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Friday, August 18, 2006

Cease fire Hudna on verge of collapse - or is it?

Last night, I noted that the United Nations members, let by the gutless French, are having problems finding enough troops to make up an 'international peacekeeping force.' The force, which will not disarm Hezbullah, currently has 3500 volunteers, of whom 2000 come from Bangladesh. So much for a 'peacekeeping force' of the French, Italians and Germans.

All of which has Barry Rubin wondering whether the cease fire is about to fall apart altogether:

The Monty Python Prize for Arab politics must go to Emile Lahoud, the well-known Syrian puppet who also happens to be Lebanon's president. Hizbullah, he explains, "is part of the Lebanese army." Rather than disarm Hizbullah, he is saying, Lebanon's army should fight alongside of it. Israel, by his account, should turn over southern Lebanon to the joint Lebanese army-Hizbullah forces.

Aside from invalidating the cease-fire, what Lahoud has done is to justify completely Israel's war effort. For if Hizbullah is part of Lebanon's army (it is already a member of the coalition government), then the attack on Israel was an act of war by Lebanon, which was completely responsible for everything that happened next.

If this is true, why should the international community rush reconstruction aid to the aggressor? And how can a cease-fire depend on a government which views itself not as Hizbullah's master but as its ally?

We may very well be on the verge of an amazing turnaround regarding the cease-fire in Lebanon organized by the UN Security Council.

Consider the following points:

A. Hizbullah says it will not disarm voluntarily either in southern Lebanon or in the rest of the country.

B. Lebanon says it will not disarm Hizbullah unless it wants to be disarmed.

C. France, which is leading the national force of 15,000 UNIFIL soldiers that is supposed to be organized, says it will not send any troops if Hizbullah still has arms in southern Lebanon. [Recall that one of the differences between the US concept and the French concept of the hudna was that in the US concept, Hezbullah would first be disarmed, while it was the French who insisted that Israel withdraw immediately. It was France that kept insisting that the 'international force' would disarm Hezbullah. CiJ]

D. Israel says that if Hizbullah does return to its positions with weapons, the IDF will resume its offensive.

In short, the whole basis of the cease-fire is on the verge of collapse, and it is hard to see how it can be saved.

The reason for this is that Hizbullah will not even accept the minimum actions needed to activate the cease-fire. Its motives for this are several:

  • Hizbullah leaders may believe their
  • Given their ideology and practice, they are not interested in making any compromise but believe they can get everything they want.
  • They are being prodded toward intransigence by Iran and Syria.
  • They have contempt for the West, which they see as a paper tiger, unwilling to take action against them.

    Yet their concept of the situation is quite wrong. On a military level, they lost the war, despite their public relations successes. What we saw is actually fairly typical of wars historically. One side attacks using new techniques and weapons, at first scoring some successes. After a while, however, the other side adapts to these challenges and goes on to inflict heavy losses and take control of the battlefield.

  • And here comes my problem with Barry's analysis: while he's right that we 'won' on a military level (or would have won had the war continued for another week with the actions we were taking in its last two days), Barry is discounting the fact that our country is currently led by the triumvirate of Ehud Olmert, Amir Comrade Peretz and Tzippi Livni (if she's back from New York already). Do any of them really have the courage to let the army do what needs to be done?

    While Rubin may be right that
    If the war restarts, Hizbullah is going to face far greater pressures, especially since the Israeli government's leaders have already been harshly criticized for going too slowly in the ground offensive.
    I would feel a lot more comfortable with that claim if we still had most or all of our troops in Lebanon. But having rushed to withdraw them before the 'international force' arrived,' I have some fear that it's going to take a while to get the troops back in - and Hezbullah can use that time to regroup. When you finish running a marathon, you're not ready right away to go for another hard effort, whereas if you were just continuing the marathon into an ultra-marathon, you don't stop and you don't have the time to stiffen.

    Rubin then makes the following claim:

    And that is not all. Hizbullah may face a two-front war. Lebanese Christians, Druze and Sunnis, the majority of the population, are largely angry at how Hizbullah dragged their country into a war and is increasingly subjugated it to Iran and Syria.

    Even within Hizbullah's own Shi'ite constituency, the rival Amal movement is trying to make a comeback by showing Shi'ites that it provides better services than Hizbullah. How are those just returning to southern Lebanon going to feel about the prospect of fleeing again?

    Having read a lot of Lebanese blogs over the last month, I agree that all of the other groups in Lebanon's ethnic balance are furious with Hezbullah. The problem is that the only party with whom they are more angry than Hezbullah is us. Are they going to help us if we have to go back in there? I doubt it. They may make a lot of mayhem, but if there's going to be a civil war I doubt it will happen while Hezbullah is fighting us.

    The Saudis are eager to fund anti-Hizbullah forces in Lebanon. There may or may not be another civil war in Lebanon but Hizbullah is definitely not becoming more popular there, whatever cheers it receives from those elsewhere in the Arab world who paid no price for the fighting.

    And what about the international community? It is not going to be happy about Hizbullah, with the help of its Iranian and Syrian backers, wrecking the UN peace effort. It is going to be hard to criticize Israel for taking military action under such conditions.

    I would not hold my breath waiting for the Saudis or the 'international community.' Any support we get will be tacit at best.

    I know that there are Lebanese who read this blog occasionally. Please feel free to comment.

    Oh yes, and read the whole thing.


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