Tuesday, February 05, 2008

In plain view:

Two inadvertantly related stories

I. A brief comment about the final Winograd Report, by Harvey Sicherman

Civilians: shields and targets

...And the politicians (perhaps) learned the timeless lesson that excessive rhetoric supported by underwhelming force is a sure formula for disaster. Jerusalem may not be the only place in need of that lesson.

It seems to me, however, that the crucial problem we all need to tackle is the strategy revealed in Lebanon. How do you defeat a well-trained enemy using some civilians as shields and other civilians as targets? Even precise firepower will still kill many civilians. And a careful infantry operation will risk many soldiers.

(Read it all here)

II. Seymour Hersh speculates in The New Yorker:

A Strike in the Dark: What did Israel bomb in Syria?

Hersh takes 7 pages to unfold his story but here is the gist of his theory:

In Tel Aviv, the senior Israeli official pointedly told me, “Syria still thinks Hezbollah won the war in Lebanon”—referring to the summer, 2006, fight between Israel and the Shiite organization headed by Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. “Nasrallah knows how much that war cost—one-third of his fighters were killed, infrastructure was bombed, and ninety-five per cent of his strategic weapons were wiped out,” the Israeli official said. “But Assad has a Nasrallah complex and thinks Hezbollah won. And, ‘If he did it, I can do it.’ This led to an adventurous mood in Damascus. Today, they are more sober.”

And more importantly:

Shortly after the bombing, a Chinese envoy and one of the Bush Administration’s senior national-security officials met in Washington. The Chinese envoy had just returned from a visit to Tehran, a person familiar with the discussion told me, and he wanted the White House to know that there were moderates there who were interested in talks. The national-security official rejected that possibility and told the envoy, as the person familiar with the discussion recalled, “‘You are aware of the recent Israeli statements about Syria. The Israelis are extremely serious about Iran and its nuclear program, and I believe that, if the United States government is unsuccessful in its diplomatic dealings with Iran, the Israelis will take it out militarily.’ He then told the envoy that he wanted him to convey this to his government—that the Israelis were serious.

“He was telling the Chinese leadership that they’d better warn Iran that we can’t hold back Israel, and that the Iranians should look at Syria and see what’s coming next if diplomacy fails,” the person familiar with the discussion said. “His message was that the Syrian attack was in part aimed at Iran.”

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