For more than 50 years, the Middle East's wars have been the world's wars. Greater powers have used lesser ones as proxies, and battles between large states have been fought out in smaller ones—often in weak, divided Lebanon. But skirmishes can turn quickly to conflagrations, and calibrated violence can escalate suddenly into atrocity with unpredictable and enduring consequences.—Newsweek, 7/17/06
Want to understand who’s pulling what strings in the latest upswing in battles in the Middle East? The best place to start is this week’s Newsweek cover story, quoted above by Christopher Dickey, Kevin Peraino and Babak Dehghanpisheh.
The “Greater Powers” are Iran and the US. Even so, it appears Israel has welcomed the confrontation in order to finally try to neutralize the biggest immediate threats of violence and mayhem: Hisbullah in Lebanon, and Hamas within its southern territory.
The clear consensus among pundits and statespeople, is that without some upper-handed diplomatic intervention by the US, the airstrikes and bombings are going to move into an all-out ground war, whose consequences no one can foresee. With all that’s at stake for the entire world, it would be appropriate for Bush and Rice to start acting like they’re directly involved, and put some bargaining chips on the table, instead of commenting in press interviews along the lines of Bush:
"There's a lot of people who believe that the Iranians are trying to exert more and more influence over the entire region and the use of Hizbullah is to create more chaos to advance their strategy." He called that "a theory that's got some legs to it as far as I'm concerned."
We need the president to do more than conjecture from a sofa—he needs to go front and center and get the perpetrators of violence to stop before it involves a lot more than 130 dead civilians in five days.
Unfortunately the options are thin based on US past policy toward the entities involved:
“If Condi Rice decided she wanted to do diplomacy, what would she do?” asked Aaron David Miller, who was a senior adviser for Arab-Israeli relations at the State Department under the last three presidents. The two countries that wield the most influence over Hezbollah and Hamas — Iran and Syria — are the same ones the administration has kept at arm’s length.
The value of the Bush approach has been its moral clarity and consistency, eschewing, in a post-Sept. 11 world, any deal-making with those thought to support terrorists. Both Hamas and Hezbollah are viewed as terrorist organizations, and by that logic, Syria and Iran are on the wrong side of the divide. – U.S., Needing Options, Finds Its Hands Tied, New York Times, 7/14/06
What is hopeful it that the exceedingly brilliant woman Rice is will find an
alternative way to initiate diplomacy, and resolution.