Lebanese Coordinating Council (LCCC)
Click here to read the Below 11 Report & analysis Adressing Lebanon's crisis compiled by the LCCC
Washington Watch: Lebanon, friend or foe?/By: By D. BLOOMFIELD/August 12/10
Hassan Nasrallah’s guide to memory loss/By: Michael Young/August 12/10
Nasrallah’s speech fails to meet high expectations/By:Natacha Yazbeck/August 12/10
Nasrallah has no smoking gun tying Israel to Hariri murder/By Avi Issacharoff & Amos Harel/August 12/10
If US cuts Lebanon Army aid, would Hezbollah's sponsor Iran step in?/By Nicholas Blanford/August 12/10
The Week Lebanon Became Part of the Anti-Western Axis and West Governments Didn't Notice/By Barry Rubin/August 11/10
Lebanon through the Prism of US-Syrian Rapprochement/By: Jean-Pierre Katrib/August 11/10
Hezbollah is Lebanon’s Sherlock Holmes/By: Randa Takieddine/ 11 August 2010
Hizballah, a threat to the USA/fresnozionism/august 11/10
Lebanon: Predictions of war and vain hopes/By: Ami Isseroff/August 09/10
Israel needs to rethink its Lebanon policyBy Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff /Haaretz/August 08/10
Washington Watch: Lebanon, friend or foe?
By D. BLOOMFIELD
Before resuming arms shipments, Congress should demand evidence that LAF is part of the solution, not the problem.
US military assistance for Lebanon has been frozen by two powerful members of Congress while they and their colleagues try to figure out what they want in exchange for reopening the pipeline.
There’s no evidence so far that American-supplied arms were used in the unprovoked attack by Lebanese forces on Israeli soldiers working on their own side of the border last month, but the incident raises the question of whether we are arming – albeit disproportionately – two friends for war against each other. Or are we inadvertently arming a terrorist organization? The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) are no match for the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF); in fact, they are not even a match for the better-armed and trained Hizbullah, which has vowed to join with the LAF in any conflict with Israel.
Hizbullah has massively rearmed since the 2006 war with Israel, acquiring more and longer-range missiles capable of hitting nearly all Israeli population centers.
Hizbullah has steadily expanded its political power as well, becoming the country’s dominant force. With its allies it holds a virtual veto in the cabinet and parliament, and can paralyze the government, as it did in 2008 to block an attempt to dismantle its telecommunications system.
Hizbullah’s biggest fear right now isn’t war with Israel but a Special International Tribunal implicating it in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others in February 2005. Hassan Nasrallah, the group’s leader, has warned that indictments of Hizbullah could spark another civil war. His latest ploy to deflect blame is to say Israel murdered Hariri in an attempt to incite anti-Syrian hostility in Lebanon.
Even many Lebanese who oppose Hizbullah are reluctant to see it accused of the murders, not because they believe it is innocent but because they fear it would provoke violence that would destroy the current economic boom their country is enjoying.
The assassination triggered the Cedar Revolution, the Syrian withdrawal and the formation of an independent government strongly backed by the United States. But American influence soon began to wane due to a lack of meaningful follow-through and distractions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Syrian political influence, however, has steadily resumed; its army has not yet returned, but Hizbullah represents the interests of Syria and Iran, which have made sure the terror group is well armed and trained.
UNIFIL, the United Nations force supposedly overseeing the ceasefire and preventing Hizbullah from rearming, has been a hopeless failure.
THE BUSH and Obama administrations have sent hundreds of millions of dollars in training and equipment to the LAF, but have paid scant attention to Lebanon even though it could too easily ignite another war much more lethal than the last one.
Many LAF officers and units are believed to be sympathetic if not actually loyal to Hizbullah. One such unit is believed responsible for the recent attack on Israeli soldiers.
