Who planted the mechanical bull in the Middle East?

797_mechanical_20bull Not that Middle Eastern matters have ever been a smooth ride, but this past couple of weeks have been a tad wilder than usual, in my humble opinion. I’ve been watching from the sidelines since my last post, but I figure by now it should be OK to say something, even if it isn’t something conclusive.

Let’s start with the collapse of the Hariri government in Lebanon a week ago. While Prime Minister Saad Hariri was in Washington, Hezbollah announced that it was pulling out of the Lebanese governing coalition. My initial response was to think, ‘don’t let the screen door hit you on the way out,’ but I knew better than to really take so simplistic view. It’s a shame, though.

nasrallah_ahmedinijad Of course it all has to do with the Shiite terror party’s well founded fears of the results of the Rafiq Hariri assassination investigation, but it is not immediately clear what advantage Hezbollah sees in the move. The best answer I’ve seen so far comes from JCPA: it could very well be that it is not Hezbollah’s idea at all, but Iran’s, and its real purpose is to send Washington (note the timing) a message that Tehran, not Washington or Beirut,  truly calls the shots in Lebanon. That’s not a good thing. A real US president would not tolerate that.

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Iran’s jockeying for the lead in Middle Eastern affairs is bound also to be at the expense of Turkey, as this analysis lays out. Never mind that Turkey is trying hard to shoot itself in the foot without Iran’s help, by making such off the wall statements as ‘Hamas is not a terror organization.’ I heard in another place that Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan was booed out of a soccer stadium over the weekend (thanks Rubinreports). One end goes up, the other end goes down.

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In the meantime, the government of Tunisia has been overthrown in a general revolt. You can read the details in many places, like here, and Iran does not appear to have had anything to do with this one, but the best comment I’ve seen comes from yesterday’s edition of Israel National News. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is said to have warned:

The current rebellion, mayhem and ensuing violence in Tunisia serves a warning against rushing into establishing the Palestinian Authority as a new Arab country without proper security guarantees…

He may have a point there, don’t you think?

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And now the government of Israel itself is feeling some significant tremors. Yesterday’s big news was Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s announcement that he is leaving the Labor Party and forming a new party with four other MKs. This by no means brings down Israel’s government in the sense of what is happening in the Arab countries (in spite of what opposition leader Tzipi Livni might say), but it is a significant development. So far it appears that Barak will stay in the government, but it’s not certain at this point, and the fate of what’s left of Labor is even more unsure. The Labor Party has been steadily decreasing in size and influence over the past several years, and this shakeup may turn out to be more of a Richter 4 or 5 than a 6 or 7, but in the understatement of one the remaining Labor MKs, “The situation is truly not simple.”

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And what would a Lineman post be without another Stuxnet update?

Did they or didn’t they? Israel, I mean. Are they the authors of the Stuxnet super virus which has thrown a monkey wrench into Iran’s nuclear program?

We’re getting closer to finding out for sure, according to the New York Times. I’m not so sure I trust the Times. No, let me rephrase that: I’m quite sure that I do not trust the Times, but that doesn’t mean they never report on anything accurately. Whether the Times article is accurate or not is already under question, but I still like to think Israel really does have something to grin about. At any rate, it’s being generally acknowledged that Iran’s efforts at making nukes have been set back at least a few more years, by which time the regime may very well have self-destructed.

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So you tell me—are we going anywhere with all this, or is it just a mechanical bull ride? Talk to y’all later.

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