Gaza Developments – Iran, Hezbollah and Russia
Israel is facing mounting pressure from many in regards to its incursion into the Gaza. Jordan, Fatah, Turkey and Egypt have all upped the level of rhetoric and outrage at the ground attacks and the increasing number of civilians wounded or killed. But Israel faces a more heady cocktail of diplomatic intervention and posturing from three major international parties that Israel has to heed – Iran, Hezbollah and Russia. A report in today’s British Guardian newspaper, quotes Ali Larijani, speaker of the Iranian parliament, said “The Zionist attacks have been countered with full defence and resistance of the Palestinian combatants. The Zionists must know that Gaza will become a graveyard for their forces.”In addition, Iran’s national security chief, Saeed Jalili, held talks in Beirut with the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, raising the specter of the potential for Hezbollah action against Israel from the South Lebanese border.
According to Iran’s Press TV story, Israel has ratcheted up the level of its alert at the Lebanese border in anticipation of a possible Hezbollah strike. Press TVquotes Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has voiced concern over a possible reaction from the Lebanese resistance group in southern Lebanon, saying “We hope that the northern front will remain calm, but we are prepared for any possibility.” Analysts in Lebanon, however, seem to think a military response from Hezbollah is unlikely. Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper, provides a veritable list of Hezbollah experts and regional commentators that unequivocally state that Hezbollah will not react given its focus on the Lebanese elections. We happen to agree with their conclusions, but Hezbollah has been known in the past to follow a different script than many analysts predict. Also, Hezbollah may face Iranian pressure or coercion to do something to incite Israel to attack Lebanon, giving Hezbollah a legitimate reason for striking back at Israel. Israel will need to resist any provocation a the border, as any excuse for Hezbollah action may well be acted upon.
In addition to Iran upping the level of rhetoric and possibly trying to incite Hezbollah, Iran is calling for Islamic countries to cut off supplies of oil to Israel and regimes that support it, according to a report in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper. It is somewhat ironic that Iran is recommending sanctions against Israel and the US, given its own history at being on the receiving end of a similar strategy imposed by the UN due to its nuclear ambitions. So with Iran and Hezbollah pressures from two sides, Russia enters the mix to add an additional level of drama. Statements from the Kremlin cite their concern about the Gaza incursion and calling for an immediate ceasefire. Haaretz quotes Kremlin statement as reported by sources close to Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, “Russia expressed its serious concern over the numerous victims among the civilian population and the grave humanitarian situation. The Russian president also stressed the importance of a ceasefire as soon as possible.” Russia also offered apparently to act as a go between between Israel and Hamas to negotiate a ceasefire according to the Haaretz report. The offer was summarily dismissed by the Israeli government in a statement which shows the state of mind in Israel at present. Israeli Foreign Minister Livni is quoted as saying in response to the Russian offer made by Alexander Saltanov, Russian President’ special envoy to the Middle East., “We are serious in our intention to harm Hamas and we have no intention to give them legitimize them and pass messages on to them. We have nothing to discuss with Hamas.”
Israel appears resolved despite all the mounting in pressures and rhetoric it faces. The International Red Cross has cited Israel as being in breach of international law in relation to civilian targets, France, Turkey and others are calling for an end to hostilities, but Israel show no sign of stopping. With the US and Britain essentially neutralizing UN Security Council efforts by use of veto, Israel can still resist the pressures that are being brought towards them. There are violent demonstrations from Lebanon to London, but Israel shows no indications of a relenting in its actions. It seems no one can stop Israel except Israel itself, while Washington still provides tacit approval. If Israel doesn’t want to stop, then it appears there will be no early relief for the people of the Gaza.