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Nasrallah in Damascus?
Posted by: McQ on Friday, July 28, 2006

DEBKAfile is reporting that Hezbollah's head, Hassan Nasrallah has crossed over into Syria and is attending what DEBKAfile is calling a "war council" which includes a senior Iranian official, leaders from Hamas and is supposedly sanctioned and chaired by Bashar Assad, president of Syria:
DEBKAfile reports a war council in Damascus chaired by Syrian president Bashar Assad, attended by Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah and senior Iranian official Ali Larijani

Iran‘s state news agency confirmed Nasrallah’s presence in the Syrian capital “for consultations.”

DEBKAfile’s military sources note that Nasrallah crossed over despite the heavy Israeli air bombardment of Lebanese-Syrian border regions. The war conference is attended also by Hamas leaders Khaled Meshaal and Mussa Abu Marzouk as well as the Palestinian Jihad Islami chief Abdallah Ramadan Shelah. The Palestinian terrorist leaders were invited in their capacity as commanders of the second front against Israel in Gaza.

This anti-Israel coalition will no doubt decide on the two fronts’ next steps in their war against the “Zionist enemy.” The fact that Assad is there and the consultation is taking place in his capital indicates that he and the other participants feel confident enough to decide on a further escalation of the violence.

The conference began hours after the Israeli cabinet decided against broadening the campaign against Hizballah or attacking Syria indicating that Tehran, Damascus, Hizballah and the Palestinian terrorists sensed a weakening of Israel’s resolve to fight back. This sort of soft talk from Jerusalem is not taken on trust but makes the Syrians suspect that Israel is playing a double game. Their response will be to redouble their hostilities in the very near future.
Hitting Google, I looked for confirmation and found this in the Persian Journal dated July 27th:
Yoav Stern, writing in Haaretz, quotes the Kuwaiti daily newspaper Al-Seyassah as reporting that 'Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah was to visit Damascus on Thursday to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad and the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Ali Larijani. The report, which quoted Syrian sources, said Nasrallah arrived in dressed in civilian clothes, not his normal clerical garb.
So it appears to be more than a rumor.

That established, I want to deal with a particular paragraph in the DEBKAfile report. It is significant for a little appreciated truth is reveals:
The conference began hours after the Israeli cabinet decided against broadening the campaign against Hizballah or attacking Syria indicating that Tehran, Damascus, Hizballah and the Palestinian terrorists sensed a weakening of Israel’s resolve to fight back. This sort of soft talk from Jerusalem is not taken on trust but makes the Syrians suspect that Israel is playing a double game. Their response will be to redouble their hostilities in the very near future.
The truth? When you back off against terrorists or terror regimes because of outside pressure or whatever reason, they take it as a sign of weakness and try to exploit it.

The Israeli cabinet voted 11 to 1 not to expand the war and take on Syria. If this report is correct, Syria, sensing lack of resolve in Israel's leadership, is now blatantly holding meetings to plan their next moves against Israel with Iran and their proxies.

This is "in your face" stuff. Syria is now exploiting the Israeli cabinet's refusal to confront them as a sign that Syria may openly support Hezbollah and Hamas in their attacks against Israel and Israel won't do a thing.

So why now? Well as I point out, any sign of conciliation is seen as a sign of weakness to be exploited. And, secondly, and probably just as importantly, for the first time, public opinion is falling on their side:
Now, with hundreds of Lebanese dead and Hezbollah holding out against the vaunted Israeli military for more than two weeks, the tide of public opinion across the Arab world is surging behind the organization, transforming the Shiite group’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, into a folk hero and forcing a change in official statements.
OK, this rest of this is thinking out loud stuff, but there are a couple of reasons they could be doing this. One, they want to expand the conflict to the point that they are attacked by Israel. Early on in the conflict there were rumors circulating that Syria was trying to manufacture a border incident ala the Polish border incident of 1939 manufactured by Nazi Germany. The Syrian attempt never came to pass that I know of.

