Thursday, August 10, 2006

Now down to Business!

The papers report that the USA, France and the UK, have agreed on a draft Security Council resolution, which attempts to garner through diplomacy, what Israeli military action, has failed to obtain, id est, the removal of Hezbollah from south of the Litani river, and, the creation of a cordon sanitaire on the Lebanese side of the border. Not surprisingly, the FT online reports that the Lebanese government, has rejected the self-same draft resolution, as “fundamentally one-sided and failed to take into account its own proposals for a resolution of the conflict”. Or as an Israeli source noted in the same article, the Franco-American proposal, is “too good for Israel to be accepted by Hezbollah”. So, dear reader, we (the world that is) are back to square one. The fighting will continue in Lebanon, and, rockets will continue to rain down on northern Israel (as of today, 11 killed by one such rocket). At this point, three and half, weeks into this conflict, may well inquire: ‘to what end’?

Without being privy to any ‘secrets of state’, either in Tel Aviv or Washington DC, it seems fairly clear at this point, that the origins of the current conflict, lie in the following sequence of events: a Hezbollah, which has been anxious about its, role in a post-Syrian, Lebanon, where its legitimacy as a ‘resistance force’, was being openly questioned, and, where international pressure, to have it demilitarized, was ongoing; a Syrian-Iranian axis, worried about both American-led pressure on both regimes, and, eager to push back, against such pressure, by causing as much strife in the region, but, in as indirect fashion, as possible; a new Israeli cabinet, in which both the PM, and, the Defence Minister, were new comers to their respective portfolios, indeed, to any portfolio which involved military affairs of any kind. And, being buffeted by the ongoing (albeit mostly Israeli caused, au fond), strife in the Gaza Strip. Strife which calls into question the nominal raison d’etre, of the government, id est, withdrawing some West Bank settlements behind the Sharon inspired, ‘security’ wall; finally, an American government whose hopes (admittedly always a bit of a chimera…) for a ‘democratic transformation’, of the Near and Middle East, were running into the ground, as the both the Gaza chaos, the election of a Hamas government, and Iraqi imbroglio, drags onwards, seemingly never ending. On the 12th of July, Hezbollah crosses the Lebanese-Israeli border and kills seven Israeli soldiers, and captures two. Proclaiming that they wish to exchange the captured two, for both Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. The last time that this had happened was in 2004, and, at that time, Israel readily exchanged 400 prisoners for a much, much smaller number of Israelis being held. Why the different response this time? It would appear that on the Israeli side, that the calculation was made, that through the use of massive airpower, on Hezbollah’s facilities in both southern Lebanon and, in the Shiite portions of South Beirut, that one) Hezbollah’s military infrastructure would be massively damaged if not completely destroyed, opening the way to both neutralizing what was seen (rightly so in fact) as a Syrian, and, more importantly Iranian proxy, which could be activated at anytime, by Teheran. An especially Consideration, in view of the deadlocked nuclear arms discussions between Iran and the Western Powers; two) that the destruction of Hezbollah would securely Anchor Lebanon in the Western camp, in the aftermath of the withdrawal of Syrian Troops a short time earlier. An, added bonus, would be that a short and sharp military victory, would greatly enhance the statures of both Olmert (the PM) and Peretz (the Defence Minister).

Now, both numbers one and two above, would of course greatly appeal to the Bush Regime, and, especially its more Israeli aligned officials (Elliot Abrams, et al.). Both, could be seen as definitive elements if the forward march of ‘Democracy’ in the region (by weakening Syria and strengthening the Lebanese government), and, at the same time, it would prepare the ground, for any military action, in the future against Iran. Il va sans doubte, that Tel Aviv, gave the word that the operation would be of the ‘short cleansing thunder storm’ variety (to quote Bethman-Hollweg in July 1914). Such an operation, if true, could even be swallowed and tolerated by the American aligned, Sunni Arab regimes, in the region. All suspicious of Shiite Hezbollah in any case, both because of its confessional nature, and, of course for its Iranian origins and ties.

Unfortunately, the promised ‘thunder storm’, did not work as advertised. Instead of a short and sharp military campaign, to oust Hezbollah, from thirty to forty kilometers north of the border, the Israeli military, in a bad parody of American military practice, decided that raining missiles on innocent civilians, in regions which had no discernable Hezbollah ties, was the better part of valor. Sad but true, the IDF of yore, its glory days are definitely over. It has become an Americanized, overly technical, military organization, which has all the finesse of a steam roller. As we speak, it still appears that perhaps only 7-10 kilometers of land, north of the border have been cleared of Hezbollah. With pockets of resistance still in evidence. This from an army which defeated the combined force of Syria, Egypt, and Jordan in 1967, in Seven Days…. Be that as it may, the original purpose from the American perspective has been completely overturned. Whatever legitimacy Israel possessed, in the eyes of world opinion, in the initial phase of the operation, has been definitively squandered. Now, even the Sunni Arab, pro-American regimes, have been forced to rhetorically mouth words of support for Hezbollah’s efforts. And, of course, by failing to smash Hezbollah as advertised, the latter has reached the heights of popularity in the Arab and Muslim world. Now, faute de mieux, Washington, after the near debacle of Rice’s initial ‘peace mission’, is now attempting to salvage the situation, via a delicate pas de deux, with France and the UK, in the Security Council. As we saw, the draft resolution, would have given by the USA and Israel, much of what they wanted. If not quite all that was hoped for initially. Hence, the almost inevitable Hezbollah and even Lebanese government rejection. Notwithstanding the fact, that the latter is for the most part pro-American, and, anti-Syrian in nature. With the rejection, gentle reader, where do we ‘go from here’, you might well ask? That is something that I will tackle in my next contribution to these pages.


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