Analysis: Hoping the ripples reach Teheran

On each front Israel is facing one of Iran's proxies - Hamas in the south; Hizbullah in the north.

iran flag 88 (photo credit: )
iran flag 88
(photo credit: )
Lebanon is the pond, the IAF bombs are the stones, and the hope in Jerusalem is that hurling enough of those stones into the Lebanese pond will produce a ripple effect felt as far as Teheran. Israel woke up Thursday morning finding itself facing a two front war - but not a traditional two front war, rather a two front terrorist war. And on each front it is facing one of Iran's proxies - Hamas in the south; Hizbullah in the north. One of the assumptions of the current campaign is that if you hit the proxy hard enough, its master will get the message. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert intimated this much Wednesday when he said he was certain the IDF actions would "echo in the right places and with the necessary strength." Israeli spokesman have said consistently over the last few days that what happened in the north Wednesday morning fundamentally changed the rules of the game, and that Israel needed to respond in kind. One of the rules of the game that Israel wants to change is that Iran has free rein to use its terrorist proxies to make Israel bleed at a whim. While some have argued that the recent flare-ups in Gaza and now in Lebanon are attempts to test a new and relatively inexperienced Israeli leadership, others say that the timing is not linked to Defense Minister Amir Peretz's learning curve, but rather to mounting international pressure on Iran regarding the nuclear issue. Iran is under strong pressure from the US and the international community to stop its drive toward nuclear capability, and there are few ways easier to divert the world's attention than opening up another front. Which is what Iran has done. Indeed they have opened up two fronts, just as the question of the Iranian nuclear issue is reaching a critical peak. Because of the situation that has been created here over the last two days, the Middle East, and not Iran, will likely dominate discussions at the G-8 summit Saturday in St. Petersburg. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni drew a line from Iran to Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas and called it an axis of hate that "wants to end any hope for peace." If that's the case, why not hit the head of the snake, instead of fiddling around with the tail? For, in the final analysis, does Iran really care if Hamas or Hizbullah get clobbered? Diplomatic official in Jerusalem provided two answers to this question. The first is that Israel wants to act where it feels it will have international legitimacy to do so, and presently this is in Lebanon - a sovereign country from which a party in its government launched an attack on another sovereign country. The second reason is that Israel has no interest in an all out war with Iran, and is concerned about Iran's military capabilities. After withdrawing from both Lebanon in 2000, and Gaza in 2005, Israel promised a harsh response for any provocation, any Katyusha from Lebanon, or Kassam from Gaza. Those harsh responses, however, were not fast in coming, and a situation developed where both the proxies and those controlling them felt they could provoke without concern for a massive response. As one government official noted Thursday, "We left Gaza and hoped that there would be pressure, and wanted to give them a chance. It never worked." The same thing happened in Lebanon. Israel withdrew, counted on the Lebanese government to take control of the south, but it never did. Instead, the area continues to be ruled by Iran's proxy. The goals of the campaign in Lebanon are clear - to remove Hizbullah from the south by delivering Lebanon a blow so hard that the central government there will be forced to move its forces south and assert its authority over that part of the country. "We want to ensure that they can't dance in Jounieh and have tourists return to Beirut if the streets are dark in Kiryat Shmona and tourists are fleeing the Galilee," one government official said. And this message is also intended to for Teheran: that Israel will not let it turn Lebanon in to a theater of war against Israel, and that Jerusalem intends to remove this weapon from Teheran's arsenal against Israel. Although it is far fetched to believe that Israel would take direct military action against Iran, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that at some point during this conflict Iranian Revolutionary Guards who are reportedly stationed in Lebanon might get hit. Israel has been saying for years that members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are stationed among Hizbullah fighters in Lebanon, manning some of the thousands of missiles, some of them long range missiles that could hit the heart of the country, in southern Lebanon. If they do fire those missiles the Iranian Revolutionary Guards may be targeted. Targetting the Revolutionary Guards would be the closest that Israel is likely to come within the framework of this current conflagration to taking action against Iran.