First, this article from the Forward:
As the war approached its third week, its difficulties were tacitly acknowledged by Jerusalem. The goal of Jerusalem was scaled down from the initial target of crushing Hezbollah to the more modest objective of pushing it away from the border. Even that goal appeared in question, however, as support thinned and pressure grew for a cease-fire.
Criticism of the conduct of the war, from the political decision-making process to the blanket bombing of residential neighborhoods in southern Beirut, is mounting in Israel. This week several respected pundits joined the critics, including veteran military analyst Ze’ev Schiff of the daily Ha’aretz. “Two weeks into the war, it is safe to say that Israel is still far from a decisive conclusion and its chief objectives have not been achieved,” Schiff wrote.
“There is unanimity of conviction and concern” in the Jewish community regarding Israel’s actions in Lebanon, said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Hadar Susskind, who directs the Washington office of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said that there is “zero dissent” within the Jewish community. “As opposed to everything else we do, on this we have absolute unanimity,” he said. The JCPA, a consultative group that coordinates the policies of 13 national agencies and 123 local Jewish community-relations councils, is often critical of the Bush administration’s domestic policies. This week it called on its members to send letters to the White House, thanking Bush for his solid support of the war.
And this, from the Washington Post:
The White House recognizes the danger but thinks the missiles flying both ways across the Israel-Lebanon border carry with them a chance to finally break out of the stalemate of Middle East geopolitics. Bush and his advisers hope the conflict can destroy or at least cripple Hezbollah and in the process strike a blow against the militia’s sponsor, Iran, while forcing the region to move toward final settlement of the decades-old conflict with Israel.
“This moment of conflict in the Middle East is painful and tragic,” Bush said in his radio address Saturday. “Yet it is also a moment of opportunity for broader change in the region. Transforming countries that have suffered decades of tyranny and violence is difficult, and it will take time to achieve. But the consequences will be profound for our country and the world.”
At the heart of the crisis for the United States is a broader struggle with Iran for influence in the Middle East….”It’s really a proxy war between the United States and Iran,” said David J. Rothkopf, a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and author of “Running the World,” a book on U.S. foreign policy. “When viewed in that context, it puts everything in a different light.”….The president hopes the crisis will ultimately help him rally world leaders against Iran’s nuclear program.
Others are not so hopeful….Analysts foresee a muddled outcome at best, in which Hezbollah survives Israel’s airstrikes, foreign peacekeepers become bogged down, and U.S. relations with allies are severely strained….Jon B. Alterman, a Middle East specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, outlined “not even the worst-case scenario, but a bad-case scenario: South Lebanon is in shambles, Hezbollah gets credit for rebuilding it with Iranian money, Hezbollah grows stronger in Lebanon and it’s not brought to heel. The reaction of surrounding states weakens them, radicalism rises, and they respond with more repression.”
So, some thoughts:
– I find myself siding with the pessismists here. If this conflict doesn’t end with Hezbollah either severely crippled or disarmed, then in the long-term I think Hezbollah and Iran emerge as winners by default. Worse, they’ll be emboldened–and Hezbollah now enjoys more support in the region than ever before. (I’m reminded of Deep Throat’s comment in All the President’s Men: “You’ve done worse than let Haldeman slip away: you’ve got people feeling sorry for him. I didn’t think that was possible.”) Some say that putting more Israeli boots on the ground would be the only way to accomplish that goal. I’m not a military analyst…but, hey, how’s that strategy working out in Iraq?
– I’m increasingly uncomfortable the Bush administration’s rhetoric– statements like “the birth pangs of a new Middle East” and saying that “transforming countries that have suffered decades of tyranny and violence is difficult.” Does the White House actually believe these sorts of statements will be well-received in the region? (“Hey, wars are bad and stuff, but please be patient…we’re engineering a massive paradigm shift here.”) As the botched occupation in Iraq lurches toward civil war, how enthusiastic is the Middle East expected to be about another “transformational moment”? Normally, I’m not one who gets all aghast at the latest expressions of rage in the proverbial “Arab Street.” But, this time around, I think the Arab Street has every reason to be pissed off. (And, some in Israel are not too happy about this either. Shlomo Brom, a retired Israeli general who was head of the army’s strategic planning division in the late 1990s, worries that United States remains more focused on democratization and remaking the region than on smaller, more achievable goals.)
