Morning Brief, Thursday, August 3

Crisis in the Middle East A barrage of Hezbollah rockets – more than 230 – hit northern Israel yesterday, and Israel stepped up its air strikes on Beirut and its ground incursions into southern Lebanon. Tony Blair says the UN Security Council is perhaps two days away from a cease-fire deal. In an interview with the ...

605974_Olmert5.jpg
605974_Olmert5.jpg

Crisis in the Middle East

Crisis in the Middle East

A barrage of Hezbollah rockets – more than 230 – hit northern Israel yesterday, and Israel stepped up its air strikes on Beirut and its ground incursions into southern Lebanon. Tony Blair says the UN Security Council is perhaps two days away from a cease-fire deal.

In an interview with the FT, Israeli PM Olmert talks tough, unsurprising since this war has become nothing if not a battle of perceptions. The Daily Star reports that Israel hacked into Hezbollah’s TV channel Al-Manar on Tuesday and waged a little psychological warfare.

David Kellen on why Israel won’t win. Christopher Hitchens on the utter lack of a contingency plan in Washington. And Robert Pape argues that Hezbollah is neither a political party nor an Islamist militia, but a broad movement against a foreign occupier. 

Iraq

No one trusts a man in uniform in Iraq. A bomb kills several in a shopping district in Baghdad. And in his last official classified cable to Whitehall last week, Britain’s ambassador to Iraq, William Patey, gave this assessment: 

The prospect of a low intensity civil war and a de facto division of Iraq is probably more likely at this stage than a successful and substantial transition to a stable democracy.

“Even the lowered expectation of President Bush for Iraq – a government that can sustain itself, defend itself and govern itself and is an ally in the war on terror – must remain in doubt.”

Iran

Ahmadinejad says that the main objective of the current Middle East crisis is to destroy Israel. Officials from Iran, India, and Pakistan get together to discuss a $6 billion natural gas pipeline between the three countries. Gordon and Pollack in the WSJ: If Iran wants to compromise over the nuclear deal by involving Hezbollah, the US should stand firm.

Elsewhere

Get ready for a showdown between the White House and Congress over treatment of detainees. Alberto Gonzales asked Congress yesterday to change the definitions of acceptable treament. Expect the whole affair to be a lot of talking around one another, if this exchange is any indication of things to come:

The differences between the administration and the Senate were most pronounced when Mr. McCain asked Mr. Gonzales whether statements obtained through “illegal and inhumane treatment” should be admissible. Mr. Gonzales paused for almost a minute before responding.

“The concern that I would have about such a prohibition is, what does it mean?” he said. “How do you define it? I think if we could all reach agreement about the definition of cruel and inhumane and degrading treatment, then perhaps I could give you an answer.”

Somali government officials are ready to talk to the Islamic militia in control of Mogadishu. More bird flu in Indonesia. Ukraine’s president plays nice, accepts arch-rival as PM. As many as 10,000 may have died in recent flooding in North Korea, according to an aid organization. It’s unlikely US troop levels in Afghanistan will be reduced this year. And Saudi Arabia allows photography

Carolyn O'Hara is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.

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