The second reason is to further destabilize Iraq. With al Sadr's gang already saying they're going to saddle up and help out Hezbollah and PM Maliki refusing to condemn Hezbollah it is obvious that anti-Israeli feelings fueled by religious fever are building in Iraq. Syria may think that if it can expand the war in Israel by including themselves, the US will have to act overtly in Israel's behalf. And if they do that may start a wave of violence in Iraq and against the US, which disparate insurgent groups have been unable to bring to bear to this point.

The desired result would be the collapse of the new Iraqi government and the beginning of the long awaited civil war ... a war Iran and Syria most likely feel they can exploit to their eventual advantage.

The optimum result would be a humiliated US forced out of the region and a battered and weakened Israel to be dealt with decisively at a later date.

Like I said, a lot of thinking out loud here. But I'm convinced, given this report (and assuming it is true), this one is going to get a lot hotter before it burns out ... if it burns out.

UPDATE: If you haven't seen Tony Blair's answer to a question about terrorism, go here and watch. In about 5 minutes he distills it all into an incredibly well articulated reason why we have to stay the course in this fight against Islamic fascism.
 
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
Good work! Very informative with much to think about!
 
Written By: Jason Pappas
URL: http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/
Maybe it’s not a sign of weakness that they are not attacking Syria. Maybe they ust have a learning curve. The learned from the US in Iraq that its easier to destroy a country than fix it. They learned from invading Lebanon last time that there is a diference between occupying county and winning the war. They were forced to cut and run because of the expense and the Israeli casualties. There is no reason to think the Israeli military will be any more successful this time.

The definition of stupidity is to keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result ... and we keep picking up the tab.



 
Written By: cindyb
URL: http://
Israeli military
http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=1&categ_id=2&article_id=74320
 
Written By: cindyb
URL: http://
Well Cindy, maybe so, but the problem is their enemies seem to have taken that as a sign of weakness and are now looking for ways to exploit it (which was one of the points of the post). And my guess is it has little to do with exchanging pleasantries over coffee.

 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
So, cindy, you’re giving Hezbollah/Syria/Iran the pass that was discussed in the post earlier.
Good on you.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
The definition of stupidity is to keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result
And why do you post here, again?
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
Why do we assume that the meeting is a priori an escalation of the war? Wouldn’t an escalation of the war be something more directly aggressive? Do we have any idea what conclusions are being drawn at that meeting, or are we making assumptions based on our opinions of the people involved?

Why do we think it was in response to the Israeli cabinet meeting specifically?


Lastly, is "not expanding" the war while continuing it, all by itself, "backing off?"

Some questions to ponder.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Why do we assume that the meeting is a priori an escalation of the war? Wouldn’t an escalation of the war be something more directly aggressive? Do we have any idea what conclusions are being drawn at that meeting, or are we making assumptions based on our opinions of the people involved?

Why do we think it was in response to the Israeli cabinet meeting specifically?
I’m open to alternative explanations which are supported by the region’s history and facts. If you have answers to your questions, why not expound on them?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Americans should be careful in second-guessing the actions of the Israeli cabinet. At the end of the day, they, not we, bear ultimate responsibility for deciding their own security.

That said, and keeping in mind I’m a pro-Israel liberal, I think the cabinet’s decision not to commit greater ground forces is a significant mistake because it give Hezbollah a clear victory. I’m concerned that Israel, which does face existential enemies in a way the US does not, has become casualty shy.

Of course, the Israelis could simply be waiting for Hezbollah / Hamas and their supporters to become overconfident and commit another atrocity, in order to justify a renewed offensive.
 
Written By: Francis
URL: http://
Of course, the Israelis could simply be waiting for Hezbollah / Hamas and their supporters to become overconfident and commit another atrocity, in order to justify a renewed offensive.
I’m not second guessing the Israeli cabinet, I’m suggesting the Syrians are.