– OK, the Bush lovefest in the Jewish community has got to stop. (Seriously, I’m getting tired of receiving e-mails from friends and family along the lines of “Finally, a president who cares about the Jewish people!”) As I’ve mentioned before, who do you think helped bring about these crises? Who gave the okay for Hamas to participate in elections without first disarming? Who declared the Cedar Revolution a fait accompli without pushing to disarm Hezbollah? As this editorial in the Washington Post notes: “Had Washington not turned its attention away from Lebanon after the dramatic events there a little over a year ago, Lebanon’s fledgling democratic government could have leveraged public opinion to domesticate Hezbollah. Instead, the administration allowed Hezbollah and its Syrian patron to undermine the democratic and pro-Western government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.”
At a July 23rd rally on behalf of Israel in San Francisco, the inevitable crowd of counter-protesters showed up–some of whom showered the pro-Israel crowd with Hitlerian salutes while shouting “Seig Heil.”
The Jewish News Weekly of Northern California has published an open letter to anti-Zionist Jews who were among the counter-protesters:
Jews criticizing the very existence of Jewish state are making a calculated statement. Their Jewishness is intended to provide some sort of moral authority. Again, that is their right, even if we vehemently disagree with them. But at this rally, any cloak of moral authority the anti-Zionist Jews were wrapping themselves in unraveled in short order.
Just an arm’s length from the troupe of extreme Jewish critics of Israel, a group of youthful Arabs bedecked in kaffyehs and red, green and white Palestinian accoutrements chanted their support for Hezbollah and showered the pro-Israel crowd with Hitlerian salutes while shouting “Seig Heil,” cupping their hands to their faces to imitate hooknoses and shouting about how Jews supposedly smelled like excrement.
What was surprising was that, as far as we could see, none of their Jewish brothers-in-arms stepped in and did a damn thing about it or made any effort to disassociate themselves from a textbook display of Jew hatred.
You can’t have it both ways. If you’re going to flaunt your Judaism to swath yourself in credibility when you slam Israel, you’ve also got to step up when someone invokes or even praises Nazi behavior. Otherwise your Judaism is a charade, a hammer in the hands of anti-Israel extremists and you are nothing more than what Lenin apocryphally labeled a “useful idiot.”
Jews who deny Israel’s right to exist or espouse a one-state solution that would, in essence, destroy the Jewish state are free to stand on every street corner and shout their views to the heavens. But in failing to confront or even distance themselves from the Jew-hating behavior — and agendas — of their fellow protesters is cowardly and hypocritical.
In a pathetic attempt to siphon off Jewish voters from Senator Joe Lieberman, a group called ImpeachPAC is now linking him to neo-Nazis.
Today they’ve unveiled what they proclaim to be “the progressive blogosphere’s first TV ad” in the closely-watched primary battle between Lieberman and “his progressive challenger, Ned Lamont.”
This ad is based upon a July 7th New York Times article reporting about the growing number of neo-Nazis who have joined the U.S. military. So, what does that have to do with Lieberman? According to ImpeachPAC president Bob Fertik:
“ImpeachPAC is running this TV ad in Connecticut because the infiltration of neo-Nazis in our military is a direct consequence of the disastrous Iraq War that Senator Joe Lieberman enthusiastically supports.”
“Extremists have infiltrated our military before with deadly consequences,” Fertik said. “Timothy McVeigh formed his extremist ideas in the military, and ultimately murdered 167 people when he bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in the nation’s worst terrorist attack before September 11.”
What a disgrace. Linking Lieberman to neo-Nazis and insinuating that he is accountable for future acts of domestic terrosim carried out by rightwing extremists. Have these people no shame?
With typical overstatement, the Nation’s Philip Weiss sees in the latest New York Times poll signs of a nascent political insurgency against “The Lobby”:
If you ever needed a reminder of how important the realist intellectuals’ spring assault on the Israel lobby is, today’s Times bore it out. Its polls show that most Americans feel that Israel’s indiscriminate destruction in Lebanon will lead to a wider war, and that we don’t have a dog in that fight and shouldn’t get involved. “Support for the president’s staunch backing of Israel goes only so far…” intones the Times: 39 percent say they approve it, but 40 percent say we should be neutral on its latest conflict.
