Just sand-tabling this over IM with eponymous, we are considering possible outcomes, actions and motivations.
Juan Cole considers the implications for the US in Iraq in light of recent events.
I continue to worry that this outbreak of war in the Levant will exacerbate tensions in Iraq and get more US troops killed. Iraqi Sunnis generally sympathize with the Palestinians. And hard line Shiites like the Sadr Movement and the Mahdi Army are close to Hizbullah. Israel’s wars could tip Iraq over into an unstoppable downward spiral.
So… Israel has escalated conflict with two factions in the region who have allies on opposite sides of the brewing Iraqi civil war. Since the perception of the US in the region (despite what Fox News may have told you) is as the bumbling but massive older brother of Israel- to be used as a cudgel or catspaw as the situation warrants- this will almost certainly bring more US troops into harm’s way.
Eponymous notes- “Sunni sympathy to the Palestinians is mostly a propaganda ploy, save for a few devoted ideologues who take up jihad against the Israelis or, by extension, the US…” though I am considering the past few days more than the past few years, and I am suspicious that “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” sort of alliances are being hardened by the Israeli aggression.
What does this mean for US policy in Iraq? Israel may be pursuing the same “Confront, Conquer, and Occupy” strategy that led to the two-decade occupation of Lebanon. Neither Syria nor Iran can afford a head-on confrontation with Israel and the US, which is why these proxy guerilla movements exist. However, the fact that the US is bogged down in Iraq keeps the US from responding in strength, presuming current policies and methods in Iraq do not change. However, if the US was to open hostilities with Iran, I could see a profound shift in tactics- the sort of thing that could make only a neocon smile.
I can imagine a scenario where the drawdown plan is reversed in favor of pouring men and materiel into Iraq to create a stable platform from which to fight the New Iranian Threat to Our Interests in the Region. I realize that it seems far-fetched to start talking about a draft and another endless war, but if Israel drags Iran into a shooting war, what do you think the US reaction will be?
But, how to pacify Iraq? The place is a complete fucking mess. Our current policy, where we attempt to avoid civilian casualties as much as possible, has not prevented the civil war from continuing to escalate. Tactically, this is no way to establish a rear echelon from which to fight Iran. However…
as Atrios points out, there has been a turn in the rhetoric from some of the neocons, lately:
This is not Lawrence Kaplan admitting “the whole idea and concept and program was upside-down-wrong in its essence.” This is Kaplan saying the only option is to exterminate the brutes.
So, there’s a possibility that some of what we are seeing, I suppose, is that Israeli hardliners have noticed that the US was making noises like maybe we were ready to fold. This invasion of Lebanon may be a gambit to force us to play the hand we’re holding. At the risk of being pelted with rocks and garbage for saying it, it would not surprise me if there was a corresponding shift in the rhetoric of the conflict, essentially tearing a page from the Shelby Steele script as we have discussed here in the past…
Carpet bombings all around. As Curtis “Bombs Away” LeMay used to suggest, “Bomb ’em back to the Stone Age.”
My concern is that a violent pacification of Iraq might be deemed necessary in order to provide an expeditious platform for the destruction of Iran’s nuclear capability and subsequent threat to Israel.
This is my worst case scenario. It’s making me very uptight.