Friday, January 06, 2006

Circling the Wagons, The Iranian Threat, and Sharon

Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's condition worsened overnight and was rushed back into surgery. Definitely not a good thing, especially when friends and relatives were told to make their way to the hospital.

So, what does the blogosphere think of all this and what Sharon's exit stage left from the Israeli political landscape and the larger Middle East political landscape means in a larger context?

Well, there's quite a few divergent viewpoints. You've got Lefties who think that Sharon was a butcher and good riddance to bad rubbish. That viewpoint isn't dissimilar from that of the terrorists and Iranian mullahs who seek Israel's destruction.

Charles Krauthammer thinks that this is a devastating blow to Israel. A serious blow, yes. Devastating? I'm not sure considering that the idea behind Kadima is one whose time had come - a third way to disengage and secure Israel's borders in the absence of any rational negotiating partner. The Palestinians have gotten nearly everything they've demanded in terms of land (all of Gaza and 93% of the West Bank), and that has resulted in the collapse of the Intifada and forced the Palestinians to fight amongst themselves, but Kadima needs a leader to shape and fashion a cohesive policy going forward.
Kadima represents an idea whose time has come. But not all ideas whose time has come realize themselves. They need real historical actors to carry them through. Sharon was a historical actor of enormous proportion, having served in every one of Israel's wars since its founding in 1948, having almost single-handedly saved Israel with his daring crossing of the Suez Canal in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and now having broken Israel's left-right political duopoly that had left the country bereft of any strategic ideas to navigate the post-Oslo world. Sharon put Israel on the only rational strategic path out of that wreckage. But, alas, he had taken his country only halfway there when he himself was taken away. And he left no Joshua.
The fear is that with no successor groomed for taking over, Kadima will fail. Too many Israelis think that Sharon was on to something to give up on the idea and someone will take the mantle of leadership.

In Israel, some think that Benjamin Netenyahu will be the political winner in this difficult time. I'm not so sure; he may be charismatic, but his economic policies have alienated many Israelis as he's tried to move Israel away from a socialistic economy to one that is more market-based. No matter how you cut it, this is going to mark the end of an era for Israeli politics. My gut feeling is that it will be Olmert or someone else from within the newly formed Kadima.

Kobayashi Maru (yes, it's a Star Trek reference) notes the upcoming bumpy ride, and that the wolves will circle Israel to take advantage of even the perceived uncertainty in the political situation. Especially Iran. That's one of the reasons that Olmert's cabinet meeting yesterday was so important - to show the continuity of government and that no one person is indispensible.

Shrink Wrapped also notes the Iranian threat, which increases daily especially with the situation in Israel. The Officer's Club suggests that sanctions against Iran may actually work because the Iranian people are seeing just how loony their leadership is and may take direct action against them. Military action may work, but it might counter our efforts elsewhere in the region.

And just when you think things couldn't get any worse in the region, some bizarrely positive news has come out of the Syrian front:
The tipping point for Syrian tyranny may have come yesterday as former regime vice-president Abdul Halim Khaddam announced publicly that he wants to lead a popular revolution to oust the Bashar Assad dictatorship and to see the former opthalmologist in prison for the murder of Rafik Hariri. Meanwhile, he made clear, he remains available to the UN if it really wants to investigate Syrian crimes.
Khaddam's intentions aren't exactly clear. He could quite as easily be seeking power just for himself to replace Assad in a coup, or he could be genuinely interested in a democratic revolution in Syria. But this developing situation could quite possibly neutralize Syria as a player against Israel or Lebanon at this critical juncture.

Sentiment from around the world continues to filter in and the Arab world in particular wouldn't mind if Sharon died - though they'd largely prefer he die in a more violent manner. Iran, for all intents and purposes, tells the UN to drop dead after missing a deadline. More sauce for the goose.

There have been unconfirmed reports of Sharon having died, but official reports have indicated that he is in critical condition with a slim chance at recovery.

Stop the ACLU and Michelle Malkin both pick up the confusion over Sharon's health status, which is now considered to be improving, though it certainly appears that his condition is terminal (and day to day like the rest of us out there who haven't suffered a debilitating stroke). He may well be on death's door, but without official word, this is but a rumor.

I'm surprised that no one has commented that the media hasn't learned anything from the events in Tallmansville, WV, where 12 miners were killed in a mining explosion, but the media ran with the initial reports of there being 12 survivors without getting an official word or talking with the principals who made the decisions. It wouldn't hurt to check facts once in a while.

Others covering Sharon's declining medical condition, the geopolitical situation, and the US reaction: Austin Bay, Israpundit, the Counterterrorism Blog, The Jawa Report, Classical Values, Ace of Spades, Christopher Hitchens at Slate (who provides an unvarnished take on Sharon's life that was filled with violence as befitting a general in the military who may have overstepped his bounds on several occasions), Kesher Talk, Legal Fiction (who gives begrudging respect), and the Political Pit Bull.

According to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Sharon is in his last hours or days following the latest surgical procedure and comes despite the fact that his latest CT scans have been positive and show significant improvement. Boker Tov (Hebrew for Good Morning) has more details.

Meryl Yourish has continuing updates, but the key for those tracking the political fallout should read through this posting. It details the blueprint for Kadima and it's future.

Submitted to Basil's Blog, Jo's Cafe, and MacStansbury.

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