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Conflict in the Middle East is nothing new. In fact, it is a chronic state of affairs. But developments in recent days may foreshadow a level of regional conflict that has not been seen in decades, if ever.

This week the Lebanese group Hezbollah crossed Israel's northern border in a kidnap raid that snatched two Israeli soldiers and took eight Israeli lives. Israel has responded massively with a ground incursion into Lebanon, airstrikes near the border that killed two dozen Lebanese civilians, and a naval blockade. Israel's prime minister described the events as an attack on one sovereign state by another, raising the specter of full-scale war between Israel and Lebanon. Meanwhile, events in Gaza continue to worsen. Attacks by Israel in the last three weeks have killed more than 80 Palestinians, half of them civilians.

The regional implications are indeed grim. Gaza is (more or less) controlled by Hamas, the Islamist, anti-Israel political party/terrorist group. Southern Lebanon is dominated by Hezbollah, another Islamist, anti-Israel, political party/terrorist group. It is not clear, but it has been intimated, that the Hamas kidnappers and the Hezbollah kidnappers are functioning under a central leadership. And it may be that the functioning political head of both Hamas and Hezbollah is the government of Iran.

Iran is known to bankroll both groups, and its militant president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has been crystal clear in his hatred for Israel. Meanwhile, Iran continues to try to string along the international community in "negotiations" related to its nuclear program—negotiations that essentially ended Thursday as the world's major powers agreed that it was time to turn to the U.N. Security Council for action against ...

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July 2006

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