Saturday, March 06, 2010


By Le Moineau
First Draft
6 March 2010
Article 62

Chatham House argues for international intervention in Palestine

A little over a year ago, a Daily Star piece ‘Conditioning Gaza: Preparing to deploy international forces in Palestine?’ proposed that
the ultimate goal of the [Israeli 2009] Gaza invasion is to create the conditions to introduce international troops into Palestine. [emphasis added]
Last month, The Royal Institute of International Affairs’ Chatham House published a 10-page policy recommendation, Beyond the Impasse: International Intervention and the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process' by Joel Peters, that validates this argument, going further to aver that
such an intervention has now become a necessary condition for the transformation of the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict. [p 5, emphasis added]
Mr Peters lists various policies such as the 2000 Clinton Parameters and prominent diplomats who have advocated such an intervention over the past decade, including Israeli and Palestinian officials, US heavy-hitters such as Obama’s National Security Adviser and former Nato Commander General James Jones, former National Security Advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft and former Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk. [pp 2-4]

Mr Peters claims his purpose is to make the case for international intervention plausible to an otherwise unenthusiastic Israeli establishment [pp 1, 10-11]. Citing recent public polls [p 10] and government officials asserting that Israeli society and the ‘security community has become increasingly open to the idea’, [p 3] he suggests that ‘long-term’ international intervention would not be ‘inimical to Israeli interests’ and could even ‘facilitate’ Israel ‘meeting many of its security challenges’. [p 1]

Keep in mind that for all intents and purposes Nato is already deployed in south Lebanon as part of Unifil and UNSCR 1701 (An important reason why ominous reports of future hostilities in southern Lebanon remain doubtful). That is probably why Mr Peters is confident Nato could easily extend Unifil’s naval mandate under the European Maritime Force (EuroMarFor) and the Maritime Task Force (MTF) to ‘relieve Israeli security concerns along the Gaza coast’.* [p 6]

Mr Peters, however, wisely warns that Nato’s intervention cannot be imposed but rather ‘requires the convergence of Israeli and Palestinian expectations over the mission’s strategic purpose’. [p 11, emphasis added]

At the recent Herzliya Conference, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad vowed to establish a Palestinian state and brazenly informed his all-Israeli audience of the Palestinians’ intent to ‘roll back the occupation’ through the building of viable national institutions. Noting that he shared the podium with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, The Washington Post contrasted the two leaders' styles, but also identified an important level of convergence, where
...there was a common thread, too, with each acknowledging an international consensus on the idea of two nations. [Echoing former US President Jimmy Carter: ed] Barak said that Israel risks becoming ‘an apartheid state par excellence’ if it does not negotiate the terms of Palestinian statehood soon, and Fayyad said the work being done in the West Bank on governance needs to be matched by political progress.

Note that in this context, Israeli-Palestinian convergence centers around the ‘international consensus’ towards Palestinian statehood--where, incidentally, the first phase might entail a period of Nato trusteeship. [ p 3] Mr Peters also believes that in addition to alleviating Israeli security concerns, Nato’s presence ‘could offer an important bridge’ to resolve Gaza’s need for socio-economic prosperity, the emergence of two states and the end of hostilities: [pp 1, 7]
If carefully planned and judiciously introduced, [the international force] could ... help move Israel and the Palestinians back along the path to a peaceful settlement and towards the realization of a two-state solution. [p 11]
Although fraught with obstacles and deep-seated distrust between the parties, [p 9] creating the climate for inserting Nato into a sovereign Palestine might remain a policy direction worth pursuing. This is especially true if we believe in Mr Peters’ assertion that it is a necessary condition for permanently ending the Arab-Israeli conflict and ensuring long-term regional stability.

This time, however, let us hope the policymakers and politicians who are seeking its implementation can find a just and peaceful way towards this 'strategic convergence'--and not end up replacing Israel’s untenable occupation with another. [p 9]

*Recall the US-Israeli January 2009 memorandum of understanding that allows unprecedented access for Nato to patrol the entry points into Gaza. For more see my blog entry ‘The MOU Coup'

Monday, January 19, 2009

The MOU Coup

By Le Moineau
First Draft
18 January 2009
Updated 19 January 2009
Article 61

Realism vs Ideology in US-Israeli Relations

One of the oddest events of the Gaza war was the media fanfare around the 16 January US-Israeli Memorandum of Understanding. While various efforts across the globe were searching for a ceasefire, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni made a surprise visit to Washington to sign an agreement with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that seeks to prevent arms smuggling into Gaza.
Since the idea was proposed earlier by President George Bush, there is no surprise in the content of the memo. Rather, it is the message behind the event that is intriguing, and there are three strong messages that one can read.