As to your point above, I think that is what is being alluded to with this statement from the DEBKAfile article:
"This sort of soft talk from Jerusalem is not taken on trust but makes the Syrians suspect that Israel is playing a double game.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
"its easier to destroy a country than fix it."

Maybe so, but I think that while Israel may have considered destroying Syria, I doubt that fixing it ever entered into their calculations.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
We need to plant little bugs on Al Jezzeera and CNN journalists, then we could send missiles right up all these petty tyrants butts.
 
Written By: kyle N
URL: http://impudent.blognation.us/blog
Hang on a mo. Wouldn’t the fact that the conference began mere hours after the Israeli cabinet decided against broadening the campaign against Hizballah or attacking Syria combined with the fact that Nasrallah had to sneak across the heavily bombarded border, indicate that this meeting was in the works before the Israeli cabinet voted? So the meeting itself can’t be a reaction to the cabinet’s decision. Because we know nothing beyond that there may have been a meeting and because the meeting itself cannot have been prompted by the cabinet’s decision, any speculations about how the cabinet’s decision might influence the alleged discussions in the apparent meeting is so much eyewash.
 
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
while Israel may have considered destroying Syria, I doubt that fixing it ever entered into their calculations.
Nor should it.

It should be enough of an instruction to the Syrians that Israel serially destroy Syria.

Governance of Syria acceptable to Israel will result by default if nothing else, by and by.

As long as the Syrians love their children too.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
The definition of stupidity is to keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result ... and we keep picking up the tab.
The "Middle East Peace Process", the process of diplomacy and UN mediation . . . fits your "definition of stupidity" above much more so than the use of force.

Incidently, it is ususally "The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result".
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
Kudos to Retief

I believe his point must be echoed: If the conference began "hours" after the vote by the Israeli cabinet, and it was attended by Nasrallah, as well as representatives of Iran, Hamas and Jihad Islami, then it cannot possibly have been called in response to the cabinet vote.

It may be possible that Syria and friends already sensed the supposed "weakening of resolve", but even then, what’s to gain by doing "in your face" stuff?

Do they wish to provoke a direct conflict with Israel? If the answer is assumed yes, Israel is not going to oblige them merely in response to some oblique taunting. Syria will have to do something fairly dramatic, I imagine, to pull Israel into direct confrontation. Syria has to know that such an act threatens to shift public opinion back in Israel’s favor.

And anyway, Syria would do well not to emulate the German strategy for Poland. Syria leadership must know that at the very least, they put themselves at enormous risk if they provoke an actual war with Israel. Would they bet the farm merely to try to restablish a proxy govt. in Lebanon? I don’t think so.

As far as a war with Israel drawing in the US and inciting anti-US fervor and violence in Iraq, this seems even less likely to me. Keep in mind they just watched the US dismantle a much stronger Baathist regime in Iraq. And while the situation is far from stable, the Baathists are not in power, and the great majority of former regime leaders are either already dead or in prison awaiting execution.

I think it’s much more likely Syria and Iran plan to continue the war-by-proxy, and that they want to retain as much deniability as possible. It’s of course true that "everyone knows" Syria and Iran are substantially aiding Hezbollah and co., but apparently, as long as the support remains behind the scenes, no one is going to call them on it.

Direct involvement, however, appears the only way that might all change.
 
Written By: CNH
URL: http://
It may be possible that Syria and friends already sensed the supposed "weakening of resolve", but even then, what’s to gain by doing "in your face" stuff?
Study the culture and the history, CNH, then you won’t have to ask questions like that.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I believe his point must be echoed: If the conference began "hours" after the vote by the Israeli cabinet, and it was attended by Nasrallah, as well as representatives of Iran, Hamas and Jihad Islami, then it cannot possibly have been called in response to the cabinet vote.
Oh, and this ... the difference may have been secretly holding the meeting or ensuring that Israel knew the meeting was held. The decision for ensuring that it was known the meeting was held may have been driven by the vote.

