The Israelis and their allies in the US are looking for an outcome that will involve ‘regime change’ in both Syria and Iran. However, the right-wing Israeli Zionists within the Likud and other right-wing Israeli parties and their neoconservative allies in the US, some of whom are within the Bush administration, are seeking ‘regime change’ specifically using direct military confrontation at least or, preferably, the direct use of military power; that is, a military strike against Syria and Iran.
World opinion at the moment is in no mood, despite the neoconservatives and the right-wing Israeli Zionists best efforts to change that opinion, to accept any kind of preemptive strike against Syria or Iran. It is clear that the recent war between Hizbollah and Israel was a deliberate attempt on behalf of the Israelis and the US to provoke Syria and then Iran into a broader conflict that the Israelis and the US hoped would be some kind of defining war that would determine the future of the Middle East. Just as clear is the fact that the attempt failed. But its failure has demonstrated that the Israelis are reluctant to actually make the first strike against Syria without some good reason such as the Syrians launching a direct attack against the Israelis or very clearly and overtly helping Hizbollah. It was with an even greater degree of reluctance that slightly cooler heads in Washington DC declined from launching any kind of attack against Iran despite the neoconservative hawks all but pleading for Israel to strike Syria and the US to strike Iran.
Since the so-called ceasefire the rhetoric against Syria and Iran from the Israelis and the US has continued with renewed vigour particularly in light of the news that Iran will not be ceasing its ‘nuclear enrichment’ program. Israel, despite the ceasefire, launched a raid into Lebanon on the pretext that it was trying to stop arms being supplied to Hizbollah from Syria. The raid in reality was more likely for some other purpose – some observers suggesting that it may have been an abortive attempt to kidnap a senior Hizbollah leader, Sheik Mohammed Yazbek, to exchange for the two Israeli soldiers that were captured by Hizbollah on 12 July 2006. Israel is also demanding that the UN monitor the Lebanon-Syria border, ostensibly to halt the flow of arms from Syria to Hizbollah, a move that Syria rejects.
From Israel’s point of view it is essential that it not be seen to cast the first stone in any of its wars. Israel must always manipulate situations so that its casus belli for war always appears to be only defensive. It is by this means that it justifies its occupation and colonisation of lands that are otherwise not theirs. It is how they justify their occupation of the Shebaa Farm, the Golan Heights, the West Bank and, of late, the retaking of the Gaza and what they had hoped would have been southern Lebanon up to the Litani River. In finding some trivial provocation to attack Hizbollah in south Lebanon Israel were hoping to kill two birds with one stone. First, they could, with the help of a compliant western media and the support of the US and a generally kowtowing UN, have made a case for having fought a ‘defensive’ war with a resultant ‘legal’ occupation of the lands invaded just as they had done with the Shebaa Farm, and the Golan Heights, etc. Second, it was Israel’s hope that in attacking Hizbollah and Lebanon as viciously as it did that it may have provoked Syria to once again come to the aid of Hizbollah. Israel could then have retaliated – again, defensively – and then waited for Iran to have enjoined Syria in its defence against Israel which, in turn, would have induced the US to enter the conflict. As I have noted in previous articles, it is clear that such a scenario was pre-planned between the Israelis and the US. What is now equally as clear is the fact that both the Israelis and the US grossly underestimated the tenacity and resilience of Hizbollah and the Lebanese people and also the restraint that Syria showed in not becoming directly involved despite the rhetoric and the provocation. It was this that thwarted not only all of Israeli and US covert ambitions of expanding the war to include Syria and Iran and to invade and occupy south Lebanon, but also of causing Israel to be unable to realise its overt and stated war aims of having its captured soldiers returned and destroying Hizbollah.
What remains to be seen now is whether or not these failures are simply a minor setback in their overall strategy and long term aims or a disastrous setback that is likely to upset both Israeli and US Middle East foreign policy for the future. Since the rhetoric of Syrian and Iranian support of Hizbollah and the rhetoric against Irans so-called nuclear weapon ambitions is continuing unabated it would seem that Israel’s failures, while seriously hampering the overall strategy of eliminating Syria and Iran as a threat to US and Israeli long term interests, is being regarded only as a minor setback that has caused them to rethink their tactics.
One of the issues that will need to be considered as the US and Israel rethink their tactics is the way in which the Middle East pecking order has changed since the March 2003 invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein. A recent report from Chatham House, home of the UKs respected Royal Institute for International Studies, has shown that, since the US has failed to subjugate Iraq in the aftermath of its invasion and with the resurgence of the Taliban in an almost ungovernable Afghanistan, Iran is now seen as the dominate power to be reckoned with in the Middle East.