1. Divide and Rule
Rice appears to be using the divisions within the Israeli polity to push Washington's agenda through Livni. The Israeli leadership is not unified. There are at least three heads to the government and the war on Hamas: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister and Vice Premier Livni. The Israeli media has been rather open about the discord between them, such as in this recent Haaretz article, where Barak's push for an early ceasefire is 'blasted' by Olmert, accusing his defense minister of 'lacking national responsibility'.
By calling Livni to Washington, Rice is signaling the US has picked her to implement their plans, while not-so-subtly telling Barak and Olmert off. It would not be the first time the US works at the level of the foreign ministries to skirt reluctant or defiant politicians.

2. Acquiesce and Trumpet
In turn, by going to Washington Livni is signaling her acquiescence to her US-assigned role. It also implies her commitment to deliver, unlike Barak (who 'bears heavy responsibility' for scuttling Clinton's Camp David in 2000) or Olmert (who carries the mantle for the 2006 failure). In a way, it is Livni's revenge after Olmert prevented her from participating in the UN Security Council Resolution 1701 deliberations that ended the Lebanon 2006 war, this time explicitly expressing her eagerness to cooperate with Washington for the world to see. Her association with the US, she also hopes, will boost her standing in the polls, as Kadima still trails Likud. In return to stooping to the US, she wishes to be perceived at home as the one who ends Hamas's rocket launches while getting international backing for it. Ending the Gaza war with a 'sustainable and durable' plan in hand might polish her can-do persona and increase her credibility in time for the February elections. The MOU photo-ops will probably be a highlight in her electoral campaign.
Said differently, Livni wishes to use her close ties with Washington to improve her image at home to win the elections, and push for the US-sponsored peace agenda.

3. Coup and Recoup
Importantly, the core of the MOU introduces Nato patrols to the frontiers of Gaza--in line with the recommendations of US realists such as Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, Obama national security adviser designate James Jones and, arguably, Martin Indyk. While the MOU does not discuss Israeli withdrawal as a condition for a 'sustainable and durable' ceasefire, it actively involves the US and its 'regional and Nato partners' in monitoring the borders.
The introduction of the US military and Nato into the language of the solution is a significant first. We cannot underestimate how deeply it goes counter to years of Likud resistance, Barak's dilly-dallying and neoconservative outright rejection. By signing the MOU, Livni delivers a coup against her electoral rivals while moving closer to the American-sponsored two-state solution involving international troops (including possibly placing US troops in the Golan). Whether she succeeds in derailing years of Israeli ideological intransigence against US pressure remains the question: Can Livni recoup her gains once and if elected in order to go through with the plan for a 'new' Israel?
Chances are very slim. The mere thought of facing two veteran politicos such as Barak and Netanyahu--there are strange rumors of power-sharing--bode ill for Livni's ability to succeed. This uphill battle is one of the reasons she will increasingly lean on Washington for leverage. Even if the new administration dispatches Israeli darlings Dennis Ross and Indyk to pressure their old pal Barak to cooperate with Livni, without a major downgrade of his 'chauvinistic' mischief (or Netanyahu's US congressional weight), the plan is doomed. Driven by staunch ideology, Livni's rivals may go to deeper extremes (Qana 1996, for example) to yet again ensure the demise of the Pax Americana.
Yes, the stakes are that high, and Rice is still steaming about it.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

A Cleaner Break

By Le Moineau
First Draft
18 August 2006
Updated 19 August 2006
Article 54

US efforts to engage Iran will reap better results

Following the war in Lebanon, there has been much talk about a war with Iran next. Claims of a grand conspiracy between American neocons and right wing Israelis in much hyped tracts like ‘A Clean Break’ are circulating on the internet as proof of a blueprint for a new Middle East splattered with blood, and fractious ethno-states subservient to an all powerful Israel.[1] The theorists fear that Israel’s ‘Operation Change of Direction’ was a mere dress rehearsal for the real war with the Mullahs, citing vitriolic brinksmanship coming mostly from the Israeli right as proof of the coming Armageddon.

Despite this hubris—that’s all it is, really[2]—in actuality the US’s next move is most probably to engage Iran in dialogue. Washington, in the next few months, is gearing up for serious negotiations with Tehran that would address Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions, a resolution on Iran’s role in pacifying Iraq, and the disarming of Hizballah. Making progress on all these fronts serves larger American strategic goals, which includes the security of the marketing and transportation of energy and possibly the initiation of comprehensive peace talks à la Madrid—making the Israeli right rather nervous.

Don’t take my word for it. The Europeans have been ‘jumping up and down’ telling the Americans to do so to maintain cross-Atlantic harmony.[3] Many policy experts have recently called for negotiations, including twenty-one former generals and high ranking officers[4]. Even former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger urges the Bush administration to engage Iran, comparing it, perhaps a bit too dramatically, to the Nixon trip to China. While he states it might be premature, he urges the Bush administration to make strides towards that goal as a ‘turning point’ following the war in Lebanon, promoting the idea that a ‘modern, strong, peaceful [read: nuclear] Iran could become a pillar of stability and progress in the region’.[5] Others have expressed a similar diplomatic overture[6], and Vali Nasr of the Council of Foreign Relations believes this is the right time precisely because Iran is strong—meaning that it’ll be easier to gain concessions from Tehran through recognizing it as a regional, or even equal, power rather than through bullying.[7]

As a way forward, and regarding the nuclear option, The James Baker Institute has just released policy recommendations—endorsed by Kissinger—to develop an international system of nuclear enrichment distributed globally in authorized facilities, with international controls and measures, that could then provide Iran and other states with the needed materiel for development of civilian nuclear energy. The purpose of the paper, according to its authors, is to ‘examine ways to engage the Iranians in a discussion of the future of nuclear power’.[8] While it is premature to assess Tehran’s reaction, this certainly presents a wiser approach that might work, given the right climate and incentives.