Head games.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I thought your effort deserved a full-blown response; I gave it my best shot here:

http://artofwarplus.com/wordpress/?p=878
 
Written By: Will Brown
URL: http://
Study the culture and the history, CNH, then you won’t have to ask questions like that.
Apologies, McQ; I understood this to be a forum for debate and exchange.

To Anyone Else:

I assume that McQ is referring to some sort of "Strong Horse" scenario, whereby Syria thinks that by tweaking Israel, it will gain popular support from fellow Islamic governtments and populations. Realistically, I can only see this as possibly helping deter Israel from invading Syria, or maybe it helps the Baathist regime at home.

But this cannot be the case if Syria is actually AIMING for direct conflict, can it? Who among the Arab govts would actually come to the aid of Syria in a war against Israel? Who would ride to the rescue if the US were to become involved?
Oh, and this ... the difference may have been secretly holding the meeting or insuring that Israel knew the meeting was held. The decision for ensuring that it was known the meeting was held may have been driven by the vote.
But if they actually WANTED a wider conflict, wouldn’t they still have made the meeting known if the Israeli cabinet HAD voted to expand the war?
 
Written By: CNH
URL: http://
Apologies, McQ; I understood this to be a forum for debate and exchange.
It is ... I just exchanged information with you.
I assume that McQ is referring to some sort of "Strong Horse" scenario, whereby Syria thinks that by tweaking Israel, it will gain popular support from fellow Islamic governtments and populations. Realistically, I can only see this as possibly helping deter Israel from invading Syria, or maybe it helps the Baathist regime at home.
These regimes and groups spend their lives tweaking Israel, CNH. When they’re not attacking the place they’re rattling sabers. Macho bravado is a cultural thing ... again, study the culture.

As for you latter point, how will letting Israel know they’re meeting and plotting "deter" Israel from invading Syria? That doesn’t track.

Seems to me that Israel would have precisely the opposite reaction ... and that’s what I think is the desired outcome as I said in my post.
But if they actually WANTED a wider conflict, wouldn’t they still have made the meeting known if the Israeli cabinet HAD voted to expand the war?
Why? What would be the need?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
It is ... I just exchanged information with you.
Not in the original reply, you didn’t.
These regimes and groups spend their lives tweaking Israel, CNH. When they’re not attacking the place they’re rattling sabers. Macho bravado is a cultural thing ... again, study the culture.
Yes, I know this. The point I was trying to make was in response to your speculation that Syria wanted a wider war. Sabre-rattling is one thing. Sabre-WEILDING is quite another.
As for you latter point, how will letting Israel know they’re meeting and plotting "deter" Israel from invading Syria? That doesn’t track.
Perhaps the intended "audience" isn’t Israel, but fellow Muslims.

Tweaking Israel might lead to greater support from the rest of the Muslim World.

Greater Muslim support for Syria scares Western powers, evoking the spectre of a greatly escalated conflict.

Frightened Western powers eager to avoid a region-wide conflagration increase their pressure on Israel to moderate it’s response.
Seems to me that Israel would have precisely the opposite reaction ... and that’s what I think is the desired outcome as I said in my post.

...Why? What would be the need?
You postulate two things:

1. that the meeting was scheduled well in advance, and that the decision to make it public hinged on the outcome of the cabinet vote.

2. Syria, generally, wants an escalation of some sort.

So... we know that the meeting was made known when the cabinet voted AGAINST escalation.

If the cabinet voted FOR escalation... why not make the meeting known? If the enemy signals a willingness to fight, and you also want a fight, why NOT provide whatever extra provocation you can?

But if, as it seems, the meeting is made known regardless of the outcome of the vote, then what is the connection between the two?
 
