Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 19, 2008

A New Lebanon War?

There are multiple signs that some military action by Israel against Hizbullah and Hamas will soon take place.

Two weeks ago Olmert traveled through European capitals to get international support for a big Gaza operation. The plan seems to be to put the problem into the hand of international troops after such an operation has finished. (Any volunteers?)

The Israeli Mossad assassinated Hizbullah's military planer Imad Mugniyah in Damascus last week, Hizbullah has pledged revenge.

On the 14th the Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal visited Moscow for a few hours with Putin. On the 15th he was in Washington for a short meeting with Bush. In-between he dropped by in Berlin and Paris. None of the usual news agencies reported about these visits!

Yesterday Faisal warned Saudi citizens not to travel to Lebanon:

"The foreign ministry advised Saudi citizens not to travel to Lebanon in light of unstable political and security circumstances in Lebanon right now," said a statement reported by the official news agency SPA, in a rare move for Saudi Arabia.
Political analyst Khaled al-Dakhil said: "Perhaps they have intelligence information that something is going to happen or they think the negotiations taking place now on presidential crisis are going nowhere. They are in a position to know."

France temporarily shut down its cultural centers in South-Lebanon and Qatar has withdrawn its troops from the UN mission at the Lebanese Israeli border.

Then there is military movement in Israel:

Meanwhile, Israel's deployment of a battery of Patriot air defense missiles near the northern port city of Haifa is part of precautions against a possible attack by Hezbollah, Israeli security officials said Monday. The officials said the battery was put on standby Sunday for the first time since the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
Over the weekend, the Israel Defense Forces moved reinforcements close to the border with Lebanon in the North, including elite units.
Home Front Command also carried out checks of air warning stations in the North and briefed municipal authorities and local council heads on preparedness and procedures.

GPC at the Friday Lunch Club translates from an Al-Akhbar piece:

.... A 'report', originated in Moscow speaks of "US Administration Lunacy, committing the worst". Same has been discussed with representatives of IMPORTANT regional powers (KSA?) on US 'Obsession' with Iran, Syria & the insurgencies across the region."


".... A senior French intelligence official relayed to 'key Arab players' that the situation in Lebanon has become "most fluid" .... with possibilities of serious repercussion on the Syrian security stage ...with mounting pressures on the Regime in Damascus, with "off the shelf" US-EU-UN sanctions ... The French Senior Intelligence official added that "Mughniyeh's hit should not only be seen as part of an Israel-Hezbollah struggle, ... that any such operation did go through a political & security approval (by the United States) not only because of the repercussions ... but to put the operation in ITS PROPER CONTEXT."

Now - what is the "proper context" for all the above?

Posted by b on February 19, 2008 at 06:26 AM | Permalink


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Amtrak, the only long-haul passenger rail service in the United States, will for the first time randomly screen passengers' bags and deploy armed security officers on trains and platforms, the railroad said on Monday night.

Details of the shift in security strategy at Amtrak will be released on Tuesday, but the railroad said the steps were not in response to any threat.

Posted by: Sam | Feb 19, 2008 7:15:48 AM | 1

I thought Robert Fisk's take on Mughniyeh was about right:

"In that sense, Mougnieh was a man of the past, pensioned off in Damascus, safer for the Iranians there rather than cosseted in a Tehran hotel room."


There's no record of him having done much for more than 10 years. Fisk knew the guy; you can't dismiss his point of view.

Posted by: Alex | Feb 19, 2008 7:23:49 AM | 2

Hizbullah has pledged revenge

I don't think they did. Nasrallah said he was ready for war. That's different. It means Hizbullah is ready to defend itself. The Israeli troop movements could be in reference to this supposed threat.

Posted by: Alex | Feb 19, 2008 11:22:26 AM | 3

@Alex - "Hizbullah has pledged revenge" - I don't think they did.

I haven't seen any good translations of what Nasrallah said - only the paranoic Israeli/US papers. So I don't know.

