Second take on the Israel / Hezbollah Conflict

Having seen a little more and read a little more, I'm reposting, with a few modifications, a post I put up earlier. No major changes, just some adjustments for clarity and better 'fit' to the events on the ground.

Israel, Hezbollah, Iran and the United States:

First, this is classic proxy war - as clearly as anything from the Cold War - with Israel as the US's proxy, Hezbollah as Iran's. It's important to remember that while Israel is doing what's best for their state's security (and Hezbollah what's best for them) it's the more powerful nations that are largely directing this chess game.

First Iran / Hezbollah: Hezbollah was founded by and is supported by Iran. Many pundits and analysts have noted that the seizure was likely at the direction of Iran, possibly to distract the public from Iran's nuclear weapons program. The part about Iran directing this escalation is correct, but not the reason.

With the removal of Saddam's Iraq, Iran sees itself an emerging military 'power' in the Middle East. The only other nation in the region that can match Iran is Israel. Israel has no desire to see a nation that has publically called for the complete destruction of Israel become a military equal, let alone a nation with a nuclear capability.

Israel has to look at all their problems at least a few steps down the road. Knowing that an airstrike against Iran's nuclear facilities would likely generate some sort of retaliation, Israel set about trying to limit the damage Iran's possible means of retribution could inflict.

Knowing that an unprovoked strike would be strongly condemned, they waited until Hezbollah gave them an excuse.

Yes, the Israelis are trying to recover their captured soldiers and root out Hezbollah militants, but Israel's actions in Lebanon are, at their root, designed to clear the way for the previously mentioned strike against Iran in an attempt to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear state. (The US, Europe, and Israel all agree would be a bad thing.)

If Israel were to attempt the same sort of airstrike against Iranian nuclear facilities that was carried out against Iraq years ago, Iran's proxy (Hezbollah) is in a position to wreak havoc on Israeli population centers with their rockets.

Because a Nuclear Iran would be able to disrupt the flow of oil out of the Middle East without fear of military reprisal, the U.S. (and Europe) are allowing Israel to do a little bit of the heavy lifting for them.

(SIDE NOTE: The reason Russia and China are hesitant to put sanctions on Iran have nothing to do with those nations being 'bad guys' and everything to do with energy supplies. Should Middle East oil production be negatively impacted, the value of Russia's oil reserves would skyrocket overnight. China is hoping that by helping Iran, it can get a sweet-heart deal on Iranian to keep it's economy going.

Interestingly, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt have all issued statements condemning Hezbollah. President Bush and his apologists would love you to believe that this was due to the pressure he has exerted upon them to condemn terrorists. It has nothing to do with this. These nations are primarily Sunni and (with the exception of Egypt) Arab - putting them at odds with Shiite and Persian Iran. The Saudi Arabians, Jordanians and Egyptians are just trying to hedge against a rising Iranian power.)
Israel has little to lose and everything to gain by helping the US prevent a nuclear Iran. It has proven that it can withstand conventional attacks and invasions by it's neighbors. With the US's support, Israel will not be 'wiped of the map.' Therefore, provoking the 'Arab Street' is an acceptable risk when weighed against being nuked by a nation who's leader has declared his desire that Israel be destroyed.

The US, already tied up in Iraq has the ability to conduct the airstrike on Iran's nuclear facilities, but not to survive the aftermath. Troops in Iraq would be at huge risk, the entire region would become more hostile and oil shipping coming through the Persian Gulf would be massacred.

Economic, Strategic and Political ramifications would be damning.

So of course the US is allowing Israel to operate freely. Expecting the US to reign in Israel is expecting the US to act against it's own self interest.

When looking at the wider picture, the 'disproportionate response' arguement loses some of it's power. That wider picture doesn't change the terrible suffering of the largely innocent Lebanese people (Hezbollah being excepted from the innocents) or suffering of the Palestinians.

The Arab World's conflict with Israel doesn't have any true 'good guys' or 'bad guys.' Each side has made mistakes. Each side has done things that they probably shouldn't have. Both sides are driven by their most extreme elements - always a recipe for endless conflict.

If we ever want to stop the violence in the Mid-East, we have to understand the roots of the conflict and get past 'Arabs hate Israelis' and 'Israelis hate Arabs.'

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