July 2006

Via (of all places) the New York Times:

These should be heady days for Iran’s leaders. Hezbollah, widely regarded as its proxy force in Lebanon, continues to rain down rockets on Israel despite 17 days of punishing airstrikes. Hezbollah’s leader is a hero of the Arab world, and Iran is basking in the reflected glory.

Yet this capital is unusually tense. Officials, former officials and analysts say that it is too dangerous even to discuss the crisis. In newspapers, the slightest questioning of support for Hezbollah has been attacked as unpatriotic, pro-Zionist and anti-Islamic.

As the war in Lebanon grinds on, Iranian officials cannot seem to decide whether Iran will emerge stronger — or unexpectedly weakened.

They are increasingly confident of an ideological triumph. But they also believe the war itself has already harmed Hezbollah’s strength as a military deterrent for Iran on the Israeli border…

Iranian experts (who refuse to be identified for their own safety) are fairly open and honest about Hezbollah’s strategic value to Iran.

…Iran’s relationship to Hezbollah is both strategic and ideological. The Islamic Revolution in 1979 was viewed by its clerical leaders as a part of a pan-Muslim movement. Linking up with the Shiite Muslims of southern Lebanon was part of Iran’s efforts to spread its ideological influence. But in building up Hezbollah, the ideological motivation fused with a practical desire to put a force on Israel’s northern border.

No matter how this conflict is resolved, Iranian officials already see their strategic military strength diminished, said the policy experts, former officials and one official with close ties to the highest levels of government. Even if a cease-fire takes hold, and Hezbollah retains some military ability, a Lebanese public eager for peace may act as a serious check…

Shiite Iran’s strength is being built at the expense of their Sunni rivals:

…Iran is the only nation in the Muslim world controlled by members of the Shiite sect of Islam, and its push to be a regional leader had raised concerns among the area’s Sunni leadership.

Iran has used the war in Lebanon to try to prove that talk of a Shiite threat is a fiction created by Arab leaders and Americans seeking to maintain power in the hands of American friends in Cairo, Amman and Riyadh.

It has pointed to Israel’s destruction of Lebanon’s infrastructure to promote the idea that this war is not against Hezbollah but against all Muslims. And Iran’s leaders have sought to burnish their own image, at the expense of their Sunni rivals…

Of course, their Sunni rivals aren’t really friends of ours either. If the al Qaeda-supporting Sunnis gained power over the Hezbollah-supporting Shiites, what, exactly, would we gain from that? Both sides have used terrorism against us, neither side is an ally. Whichever side wins, we lose.

So how can we ensure that both of our enemies lose?

Michael Totten has said that “Hezbollah is the most effective Arab fighting force in the world”, a statement that Iran’s leaders seem to agree with. Hezbollah is probably the most effective non-Israeli fighting force in the Middle East. This doesn’t mean that Hezbollah is unbeatable. It means that Hezbollah is weak, and most of the non-Israeli forces in the Middle East are weaker. In the land of military mice, the Hezbollah rat is king.

Apparently, Israel has seriously injured the best and the brightest of their opposition, leaving the opposition somewhat defenseless.

…He said that Iran does not have the military ability at home to fight an aggressive offensive war against Israel from so far away. He said its only offensive tool would be a missile, which he said would be of limited effect and accuracy.

“If Israel attacked us tomorrow, what are we going to do?” he said.

Right now, our enemies in the Iran/Syria/Hezbollah group are stronger than our enemies in Riyadh – but, since our government is still pretending that the KSA and their ilk are allies, Iran is more vulnerable. If Iran was allowed to become a little stronger, if it were allowed to become a regional leader, then the entire region becomes more vulnerable. With a little patience, we could create a win-win situation for us.

In this case, Hezbollah and Iran’s cheerleaders in the UN and the press would actually be working in our favor. Finally, a way to make them useful.

We visited the local scuba park, Dutch springs, for a day of diving.


Submerged helicopter; photo by George Bouloukas

Above water, Dutch Springs looks like another quiet little Pennsylvania quarry, but underwater, it’s a diver’s amusement park. There’s a wide selection of purposely submerged boats, a sunken cessna, a schoolbus and a helicopter. A series of ropes and underwater platforms guide people to the attractions. It’s a great place to practice dive skills.

It’s also a good place to get used to temperate-climate freshwater diving. The quarry is deep and, when you get near the thermocline, wicked, wicked cold.

I’ve been spoiled, diving mostly in warm places. Since I still tend to be a little claustrophobic, I decided not to wear a hood. That was a bad idea. When we descended to about 45 ft, the water on my face felt like a Chicago wind in January. I thought I could tolerate it, but my ears thought otherwise, which cut my dive short.

At least I had time to tour the schoolbus, which mostly transports zebra mussels now.

Fortunately, my daughter was able to dive a few more times with buddies from the dive shop. They toured the boats, the cessna and the firetruck.