I have argued for several years that it serves the larger US interest for Iran to become ambiguously close to having the Bomb. If Iran is deemed a credible threat, the US can pressure Israel to cooperate in joining the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Creating a nuclear-free Middle East serves the larger US goal of regional stability for a viable land bridge from Europe to Asia. On another front, Washington is interested in neutralizing Israel’s nuclear option in order to bring it to the negotiating table with Syria. Discreetly encouraging, or abstaining from actively preventing, Iran’s nuclear program serves that goal. In any event, expect that Iran will link its own de-nuclearization with a US promise of creating a WMD-free Middle East, which includes Israel.

The sooner the US engages Iran, the sooner the US will stabilize Iraq. In a current Foreign Affairs article on this topic, Nasr provides this sobering advice. The main beneficiary of the ouster of Saddam Hussein is Iran, providing Tehran with inroads into the heart of Iraqi politics at the social, military, and religious levels. Today’s Iran policy is to tolerate ‘controlled chaos’ as long as the US appears to favor regime change in Iran. While this goal has been dispelled by many pundits, including Brzezinski, Pollack and Takeyh,[9] current rhetoric from the Bush administration—mostly from Cheney’s hawks—does not help. In the end, however, US and Iranian interest converge on the desire for ‘lasting stability there: Washington, because it wants a reason to bail out; Tehran, because stability in its backyard would secure its position at home and its influence throughout the region.’[10]

Lastly, the US is in favor of a diplomatic solution to the disastrous war in Lebanon, expressed in the seriousness of their efforts at the UN, albeit belated, but for other reasons. While disarming Hizballah is an important stabilizing goal, the US seeks to create a wedge between Iran and Syria[11]. While many experts recommend engaging Syria—and Bush did send Powell, Armitage, and Burns to Damascus last month[12]—Bashar Asad’s triumphalist and accusatory speech put a damper in that direction.[13] The fact that Hizballah was equally repelled by Asad’s obsolete ranting and probably secretly resents Syria’s military stand-down during the conflict suggests that the Lebanese militia is closer to Tehran now than to Syria. Providing the right climate, with incentives and guarantees to implement Siniora’s 7 points and UNSCR 1701, making concrete efforts to prevent future Israeli aggression in Lebanon, and resolving all disputes, would be enough for Hizballah to even possibly ‘voluntarily’ give up their weapons, as Rice surprisingly suggests.[14]

If so far you are not convinced that it is clearly in the best interest of the US—and why so many experts are urging—to make a ‘clean break’ with the hawks calling for a war with Iran, let us then consider important strategic reasons why the United States would not attack Iran.[15]
  1. On the Caspian Sea there are only two powers, Iran and Russia. In this context, the US needs Iran to counter Russia, Washington’s major rival on the world stage of energy marketing and transportation. The US is interested in the Caspian because, combined with the British, they are the largest producers of oil and gas there—think Baku and Tengiz, or ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco. Both the host countries, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, have to remain politically friendly to Iran and Russia respectively as they have large constituencies within each. If the US attacks Iran, for instance, it will lose any leverage against Russia in the Caspian. Also, Iran can easily foment trouble inside Azerbaijan, which is three-quarters Shiite, simply by exploiting a simmering ethno-territorial dispute with Baku to weaken Aliyev’s government, and destabilize US operations there.
  2. In the Persian Gulf there are Saudi Arabia and Iran. Here, the US cannot afford to hurt Iran, as Iran can cause havoc in the Persian Gulf with a few missiles, sunken ships, blocked seaways, damaged infrastructure, and, more long term, Shiite uprisings. In eastern Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and in Bahrain, the Shiites form the overwhelming majority. In Qatar and the Emirates, they constitute a sizeable minority. Besides, any attack might damage stabilizing relations that the US has carefully nurtured over the past several years, such as the important security and trade cooperation agreements between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
  3. China gets about 15% of its energy from Iran, with which it has had ‘exemplary friendly ties’.[16] China has invested billions of dollars in upgrading Iran’s energy infrastructure including the construction of a key pipeline connecting the Caspian to the Persian Gulf.Targeting Iran will only increase China’s desire to protect a vital source. If China deems it necessary, it might decide to send troops and its navy to protect its assets and Iranian oil ports, and might seek to establish a more permanent presence in the Persian Gulf. Bringing in China into the heart of the US energy compound will eventually lead to a confrontation with the US. The last thing the US needs is to provide China the perfect pretext to encroach on its traditional domain.
  4. The shortest route from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf is through Iran. Besides the BTC, which was inaugurated July 13, the US has no other outlet for its massive production. This is particularly problematic for US Caspian production slated for Japan and Asia: The US has only the Iranian artery to the Persian Gulf in order to reach those markets. Today, they barter with Iran, using subsidiaries to avoid the sanctions regime. They sell their output in the north to Iran and buy it back downstream in the Gulf. It’s a cozy relationship that is in the interest of the US to legalize and improve. Attacking Iran will not help.
  5. The US needs to work with the Shiites in Iraq, who represent the overwhelming majority. Iran holds the key to that success. Targeting Iran is unproductive to say the least.

