Mere posturing or testing the propaganda waters for consent to strike?
Syria denies accusations made by the U.S. and Israel that it’s sent long-range scud missile to Hizbollah in Lebanon and has expressed concern Israel “might be preparing a military strike” against them, Ha’aretz reports today. Israel has been expressing fears of Syrian strike for months, to which Syrian President Bashar Assad has responded that it is “its [Israel’s] conduct which is leading the region to war” by, according to Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, “playing the role of thugs in the Middle East”.
“One day you threaten Gaza, next day you threaten Lebanon, later Iran and now Syria,” he added.
Pres. Assad has repeatedly conveyed his stance that “any new Middle East war would be catastrophic for the region and beyond”, according to Ha’aretz, and this is to be taken much more seriously from a quasi-feudal monarch than mere demagoguery from the leader of a ‘liberal democracy’.
Andrew “Abu Muqawama” Exum at the Realpolitik-hawkish Center for a New American Society wrote, when these allegations were made public, that “the next Israel-Lebanon war starts when either a) Hizballah or Israel does something stupid or b) Hizballah acquires ‘equilibrium-breaking’ weaponry like powerful long-range rockets or anti-aircraft weaponry. Israel might decide, in the event of the latter, that it must act preemptively and that the very fact that Hizballah possesses such weapons is casus belli enough”. (h/t: Tom Ricks)
He adds that we should “hold our breath” because “this is how wars start”, and I tend to agree. That a war would begin again with something stupid and that stupid act would be a preemptive strike from Israel, but not investigating for “the very fact” of Hizbollah having such weapons; only acting when it can ensure support from the U.S. Support from the U.S. and acting on credible evidence of Hizbollah possessing long-range weapons capable of reaching Tel Aviv are two completely different circumstances. My strong differences with Professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe on the general topic aside (along with many others neither here nor there), he’s correct that the more monarchical a head of State—as opposed to the leader of a democratic republic—the more that leader has to lose by militarily engaging in international conflict.
Most importantly, neither are casus belli for military strike, e.g. the Bush Administration’s invasion of Iraq.
Months after Israel’s massacre on Gaza that claimed the lives of nearly 1,200 of its civilians using unlawful, atrocious means and chemical weapons, Pres. Assad said, in an exchange with Seymour Hersh at The New Yorker, Israel was “doing everything possible to undermine the prospects for peace”, but continued to express their “need to conclude a serious dialogue to lead [the two countries] to peace”.
“A senior Syrian official explained that Israel’s failure to unseat Hamas from power in Gaza, despite the scale of the war, gave Assad enough political room to continue the negotiations without losing credibility in the Arab world,” Mr. Hersh added. “Syria is eager to engage with the West,” the official said, “an eagerness that was never perceived by the Bush White House. Anything is possible, as long as peace is being pursued.”
Mr. Hersh met with the Syrian president, who “said that if America’s leaders ‘are seeking peace they have to deal with Syria and they have to deal with our rights, which is the Golan Heights'”, which “in 1967, Israel seized the Golan Heights, about four hundred and fifty square miles of territory that is rich in Biblical history and, crucially, in water”.
Mr. Hersh’s report continued: “‘If Israel wants a settlement that goes beyond the Golan Heights,’ Assad said, it will have to ‘deal with the core issue’—the situation in the West Bank and Gaza—‘and not waste time talking about who is going to send arms to Hezbollah or Hamas. Wherever you have resistance in the region, they will have armaments somehow. It is very simple.’ He added, ‘Hezbollah is in Lebanon and Hamas is in Palestine. .. If they want to solve the problem of Hezbollah, they have to deal with Lebanon. For Hamas, they have to deal with Gaza. For Iran, it is not part of the peace process anyway.’ Assad went on, ‘This peace is about peace between Syria and Israel.'”
Since the Gaza Massacre, Israel has given no inclination of releases its occupation of the Golan Heights.
Israel’s 2006 invasion of Lebanon ended with nearly 1,200 Lebanese casualties not belonging to Hizbollah—only 37 identified as soldiers or police officers—and 44 Israeli civilians. The conflict ended with a ceasefire.
“When Israel and the United States realized that Hezbollah could not be bombed into submission, they pushed a resolution, 1701, through the United Nations,” Jonathan Cook reported at AntiWar.com in 2007, after Israel “launched waves of air strikes”, launching a conflict “Haaretz newspaper went so far as to admit that this was ‘a war initiated by Israel against a relatively small guerrilla group'”—Hizbollah.
In 2007, “reports have revealed that one of the main justifications for Hezbollah’s continuing resistance—that Israel failed to withdraw fully from Lebanese territory in 2000—is now supported by the U.N.”, whose “cartographers quietly admitted that Lebanon is right in claiming sovereignty over a small fertile area known as the Shebaa Farms, still occupied by Israel”, he adds.
Israel “argues that the territory is Syrian and will be returned in future peace talks with Damascus, even though Syria backs Lebanon’s position” and this is where we still stand almost four years after “aerial bombardments” rained on Lebanese civilians for over a month and “Israel’s use of cluster bombs has been described as a war crime by human rights organizations”, Mr. Cook reported, and “repeatedly hit Lebanese communities, killing many civilians, even though the evidence is that no Hezbollah fighters were to be found there”.