Putting aside the arguments over the rights and wrongs of Israel’s bombardment of Lebanon in response to Hizbollah’s missile attacks, I think it’s worth taking a sideways step to analyse the west’s overall response to the new crisis.
The G8’s even-handed approach and failure to condemn Israel’s actions seems to me indicative that something important is going behind the scenes, which the mainstream media are missing. Call it a new realism, or a realisation that the struggle against Hamas and Hizbollah is also part of the war on terror. Either way, it appears that the west has apparently more or less given a green light to Israel to try and destroy Hizbollah’s mini-state in southern Lebanon.
The real reason why, I think, is Iran. Iran – and Syria – supply much of Hizbollah’s weapons, and provide political support for the Shiite milita. Iranian revolutionary guards train Hizbollah fighters. Israeli military sources confirm that the Israeli boat hit last Friday off the coast of Lebanon was struck by a high-tec shore-to-sea C-802 missile, suppled by Iran, according to the Middle East analyst Tom Gross (http://www.tomgrossmedia.com/mideastdispatches/archives/000759.html).
The use of such weaponry is a significant escalation in the conflict. As are Hizbollah’s threats to hit Tel-Aviv. Gross also reports that the two captured Israeli soldiers may be being held at the Iranian embassy in Beirut.
Fighting has erupted over the last decade or two between Israel and Lebanon sporadically, and usually without the kind of mass evacuations of westerners that are now being planned. The warships steaming towards Beirut harbour tell us that this conflict could go on for a long time yet. Mainly because this is a kind of proxy war against Iran, a struggle which is also being played out in the marshes of southern Iraq, against the Iranian-backed Shiite militias.
For all the talk of bombing Teheran to stop Iran getting a nuclear bomb, a military strike by the west on the Iranian capital is extremely unlikely at least at the moment. Bogged down in the Iraqi quagmire, the US will not open a new front. But Israel can – and has – gone to war against Teheran’s client militia.
Before the collapse of Communism, the Israeli-Arab war was also a remote-controlled struggle between the US and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union is gone, and radical Islamism is the west’s new enemy. Once again, the conflict is being fought by proxies.