We also took a quick swim at the water park. They’ve got lots of fun inflatable slides, icebergs to climb on, water trampolines. The only disadvantage was – we had to wear PFDs in the water. Since the depths in the water park exceed 50 ft., I guess they worry that park patrons will get lost.

Park hours are from 8 to 6, with night diving on Saturdays. If you want to get a full day of diving in, get there early.

Michael Totten, one of the few writers who has ever asked Hezbollah the hard questions, describes his “armchair” view of the situation in Lebanon.

Lebanon’s Premature Liberalism

Lebanese are temporarily more united than ever. No one is running off to join Hezbollah, but tensions are being smoothed over for now while everyone feels they are under attack by the same enemy. Most Lebanese who had warm feelings for Israel — and there were more of these than you can possibly imagine — no longer do.

This will not last.

My sources and friends in Beirut tell me most Lebanese are going easy on Hezbollah as much as they can while the bombs are still falling. But a terrible reckoning awaits them once this is over.

Some Lebanese can’t wait even that long.

beirut smashing hez

Here a Christian mob smashes a car in Beirut for displaying a Hezbollah logo. My friend Carine says the atomosphere reeks of impending sectarian conflict like never before. Another Lebanese blogger quotes a radical Christian war criminal from the bad old days who says the civil war will resume a month after Israel cools its guns: “Christians, Sunnis and Druze will fight the ‘fucker Shia’, with arms from the US and France.”

Israeli partisans may think this is terrific. The Lebanese may take care of Hezbollah at last! But democratic Lebanon cannot win a war against Hezbollah, not even after Hezbollah is weakened by IAF raids. Hezbollah is the most effective Arab fighting force in the world, and the Lebanese army is the weakest and most divided.

Hezbollah is the best and the brightest military force that the Arab world has to offer.

Which makes one wonder about the Saudi doubletalk here..

In any case, read the whole thing. There’s a ton of info here you’ll never get from Hezbollah’s media herd.

And this won’t be an armchair view for long. He wants to go back to Lebanon as soon as the airport is back in service. Your donations can help.

Posted at Vital Perspectives: Total Destruction of Beirut Nothing Short of a Hezbollah Illusion.

When covering the damage in Beruit “reporters” like Anderson Cooper are being minded and herded by Hezbollah. From Cooper’s report:

Civilian casualties are clearly what Hezbollah wants foreign reporters to focus on. It keeps the attention off them. And questions about why Hezbollah should still be allowed to have weapons when all the other militias in Lebanon have already disarmed. After letting us take pictures of a few damaged buildings, they take us to another location, where there are ambulances waiting.

On camera: This is a heavily orchestrated Hezbollah media event. When we got here, all the ambulances were lined up. We were allowed a few minutes to talk to the ambulance drivers. Then one by one, they’ve been told to turn on their sirens and zoom off so that all the photographers here can get shots of ambulances rushing off to treat civilians. That’s the story — that’s the story that Hezbollah wants people to know about.

..and that’s what ‘professionals’ like Anderson Cooper report, straight from the Hezbollah-produced press kit. Investigative reporting is dead.

In related news, the Wall Street Journal reports that military bloggers are confronting and contradicting the media:

Mr. Borda, a specialist, read other soldiers’ blogs and found he wasn’t alone. Hundreds of other troops and veterans were blogging world-wide, and many focused on a common enemy: journalists…

..Now, Mr. Borda finds himself at the center of a growing blogging movement. Military bloggers, or “milbloggers” as they call themselves, contend that they are uniquely qualified to comment on events in armed conflicts. Many milbloggers also argue that the mainstream media tends to overplay negative stories and play down positive military developments. For many of these blogs, says Mr. Borda, “the sole purpose is to counteract the media.”

After reading Mr. Coopers account above, can anyone doubt that questioning the media is a good thing?

[UPDATE: I removed the map that was previously included in this post: the info & source couldn’t be verified]

of the Big Lebowski

so not work-safe

Graham at Harry’s Place theorizes that politicians like George Galloway evolved from toads.

gallowaytoad toad

What does he have against toads?

Toads are helpful creatures who usually eat up to 50 to 100 slugs, flies, cutworms, and grasshoppers per night. They eat up to 15,000 insects each season. Can Galloway do that?

Toads are a wonderful addition to any home or backyard. Galloway, not so much.


One humble toad will contribute more to the well-being of the world than George Galloway and his ilk ever will.

The company
that created
this mean, green Tesla machine needs to be convinced that the blogosphere is the bleeding-edge marketing tool of the ’00’s.


Their whole campaign must be based on a concentrated effort to gather bloggers*, large and small, from around the nation to stay at fine area hotels, test drive their new product and give them the publicity that the static, fast-fading mass media can never give them.

These guys need to hear the same message.

[* I’d also like to mention that I’ve survived many trips on the Autobahn and have a near-spotless driving record]

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