The Coming Venezuela Missile Crisis

The Coming Venezuela Missile Crisis

By Jed Babbin - December 22, 2010

The next Israeli crisis is being manufactured in South America. As unimaginable as it is for the byzantine politics of Latin America to become more complicated, a metastasized Middle Eastern "peace process" has produced just that result.

That crisis will consume much international attention next year, though a more important spread of Middle Eastern conflict to the Americas - the partnership between Iran and Venezuela - will likely be ignored until it is too late to resolve by any means short of war.

On December 1, Brazil's president Lula de Silva - at the request of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas - recognized the Palestinians as a nation. The Brazilian declaration was contained in a letter from de Silva to Abbas and recognized the Palestinian state not on the borders of its current authority but on the 1967 borders with Israel.

By that declaration, Lula implicitly gave the Palestinians control over East Jerusalem, the portions of the West Bank held by Israel since the 1967 war as well as the Gaza Strip, now governed not by Abbas' Palestinian Authority but by the terrorist organization Hamas.

Three days later, Argentina did the same. Both Uruguay and Ecuador are expected to follow suit and the European Union is reportedly considering similar action.

Before the declarations by Brazil and Argentina, Iran reportedly agreed to sell Hugo Chavez's Venezuela medium-range missiles capable of reaching the United States. The two will establish a joint Iranian-Venezuelan base in the latter country to conduct further development of ground-to-ground missiles. In this case "development" must also mean joint training and operation of the missiles, meaning Iran would have some control over their armament and launch.

Abbas' solicitation of the actions by Brazil the others is a violation of the 1993 Oslo Accords which established the Palestinian National Authority and provided that a Palestinian state could be established by mutual agreement which would be granted by Israel in stages. The requests for recognition vitiate that part of Oslo.

The Brazilian-Argentinian action undermines the Oslo Accords in another important way. As a predicate to those agreements, the Palestinian Authority renounced terrorism and its previous goal of the destruction of Israel. By recognizing the Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, the two South American nations have also implicitly recognized Hamas which has not renounced terrorism and whose charter explicitly calls for obliteration of Israel and replacing it with an Islamic state.

The South American nations' intent is probably nothing more than a bid for political power and notoriety. The Palestinians, however, are likely trying to lure them into acts designed to provoke Israel and perhaps establish a basis for a longer term action.

In the short term, nations that recognize the Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 war map could demand unfettered trade, providing the stage on which a series of other incidents like the one involving the Turkish flotilla could play out. If South American ships tried to run the blockade as the Turkish ships did, more incidents would result, and condemnations of Israel would multiply in the media and probably in the UN General Assembly, where the US lacks a veto.

Worse still, if Gaza were part of a recognized nation, any Israeli military incursions into Gaza in response to Hamas rocket attacks would result in UN debates and condemnations. Israel's adversaries would play up any raids as aggression against nation entitled to "defend" itself from Israeli "aggression."

Israel could soon be labeled a pariah nation along the lines of the infamous 1975 UN General Assembly's "Zionism is racism" resolution. That resolution stood for sixteen years.

In the long term, the Palestinians' plan could be to use a base of Latin American supporters to sponsor Palestinian membership in the United Nations.

Since 1974, the Palestinian Authority has been participating in UN activities as a "permanent observer", which means participating in General Assembly activities without being entitled to vote. Israel - a regular UN member - has, because of pressure from the PA and the Islamic states - never been granted a term on the UN Security Council.

Under the UN charter, for the Palestinian state recognized by Brazil and Argentina to become a full member of the UN, a resolution granting membership would have to be passed first by the Security Council and then by the General Assembly. Article 4 of the charter says that UN membership is open to all "...peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the...charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations." Nations such as North Korea and Iran are members in good standing.

The Iranian move to place medium range missiles in Venezuela - which may not be the impetus behind the actions by Brazil and Argentina - clearly threatens every nation within the missiles' range. Chavez's close relationship to the world's principal sponsor of terrorism isn't new, but it is a quantum leap in escalation of his enmity to America and his threat to South American democracies.

The 1962 Cuban missile crisis was the closest the United States came to a nuclear war. With Soviet medium range missiles in Cuba, capable of carrying nuclear warheads to any American city, JFK's demands that they be withdrawn were accompanied by the threat that we would remove them ourselves. An Air Force U-2 reconnaissance aircraft was shot down over Cuba raising tensions close to war. A naval blockade of Cuba was about to engage and turn back a Russian convoy when the Russians backed down.

Chavez's Venezuela was, for a time, Castro's Cuba on steroids. His new "socialist" revolution is bankrupting the nation, but Chavez is working diligently - with Iranian and Russian help - to do what his idol, Fidel, failed to do.

Unless President Obama acts decisively to stop the Iranian missiles and the Iranian base from being set up in Venezuela, Ahmadinejad will have succeeded where Kruschev failed. With Chavez in thrall to Iran, the terrorist nation will have gained a foothold in our hemisphere, proving able to do in South and Central America what it has done in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

If the first two years of the Obama administration are any guide, odds are that Israel will be alone in dealing with the Palestinian-manufactured crisis with Brazil and Argentina. But how will President Obama deal with the coming Venezuelan Missile Crisis?

Jed Babbin served as a deputy undersecretary of defense under George H.W. Bush.

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