Rep. Howard Berman (D-California), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), chair of the appropriations subcommittee that controls foreign aid spending, have placed holds on $100 million in US military aid in the pipeline for Lebanon, citing concerns over Hizbullah’s access to those weapons and its influence in the LAF.
Berman wants an “in-depth policy review” before resuming the aid, and Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) is expected to hold hearings next month in his Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East.
Rep. Eric Cantor, the second ranking Republican in the House, agrees. He wants aid blocked until the US can “certify” that the LAF is not cooperating with Hizbullah.
He said Washington has given Lebanon $720 million in military training and equipment since 2006, including assault rifles, missile launchers, grenade launchers and night-vision gear.
Before reopening the pipeline, lawmakers should demand some answers: – What is the level of Hizbullah influence in the LAF? – Can the LAF ever realistically guarantee the security and independence of a democratic Lebanon? – Can American weapons be kept out of the hands of Hizbullah? Lebanese President Michel Suleiman suggested Lebanon would go to “neighboring and friendly states” to get what it needed, implying Syria and Iran. Is that in America’s best interest? “It’s not a choice between good and bad but between bad and worse,” said a Congressional expert on the region. “If we stop selling arms – which are not top quality to begin with – they’ll have no trouble getting them elsewhere and we would lose important access and influence with the LAF. That would only enhance the role of Hizbullah, Syria and Iran and diminish opportunities for the LAF to play a stabilizing role in the country.”
– How can Washington help? The administration should seek to broker a series of quiet understandings between Israel and Lebanon that will stabilize the border, prevent future incidents and, if they do occur, make sure they don’t escalate. The US is the only player capable of filling that role – UNIFIL can’t, and the current Lebanese government won’t negotiate directly with Israel.
Before resuming arms shipments, Congress should demand evidence that the LAF is part of the solution, not the problem.
Hassan Nasrallah’s guide to memory loss
By Michael Young
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Marvel at the contempt Hizbullah’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, must feel for us all, that he would expect us to believe his presentation last Monday telling us that Israel was behind the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister. But that contempt may also in some ways be justified, because far too many Lebanese actually believed him, even as they observe the rapid erosion of their slender sovereignty with lethargy.
Do we Lebanese deserve independence? You have to wonder. Israel has killed many people in Lebanon, and will doubtless kill many more, but we would only be abasing ourselves by abruptly reinterpreting the Hariri assassination in the light that Nasrallah chose to shine on the crime. We would have to believe that Syria did not threaten Hariri in 2004, was untroubled by Resolution 1559, for which it held Hariri partly responsible, did not control Lebanese security in 2005, and did not appoint or approve all senior officials in the security and intelligence agencies. We would have to disregard that these agencies tried to cover up the scene of the assassination, that Hizbullah sought to stifle the emancipation movement by organizing an intimidating demonstration on March 8, 2005, to defend Syria’s presence in Lebanon, and that virtually all of those assassinated after Hariri (not to mention Marwan Hamadeh, who barely escaped assassination before) were critical of Syria.
And, of course, we would have to forget that Hizbullah and its Amal allies twice left the government because it was preparing measures to establish the tribunal – the second time kicking off an 18-month Downtown sit-in to bring down Fouad Siniora’s government.
Nasrallah now offers an explanation for this: the tribunal was politicized. Yet that was not the excuse Hizbullah and Amal used in 2006 when they withdrew their ministers. At the time, their beef was that Siniora and March 14 had undermined governmental procedure by not consulting properly with them. But we can conveniently forget that, too, as well as Syrian President Bashar Assad’s warning issued to the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, at a meeting in Damascus on April 24, 2007. According to a detailed account leaked to the French daily Le Monde, Assad told Ban that approval of the tribunal under Chapter VII authority “might easily cause a conflict that would degenerate into civil war, provoking divisions between Sunnis and Shiites from the Mediterranean to the Caspian Sea.”
