U.S., Israel Aim to Weaken Hezbollah, Region's Militants
"Israel, with U.S. support, intends to resist calls for a cease-fire and continue a longer-term strategy of punishing Hezbollah, which is likely to include several weeks of precision bombing in Lebanon, according to senior Israeli and U.S. officials.
For the United States, the broader goal is to strangle the axis of Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and Iran, which the Bush administration believes is pooling resources to change the strategic playing field in the Middle East, U.S. officials say.
Whatever the outrage on the Arab streets, Washington believes it has strong behind-the-scenes support among key Arab leaders also nervous about the populist militants -- with a tacit agreement that the timing is right to strike.
"What is out there is concern among conservative Arab allies that there is a hegemonic Persian threat [running] through Damascus, through the southern suburbs of Beirut and to the Palestinians in Hamas," said a senior U.S. official who requested anonymity because of sensitive diplomacy. "Regional leaders want to find a way to navigate unease on their streets and deal with the strategic threats to take down Hezbollah and Hamas, to come out of the crisis where they are not as ascendant."
Hezbollah's cross-border raid that captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight others has provided a "unique moment" with a "convergence of interests" among Israel, some Arab regimes and even those in Lebanon who want to rein in the country's last private army, the senior Israeli official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing conflict.
Israel and the United States would like to hold out until Hezbollah is crippled.
"It seems like we will go to the end now," said Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon. "We will not go part way and be held hostage again. We'll have to go for the kill -- Hezbollah neutralization.""