"Thousands of SAMs smuggled into Gaza"
FP: The chickens of Cast Lead and the Second Lebanon War come home to roost.
Israel Matzav: Newt: 'Palestinians' must give up 'right of return' before negotiating peace
Republican candidate Newt Gingrich is making a big assumption in thinking that the 'Palestinians' want to negotiate peace, but if Newt wins, the 'Palestinians' might actually find themselves with little choice other than to negotiate or lay low for four years.
FP: It is useless to talk about relinquishing the right of return – no Palestinian leader can survive it – but I doubt that Israel wants it either. If Israel returns the land, what happens after the assassination and Hamas takes over and renegs? Would you buy a used car from the Palestinians?
Alex Fishman: Beware Iranian desperation
However, there is another possibility that is much more realistic, much closer to materializing, and unrelated to an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites. This scenario asserts that the ones to first pull the trigger will be the Iranians, against the backdrop of Tehran’s economic chokehold and growing global isolation. Iran is starting to be pushed into a corner in the face of existing pressure, and more so as result of pressures to be exerted very soon.
Tehran’s economic collapse is already around the corner. The regime sees the thousands standing in line at banks these days in order to exchange the local currency for dollars – but there are none. On the black market, the gap already stands at 60%. Nobody can predict the breaking point that would prompt Ahmadinejad to act desperately; the point where the ayatollahs feel threatened enough to resort to a military provocation that would bully the world and exact such high price as to prompt the international community to lift the chokehold.
FP: Consistent with my argument that it’s the losing Islamists who are dangerous (see next). Mark Helprin writes in The Mortal Threat From Iran that
Iran can sea-launch from off our coasts. Germany planned this in World War II. If cocaine can be smuggled into the U.S. without interdiction, we cannot dismiss the possibility of an Iranian nuke ending up in Manhattan.But as per my previous post, chances are better it will use its proxies around the world:
George Friedman: Iran, the U.S. and the Strait of Hormuz Crisis
But that's not how the Iranians operate. For all their rhetoric, they are cautious in their policies. This does not mean they are passive. It simply means that they avoid high-risk moves. They will rely on their covert capabilities and relationships. Those relationships now exist in an environment in which many reasonable Arab leaders see a shift in the balance of power, with the United States growing weaker and less predictable in the region and Iran becoming stronger. This provides fertile soil for Iranian allies to pressure regional regimes into accommodations with Iran.
An air campaign against Iran's conventional forces would play to American military strengths, but it has two problems. First, it would be an extended campaign, one lasting months. Iran's capabilities are large and dispersed, and as seen in Desert Storm and Kosovo against weaker opponents, such operations take a long time and are not guaranteed to be effective. Second, the Iranians have counters. One, of course, is the Strait of Hormuz. The second is the use of its special operations forces and allies in and out of the region to conduct terrorist attacks. An extended air campaign coupled with terrorist attacks could increase distrust of American power rather than increase it among U.S. allies, to say nothing of the question of whether Washington could sustain political support in a coalition or within the United States itself.
The problem for the United States is that the status quo ultimately works against it. If al Assad survives and if the situation in Iraq proceeds as it has been proceeding, then Iran is creating a reality that will define the region. The United States does not have a broad and effective coalition, and certainly not one that would rally in the event of war. It has only Israel, and Israel is as uneasy with direct military action as the United States is. It does not want to see a failed attack and it does not want to see more instability in the Arab world. For all its rhetoric, Israel has a weak hand to play. The only virtue of the American hand is that it is stronger -- but only relatively speaking.
We find ourselves in a situation in which neither side wants to force the other into extreme steps and neither side is in a position to enter into broader accommodations. And that's what makes the situation dangerous. When fundamental issues are at stake, each side is in a position to profoundly harm the other if pressed, and neither side is in a position to negotiate a broad settlement, a long game of chess ensues. And in that game of chess, the possibilities of miscalculation, of a bluff that the other side mistakes for an action, are very real.
FP: In short, another cold war, but for a weakening America and with a less rational enemy.