The Current Crises in the Middle East
A few days ago two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped; Israel charged the radical Hezbollah and Hamas radicals operating from Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine for this incident. The Israeli city of Haifa became the target of rocket attacks; subsequently, Israel launched preemptive military strikes against Palestinian targets and Lebanon. Many Palestinian, Lebanese and Israelis have died. More of the un-people from the muslim states will die in the days to come; they are un-people, because they die unremembered and uncounted and considered irrelevant by western media. Emotions have risen and another fault line leading to war is created in the Middle East. This newsletter attempts to explain the objective of Israeli policy and projects the possible outcomes. I avoid analysis in terms of religion or an evaluation of Israeli behavior under international law; others have done that already.
Israel considers itself a state in constant war with its neighbors, who are more in number, potentially rich and have the strategic advantage of geography. Israel takes pride in its military prowess and believes that it has brainwashed the Arabs to accept its supremacy; its present reaction apparently looks disproportionate; however, Israel views it as a challenge to its domination, both physical and mental. More seriously for it, the kidnapping is seen as a challenge to the Israeli concept of military superiority in the Arab world. Israel believes that not re-establishing this myth will destroy the unity of the Israel Defense Force. It further believes that if IDF weakens, it is only a matter of time before Israel disappears from the map; this in brief is the extent of the Israeli fears flowing from this kidnapping; it is no small matter for it.
Throughout Israeli history, whether it was the daring raid on Entebbe airport or avenging the deaths of its athletes killed in the Munich Olympic, Israel has never shied to redeem its mythical superiority. It is the bed-rock of Israeli nation hood; this myth is Israel. The kidnappings represent at another level the growing tactical capability of the radical Islamic movements in the region; it signifies a cultural shift challenging the mind-set imposed by Israel on the Arab world, which it derived from its victories in the past Israeli-Arab conflicts. In Lebanon, Israel accepted Syrian hegemony to ensure that small radical groups do not attack Israel. With greater independence of Lebanon, the tacit understanding between Israel and Syria is no longer valid. Syria has little influence over Lebanese politics or security. The Syrian peace imposed on Lebanon is no longer operational.
After the peace treaty with Egypt, Israel was free from the fear of a strike from the west. Jordan is too small to undertake any aggressive action; Syria by itself is incapable of launching a strike against Israel. However, the threat to Israel from Hezbollah and Palestinian guerrillas is grave. The Iranians have established close links with Hezbollah to counter Israel and create a strategic riposte. Given the recent standoff between Iran and United States, pressure has mounted against Israel from radical groups, which represents proxy-pinching of an ally of the United States; the possibility of Iranian manipulation of the Hezbollah is likely. Secondly, embroiling the region in strife provides Iran with space to keep the US engaged and away from an Iranian intervention. This volatile situation has now become war-like by the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers.
Simultaneously, Iran with the exit of Iraq as a Middle East power has emerged as a powerful country in the region. It is argued that the radical militias operating in Lebanon are involved in business activity for Syrian, Iranian elites and their intelligence services. Sadly, this link between personal interest and state policies aimed at enrichment of particular people in these countries makes rational policy formulation difficult. At the same time the Hezbollah-Syria-Iran combination has grown into a miniaturized radical-financial complex challenging the middle-east status quo built on the US-Israeli nexus. This linkage of radicals and business interest is a new development driving policies in the region and challenging Israel’s hegemony; it is autonomous because of financial independence. This structure provides deniable plausibility to the Hezbollah-Syria-Iran nexus.
Israel has limited capacity to provide its military with the weaponry that its strategy demands; this need can only be fulfilled by the United States; it is a patron client relationship. The United State provides Israel with weapons needed for its national security, while Israel supports US interest in the region, which includes keeping an eye on Syria, Iraq and Iran and preventing the development of a Shia power in the region. The US invasion and elections in Iraqhave made the emergence of a strong Shia political core area including Iran and Iraq imminent.
It is not the fate of the people of this unfortunate region to live in such miserable circumstances, where lives are insecure and full of pain. The realization must set in sooner than later, that the only answer is peaceful co-existence on the basis of equality. Israel and other nations and groups must re-orient their strategy. Israel should recognize the demographic situation because within a few years the population equation will marginalize her. Technology and culture will change in favour of the Arabs because of the nature of the new knowledge technologies. A new paradigm must be created before that happens; otherwise a change may be Apocalyptic. Israel may be able to protect its security through technology in the short term but history has shown that in the long run numbers matter.
The United States can help in devising a strategy to usher in the new paradigm; it has large reserves of creative power, technology and wealth but remains driven by a narrow oligarchy, whose interests lie in the defense and oil industry. It is quite ironic that today we are seeing a contest between different ideas. Yet one absurd commonality is that the antagonists are driven by oligarchies; the defense-industrial combine in the US versus the radical-business groups operating from Lebanon, Syria and Iran.
So what will happen in the immediate future? Israel is likely to extend its security zone in Lebanon and will strike against the Hezbollah assets in the Bekka valley, which has developed some industrial infrastructure. Israel will most likely copy the strategy that NATO used effectively in Yugoslavia in demolishing Lebanon’s infrastructure. It is also likely that Israel may destroy Syrian air-power, which could threaten its operation in Lebanon. Israel will not like to remain bogged down in Lebanon and would withdraw as early as possible after liquidating Hezbollah infrastructure. Iran being an old state will not take active part in hostilities but will continue to provide covert support to its proxies and beat loudly the religious and ideological drum. It will use this period to nuclearize, since the US will be too involved with crisis management.
The United State’s interest will remain tied to Israel’s. There is a strong Israeli lobby in the United States, which will ensure support for her policies. However, the Iranian and the Syrians will cause considerable problems in Iraq. The current crisis in the Middle East will be played out in the towns and cities there. As a result more people will die. Religious tension will increase in the Muslim world and so will protests against the USA and Israel. This crisis will cause difficulties for the Untied States and NATO in the war on terror. In Pakistan, the internecine and undeclared war between radical Sunni and Shia groups will become more violent; there will be public protests. The after math of the present crisis will be more violence and death, mostly of innocent women and children. What a tragedy, if we are only able to live and let live.
(by Khalid Aziz)