Finally, the reason the Bush administration uses harsh rhetoric and threats with Iran:

  1. To gain the Jewish rightist votes in the US, especially before midterm elections. It is this same voice that has been disseminating papers like ‘A Clean Break’ and is rooting for war with Iran, and, I maintain, have long been marginalized.

Chances are, the US recognizes and will fully pursue its larger strategic interests, and so far, all indications suggest the Bush administration seems to be heeding saner voices this time.[17]


[1] ‘A Clean Break’ was written primarily by Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, with other neoconservatives, who later joined the Bush Pentagon staff. It was intended for Netanyahu on the eve of his election in 1996 following Rabin’s assassination. ‘A Clean Break’ literally means breaking with the main tenets of long standing US policy in the Middle East, namely land for peace and a comprehensive and just solution. Instead, the authors urge for perpetual war with Israel’s neighbors, starting with Iraq, Syria, and then Iran.
[2] Larisa Alexandrovna, ‘Intelligence officials doubt Iran uranium claims, say Cheney receiving suspect briefings’, The Raw Story, August 18, 2006,
[3] Charles Kupchan, director of European Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, as quoted by Jim Lobe, ‘Pressure Grows on Bush to Engage Iran Directly’, Interpress News Agency, May 25, 2006
[4] Aaron Glantz, ‘Former Generals: Bush Must Negotiate to Make America Safer’,, August 19, 2006,
[5] Henry A Kissinger, ‘The Next Steps With Iran, Negotiations Must Go Beyond the Nuclear Threat to Broader Issues’, The Washington Post, July 31, 2006, Page A15,
[6] Cengiz Candar, ‘Engage Syria or Engage Iran?’, The New Anatolian, August 6, 2006,
[7] Vali Nasr ‘Iran Sees Lebanon Strife as Way to Pressure Washington’, Council on Foreign Relations, August 3, 2006,
[8] Rose Gottemoeller, ‘On the Role of Commercial Projects in US-RF Non-Proliferation Cooperation: Summary of March 10 Workshop’, Baker Institute, May 2006
[9] See for example, Kenneth Pollack and Ray Takeyh ‘Taking on Tehran’ Foreign Affairs, March/April 2005,
[10] Vali Nasr,‘When the Shiites Rise’, Foreign Affairs, July/August 2006
[11] David Kimche, ‘Pry Syria away from Iran’, The Jerusalem Post, August 6, 2006,
[12] Secretary Rice: Interview With Israel Radio One, August 12, 2006,
[13] Speech of President Bashar al-Assad at Journalists Union 4th Conference, August 15, 2006,
[14] Rice: ‘You have to have a plan, first of all, for the disarmament of the militia, and then the hope is that some people lay down their arms voluntarily.’ As quoted in Haaretz, ‘UN official warns of renewed bloodshed in Lebanon’, August 18, 2006
[15] See for instance the Congressional Report on the subject by Guy Caruso, Director, Strategic Energy Initiative: ‘Testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on The Geopolitics of Energy Into the 21st Century’, Center for Strategic International Studies, March 21, 2001,,com_csis_congress/task,view/id,65/
[16] Sharif Shuja, ‘Warming Sino-Iranian relations: Will China trade nuclear technology for oil?’, Association for Asian Research,
[17] Robert Dreyfuss, ‘A Higher Power: James Baker puts Bush’s Iraq policy into rehab’, Washington Monthly, September 2006,

Copyright © 2006 Le Moineau

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Discipline and Punish

By Le Moineau
First Draft
15 Aug 2006
Article 53

To follow General George C Marshall’s advice, this is a time to look forward and move on towards our next objective—peace[1]. It is imperative, however, that if we are to learn lessons from this war, we at least get its basic timeline right.

The US media is notorious for its rather short and selective memory especially when it comes to Israel and its actions. This problem is exacerbated when US pundits have increasingly claimed that Israel launched its war in Lebanon as a result of Hizballah abducting troops and shooting missiles at Israel. While Hizballah did capture two Israeli soldiers on 12 July in return for several of its own following a number abortive attempts, Hizballah sent missiles across the border only after Israel had bombed Lebanon on July 13.

