The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Nero’s empire

July 28, 2006

Photo courtesy

This is just a quick followup to my post last week about the risks of escalation in the current Middle Eastern conflict.

Israel is apparently ending its incursion into Gaza , but there is very little good news emerging from the region.

US Secretary of State Condi Rice is on the case, but she is employing an odd diplomatic style to say the least. News agencies pessimistically report “no sign of a cease-fire.”

So, is the worst-case still possible? And if we assume that the answer is “yes,” then what are the plausible scenarios?

How about we begin by pointing out the obvious — and tangible — American backing of Israel in this war, and then imagining a provocative Israeli attack on Syria? As Patrick has written here at the Duck, the possibility that NATO might enter the picture carries meaningful risk. Some neocons are apparently even pondering American troops in Lebanon.

If any of these events occur, then the situation might become quite explosive. Consider Iran’s threatened response to as Israeli attack on Syria, as reported in the Boston Globe July 14:

Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, threatened “a very fierce response” if Israel attacks Syria.

“If the Zionist regime commits another stupid move and attacks Syria, this will be considered like attacking the whole Islamic world and this regime will receive a very fierce response,” Ahmadinejad said, Iranian state television reported last night.

Would Washington stand by if that happened?

Dr. Kaveh L. Afrasiabi recently opined that the recipe for disaster is already prepared:

Consequently, with the initial Israel-US goal of a swift crippling of Hezbollah fast turning into a nightmare quagmire in Lebanon, thus causing a major regional conflagration, the much-dreaded “wider war” seems all but inevitable – it is the wider “war on terrorism” that will bring both al-Qaeda and, by implication, the US back to the Lebanese theater of conflict.

The foreign policy establishment might not be ready to say “world war” but there are clear signs that they are worried.

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Rodger A. Payne is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Louisville. He serves on the University’s Sustainability Council and was a co-founder of the Peace, Conflict, and Social Justice program. He is the author of dozens of journal articles and book chapters and coauthor, with Nayef Samhat, of Democratizing Global Politics: Discourse Norms, International Regimes, and Political Community (SUNY, 2004). He is currently working on two major projects, one exploring the role of narratives in international politics and the other examining the implications of America First foreign policy.