Perhaps Nasrallah had not yet shared his information about Israel with the Syrian president, who, with amazing prescience, found himself echoing revelations about a Shiite connection in the Hariri assassination more than two years before Der Spiegel made a similar reference – one that Nasrallah now sees as proof of an Israeli plot.
It would take an awful lot of forgetting to buy into Nasrallah’s theory, but that is precisely what the secretary general is demanding. He wants Lebanon, above all its prime minister, to forget the overwhelming evidence from the past and bury the Hariri tribunal for good. Let’s just blame Israel, Nasrallah is telling us, so that we can all live in amnesic harmony.
The politics of this message are complicated enough. Prime Minister Saad Hariri is not about to surrender so useful a card as a possible accusation against Hizbullah. From the moment he visited Damascus last December and shook Assad’s hand, Hariri confirmed he was willing to negotiate over the tribunal. That is precisely what Nasrallah seeks to avoid, and his Power Point display was designed to push Hariri into a corner, shift the terms of the debate on the tribunal, and force an end to Lebanese cooperation with the institution.
However, beyond the politics, what does the maneuvering over the tribunal tell us about ourselves as Lebanese? In a system and society committed to the rule of law and justice, Nasrallah’s spectacle would have been impossible, as would have been Hariri’s visit to Damascus and the conflicting statements of Walid Jumblatt about the tribunal (which still holds his affidavit). A system and society committed to the rule of law and justice would not have allowed the second UN commissioner, Serge Brammertz, to waste two years doing next to nothing and conceal this in a battery of evasive reports. Such a system would not have allowed his successor, Daniel Bellemare, to inform us even less about his progress, even though we Lebanese pay a substantial share of the prosecutor’s salary.
In other words, we Lebanese never deserved the tribunal, and I suspect even less the sovereignty and rule of law it was supposed to bolster. Lost in our conspiracy theories and factionalism, we are willing to believe everything ridiculous and reject anything backed up by hard facts. There are those, and they are not few nor are they all Hizbullah followers, who honestly believe Nasrallah made a compelling case this week. When gullibility descends into stupidity, it’s time to admit that Lebanon merits no better than to be run by an armed militia or an autocratic foreign power. Here is Assad again during his encounter with Ban, offering up this assessment of Lebanese society: “In Lebanon, divisions and confessionalism have been deeply anchored for more than 300 years. Lebanese society is very fragile. [The country’s] most peaceful years were when Syrian forces were present. From 1976 to 2005 Lebanon was stable, whereas now there is great instability.” If the Lebanese can stomach such disparagement – in fact if they can embrace the man who made that statement – then Assad may have been right to hark back approvingly to the years of Syrian military rule. We’re on the eve of a Syrian comeback, and the Lebanese seem blithely unaware of what this means, so busy are they following the pied pipers who have taken the measure of our society’s foolishness.
**Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR and author of “The Ghosts of Martyrs Square: An Eyewitness Account of Lebanon’s Life Struggle” (Simon & Schuster).
Nasrallah’s speech fails to meet high expectations
By Agence France Presse (AFP)
Wednesday, August 11, 2010 /analysis
BEIRUT: Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s “evidence” implicating Israel in the murder of Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has failed to sway his political rivals and left analysts divided over its impact. “The press conference is likely part and parcel of a strategy of self-defense,” Mustafa Alloush, a former MP and member of the Future Movement, founded by Hariri, told AFP on Tuesday.
“If the aim is to convince us of Israel’s guilt, then this evidence should be placed in the hands of the relevant authorities and jurisdiction.”
At a Monday night press conference, Nasrallah produced several undated clips of aerial views of various areas in Lebanon, including the site of the Hariri assassination in mainly Sunni west Beirut several years prior to the murder. Nasrallah, who has accused Israel of the February 14, 2005, bombing which killed Hariri and 22 others, said the footage was intercepted from unmanned Israeli MK surveillance drones. He conceded the images were not conclusive proof but noted that his party – which is believed constantly under surveillance by its arch-foe Israel – had no offices, positions or presence in the areas surveyed. Hariri’s allies initially blamed Syria for his killing but Damascus has consistently denied the allegations. Syria nonetheless withdrew its troops from Lebanon under international pressure in April 2005, ending a 29-year presence. Nasrallah last month said he was aware the UN-backed tribunal on the Hariri murder, which is expected to issue an indictment this year, would indict members of his Syrian- and Iranian-backed party, slamming it as an Israeli project.