But I am sure that Nazrallah, if he wants to "answer" the assassination at all, will to at a time and in a way that is least expected. The current Israeli military moves seem quite senseless to me as a "defensive" measure. Especially the Patriots deployed around Haifa are not really useful anything against the usual Hizbullah arsenal. (The Israeli don't have yet the new PAC3s-version.)

Posted by: b | Feb 19, 2008 11:41:03 AM | 4

Gold and oil are both up sharply today. Related to b's post?

Posted by: Dick Durata | Feb 19, 2008 1:52:27 PM | 5

@Dick - 5 - could be - but market movements are currently more real economic indicators than political ones. There will be big bank failures in the US and bailouts via inflation - that drives gold and all commodities - at least that's my current assumption.

But something is signaled by the Israeli military movement and especially the Saudi 'secret' traveling business.

No agency reporting on a major travel of an important FM? Who told them to shut up?

Posted by: b | Feb 19, 2008 2:55:30 PM | 6

I also thought of this post when oil crossed the symbolic threshold.

Oil hits record over $100

$ 100, that doesn't make sense in a crashing economy. And while the article cites nearly a dozen reasons, they aren't strong enough to explain the rally...

On the other hand, market makers haven't distinguished themselves for any kind of long term sense or perceptiveness, that's for sure. So you could be right about this being unrelated.

Posted by: Alamet | Feb 19, 2008 6:01:49 PM | 7

This is about Iran, but relevant here. Pepe Escobar on Iranian Oil Bourse:

Slouching Towards Petroeurostan

Shouldn't be missed.

Posted by: Alamet | Feb 19, 2008 8:24:46 PM | 8

This very topic came up this morning in the UESLA billiards room.

Col. Johnson got it started with a wistful remark that the 2008 elections mean we're losing "our varsity team" in the White House, and that starting foreign wars will be harder with the second stringers in there, flogging their own careers and backers.

In a moment, an impressive gaggle of wealthy white men were gathered in the corner, under the mounted heads of all those dead beasts. When the rich and powerful sit in overstuffed leather chairs, smoking cigars, under the unblinking gaze of Cape Buffalo, Kodiak bears, ivory-tusked African bull elephants, American bison, white rhinos, Siberian tigers -- not to mention the oil portrait of Douglas MacArthur -- well it makes our dicks feel bigger, it really does.

And isn't that what it's all about, in the end?

This eighth year of the neocon Presidency is an important one for the Upper East Side Liberation Army. This is our year to make a few of the many moves we have up our sleeves. Acting in concert with the Saudis, Israelis, French, and others to step on those damned Shiites is pretty high on the list.

Annexing the southern half of Lebanon, and that wonderful, wet Litani River water for Israel's use is just one of the cherries on the cake. Getting Iran back in America's pocket is the cake itself.

It's not like the US public isn't behind UESLA, in their way. Why, every shithead SUV drive who plonks down a hundred bucks per fill up is -- by definition -- supporting whomever and whatever it takes to keep that oil moving through the US economy, through the dollar.

It's a great year for kicking ass. We'll have Iran stuffed and mounted by Labor Day, and the whole world will know who's got a swinging dick and who doesn't.

UESLA is America, don't you know.

Posted by: UESLA | Feb 19, 2008 11:37:47 PM | 9

It's a great year for kicking ass. We'll have Iran stuffed and mounted by Labor Day, and the whole world will know who's got a swinging dick and who doesn't.

and going by the record of your "varsity team" so far, it should be a cake-walk.

Posted by: jony_b_cool | Feb 20, 2008 12:01:56 AM | 10

I think what the movements and acts you cite, b, signify is preparations by Israel and others for possible revenge attacks by Hizbullah. However, as I noted above, Moughniyah was really a man of the past and effectively in retirement. So who cares? The importance of the affair is only in the Western media, and a supposed propaganda victory for Israel.

Anyway my daughter emailed me from Damascus yesterday, and she said nobody there is much concerned.