In an otherwise sober article analyzing the ‘extraordinary’ end of the war, analyst George Friedman of Stratfor also slips into this falsehood, claiming that ‘The opening of the war was not marked by the capture of two Israeli soldiers. Rather, it was the persistent and intense bombardment of Israel with missiles…’[2]

The second part of that statement is obviously incorrect.

All we have to do is check news reports—and even Stratfor’s own Situation Reports of the first week of the war—to realize that Hizballah started shelling northern Israel only after Israel had bombed the south, Beirut and its airport, civilian infrastructure, Lebanese army facilities, and had imposed a land, air and sea blockade on Lebanon. [3] Let us review the events of the first two days.

Wednesday, July 12. A few hours following the capture of the soldiers, Israel launched air strikes against Palestinian guerilla camps in southern Lebanon. While the Lebanese government distanced itself from Hizballah’s unilateral action, which its leader said was intended for a prisoner exchange, the Israeli government considered it an ‘act of war’. The Israeli defense minister, Amir Peretz, authorized attacks on Hizballah targets and civilian infrastructure in Lebanon, while the chief of staff, Dan Halutz, threatened to ‘send Lebanon back 20 years’.

Thursday, July 13. The actual military escalation began around 6 am when Israeli jets and helicopters pounded the mostly Shiite Dahiya residential neighborhood, Beirut’s international airport, Almanar television headquarters, several roads and bridges, fuel depots, plus Hizballah and military targets. France and Russia immediately decried Israel’s ‘disproportionate’ response, while Mr Bush asked Israel not to weaken Mr Siniora’s government while maintaining its right to self defense. He then laid blame on Iran, Syria and Hizballah for ‘abducting the soldiers’—but not on shelling Israel. Because at that point Hizballah had not: its first missiles reached northern Israel later that day.

Without doubt, Hizballah sent missiles into Israel only after the IAF bombed Lebanon, and likewise Hizballah targeted Haifa only after Israel bombed Dahiya, in a clear and consistent tit-for-tat pattern that was to be repeated throughout the conflict. Even the intensity of Hizballah’s barrages was in proportion to Israel’s previous raid: a case in point is the last salvo of the war.

In similar mirroring fashion, Hizballah ceased their missile launching during the 48-hour lull that Dr Rice called for following her second visit to Mr Olmert on July 30—and the Israeli attack on civilians in Qana—and resumed it only after the IAF continued its air raids. In one of his speeches, Mr Nasrallah made this tactic perfectly clear, reaffirming that Hizballah’s struggle is a ‘reactionary’ one—read: retaliatory—that responds directly and singularly to every Israeli provocation.

Away from the battlefield, the only way we could test this consistency was to watch Hizballah’s reaction on television screens and from news reports following any Israeli attack. From the start, Hizballah persisted in its retaliatory stance, keeping tempo with each Israeli provocation almost didactically but at its own time and choosing. Missing this pattern, and falsely reporting the direct cause of the war, is a serious contextual error.

As Mr Friedman argues, the war between Hizballah and Israel brought about several strategic and historical shifts in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, representing ‘a geopolitical earthquake’. Changing the order of response is another important contribution that cannot be overlooked. For the first time, Israel lost the higher ground of claiming it had been retaliating.

This is not trivial. It signals a key outcome from what marked Hizballah’s success in this war: discipline and control. Throughout the war Hizballah maintained field discipline, command, and control , which were also the main targets of Israeli aerial bombardment. In pursuing an air campaign, Israel had hoped to disperse and isolate Hizballah’s forces in order to weaken them. Apparently Hizballah had done its homework and read the Israeli handbook—in Hebrew[4]—and was well-prepared for such a predictable approach[5]. Indeed, the failure to disrupt Hizballah’s field communications and authority arguably delayed Israeli ground operations and later led to their relative ineffectiveness. Similarly, the timing, size, and targets of Hizballah’s missile attacks also reflected an intelligent and centralized power structure that was responding in-kind and that remained intact to the last minute of the war.

That is why claiming that Israel bombed Lebanon in reaction to Hizballah rockets is patently false. It misses the whole point of Israel’s stunning failure to achieve any of its military goals, including the return of its soldiers. Had Israel stopped its raids, Hizballah would have most certainly stopped its barrages. Had it accepted a prisoner swap, as it seems to have now, we could have avoided this senseless war. The Israeli leadership failed to understand or chose to ignore Hizballah’s signals. It is our responsibility not to do so if we wish to end the cycle of violence.

[1] As quoted by Tom Callahan, ‘George C. Marshall and the Marshall Plan: A Model of Transformational Diplomacy’, 2 June 2005,

[2] George Friedman, ‘Cease-Fire: Shaking Core Beliefs in the Middle East,’

[3] Stratfor Situation Reports, July 2006,

[4] Amiram Barkat, ‘Hezbollah border-line fighters mastered Hebrew’, Haaretz, 15 August 2006,

[5] George Friedman, ‘Cease-Fire: Shaking Core Beliefs in the Middle East’,

Copyright © 2006 Le Moineau

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Robust Enough

By Le Moineau
23 July 2006
Working Draft
Article 48

A version of this article has been plagiarized and spammed, claiming that it has been published in the Washington Post. It has not. Le Moineau kindly asks that the originators of this misuse desist, and properly reference and credit the article.

