Asia Times Online :: Middle East News – Cry havoc, and let slip the puppies of war
Dogs of war incline toward caution, which after all is how they grew up to be dogs. More worrisome are puppies, who do not know what danger is. Gavrilo Princeps, the Serbian gunman who shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand dead in June 1914, was a puppy. So are the Hamas kidnappers, who at this writing still hold Israeli Army Corporal Gilad Shalit, and the Mehdi Army shooters who reportedly disposed of several dozen Sunni civilians in Baghdad on the weekend. The North Koreans, by contrast, are just nasty old dogs who long ago got loose from their leash.
Wars start because no one wants to disown his dog. If your dog bites a neighbor, your neighbor well might come after you with a shotgun. Nicholas II of Russia, I observed recently, did not want war in 1914 and until the end of July insisted that no war would break out.  But the Serbian puppies supported by his secret service dragged him into it willy-nilly. The past week’s events in the Middle East have a disturbing feel of July 1914 about them.
Hamas, for that matter, cannot disown the hotheads who provoked the Gaza crisis by kidnapping the Israeli corporal, or the rocketeers who incited the Israeli attack on northern Gaza by targeting Israeli towns, any more than Iran can disown the butchers of the Mehdi Army, a Shi’ite militia loyal to the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. It is not clear either whether Saudi Arabia can disown Hamas, nor the Somali Islamists who seized the country from the warlords last month. Saudi cash smuggled in through Gaza has kept the Hamas regime afloat in the face of a boycott by Western powers, and the US State Department complains that Saudi Arabia is funding the Somali Union of Islamic Courts. 
The old dogs in Tehran and Riyadh can do nothing to satisfy the deeply felt and long-frustrated aspirations of their pups in the Gaza strip or Baghdad’s Sadr City, no more than Nicholas II could requite the nationalist hopes of Serbia without going to war with Austria and Germany. In fact, nothing can dampen the Palestinians’ existential outrage against the misery of their circumstances, or fulfill the ambitions of Iraq’s Shi’ites without the reduction of the Sunni population.
That leaves Tehran in a dilemma. Iran’s power rests on its ability to threaten destabilization, especially in Iraq, and it is counting on this to keep the Bush administration at bay. Even the greatest military autocrat, though, is constrained by the character of his army, and the standing of the region’s little powers depends on the outcome of the puppy fights now in progress. The logical result is continued escalation until America and Iran stand off in earnest.
Saudi Arabia, by the same token, cannot abandon its Sunni brethren in Iraq by acquiescing to an Iranian power play, which in the long run threatens the kingdom’s own security. Dallas Morning News editor Rod Dreher spoke to Saudi Minister of State Abdullah Zainal Alireza on June 28, who stated “that the US cannot allow Iran to get the bomb”. Dreher asked him, “What if it happens anyway?” The Saudi minister, Dreher reported, “repeated, firmly, that it must not be allowed to happen. Period. The end.” 
This declaration to a prominent US journalist should be assigned high significance. As I observed earlier this year, “Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have the most to lose from a nuclear-equipped Iran. No one can predict when the Saudi kingdom might become unstable, but whenever it does, Iran will stand ready to support its Shi’ite co-religionists, who make up a majority in the kingdom’s oil-producing east.” 
It should be no surprise that Western governments are watching the events in Gaza slack-jawed and confused. Not only the dogs, but the dogs’ owners, have plunged into the melee. The divisions inside Hamas make matters more complicated still.
Hamas’ military wing in Gaza takes orders from the Syrian-based Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, “because he distributes the funds received from Iran and the Gulf States”, as the Guardian of London reported July 4. The region’s governments blame each other for failing to persuade Meshaal to free the Israeli corporal.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has the most to lose, blames Syria for ignoring Egyptian requests to arrange the soldier’s release. But the Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath told the Saudi daily Al-Watan on July 9 that both Egypt and Saudi Arabia were blocking Western efforts to convince Iran and Syria to use their good offices to free Shalit.