Posted by: Alex | Feb 20, 2008 2:31:38 AM | 11

Maybe, but keep the Big Picture in mind. I just heard interview w/Scott Ritter. He said assasination in Syria of hamas leader was part of strategy of trying to create a trigger to "legitimate" assaulting Iran. He said that while Am. is morally & financially broken, Israel wants to attck, as well as Cheney, who is legally in charge of foreign policy by Spring '01 Pres. order. Army & Marines are opposed 'cuz they're wrecked, but Air Force & Navy (minus Fallon) want attck to justify their bloated budgets. So, everything over there should be viewed through lens of trying to create/destroy possibility of attacking Iran.

Posted by: jj | Feb 20, 2008 2:34:54 AM | 12

That's my lesson for posting 'fore reading UESLA. Ritter agrees w/him :)

Posted by: jj | Feb 20, 2008 2:39:19 AM | 13

@Alex - it is not about Moughniyah at all. It is about Olmert who wants a revange - it is about the Saudis who want hit at the Shia - it is about Bush who wants to mess up the Middle East because its good business.

Moughniyah was inactive (and has btw done less than half the things that are put to his name) and no longer relevant. The Israeli think they can drag Hizbullah into hitting back. I doubt that Narallah is stupid enough to fall for it. But the Hariri gang and its Saudi financed Ansar-al-Islam might hit at something Israeli, and blame it to Hizbullah, to start the next big fight.

Syria will stay out of this if it can.

It is all a remake of the 2006 war but with added Saudi support within Lebanon against Hizbullah. I don't expect an overall different result than from the first war.

The Neocon Marc Reuel Gerecht from the AEI has a NYT oped in which calls for Bush to get into direct negotiations with Iran. The reasoning is that such negotiations are a nessessary step to get the Democrats to agree to bomb Iran.

To make the threat of force against clerical Iran again credible, there needs to be a consensus among far more Democrats and Republicans that a nuclear-armed Iran is intolerable. If the White House tried more energetically to find a diplomatic solution to the nuclear threat, if it demonstrated that it had reached out to Iranian “pragmatists” and “moderates,” and that again no one responded, then the military option would likely become convincing to more Americans.
Oh my ...

Posted by: b | Feb 20, 2008 2:58:51 AM | 14

b, I am sure everyone agrees that these desires exist in the hearts of Olmert and Cheyney, and others. The question is: can they be put into practice? Olmert is warier than he was. Cheyney may be free to act as a lame duck, in theory. But if an attack is carried out unsubtlely, the effects on US prestige will be enormous. It is not so easy as one thinks. So I am not that impressed with the argument that we are going there right now.

Posted by: Alex | Feb 20, 2008 7:28:39 AM | 15

Report: Barak tells Syria IDF planning to up fight against Hezbollah

Defense Minister Ehud Barak has told Syria through Turkish mediation that the Israel Defense Forces is planning to escalate its military operations against Hezbollah and Hamas, the London-based daily Al-Hayat reported on Thursday.

On his visit to Turkey last week, Barak asked Turkish President Abdullah Ghoul to tell Syrian President Bashar Assad that Syria should adopt a different stance toward Hezbollah, according to Al-Hayat.

Posted by: b | Feb 21, 2008 5:13:01 AM | 16

I wonder why the IDF is anxious to get their ass handed to them by Hezbollah yet again B.

are they gluttons for punishment or what?

Posted by: ran | Feb 21, 2008 8:49:25 AM | 17

If Barak announces to the Syrians via the Turks, that they going to up operations against Hizbullah and Hamas, it is absolutely no evidence of such Israeli plans, rather they're thinking of something else, and they just want to keep H and H off-balance.

Posted by: Alex | Feb 21, 2008 12:00:09 PM | 18

@Alex - I agree - the original report is also from Al-Hayat, which is Saudi financed ...

