The Mideastwire Blog

Excerpts from the Arab and Iranian Media & Analysis of US Policy in the Region

Nicholas Noe in Tablet on February 21: Criticism of the “Miscalculation” thesis concerning impending Israel-“Resistance Axis” War

My piece in Tablet came out yesterday, February 21. I used the latest Crisis Group report as a peg to criticize what I view as an incorrect and even dangerous framework(s) to understand the fast approaching regional war, one that will be destructive far beyond the last seven terrible years of the Syria War (a war which I argued against accelerating in May 2011 and again in the NYT in February 2012 here and here). In one sense, the Tablet piece is an extension of my earlier criticism of ICG’s September 2015 report that called for US military intervention.

A key claim I made is that: “There is no “bloody nose,” “mowing the grass,” or “Little Pines” (as in the original “limited” 1982 Israeli invasion plan for Lebanon) strategy when it comes to a “pre-emptive” attack by Israel that would adequately degrade its enemies’ power in Lebanon. Since the combatants appear to be quite cognizant of this, by building up their military power and readying for a strike in Lebanon the main sides are deliberately moving further and further down a path they all say publicly they “don’t want,” but which they know will lead to all out war.

I also argued yesterday that there is, “a second problem with the “miscalculation” formula posed by ICG and so many others: A tendency to diminish the irrational, ideological drivers that are arguably at the heart of the current march towards war. As ICG sees it, “today, none of the parties can soberly contemplate the prospect of a conflict that would be uncontrolled, unprecedented and unscripted.” But what if several of the parties are, in fact, “soberly” planning for and taking steps that will very likely lead to all-out war, as described above, even as they ready their constituencies to blame the other side for forcing a “war of no choice”? And what if the different sides even desire a climatic confrontation for moral, religious or even long-term strategic reasons and are willing to take an ends-justifies-the-means approach when it comes to the morality of their own actions? Indeed, what if some of the sides think they could actually weather such a war as their enemies likely fade away? These are all crucial questions to examine for anyone invested in peace-building since they further raise the urgency of the matter at hand whilst also precipitating a cry for more radical actions by the actors involved and the international community in general.”

Finally, I pointed out – in regards to the first point above – ICG contradicted itself in at least one key area of the report. At first, it noted Israel’s redline of: “No high-precision missile factories. This stricture applies to both Lebanon and Syria. Israel believes that after Hizbollah froze its attempt to establish such capability in Lebanon, Iran has continued to pursue this capacity in Syria.52”

But later, as I also noted in the piece, ICG said in passing that: “According to Israeli officials, Hizbollah for a time froze those efforts in light of Israeli threats,40 though they argue that since late 2017, Iran-backed efforts to build such workshops shifted to Syria, where Israel is reported to have struck two, and since then, in January 2018, back to Lebanon again.41″ ICG also even quoted the no-uncertain-terms letter by the IDF and the PM these past weeks that said clearly (i.e. not with an air of “perhaps”): “Iran resumes building missile plants in Lebanon, Israeli army warns in rare article in Arab media”, Haaretz, 30 January 2018. Prime Minister Netanyahu tweeted that Israel “will not agree to …[this] development … and will act according to need”. See”

As I wrote, the later admission inexplicably produces no policy recommendation or added alarm by ICG.

I also pointed out in the piece what I have long called “Nasrallah’s Peace Plan:” 

“By incessantly building up its military power and securing both Syria and Lebanon (not to mention an even wider strategic depth beyond both), Hezbollah has said that it knows it is steadily degrading Israel’s vital QME. In the party’s view, this is a combined moral, religious, Arab and national duty. If this “deterrence equation,” as Nasrallah puts it, leads to a terrible war—one that the Party justifies on the basis of both rational considerations as well as a deep “craving”—then so be it. Ultimately, it will be Israel’s fault since, as Nasrallah has also explained on numerous occasions, the Party and its allies have said that they are presenting the Israelis with a “peace” option, albeit one that the current Israeli body politic will not possibly accept. Accede to a diminished balance of power with the “Resistance Axis,” Nasrallah has suggested, while radically scaling back your negotiating demands with the Palestinians and the Arab states so you can reduce your overall threat via a final settlement, or choose to pre-emptively attack us.

This is, in effect, the “peace plan” that Nasrallah has been deftly “encouraging” Arab states—and Israel, at least rhetorically—to pursue for more than a decade as a way to stave off the climactic war he says his party both “craves” and doesn’t “want”:

How can these [Arab] states secure a just and honorable settlement between quotes,” he once asked? ”Does the Israeli recognize them in the first place? I tell you: The Israelis today view the Resistance and the resistance men in Lebanon with great respect. As for all those lowly ones, they are not worth anything. Even the Arab [Peace Plan] calls for a stand. It calls for men and power. If you can’t use power, you can at least threaten with it. The talk that we are weak will not do. … Realistic political behavior [says:] first convince the Israelis of the need to have a just and comprehensive peace before asking the resistance movement to lay down its arms… Even those who have opted for a settlement have a need for this resistance. Indeed, we want them [the Arab states] to benefit from the resistance.

Of course, Nasrallah and Hezbollah know that there is little chance of the Israelis changing the hardware and software of their negotiating position on the moribund peace process, much less accepting a greatly strengthened “Resistance Axis” in the process (whether they should or not is a different matter). So, as Hezbollah and its allies continue to pursue a military buildup, rather than a pause or a reduction in their strength, all the parties knowingly move forward to war, albeit with Nasrallah in the quite advantageous position of forcing Israel to decide if it will be the one to attack first.”


Written by nickbiddlenoe

February 22, 2018 at 11:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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