Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Second Lebanon War: Moshe Yaalon

Part 7

The deployment of thousands of international forces in Lebanon, in addition to 15,000 Lebanese troops, will encourage Iran to continue to penetrate the Palestinian Authority, where its increased influence will act as an enhanced terror lever against Israel and the West as Tehran pursues its nuclear ambitions.
Iran will also exploit its influence via Hizbullah and Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza to encourage terror activities against conservative, pro-Western Sunni regimes in Egypt, Jordan and the PA's current Fatah leadership.

But threats against these regimes, stemming from both Iranian- and al-Qaeda-backed radical Islamic groups in Gaza and the West Bank, may also signal an important opportunity for new regional alliances to manage the destabilizing Jihadi threats. Egypt should now consider playing a much larger role in helping to stabilize Gaza's future, while the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan may, under certain conditions, help Abbas and other moderate leaders secure the West Bank from its current control by Jihadi groups, local warlords and armed militias. The two sides might also discuss deeper cooperation and even mutually acceptable future political arrangements.
Despite the temptation, the international community must be careful not to interpret every "smile" from the Hamas leadership as a sign of moderation and compromise. Hamas' diplomatic shrewdness indicates that it can and will exhibit tactical flexibility, which is part of its deception of negotiating a national unity government with Fatah and keeping its terror activities in temporary check while pursuing its long-term goal – the destruction of the State of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic state from "the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River." In the short term, Hamas will likely continue to receive support from Iran and other Jihadis in targeting Americans in the region due to fury over the U.S. boycott of the radical Palestinian government.47 Despite the interest by some in international circles to try and "tame" or moderate Hamas, those same actors who failed to tame Arafat will not be able to transform Hamas into a viable peace partner and a constructive force for regional stability.

The international community should not fear the collapse of the PA. The experience of Israel's security operations in recent years shows that Palestinian society will not collapse – as the word is commonly interpreted – even under extreme conditions. Palestinian municipalities, for example, continued to operate and provide services even at the height of Israeli military actions against the PA following the Palestinian war of terror and particularly during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002.
Iran is clearly the most ominous issue for the West. Operating under a nuclear umbrella, the Iranian regime's upgraded use of its international terror networks via Hizbullah and Palestinian Jihadi groups could threaten the region with "dirty," non-conventional weapons and more blatantly dare to attack Western targets. That is why Israel must maintain defensible borders in the West Bank and remind its Western allies that diplomatic pressure on Israel to withdraw to the indefensible 1949 armistice lines or to approximate borders would leave Israel's major cities and infrastructure vulnerable to rocket and mortar attacks from West Bank hilltops.
Israel is clearly not the only country on Iran's target list. There is no arguing the fact that Iran also threatens Europe. Hopefully, the United States and the international community will act determinedly against Iran, first by political and financial sanctions, and if necessary by decisive military action.

As U.S. Senator John McCain has said, there is only one option that is worse than using military force against Iran. That option is allowing Iran to achieve regional hegemony, and ultimately global power, under a nuclear umbrella. Only when Iran, Syria and their terrorist proxies are squarely defeated can both the Middle East and the West hope to achieve a more peaceful and stable future.

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