On Iraq and also Lebanon:

Pause in Iraq? Try Permanent Bases in the Region

With all eyes on the number of troops physically stationed in Iraq, one of the ways in which further reductions will be allowed is by shifting missions to other Persian Gulf countries, a process that is already underway. In Kuwait, for instance, the Army is completing the finishing touches on a permanent ground forces command for Iraq and the region, one that it describes as being capable of being a platform for "full spectrum operations" in 27 countries around southwest Asia and the Middle East.

Permanently deployed with the new regional headquarters in Kuwait will be a theater-level logistical command, a communications command, a military intelligence brigade, a "civil affairs" group and a medical command. "These commands now have a permanent responsibility to this theater," Lt. Gen. James J. Lovelace told the Mideast edition of Stars and Stripes. "They'll have a permanent presence here."

The Air Force and Navy, meanwhile, have set up additional permanent bases in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman.

So all troops but the actual fighting force will be "out of Iraq" but in the area, lowering the "number of troops in Iraq" while keeping the action at the same level and preparing for more "interventions".

Posted by: b | Feb 21, 2008 12:27:05 PM | 19

So all troops but the actual fighting force will be "out of Iraq" but in the area, lowering the "number of troops in Iraq" while keeping the action at the same level and preparing for more "interventions".

Actually this is good news. I always thought Iraq was going to be the new main base for the Middle East. To build the permanent command base outside Iraq, means that Iraq is seen as only a temporary operation. However I do note the expression "ground forces". Just the army, not the combined forces.

Posted by: Alex | Feb 21, 2008 1:40:51 PM | 20

However I do note the expression "ground forces". Just the army, not the combined forces.

Hmm - "full spectrum operation" includes everything, so that's the main headquarter. The Air Force command is in Quatar, the Navy in Dubai if I remember that correctly.

The "problem" is to get the numbers down in Iraq without really getting them down and this is done by shifting everything out that's possible. Especially the bloated headquarters. This puts the next president into a bind.

Posted by: b | Feb 21, 2008 1:50:30 PM | 21

Dying for a Second Round -
Israel's New Plan to Attack Lebanon

The man said of his colleagues: "There are a lot of [Israeli] military and cabinet people just dying for a second round with Lebanon. If given the opportunity they'll take it," i.e. attack Lebanon again, not in spite of "but because of" the perception that their '06 attack failed.
In fact, the closer you look the more it looks like leaders' blood psychotherapy.
And the same thing goes for the publics that follow them. Olmert is in political trouble. If he doesn't kill some Arabs soon (who or where is secondary), his governing coalition may well dissolve. The public has to feel good, too.

The problem -- for the to-be-killed, and for the notion of murder law, not to mention (and few do) decency -- is that the Israeli body politic is now set this way: demanding -- with a few, brave, exceptions -- not just daily, routine, killings of Palestinians, but periodic dramatic strikes that thrill and let them strut like hero/ victims.

It's as if the inhabitants of a US Fox News studio had multiplied and become a nation.

Posted by: b | Feb 21, 2008 2:08:15 PM | 22

Mougnieh assasination as attempt at provocation under guise of justice delivered? Yes, perhaps. But of whom or what? Or PR for stumbling Mossad?

Does this partly explain the telegraphing of coming US-Iraq offensive against insurgents around Mosul, including moving extra US troops to the area? Had been wondering about brer rabbit's briar patch. Could the Army have shored up forces at Mosul (so near the borders) to prevent any battles set off by the assasination from rolling into Iraq, where Army and Marine hands are already full?

Geography and timing suggest that it must all be connected. I am having difficulty connecting dots. A straight shot of your selection to any barfly who can find the links.

Posted by: small coke | Feb 21, 2008 2:21:20 PM | 23

The "problem" is to get the numbers down in Iraq without really getting them down and this is done by shifting everything out that's possible.

I don't agree. It makes Iraq psychologically speaking a temporary operation. It *can* be terminated, if need be. If the main headquarters is there, they're there for good.

