Escalating Conflict: a geopolitical analysis


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

01 August, 2006
31 July 2006

''Escalating Conflict in the Middle East Could Spark a Global Recession''

Efforts by Washington and Tel Aviv to militarily establish a new 
Middle East are designed to weaken the growing power of the Shi'a 
alliance between Lebanon, Syria and Iran in favor of an alliance 
between moderate Sunnis and Israel. International opposition to the 
establishment of a new Middle East is much fiercer than understood in 
either Washington or Tel Aviv. This opposition, which counts Russia 
and most moderate Arab states as well as Syria and Iran among its 
ranks, is likely to strike against the United States where it is most 
vulnerable -- its weakening economy. A successful economic strike 
against the United States has the possibility of triggering a global 
economic recession in 2007.

Battle for the New Middle East

Shortly after the eruption of the war between Israel and Lebanon, the 
Bush administration made it clear to the world that it would not use 
its influence over Tel Aviv to promote an immediate cease-fire. To 
the contrary, Washington sanctioned Israel's massive bombing of 
Southern Lebanon as a means to disarm Hezbollah and weaken the 
anti-Israel and anti-U.S. Shi'a alliance that binds Iran, Iraqi 
Shi'a, Syria and Hezbollah together.

At the U.N.-sponsored conference on the Israel-Lebanon war held on 
July 26 in Rome, all participants including Britain, Washington's 
staunchest ally, agreed that an immediate cease-fire by Israel was 
imperative. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was isolated in 
her demand that any cease-fire must include the disarming of 
Hezbollah and the Lebanese Army assuming control over Lebanon's 
borders. Strong U.S. opposition to an immediate cease-fire led to the 
failure of the Rome conference. Israel turned this failure into 
success by claiming it had received "permission from the world" to 
escalate its war against Lebanon.

The conditions for a cease-fire laid out by Rice, which include the 
deployment of an international peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon 
under U.N. or N.A.T.O. command, appears purposefully unrealistic. 
Hezbollah militants are much more inclined to die fighting than to 
surrender their weapons. Deployment of an international force in 
southern Lebanon cannot happen without the consent of the Lebanese 
government, in which Hezbollah plays a strong role. Hezbollah in both 
its military and political capacities will only agree to an 
unconditional cease-fire. Washington's refusal to engage either Syria 
or Iran, Hezbollah's patrons, further undermines the prospects for a 
cease-fire. It was not until Israel killed more than 60 refugees in 
Qana, 37 of them children, in what it has called a "mistake," that it 
decided to cease air attacks for 48 hours.

Dim permanent cease-fire prospects suggest that the Israel-Lebanon 
war may escalate in the weeks and months ahead. Unexpectedly fierce 
resistance has temporarily stymied Israel's planned ground invasion 
of southern Lebanon and its attempt to create a security buffer zone. 
However, statements from Israeli military leaders along with the 
well-publicized delivery of U.S. "bunker busting" bombs to Israel 
indicate a new offensive may soon begin. This Israeli offensive will 
probably use bunker busting bombs to destroy Hezbollah's deeply 
buried tunnels, rocket caches and command centers in southern 
Lebanon. In the process, most of southern Lebanon's villages will 
probably be flattened leaving militants nowhere to hide or to launch 
ambushes from.

Israel's recent massive reserve call-up suggest that a much larger 
ground incursion could follow this Fallujah-style bombing campaign. 
Israeli escalation of the war will inevitably lead to Hezbollah 
retaliation and further escalation. Hezbollah's leader, Sheikh Sayyed 
Hassan Nasrallah, has stated that his organization has the capability 
of striking deeper into Israel with rockets. Hezbollah rocket strikes 
on Tel Aviv cannot be ruled out. A large ground invasion of Lebanon 
by Israel could also draw Syria into the war. [See: "Intelligence 
Brief: Israel's Strategic Security"]

Because Damascus lies close to Beirut, the occupation of Lebanon by 
Israel poses an enormous security threat to Syria. It is not 
unreasonable to imagine that Syria would use its own formidable 
Russian-supplied missiles to strike targets in Israel or Israeli 
military formations in Lebanon. Israel could be expected to retaliate 
against Syria, which would pull Iran into the war. Iranian officials 
have repeatedly stated during the past two weeks that any Israeli 
action against Syria would draw a response from Tehran. A scenario of 
regional war may seem extreme. However, it is unrealistic to believe 
that Hezbollah can be disarmed without complimentary military action 
against both Syria and Iran.