The US finally finds a way into Lebanon

The war on Lebanon of July 2006 presents a much-awaited opportunity for the United States to place a ‘robust enough’ force in southern Lebanon along the Tapline route connecting Saudi Arabia and Iraq's oilfields to the Mediterranean. In this way the US secures a vital route and prepares the ground for Syrian-Israeli talks.

US Goals in Lebanon
In Lebanon, the US is intent on securing the vital—and only—pipeline route that connects the Saudi and Iraqi oil fields to the Mediterranean, and onto the lucrative European market as part of a longstanding strategy to beat Russian energy sales to the EU.

On its way to the Mediterranean refineries of Zahrani south of Sidon, Tapline crosses through the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights and into the heartland of the Lebanese south. To ensure the safe passage of oil through Tapline, the US seeks to bring regional stability by coercing Israel and Syria to resolve the Golan dispute and solve the border and resource disputes between Lebanon, Israel, and Syria. The current war seems to be a step in that direction.

Parallel Pressure
Following several years of pressure on both Israel and Syria, including stripping Syria of its influence on the Lebanese government while simultaneously exposing the role of the Israel lobby in determining US foreign policy (See my 2005 paper ‘Parallel Pressure’), there remain three issues before the negotiations can resume on US terms.

First, the US needs a pretext to place troops in southern Lebanon—and eventually the Golan—to secure the route. Is-rael has adamantly resisted this option for years, sometimes even mobilizing its domestic partners in the US to oppose such moves (Baker 1991, Perle 1996)

Second, the US needs to stabilize the route by adjusting the power-balance by weakening Hizballah’s military capability so that the US-backed Lebanese army could control all of the country including the areas controlled currently by Hizballah.

Third, the US needs to ensure that its presence in the area is accepted—if not called for—by all the parties involved. From the Lebanon side, for years US funded NGOs have been active in the south, in what seems to be a prescient sense of positioning of US ‘public diplomacy’ with the local population.

Multinational logic
Today, I think the multinational force of about 10,000-20,000 will be dominated by NATO forces from the Mediterranean led by Turkish troops, with token contingents from Egypt, Jordan, Indonesia, and Malaysia (US-friendly Islamic states). Importantly, the core team would be composed of states that directly benefit from Tapline such as Turkey, France, Spain, and Italy. Greece and Germany will most probably decline because of their cozy energy security relationship with Russia which Tapline challenges.

The main base may be near the port of Sidon, or Tyre—which was just tried out by the French—and another logistical support base may be established near Tripoli (because of the IPC terminal, although that won’t be declared).

The actual US role today seems to be limited for various reasons, but it might change during the course of the resolution. The least would be the provision of logistical support to the troops and the Lebanese army from the Sixth Fleet posi-tioned right outside Lebanon’s territorial waters. I suspect there will be a token US force of about 500 ‘advisors’ in the initial stages.

From the Israeli side, preventing Hizballah rocket fire will be the primary role of the US-friendly force and will be tolerated only if it appears ‘robust enough’ (Rice 22 July 2006) to do so.

US Strategy
So what is the US strategy?

  • Encourage Israel to destroy Hizballah’s fighting capability.
  • Hope that the escalation in fighting will result in a serious and credible threat from Hizballah to Israel that Israel cannot solve on its own.
  • Make sure there are US partners both in Lebanon and Israel that support US presence on the border zone (Siniora and Peres).
  • Sell the idea of multinational troops that are more effective than UNIFIL troops as the only alternative to a continuous war.
  • Ensure that Syria is not alienated, and perhaps engaged, so that it can negotiate Golan with an exhausted, dependent Israel.

Infrastructural Silence
Why is the US silent on Lebanese infrastructure destruction?

  • It needs to give Israel space and time (3 weeks seems to be the pre-war agreement—SFGate 22 July 2006) to complete the task—at the risk of being complicit in the war crimes against Lebanon, more blatantly than in Kosovo (See my 1999 paper ‘The Key is Macedonia’).
  • It foresees that its presence in Lebanon will bring it the lion’s share of lucrative contracts to rebuild, following the same logic used in Panama, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
  • It might have been the price Israel (especially Peres’ economic outlook—See my 2002 paper ‘Peace Bombs’) demanded for Israel to accept the multinational force. The logic is that since Lebanon is going to become a US ‘affiliate’, in preparation for a peaceful agreement, the economic war is about to begin. ‘Setting back Lebanon 20 years’, the stated goal of the IDF before the attacks, fits the convoluted logic of giving Israel a ‘head start’.
  • Targeting civilian infrastructure brings unity to the Lebanese polity, something that serves the US intention of stabilizing the country in the aftermath, marked by W’s insis-tence that Sinioria’s (econocratic) democracy is not weakened.
  • Escalating the war and widening the target base increases Hizballah’s response against Israel, prompting its people to call for an end to the war.
  • Testing of new weaponry and their effectiveness.

