The al-Qaeda-Hizballah landings on the Israeli coast are seen in Washington as a dangerous development. DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s explain why.
1. It negates the Bush administration’s most outstanding achievement in its global war on terror: the eradication of al Qaeda’s territorial base, because the network has lost no time in replacing its Afghan haven with the Middle East – specifically Lebanon, Syria and Saudi Arabia.
2. Al Qaeda and its allied Taliban are still fully capable of striking back against US-led forces in Afghanistan, while at the same time sowing terror around the Middle East.
3. Al Qaeda’s integration in Middle East terror exacerbates the threat of a Middle East War.
4. Any serious blow to America’s foremost military ally in the eastern Mediterranean, Israel, would send out aftershocks to the military standing of India, Turkey and Jordan, and undermine America’s military posture on the Indian subcontinent, in Asia and the Middle East. Washington would be forced to rethink and reshape its plans for striking Iraq.
5. The realization is gaining ground among Bush’s advisers in the National Security Council and the Pentagon that Iraq and Iran have turned the tables. They have adopted the Palestinian confrontation against Israel – bolstered now by the Hizballah and al Qaeda – as their own front line of belligerency against America. Every Palestinian-Israeli escalation makes it harder for the United States to militarily sever its prospective action against Saddam from the armed Israel-Palestinian conflict.
As recently as last week, Bush still had high hopes of keeping the crises in separate boxes and pressing forward with his grand design for redrawing the Middle East’s geopolitical map. This plan has now run aground. America finds itself stuck with a many-fronted war: Israelis v. Palestinians, the Iran-backed Hizballah, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
6. As oil prices soared to a six-month high, Iran and Iraq began muttering this week about a Muslim-Arab oil embargo for bending America to their will. (DEBKA-Net=Weekly predicted this development in its January 25, 2002 Issue, No. 46.)
Now, they are not thinking terms of the 1973-4 all-Arab oil embargo – but rather of combining in an Iranian-Iraqi-Saudi bloc to stand against the US-Russian partnership. This embargo would only target the United States, Russia and Israel, but not affect Japan, China and West Europe.
The Bush administration, anxious to check further political and military landslides while it mulls its next policy moves, has in the last week rushed to the Middle East a contingent of military and intelligence officers, detached from the counter-terror command in Tampa, Florida, CIA headquarters in Langley and the National Security Council in Washington. Those contingents are now in Cairo and Amman, while CIA director George Tenet was sent to Israel. He and General Anthony Zinni are taking command of US forces in the region.