Economic Retaliation

Military escalation of the Israel-Lebanon war is possible but is not 
the most probable course of events that could take place in the 
Middle East during the next several months. Just as Washington and 
Tel Aviv believe Hezbollah is a proxy for Syria and Iran, much of the 
world believes that Israel is a proxy for Washington. Escalating 
military strikes against Israel will only harden Washington's support 
for Tel Aviv, much as Israel's escalating military strikes against 
Lebanon are hardening regional support for Hezbollah. The most 
effective way to change Israel's behavior is by taking action against 

The Sunni-Israeli alliance coveted by Tel Aviv and Washington has 
been torn apart, first by protracted Israeli military action against 
Sunni Hamas in the Palestinian Territories and now by Israel's war 
with Lebanon. Reflecting regional public opinion, moderate Arab 
countries pushed hard for an immediate cease-fire at the Rome 
conference. Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah said, "If the option of 
peace fails as a result of Israeli arrogance, then the only option 
remaining will be war, and God alone knows what the region would 
witness in a conflict that would spare no one."

Apart from Iraq's civil war pitting the two against each other, 
Sunnis and Shi'a in the Middle East are coming together against 
Israel and the United States. Shi'a Hezbollah took Israeli prisoners 
in solidarity with actions by Sunni Hamas. Shi'a Iran supports Sunni 
Hamas while the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has offered its 
support to Hezbollah in its war against Israel. In short, the battle 
for the new Middle East has practically no support in the Arab world. 
It is also not supported by Russia.

Russia is one of the many countries that has called for an immediate 
cease-fire in the war between Israel and Lebanon. Russia's Foreign 
Ministry has condemned "the unprecedented scale of the casualties and 
destruction" in Lebanon at the hands of Israel. Although Russia has 
remained largely silent recently, it is no secret that the Vladimir 
Putin government is a strong supporter of the regimes in Syria and 
Iran. Russia has supplied Syria with a wide array of sophisticated 
military equipment in recent years, including an extensive supply of 
medium range and anti-aircraft missiles. Russia also plans to build 
two naval ports in Syria and has far reaching economic relations with 
Damascus. [See: "Intelligence Brief: Russia's Moves in Syria"]

Russia is Iran's primary supplier of sophisticated military equipment 
and has repeatedly championed Iran's nuclear cause at the United 
Nations and more recently at the mid-July G-8 meeting in St. 
Petersburg. Moscow broke ranks with the United States and Europe, 
recognizing Hamas as the legitimate government of the Palestinian 
Territories. It seems clear from Moscow's actions that Russia is 
siding with the countries and organizations in the Middle East that 
Israel seeks to destroy or hobble with Washington's consent.


As the war between Israel and Lebanon escalates, growing regional and 
world outrage may increasingly be channeled toward the United States 
-- the only country that has influence over Tel Aviv. This may 
encourage the world's three largest oil producers, Saudi Arabia, 
Russia and Iran, to significantly reduce oil exports in order to 
increase pressure on Washington to rein in Israel's military actions. 
An oil export embargo undertaken by just Russia and Iran, which 
together account for 20 percent of the world's oil exports, would be 
much more effective at extracting a major policy change from the Bush 
administration than Syrian and Iranian missile strikes against Israel.

Economic data released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis on July 28 
showed that economic growth in the United States is weakening. 
Because excess oil production capacity does not exist anywhere in the 
world, a coordinated reduction of oil exports between any or all of 
the world's largest oil exporters of just five percent would quickly 
send international oil prices toward $125 per barrel. An increase in 
oil prices of this magnitude could be expected to push the United 
States economy into recession. With the November mid-term 
Congressional elections in the United States approaching rapidly, 
those countries opposing Israel's military actions may soon act to 
cut oil exports and effect political change in the United States, 
touching off a global recession in 2007.

Report Drafted By:
Jephraim P. Gundzik

The Power and Interest News Report (PINR) is an independent 
organization that utilizes open source intelligence to provide 
conflict analysis services in the context of international relations. 
PINR approaches a subject based upon the powers and interests 
involved, leaving the moral judgments to the reader. This report may 
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