How Israel and the US benefited from the murder of Rafik Hariri

Who has benefited most from the assassination of Rafik Hariri in Beirut in 2005? As the International Court of Justice arrives at its version of events, Dyab Abou Jahjah, writing in Open Democracy, finds confirmation in WikiLeaks for pointing us in a different direction.

Lebanon nowadays seems much bigger than it actually is. In a way this is no surprise for a country that always was a playground for regional and international agendas and a laboratory for testing any new formula in the area. However, this time, Lebanon is much more than that. Since 2006 it has become clear to all serious observers that this country is the focal point of a strategic divide, or more accurately the strategic divide in the Middle East. By virtue of the victory of Hezbollah against Israel in 2006, the Lebanese resistance has become a major factor in tipping the balance in favour of the Syrian/Iranian influence in the region as against that of the American/Israeli-led project. The latter project aims at further fragmenting political and social regional structures based upon sectarian and ethnic divisions, in order to create a new Middle East in which – to put it simply – Israel can play boss over everybody.

The Iranian and the Syrian regimes naturally oppose this scheme as it targets them in the first instance, but Iran at least also opposes this for ideological reasons. For the surge of the neo-conservative ‘creative chaos’ strategy in Iraq and beyond, the war against Lebanon in 2006 was supposed to be the final blow to any resistance, especially as this occurred at a time when Iraqi resistance was starting to be divided, weak and marginal, and the American grip over Iraq was growing stronger. Hezbollah’s defeat of the Israeli onslaught stopped the American surge in its tracks. The tide has started to turn since that moment: since then, both the Lebanese resistance and its Syrian and Iranian allies have been strengthened.

At this point, for the Americans and the Israelis a new priority was established: to destroy Hezbollah by any means necessary. This conclusion is confirmed by one of the documents lately published on wikileaks where the heads of the CIA and the Mossad are to be observed contemplating a possible augmentation of the pressure on Syria to make it take its distance from Iran, in order eventually to weaken Hezbollah. In that conversation between Meir Dagan and Frances Townsend, Dagan conveys to his American counterpart the “advantage of such an approach” – that, “the legal ground is already in place for action by the UNSC.” It is in this context that one must read the actions of the international tribunal investigating the death of Rafik Hariri and the indictment of Hezbollah that it will be releasing shortly.

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Hezbollah gears up for new war

Hezbollah gears up for new war

Hezbollah is rapidly rearming in preparation for a new conflict with Israel, fearing that Benjamin Netanyahu’s government will attack Lebanon again prior to any assault on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Last week, Israeli commandos seized a ship in the Mediterranean loaded with almost 400 tonnes of rockets and small arms – which Israel claimed was being sent from Iran to its Hezbollah allies. In dramatic further evidence of growing tensions, the Observer has learned that Hezbollah fighters have been busy reinforcing fixed defence positions north of the Litani river.

Having lost many of its bunkers in the south, Hezbollah is preparing a new strategy to defend villages there.

Although the organisation denied last week that the weapons were intended for its use, senior commanders have done little to disguise the scale of rearmament. “Sure, we are rearming, we have even said that we have far more rockets and missiles than we did in 2006,” said a Hezbollah commander, speaking on condition of anonymity. [continued...]

Editor’s Comment — “We expect the Israelis to come soon, if not this winter, then they will wait until spring, when the ground isn’t too soft for their tanks,” says a Hezbollah commander.

Israel’s readiness to launch an attack on Iran may hinge on its readiness to send tanks back into Lebanon.

The war on Gaza, even to the extent that it may have served as a training exercise in preparation for another round of fighting with Hezbollah, probably did little to dispel the haunting memories of 2006. The Merkava tank, previously one of the IDF’s most potent symbols of invincibility, ended up exposing Israel’s military vulnerability.

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Israel’s never-ending war

Israel’s never-ending war

As Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, meet at the United Nations today, “both sides have made clear that they’ll essentially be humoring Obama, showing up because the President of the United States expects it of them and not to relaunch long-stalled ‘final status’ peace negotiations, as the administration had hoped,” writes Tony Karon at Time magazine.

The conventional wisdom among most seasoned observers of the conflict is that the status quo is untenable — that at some point both sides will have to arrive at a mutually acceptable way of implementing a two-state solution.

The process that might lead to that point is as murky as ever.

