hizbullah's arsenal of weapons. But even the complete destruction of Hizbullah's military capabilities would do nothing to reduce the group's political appeal. On the contrary, each slaughter only fuels the political sentiments that inspire resistance groups such as Hizbullah to take up arms - not only in Lebanon, but across the region. [complete article]

'Is Hizbullah here? Only children here.' City mourns air strike dead

By Clancy Chassay, The Guardian, July 18, 2006

Twelve-year-old Nour lay heavily bandaged and fighting for her life in a hospital in the southern Lebanese city of Tyre. She is one of many children killed and injured in Israeli air strikes on this Mediterranean port in past days.

"We are praying for her," said Fatima, a laboratory technician doubling as a nurse at Jabal Amal hospital, which is overloaded with the victims of the air strikes. Ali, the doctor treating Nour, said he did not know whether she would survive her injuries. "She has large burns all over her body, she is losing a lot of fluids. She probably won't live; her life is now in God's hands."

More ambulances streamed into the hospital and doctors hurried to treat the victims of the latest bombing. Whatever the Israelis' intended target, the bomb fell on a small water canal next to the Qasmia refugee camp, home to about 500 Palestinians. Its victims were 11 children taking an afternoon swim in the canal. [complete article]

Crisis may put Syria back in political mix
By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times, July 18, 2006

After years spent edging Syrian troops out of Lebanon in a bid to win independence for the beleaguered nation, Western leaders face the prospect of pressing Damascus to reassert its influence with Islamic militants there to halt rocket attacks on Israel and free Israeli prisoners.

As a consequence, Syria sees itself as back in the driver's seat of regional politics after years of U.S.-imposed diplomatic and economic isolation, several Syrian politicians and analysts said. The leverage could allow Damascus to seek further advantage, including new talks on the fate of the Golan Heights, in exchange for any intervention in Lebanon. [complete article]

Lebanon: the world looks on
By Ewen MacAskill and Rory McCarthy and Patrick Wintour, The Guardian, July 18 2006

Western leaders remained paralysed yesterday as Lebanon suffered one of its bloodiest days since Israel began its bombardment a week ago.

For the second time in 48 hours western governments declined to intervene as Israeli forces, on the sixth day of aerial attacks, killed 47 people and wounded at least 53. Hizbullah, the Iranian-backed militia, also stepped up its attacks, launching 50 rockets against Israel, the highest number in a single day. The death toll since Israel began its attack has risen to 210 in Lebanon and 29 in Israel. [complete article]

Israel hits Lebanon, but thinks Iran
By Augustus Richard Norton, Daily Star, July 18, 2006

What is under way reflects a deep strategy that focuses on Israel's major adversary, Iran, and simultaneously strives to sustain Israeli hegemony over its neighbors.

Otherwise, it is easy to imagine a very potent, and much more measured response to Hizbullah's abductions that focused on building international and regional support for implementing Security Council Resolution 1559 to begin the disarming of Hizbullah. The fact that the more measured strategy was apparently rejected out of hand speaks volumes about the big picture.

While the generals will delight in the prospect of cutting Hizbullah down to size, the more important dimension is preparing the battlefield vis-a-vis Iran. If Hizbullah's capacity to bombard Israel is eliminated, then it will be easier for Israel to attack Iran's nuclear sites later. Israel has obviously been preparing for such an attack for several years, and if the United States and the other players in the so called "Five plus One" group fail in their efforts to temper Iran's nuclear programs, Israel's offensive in Lebanon is likely intended to make it easier to move against Iran. [complete article]

Rockets strike Haifa train depot for second time; Safed also hit
By Yuval Azoulay, Amos Harel and Yoav Stern, Haaretz, July 18, 2006

The train depot in Haifa where eight people were killed in a rocket strike Sunday was hit for a second time Tuesday afternoon, as fresh barrages of Katyusha rockets fired by Hezbollah guerillas in Lebanon struck the northern towns of Haifa and Safed.

Israel Radio said that six rockets struck Haifa, Israel's third city. Other rockets fell in open areas, the radio said. [complete article]
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The Middle East aflame and the Bush administration adrift
By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch, July 17, 2006

The Bush administration came to power as a fundamentalist regime; and here I'm not referring to the Christian fundamentalist faith of our President. After all, Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld, and our Vice President seem not to be Christian fundamentalists any more than were Paul Wolfowitz or Douglas Feith. Bush's top officials may not have agreed among themselves on whether End Time would arrive, or even on the domestic social issues of most concern to the Christian religious right in this country, but they were all linked by a singular belief in the efficacy of force. [complete article]
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Suicide bomber in Iraq's Shi'ite Kufa kills 59
By Khaled Farhan, Reuters, July 18, 2006

A suicide bomber pulled his minivan into a busy market on Tuesday, lured laborers onboard with the promise of jobs and then blew himself up, killing at least 59 people in one the bloodiest attacks in Iraq this year.

The blast in the Shi'ite city of Kufa wounded 132 people and sparked clashes between police and angry protesters, dealing a fresh blow to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's efforts to promote national reconciliation and avoid a slide toward civil war. [complete article]

'Neighbors are killing neighbors'
By Joshua Partlow and Naseer Nouri, Washington Post, July 18, 2006

"Neighbors are killing neighbors," she said. "We cannot trust anyone."

After more than a week of some of the most vicious sectarian violence of the war, Baghdad is a skeleton of a city: Many of its shops are shuttered, its streets drained of people. [complete article]

The price of success in Iraq
By Anthony H. Cordesman, Washington Post, July 18, 2006

The United States and the government of Iraq should have a common goal: To restore Iraq to full sovereignty and withdraw American forces as soon as the insurgency is defeated or contained and Iraqi forces are able to take over the security mission -- and as soon as the United States is reasonably confident that Iraq has reached some degree of political stability.