This is a worse case scenario as far as the US and Israel is concerned. Had the US been able to complete what they set out to do in Iraq, and had done it quickly, they would have succeeded in isolating Syria from Iran strategically. Furthermore, had the US been successful in Afghanistan and been able to assert its authority there across the entire land, it would have succeeded in isolating Iran and surrounding Iran with US hegemony. Iran would at least then have become compliant having been surrounded by nation states that were heavily reliant clients of the US or even have been subject to ‘regime change’ via internal dissent or uprising supported by the US. All this would have left Syria unsupported by Iran and therefore at the mercy of Israel and/or internal regime change resulting in a state unwilling to resist Israeli regional ambitions.
The US is now painfully aware that neither Iraq nor Afghanistan is any time soon going to come to heel to produce the kind of strategic environment that would induce the Iranians to become compliant. It is for this reason that the US and Israel is going to have to find some other way of removing Iran and Syria as a threat to their interests.
As was the case with Iraq, the international community in the form of the UN is unlikely to push the matter of Irans ‘nuclear ambitions’ to the point where the UN would allow US military intervention. Despite all the rhetoric, the IAEA has found absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Iran is aiming to produce or has produced any uranium enriched beyond that which can be used for anything other than fuel for electricity generation. Nor has the IAEA found any evidence to suggest that Iran has or is intending to have a facility which will enable Iran to produce weapon grade material specifically. Unlike the run up to invading Iraq, the UN is also unlikely to support economic sanctions against Iran though the US will have no alternative to at least be seen to be going down that road. The upshot in the end however, seems to be that the US will have no alternative but, at some time or another, to confront Iran. The US with its own rhetoric seems to have painted itself into a corner.
Meanwhile, there are other options. The most obvious one is that the US and Israelis revert to Plan ‘A’ inasmuch that they try again under some pretext or another to crush ‘once and for all’ the ‘ever threatening’ Hizbollah organisation and hope that such an attempt will this time draw Syria into the fray. But, as I have continually pointed out, Israel cannot be seen to cast that first stone. If it does, then any claims to subsequent lands occupied as a result of such a war would be null and void under international law which so far the Israelis have gone to great pains to manipulate and even outright lie over in order to achieve an outcome favourable to their interests.
The other scenario that could well be the last desperate act of a government on the ropes is to hope that the rest of the world accepts as fait accompli a joint preemptive attack by Israel on Syria and by the US on Iran of such devastating proportions that both nations would surrender to Israeli and US terms without the need to invade.
This, of course, can only mean the use of nuclear weapons.
That’s Plan ‘C’.
 Jim Lobe, ‘Hard-Line Neocons Assail Israel for Timidity’, antiwar.com, 12 August 2006. Available online: http://www.antiwar.com/lobe/?articleid=9530 Accessed 21 August 2006.
 Max Boot, ‘Let Israel Take Off the Gloves’, Los Angeles Times, 19 July 2006. Available online: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-boot19jul19,0,3628616.column Accessed 22 August 2006.
 William Kristol, ‘It’s Our War; Bush should go to Jerusalem – and the US should confront Iran’, The Weekly Standard, 24 July 2006. Available online: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/012/433fwbvs.asp Accessed 22 August 2006.
 ‘Bolton tells UN: Time to address Iran, Syria over Hezbollah’, Rawstory.com, 22 August 2006. Available online: http://www.rawstory.com/news/2006/UN_Ambassador_speaks_on_Iran_nuclear_0822.html Accessed 23 August 2006.
 Patrick Martin, ‘An outlaw state: Israel breaks ceasefire, threatens to assassinate Hezbollah leader’, Axisoflogic.com, 22 August 2006. Available online: http://www.axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/article_22811.shtml Accessed 23 August 2006.
 Aluf Benn and Mazal Mualem, ‘Assad rejects Israel’s demand for UN troops on Syria-Lebanon border’, Ha’aretz, 23 August 2006. Available online: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/753639.html Accessed 24 August 2006.
 Michael I. Krauss and J. Peter Pham, ‘Why Israel Is Free to Set Its Own Borders’, Commentary, July/August 2006, Iss. 122, No. 1.
 Damian Lataan, ‘The US and Israel have failed to provoke war with Syria and Iran’, lataan.blogspot.com, 16 august 2006. Available online: http://lataan.blogspot.com/2006/08/us-and-israel-have-failed-to-provoke.html
 Robert Lowe and Claire Spencer, eds., ‘Iran, its neighbours and the regional crisis’, Chatham House, August 2006. Available online: http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/pdf/research/mep/Iran0806.pdf Accessed 24 August 2006.
 Atul Aneja, ‘IAEA says no evidence of Iranian n-weapons plan’, The Hindu, 3 March 2006. Available online: http://www.hindu.com/2006/03/01/stories/2006030104411600.htm Accessed 23 August 2006.