Written By: CNH
URL: http://
Perhaps the intended "audience" isn’t Israel, but fellow Muslims.
Why couldn’t it be both?
1. that the meeting was scheduled well in advance, and that the decision to make it public hinged on the outcome of the cabinet vote.
Absolutely not. The decision to make it public could have been a result of the cabinet vote, not necessarily of any plan per se that "hinged" on the vote. They may have seized on the opportunity to take advantage of that vote and exploit it with a decision to make their meeting public.
2. Syria, generally, wants an escalation of some sort.
It appears to, yes.
If the cabinet voted FOR escalation... why not make the meeting known?
Because they’d have gotten what they wanted without having to do so. Doesn’t make sense. Why show more of your hand than you have too?
If the enemy signals a willingness to fight, and you also want a fight, why NOT provide whatever extra provocation you can?
Why, if the decision you want has already been made?

Wouldn’t it make more sense at that point to lay back and play the victim of their aggression? That would play much better on the world stage.

Again, propaganda value. What would be more valuable to Syria ... world condemnation of Israel as the aggressor or world condemnation of Syria?

Provocation only makes sense if you aren’t getting what you want.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I don’t know why anyone takes DEBKA seriously. They are apparantly 3 little right wing Zionists in Israel that have never been right about anything, yet their alarmist crap and unbased, unsourced speculations are breathlessly repeated in the pro-Israel blogosphere.

I’m not surprised that the Sunni nations are now fed up with the brief opening they gave Israel to spank Hezbollah. They only intended on overlooking a little payback of Hezzie aggression with Iran behind it, not the major, protracted "we’ll take our sweet time" war against all of Lebanon that Israel appeared to be angling for initially. Strong Hezbollah resistance that sent elite Israeli troops into retreat, the inability of the IAF to find and take out Hez missiles completed the disillusionment.

Israel had a moment to seize the opportunity and lost it due to caution and an initial, classically arrogant Israeli underestimation of the enemy.

Hezbollah once again looks like it alone of all the Muslims has stood up to Israel, taken the best shot Israel feels it can deliver, and is still standing.

The American neocons who argued that Israel was capable of mounting a one-time "surgical bombing strike" to destroy the Iranian nuclear and misile threat are once again discredited as their favorite nation Israel has been shown to lack the ability to "surgically remove" a minor missile threat 5-60 miles away in repeated sorties on Iran’s irregular proxies.

Cheney, Bush - American warhawks (inc the neocons) - that believed striking Iran would be sold as an "easy war" for the US know it isn’t so now, and worse for them, the public they have tried to beguile for years know it isn’t true.


 
Written By: C. Ford
URL: http://
If nation-building takes too long and bogs down too often with public opinion and donor fatigue, what will the future be?

Punitive raids like Israel is doing or like our expedition against Pancho Villa?

Yes, they are not effective, but neither is occupation at this time.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Absolutely not. The decision to make it public could have been a result of the cabinet vote, not necessarily of any plan per se that "hinged" on the vote. They may have seized on the opportunity to take advantage of that vote and exploit it with a decision to make their meeting public.
Because they’d have gotten what they wanted without having to do so. Doesn’t make sense. Why show more of your hand than you have too?
Why, if the decision you want has already been made?

Wouldn’t it make more sense at that point to lay back and play the victim of their aggression? That would play much better on the world stage.

Again, propaganda value. What would be more valuable to Syria ... world condemnation of Israel as the aggressor or world condemnation of Syria?

Provocation only makes sense if you aren’t getting what you want.
So, what you’re saying is that Syria et al’s options looked like this:

1) Israeli cabinet calls for expansion, the meeting remains a secret, and the Islamist parties adopt a posture of reasonable state and semi-state actors who are merely coordinating a defense against a common aggressor...

or

2) Israeli cabinet votes against expansion, the meeting is made known, and the Islamist parties adopt an aggressive posture of sabre-rattling bravado.

...it seems highly unlikely to me that they are basing their entire PR strategy for the conflict on the results of one cabinet vote. Especially if you abandon your first choice of aggrieved target for such a tepid "provocation" as meeting with other enemies of Israel. Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria, Iran... these are all either "legitimate" state actors or "legitimate" parts thereof.