But there is a price that U.S. forces will have to pay to have any chance of serious success. It is this: If an amnesty that brings insurgents into the Iraqi political process is possible, the United States cannot indulge in political posturing over whether some of the insurgents who join the government are people who attacked and wounded or killed Americans. [complete article]
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A divide deepens in Arab world
By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times, July 17, 2006

The rapidly escalating conflict in Lebanon has divided the Arab world, deepening the gulf between rulers and ruled and reinforcing in the public's mind the impotence of leaders who for two generations have been unable to produce a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, governments with ties to the United States have guardedly denounced Hezbollah for the attack on Israel that triggered the fighting -- even as their citizens began tacking up posters of Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the cleric who heads the Shiite Muslim militant group and has vowed to bring "war on every level" to Israel's door.
The decision by President Bush not to support the Lebanese government's plea for a cease-fire, even though that government has been backed by the United States, has dealt a further blow to public feelings about the U.S. in the region.

Members of the governing bloc in the Lebanese parliament, led by Saad Hariri, "are the most pro-American Arabs in the Middle East. They have promised, 'America will protect us if we stand against Syria,' " said Joshua Landis, a Middle East expert and professor at the University of Oklahoma.

Now Israel is "blowing the hell out of them, and America isn't taking one step to protect them," Landis said. "The whole Arab world is going to look and see that Hariri has been sacrificed on the altar of Israeli power. For the Arabs, this just rips the face of democracy right off." [complete article]

Comment -- Leaders of the GOP, like rats who just sniffed out a new entrance to a sewer, are now leaping on what they see as a great opportunity to reinivorgate their recently flagging domestic support. The Seattle Times, quotes prospective GOP presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich, speaking over the weekend:
"We need to have the militancy that says 'We're not going to lose a city," Gingrich said.

Gingrich said in the coming days he plans to speak out publicly and to the administration from his seat on the Defense Policy Board about the need to recognize that America is in World War III.

He lists wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, last week's bomb attacks in India, North Korean nuclear threats, terrorist arrests and investigations in Florida, Canada and Britain, and violence in Israel and Lebanon as evidence of World War III.

He said Bush needs to deliver a speech to Congress and "connect all the dots" for Americans.
Meanwhile, AP reports that Iran -- the nation we are supposed to believe is at the center of this "world war" -- "said Sunday that Western incentives to halt its nuclear program were an 'acceptable basis' for talks, and it is ready for detailed negotiations."

So how should we connect the dots, Newt? Conclude that the United States thinks that World War III is preferable to talking to "the enemy"?
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Lebanon is made to pay
By Charles Harb, The Guardian, July 17, 2006

Since Israel's 1996 massacre of Lebanese refugees at Qana in Lebanon, and the end of the 22-year Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000, an agreement between the various parties - sponsored by France, the US, and the UN - has reflected the "balance of terror": Israel would refrain from bombing Lebanese civilian structures, and Hizbullah would not bomb civilian structures in northern Israel.

Although several military operations by the Israelis and by Hizbullah have occurred since 2000, neither side has violated this understanding. In 2004, Hizbullah secured the release of some prisoners held captive in Israeli jails in an exchange with Israel. And Hizbullah's military operation last week falls squarely within that framework.

Israel's immediate reaction broke the established rules of the game by bombing civilian structures across Lebanon, imposing a land, air and sea blockade, terrorising the population, and killing more than 100 civilians in a disproportionate display of power not seen since 1982. Hizbullah then retaliated by bombing northern Israel, in line with the "balance of terror" equations, and the escalation of the conflict has spiralled.

Israel's significant policy shift is linked to domestic politics, psychological factors and power plays. The wider geostrategic implications are more important then the operational details. For the first time in recent history, Saudi Arabian, Egyptian, Jordanian, Israeli and US interests now converge in an implicit alliance to quell Hizbullah. Reactions by these states in the past few days have been strongly indicative of such a stance, from the Saudi statement implicitly condemning Hizbullah, to the US president's explicit refusal to "rein in" Israel.

US rhetoric last year about spreading "democracy and freedom" in the Middle East was ended when the administration realised that the outcome might lead to governments more in tune with national interests than American ones. The complacent reaction by US (and, to some extent, European) officials to the widespread election fraud and repression in Egypt as well as the open war on the democratically elected Palestinian government reflect this change. The question is increasingly whether entire populations are being punished for making the "wrong" democratic choices. [complete article]
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Israel pounds Lebanon
By Lin Noueihed, Reuters, July 17, 2006

Israel bombarded Lebanon for a sixth day on Monday and dismissed as premature a proposal for an international stability force to help end the worst fighting across the Israeli-Lebanese border in more than 20 years.

Israeli warplanes hit coastal targets in the north and south, struck Beirut and damaged homes in the east belonging to members of the Hezbollah guerrilla group, which fired more rockets into the Jewish state.
Israel's campaign has killed 179 people, all but 13 of them civilians, and wounded more than 500. The dead include seven Canadians killed in a strike on a southern village on Sunday.

Twenty-four Israelis have been killed in the fighting, including 12 civilians hit in rocket attacks. [complete article]

See also, Israel hammers at Lebanese infrastructure (AP).
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U.N. calls for Lebanon peace force
BBC News, July 17, 2006

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair have called for an international force to be sent to Lebanon to stop attacks on Israel.

Mr Blair said the force could "stop the bombardment coming over into Israel and therefore gives Israel a reason to stop its attacks on Hezbollah". [complete article]
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'We feel the world has left us to be slaughtered'
By Michael Theodoulou and Christian Henderson, The Scotsman, July 17, 2006

Lebanon last night warned it faced "real annihilation" by Israel who had dramatically escalated the violence of its campaign after Hezbollah rockets hit the city of Haifa.

