The middle east powder keg is on the verge of exploding. After repeated warnings of possible escalation between Iran and Israel, we get the first official confirmation that the conflict may not be tidy and contained. The Telegraph is reporting that King Abdullah of Jordan has just warned the US that a war between Israel and Hizbollah is imminent and that is could spread across the Middle East. Just like the Great Depression ended in a Great War, so this ongoing Great Depression v2.0 (because -10% GDP when one takes away the government stimulus is precisely that) is likely about to result in another one.
From the Telegraph:
The king, in Washington for President Barack Obama's nuclear summit, gave his warning after Israel claimed that Syria had handed over Scud missiles in its armoury to the Lebanon-based Hizbollah.
His comments, which were made to private meeting of the US Congressional Friends of Jordan caucus were said to be "sobering".
Syria yesterday denied the allegation that it has provided Hizbollah with long-range Scud missiles, which would allowing them to target Israel's cities. The country's foreign ministry said the claims would be used as a pretext by Israel to raise tension prior to a possible attack on Hizbollah.
"For some time now, Israel has been running a campaign claiming that Syria has been supplying Hizbollah with Scud missiles in Lebanon ," a foreign ministry statement released yesterday said.
" Syria strongly denies these allegations which are an attempt by Israel to raise tensions in the region."
However, the statement did not appear to rule out an alternative possibility being raised by defence sources, that Damascus has allowed Hizbollah control of or access to Scud missiles still currently in Syria .
Similar sources say that Syria has trained Hizbollah operatives on advanced anti-aircraft batteries, possibly a more useful tool since Hizbollah – and the Lebanese army - fears the overwhelming air superiority enjoyed by Israeli jets.
The official US position:
"We are obviously increasingly concerned about the sophisticated weaponry that is allegedly being transferred," said Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman. "We have expressed our concerns to those governments and believe that steps should be taken to reduce any risk and any danger."
And that of Israel:
Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, said that the alleged transfer would alter the strategic balance of power between Hizbollah and Israel, which fought a short but bloody war in 2006.
An aide to Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said that the pace of Hizbollah's re-armament and Syria's role in it was causing growing alarm in the Jewish state.
"We are very conscious of the build-up of Hizbollah's military machine," the aide said. "We have unfortunately seen new types and greater quality of missiles. The Syrian role in passing those weapons to Hizbollah is ongoing and is dangerous."
Al-Rai, the Kuwaiti newspaper which first raised the allegations, said a Hizbollah source had confirmed it had access to Scuds but that they were old and unusable. The source said the issue was being blown out of proportion by Israel in order to create a media frenzy.
The newspaper did, however, link the claims to Hizbollah's threat that if Lebanese infrastructure, such as Beirut Airport , came under attack in the event of conflict, Israel would be hit in turn, including towns at the edge of the range of Hizbollah's known missile arsenal.
What is undisputed is that all sides are raising the stakes in the absence of negotiations between Israel and either Palestinian factions or Syria.
Look for oil to go to $150 if these escalations finally materialize into something real.
Israel might be preparing a military strike against Syria by accusing Damascus of supplying Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon with long-range Scud missiles, the Syrian government said on Thursday.
President Shimon Peres on Tuesday accused Syria of sending Hezbollah long-range Scuds. The United States said on Wednesday it was "increasingly concerned" about the transfer of more sophisticated weaponry to the Syrian and Iranian-backed Islamist group that fought a war with Israel in 2006.
"Israel aims from this to raise tension further in the region and to create an atmosphere for probable Israeli aggression," the Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "The Syrian Arab Republic denies these fabrications."
Hezbollah hit Israel with shorter range rockets during the 2006 war as at that time it lacked a longer-ranger missile capability.
An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Scuds were smuggled to Hezbollah in the past two months.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak insisted earlier this week that Israel does not have aggressive intentions in the area.
"We expect and recommend that everyone keep the current calm but as we've said, the introduction of systems that disturb the balance endanger the stability and the calm, he said.
The United States said the move would have a possible "destabilizing effect" on the region. The presence of more advanced missiles in Lebanon could raise the prospects of a pre-emptive strike by Israel.
Hezbollah is on the U.S. terrorism blacklist, but is part of Lebanon's unity government.
The Lebanese government has had no comment on the U.S. allegations. But Hezbollah lawmaker Hassan Fadlallah said the comments made by the White House were interference.
"This American interference that has completely adopted the Israeli position, is condemned and rejected by Lebanon. This U.S. position presents a threat to Lebanon," Fadlallah said.
"These American pressures and Israeli intimidation will not affect our choices and our commitment to defend our country by all means," Fadlallah told Reuters.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in February that if Israel struck Beirut's airport, the group would hit Israel's Ben-Gurion airport.
While tension between Syria and Israel has increased this year, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said last month he remained committed to seeking peace with Israwl.
Syrian and Israeli forces last fought each other in Lebanon in the 1980s. A 1974 ceasefire has kept the front between the two quiet on the Golan Heights, which Israeli captured in the 1967 Siz-Day War.
The two sides held four rounds of indirect peace talks in 2008, only eight months after Israeli plains bombed a target in eastern Syria the United States, Israel's chief ally, said was an illegal nuclear project.
Syria said the target was a non-nuclear military installation, and "reserved the right to respond in the appropriate time and place."