No, I think a much more likely scenario, if the meeting were meant to send a message to Israel, is that it was something of a bluff. Israel at least has the potential to seriously damage Hezbollah in Lebanon. And if Israel came to blows against Syria, the Baathist regime of Assad would be in geniune peril. But if all of Israel’s most active enemies present a united front, perhaps that will apply even more pressure on the brakes of this conflict.

So maybe they were getting what they wanted in a vote against expansion, but they decided to "encourage" Israel to stick to it’s decision.
 
Written By: CNH
URL: http://
I don’t know why anyone takes DEBKA seriously. They are apparantly 3 little right wing Zionists in Israel that have never been right about anything, yet their alarmist crap and unbased, unsourced speculations are breathlessly repeated in the pro-Israel blogosphere.
Well, for one thing, in this case, their story seems to have been corroborated.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
So, what you’re saying is that Syria et al’s options looked like this:

1) Israeli cabinet calls for expansion, the meeting remains a secret, and the Islamist parties adopt a posture of reasonable state and semi-state actors who are merely coordinating a defense against a common aggressor...

or

2) Israeli cabinet votes against expansion, the meeting is made known, and the Islamist parties adopt an aggressive posture of sabre-rattling bravado.
I doubt that it was only Syria which made the call, to begin with and I certainly doubt that there was any plan, per se, to announce the meeting since my guess is they weren’t aware of the subject or issues to be decided by the cabinet.

What I am saying is that group involved in the meeting in Syria saw the cabinet vote as a "target of opportunity" and made the decision, based on the vote, to make the previously secret meeting public for the reasons I’ve stated.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I doubt that it was only Syria which made the call, to begin with and I certainly doubt that there was any plan, per se, to announce the meeting since my guess is they weren’t aware of the subject or issues to be decided by the cabinet.

What I am saying is that group involved in the meeting in Syria saw the cabinet vote as a "target of opportunity" and made the decision, based on the vote, to make the previously secret meeting public for the reasons I’ve stated.
If you’re saying they saw an opportunity to take advantage of Israeli hesitancy to merely LOOK tough, then I think that’s possible. If you’re saying they took their chance to actually provoke Israel to greater action, I still don’t see it. Syria might not be making the call by itself, but I can’t see them as really wanting Israel to invade.

...now it COULD be that Iran, not really caring a whit about Syria, leaked the info on the meeting without the knowledge of one or more of the other parties. Iran might well be served by fomenting Israeli aggression in such circumstances as do not directly threaten Tehran. Perhaps they are hoping Israel will spend itself vs. Syria, and not have the domestic or foreign support to act against Iran’s nuclear program.
 
Written By: CNH
URL: http://
If you’re saying they saw an opportunity to take advantage of Israeli hesitancy to merely LOOK tough, then I think that’s possible.
Could easily be a combination of that and Assad just plain ol’ feeling dissed. He’s been capering around for awhile now trying to get someone to pay attention to him. Parked his tanks on the Lebanon border, making them a tempting target while announcing ’You’d just better not come after Syria.’ Israel said okay with a shrug and ignored him. He made a lot of noise about how essential Syria was to any resolution of the situation and Condi paid him even less mind than she would something smelly stuck to one of her boots. Making faces and going ’nyah nyah nyah, can’t hit me’ hasn’t provoked much more than a yawn from Israel. He might as well play it as they’re afraid of him ’cause of his hulking big brother rather than that they just can’t be bothered. More likely a ’if they do X, we’ll spin it as Y’ sort of general plan, but it doesn’t really matter.

There’s not much of a downside to it. Anybody who doesn’t know by now that Syria’s in Iran’s pocket just hasn’t been paying attention, and (as has been pointed out) nobody’s inclined to call them on it. (Indeed, what’s to call?) If it happens to make Israel nervous and/or finally provokes a response, so much the beetter.
 
Written By: Achillea
URL: http://

 
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