The possibility that receives less consideration is that Israelis, living in a country forged through war — a country that has never really known peace — having become resigned to the apparent necessity of remaining on a perpetual war footing, have now reached a point where war is more than tolerable: it is acceptable.

War is what created Israel, has allowed it to exist and will guarantee its perpetuation. Many Israelis may pay lip-service to the notion that peace is desirable, yet it is their willingness to engage in war that makes them feel safe.

For Ariel Siegelman, an Israeli soldier who fought in Gaza in a special forces unit of the IDF, the key lesson from the 2006 war in Lebanon was this: “We learned that we had been living in an imaginary world and that the most dangerous type of war is the one that you call peace. We learned that we are not in fact in a ‘peace process’ at all. We are at war.”

In the Washington Post just this week, Jackson Diehl pointed out that even as the UN’s damning report on the war on Gaza brought renewed critical attention to the most recent conflict, “Operation Cast Lead, as the three-week operation is known in Israel, is generally regarded by the country’s military and political elite as a success.” (Diehl, with apparent satisfaction, predicted: “As for the Goldstone report [PDF], the heat it briefly produced last week will quickly dissipate”.)

Claiming that the wars in Lebanon and Gaza had for Israel both been qualified successes, Diehl suggested that Israel is far less fearful than are most of its allies about picking a fight with Iran.

… as with Gaza, even a partial and short-term reversal of the Iranian nuclear program may look to Israelis like a reasonable benefit — and the potential blowback overblown.

Americans who do not share Diehl’s neoconservative perspective, don’t need to ask themselves whether they share Israel’s view of itself; they simply need to decide whether the United States has a responsibility (or any legitimate excuse) for sustaining Israel’s war machine.

Without American arms, the Jewish state will not be starved of materiel — there are plenty of non-US arms manufacturers who would happily pick up the new demand.

The only issue is whether we should regard Israel’s wars as ours.

* * *

Israel’s military might and its fighting forces have been celebrated by Israelis and Israel’s supporters through numerous songs and videos. Here are a few:

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NEWS & OPINION: Winograd; Jerusalem; Palestinian talks

Olmert: His own shlemiel, or Bush’s?

While Israel’s Winograd Commission has certainly pulled no punches in excoriating the Israeli military and political leadership for their botched war in Lebanon last summer, there appears to be a massive lacuna in its conclusions. (I’m not even going to get into the question of cluster bombs and other military actions by Israel in that conflict that contravene international law.) Israel clearly went to war in haste without a considered plan, without weighing alternatives, without establishing clear objectives and without an exit strategy. That much Winograd was prepared to say bluntly. But what he doesn’t explain is why things played out in this way.

And here, I think, he’s avoiding the elephant in the room: the very clear sense, throughout the Lebanon misadventure, that Israel was coordinating its actions with Washington to an extent that the Bush Administration’s own decisions had a decisive impact on how Israel waged its campaign. Once Israel had launche its initial air raids, the U.S. quickly moved to define the objectives of the war in terms far more expansive than Israel had ever intended, using its diplomatic veto to block a ceasefire that the Israeli leadership had, in fact, been counting on when they began. I had previously written about how in order to truly understand the brutal botchup of Lebanon, the commission would have to probe the U.S. role in Israel’s decision making — the war was one in which I believe Israeli leaders ceded an unprecedented level of control over Israeli decisions to the United States. [complete article]

See also, Opposition leader Netanyahu: Olmert is incompetent, unfit to lead (Haaretz).

Jewish group to build 200 new housing units in East Jerusalem

The Yemin Yehuda non-profit association has begun building 200 housing units in the Shimon Hatzaddik compound, in the heart of East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarra neighborhood. In the process, the organization intends to demolish the homes of dozens of Palestinian families who live there.

This neighborhood is in a strategic location: If Yemin Yehuda completes its plan, it will cut the Old City off from the Palestinian neighborhoods in northern Jerusalem.

MK Benny Elon (National Union-National Religious Party), who supports building the new neighborhood, says it is designed to create a Jewish continuum surrounding the Old City, where there currently is a massive Palestinian majority. [complete article]

Islamic Jihad urges Hamas, Fatah to start dialogue

Islamic Jihad movement on Thursday urged Hamas and Fatah movement benefit from both being in Cairo and start a reconciliation dialogue.

“We must get out from the internal infighting and its results,” said Naffez Azzam, an Islamic Jihad leader, during a demonstration in front of the sealed-off Rafah crossing point in southern Gaza Strip. [complete article]

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