We are all realists now… Most of us anyway… If you can run against the gun lobby, why not the Israel lobby? I can’t wait for October. Then maybe some gutty congressional aspirants will run on that idea, and find a movement behind them.
Well, I actually read the complete NYT poll [pdf], and here’s a more expansive picture of U.S. public opinion:
■ 61 percent have a favorable view of Israel…a number that has essentially remained unchanged since 2000.
■ When asked who is to blame in the current conflict, 5 percent said “only Israel.” 38 percent blamed Hezbollah. 46 percent said “both equally.”
■ 26 percent say Israel has gone “too far” in its response to Hezbollah. 57 percent say the response is just about right or has not gone far enough.
■ Only 7 percent say Bush should publicly criticize Israel.
■ 53 percent say the U.S. should “maintain” its diplomatic role to bring peace between Israel and its neighbors, while 25 percent say the U.S. should be more active.
■ 60 percent approve of the idea of sending UN peacekeeping forces to Lebanon, and 32 percent would approve of including U.S. troops among that contingent. (That’s actually more than I would have imagined, given that only 5 percent believe that U.S. troops will be in Iraq for less than a year.)
■ And 63 percent say the war in Iraq was not worth it.
So, the bigger picture that emerges is far more nuanced—and, quite frankly, not all that surprising: Americans still strongly support Israel, they tend to blame either Hezbollah or “both sides,” they want to find a way to end the conflict, they overwhelmingly support U.S. diplomatic engagement in the region, and they don’t want U.S. troops bogged down in another war. Hardly a seismic shift in the U.S. body politic, don’t you think? I could have predicted these results without taking a national poll.
William Douglas, a 9/11 conspiracy theorist (oh, excuse me, “truth activist”) has issued a plea to the American Jewish community, urging them to demand an investigation into what really happened on September 11, 2001:
The best way for Jewish Americans to battle the dangerous disinformation and the LIES of Jewish involvement in the attacks of 9/11/2001 [is to] join with legitimate 9/11 truth seeking organizations and DEMAND a full accounting of the facts of 9/11.
The very idea that a foreign government, like Israel, could have pulled off an operation of the magnitude of the events of the 9/11/2001 attacks, under the noses of the US government’s top officials, presiding over the greatest multi-trillion dollar domestic and foreign intelligence organization, and largest military power the world has ever seen, is patently ridiculous. If it weren’t such a tragic thing, the preposterousness of it would be laughable. Yet, it is equally ridiculous to buy the official 9/11 story that 19 rag-tag Moslems were able to pull off such a catalyzing event.
Well, it’s nice to finally meet a conspiracy theorist who doesn’t implicate Israel in…well, everything. But, what does William Douglas have to say about his prominent fellow travelers in the “truth movement” who are themselves spreading stories about Israel’s involvement?
He’s got a theory:
I believe the anti-Semitic and totally ridiculous rumors that 4,000 Jewish people did not show up to work on 9/11/2001, was part of a co-intelprogram operation designed to get US media, and particularly New York media to turn off its logic regarding the glaring problems with the official story of the events of 9/11/2001. For when one does actually look with clear eyes at the events of 9/11, it becomes obvious very quickly that we have been lied to, and that the facts point to an inside US govt. job with complicity at the highest levels of our government.
Ah yes, William Douglas, but there’s a glaring hole in your theory. Who do you think controls the highest levels of our government?
Shhh…I’ve said too much already.
It’s the end of the world as we know it…
First up, Jerry Falwell has posted an article titled “On the threshold of Armageddon?” His conclusion:
Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich explained the crisis in the Middle East in stark terms that few politicians are willing to contemplate. However, I believe his analysis is accurate.
He noted, “There is an Iran/Syria/Hezbollah and Hamas alliance trying to destroy Israel. I mean, this is absolutely a question of the survival of Israel, but it’s also a question of what is really a world war.”
It is apparent, in light of the rebirth of the state of Israel, that the present-day events in the Holy Land may very well serve as a prelude or forerunner to the future Battle of Armageddon and the glorious return of Jesus Christ.
