These are the "birth pangs" of a "new Middle East," said Condi Rice last summer, as Israel pounded Lebanon. Unfortunately, the new Middle East may make us all pray for the return of the old.
Hamas is today engaged in savage street-fighting with Fatah for control of Gaza. If Hamas prevails, it could convert this Palestinian enclave into a terrorist base camp between Israel and Egypt.
In northern Lebanon, Islamic jihadists are battling the army for control of a Palestinian refugee camp. Scores are dead.
On Wednesday, a seventh parliamentarian was assassinated with his son in a Beirut car bomb attack.
In Samarra, the Golden Mosque was attacked again on Wednesday, collapsing the two minarets that survived last year’s bombing. Gen. David Petraeus is grim about the consequences of what he says was an al-Qaida attack to escalate the Sunni-Shia war.
With Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan convulsed by ever-widening civil wars, a new danger is that the United States, tied down in two of those wars, may be about to lash out and launch a third — on Iran.
"I think we’ve got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq," Joe Lieberman blurted on "Face the Nation," adding, "To me, that would include a strike over the border into Iran, where we have good evidence that they have a base at which they are training those people coming back into Iraq to kill our soldiers."
"If there’s any hope of … stopping their nuclear weapons development," Lieberman said, "we can’t just talk to them."
Joe’s call for air strikes follows the GOP debate where several presidential hopefuls did not even rule out the use of tactical atomic weapons to deal with Iran’s uranium enrichment program.
These are politicians, however, and bashing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran has no political downside. More ominous are the grim words of serious U.S. diplomats and soldiers not usually given to bellicose rhetoric.
On Wednesday, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told CNN that Iran is not only arming the Taliban in Afghanistan, but Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and insurgents in Iraq.
"There’s irrefutable evidence the Iranians are now doing this and it’s a pattern of activity," said Burns. He added there was no chance the shipments were coming from rebel groups in Iran.
"It’s certainly coming from the government of Iran. It’s coming from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard corps command, which is a basic unit of the Iranian government," said Burns.
NATO officials in Afghanistan say Iranian-made AK-47s, plastic explosives, mortars and one "explosively formed penetrator" bomb that can pierce coalition armor have been intercepted.
On Wednesday, Gen. Petraeus told USA Today’s Cesar Soriano that Iran is "funding, arming, training and, even in some cases, directing the activities of extremists and militia elements in Iraq."
The flow of arms from Iran into Iraq, said Petraeus, has not diminished since the May 28 meeting between U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and his Iranian counterpart.
"The people they (the Iranians) are arming are very, very serious thugs," said Petraeus. The general claims that militants armed by Iran kidnapped the British contractors on May 29 and were behind the recent mortar and rocket attacks on the Green Zone.
What Iran is being publicly charged with here, by responsible U.S. officials, are acts of war — arming insurgents and terrorists to kill U.S. soldiers and civilians.
"As many as 200 American soldiers" may have been killed by Iranians or Iranian-trained insurgents, Lieberman claimed. Petraeus and Nick Burns would not be making these charges publicly if the White House did not want them made publicly.
What is going on? The most logical explanation is that the White House is providing advance justification for air strikes on camps of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard that are allegedly providing training for and transferring weapons to Afghan and Iraqi insurgents. And if the United States conducts those strikes, Iranians will unite around Ahmadinejad, and Tehran will order retaliatory strikes against U.S. targets in Iraq and perhaps across the Middle East.
President Bush will then have his casus belli to take out Natanz and all the other Iranian nuclear facilities, as the Israelis and the neocons have been demanding that he do. This would mean a third Middle Eastern war for America, with a nation three times as large and populous as Iraq. Perhaps it is time to begin constructing a new wing on Walter Reed.
Which raises the question: Where is the Congress? Why is it not holding public hearings and sifting the evidence to determine if Tehran is behind these attacks on Americans and if the United States has not itself been aiding insurgents inside Iran?
Or is it all up to George W. as to whether we launch a third and wider war in the Middle East, which could result in an economic and strategic disaster for the United States?
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