But his highly anticipated address Monday failed to live up to the expectations of the Lebanese and was at best received as circumstantial evidence – and a show of counter-espionage prowess. “No one took the evidence seriously or considered it objective,” said Hilal Khashan, a political science professor at the American University of Beirut.
“Nasrallah was simply addressing his public,” Khashan told AFP. “He promised solid proof but instead offered new elements to support his rebuttal of the tribunal’s credibility and request they start anew.” Asaad Abu Khalil, a political science professor at California State University at Stanislaus, said the event was “a great political show” that aimed to sway Arab public opinion. “The expectations were high for the speech: in Lebanon, Hizbullah’s enemies did not want anything less than pictures of Israelis pulling the triggers on Hariri. That was not provided,” Abu Khalil wrote on his “Angry Arab” blog. “Hizbullah did something entirely different in this press conference: it recaptured Arab political opinion … with images, and visual effects and background music and graphics.”
But Fadia Kiwan, who heads the political science department at Saint Joseph University, said Nasrallah’s revelation was “extremely dangerous.”
“There is no conclusive evidence on the involvement of Israel but [Nasrallah presented] relevant arguments that make it inevitable that this hypothesis be seriously examined,” she told AFP.
Nasrallah’s statements have raised fears of a replay of the events of May 2008, when 100 people were killed in a week of fighting sparked by a government crackdown on the party’s private communications network. The government later repealed its decision.
The Hizbullah leader on Monday said he was willing to cooperate with the Lebanese government on the Hariri murder and present the Cabinet, which includes two Hizbullah ministers, with his findings. He refused to specify what measures Hizbullah would take should the UN tribunal implicate the Shiite party. But a high-ranking government official, who requested his name be withheld, told AFP on Tuesday that he did not expect Hizbullah to take any drastic measures. “The indictment will be issued by an international body so even withdrawing from the government would be a very artificial, contrived step that would cause problems here in Lebanon without presenting any corroboration of the evidence presented yesterday,” the official said. “Turning the table on the Lebanese government would seem to me taking Lebanon hostage and saying ‘I’m threatening the international community that my own country will be paying the price,’” he added. “I don’t expect that.” Israel on Tuesday dismissed Hizbullah’s claims of their guilt as “ridiculous.”
MESS Report/Nasrallah has no smoking gun tying Israel to Hariri murder
The Lebanese are great fans of conspiracy theories, and Monday's speech by the Hezbollah leader was aimed straight at that fetish.
By Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel /Haaretz
The Lebanese are great fans of conspiracy theories, and Monday's speech by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah was aimed straight at that fetish.
Nasrallah tried to prove that his organization had nothing to do with the 2005 murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, despite impending indictments in an international court. Instead, he conveniently pointed his finger at Israel.
In his speech, he dwelt on two incidents from the past: Hariri's murder, and a disastrous 1997 raid on Ansariya by Israeli naval commandos.
The common denominator, according to Nasrallah, is that both exemplify Israel's dangerous, subversive activity on Lebanese soil (and underscore why Hezbollah is needed to defend the homeland ). And in both cases, he said, Hezbollah's technological capabilities enabled it to learn the truth.
The speech received widespread and often enthusiastic coverage in the Arab world, especially from Al Jazeera. But in Lebanon itself, it met with some skepticism: Mohammad Kabbara, a member of parliament from the anti-Syria March 14 faction, said it would convince no one but its authors. And Amin Gemayel, a Christian leader, said it contained no proof, and Nasrallah ought to share all his information.