Elsewhere in the End of Days, a Lebanese blogger reports on the mood in Damascus:
The Syrian people and government fully support Hezbollah. In fact, Syrians of every stripe support the campaign against Israel: rich and poor, educated and illiterate, Western educated and Syrian educated, multilingual and monolingual, Christian, Muslim, Druze, Allawi, and Shia. It really is incredible to see uninanimous support that was not government created. In fact, the Syrian people seem unhappy that their government has not joined the fight.
They are calling this, “The Final Battle.” It’s rather apocalyptic. There are Hezbollah, Syrian, and Palestinian flags flying all over Damascus. In the old city, there are large Israeli flags taped to the narrow walkways forcing all pedestrians to trample on it. The Syrian people want the destruction of Israel and see now as the time to do it.
Meanwhile, Iraq the Model reports:
Both Ahmedinejad and Sadr believe it is their duty to pave the way and prepare the ground for the rise of the Imam whose rise, according to their branch of Shia Islam, requires certain conditions and a sequence of certain events….We are seeing some signs here that make us think that Iran and its tools in Iraq are trying to provoke the rise of the imam through forcing the signs they believe should be associated with that rise.
One of the things that do not feel right is the sudden appearance of new banners and writings on the walls carrying religious messages talking specifically of imam Mehdi. These messages are getting abundant in Baghdad and in particular in the eastern part of the capital where Sadr militias are dominant and a special number can be seen in the area of the interior ministry complex.The interesting part is that these banners appeared within less than 24 hours after Hizbollah kidnapped the Israeli soldiers. Coincidence?I don’t think so.
Those banners represent an ominous sign and I’d like to say again that one should prepare for the worst from the very unstable mixture of religion and policy. I went to a guy who knows quite a lot about this salvation war so to speak and asked him if the texts mention anything about the timing of the war and whether it’s supposed to begin before or after the rise of the Imam and the answer was “After” but he added that chaos and rampant violence in the region are supposed to be among the signs and that the main battle would be “lead by the Imam himself.”
And this dispatch from an Israeli in a village atop the Jezreel Valley:
Many Israelis feel that this is much more than a local war against the Hezbollah. Somehow, it is the crucial point where the world has to decide what is wrong and what is write. Are we going to give in to terror? Is there a place for a modern democratic society in the Middle East? Is this the war between forces of good and forces of evil?
From my picturesque village overlooking the plains of Armageddon, things tend to become biblical.
So many Apocalypses…so little time.
It’s official. In the United States, it is now considered legitimate discourse to term Israel “a mistake.”
First, Richard Cohen got the ball rolling with his Washington Post editorial. Then, last week on C-Span, Steve Scully was interviewing Congressman Steve Chabot, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. As they were discussing the war between Israel and Hezbollah, Scully asked Chabot whether “after all things considered, looking in hindsight,” was it “a mistake to create Israel in that part of the world?”
And now, New York Magazine has just published an article by Kurt Anderson, titled “Truly Inconvenient Truths.” Some excerpts:
Concerning Israel and the Palestinian territories, all the truths tend to be truly, deeply, tragically inconvenient. And the big one is this: Israel is a good and miraculous nation that deserves the support of civilized people, but the great unfortunate fact about its creation—being carved by the U.N. out of Arab land in 1947—cannot be ignored or wished away. We have no choice but to support Israel, even though the Israeli Defense Forces are killing civilians, dozens a day, in Lebanon. All of those deaths, one wants to believe, are unintentional, unavoidable mistakes. Yet as Richard Cohen wrote in his Washington Post column last week, “Israel itself is a mistake . . . an honest mistake, a well-intentioned mistake, a mistake for which no one is culpable [but which] has produced a century of warfare and terrorism of the sort we are seeing now.” Sixty years on, there can be no revising or reversing that mistake—and when the choice is Israel versus unaccommodating Islamist fanatics, we must be for Israel. Is there any more inconvenient truth?
Other bloggers have already worked over Cohen’s “Israel was a mistake” pundit history lesson. What bears mentioning here is that Anderson repeatedly attempts to insulate himself from criticism by unequivocally stating that “we must be for Israel,” that “good and miraculous” country. (Hey, some of his best nations are Jewish!)
