War Bulletin: The Fall of Two Capitals

Hezbollah strikes Egyptian, Israeli ships with UAVs. CTB:
The conflict between Israel and Hezbollah has escalated, as Hezbollah has conducted two sea strikes against an Israeli warship and an Egyptian civilian ship, possibly a cruise liner. While initial reports are stating an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) was used to ram the ships, an anonymous intelligence official indicates the Egyptian ship was struck by a UAV launched antitank missile. According to the intelligence official, the Egyptian ship was hit with a Raad anti-tank missile (this is a different weapon than the Raad rockets fired against the city of Haifa.)

The two attacks occurred earlier today, as Hezbollah struck an Israeli Saar 5 navy gunship off the coast of Lebanon. Four Israeli seamen are missing and the ship has been damaged badly enough the Israeli Defense Force pulled it out of service. "It's the first time the terrorist group -- any terrorist group -- has used a drone in combat, as far as I know," said DefenseTech's Noah Schachtman. The current reports states an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle laden with explosives hit the Israeli warship.

The Egyptian civilian ship was hit during the same attack on the Israeli warship. "At the same time as the incident took place in which an Israeli ship was hit, a merchant ship was also hit," an Israeli spokeswoman stated, according to Reuters. Initial reports, which as of yet are unconfirmed, indicate the Egyptian vessel may have been a cruise ship.

The fact that two separate ships were struck at the same time, very likely with UAV fired antitank missiles, indicates a level of sophistication far beyond that of Hezbollah. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and Imad Mugniyah clearly have a hand in these operations. ...

Freedom for Egyptians on the future. FFE: 'Syria’s regime has always played its cards under the table while maintaining other players on the stage to act on its behalf. The sole defender, protector and creator of the failure that’s called pan-Arabism is Syria. The project that has brought despotism, dictatorship and failed regimes to rule in the Middle East was created by this fascist regime. Time for a confrontation… ... Along the history, it is well known that the Middle East was not handed from one empire to another except at least with the fall of two capitals; Baghdad was one and Damascus is coming!' Freedom for Egyptians is one of my favorite bloggers worldwide; I strongly recommend reading her entire post. It's excellent.

The lesser players. Amarji:
Well, Nasrallah is definitely far more charismatic and eloquent than Saddam has ever been, but no less foolish. He will get the entire Arab street on his side, just like Saddam had done before, but most Arab governments will stand against it. True, Syria and Iran and Hamas will try to support it, that and its arsenal of missile and rockets, is its trump card, but one that can be rendered useless, if the Israelis decide that it is all worth it, and if they act in coordination with the US, which is more likely than people think.

No one shies from war anymore, so long as the only real existentialist threat they could pose is a pospect that, in the final analysis, only “lesser players” would have to deal with. We are those players.

Syria to aid Hezbollah. JPost: 'Syria stated that it will come to the defense of Hizbullah and Lebanon, Fox News reported early Saturday.' Ha'Aretz: '"The Syrian people are ready to extend full support to the Lebanese people and their heroic resistance to remain steadfast and confront the barbaric Israeli aggression and its crimes," said a communique from the party's national command issued after a meeting. It said Israel and the United States "are trying to wipe out Arab resistance in every land under occupation" and that President Bashar Assad was aware of the seriousness of the situation in the region.'

Latest Stratfor bulletins.
0451 GMT - An Israeli raid targeting a gas station in Sidon, Lebanon, early July 15 reportedly wounded three civilians. Israel has also bombed more roads in the south, Hezbollah's Al Manar television reports.

0202 GMT - Syrian officials said July 14 that the United States and Israel are trying to eliminate Arab resistance in every occupied land, Reuters reported.

0136 GMT - A runway at the airport in Beirut, Lebanon, was repaired July 14 to allow six planes to leave, CNN reported. The United States reportedly helped arrange a deal to evacuate the planes, one of which carried former Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati. The runway was later bombed again by Israel.

Katyushas land in Galil. JPost: 'A barrage of Katyusha rockets landed near Shlomi in the western Galile early Saturday. There were no reports of casualties or damage.'

IDF strikes bridge. JPost: 'IAF attacked a bridge in southern Lebanon that connects the region to Beirut, Lebanese media reported early Saturday. 20 people were reportedly wounded. This was the second time that the IAF struck the same bridge during the current operation in Lebanon.'

Bush won't pressure Israel for cease-fire. AP/Yahoo:
Bush and Putin were meeting Saturday to discuss the many crises shaking the world, after a more relaxed barbecue dinner Friday night with their wives at a government-owned villa. The two leaders planned a joint news conference Saturday.

The U.S. and Russian presidents — along with the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan — are gathering for the annual Group of Eight economic summit, which begins Saturday night and continues through Monday. This is Russia's first year as host.

The recent violence between Israel and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon is a late but unavoidable addition to the agenda.

Bush refused Friday to pressure Israel for a cease-fire. He called on the leaders of Egypt and Jordan to explore ways to end three days of furious fighting.

Michael Totten weighs in. A much-anticipated post from Michael J. Totten: 'Israel and Lebanon are the two freest countries in the Middle East. They are the only countries, aside from tortured Iraq, that hold unrigged elections for parliaments and heads of state. The tyrants to their east have pulled quite a coup, haven't they? The two countries friendliest to America and to liberal Western values are now shooting each other. (The Lebanese army, which has cooperated with Israel in the past behind the scenes, is now firing anti-aircraft guns at Israeli planes.)'

Wretchard's roundup. The Belmont Club has the latest on Castro death rumors, Tongsun Park's conviction, and Colonel MacFarland, who would rather be sociable but can be formidable if pressed.