(photo credit: Associated Press)
"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
Winston Churchill said these words on November 10, 1942, after the allied victory over Gen. Rommel's Nazi army in what he called "the Battle of Egypt."
The war against militant Islamism, by contrast, does not generally pitch armies against each other. But it is no less of a war; the jihadis seek to subjugate both Muslim nations and the West, and the West is fighting to defend its freedom and security.
What is strange about this war, almost five years after 9/11 and after numerous follow-on attacks, is that - unlike World War II - the West is still confused about who the enemy is, how to fight it, and even over whether it is at war at all.
It is in this context that events of the last two days, as dismaying as they are, are also tentatively encouraging.
On Wednesday, a few hours after Hizbullah, Iran's proxy army in Lebanon, attacked Israel, the foreign ministers of the UN Security Council's permanent members - US, UK, France, China and Russia - plus Germany (P5 + 1) jointly announced that they had tired of Teheran's prevarications and would seek a resolution requiring Iran to dismantle its nuclear program.
"The first step," US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton explained, "will be to make mandatory the suspension of uranium enrichment activities... [and give Iran] a limited, fixed period of time" to cease them. "The next step, if they fail to comply, would be to go to economic sanctions. No question about that," Bolton said.
What does this have to do with the two-front war that Israel is embroiled in? Everything.
It is inconceivable that Hizbullah attacked Israel without the knowledge and blessing of Iran, on which it is wholly dependent. Iran reportedly retains direct control over the longer-range missiles that are ostensibly part of Hizbullah's arsenal. Among these may be the missiles that rained down on Nahariya and Safed on Thursday.
On June 16, the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported that Syrian-Iranian talks in Teheran "did not only deal with... strategic cooperation between the two countries, but also with the situation in Lebanon... the situation in Palestine, and with ways of assisting Hamas and the [Islamic] Jihad in their conflict with Fatah" (translation by www.memri.org).
The day before Hizbullah's attack, Iran nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, after his meeting with EU envoy Javier Solana, went to Damascus for a surprise visit.
Putting all this together, it is entirely plausible that Iran either ordered or encouraged the Hizbullah attack to distract and intimidate the P5 + 1 foreign ministers meeting at that moment to consider Iran's fate.
What is plain to see, again, is the seamlessness of jihad. Whether or not we stand together in defending ourselves, our attackers do not make great distinctions between their jihads to destroy the "Great Satan" and the "Little Satan," as the mullahs call America and Israel.
Israel, now, has started fighting back. But the profound setback that the IDF is now dealing to Hizbullah and Hamas cannot be divorced from the wider need to successfully confront Iran and Syria, the rogue states that have been supporting these terrorist groups with impunity.
Iran, no doubt, expects the UN's diplomatic mill to grind slowly, and that the delicate P5 + 1 agreement to take this first critical step will unravel when it comes to imposing stiff sanctions. Already, Russia insists that the military option must not be on the table, though such an option must obviously be held in reserve to bolster the leverage of lesser measures and in case those measures fail.
Iran also expects that the UN - as the EU, Russia, Greece, and Turkey already have with respect to Gaza or Lebanon - will formally accuse Israel of using "excessive force."
The international community cannot expect Iran to take its brinkmanship seriously when, at the same moment it threatens sanctions, it refuses to clearly take Israel's side against Iran's blatant act of proxy aggression. We cannot even say we have reached the end of the beginning before free nations show something of the solidarity and clarity of purpose that the jihadis - in Iran, Syria, Hizbullah, Hamas and al-Qaida - show against us.