Calling Ahmadinejad's bluff

Iran's President Ahmadinejad has been making murderous threats against the Jewish state for months and months. The Israelis don't like big rhetorical gestures, but they know perfectly well that leaving Ahmadinejad's genocidal boasting unanswered would send a signal of lethal vulnerability to a monster. We are seeing their answer shaping up even now.

We can't know the outcome of the battle now in progress. However, it is clear that Israel has called Ahmadinejad's bluff. So far, there are two signs for the world to see: Israeli freedom to act as it wants, and the impotence of Syria and Iran to protect their proxies on the borders of Israel.

The IDF is attacking at a time and place of its choosing. If a country the size of Israel is going to tackle Iran, with ten times its population, it must first protect its own rear. The IDF cannot afford to have more than 10 thousand short—range rockets aimed at Israel's population, all in the hands of Iran's terror proxy, Hezbollah. For strategic reasons alone, therefore, it is imperative to clean out the threat to the rear before making any direct move again Tehran.

That does not mean the IDF is now committed to attack Bushehr and Natanz, the two most likely nuclear targets in Iran. But if it can cripple the threat from Hezbollah and Hamas for some time to come, it is clearing a strategic space to strike at Iran itself.

So far there have been some astonishingly supportive noises from Arab sources — historically unprecedented ones. The Saudis have publicly tut—tutted ——— against Hezbollah (!) (which is Shiite and supported by Saudi Arabia's biggest existential threat across the Gulf).   Lebanese newspapers have voiced public hatred of Hezbollah and its Syrian allies, and little criticism of Israel's actions.   Most surprisingly, the Iranians have drawn a line in the sand, but so as to exclude  their allies in Lebanon. Ahmadinejad just told the world that Israel must not attack Syria, but he has said nothing about Hezbollah, now under fierce and systematic attack. In public, at least, Iran has already retreated.

For the United States, worried about nukes in the hands of a creature like Ahmadinejad, Israel is also acting as a proxy. The US is now going through the UN rituals needed to make a diplomatic case against a medieval throwback  theocracy armed with strategic weapons. If Condi Rice succeeds at the UN, there will be a civilized alliance against the common danger; but it's not likely to happen as long as Uncle Sam will do it (and be blamed for it, too). The administration will wants to make its public case, to the extent possible. The US cannot act militarily at this time.

Israel is therefore sending America's message by striking hard against the Syria—Iran alliance. Two weeks ago the IDF overflew Syrian President Bashir Assad's summer home, the second time it has sent jet fighters buzzing Assad's personal residences in the last few years. Syria's anti—aircraft batteries were eloquently silent. The Arab world took quiet notice

So Israel is fighting jiu jitsu, a backwards elbow jab to the throat in order to clear a strike to the front.

These look like early skirmishes in a strategic battle. There are formidable challenges ahead. Good people will die. We can only look on, and wish wisdom and strength to the good guys.

Iran's President Ahmadinejad has been making murderous threats against the Jewish state for months and months. The Israelis don't like big rhetorical gestures, but they know perfectly well that leaving Ahmadinejad's genocidal boasting unanswered would send a signal of lethal vulnerability to a monster. We are seeing their answer shaping up even now.

We can't know the outcome of the battle now in progress. However, it is clear that Israel has called Ahmadinejad's bluff. So far, there are two signs for the world to see: Israeli freedom to act as it wants, and the impotence of Syria and Iran to protect their proxies on the borders of Israel.

The IDF is attacking at a time and place of its choosing. If a country the size of Israel is going to tackle Iran, with ten times its population, it must first protect its own rear. The IDF cannot afford to have more than 10 thousand short—range rockets aimed at Israel's population, all in the hands of Iran's terror proxy, Hezbollah. For strategic reasons alone, therefore, it is imperative to clean out the threat to the rear before making any direct move again Tehran.

That does not mean the IDF is now committed to attack Bushehr and Natanz, the two most likely nuclear targets in Iran. But if it can cripple the threat from Hezbollah and Hamas for some time to come, it is clearing a strategic space to strike at Iran itself.

So far there have been some astonishingly supportive noises from Arab sources — historically unprecedented ones. The Saudis have publicly tut—tutted ——— against Hezbollah (!) (which is Shiite and supported by Saudi Arabia's biggest existential threat across the Gulf).   Lebanese newspapers have voiced public hatred of Hezbollah and its Syrian allies, and little criticism of Israel's actions.   Most surprisingly, the Iranians have drawn a line in the sand, but so as to exclude  their allies in Lebanon. Ahmadinejad just told the world that Israel must not attack Syria, but he has said nothing about Hezbollah, now under fierce and systematic attack. In public, at least, Iran has already retreated.

For the United States, worried about nukes in the hands of a creature like Ahmadinejad, Israel is also acting as a proxy. The US is now going through the UN rituals needed to make a diplomatic case against a medieval throwback  theocracy armed with strategic weapons. If Condi Rice succeeds at the UN, there will be a civilized alliance against the common danger; but it's not likely to happen as long as Uncle Sam will do it (and be blamed for it, too). The administration will wants to make its public case, to the extent possible. The US cannot act militarily at this time.

Israel is therefore sending America's message by striking hard against the Syria—Iran alliance. Two weeks ago the IDF overflew Syrian President Bashir Assad's summer home, the second time it has sent jet fighters buzzing Assad's personal residences in the last few years. Syria's anti—aircraft batteries were eloquently silent. The Arab world took quiet notice

So Israel is fighting jiu jitsu, a backwards elbow jab to the throat in order to clear a strike to the front.

These look like early skirmishes in a strategic battle. There are formidable challenges ahead. Good people will die. We can only look on, and wish wisdom and strength to the good guys.