Saturday, November 22, 2008

Israeli on the 'next' round with Hezbollah: "We know we are going to bleed... It's just a question of how much"

[Excerpts from MEPGS]
"As President-elect Obama begins to assemble his NationalSecurity team, the leading candidates reflect the same centrist,experienced figures that dominate speculation (or actual announcement) for key domestic posts. For the Middle East, inthe view of veteran observers as well as current office holders,this may well mean a continuation of many Bush Administration policies. As one veteran analyst explains, "The Administration's policies in the Middle East over the last year and a half to two years are much different than in the previous six.
Should General James Jones be selected as National Security Advisor, the former top Marine and NATO commander will bring onthe ground Middle East experience to the job, having served asspecial envoy for Secretary Rice in security dealings withIsraelis and Palestinians. However, some Obama supporters see his credentials as a retired four star general being moreimportant to dealing with America's two ongoing wars and the current military commander in the area, David Petraeus......if you want to be able to deal with him, it's best done"General to General." For the Obama team, a shift from Iraq to Afghanistan is imperative. One of the President-elect's advisorsargues that two full divisions are needed in Afghanistan in orderto "break the momentum of the Taliban." And the personnel aswell as the funding can only come at the expense of USdeployments in Iraq. But even this advisor admits that, in his words, "It's "Principals" first, policy changes to follow."
With US troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is only natural that speculation about changes there would dominate public discussion. But as far as many key players are concerned the number one issue facing the incoming Administration is Iran. With the Iranians close to developing a nuclear capability, the time remaining to prevent what many consider to be this unacceptable outcome is growing short. European diplomats estimate that a "window of opportunity" exists between March andAugust for a major push by the US and its allies to strike a deal with Teheran that reverses the current trend.
What some Europeans would like to see is the US taking the lead role, supported by France, Britain, Germany and as many others as can be rounded up. "We are trying to put together a new method of dealing with Iran," says one well-placed European diplomat. This approach apparently would have the US engaging in one-on-one talks with Iran, aimed at creating something new and appealing to Teheran.
Even some skeptics, notably the Israelis, seem open to a new diplomatic initiative. For one thing, with oil prices now at $50a barrel, Iran is much more vulnerable to sanctions. For another, the Israelis, in particular, have needed to adapt toObama's emphasis on diplomacy,
which was, at least initially a good deal different from the approach advocated by Senator McCain [However, of late, Obama's call for unconditional talks with the Iranians, in the words of one former critic, "... has been walked back quite satisfactorily."]
Still, a deal with Teheran appears to many to be a long shot. The Europeans worry that the Obama team may give away too much in agreeing to talks with the Iranians, who are so often masterful in negotiating [As one veteran observer wryly put it,"A signed deal with Iran should always be viewed as the start of a negotiation."] ....
Meanwhile, State Department officials, even at the risk of antagonizing the Israelis are moving ahead with plans to strengthen the Lebanese Armed Forces [LAF] Recently, a Joint Military Group met in Beirut and this week it was announced that US made M-60 battle tanks will be transferred from excess Jordanian inventory to the LAF. Also destined for the LAF arehelicopter gunships, night vision equipment and a host of upgraded weaponry. The strategic rationale behind this assistance is to shore up the army, the most respected institution in Lebanon. The tactical reason is to enable the LAF to subdue radical elements that have gained power in a number of Palestinian camps throughout Lebanon. But from Israel's point of view, provisioning the LAF is just one short step from seeing them wind up in the hands of Hezbollah. For that reason, there has been a ongoing dialogue between the Israelis and the Administration over what kind ofequipment could pose the greatest danger, should Hezbollah manage to obtain it. As one Israeli analyst, who believes it is only a matter of time before Hezbollah and Israel engage in another round of fighting, puts it, "We know we are going to bleed. It'sjust a question of how much."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Most likely, it will bleed to death!