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How the war in Lebanon went wrong for the White House

This article is over 15 years, 4 months old
"Hizbollah started the crisis, and Hizbollah suffered a defeat in this crisis." Those were George Bush’s words at the start of this week. He is 100 percent wrong on both counts.
Issue 2014

“Hizbollah started the crisis, and Hizbollah suffered a defeat in this crisis.” Those were George Bush’s words at the start of this week. He is 100 percent wrong on both counts.

Bush approved the attack on Lebanon during a meeting with Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert at the White House on 23 May. Joint military planning for the operation stretches back far further.

Bush believed that by encouraging an Israeli assault on Hizbollah he could punish Syria, who the US blames for the resistance in Iraq, and deliver a major blow to Iran.

Israel and the US both fear Iran becoming a regional superpower – and treat Hizbollah as a proxy for Tehran. An attack on Iran was supposed to follow quickly from an Israeli victory.

But the assault on Lebanon ended with Hizbollah undefeated, and with Syria and Iran both far from intimidated.

Bush was quick to renew his verbal assault on Iran – and there is always a danger that a cornered beast will lash out. But the US is in a far weaker position to impose its will on the region.

The US’s support for the onslaught has also undermined its relationship with its Arab allies, who originally attacked Hizbollah but changed their tune as the Israeli assault was beaten back.

Bush has been weakened by this conflict. The fiasco he faces in Lebanon joins the ones he created in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Jerry humbles Tom

For the first time in its history, Israel has failed to win a war. Its aura of invincibility has been stripped away. Already there are bitter recriminations among politicians and military commanders, with the fate of Olmert hanging by a thread.

One Israeli reporter who joined invasion troops compared the battle to a Tom and Jerry cartoon – “In every conflict between them, Jerry wins.”

The defeat has wider implications. US support for Israel has always been premised upon its ability to defeat any Arab state. A six decade long alliance has now been called into question.

In Israel the immediate beneficiaries will probably be forces to the right of Olmert. But, like the US in Iraq, they have discovered that air power cannot secure victory against popular resistance.

In Gaza and the West Bank, in Cairo and Riyadh, none of this has gone unnoticed. The US forged its alliance with Israel to counter a rising tide of Arab nationalism. Now Israel’s failure is encouraging the very thing Washington wanted to defeat.


Finish Bush’s poodle

Britain is the junior player in all this. But across the globe people see Tony Blair as the one world leader to stand alongside Bush and Olmert.

Blair’s role has strengthened the anti-war movement, just as it has increased his isolation.

Formerly loyal Labour MPs who backed the Iraq war have criticised his support for Israeli aggression. Many are also angered by Gordon Brown’s silence throughout the conflict.

However, we cannot rely on Labour MPs to deliver the final coup de grace. It falls to the mass movement to deliver popular justice. Our trial will take place in Manchester on 23 September.


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