These critical few hours ahead of a major decision by Israel on whether to enter into (another) devastating conflict
If the reports are accurate, this morning’s attack is exactly along the lines of what Hizbullah at least, and likely some Lebanese (certainly one thinks a plurality), view as a proportional response to the earlier Israeli attack in the Golan.
In my view, the great possibility to avoid a major escalation and/or miscalculations that will lead to a major escalation EXISTS…. but these few hours are the crucial ones:
1) The Obama administration must use its influence and power to restrain the Israelis – and make them realize that it is in no one’s interest, except DASH et al, for a major escalation and a FOURTH LEBANON WAR (1978, 1982, 2006).
2) Hopefully cooler heads prevail in Israel and the response is proportional, focused SOLELY and evidently ONLY on a proportional military target (a training camp in the Bekaa, even also perhaps a minor LAF position in the south…. a Hizbullah position above the Litani river etc).
The bottom line: a proportional Israeli response could likely avoid a major escalation. The dead Israelis are likely “enough” for the Iranians and Hizbullah – a proportional response by the Israelis could lead to a calming down/mitigation process… could, if properly and clearly managed.
3) The tripartite committee – IDF and LAF – Must meet asap on the border with UNIFIL – get them talking to each other ASAP and make something more substantive public if possible – or at least news of the meetings.
4) If the Israelis strike Beirut, if their strikes entail civilian casualties anywhere and/or substantial civilian infrastructure or hizbullah political positions/military positions within civilian populated areas… or if the Israelis strike in Syria and Lebanon in an effort to substantially change the balance of power between Hizbullah and the rebels… then in these cases a major escalation will be hard to avoid, I believe.
As Nasrallah quoted directly on July 12, 2006 – and as he may refer to again now – the Israelis and the Americans need to remember the April understanding of 1996 – NOT the illegal and counter-productive side letter that was secretly signed shortly after it by the Clinton admin and the Israelis:
1) Proportionality and, most crucially, 2) don’t fire from or fire into civilian populated areas (and even if an IDF or Hizbullah military position is IN A CIVILIAN POPULATED AREA, as exists for BOTH the Israelis and Hizbullah (though quite possibly and arguably to a lesser extent for Hizbullah) – these bases are NOT fair game).