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Monday, July 31, 2006

Mining Cole

Much-more-famous Ann Arbor blogger Juan Cole has plenty of insights into the various ongoing disasters. Here is a selection from today.
On the Qana massacre:
One hope the Israeli hawks appear to entertain is that they can permanently depopulate strips Lebanon south of the Litani river. Since most Shiites vote Hizbullah and offer political support and cover to it, fewer people means fewer assets for the party-militia. This project would require the total destruction of large numbers of villages and the permanent displacement of their inhabitants north to Beirut.

That is why the massacre at Qana occurred. The Israelis had bombed Qana 80 times. They were destroying all of its buildings. Therefore, of course, they destroyed the building where dozens of children and families were hiding. This tactic is both collective punishment and ethnic cleansing all at once. It is not only a matter, as the Israelis claim, of hitting Hizbullah rocket launchers. They are destroying all of the buildings.
On Ayatollah al-Sistani condemns Israeli aggression and US support for it:
The US punditocracy and ruling elite is fixated on Hizbullah as a "terrorist group" even though the organization hasn't engaged in international terror against American civilians in many years. What they forget about Hizbullah is that it is also a Shiite religious party, and that that is how it is perceived for the most part by Iraqi Shiites. Some 45 percent of Lebanese are probably Shiites.

The other thing to remember is that the United States is now a Shiite Power in part, insofar as it semi-rules a Shiite-majority country, Iraq.

The Associated Press is carrying the story that Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has demanded an immediate ceasefire in Israel's war on Lebanon, in the wake of the Qana massacre:
"Islamic nations will not forgive the entities that hinder a cease-fire," al-Sistani said in a clear reference to the United States.

"It is not possible to stand helpless in front of this Israeli aggression on Lebanon," he added. "If an immediate cease-fire in this Israeli aggression is not imposed, dire consequences will befall the region."

Sistani has issued a warning to the United States. He wants Bush to intervene to arrange a ceasefire, i.e. the cessation of Israeli air raids on Lebanon in general.

What could he do if he were ignored? Sistani could call massive anti-US and anti-Israel demonstrations. Given Iraq's profound political instability, this development could be extremely dangerous. US troops in Baghdad and elsewhere are planning offensives against Shiite paramilitary groups, so tensions are likely to rise in the Shiite areas anyway. But big demonstrations could easily boil over into actual attacks on US and British troops. Both depend heavily on fuel that is transported through the Shiite south. Were the Shiites actively to turn on the US for its wholehearted support of continued Israeli air raids, the US military could be cut off from fuel and supplies. The British only have around 8,000 troops in Iraq, and they would be in profound danger if Iraq's Shiites became militantly anti-occupation.

Since the Israeli treatment of Arabs is an issue on which Sunnis and Shiites agree, there is also a possibility that Sistani could finally get some respect from the Sunni community if he led such a compaign. That development would be more dangerous to the continued US military presence in Iraq than any other I can think of.