NEW YORK CITY — While the news of all out war between Israel and Hezbollah has dominated the news media for the past few weeks, Iran's refusal to respond to 5+1 western incentive package to tame its nuclear technology continues.
I might be very naïve in Middle East politics, but one can not help but to notice a suspiciously close timing between the Hezbollah's latest provocation of Israel on one hand and capturing of Israeli soldiers by Hamas militants in Gaza on the other, all the while that western countries demanding that Iran must respond to the incentive package before the end of July or face sanctions.
It is possible that Iranian rulers emboldened with current US failure in IRAQ and increase power of Iraqi Shiites, thought they could teach US and its western allies a lesson as well as a reality check through their proxies in Lebanon and Palestine. The message from Iran was to remind the west to back off the nuclear issue and provocation inside Iran or else. The Iranian thinking was that this would be a win win strategy.
Firstly it shows off Iranian power to the west and other Sunni Arab governments in the region.
Secondly the newly elected civilian prime minister and defense minister of Israel would not have the stomach to fight in Gaza and Lebanon simultaneously and in case they do, their response will be limited to dropping few bombs on some Hezbollah targets which by no means reduces Hezbollah's capabilities and infrastructure.
Thirdly in case of a massive response from Israel, since much of the Hezbollah's ammunitions are stored in the residential areas of southern Lebanon, there will be a world condemnation of Israel for attacking civilian targets and killing and displacing innocent people. And finally this crisis will take attention from Iran's nuclear issue and looming deadline.
Meanwhile, back in Israel since its withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 and particularly in last 3 years, the Israeli military was drawing plans to annihilate Hezbollah missile stock pile and its launching capabilities and push them away from southern Lebanon should they continue their occasional missile attacks from the southern borders and refuse to disarm as mandated by UN resolution. Israeli goal was also to remind Iranian president and his backers that Israel is not the U.S. and will spare no efforts when its interests and security are threatened.
To Iran's surprise, back in Washington, US and its closest Middle East ally, Israel, were working on a mutely beneficial scenario of their own which was also supported by most Sunni Arab governments in the region. It seems that Bush administration and its neo-con partners anticipating Iran's foot dragging tactics for nuclear negotiations and fearful of Iran's influence in the region (Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon) wanted to use Israel as their proxy to teach Iran and Syria a lesson by weakening Hezbollah's infrastructure and leadership.
Hence, when Ehud Olmurt, prime Minster of Israel was visiting Washington in June he was given the green light to go ahead with massive response in a case of any Hezbollah provocation. It's no surprise that it has taken Condi Rice 2 weeks after the start of the Israeli Invasion to start her diplomacy and fly to the region. Furthermore, there is no surprise when President Bush refers to current Israeli attack on southern Lebanon as “moment of clarity in Middle East”.
On a separate front, US has also embarked on policy of separating Syria from Iran by pressuring and warning Syria of dire consequences if continues its support of Hezbollah and cooperation with Tehran.
Given the current popularity of the Israeli offensive among its citizens (90%) and unanimous US government support for Israel on one hand, and absence of world outrage and condemnation against Israel (as expected by Iranian and Syrian governments based on past history), it seems that Iran will come out of current crisis weaker than before and the prospect of nuclear Iran looks more dangerous to the entire world including Russia and China.
Next time when John Bolton and Condi Rice get together with their counterparts to discuss Iran's nuclear issue, you can bet the farm that they will remind China and Russia that it was Iran's missile that struck Israeli towns and that's why Iran can not be trusted with nuclear technology.
Meanwhile, images of innocent civilian Lebanese killed and injured and another hundreds of thousands displaced as well as devastated roads, bridges and other infrastructure will serve as a sobering and tragic reminder to the Iranian people that this could be their fate should Iranian rulers continue on their existing collision coarse with the west and Israel. After all in that part of the world, people are the ones that allways pay the ultimate price.