Morning Report: October 23, 2006

Low. Israel flies low, Hezbollah lies low, and Olmert takes the low road.

Israeli overflights not deterred by French threats. Ha'Aretz: 'srael Air Force planes swooped low over Lebanon on Monday, a day after the Jewish state rejected a call by France's defence minister to halt violations of its neighbor's airspace. The planes conducted mock raids over much of southern Lebanon, Reuters reported, and residents saw them flying low over the capital Beirut, but neither Hezbollah nor the Lebanese army fired anti-aircraft rounds at them as they have done in previous years.' (Ha'Aretz)

We have not yet begun to fight! Well isn't it about time we started? asks Debka.
Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert informed the nation Sunday night: “Our soldiers will be trained to stand up to the threats confronting us, principally from Iran, and we have already started work.” Already, he said. So what have “we” been doing till now? Handing the Gaza Strip to the Iranian-armed Hamas?

He was addressing a group of his Kadima party followers.

The new star poised to expand the government coalition this week, Israeli Beitenu’s Avigdor Lieberman, added his two bits: “I’m joining he government,” he said “to save Israel from the Iranian nuclear (threat).”

Debka's analysis concludes: 'Olmert continues to keep up the hollow pretense that the decision to go to war against Hizballah unprepared and the decisions he took while it was going on were the product of profound political and military wisdom. His feeble attempts to gloss over Israel’s very real loss of strategic credibility in the region, while using both hands to hold his government together, are exceedingly harmful. Iran, Syria, Hizballah and Hamas, convinced that Israel is daydreaming if not half-asleep, are encouraged to march on to a fresh war as long as the Israeli leaders who got their sums so badly wrong in Lebanon remain firmly in place. Therefore, shoring up the incumbent government for the long haul – led by the very prime minister, foreign and defense ministers and chief of staff who mismanaged the Lebanon war - could provide Ehud Olmert with stable rule, but also spell calamity for Israel. Lieberman and his big talk will be proven immaterial when the Iranian rockets, launched from Lebanon as recently as July and August, start flying again – this time from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank as well; next the heavy missiles from Tehran and Damascus.' Full article at the link. (Debka)

Vital Perpective on Nasrallah's Jerusalem Day no-show. Vital Perspective: 'On Friday, Hezbollah marked al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day by holding a subdued military parade in comparison to years past where the streets were filled by massive military parades in Beirut to demonstrate the importance of Jerusalem to Muslims. Instead of thousands of terrorists marching in uniform, the invitation-only event in a concert hall featured an orchestra, a choir and several anti-Israel speeches. Hassan Nasrallah, the keynote speaker in years past, was noticably absent Friday. His deputy filled in, telling the hundreds of supporters in attendance that Hezbollah would not give up its fight against Israel. In 1981, Ayatollah Khomeini declared the last Friday of Ramadan al-Quds Day to demonstrate the importance of Jerusalem to Muslims. The al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem is the third holiest site in Islam after the Saudi cities of Mecca and Medina.' (Vital Perspective)

Israel Matzav on Saudi Hamas play. Debka recently reported: 'Saudis bring over to Jeddah hardline Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal for last-ditch try to avert Palestinian civil war. The Hamas politburo chief traveled from Damascus disguised as a pilgrim. Saudi rulers offered him and his movement generous terms for breaking away from the Damascus-Tehran bloc, freeing the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit and signing a cooperation pact with Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas. In a back-up move, the Saudis last week invited to Mecca the heads of the Syrian opposition in exile: former Syrian vice president Khalim Haddam, today a sworn foe of Syrian president Bashar Asad, the leader of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood Sader e-Din Ali Bayanouni and Bashar’s uncle, Rifat Asad, who aspires to oust his nephew and take his place. This act is seen as Riyadh’s warning to Asad of dire consequences, including punitive financial measures, if he tries to disrupt this Palestinian reconciliation move. To demonstrate its importance to the oil kingdom, King Abdullah granted Meshaal a private audience. DEBKAfile’s Middle East sources describe this as a direct Saudi challenge to Iran and its schemes - in contrast to the inertia displayed by the Egyptian, Jordanian and Israeli governments. ...' Israel Matzav adds:
What's clear from this article is that the Saudis - who are Sunni Muslims - are fearful of Iran exporting its Shiite revolution to Syria and the 'Palestinian Authority.' With the ongoing civil war between Sunni and Shiites in Iraq, and the occasional civil war between them in Lebanon, were Iran to turn Syria and the 'Palestinians' into Shiite territories, it would leave only Israel and Jordan outside the Iranian envelope in this area. And that could have revolutionary consequences for the Saudis.

Full articles at the links. (Debka, Israel Matzav)

Commentary. Carl's analysis adds some detail to the talk of an Arab, anti-Iranian coalition that's been going around.