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Lebanon: Who is winning and what comes next?

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  • Ami Isseroff
    Lebanon: Who is winning and what comes next? http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000204.html 08.08.2006 After almost a month of conflict, Hezbollah
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 8, 2006
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       Lebanon: Who is winning and what comes next?

      After almost a month of conflict, Hezbollah maintains its ability to fire rockets at Israel, and Nasrallah is still alive. Given the relatively limited force that was applied by the IDF - less than a division on the ground, sent in belatedly, this result is not surprising, though it is frankly disappointing. Given the wave of "atrocity" and "war crimes" complaints coming from many of the same quarters who insist Israel is losing, it is unlikely that Israel could have been allowed by those critics and "World Opinion" to do the job that needs to be done: disarming the Hezbollah and implementing UN Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1680. That task will probably have to wait for a multi-national force, if one can be formed that has the required intelligence capabilities and motivation to do the job. Don't hold your breath waiting for this force. Perhaps deployment of the Lebanese army will solve the problem, but it seems unlikely. This mostly Shi'ite force has proven its worthlessness repeatedly in the history of Lebanon. Will it have the will or the means to stand up to Hamas? Some Israeli commentators seem to think so. However the fact that Hezbollah readily agreed to deployment of the Lebanese army in the south, may indicate that they plan to either control this army or use it as a shield.

      Foreign and Israeli commentators have been arguing about whether or not Israel is losing this war. Some seem to be quite gleeful about the fact that Hezbollah, with the generous help of "world opinion," has withstood the IDF. Perhaps they do not understand the implications.

      What is certain, is that if Hezbollah remains intact, the people of Lebanon will have lost their struggle to unite and rebuild their shattered country. Islamist extremism and Iranian hegemonic ambitions will have scored a major victory in the Middle East.

      Lebanese journalist Michael Young, not a friend of Israel, writes in Slate that contrary to published opinion polls, he claims Lebanese do not support Hezbollah. Journalist Lee Smith, recently arrived in Jerusalem from Beirut, made the same points as Young about Lebanese attitude to Hezbollah. Maronite Christians are hoping against hope that Israel will smash Hezbollah and give them back their country. Other Christians and Sunnis are not enthusiastic about the big Hezbollah "victory" either. If Hezbollah is winning such a great victory, why was PM Seniora in tears yesterday?

      Young notes:

      ...in closed meetings, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has said his first priority—and fear—is to avoid the war's feeding sectarian strife. Officials won't express this openly, partly because Hezbollah is armed and mobilized, partly because the war continues. But such anxieties—and they permeate the political class—hardly speak to broad approval for the party.

      Young warns of the dangers for Lebanon if Hezbollah comes out of the fight more or less intact:

      By any measure, Hezbollah is facing a trial of tremendous seriousness...[I]t has also had to watch the dismantling of the painfully constructed edifice that once bolstered its domestic legitimacy. To play down this essentially political setback, Hezbollah has narrowly highlighted its tactical military successes. Down the road, however, it may try to regain the initiative through a full-fledged coup against the Lebanese system.
      This is the essence of Lebanon's dilemma as the war nears its fourth week. Does Hezbollah agree to integrate itself into the Lebanese political system and disarm? Or does it exploit its substantial reserves of men and weapons to bring all of Lebanon forcibly into line with the party's priorities? The first means the end of Hezbollah as we know it and is a suicide option; the second could bring Lebanon down around everybody's head in renewed civil war. Call it Hezbollah's Samson option.

      Rapid agreement on deployment a strong international force is needed not just to stop Hezbollah from firing missiles on Israel, but to prevent Hezbollah from taking over Lebanon.

      Time is running out. Young points out:

      In May, Iranian Revolutionary Guards Rear Adm. Muhammad-Ebrahim Dehqani declared, "We have announced that wherever America does something evil, the first place that we target will be Israel."

      In other words, this war was never really about kidnapped Israeli soldiers or Sheba farms. It's about Iran, stupid.

      Hezbollah's strike on July 12 was timed to coincide with the G-8 meeting which was to consider the response to the Iranian nuclear program. Clearly, Hezbollah are acting as puppets of Iran, as well as serving their own narrow local political interests.

      Young writes:

      While Hezbollah still retains thousands of rockets, mostly shorter-range Katyushas, can it even consider using them in, let's say, the next decade? With nearly 1 million people estimated to be displaced, a majority of them Shiites, and with Lebanon facing an economic calamity from which it won't emerge for many years, could Hezbollah—or, more important, its base of followers—withstand the devastating impact of a new Israeli onslaught if the party were to assist its comrades in Tehran? That's doubtful.

      Young seems very optimistic in that respect. Hezbollah doesn't care if there are more people in Lebanon. On the contrary. It recruits its following from among the poor Shiites, and would lose nothing if wealthier Sunni and Christian segments were ruined. Besides, it may be a mistake to assume that Nasrallah has the freedom to "just say no" when Tehran tells him to do something.

      The question may be tested well before the "next decade." Looming before us in September is the inevitable confrontation with Iran over sanctions to be imposed by the UN. If Hezbollah is still in a position to make trouble then, it will. Given the seriousness of the threat to Iran, we can gauge what Hezbollah will do if it only it can do it.

      Those who are concerned for the Lebanese people should disregard Seniora's crocodile tears for the mostly nonexistent victims of Houle, and insist on disarmament of the Hezbollah now.

      Ami Isseroff

      Copyright 2006 by Ami Isseroff. Posted at http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000204.html  where you may comment. Distributed by ZNN - (Subscribe - send email to znn-subscribe@ yahoogroups. com ). Please forward this message with this notice to help support Israel and Zionism.
      (text of Young's article is at the Web site)
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