PART 3: The political war By Alastair Crooke and Mark Perry In the wake of the Israel-Hezbollah conflict, a public poll in Egypt asked a cross- section of that country's citizenry to name the two political leaders they most admired, an overwhelming number named Hassan Nasrallah, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad finished second. The poll was a clear repudiation not only of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who had made his views against Hezbollah known at the outset of the conflict, but of those Sunni leaders, including Saudi King Abdullah and Jordan's Abdullah II, who criticized the Shiite group in an avowed attempt to turn the Sunni world away from support of Iran. By the end of the war these guys were scrambling for the exits," one US diplomat from the region said in late August. "You haven't heard much from them lately, have you?" Mubarak and the two Abdullahs are not the only ones scrambling for the exits - the United States ' foreign policy in the region, even in light of its increasingly dire deployment in Iraq , is in shambles. "What that means is that all the doors are closed to us, in Cairo , in Amman , in Saudi Arabia ," another diplomat averred. "Our access has been curtailed, no one will see us. When we call no one picks up the phone." A talisman of this collapse can be seen in the itinerary of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, whose inability to persuade President George Bush to halt the fighting and her remark about the conflict as marking "the birth pangs" of a new Middle East in effect destroyed her credibility, the US has made it clear that it will attempt to retrieve its position by backing a yet-to-be-announced Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, but America's continued strangulation of the democratically constituted government of the Palestinian Authority has transformed that pledge into a stillborn political program. The reason for this is now eminently clear. In the midst of the war, a European official in Cairo had this to say about the emotions roiling the Egyptian political environment: "The Egyptian leadership is walking down one side of the street," he said, "and the Egyptian people are walking down the other." The catastrophic failure of Israeli arms has buoyed Iran 's claim to leadership of the Muslim world in several critical areas. First, the Hezbollah victory has shown that Israel and any modern and technologically sophisticated Western military force can be defeated in open battle, if the proper military tactics are employed and if they are sustained over a prolonged period. Hezbollah has provided the model for the defeat of a modern army. The tactics are simple: ride out the first wave of a Western air campaign, then deploy rocket forces targeting key military and economic assets of the enemy, then ride out a second and more critical air campaign, and then prolong the conflict for an extended period. At some point, as in the case of Israel 's attack on Hezbollah, the enemy will be forced to commit ground troops to accomplish what its air forces could not. It is in this last, and critical, phase that a dedicated, well-trained and well-led force can exact enormous pain on a modern military establishment and defeat it. Second, the Hezbollah victory has shown the people of the Muslim world that the strategy employed by Western-allied Arab and Muslim governments policy of appeasing US interests in the hopes of gaining substantive political rewards (a recognition of Palestinian rights, fair pricing for Middle Eastern resources, non-interference in the region's political structures, and free, fair and open elections) cannot and will not work. The Hezbollah victory provides another and different model, of shattering US hegemony and destroying its stature in the region. Of the two most recent events in the Middle East, the invasion of Iraq and the Hezbollah victory over Israel , the latter is by far the most important. Even otherwise anti-Hezbollah groups, including those associated with revolutionary Sunni resistance movements who look on Shiites as apostates, have been humbled. Third, the Hezbollah victory has had a shattering impact on America 's allies in the region. Israeli intelligence officials calculated that Hezbollah could carry on its war for upwards of three months after its end in the middle of August. Hezbollah's calculations reflected Israel 's findings, with the caveat that neither the Hezbollah nor Iranian leadership could predict what course to follow after a Hezbollah victory. While Jordan 's intelligence services locked down any pro-Hezbollah demonstrations, Egypt 's intelligence services were struggling to monitor the growing public dismay over the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon . Open support for Hezbollah across the Arab world (including, strangely, portraits of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah carried in the midst of Christian celebrations) has put those Arab rulers closest to the United States on notice: a further erosion in their status could loosen their hold on their own nations. It seems likely that as a result, Mubarak and the two Abdullahs are very unlikely to support any US program calling for economic, political or military pressures on Iran . A future war - perhaps a US military campaign against Iran 's nuclear sites might not unseat the government in Tehran , but it could well unseat the governments of Egypt , Jordan and perhaps Saudi Arabia . At a key point in the Israel-Hezbollah contest, toward the end of the war, Islamist party leaders in a number of countries wondered whether they would be able to continue their control over their movements or whether, as they feared, political action would be ceded to street captains and revolutionaries. The singular notion, now common in intelligence circles in the United States , is that it was Israel (and not Hezbollah) that, as of August 10, was looking for a way out of the conflict. Fourth, the Hezbollah victory has dangerously weakened the Israeli government. In the wake of Israel âs last lost war, in 1973, Prime Minister Menachem Begin decided to accept a peace proposal from Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. The breakthrough was, in fact, rather modest as both parties were allies of the United States . No such breakthrough will take place in the wake of the Israel-Hezbollah war. Israel believes that it has lost its deterrent capabilities and that they must be retrieved. Some Israeli officials in Washington now confirm that it is not a matter of "if" but of "when" Israel goes to war again. Yet it is difficult to determine how Israel can do that. To fight and win against Hezbollah , Israel will need to retrain and refit its army. Like the United States after the Vietnam debacle, Israel will have to restructure its military leadership and rebuild its intelligence assets. That will take years, not months. It may be that Israel will opt, in future operations, for the deployment of ever bigger Weapons against ever larger targets. Considering its performance in Lebanon , such uses of ever larger weapons could spell an even more robust response. This is not out of the question. A US attack on Iranian nuclear installations would likely be answered by an Iranian missile attack on Israel 's nuclear installations, and on Israeli population centres. No one can predict how Israel would react to such an attack, but it is clear that (given Bush's stance in the recent conflict) the United States would do nothing to stop it. The "glass house" of the Persian Gulf region, targeted by Iranian missiles, would then assuredly come crashing down. Fifth, the Hezbollah victory spells the end of any hope of a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, at least in the short and medium terms even normally "progressive" Israeli political figures undermined their political position with strident calls for more force, more troops and more bombs. In private meetings with his political allies, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas castigated those who cheered on Hezbollah's victory, calling them "Hamas supporters" and "enemies of Israel ". Abbas is in a far more tenuous position than Mubarak or the two Abdullahs, his people's support for Hamas continues, as does his slavish agreement with George W Bush, who told him on the sidelines of the United Nations Security Council meeting that he was to end all attempts to form a unity government with his fellow citizens.