Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Winds of Regional War In The Middle East

Last Friday in The Freedom Fighter's Journal, I argued that we cannot understand the collapse in Gaza as an isolated factional war within the Palestinian territories, but that we must instead grasp that it is part of a regional war in which Iran is attempting to place its agents and clients in control of forward bases from which it can attack the United States and Israel.

The good news is that more and more commentators on the Right are grasping this big picture.
In the New York Post, Peter Brookes warns that "The Gaza Strip may be only the first domino to fall this summer in Iran and Syria's push to establish an arc of influence across the Middle East, stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Eastern Mediterranean."

The editorial board of the Washington Times sounds like it has been reading TFFJ, setting up a comparison between the Hamas putsch and Hitler's "Night of the Long Knives," as I did in last Thursday's edition. The editorial concludes:

The bloody anti-Fatah putsch staged by Hamas last week constitutes a strategic black eye for the United States and another sign of the ability of the Tehran-Damascus Axis to project power with absolute ruthlessness and brutal precision throughout the Middle East.

Below, a long article in the Weekly Standard sketches out this same picture of a regional offensive by the Islamist Axis centered in Tehran. The author also predicts the likely next step: Iran's initiation of a new war with Israel, this time from both sides—from Hezbollah in Lebanon and from Hamas in Gaza.

"Up to No Good," Mayrav Wurmser, Weekly Standard, dated June 25 As violence persists in Lebanon and escalates to civil war in Gaza, it would be foolish to minimize the turmoil as merely more of the same. The events in Lebanon and Gaza, though separated by a few hundred miles, are closely related. They were ignited from the same source—Syria, and by extension Iran—and they are all part of a renewed regional offensive against the United States and Israel, a strategic campaign whose coherence has gone unnoticed, and therefore unanswered, for over two years.

The latest fighting in Lebanon began on May 20, when investigations of a bank robbery ended in a standoff between the Lebanese Armed Forces and the al Qaeda affiliate Fatah al Islam, holed up in a Palestinian refugee camp near Tripoli. To this day, the standoff continues. A series of bombings, meanwhile—most recently one on the Beirut waterfront on June 13 that killed an anti-Syrian Sunni member of parliament, his son, and 8 others—have heightened fears of a renewal of the Lebanese civil war (1975-90), which also began when Palestinian militias challenged the government's authority.

Fatah al Islam is a pro-Syrian Palestinian Islamist group that, according to Lebanese and Israeli officials, is supported and directed by Syria and Iran….

Another Syrian/Iranian client, the militant Lebanese party Hezbollah, has also behaved in a manner consistent with the strategy outlined here….

The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, commanded and controlled from Damascus and financed by Tehran, is an important player in the Syrian/Iranian regional strategy. Hamas rose to power in the January 2006 elections in the Palestinian Authority…. When Hamas won, many explained the victory as a protest vote against corruption in the Palestinian Authority. What observers missed was that Hamas was acting to advance a regional strategy.

Hamas's electoral victory signaled Iran's renewal of an old project, a regional offensive derailed long ago in the killing fields of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88). Hamas's success in January 2006 showed that the Palestinians—the very embodiment of the Arab cause—had been seduced by Iranian radicalism as personified by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, elected president just months before. Iran became the strong horse….

Having won last summer's war by proxy, Syria and Iran now seek to further derail Western ambitions. They are escalating their offensive. They are fomenting discord in the region by directly challenging every key US victory in the war on terror. They are working to further destabilize Iraq, Afghanistan (where Iranian explosives were recently discovered in the hands of our enemies), and now Lebanon.

Since Syria and Iran were able to accomplish so much in a mere four weeks last summer, their next logical strategic move would be to initiate another conflict with Israel….

As Israel's war in Lebanon demonstrated, military toughness alone does not meet the growing Syrian/Iranian challenge. Instead of seeing all the problems in the Middle East solely as localized conflicts, we must understand their regional context. Only then can we devise a broad strategic vision to confront these threats. Toughness is necessary, but it will remain ineffective without a purpose and a plan.

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