"We are facing a real annihilation carried out by Israel," Information Minister Ghazi Aridi said after an emergency cabinet meeting.

"Israel is using internationally prohibited weapons against civilians," he said. [complete article]

Seven Canadians killed in Israeli airstrike
Globe and Mail, July 16, 2006

Seven Canadians, including several members of the same Montreal family, were killed in an Israeli air strike in southern Lebanon on Sunday as the Canadian government stepped up plans to evacuate the estimated 40,000 Canadians stranded in the war-torn region. [complete article]

Jets 'incinerate' fleeing family
By Jihad Siqlawi, AFP (via Herald Sun), July 16, 2006

Eleven children and seven adults were killed overnight in southern Lebanon, their bodies consumed by flames when an Israeli warplane opened fire on the convoy they were in, UN peacekeepers and hospital sources said.
Their charred remains were extracted from the wreckage of the minibus and car they were travelling in and taken to hospital.

A doctor, Ali Zeineddine, said they were burned alive.

"It is very difficult to identify the bodies or to distinguish between girls or boys, as the 18 victims perished from the fire triggered by incendiary shells. They grilled," he said. [complete article]

What I am watching in Lebanon each day is an outrage
By Robert Fisk, The Independent, July 15, 2006

The beautiful viaduct that soars over the mountainside here has become a "terrorist" target. The Israelis attacked the international highway from Beirut to Damascus just after dawn yesterday and dropped a bomb clean through the central span of the Italian-built bridge a symbol of Lebanon's co-operation with the European Union sending concrete crashing hundreds of feet down into the valley beneath. It was the pride of the murdered ex-prime minister Rafik Hariri, the face of a new, emergent Lebanon. And now it is a "terrorist" target.

So I drove gingerly along the old mountain road towards the Bekaa yesterday - the Israeli jets were hissing through the sky above me - turned the corner once I rejoined the highway, and found a 50ft crater with an old woman climbing wearily down the side on her hands and knees, trying to reach her home in the valley that glimmered to the east. This too had become a "terrorist" target.

It is now the same all over Lebanon. In the southern suburbs - where the Hizbollah, captors of the two missing Israeli soldiers, have their headquarters - a massive bomb had blasted off the sides of apartment blocks next to a church, splintering windows and crashing balconies down to parked cars. This too had become a "terrorist target."
[complete article]

As the bombs rain down, a refugee crisis unfolds on the streets of Beirut
By Brian Whitaker, The Guardian, July 17, 2006

Lebanon was on the brink of a humanitarian crisis yesterday as Israeli forces continued their bombardment and thousands of Shia Muslims either fled their homes or found themselves trapped.

In Beirut, where Israel has dropped leaflets from the air urging residents to leave the teeming suburbs controlled by Hizbullah, schools are being overwhelmed as families set up temporary homes in classrooms. Hundreds of others are sleeping out in the open.

Among them were 600 homeless Shia, 70% of them children, who spent Saturday night in Sanayeh park, not far from the city centre. Police were turning journalists away yesterday. "No photographs," one said. A volunteer relief worker said the Lebanese authorities had been slow to act during the first few days of the crisis and would be embarrassed by published pictures. [complete article]
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Tempted by opportunity, Israel gambles on force
By Laura King, Los Angeles Times, July 17, 2006

What began as a pair of hasty military incursions aimed at getting back captured Israeli soldiers has evolved with breathtaking swiftness into a full-blown campaign by Israel against two of its bitterest enemies, the Islamist groups Hezbollah and Hamas.

Surprised twice by small-scale border raids less than three weeks apart, Israeli leaders have made a deliberate policy decision to seize the opportunity -- some call it a pretext -- to mount simultaneous large-scale offensives. The goal of each operation is to smash a guerrilla organization that is also deeply entrenched in the business of governance. [complete article]

Despite joint statement on Mideast, strains emerge as U.S. supports Israel's campaign
By Jim Rutenberg, New York Times, July 17, 2006

The Bush administration on Sunday appeared to give Israel tacit approval to cripple Hezbollah, casting the widening conflict in the Middle East in terms of a wider war on terrorism.

That was a central theme of both public and private statements from senior United States officials, even as President Bush and his aides issued a statement that included a call for restraint in Israel's attacks on Lebanon. They were trying their best to minimize differences with European nations and their Russian hosts at the opening of the annual summit meeting of the Group of 8 industrialized nations here.

But the strains were clear as different leaders offered their interpretations of the statement drafted at the summit meeting that said, in an apparent allusion to Hezbollah and its Iranian and Syrian supporters, "These extremist elements and those that support them cannot be allowed to plunge the Middle East into chaos." [complete article]
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The Army wants action: The great fiasco
By Ran HaCohen, Electronic Intifada, July 16, 2006

Just two weeks after the tragedy of an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas and taken into Gaza, history repeated itself on the Lebanese border, this time as farce. Hezbollah, the Middle East's most sophisticated guerillas, managed to capture two Israeli soldiers and take them into Lebanon. Once again it took the Israeli army almost an hour to figure out that two of its troops were missing. The soldiers must have been already "far, far away," as the charismatic Hassan Nasrallah said contemptuously, when the army took the odd decision to send a tank into Lebanon to get them. Just 70 meters north of the border fence, the Merkava - "one of the most protected tanks in the world" - drove over a powerful bomb and was completely destroyed. All four crew members were killed instantly. It then took the army more than 12 hours to extricate the wreck and recover the bodies, under heavy fire in which yet another soldier was killed, bringing the total number of Israeli casualties in the incident to eight. The strongest army in the Middle East seems unable to protect its own soldiers, let alone Israel's citizens. A sane state would send its talented chief of staff home; Israel, instead, sent him to wreak havoc in Lebanon. [complete article]
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Behind the crisis: How Iran is wielding its influence to wage a stealthy war against Israel and America
By Christopher Dickey, Kevin Peraino and Babak Dehghanpisheh, Newsweek, July 24, 2006

...Israel says the massive destruction of vital Lebanese infrastructure is intended to show Lebanon's people the price they will pay for Nasrallah's decision to instigate a war. "You know that we are doing the right thing, and that if we succeed, Lebanon would be the beneficiary," Israel's U.N. Ambassador Dan Gillerman told Lebanon's envoy as they appeared before the Security Council last week.