The precedents for this approach of using a simmering conflict as a pretext to bring in the troops are several. Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, Panama’s invasion, and the establishment of bases in Macedonia during the Kosovo crisis are all examples of the US exploiting a local conflict to provide a pretext for the US to intervene militarily (See my 2000 paper ‘Patterns of Intervention’).

In this case, the strategic goal is the securing of the transportation and marketing routes of energy from Saudi Arabia to the European market. The conflict exploited is the Hizballah-Israel simmering confrontation, which arguably has been in the making the past six years. The pretext is the ending of the war by placing a ‘robust enough’ force between the warring parties. The outcome is US-dominated forces patrolling the final leg of the pipeline and the warring parties along the Syrian border.

The main obstacles to this agenda include the total fragmentation of Lebanon, the rise of the Likud in Israel, and the strengthening of Hizballah or its resistance to the attacks. So far, none of these scenarios seem to pose a serious threat.

  • Lebanon seems to be united, even more so than before. Nasrallah is already signaling that the integration of his party is not going to be a problem (interview on Aljazeera 20 July). This might change.
  • The Israeli public seems pleased with Olmert’s performance so far (various polls), barring a catastrophe. Likud cannot easily win a majority since the recent creation of the Kadima party and the Likud mass-defection to it. Netanyahu has been also supportive and not critical like in 1996. This might change. (See ‘Steamed Rice’ on this blog)
  • Once Hizballah’s military capability is reduced, what remains of it can be controlled through its main sponsors. Giving Golan back to Syria will appease it, and giving Iran more leverage in Iraq and the nuclear issue (which balances the Israeli option) may appease Iran.

So to win Hizballah, the US must engage both Syria and Iran, which is very likely in the near future since its goal is regional stability (to guarantee the ‘free flow of energy’). It seems the US has studied this plan carefully, and kept its cards close to its chest—it seems to have coordinated a large part with Israel, but only to use Israel as a military proxy. The plan seems to be a product of deep strategic planning reminiscent of James Baker’s style of engagement, where US strategic goals come first. I wouldn’t be surprised if he—or one of his protégés—reappears on the world stage very soon as part of solving this crisis.

Stay tuned.

Copyright © 2006 Le Moineau

Steamed Rice

By Le Moineau
29 July 2006
Working Draft
Article 49

US frustration at Israeli intransigence

The quick return to Tel Aviv of an impatient Condoleezza Rice to Israel following two weeks of Israeli attacks on Lebanon suggests the US means business this time.

The Israeli Divergence
Despite seventeen days of war, Israel has not entered Lebanon, nor has it disrupted Hizballah's ability to launch rockets into Israel. Arguably, Israel's war has strengthened Hizballah rather than weaken it. The Israeli purpose now seems to stall the US plan as much as possible, if not negate it entirely. The US has a 2 year window to resolve Golan, and is on a tight schedule.

The reason is simple. The US envisions the New Israel as a peaceful neighbor in good relations with defined boundaries, taking orders from Washington, and laying down its arms. The US seeks regional stability to ensure the free flow of goods and access to markets. The trouble is that Olmert’s former party has for years resisted such a solution, and the rightists in Israel in fact made sure Rabin did not achieve a peaceful resolution with Syria in 1996, the real turning point in the peace process.

In true Sharonist fashion, Olmert, as Kadima’s leader, has enraged Washington by getting a green light for war, but using that light to wage a different war: the destruction of the economic viability of Lebanon and achieving it swiftly within 48 hours.

Olmert’s divergence stems from a simple premise: Following the war, Pax Americana will depend on a stable Lebanon as a major transit state, while the US-friendly multinational forces will disarm a weakened Hizballah. Olmert's war therefore has not served US goals, and does not appear to be doing so, despite all US efforts. In Olmert's calculation, strengthening Hizballah in fact is the best deterrent to American goals.

Washington’s displeasure was first signaled when Condi arrived in Beirut before Tel Aviv, followed by the Rome meeting that excluded Israel, and now, her quick return to Tel Aviv today suggests that she is coming back frustrated and with an ultimatum. After all, Israel is clearly not committing to the original war plan, and Washington is seriously questioning Israel’s intentions.

Condi’s Ultimatum
A very impatient Condi, I believe, will be quick with Olmert, delivering a stern message along those lines: ‘We gave you a green light to get rid of Hizballah, and we gave you political cover to do so within a window of time. You have achieved nothing, but presenting Iran a victory and the destruction of Lebanon, something we were very clear you should not harm. It is clear to us now that you never intended to achieve the goals we had agreed on. I am here to remind you that we are out of time, and that, to maintain our international credibility, we will have to accept a ceasefire, perhaps a short one at that, even though your job is not finished. We are giving you a second and last chance. Figure out how much time you need to draw up a serious ground invasion, and let us know. Failure is not an option.’

