It is without doubt that Iran and Syria have had a major role in the recent Middle East crisis. The rockets being fired into Israel are Iranian made. Other arms and monetary support are coming directly from both Damascus and Tehran.
I doubt that it was coincidence that Hezbollah decided to instigate conflict now.
The Israeli government is new. It was an opportune time for Hezbollah (and Syria/Iran) to test the reactions of the new government. If Hezbollah strikes and Israel does nothing, the Israelis as well as the rest of the Muslim world see Israel as being weak, thus giving Hezbollah/Hamas an easier time confronting and gaining an upper hand on Israel.
If Israel responds with a proportional response, it is business as usual. No harm, no foul.
If Israel responds in the way that it did, a disproportional response, than Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah come out a winner.
First, a disproportional response puts the sympathies on Lebanon and the people killed from Israeli strikes. Even if Hezbollah is weakened militarily, it will have no problem replacing its membership, or even adding to it.
Second, even though we all know that Iran and Syria are part of this, Israel can do nothing against them. Toppling the Syrian government would leave a vacuum that will only be filled with even more extremist elements. Israel can't move against Iran because that would only give it an additional excuse to carry on its nuclear program. It would easily claim that due to the aggression of its regional neighbor, not only does it have the right to conduct peaceful nuclear operations, but the imperative to build a deterrent nuclear arsenal to protect it from Israeli attack. The U.S. would be remiss in not stopping an attack on either one of the countries because it would most certainly lead to a spill over of the conflict into Iraq.
In the mean time, the worlds attention is turned away from the Iranian nuclear crisis, and/or allows them to use their support in halting the conflict as a bargaining chip in the nuclear negotiations. Iran has announce that it will reply to the U.S. demands and incentives on July 22nd. Don't be surprised if Iran uses the conflict in Lebanon as a rationale for some part of its reply.
Syria, having suffered a recent black eye from being kicked out of Lebanon, will have the impetus to re-enter Lebanon, if not even being outright asked to re-enter.
The U.S. is bogged down in Iraq, and has spent most of its political capital around the world. What little it has left, it needs to unite the major powers against the Iranian nuclear threat. If the U.S. uses up what it has left of political capital in trying to quell the Lebanon conflict, it will have less to use against Iran, and Iran knows this. While Israel has frim support in the U.S. it does not have the same support in the rest of the world. For Bush to get Europe to back Israel in this crisis may hurt our bility to get their support in other diplomatic fronts.
Annan Calls for Immediate Halt to Israel-Hezbollah Conflict, but this is a problem without a radiant political solution. Neither Iran or Syria have it in their best interest to cut off funding and support to Hezbollah in the near future. Hezbollah has no desire to come to a political solution at all. Its only objective is to destroy Israel and kill as many Jews as possible in the process.
Iran and Syria have played this very well so far. it will take some beautiful diplomatic work on the part of the U.S. to calm tensions and retain its position on the Iran nuclear issue. Unfortunately, diplomacy is not Bush's strong suit.