The trouble is, anger against the Israelis is almost certain to grow even faster than against Hizbullah. Many Lebanese owe a great deal to Hizbullah's clinics, schools and other basic social services in the areas it dominates—underwritten, of course, by hundreds of millions of dollars from Iran. When Israel finally decided to withdraw completely from southern Lebanon in 2000, after relentless pressure from Hizbullah's guerrilla attacks, the organization achieved heroic status not only in Lebanon, but throughout the Muslim world. Nasrallah, especially, emerged as a charismatic leader, his speeches carried regionwide by Hizbullah's own Al Manar satellite television station.

Part of Nasrallah's mystique is as a man of his word. He vowed to oust Israel from Lebanese land, and he succeeded. But Nasrallah also vowed to free hundreds of captured Lebanese in Israeli jails. In 2004 he ransomed an Israeli businessman for 400 prisoners, but others remained in jail. By late last year Nasrallah was on the prowl again, looking for new captives to use as bargaining chips in another swap. In November the Israelis announced that they'd thwarted an attempt by Hizbullah to take Israeli soldiers as hostages. It should have been no surprise when members of the Hamas military wing in Gaza adopted a similar strategy last month to try to win the release of some of the 10,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons. [complete article]
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Israel strikes at Gaza ministry
BBC News, July 17, 2006

An Israeli F-16 jet has bombed the Palestinian foreign ministry building in Gaza City for the second time in under a week.

The latest attack destroyed what was left of the building.

No-one was in the building at the time, but rescue workers say five people in nearby houses were injured. [complete article]

See also, Israel pursues Gaza assault, kills 6 Palestinians (Reuter).
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Iraq's divided parliament stands united over Israel
By Ross Colvin, Reuters, July 16, 2006

Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish lawmakers in Iraq's U.S.-backed parliament often fail to see eye to eye, but on Sunday they stood united in their condemnation of Israel's military offensive against Lebanon.

Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has been pleading with fellow Iraqis to put aside deep sectarian and ethnic divisions of the kind that plunged Lebanon into civil war 30 years ago.

His pleas have gone largely unheeded, but Israel's five-day-old assault on Lebanon that has killed well over 120 people, all but four of them civilians, has evoked strong feelings of solidarity among Iraqis, bridging the sectarian divide, with hostility toward Israel and the United States.

"Support Hassan Nasrallah and stand by his side and you will be closer to the angels in heaven," wrote Hameed Abdullah, a Sunni, in an editorial in al-Mashriq newspaper, referring to the leader of Shi'ite Hizbollah, the target of the Israeli campaign. [complete article]
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In an about-face, Sunnis want U.S. to remain in Iraq
By Edward Wong and Dexter Filkins, New York Times, July 17, 2006

As sectarian violence soars, many Sunni Arab political and religious leaders once staunchly opposed to the American presence here are now saying they need American troops to protect them from the rampages of Shiite militias and Shiite-run government forces.

The pleas from the Sunni Arab leaders have been growing in intensity since an eruption of sectarian bloodletting in February, but they have reached a new pitch in recent days as Shiite militiamen have brazenly shot dead groups of Sunni civilians in broad daylight in Baghdad and other mixed areas of central Iraq.

The Sunnis also view the Americans as a "bulwark against Iranian actions here," a senior American diplomat said. Sunni politicians have made their viewpoints known to the Americans through informal discussions in recent weeks. [complete article]
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Israel's 'war of choice'
By Gideon Levy, Haaretz, July 16, 2006

Every neighborhood has one, a loudmouth bully who shouldn't be provoked into anger. He's insulted? He'll pull out a knife. Spat in the face? He'll draw a gun. Hit? He'll pull out a machine gun. Not that the bully's not right - someone did harm him. But the reaction, what a reaction! It's not that he's not feared, but nobody really appreciates him. The real appreciation is for the strong who don't immediately use their strength. Regrettably, the Israel Defense Forces once again looks like the neighborhood bully. A soldier was abducted in Gaza? All of Gaza will pay. Eight soldiers are killed and two abducted to Lebanon? All of Lebanon will pay. One and only one language is spoken by Israel, the language of force. [complete article]

Comment -- By most accounts, the IDF has already destroyed most of the bridges in southern Lebanon. Now Major General Udi Adam issues this warning (7.54PM Israel): "We want to say to the population in the south of Lebanon, we want to avoid innocent victims, so we recommend them to leave their villages and homes and go to the north of the country and let us work in the south of Lebanon, because in two or three hours we are going to attack the south of Lebanon heavily." And how exactly are these terrorized civilians meant to flee before the IDF begins its "work"?
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Time to start talking
By Robert Malley, Time, July 16, 2006

The most alarming aspect of the unfolding crisis in the Middle East isn't how many actors are jumping in. It's who is opting to stay out. Hamas, Hizballah and Israel are directly involved; Iran and Syria by proxy; Lebanon against its will. The U.N. is dispatching its mediators; the European Union is contemplating doing the same. But the U.S., despite colossal strategic stakes, threats to its own security, potential repercussions in Iraq, not to mention staggering loss of life, remains on the sidelines. The world's sole superpower is also its only no-show.

