THE NEXT WAR IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Written by Jack Kelly
Friday, 13 July 2007
This Monday (7/16), the United Nations Security Council is scheduled to take up a report from Secretary General Ban Ki Moon which recommends the UN act to reduce the flow of arms from Syria to Hezbollah.
That same day or next, the Security Council also is expected to receive a report from its International Investigation Commission about the 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which most Lebanese believe was orchestrated by Syria.
How will Syria respond? Here's a clue:
The Iranian news agency IRNA and several Arab newspapers have reported Syria has ordered all Syrian nationals residing in Lebanon to leave the country before Monday.
The al-Watan newspaper in Qatar reported last month that Syria has removed government archives from the Damascus area, a move al-Watan said indicates preparation for war.
Syrian troops have moved three kilometers (1.8 miles) into Lebanon and are digging trenches and building bunkers, the Lebanese daily al-Mustaqbal reported last week.
"There's not much doubt who is behind the military buildup, not to mention the growing violence in Lebanon itself," the Washington Post said of Syria in an editorial July 5.
"Syrian critics in Lebanon say they see their neighbor's hand in an ongoing militant
Islamist uprising in the north, and a deadly bomb attack against UN soldiers in the south," wrote Andrew Butters this week (7/11) in Time magazine's Middle East blog. "The idea is that Syria is going to do whatever it can to prevent the international noose from tightening around its neck."
Syria and its proxy, Hezbollah, are plotting a coup, al-Mustaqbal said. Hezbollah plans to form a "second government" that would include south Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley, both Hezbollah strongholds.
Hezbollah is Shia, as are about 38 percent of Lebanon's people. Slightly more are Christians. The remainder are chiefly Sunni Muslims, or Druze, an offshoot of Shia Islam. The government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora (a Sunni) has a narrow majority in the Lebanese parliament, a majority that's been thinned by the assassination, allegedly by Syrian agents, of three members of parliament who supported Mr. Siniora.
The coup attempt -- which Lebanese newspapers predict will take place this month -- could spark another civil war. And that war may not be confined to Lebanon.
"Well informed sources in Washington fear a confrontation between Israel and Syria may happen this summer," wrote Claude Salhani, UPI's international editor, last Monday (7/09).
If Israel doesn't vacate the Golan Heights (captured from Syria in the 1967 war) by September, Syrian guerrillas will launch "resistance operations," a top official in Syria's ruling party told the New York Sun.
The Israeli Defense Forces are preparing for a simultaneous conflict this summer against Syria, Iran, and the terror groups Hezbollah, Hamas and al Qaeda, IDF sources have told Israeli newspapers. The conflict would be "at least 10 times worse" than last summer's clash between Israel and Hezbollah, an IDF source told the Jerusalem Post this week.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered to hold "unconditional" peace talks with Syria, but Syrian dictator Bashar Assad rejected his overture, Israeli army radio reported Tuesday (7/10).
"Bashar Assad apparently has other plans than making peace with Israel," Israeli public security minister Avi Dichter said.
Syria wishes to reassert control over Lebanon, which it occupied from 1976 until 2005, and to head off UN-imposed economic sanctions. But in the past Iran, the senior partner in their axis of evil, has imposed restraints on Syrian ambitions. Rising confidence and rising fear are changing the calculus in Tehran.
Poor Israeli performance in the war with Hezbollah last summer has inspired confidence the Jewish state can be beaten militarily.
Fear in Tehran that its nuclear weapons program could trigger economic sanctions from the UN or an air strike from the U.S. makes the mullahs there more inclined to roll the dice.
Unrest at home over a terrible economy also makes the mullahs eager to deflect the anger of Iranians away from themselves.
Iraqi security forces seized 200 explosive suicide belts in a truck that crossed from Syria into Iraq, an Interior Ministry spokesman said Wednesday (7/11).
Syria and Iran have abetted much of the violence in Iraq, a fact which those who insist what's happening there is a civil war resolutely ignore. But Syria and Iran soon may make it harder to deny that Iraq is but one front in a worldwide conflict.