Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Saudis Support Israeli Self-Defense

The Saudis, whose Treaty of Taif halted the Lebanese Civil War in 1990, again are playing peacemaker, as even ardent Zionist James Taranto admits in his latest Best of the Web submission:

BEGIN QUOTE "Let's look at the bright side, shall we? There are quite a few countries that have waged war on Israel before (1948, 1967, 1973) but are not doing so now. Jerusalem is formally at peace with Egypt and Jordan. Iraq is busy recovering from Saddam Hussein's misrule. And as the New York Times reports, Saudi Arabia, among others, is actually taking Israel's side, sort of:"

"Key Arab governments have taken the rare step of blaming Hezbollah, underscoring in part their growing fear of influence by the group's main sponsor, Iran."

"Saudi Arabia, with Jordan, Egypt and several Persian Gulf states, chastised Hezbollah for "unexpected, inappropriate and irresponsible acts" at an emergency Arab League summit meeting in Cairo on Saturday."

"The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, said of Hezbollah's attacks on Israel, "These acts will pull the whole region back to years ago, and we cannot simply accept them." Prince Faisal spoke at the closed-door meeting but his words were reported to journalists by other delegates."

"Israel is at war ostensibly with Lebanon, whence have come kidnappings of soldiers on the border and rocket attacks on Israeli cities. But the government in Beirut is disunited and unable to control its own territory, as Ha'aretz reports;"

On Saturday Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora called for state's authority to extend over southern Lebanon.

"In an emotional address to the nation, he called on the Lebanese public "to work to extend the state's authority over all its territories, in cooperation with the United Nations in southern Lebanon."

"Siniora called for an immediate cease-fire with Israel, and asked for help in deploying the country's army in the south, from where Hezbollah has for days pounded northern Israel with Katyusha rockets."

"Siniora also called on Lebanon to "work to recover all Lebanese territories and exercising full sovereignty of the state over those territories."

"Hezbollah, a Shiite terrorist group, doubles as a political party and is part of Siniora's government. But plainly it is acting on its own, and Lebanon continues to take a pounding from Israel because the government in Beirut is too weak to surrender. This led to a rather amusing exchange last week at the United Nations, in which Israel's ambassador, Dan Gillerman, lectured his Lebanese counterpart, as CNSNews.com recounts:"

"You know, deep down, that if you could, you would add your voice to those of your brave countrymen. You know, deep down in your heart, that you should really be sitting here, next to me, voicing the same opinion," said Gillerman.

"You know that what we are doing is right, and, if we succeed, your country will be the real beneficiary. I am sure many of our colleagues around this table and in this chamber, including many or our neighbours, share this sentiment," Gillerman added.

"Those neighbors--Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, etc.--are Sunni, while Hezbollah and its patron Iran are Shi'ite. The dictator of Syria, which backs Hezbollah (and also Hamas, which is attacking Israel from the unoccupied Gaza Strip) belongs to the Alawite sect, a Shi'ite offshoot. So it is the Shi'ites shooting while Sunnis sit on the sidelines. As Reuters reports from St. Petersburg, Russia:"

"A microphone picked up an unaware President Bush saying on Monday Syria should press Hezbollah to "stop doing this [scatological vulgarity]" and that his secretary of state may go to the Middle East soon."

"Reuters, which considers terrorism taboo, actually quotes the vulgarity, which we've omitted, in part because this Web site is published by a family newspaper and in part because we're not sure the president didn't actually say "Shi'ite."

These Shi'ite stirrings make this New York Times report from Iraq--the only major Arab country with a Shiite majority--especially pertinent:

As sectarian violence soars, many Sunni Arab political and religious leaders once staunchly opposed to the American presence here are now saying they need American troops to protect them from the rampages of Shiite militias and Shiite-run government forces.

The pleas from the Sunni Arab leaders have been growing in intensity since an eruption of sectarian bloodletting in February, but they have reached a new pitch in recent days as Shiite militiamen have brazenly shot dead groups of Sunni civilians in broad daylight in Baghdad and other mixed areas of central Iraq.

The Sunnis also view the Americans as a "bulwark against Iranian actions here," a senior American diplomat said.

Talk of withdrawal from Iraq seems to have died down while we were away, but if it comes up again, keep in mind that one very plausible consequence of cutting and running would be to turn Iraq into a satellite of Iran.

Meanwhile, what will Israel do? Michael Oren draws some lessons from the 1960s, when "one Arab state did not want peace":

Syria, then as now under the rule of the belligerent Baath Party, wanted war. . . . The Syrians began supporting a little-known Palestinian guerrilla group called Al Fatah under the leadership of Yasir Arafat. Using Lebanon as its principal base, Al Fatah commenced operations against Israel in 1965 and rapidly escalated its attacks. Finally, at the end of 1966, Israeli officials felt compelled to retaliate. But, fearing the repercussions of attacking Soviet-backed Syria, they decided to strike at an Al Fatah stronghold in the Jordanian-controlled West Bank. . . .

Suddenly and unexpectedly, a regional war erupted that the principal combatants--Israel, Egypt, and Jordan--neither desired nor anticipated. The lesson: Local conflicts in the Middle East can quickly spin out of control and spiral into a regional conflagration.

The lesson is especially pertinent to the current crisis. Then, as now, the Syrians have goaded a terrorist organization, Hezbollah, to launch raids against Israel from Lebanon. . . . And once again Israel must decide when to strike back and against whom.

The answer lies in delivering an unequivocal blow to Syrian ground forces deployed near the Lebanese border. By eliminating 500 Syrian tanks--tanks that Syrian President Bashar Al Assad needs to preserve his regime--Israel could signal its refusal to return to the status quo in Lebanon. Supporting Hezbollah carries a prohibitive price, the action would say. Of course, Syria could respond with missile attacks against Israeli cities, but given the dilapidated state of Syria's army, the chances are greater that Assad will simply internalize the message. Presented with a choice between saving Hezbollah and staying alive, Syria's dictator will probably choose the latter. And the message of Israel's determination will also be received in Tehran.

Some have criticized Israel for not responding proportionately to the attacks, but we'd counsel patience. After all, the Israelis aren't done yet. END QUOTE

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