Monday, July 31, 2006

Qana Will Impact Iraq

Several things need to be borne in mind about Qana.

  1. It's not the first time. This is the second massacre at Qana the first was a deliberate shelling of the UN refugee compound there back in 1996.
  2. Now, exactly as they did in 1996 the Israeli government is trying to say that this is all very unfortunate but the victims were "told leave or be targeted" and that anyway what they attacked was a legitmate target because Hizbullah were using it as a military installation.
  3. The third part of the Israeli defense of the attack is to point the finger at Hizbullah saying that they were using the victims as "human shields."

The problem with that line is, not to put to fine a point on it, that it's a lie and a lie likely to have severe consequences for the American forces currently occupying Iraq :

The text of the poster reads: "The massacre of children in Qana 2, is Rice's gift. The smart bombs..Stupid,"

Grand Ayatollah Sistani has issued a statement clearly referring to the US:"Islamic nations will not forgive the entities that hinder a cease-fire," his statement went on to say that if a ceasfire in the "Israeli aggression" were not imposed that "dire consequences will befall the region." The reference to the likely fate of the US troops in Iraq is clear.
The UN investigation of Qana massacre No: 1 discovered that the Israeli claims were false and I've little doubt that a similar investigation of this latest atrocity will find the same. Qana's not a wealthy place and those killed in this attack, like those killed in the '96 massacre were destitute peasants unable to leave. How could they leave? Even if they had somewhere to go, the Israelis have bombed all the ways out of Qana and are attacking anyone they see on the road. Staying put was these unfortunates only option.

Nor do I believe that Hizbullah were using it as a military installation. One of the reasons why the Hizb fighters are as successful as they are is that they don't "swim amongst the population." Hizb fighters hold themselves separate - thereby avoiding the dangers posed by informers to any resistance movement. Moreover the Israelis themselves deliberately locate military facilities in civilian areas - the human shields excuse simply won't wash.

All of these facts are well known throughout the region and are being widely publicised in Arabic media. The more likely explanation is that the Israelis are panicking they've just been defeated in open battle at Bint Djbeil, they have not been able to wipe out (or even significantly reduce) Hizbullah's military capacity, their hope of a "security zone" can only come to pass if they engage in ethnic cleansing. Ethnic cleansing is a polite way of saying "killing everyone, man woman and child, especially child, in the area whom we don't like." The Serbs did it in Bosnia, it's starting to happen in Iraq.

The real reason for the attack is that the IDF high command demanded and got permission to expand their targetting list over the weekend. They've hit target after target that was previously considered off-limits. The calculation behind this is that by hitting "high value" targets and spreading chaos amongst the civilian population they will eventually reduce the number of rocket attacks. This, the reasoning goes, will give the Americans the "window" they need to declare the Israeli operation "a success" and let them declare that the conditions now exist for an "enduring" ceasefire. Unfortunately for them and for the American hostages troops in Iraq it's not working. All it's doing is igniting regional rage against the country that makes and pays for the bombs the Israelis are using to kill innocent civilians. The Lebanese (Sunni Muslim) Prime Minister has refused to meet Rice and laid the blame fairly and squarely where it belongs. At the feet of an American government that refuses to rein in its ally. At the feet of an American government that is using Lebanon as part of an encirclement power-play against Iran. Most Iraqis are doing the same, as is the Arab "street." Ayatollah al-Najafi had already issued a statement expressing fear that the Ayatollahs ability to control their follower was slipping. (See my post of July 27th.) and now this.

Expect life to get short, lonely, and interesting, for a lot more American body bag contents dead men walking soldiers in Iraq in the near future. I rather suspect the same is true for much of the Maliki "government" I wrote about the cabinet reshuffle last Friday, there are strong rumours that a coup was only barely foiled, and now this. I expect life to get just as short, lonely, and interesting for the Maliki government as it will become for more and more American soldiers particularly as regional governors seen as too close to the Americans and the green zone government are being increasingly targetted by Sunni and Shia resistance fighters alike.


Update: The Israelis have anounced a 48 hour suspension of bombing my hunch is that this is preparatory to declaring victory and trying to salvage what they can diplomatically. I don't know if Nasrallah will accept if he does it gives the hizb 48 hours to resupply, entrench, and generally make several awkward end runs around the Israelis (and their American sponsor.) I suspect that the Cheney Bush administration's ability to transform everything they touch to brown smelly biowaste is infectious and has been vectored to their would-be regional hegemon. Then again the transmission could be in the other direction. So far the Israelis are behaving in exactly the same way as they did the last time they invaded and achieving the same results creating a tougher, more experienced, and more determined enemy, aglow in the kudos of having beaten the "invincible" IDF. Have you noticed how the attacks on the American occupiers in Iraq are growing in scale frequency and sophistication? That's how the beginning of the end started for the Israelis in South Lebanon the last time.

Update 2: Juan Cole has an excellent posting on Grand Ayatolla Sistani's pronouncement here's the last 4 paragraphs:

What could he do if he were ignored? Sistani could call massive anti-US and anti-Israel demonstrations. Given Iraq's profound political instability, this development could be extremely dangerous. US troops in Baghdad and elsewhere are planning offensives against Shiite paramilitary groups, so tensions are likely to rise in the Shiite areas anyway. But big demonstrations could easily boil over into actual attacks on US and British troops. Both depend heavily on fuel that is transported through the Shiite south. Were the Shiites actively to turn on the US for its wholehearted support of continued Israeli air raids, the US military could be cut off from fuel and supplies. The British only have around 8,000 troops in Iraq, and they would be in profound danger if Iraq's Shiites became militantly anti-occupation.

Since the Israeli treatment of Arabs is an issue on which Sunnis and Shiites agree, there is also a possibility that Sistani could finally get some respect from the Sunni community if he led such a compaign. That development would be more dangerous to the continued US military presence in Iraq than any other I can think of.

The US is already not winning against a Sunni Arab insurgency, backed by around 5 million Iraqis. If 16 million Shiites turned on the US because of its wholehearted support for Israel's actions in Lebanon, the US military mission in Iraq could quickly become completely and urgently untenable. In this case, the British troops in particular would be lucky to escape the country with their lives.

Sistani does not issue threats lightly, and he has repeatedly shown a willingness to back them up with action. Bush and US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad will ignore him to their peril.

Sistani Threatens US over Israeli War on Lebanon


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