This is by design. From early on, the diplomacy of the Bush Administration has been guided by a straightforward logic: engagement is a reward, misbehavior ought not be rewarded; ergo, misbehaving parties are not to be engaged. The thinking is that isolation, ostracism and, if need be, sanctions are more likely to get troublesome actors to change their ways. And so the list of diplomatic outcasts only grows. Today the U.S. does not talk to Iran, Syria, Hamas, the elected Palestinian government or Hizballah. And as the violence in the region clearly shows, that has hardly been cause for moderation. President Bush once famously observed that the U.S. had sanctioned itself out of all leverage on Iran. In truth, it has worked itself out of much influence on the region. [complete article]

See also, Any chance for peacemaking? What the players want (Tony Karon).

Comment -- Just when it seemed like neoconservatism was ready for a quiet death, the neocons appear to be getting the war they've always dreamed of.

Exerting influence on the Bush administration is a breeze - all it has to be persuaded to do is do nothing. Meanwhile the commentators can work the airwaves and drum home the message that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is orchestrating all the chaos across the Middle East. It'll only be a matter of time before Washington quietly gives the green light for Israeli jets to go screaming towards Tehran -- at least that's the vision William Kristol, Michael Ledeen and their cohorts believe is almost within their grasp.
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Its war by any other name
By Sami Moubayed, Asia Times (via Mideastviews), July 16, 2006

Many wrongly believed that once the Syrian army left Lebanon, Hezbollah would be weakened, gradually losing its influence in the country. This turned out to be nonsense, since contrary to what is commonly portrayed in the Western media, Hezbollah is a party that is totally independent in Lebanon from control of the Syrians.

They used to work under Syria's umbrella under former Syrian president Hafez al-Assad in the 1990s, needing his support to keep their arms in the post-war era, but since their victory in liberating south Lebanon in 2000, they have become independent of Syrian control.

They still confer with the Syrians, seek their advice and coordinate with Syria but they do not take orders, money or arms from Damascus. For example, they had four parliamentary seats in 1992, and four for their allies, a total of only eight, and this in the heyday of Syrian hegemony in Lebanon. Today, with Syria out, they have 14 seats.

This explains why Hezbollah remained pro-Syrian until curtain-fall. Nasrallah never relied on the Syrians for his power base, nor did any member of Hezbollah. Also in Hezbollah's favor now is the victory of Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who has shown strong support for the Shi'ite Lebanese resistance. Ahmadinejad clearly believes in the vision of Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, to promote Shi'ite Islam and help emancipate the Shi'ites of Lebanon.

Ahmadinejad said on Thursday any Israeli strike on Syria would be considered an attack on the whole Islamic world that would bring a "fierce response", state television reported.

Relevant to all that is happening in Lebanon today is the degree of support Hezbollah and Nasrallah have in the Shi'ite community - and the amount of animosity in non-Shi'ite districts. One reason the Shi'ites support Hezbollah is religion. It is not the only one, however, because a study conducted by Dr Judith Harik, a professor at the American University of Beirut in 1996, showed that 70% of Hezbollah's supporters saw themselves only as moderately religious, and 23% said they were religious only out of obligation.

Pragmatism, nationalism and charity networks, rather than Muslim ideology, are the secrets of Hezbollah's success. Hezbollah enjoys authority and commands unwavering loyalty among Shi'ites because it always appears to be a confident political party that is doing an honorable job in fighting Israel. Adding to the nationalist aspect is the social one, which is that many people in the Shi'ite community, mainly at the grass-root level, rely on Hezbollah for charity and welfare. [complete article]
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Will Syria get respect?
By Joshua Landis, Syria Comment, July 15, 2006

Nasrallah, in carrying out his cool cross border operation, could act as if he was coming to the aid of the Palestinians, while really intending his fury for Siniora's ineffectual and paralyzed government. Like Olmert, Nasrallah is demonstrating to the world that Hariri and his men are nothing. They do not have an army, they cannot defend themselves. They cannot defend Lebanon. All their cozying up to the United States these last few years got them nothing. Washington will not stand by its new friends in Lebanon when Israeli bombs are falling. Nasrallah has dramatically and irrevocably underlined for the Arab World that the United States is not on the side of Arabs and not on the side of Lebanon. All Washington's honeyed words about standing by Lebanon's side in its tough battle with Damascus, Hizbullah and terrorism were nothing but cotton candy. With a small summer rain, they melted away. [complete article]
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Arabs watching helplessly
By Marc Lynch, Abu Aardvark, July 14, 2006

A reporter asked me a few minutes ago why Arabs are reacting so mutedly to the crisis. I didn't necessarily agree with the premise of the question. Arab regimes are reacting in a very restrained fashion, but that doesn't mean that Arab public opinion feels the same way. My sense is that most of the pro-American regimes just want this crisis to go away, and are hunkering down and trying to stay out of the way (kind of like the United States, frankly). King Abdullah of Jordan and Hosni Mubarak have both made high-profile remarks critical of the Shia (Abdullah's "Shia Crescent" warning, Mubarak's slur against Iraqi Shia). Neither they nor the Saudi King Abdullah has any love for Hizbollah, which for them is both a potential threat to their own allies in Lebanon and a constant risk of generating these kinds of crises. And Mubarak was recently humiliated by the collapse of his mediation of the Hamas situation, which he blamed (obliquely but clearly) on Iran.