Sorry, but that doesn’t fly. What Anderson has done is mark Israel as the Middle East’s “original sin.” All that’s happened since 1947, is tragic, yes, but ultimately understandable. Arab wars against Israel? Suicide bombers? Hezbollah missiles? Anti-semitism? Yes, it should all be condemned…but let’s not forget the “root cause.” All of it is reduced to the proverbial “cycle of vengeance,” which began with a “historic mistake.”
And this takes us down the treacherous path of moral equivalence. Anderson himself makes this manifest later in his article when he declares:
Addressing a pro-Israel rally outside the U.N. last week, Anthony Weiner, the Democratic congressman from Brooklyn, slagged people who regard the Middle East and the fighting in Lebanon as “a complicated issue, a nuanced issue,” because “this is not a time for ambiguity.” To the same crowd, Hillary Clinton offered a Gingrichian analogy: “If extremist terrorists were launching rocket attacks across the Mexican or Canadian border, would we stand by or would we defend America against these attacks?” Sure, we’d send the F-18s to blast Toronto and Nuevo Laredo, and rightly so; maybe the most salient analogy, however, is not fantasy attacks on America in 2006 but our Indian Wars of 1876—-and is there any Hillaryesque Democrat who would cheer retroactively about our Christian nation and its Army of the West defending white settlers by exterminating Native Americans?
This is Anderson’s version of a “nuanced” perspective on Israel’s war of self-defense against Hezbollah–comparing it to a campaign of expansionist, ethnic cleansing. The tragic, inevitable result of that so-called “historic mistake.” (I prefer to think that it’s possible to make a reasoned case against Israel’s tactics, without resorting to allusions of genocide.)
Like I said, this is what now passes for legitimate discourse in the United States. And that is the most inconvenient truth of all.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports:
In the six years since Israel ended its military occupation of southern Lebanon, it watched warily as Hezbollah built up its military presence in the region. When Hezbollah militants kidnapped two Israeli soldiers last week, the Israeli military was ready to react almost instantly.
“Of all of Israel’s wars since 1948, this was the one for which Israel was most prepared,” said Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University. “In a sense, the preparation began in May 2000, immediately after the Israeli withdrawal, when it became clear the international community was not going to prevent Hezbollah from stockpiling missiles and attacking Israel. By 2004, the military campaign scheduled to last about three weeks that we’re seeing now had already been blocked out and, in the last year or two, it’s been simulated and rehearsed across the board.”
So, Israel was planning for the worst. Myself, I don’t find this too shocking. (I mean, when nations face a threat on their borders, that’s kind of what they do.) But, Juan Cole sees this article as “proof” that this was a premeditated war of choice on Israel’s part:
The Israelis tend to launch their wars of choice in the summer, in part because they know that European and American universities will be the primary nodes of popular opposition, and the universities are out in the summer. This war has nothing to do with captured Israeli soldiers. It is a long-planned war to increase Israel’s ascendency over Hizbullah and its patrons.
Ahhh! Israel fears universities! That’s why this war started. Makes sense…I mean, the barrage of missiles raining down on Haifa is nothing compared to the devastation that could be wrought through the rapier talking points of the Western academic community, or the poignant barbs hurled by student protesters.
Meanwhile, DailyKos has picked up and run with Cole’s story, prompting comments such as this one: “I don’ know if the Israeli soldiers that were ‘kidnapped’ are real or not. “
The plot thickens…
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has issued a document, “Questions and Answers on Hostilities Between Israel and Hezbollah,” with the stated purpose of providing “analytic guidance for those who are examining the fighting as well as for the parties to the conflict and those with the capacity to influence them.”
What is Hezbollah’s status in relation to the conflict?
Hezbollah is an organized political Islamist group based in Lebanon, with a military arm and a civilian arm, and is represented in the Lebanese parliament and government. As such a group, and as a party to the conflict with Israel, it is bound to conduct hostilities in compliance with customary international humanitarian law and common Article 3 [of the Geneva Conventions.]
