It’s nothing unusual for the flagship neocon rag, the Weekly Standard, to try to start wars in the Middle East. But Gabriel Schoenfeld’s post today on the magazine’s blog was irresponsible even by the Standard‘s… well, standards.
Schoenfeld, a fellow at the neocon Hudson Institute, fabricates the details of incidents at the southern and northern edges of Israel in order to connect the attacks to the Islamic Republic.
In his post, ominously titled “Are the Winds of War Blowing?,” Schoenfeld wonders aloud, “Are the ayatollahs preparing preemptive action of their own, taking the battle to the borders of the Zionist enemy?”
Just how are the Iranians attacking the borders of Israel? Through their proxies Hamas and Hezbollah, of course. As evidence of this menacing military campaign, Schoenfeld cites three encounters over the past week:
On July 30, after a prolonged interval without such attacks, Hamas lobbed a Grad rocket into a residential area in the Israeli city of Ashkelon.
On August 2, another Grad was fired from the Sinai Peninsula toward the Israeli resort city of Eilat; it landed in the neighboring Jordanian city of Aqaba, where it killed a taxi driver and wounded five people.
On August 3, Hezbollah initiated a gun battle against Israeli soldiers operating within Israel next to its border fence, killing an Israeli officer.
No links are provided for the first two incidents, so let me clarify a few things: A rocket from Gaza did indeed land in Ashkelon last week, but Hamas did not launch or “lob” it. Even Haaretz reported that:
The Israeli military believes that Hamas was not responsible for the [rocket] attack and that the Islamist organization which controls the Gaza Strip is not interested in escalating tensions in the area, Army Radio reported.
In the second incident, of the rocket apparently fired from the Sinai, Haaretz reports that, “No group has yet taken responsibility for the attack.” Egypt, for its part, only blamed “Palestinian factions,” initially denying that the rockets had come from the Sinai at all, and failing to specify a group. (Hamas is an offshoot of the Egyptian-founded Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in Egypt, so presumably the authorities would have little problem blaming the group if they suspected their involvement.)
For the third incident, Schoenfeld does provide a link. But if he bothered to read through the BBC article he chose, he would see that the clash on Israel’s northern border was with the Lebanese Army, not the Shia militia, Hezbollah, as Schoenfeld breathlessly states by claiming “Hezbollah initiated a gun battle against Israeli soldiers.”
Yes, both Hezbollah and Hamas are supported by the Islamic Republic as part of a far-reaching PR campaign by Iran to increase its regional clout (which is only aided by the festering Israeli-Palestinian conflict). But this does not, by default, mean that the Iran is behind every clash in the region.
While the origins of the first two attacks remain in the dark, Schoenfeld is ready to proclaim Hamas the culprits with zero evidence. On the third score, he simply doesn’t know what’s going on or fabricates the events to blame another Iranian proxy.
All this winds up with him, perhaps in a case of projection, suggesting that Iran is starting a war with Israel, no doubt aiming to rile up U.S.-based support for taking Israel’s side in said war.
And this from a guy who wrote a piece last month for the Wall Street Journal titled “Avoiding Another Intelligence Failure on Iran.”
Before making his fact-free claims, however, Schoenfeld writes, “As Iran makes its way into the endgame of its nuclear-bomb making program, it may be growing more worried about the prospect of a preemptive Israeli strike.” Leaving aside his evidence-free assertions about the advancement of Iran’s nuclear program, Schoenfeld does cite here the more likely scenario, with Israel cast as the aggressor.