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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Rubin: Not so bad in theory

Barry Rubin has a cold analysis (not an emotional one like I would write) of UN Security Council Resolution 1701. The entire analysis is worth reading, but here's what I consider the most important part:
This all brings us to the key provision: "The establishment between the [international border] and the Litani River of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL…." The question, of course, is whether this is going to happen.

A second important point is that no foreign forces - Syrian, Iranian, and Palestinian - will be in Lebanon without government consent. Equally, no arms are supposed to come into Lebanon without government authorization. As UN members, Syria and Iran are being asked to cooperate in this effort. It is a safe bet that they will not do so. Will anyone dare to report such behavior publicly, much less do anything about it?

As for disarming Hizbullah, this is said to be the government of Lebanon's job (i.e., the international force will do nothing on this issue) and presumably nothing will happen here either.

There were other things that could have been done easily - but were not. For example, there could be an international naval force to inspect ships coming to Lebanon or a unit at the airport to look at cargo planes. Instead, everything is being left in the Lebanese government's questionable hands.

But the central contradiction in the document is between OP11 and OP12. OP11 basically makes UNIFIL action dependent on the Lebanese government asking for help. In other words, only if the government asks UNIFIL to fight against terrorists in southern Lebanon or interdict arms smuggling can it act.

It should be noted that the Lebanese armed forces are a polite fiction. Just as Hizbullah is part of the government coalition, it has also deeply infiltrated the army. Half or even more of the soldiers sympathize with Hizbullah and will not do anything to - as they think of it - "protect" Israel from attack. It is not a highly disciplined military with a reliable chain of command. If a Lebanese soldier fires at Hizbullah, the entire army could split into two warring factions, something the government and politicians will want to avoid at any cost.

Yet OP12 says UNIFIL can take "all necessary action" in its area of deployment to fulfill its mission. This could be interpreted, for example, to mean that the UNIFIL units will attack terrorists south of the Litani without being explicitly asked to do so by the Lebanese government. Everything depends on who will command UNIFIL and what its rules of engagement are going to be. Will it honestly report violations or just look the other way? Will it only do what the Lebanese government expressly asks or take action to prevent cross-border attacks?

A lot will also depend on what strategy Hizbullah adapts and what Damascus and Teheran urge it to do. There is no chance of Hizbullah being destroyed, disarmed or moderated. But it can choose how high a profile it will have.

In a low-profile strategy, Hizbullah would rebuild its forces, smuggle in arms to reequip, but basically stay north of the Litani. This would minimize conflict with the ceasefire -though of course they would break its rules - and the Lebanese government and UNIFIL would almost certainly look the other way. Israel would not be happy but could or at least would live with this situation.

In a medium-profile strategy Hizbullah will send men to the south who will live anonymously among the villagers (from whom many of them are recruited any way), organizing underground, and setting up arms caches, tunnels, and other harder-to-spot fortifications. In other words, they would be preparing for the next war. This is a bolder breaking of the ceasefire provisions. Israel would demand action and some might or might not be taken.

Under a high-profile strategy, Hizbullah would send units to the south that would function as such, push to see if the Lebanese army and UNIFIL would react. It might even try cross-border raids and rocket firings, probably under the deniable cover of newly created front groups. If there were no tough response, they would escalate further. Israel might then take military action and the whole ceasefire could collapse.

Thus, the ceasefire agreement is not necessarily a disaster for Israel though it certainly isn't a solution either. It may provide some years of peace.

For Lebanon, though, it is a political disaster. Certainly, the terms are not going to let a strong Lebanese government emerge or stymie Syrian and Iranian ambitions. It will permit an end to the current war and reconstruction, but only until Hizbullah, Damascus, and Teheran decide they want to fight on Lebanese territory again.
My prediction is that Hezbullah will start off with the low profile strategy while they regroup (they lost a lot of guerillas in this war), and then will gradually move to the medium and high profile strategies. But the big difference is that the next time, unless someone gets up the courage to do something, they will be backed by a nuclear Iran. And God forbid, that could make a huge difference.

Read the whole thing.


At 4:14 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

The full compliance and implementation of the resolution is not in the interests of Hezbullah, Syria, and Iran. So, even if Hezbullah does not fire on Israeli troops in Lebanon or fire rockets at Israel it is 99.99% certain that Hezbullah will be resupplied, and it will inflitrate back into southern Lebanon.

With non compliance almost guranteed, Israel has the choice of continuing the war or not.

It is important for the Israeli government to monitor the progress of the implementation of the cease fire and stop its own compliance if other parties do not comply.

From historical examples it can be inferred that the level of non compliance will gradually increase as long as Israel looks the other way.

It will be interesting to watch how the Olmert government reacts to this increasing noncompliance and how the parlimentary system as a whole reacts. At what stage will Olmert react? Presumably Olmert will have to take some action to try to survive / prevent no-confidence votes.

It seems like a recipe for chaos.


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