But Avi Bell, a visiting professor at Fordham University Law School, believes that HRW is leaving out some crucial, additional details:
This description completely omits several legally important facts about Hezbollah. International law precedents such as decisions of the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia make it clear that militias like Hezbollah, given de facto authority by the government of Lebanon (in which Hezbollah has ministerial representation) and acting on behalf of Lebanon, are bound to follow the legal commitments of the state of Lebanon, which extend well beyond common Article 3 and customary law. Moreover, Lebanon itself has the legal responsibility to ensure that Hezbollah abide by international humanitarian law and other bodies of international law.
Furthermore, under Security Council resolution 1373, adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, Lebanon is legally required to take a host of actions against international terrorist groups. Hezbollah is a group that has deliberately targeted and murdered civilians in Israel, Argentina and elsewhere in order to intimidate the population of Israel, and thereby clearly falls into the definition of an international terrorist group. Lebanon is therefore required to end even passive support of Hezbollah; freeze Hezbollah funds; suppress Hezbollah recruitment; eliminate the supply of weapons to Hezbollah; deny safe haven to all Hezbollah persons who finance, plan, support, or commit terrorist acts and bring all such persons to justice; and prevent Lebanese territory being used for the commission of such acts. Similarly, Syria and Iran are forbidden to supply arms to Hezbollah, supply funding or supply safe haven. Shockingly, the only reference to legal obligations related to terrorism in HRW’s document is an accusation that the “logic” of alleged Israeli actions “opens the door to … terrorism,” followed by a warning to Israel (!) that “international humanitarian law explicitly prohibits attacks of which the primary purpose is to intimidate or instill terror in the civilian population.”
HRW also states:
Does international humanitarian law permit Israel to bomb the Beirut airport?
Airports in certain circumstances may be dual-use targets, in that they might be used both for military purposes such as military re-supply and to provide transport and provisions for the civilian population….According to an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) statement, the justification for targeting the Beirut airport is that it “constitutes a station for the transport of arms and infrastructure used by Hezbollah” and as such “represents a serious threat.” It has also been suggested that the airport could be used to transport the captured Israeli soldiers out of the area. However, these justifications are at best debatable.
At best debatable? Bell responds:
Contrary to HRW’s suggestion, it is indisputable – except perhaps by HRW – that Hezbollah has no capability within Lebanon for fashioning weapons such as Katyusha rockets, Raad and Zilzal longer-range missiles, and anti-ship Silkworm missiles that have been used in the fighting of the last few weeks. Since this weaponry cannot be spontaneously generated, the airport is without doubt an important potential way station for transport of war materiel and also hostages. Indeed, Western (including Israeli) intelligence suggests that the airport has already been used in the past for such purposes if HRW has any contrary evidence, or even any ability to obtain contrary evidence, HRW has yet to identify it. Airports and other ports of entry, as well as other means of transportation like roads and bridges are well-recognized in customary international law as legitimate targets in war.
By now you’re probably familiar with the great non-controversy over whether Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ever really said that Israel should be “wiped off the map.” Juan Cole has long claimed that this was rhetorical bombshell was aimed at the Zionist “Occupying Regime” (the current Israeli government) and not the state of Israel itself. (See Christopher Hitchens’ takedown of Cole here.)
I think, though, that the latest statements coming out of Iran will be much more difficult for Cole & Co. to explain away. From today’s AP:
“Israel pushed the button of its own destruction by attacking Lebanon,”Ahmadinejad told a gathering of education officials.
In Tehran, the government has sanctioned billboards showing Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah and a message that it is the duty of Muslims to “wipe out” Israel. Officials also organized a demonstration in the southern city of Shiraz by Iran’s small Jewish community calling for Israel’s destruction and praising Hezbollah.
Reflecting on this latest escalation of rhetoric, Andrew Sullivan comments:
I don’t think there can be much doubt that Ahmadinejad’s eschatology demands a second Holocaust for the Jews, and that is impossible to understand Hezbollah without seeing them as an instrument for this Persian Hitler to achieve his aims. That’s why, despite the horrifying toll on Lebanon’s infrastructure and civilians, the Israeli response does not seem to me to be disproportionate to the existential threat it faces – and would face even more starkly if Hezbollah became the emboldened tip of the Iranian spear.