In the meantime, the heat is simmering within Israel, where Peretz and Olmert are at odds. Peretz is playing along with Washington but his hands are tied for now: Neither Halutz nor Olmert are on board. If Condi is serious—and I really think she is—expect her to support Peretz to lead a major ground offensive into Lebanon following the ceasefire, and following the war, a new government ready to negotiate with Syria over the Golan.

The trouble is, Olmert, buoyed by his recent get-together with Netanyahu, may remain intransigent, and derail the US agenda again. Pinning the attack on the UN compound on Olmert and the failure in Bint Jbeil to Halutz’s preference to an air campaign, may lead to major political changes at the top within Israel. As Dan Halutz nurses his stomach cramps, the US would like to see the more compliant Amir Peretz take over the military machine and, eventually, the government.

In the meantime, Lebanon’s fate will remain in the balance awaiting a second round of hostilities.

Copyright © 2006 Le Moineau

Marhsall Plan, Anyone?

By Le Moineau
7 Aug 2006
Uncorrected Draft
Article 52

Calls for Lebanon’s recovery have a history

On at least two recent occasions, there were calls made for a Marshall Plan for Lebanon, a strange term coming early in the war. The Marshall Plan that reconstructed Europe was dependent on the Tapline. Will Lebanon’s?

A new Marshall Plan, indeed
Out of the blue and barely four weeks into the war there has been general agreement for a Marshall Plan for Lebanon. Not just a ceasefire and recovery, but a Marshall Plan. The notion was first introduced in an emotional speech by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora in Rome on 28 July 2006. Following intensive talks with world foreign ministers, a dapper Siniora emerged on a podium next to Condoleezza Rice and urged:

I call upon you all to respond immediately, without reservation or hesitation, to my appeal for an immediate cease-fire, and provide urgent humanitarian assistance to our war-stricken country. A new Marshall plan must then be set in motion in order to help Lebanon recover as quickly as possible from the crippling effects of this unjustified onslaught valued in billions of US Dollars which is for the seventh time deliberately targeting and disabling our economy and civilian infrastructure.’[1]

Following this earnest prescription, Mr Siniora laid out for the first time the seven conditions for the end of hostilities, including the placing of multinational troops in the south, which are now slowly making their way into the UN debates this week. Someone must have heard his appeal in Israel, as today, Mr Akiva Eldar, a veteran Labor columnist at Haaretz, declared in response to counter continued Iranian threats, that

The Israeli government should inform the Security Council that it is ready for an immediate cease-fire in the north and a resumption of negotiations with both the Palestinians and the Syrians. It should also urge the international community to sponsor a Marshall Plan for the rehabilitation of Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.[2]

This seemingly magnanimous and unprecedented gesture from a well-informed Israeli insider, who usually reflects Mr Peres’ thoughts, sounds rather in tune with Lebanon’s demands. I would have thought the Israelis would have shunned such nomenclature, considering the Marshall Plan followed the Nazi wars in Europe. Regardless, and without trying to be cynical, this bodes well for a feasible and humanitarian complement to the hopefully imminent ‘cessation of hostilities’ (to avoid using the c word), plus Siniora’s 7 points, etc.

Get this. The last time the words ‘Marshall Plan’ and ‘Lebanon’ were mentioned together, I think, was in 1991. In his best-selling Pulitzer Prize-winning tome on the geopolitics of energy, The Prize, Daniel Yergin describes how the construction of Tapline by Bechtel for Standard Oil—to carry Saudi crude to the Mediterranean Sea via the south of Lebanon and the Golan—was part and parcel of the Marshall Plan. ‘Funded and facilitated’ by the Marshall Plan, Tapline was literally the lifeline of the economic recovery and reconstruction of postwar Europe. It makes sense: How else could Europe get huge amounts of oil and remain indebted to the US during the postwar years?[3].

Since Israel occupied the Golan in 1967, however, Tapline was shut off. This war provides the US a long-awaited opportunity (not to say pretext) to place US-sanctioned multinational troops to secure the pipeline route. In the past Israel refused—poor Mr Baker, he bent over backwards trying to convince Mr Shamir to place US troops in the Golan as ‘the ultimate security guarantee’ but to no avail.[4] His wish seems to have finally found a local audience.

Today, if the UN heeds Messrs Siniora and Eldar’s seemingly synchronized pleas, the Marshall plan will indeed recover one of its main pillars. While feeding Lebanon’s recovery, a secure and healthy crude artery from Dhahran to Zahrani might also regain Europe’s dependency on the US.

[1] Fouad Siniora, 28 July 2006, speech transcript:
[2] Akiva Eldar, ‘Let’s Play A Trick on Them’, Haaretz 7 August 2006
[3] Daniel Yergin, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power, 1991, Chapter 21: ‘The Postwar Petroleum Order’, 409-30
[4] James Baker, The Politics of Diplomacy, 1995, 455

Copyright © 2006 Le Moineau