Sunday, April 1, 2007

Mercury Rising in the Middle East

(en français)

In Beirut, as we welcomed the New Year, the air was permeated with a certain uneasiness. 2007 was sure to be eventful, for better or for worse. Today, as Easter approaches, the opposition sit-in continues to choke the downtown core, as the parliamentary majority, kept afloat by US and French lip service, prays for a miracle. Lebanese know that their future lies in the hands of foreigners: their fate will be decided somewhere between Damascus, Tehran, Washington and Paris.

Suddenly, the Middle East is bustling with activity. So many things are happening, it is hard to tell exactly what it all means (unless you are part of the in-crowd).

These past months have seen a lot of activity: as Ms. Rice collects her miles between DC and the Middle East, so has Putin visited the region, in a clear signal to Washington that Russia intends to be a player in the region.

Yet since last week, events seem to be snowballing: Rice is back in the Middle East. Angela Merkel, whose country holds the EU presidency is in Israel, probably talking to Olmert about the Arab Leagues comprehensive peace proposal and the besieged Palestinian administration. And Tehran has captured British soldiers it says ventured into its waters.

Then this week, Russian media reported that a US attack on Iran was imminent, due to start around Easter. Why Russian inteligence would have leaked that information remains unknown. Ground-based antiaircraft missile defence systems, military command structure and nuclear facilities are reportedly among the alleged targets of this operation. The USs main weapon would be tactical nukes (a euphemism) which are capable of reaching underground facilities. These mini-nukes have a load of 13 kilotons (the bomb used in Hiroshima, had one of 20 kilotons).

Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat leader of Congress is in Israel and intends to visit Damascus, ostensibly to deliver a Bushesque message to Mr. Assad: either you’re with us or you’re against us. If Assad does not bend, he risks a ground invasion via South Lebanon.

Of course, it is a distinctly possibility that all this is pure rhetorics, shouldered by warships in the Persian Gulf and a build-up of troops near the Iran-Iraq border. In the Israeli daily Haaretz, Israeli officials deny such a US-Israeli offensive is under works. Hezbollah, Syria and Iran, however, feel an attack is a real possibility and are gearing up their defences for a summer war they will not trigger.

One thing is certain, SOMEthing is about to happen in the Middle East. Meanwhile, Lebanon watches attentively.


Anonymous said...

thanks for translating this


Léo Martin said...

You're welcome!

AhSe said...

Hello, you said in some other blog that you know Occitan, right? Don't you have any blog written in Occitan?

Léo Martin said...

Pas encara! Mas nel futur ne aurai. Do you have one?

Fleming said...

Leo, you are scaring me: The Russian report of an imminent attack on Iran is new to me. Not long ago I wrote that the Bush "surge" of troops to Iraq might actually be a preparation for war on Iran, but that seemed unlikely in view of the sorry state of the U.S. military in Iraq.

Of course one can't take anything the Israelis or the Americans say at face value. One wonders why any rational government would attack Iran without even the excuse of their having nuclear weapons.

Léo Martin said...

Fleming: I'm not happy with the news myself... As for the Russian intelligence that was made public through the media, I didn't pay much attention to it at first. And as you can see, they do seem to be unfounded, as no (overt) assault has been made.
But after conversations with some people, I don't put anything past the Bush administration.
As for myself, I intend to make my way to Lebanon this summer, unless something starts...