One need not be a (Katyusha) rocket scientist to discern the pattern behind the present escalation. The actions are indeed directed from Damascus:
- It was from there that Khaled Mesh’al ordered the actions by the Hamas military wing that upstaged the Palestinian leadership.
- It is from there that the orders (and concomitant funds) are sent to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad cadres and to other terror groups, including Fatah thugs and renegades, who continue to pursue the death of Jews in the streets of Israel.
- And as rockets rain down on towns and villages in the Galilee—one salvo already reaching Haifa this evening—we should bear in mind that all of them were supplied either through Syria or even, at times, directly by the Syrian military.
In plain legal terms, Lebanon bears the formal responsibility for the full range of activities, including the cross-border attack on Wednesday and the rain of rockets (which claimed two lives and wounded more than a hundred) that began today and may last for some time. All flows from the lawless reality created in South Lebanon. The absence of the Lebanese in the border areas is in blatant breach of UN Security Council Resolution 1559, and is now a formal purpose of the massive operation— “Operation Proper Wages”—that Israel has launched.
And yet we know all too well that, at the end of the day, it is neither in Beirut, nor in the presidential palace in Jabal Qasyun, overlooking Damascus, that these provocations were planned. Syria, and Mesh’al, are Iran’s allies; Hezbollah is an Iranian proxy, obedient not only to Ali Khamene’i’s general directives, but to his detailed instructions.
This, in turn, transforms the nature of the war. “Fighting on Two Fronts” cried the Israeli papers, almost one and all, as the news began to flow in. But, in effect, there are three interrelated fronts: two shooting conflicts and one diplomatic battle, fought over Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapon. As the international noose tightens, Tehran refuses even to answer the offers of the six-power group (the U.S., Russia, China, and the E-3—Germany, France and Britain) before August 22. It has become a vital interest of the Islamic revolutionary regime to ignite the Arab conflict with the “Zionist entity.
Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is the talking head—and, indeed, seems to excel in making outrageous statements. (Recently he suggested that “those who created the Zionist entity”—i.e., the U.S. and the West—should “wrap it up and take it away.”) Real authority in such matters rests firmly, however, with the rahbar (literally, “guide”—a term redolent of the Nazi model), Ali Khamene’i. His influence on Hezbollah is decisive; indeed, Hassan Nasrallah’s right-hand man in all military events, Imad Mughniyah, serves simultaneously as the “supreme guide’s” expert on special operations.
What is at stake? Nothing less than the future of the region. With wind in its sails, the coalition of Islamists now using Damascus as a hub could—sooner rather than later—pose a threat to the existing order. This is also why the Arab reactions, in general, have been so restrained, despite painful images (and some have even offered their help). On the other hand, if Hezbollah would be clearly beaten back, their myth of invincibility broken, many things could be done in the region—from advancing peace to action against the Iranian nuclear program.