A Long, Hot Mideast Summer
Tue, 08/03/2010

This long hot summer is a lot more than just sweltering temperatures on America’s East Coast. New rocket attacks against Israeli targets and Tuesday’s big flare-up along the Israel-Lebanon border point to a region precariously close to yet another deadly war.

We know the Obama administration is preoccupied with economic problems at home and a worsening situation in Afghanistan, and we know frustration is running high in Washington about the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, but we still must ask: what is the White House doing to prevent the rising tensions from erupting into full-scale war?

A United Nations resolution after the 2006 Lebanon war supposedly barred Hezbollah from re-arming — but as Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, pointed out recently, the terrorist group is better armed than ever and seemingly eager to test its new weapons on the hated Jewish state.

An increasingly belligerent Hezbollah may also be Iran’s response to the tightening web of international economic sanctions meant to thwart its nuclear ambitions; added fuel is being sprayed on the fire by Syria, which continues to play the role of inciter, not peace partner.

The war drums are beating, and it’s critical that the administration see this for what it is: a major threat to vital U.S. interests and to Middle East peacemaking efforts which officials here still regard as a critical priority.

As Kurtzer suggested in a report for the Council on Foreign Relations, Washington must expand its monitoring of the volatile situation in Lebanon, increase the diplomatic pressure on Syria and find strategies for weakening Hezbollah.

While reaffirming its strong support for Israel’s right to self-defense, the administration should aggressively seek ways of defusing the crisis before Israel has no choice but to strike an increasingly aggressive Hezbollah.

A United Nations that has consistently proven inept at Middle East conflict resolution and hopelessly biased against Israel offers little hope; only assertive U.S. diplomacy has any chance of keeping the conflict from escalating.

From its inception the Obama administration has zeroed in on its quest for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. That’s not an inappropriate goal — but it cannot be reached if other threats to peace are ignored. A re-armed, aggressive Hezbollah, goaded on by Iran, is just that kind of threat.

 

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