How Iran uses wars to divert attention from nuclear program

It appears Iran's threat that Israel would be wiped off the map was not just rhetoric.

You don't hear much any more about "road maps," the "peace process," or "land for peace."

The struggle for the Middle East has apparently entered a new phase in which Iran hijacks the Palestinian cause in order to establish its own influence in the region.

In the year 2000, Israel exited from south Lebanon as a peaceful gesture. This past August, Israel left Gaza as a peaceful act. It appears now that these were taken by the jihadists not as gestures of peace, but of weakness.

And it appears that the threat of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Israel would be wiped off the map was not just rhetoric. According to American intelligence, Hamas in Gaza and Hizbullah in Lebanon have an agreement for joint attacks on Israel.

That may explain the look-alike forays across Israel's southern and northern borders. On June 25, Hamas fighters entered Israel by tunnel from Gaza, killing two Israeli soldiers and capturing one. On July 12, Hizbullah fighters crossed Israel's northern border, killing eight soldiers and capturing two.

They could be sure that their provocations would draw a violent response from Israel, and they did. Israel has unleashed a series of rocket and bomber attacks on facilities in Lebanon. Hizbullah is responding in kind. The organization appears to have several thousand missiles made in Iran and shipped through Syria. Some of them have a longer range than Israel has seen before, reaching to Haifa and farther.

As the conflict goes on, the Lebanese government is basically a helpless spectator to an Iranian-Syrian war fought through Hizbullah in Lebanon.

A United Nations team has been in Beirut trying to broker a cease-fire, but the prospects for subtle diplomacy are not very promising. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is planning a trip to Lebanon, but Lebanon may be the wrong address.

And meanwhile, Iran has already gained one advantage from the conflict that it helped to launch. It has diverted attention from the issue of Iran's nuclear program.

Daniel Schorr is the senior news analyst at National Public Radio.

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