I'd say that the only thing which these regimes like less than Hizbollah these days is their own publics. It's all connected. We've been seeing most of these regimes cracking down, becoming more repressive over the last months. They simply have no interest in seeing large, angry crowds of citizens gathering to protest these days. In the past, pro-Palestinian or anti-Israeli protests were a convenient way for those regimes to redirect public anger and to let off steam. But these days it may cut too close to the bone: I mentioned the other day that one of the most dangerous trends (from the perspective of these regimes) is their contemptuous dismissal by mainstream Arab opinion: why, ask those critics, even waste our breath demanding that these regimes do anything when we know that they can't and won't. [complete article]

See also, Lebanese family uprooted by Israeli air strikes still back Hezbollah (McClatchy).
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Hizbollah's response reveals months of planning
By Robert Fisk, The Independent, July 16, 2006

Hizbollah had presumed the Israelis would cross into Lebanon after the capture of the two soldiers and they blew up the first Israeli Merkava tank when it was only 35 feet inside the country. All four Israeli crewmen were killed and the Israeli army moved no further forward. The long-range Iranian-made missiles which later exploded on Haifa had been preceded only a few weeks ago by a pilotless Hizbollah drone aircraft which surveyed northern Israel and then returned to land in eastern Lebanon after taking photographs during its flight. These pictures not only suggested a flight path for Hizbollah's rockets to Haifa; they also identified Israel's top-secret military air traffic control centre in Miron.

The next attack - concealed by Israel's censors - was directed at this facility. Codenamed "Apollo", Israeli military scientists work deep inside mountain caves and bunkers at Miron, guarded by watchtowers, guard-dogs and barbed wire, watching all air traffic moving in and out of Beirut, Damascus, Amman and other Arab cities. The mountain is surmounted by clusters of antennae which Hizbollah quickly identified as a military tracking centre. Before they fired rockets at Haifa, they therefore sent a cluster of missiles towards Miron. The caves are untouchable but the targeting of such a secret location by Hizbollah deeply shocked Israel's military planners. The "centre of world terror" - or whatever they imagine Lebanon to be - could not only breach their frontier and capture their soldiers but attack the nerve-centre of the Israeli northern military command.

Then came the Haifa missiles and the attack on the gunboat. It is now clear that this successful military operation - so contemptuous of their enemy were the Israelis that although their warship was equipped with cannon and a Vulcan machine gun, they didn't even provide the vessel with an anti-missile capability - was also planned months ago. Once the Hetz-class boats appeared, Hizbollah positioned a missile crew on the coast of west Beirut not far from Jnah, a crew trained over many weeks for just such an attack. It took less than 30 seconds for the Iranian-made missile to leave Beirut and hit the vessel square amidships, setting it on fire and killing the sailors.

Ironically, the Israelis themselves had invited journalists on an "embedded" trip with their navy only hours earlier - they were allowed to film the ships' guns firing on Lebanon - and the moment Hizbollah hit the warship on Friday, Hizbollah's television station, Al-Manar, began showing the "embedded" film. It was a slick piece of propaganda.

The Israelis were yesterday trumpeting the fact that the missile was made in Iran as proof of Iran's involvement in the Lebanon war. This was odd reasoning. Since almost all the missiles used to kill the civilians of Lebanon over the past four days were made in Seattle, Duluth and Miami in the United States, their use already suggests to millions of Lebanese that America is behind the bombardment of their country. [complete article]

More airstrikes as Hezbollah rockets hit deeper (NYT).
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Rising from the ashes - again!
By Sami Moubayed, Washington Post (via Mideastviews), July 16, 2006

The events of the last two days brought the clock in my mind ticking back to June 1999, when Israel bombed Beirut, knocked down electricity for the next months of that exceptionally hot summer and spent an entire night breaking the sound barrier in Lebanon. It was a horrible night indeed, but the next morning the Lebanese woke up as if nothing had happened. The maid rang our doorbell at 7:00 am. The cafes near my house were all open, traffic was jammed as usual and ordinary people filled the streets, heading off to university, schools, and work, as if nothing had happened the previous night. That day taught me that the Lebanese love to live, no matter how difficult the circumstances. They have an abundant love for life that is hardly found among others in the Arab world, which explains why they have built such a lovable and inspiring country.

The reason for my dilemma is that I have genuine love and high respect for Hezbollah and its leader Sheikh Hasan Nasrallah. He is a selfless nationalist who is uncorrupted and has done wonders to Arab moral and pride by liberating South Lebanon from the Israelis in 2000. The steadfastness he showed when his son Hadi was killed in combat against Israel nearly ten years ago is worth grand admiration, proving that he is a man living for his cause, and, above all, not a hypocrite.

What has happened in Lebanon over the past two days, however, is too destructive. It was highly needed, because of national pride and Israeli aggression, but in as much as it was needed, it should have been avoided to spare Lebanon so much destruction. When news broke out on July 12 that Nasrallah had carried out a heroic operation and killed 8 Israelis, wounded 24, and captured 2 soldiers, I could not but smile with pride and pleasure. Nasrallah, after all, had done what he had promised to do since 2004. Back then, while exchanging prisoners with Israel, he said that unless the remaining Lebanese prisoners were released from Israeli jails, he would capture more Israelis. With impressive precision, Hebollah carried out its promises -- revealing grand lack of preparation within the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) stationed on the border with Lebanon. Pleasure and pride, however, ended when it became clear that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would declare war on Lebanon.

What was Nasrallah thinking? Did he underestimate Olmert and his relatively new and inexperienced Defense Minister Amir Peretz, thinking that while occupied with the Palestinians in Gaza, they would not possibly open another war front with Lebanon? That is what happened in October 2000, when Nasrallah captured Israelis in Lebanon, during the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada, and exchanged them for Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners in 2004. Back then, Prime Minister Ehud Barak, occupied with the Palestinians at home, refused to respond aggressively to Nasrallah, fearing that this would endanger Israeli lives. As a result of his passiveness toward Hezbollah, however, Barak was voted out of office in March 2001, and replaced by an Israeli soldier who was unwilling to appear soft on any attack against Israel.

