Sunday, August 13, 2006

Who Won? -- Part 2

Israel is pressing Hezbollah as much as possible during the countdown to the cease fire. The most likely scenario is that the cease fire breaks down, so the assaults of the last two days will ultimately prove wise. Hezbollah leadership is already opposed to cease fire provisions that they disarm south of the Litani. The Lebanese cabinet, which had earlier been united, postponed a session about how 15,000 Lebanese troops would be deployed into Hezbollah controlled south Lebanon. The objections came from Hezbollah ministers serving in the cabinet.

The cease fire is simply that: a cessation of fighting to allow attempts at a negotiated settlement. It's provisions are legal in nature and minimally binding, and Israpundit reports at least some rumors about how Israel views it's legal obligations. The most promising is that they are working with some elements of the Lebanese government to help Lebanon crush Hezbollah. Israel's other points are probably legally correct, but if acted upon would bring many recriminations from the ever-so noble international community. They all revolve around pressing the edges of definitions of self-defense.

Via Israel Matzav, a Lebanese writer articulates the bitterness of some Lebanese towards both Hezbollah and their own leaders:

The national salvation discussions that concerned the application of Resolution 1559 and which included most of the Lebanese political movements were simply for show. Iran and Syria had not invested billions of dollars on militarizing Lebanon in order to wage their war, simply to give in to the desire of the Lebanese and the international community for them to pack up their hardware and set it up back home.


We had two years to put implement this resolution and thus guarantee a peaceful future to our children but we did strictly nothing. Our greatest crime -– which was not the only one! -– was not that we did not succeed but that we did not attempt or undertake anything. And that was the fault of none else than the pathetic Lebanese politicians.

There's much more, including further proof that despite the rending of garments over every Israeli missile strike, their bombing has been as precise and clearly targeted as modern warfare will allow:
Moreover the road and airport infrastructures were put out of working order : they served to provide Hezbollah with arms and munitions. Apart from that, Tsahal has neither hit nor deteriorated anything, and all those who speak of the "destruction of Beirut" are either liars, Iranians, anti-Semites or absent. Even the houses situated one alley'’s distance from the targets I mentioned have not been hit, they have not even suffered a scratch; on contemplating these results of this work you understand the meaning of the concept "surgical strikes" and you can admire the dexterity of the Jewish pilots.


The defeat of the Shi'a fundamentalists of Iranian allegiance is imminent. The figures communicated by Nasrallah's minions and by the Lebanese Red-Cross are deceiving: firstly, of the 400 dead declared by Lebanon, only 150 are real collateral civilian victims of the war, the others were militiamen without uniform serving Iran. The photographic report "Les Civils des bilans libanais" made by Stephane Juffa for our agency constitutes, to this day, the unique tangible evidence of this gigantic morbid manipulation. Which makes this document eminently important.

Moreover, Hassan Nasrallah's organization has not lost 200 combatants, as Tsahal claims. This figure only concerns the combats taking place on the border and even then the Israelis underestimate it, for a reason that escapes me, by about a hundred militiamen eliminated. The real count of Hezbollah's casualties, that includes those dead in Beirut, the Bekaa Valley, Baalbek and their other camps, rocket and missile launchers and arms and munition depots amounts to 1,100 supplementary Hezbollah militiamen who have definitively ceased to terrorize and humiliate my country.

Hezbollah's declared victory is really a non-defeat: they have so far not been destroyed, so they proclaim themselves superior to the invincible Israeli military. Madness, yes, but they must believe it plays well among Arabs and Muslims, as it has been their argument from the start.

However, there are some indications that the Arab governments dominated by Sunni Muslims are taking steps to neutralize Shia Hezbollah and their sponsors in Shiite Iran. At Publius Pundit, Nouri Lumendifi (of A Moor Next Door) argues for an Arab-Iranian cold war, and I believe we've seen the beginnings of such a phenomena in the Arab Leagues insistent advocacy on behalf of Lebanon's central government.

Hezbollah's "victory" may in fact turn into a broader defeat, even if the cease fire holds. Via Meryl Yourish, a discussion from Bradley Burston of what the Arab world turning on Hezbollah might look like:
The world is scared of Hezbollah. Because the whole world is scared of Iran. Especially large swaths of the Arab world.

If, for the first time, Hezbollah is forced by international pressure to pull back its fighters in favor of the Lebanese army and a multi-national force, even at the cost of a large prisoner exchange.

"In the past we used to oppose or not agree on deployment of the army at the borders," the Hezbollah leader said this week, spending a large part of a televised speech deflecting what he called criticism of his policies, apparently from fellow Lebanese. Now, he said, "we agree on deployment of the army."

When this war is over and Israel's troops are gone from Lebanon, and when the rage at Israel begins to subside, it will be Nasrallah's turn - like Nasser's four decades ago - to answer to fellow Arabs for his actions.

One element Burston mentions, an element upon which arguments such as his rely, is the relative silence of the world towards Israeli action, at least for the first few weeks. The unlikelihood that this silence will continue is why I think Israel will ultimately be the loser in this war, at least in the sense that Hezbollah will continue to be an active military force in south Lebanon that is sponsored by Iran and Syria. Already, criticism surrounding Israel's bombing campaign has caused American politicians to consider restricting the munitions that they sell to Israel, and great controversy ensued when the U.S. attempted to send weapons to Israel through Great Britain. Hezbollah needn't worry about their own supporters cutting them off.


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