Bloggers predict that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's severe stroke will strike a death blow to his newly assembled Kadima Party and possibly to peace negotiations in Israel. Meanwhile, the latest bombings across Iraq have bloggers wondering whether the U.S. military is affecting any improvements there. Also, Texas' defeat of USC in a nail-biter Rose Bowl has bloggers agreeing on something: that it was a great game.
Israel's uncertain future: Ariel Sharon is under heavy sedation after suffering a "massive stroke" and undergoing brain surgery early Thursday. Ehmud Olmert is serving as the acting prime minister. News reports call Sharon's return to power "unlikely."
The blog of the Middle East Foundation, which is "dedicated to pioneering a greater understanding of the Middle East and Islam," claims that Sharon's illness and possible demise will severely curtail any progress in the pullout of Israelis from disputed territories. "The effect of Sharon's stroke on Israeli politics will be huge—just as only Nixon could go to China, only Sharon could have evacuated Gaza. ... There was much speculation that after the anticipated success of his new Kadima party in the upcoming elections, Sharon would have withdrawn from much of the West Bank, as well. His stroke will embolden extremists in every direction."
Pro-Israel advocate David Gerstman at Israpundit suggests that had Sharon could have done more to educate the populace on the reasoning behind "territorial compromise" rather than strong-arming his agenda forward. "Steamrolling his opposition was how Sharon implemented the first disengagement; now that he's out of the picture for the near future it's not at all clear that there is anyone else who is capable of doing the same."
Gavin Ayling at GavPolitics insists that prospects for continued pullouts in Israel will be compromised because Israelis now have only two directions to turn for leadership: "1) A hard-liner who will be criticised by the West as being unable to negotiate; or 2) A weak socialist who will not be able to convince his people that further concessions are the answer."
Stephen Green on Vodkapundit seconds that opinion, lamenting, "There's never a good time to die, but Ariel Sharon's timing couldn't be worse." He fears Sharon's new, centrist Kadima party has no chance of survival if its leader perishes. Phlip on Phlip's Rants puts it this way: "My best guess is that the Netanhayu led Likud bloc would absorb most of the Kadima party because Sharon was Kadima and I can't see that party being anything but dead without him." Commissar on the Politburo Diktat says: "This is terrible news. Sharon's incapacity can only work to the advantage of the Likud hard-liners."
A violent surge: More than 100 people died in Iraq on Thursday during a spate of violence that included suicide bombs, roadside bombs, and overall mayhem. It's among the deadliest days in Iraq since the war began in 2003.
Paul on the Underground Sanity blog asserts that the recent violence has less to do with ideological battles within the fractured nation than with a desire to rid itself of American occupation. "[T]here really is no terrorist leader or group in charge of the insurgency and attacks that we are now seeing. ... The only real unifying factor seems to be a large majority of Iraqis who want the US out of their country because of the inflammatory impact of the occupation."
Pointing out that President Bush said we'd consider withdrawing if things quieted in Iraq, AJStrata on The Strata-Sphere counters Paul: "Sounds like the insurgents want us to stay or they have been listening to cues from the liberals in our country. The bombings tend to strengthen the resolves of the massively larger pro-democracy elements in Iraq."
At Informed Comment, Middle Eastern studies professor Juan Cole argues that the Bush administration is not living up to many of its claims about the war, as evidenced by the recent bombings. He refutes the notions that mostly fringe elements are causing the insurgency in Iraq and that the Iraqi police and military are being strengthened in preparation to take over their own defense. Cole also calls into question the assertion that the U.S. military is taking an offensive stance to prevent bombings by insurgents.
Read more about the bombings in Iraq.
Coming up roses: A rousing Rose Bowl left bloggers buzzing about Texas' 38-41 victory over USC, which ended the Trojans winning streak at 34.
A poster on Redstate.org was happy with the outcome. "Getting to see the look on the faces of Leinart, Bush, Carroll, etc. was priceless. The greatest team in the history of college football (according to ESPN) just lost! Great stuff."
Reggie Bush's attempt at a lateral pass that resulted in a turnover was universally decried. On Brazosport News Banjo Jones said that, after yesterday's game, the Houston Texans should rethink picking Reggie Bush in the first round of the NFL draft. "Bush demonstrated he's not Superman in the Rose Bowl." Ryan at Death Valley Saturdays calls Bush's lateral the "stupidest play I've seen all year" and thinks the USC team "got outcoached," but he ranks the game "an all-time classic."