That was Ariel Sharon. Ehud Olmert wants to fill in his shoes of his bedridden boss and predecessor. He wants the world to view him as another Ariel Sharon, an Israeli nationalist who would go to great length to punish all aggression against Israel. Nasrallah, probably, thought that Olmert would be another Ehud Barak. He was mistaken. [complete article]

Inside the mind of Hezbollah
By Robin Wright, Washington Post, July 16, 2006

Hasan Nasrallah is exactly where he always wanted to be.

"Ever since I was 9 years old, I had plans for the day when I would start doing this," the Hezbollah chief reflected on his leadership quest, when I visited him in the southern slums of Beirut not long ago. "When I was 10 or 11, my grandmother had a scarf. It was black, but a long one. I used to wrap it around my head and say to them that I'm a cleric, you need to pray behind me."

Nasrallah is a man of God, gun and government, a cross between Ayatollah Khomeini and Che Guevera, an Islamic populist as well as a charismatic guerrilla tactician. The black head wrap -- signifying his descent from the prophet Muhammad -- is now his trademark, and he is Lebanon's best known politician. Lines from his speeches are popular ring tones on cellphones. His face is a common computer screensaver. Wall posters, key rings and even phone cards bear his image. Taxis play his speeches instead of music.

At 46, Nasrallah is also the most controversial leader in the Arab world, at the center of the most vicious new confrontation between Israel and its neighbors in a quarter-century. Yet he is not the prototypical militant. His career has straddled the complex line between Islamic extremist and secular politician. "He is the shrewdest leader in the Arab world," Israeli Ambassador to the United States Daniel Ayalon told me on Friday, "and the most dangerous." [complete article]
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Strikes are called part of broad strategy
By Robin Wright, Washington Post, July 16, 2006

Israel, with U.S. support, intends to resist calls for a cease-fire and continue a longer-term strategy of punishing Hezbollah, which is likely to include several weeks of precision bombing in Lebanon, according to senior Israeli and U.S. officials.

For Israel, the goal is to eliminate Hezbollah as a security threat -- or altogether, the sources said. A senior Israeli official confirmed that Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah is a target, on the calculation that the Shiite movement would be far less dynamic without him.

For the United States, the broader goal is to strangle the axis of Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and Iran, which the Bush administration believes is pooling resources to change the strategic playing field in the Middle East, U.S. officials say.

Whatever the outrage on the Arab streets, Washington believes it has strong behind-the-scenes support among key Arab leaders also nervous about the populist militants -- with a tacit agreement that the timing is right to strike. [complete article]
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In search of the truth about the Israel lobby's influence on Washington
By Glenn Frankel, Washington Post, July 16, 2006

All David Ben-Gurion wanted was 15 minutes of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's time.

Israel's founding father, one of the indomitable political leaders of the 20th century, came to Washington in December 1941 yearning to present the case for a Jewish state directly to the American president. He took a two-room suite at the old Ambassador Hotel at 14th and K for $1,000 a month and cooled his heels for 10 weeks, writing letters and reports and making passes at Miriam Cohen, his attractive American secretary. But Ben-Gurion didn't get the meeting. Not then, not ever. Not even a pair of presidential cuff links.

Now let's fast-forward 64 years to late May and a news conference in the East Room of the White House. That tall, freckled, slightly nervous-looking man with the rust-colored hair standing alongside President Bush at matching lecterns is Ehud Olmert, 12th prime minister of Israel. The two leaders and their advisers have just spent two hours together in the Oval Office. Bush is reaffirming the "deep and abiding ties between Israel and the United States" and praising Olmert's "bold ideas" and commitment to peace. Afterward, they'll adjourn for a private session without aides or note-takers and then go to dinner together. And the next day Olmert will address a joint session of Congress, whose members will interrupt his speech with 16 standing ovations. Ben-Gurion, whose remains rest in a simple grave overlooking the Negev Desert, would be stunned.

It's not that Olmert is a more commanding figure than Ben-Gurion. Far from it. No, it's about power. And not just Israeli power. It's really about the perceived power of the Israel lobby, a collection of American Jewish organizations, campaign contributors and think tanks -- aided by Christian conservatives and other non-Jewish supporters -- that arose over the second half of the 20th century and that sees as a principle goal the support and promotion of the interests of the state of Israel.

Thanks to the work of the lobby and its allies, Israel gets more direct foreign aid -- about $3 billion a year -- than any other nation. There's a file cabinet somewhere in the State Department full of memoranda of understanding on military, diplomatic and economic affairs. Israel gets treated like a NATO member when it comes to military matters and like Canada or Mexico when it comes to free trade. There's an annual calendar full of meetings of joint strategic task forces and other collaborative sessions. And there's a presidential pledge, re-avowed by Bush in the East Room, that the United States will come to Israel's aid in the event of attack. [complete article]
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Hezbollah, Hamas united by tactics
By John Ward Anderson, Washington Post, July 16, 2006

When the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah launched a cross-border raid Wednesday and captured two Israeli soldiers, barely two weeks after Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip had done virtually the same thing, Gaza accountant Mohammed Abu Asen saw the events as "completely connected" and a cause for celebration.

"It was an act of solidarity with the Palestinian people, when not a single Arab state had lifted a finger to help us" after two weeks of retaliatory Israeli attacks, he said.

But according to Asen and many others here, the notion that Hezbollah and Hamas had actually coordinated their separate abductions, despite the similarities, is far-fetched.

"I don't think they planned this together," said Khalid Salah, 31, a butcher. "Rather, it's a divine coincidence."

