Morning Report: February 14, 2008

Fallout from the Mughniyeh killing, and more bluster from Russia.

Hezbollah vows retaliation for Mughniyeh hit. Hezbollah lashed out at the presumptive executioners of its Damascus-based kingpin Imad Mughniyeh. Debka:
"The blood of our slain commander will lead to Israel's demise," said the Hizballah leader, Hassan Nasrallah in a diatribe broadcast at the funeral of the group’s military commander Imad Mughniyeh Thursday, Feb. 18. “I say for the whole world to hear that our war will extend everywhere without restraints. The Lebanon War is not over; there is no ceasefire.” Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki flew in especially to pay his government’s respects to the dead commander twenty-four hours after a bomb killed the man high on America’s wanted list in Damascus. Thousands of chanting supporters carried the coffin through the streets of Beirut’s southern Shiite stronghold in pouring rain. Earlier, at the town center, thousands converged on Martyr’s Square to mark three years since the assassination of former PM Rafiq Hariri. Some 8,000 Lebanese army and security forces were deployed to keep the rival crowds apart amid the country’s tense political deadlock over the election of a president.

Israel Matzav comments, 'Afraid of pishing in his pants if he's seen in public, Hezbullah sheikh Hassan Nasrallah threatened Israel via a videotaped eulogy played at Imad Mugniyah's funeral in Beirut today.' Fox: 'Hezbollah's chief on Thursday vowed to retaliate against Israeli targets abroad after accusing Israel of taking the fight beyond Lebanese borders by assassinating militant commander Imad Mughniyeh in Syria.'

Iranian minister at Mughniyeh funeral; IRI chief thug to visit Iraq. Arutz Sheva:
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has arrived in Beirut to attend the funeral of assassinated terrorist Imad Mughniyeh. Mottaki arrived in Beirut on a private jet and quickly traveled to the a-Dahiyeh neighborhood where the funeral is taking place.

Fox: 'Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will make a landmark visit to Iraq on March 2, the first-ever trip by an Iranian leader, the Iraqi government said Thursday. Ahmadinejad will meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani during his two-day visit, according to an Iraqi government spokesman.'

Israel braces for attacks. Debka: 'Defense minister Ehud Barak said the entire national defense system is fully prepared and alert as heavy Israeli reinforcements, including homeland defense units, were rushed Thursday to northern Israel. Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi gave these orders Thursday, Feb. 14, 24 hours after a bomb killed Hizballah’s military commander Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus. ... Israeli forces have been placed on the highest level of preparedness against possible Syrian or Hizballah cross-border strikes. Rocket attacks by Hizballah against Israeli civilians are also taken into account, as well as possible Syrian air force incursions into Israel air space. ... Our sources report that the long-sought terrorist was finally dispatched by a small explosive inserted between the driver’s seat and the back seats, which destroyed only one part of the vehicle, leaving the front and rear intact. Mughniyeh was driving alone to a reception marking Islamic Revolution Day at the Iranian embassy in the Romana district.' Full article at the link.

Patarkatsishvili died of natural causes, police say. That's a preliminary finding, though. Fox: 'Georgian businessman and political activist Badri Patarkatsishvili died of natural causes, according to interim post mortem results, but extensive toxicological tests have not yet been carried out, British police said Thursday.'

From Russia, with love: Putin threatens to aim missiles at Ukraine, US bases. Strategy Page: 'Russia threatened that, if Ukraine joined NATO, and allowed parts of a U.S. missile defense system to be built in Ukraine, Russia would aim some of its ICBMs at Ukraine. The Russians are serious about this. There are numerous reasons why. Many Russians are still upset about how they lost the Cold War, and are no longer a superpower. The current crop of Russian leaders have been playing the nationalism card heavily. This includes making a lot of noise about NATO, and Cold War archenemy the United States, plotting to surround Russia and destroy it.' MSNBC: 'President Vladimir Putin on Thursday repeated his threat to aim Russian rockets at former Soviet satellite states if U.S. missile defense facilities are deployed there. Speaking about U.S. plans for interceptors in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic, Putin said that "our experts consider that this system threatens our national security and if it appears, we will be obligated to adequately react to this."'

Sarkozy won't meet with leaders who don't recognize Israel. Sure is a change from the old leadership in France, n'est-ce pas? A7: 'French President Nicolas Sarkozy told French Jews Wednesday he would not meet with any world leader who does not recognize Israel. Speaking at an annual dinner hosted by the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions juives de France (CRIF), Sarkozy reiterated his support for Israel and called for increased sanctions on Iran to force the Islamic regime to abandon plans to develop nuclear weapons.'

Cedar revival. Gateway Pundit has a roundup, with pictures, on the pro-Lebanese and anti-Syrian demonstrations in Beirut, on the anniversary of Rafik Hariri's assassination.

Briefly noted. Saudis to execute woman for "witchcraft".

Belmont Club offers daily roundups. And Morning Report is sincerely flattered. The Belmont Club, our first stop for first-rate current events analysis, is now posting daily news roundups like this one for February 14, 2008. One more reason to make the Belmont Club part of your daily reading.

Commentary. If it's true that the US has been trying to "play nice" with the assholes in Tehran, this latest turn of events might just rain on that little tea party. Ever since the inconclusive Israel/Hezbollah conflict of 2006, we've been waiting for the other shoe to drop. Well, that thunk you just heard was the sound of the second shoe dropping.

Washington has essentially told Israel "the Iranian nuke thing is your problem". But the Administration must have known that it would be only a matter of time before Israel saw itself as having no option but to attack the Iranian nuclear facilities. That, in turn, could trigger and open conflict between Iran and/or Syria, and Israel and/or the US. If that's the case, what was the purpose of the US/IRI negotiations? Stalling for time?

As I've said before (and as this petition argues), a limited strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, if not accompanied by a comprehensive regime change program, would if anything only set back the cause of liberty for the Middle East and security for the West. Regime change need not imply a military invasion, and if sufficient means exist to overthrow the islamist entity without a conventional military attack, this of course would be the preferable method. But Ahmadinejad and the mullahs have got to go.

There've been so many buildups and anticlimaxes on the US/Iran front that it's futile to try to predict what will happen next. But the Iranian/Syrian axis doesn't seem to be inclined to let this one slip by; and with Israel's government and military still licking their wounds after the humiliations of 2006 and Winograd, they are probably itching for an excuse to get another shot at Hezbollah.

Michael Ledeen is fond of saying "Faster, please." This time, he might just get his wish.