Actually, I do think they're building up to withdrawing from Iraq, in several years' time. They would never admit it, of course, and it may not be a conscious build-up. But the situation there is a stalemate. Washington must reading the polls; Iraqis will never agree to a permanent occupation. The US has gone as far as it can. Control they are slowly losing, in the way the Brits did. In order to reach the surge "success" they are supposed to have had, they have had to start paying and arming the Sunni insurgents. That is certainly a move that loses control. As this one, with the HQ. In fact every move the US makes can only lose more control.

Posted by: Alex | Feb 21, 2008 2:35:56 PM | 24

b, thank you for the Arkin blog post @ 19, it is a solid piece.

Arab Monitor has an interview with Timur Goksel who is always a good analyst on Lebanon. And he says, Hezbollah can't afford not to respond to the assasination of Imad Mughniye

[Q]Having hit out at him in Syria, couldn’t that have been aimed also at creating an atmosphere of suspicion in the Lebanese Resistance towards Damascus ?

[A]“Certainly the aim was also to undermine cooperation between Hezbollah and Syria and until all the details of the incident have been brought to light, a shadow will persist”.

[Q]Do you believe that secret services of some Arab country could have had a hand in carrying out the assault ?

[A]“If that were the case, it would be disastrous. They would have acted in violation of Syrian sovereignty. It’s suicidal”.

[Q]At the funeral for Imad Mughniye the leader of Hezbollah Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah said that what had happened had triggered open war with Israel: but, as far as you can tell, will it be a war between Hezbollah and Israel or between Lebanon and Israel ?

[A]“It will be between Hezbollah and Israel. He asserted that the rules of the game have changed, that the confrontation had been strapped of its limits and its borders. The war will be a dirty one. Considering the myth that surrounded Mughniye inside the movement, Hezbollah’s leadership can’t afford not to respond to what has happened. It is obliged to do so. The new generation of Hezbollah’s militants, for whom Mughniye was a symbol, will lay it on them”.

Separately, (found via Roads to Iraq) Iran's Press TV has a report ascribed to a Syrian newspaper:
Saudi sent arms to Lebanon

Saudi Arabia has reportedly sent an arms shipment to Lebanon amid an ongoing political crisis and a looming civil conflict in the country.

The Syrian daily al-Watan reported that a Saudi Royal Guard plane carrying arms, ammunition and explosives had landed in Beirut few days ago.

The report claimed that Riyadh had also deployed 600 security forces to Lebanon who stayed permanently there for 'special operations'.

According to the report, the arms shipment included a large amount of tear and nerve gas which is used to disperse demonstrators in case of widespread protests.

Nerve gas is a mistranslation, I presume.

Posted by: Alamet | Feb 21, 2008 7:19:51 PM | 25

small coke 23, Does this partly explain the telegraphing of coming US-Iraq offensive against insurgents around Mosul, including moving extra US troops to the area? Had been wondering about brer rabbit's briar patch. Could the Army have shored up forces at Mosul (so near the borders) to prevent any battles set off by the assasination from rolling into Iraq, where Army and Marine hands are already full?

i think mosel has more to do w/this, previously posted by a barfly.

The Militarization of the World’s Urban Peripheries

“Neighborhoods that have not been crushed militarily are walled, enclosed, and abandoned to their luck. Complete areas of the city have been demarcated and segregated with inhabitants confined inside, subjected to entry and exit controls so ironclad that we can speak without hesitation of a ghetto policy.”

just as the 'surge' was a pretext for cleansing baghdad, mosel is now being walled and 'swept'. it is a matter of containment, city by city imho, more than any specific MO aimed at current events. this is part of the 'soft partition'. mosel is particularly tricky becaose of the integrated nature of the city and the multi sects within. the big build up in pr, re AQ was the pretext but low 'n behold recent press stressed it would be a long affair lasting into the summer which was probably the intended goal all along. w/baghdad's surge lacking in popularity and the clear failure of the proposed bs 'political reconciliation' pr, they could hardly say 'wow smashing success, let's now do mosel'. hence the AQ pretext when in fact it's resistance primarily. this is my guess anyway.

Posted by: annie | Feb 21, 2008 10:33:40 PM | 26

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