U.S. and Israeli officials have gone a step further, publicly charging -- without offering direct evidence -- that Iran and Syria had a hand in the operations. A senior U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the United States had intelligence that Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah traveled from Beirut to Damascus to visit Hamas political chief Khaled Mashal shortly before Wednesday's Hezbollah raid, suggesting the operations were linked, the official said. [complete article]

Comment -- Impicit in every theory about Hezbollah acting as an agent of Iran, at Syria's behest, in tandem with Hamas, or simply to further a pan-Islamist agenda, is the idea that the organization has no domestic political legitimacy; that it is inconceivable that (with or without justification) it might genuinely claim to be serving the interests of a real political constituency.
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Drawn back into the gyre
By Ethan Bronner, New York Times, July 16, 2006

It was not supposed to be this way. Just when Israelis had turned their backs on years of military occupation of Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, to international acclaim, they are again fighting in both places with no clear exit strategy.

The sense of shock is not limited to Israel. Lebanon, which last year took on a heroic hue in the West as its "Cedar Revolution" pushed Syrian troops out, thought it was on the verge of moving beyond civil war and offering a model of Middle Eastern democracy. Yet, after Hezbollah guerrillas crossed the border into Israel to kill and kidnap soldiers, Lebanon finds itself again cut off from the world, its airport runways turned into craters, its port blockaded by Israeli warships.

And the Palestinians of Gaza, who thought they finally gained a measure of control over their lives when Israeli troops and settlers left last summer, are living in semi-feudal darkness after Israel bombed its power plant and government offices. Funeral wails fill the air.

What is going on, and where will it all end? [complete article]

Comment -- If there's any kind of logic to Israel's actions, it is that Israel makes permanent its identity as a fortress state. Having secured itself behind its own Iron Curtain it will then be left to deal with what is ultimately the most intractible problem in maintaining its identity as a Jewish state: the fact that 20% (and growing) of the population is not Jewish. Barring a policy of ethnic cleansing or forced sterilization, Israel will ultimately have to confront the contradictions inherent in its own identity.
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Deadly Hezbollah attack on Haifa
BBC News, July 16, 2006

Rockets fired by Hezbollah militants in Lebanon have killed at least eight people and wounded dozens of others in the coastal Israeli city of Haifa.

It is the worst attack on Israel since the clashes with Lebanon began.

Israeli jets have again hit targets in the south of Beirut as they continue a fifth day of air strikes, which have killed at least 100 Lebanese people. [complete article]

See also, Israel steps up assault on Beirut suburbs (AP).
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Radical Shiite cleric hints at militia attacks to protest Israel's actions
By Edward Wong, New York Times, July 15, 2006

The radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr said Friday that Iraqis would not "sit by with folded hands" while Israel struck at Lebanon, signaling a possible increase in attacks from his mercurial militia, the Mahdi Army.

In a written statement, Mr. Sadr also said that he considered the United States culpable in the conflict unfolding in Lebanon, since America was the largest foreign ally of Israel.

Mr. Sadr's statement was issued at a time of rising tensions between the American military and the Mahdi Army, with American forces carrying out raids against Mahdi hideouts and arresting senior leaders. [complete article]

Iraq's Muqtada Al-Sadr: Spoiler or stabiliser?
International Crisis Group, July 11, 2006

With stepped-up U.S.-led raids against Muqtada al-Sadr's militia, Jaysh al-Mahdi, and media allegations of the militia’s responsibility for widespread and particularly horrendous sectarian killings in Baghdad on 9 July, the Shiite leader and his movement have become more central than ever. The war in Iraq radically reshuffled the country's political deck, bringing to the fore new actors and social forces, none more surprising and enigmatic, and few as critical to Iraq's stability, as Muqtada al-Sadr and the Sadrist movement he embodies. Largely unknown prior to the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime and bereft of resources Shiites typically must possess to assert their authority, Muqtada al-Sadr at first was dismissed as a marginal rabble-rouser, excluded from the political process and, after he flexed his muscles, decreed wanted "dead or alive" by the U.S.-led coalition. Learning the hard way, the U.S. and its allies have had to recognise the reality of the Sadrists' strength. [complete article]
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Fighting locally, fighting globally
By Scott Shane, New York Times, July 16, 2006

...the events last week also suggested why the notion of "global terrorism," and the war against it, may be strategically misleading.

Sometimes, these groups may cheer one another's bloody successes. But for Hezbollah gunmen, the status of Kashmir is not a high priority, and no Chechen militants are known to have schemed to attack the United States.

While the Chechen and Kashmiri separatists operate underground, Hezbollah is a major faction in the Lebanese Parliament and controls several ministries, an official status that the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, stressed in commenting on the kidnapping. "I want to make clear that the event this morning is not a terror act," he said, "but an act of a sovereign state that attacked Israel without reason."

Gregory F. Treverton, former vice chairman of the president's National Intelligence Council, said such groups are not in any meaningful sense part of a single movement, even if they occasionally claim alliance with Al Qaeda or lambaste America. "If you look at this week's events, it's clear that one size does not fit all," said Mr. Treverton, now a RAND Corporation analyst. [complete article]
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An American foreign policy that both realists and idealists should fall in love with
By Robert Wright, New York Times, July 16, 2006

During the post-cold-war era, the security landscape has changed a lot, in some ways for the worse; witness the role of “nonstate actors” last week in India, Israel and Iraq. But this changing environment has a rarely noted upside: It’s now possible to build a foreign policy paradigm that comes close to squaring the circle — reconciling the humanitarian aims of idealists with the powerful logic of realists. And adopting this paradigm could make the chaos of the last week less common in the future.

Every paradigm needs a name, and the best name for this one is progressive realism. The label has a nice ring (Who is against progress?) and it aptly suggests bipartisan appeal. This is a realism that could attract many liberals and a progressivism that could attract some conservatives. [complete article]
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