Nasrallah showed intercepted photographs from Israeli drones taken near Hariri's house and that of his brother, along with documentation of intensive Israel Air Force activity on the day of the murder, as if all this were a smoking gun. It wasn't particularly convincing, but that is less important than Al Jazeera's enthusiastic adoption of it.
In the Arab world today, Al Jazeera's support is as good as a court verdict, and is likely to be seen by many Arabs as proof positive of Israel's guilt.
This solution is also convenient for many Lebanese, as Hezbollah's indictment for the murder could lead the country into another civil war - as Nasrallah himself has repeatedly hinted.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the murdered man's son, is between a rock and a hard place. On one side, Syria, Iran and Hezbollah are pressing him to ignore the international inquiry's findings.
On the other is the United States, which is already furious over last week's killing by Lebanese soldiers of an Israeli soldier inside Israel.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Congress froze military aid to Lebanon, in a clear signal to Beirut that it had best not get carried away by its renewed love affair with Syria.
With regard to the naval commando disaster, it is true that for many years, Israel dismissed Hezbollah's Iranian-assisted intelligence gathering capabilities.
The fact that Hezbollah was tracking the information broadcast by Israeli drones was fully grasped only a few years after this incident.
Thanks for the hat tip
Moving on to another issue, I suppose we ought to thank Nasrallah for the plug he gave our reporting in his speech on Monday. Nevertheless, as politicians like to say, it was taken out of context. Nasrallah quoted a report that Haaretz published in May 2009, shortly after the German magazine Der Spiegel first revealed that an international inquiry suspected Hezbollah operatives of involvement in Hariri's murder.
The Haaretz report said that in late 2001, a paper submitted to the head of Military Intelligence had speculated that Hezbollah might assassinate Hariri. Shortly after the murder, an MI document defined as a "minority opinion" argued that Hezbollah was behind the killing, contrary to the prevailing assumption at the time that Syria was the guilty party.
Nasrallah tried to use this report to bolster his claim that Israel not only killed Hariri, but had planned from the start to cast the blame on his peace-loving organization.
This is sheer nonsense: The MI documents reflected a contrarian view that was far from the prevailing wisdom at that time.
Moreover, why would Israel embark on a complex and enormously risky attempt to kill Hariri - who at the time was the most moderate candidate for Lebanon's presidency and the darling of both the U.S. and France - solely in the hope of being able to somehow incriminate Hezbollah at some future date?
If US cuts Lebanon Army aid, would Hezbollah's sponsor Iran
By Nicholas Blanford
Iran, a key supporter of Hezbollah, offered to underwrite the Lebanese Army after a top US congressman said Monday he had blocked $100 million in military aid. But some doubt it would substantially fill the void.After Rep. Howard Berman (D) of California, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Monday that he had blocked $100 million in military assistance to Lebanon, Iran volunteered yesterday to make up the difference – raising concern that Tehran could increase its influence with Israel's neighbor to the north.
State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Tuesday that Iran's statements “are expressly the reason why we believe that continuing support to the Lebanese government and the Lebanese military is in our interest.”With Washington’s sway in Lebanon on the decline since a high point of 2005, the Lebanese Army is seen as one of the last remaining levers available to the US to check the growing influence of local power-broker Syria and regional power Iran – both of which support Hezbollah, the militant Shiite organization that Israel considers a threat.
The US government has tried to strike a balance between supporting the Lebanese Army – mainly through the provision of low-tech logistical equipment and training – while not undermining the security interests of its ally Israel and angering Congress.
“At the end of the day, US military assistance [to Lebanon] is stuck between an Israeli rock and a Hezbollah hard place,” says Aram Nerguizian, a defense and security expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
US funding aimed at undercutting Hezbollah
Representative Berman moved to block the aid after a deadly clash along the Israel-Lebanon border this week raised concerns about the 'Hezbollah-ization' of the Lebanese Army. But the US hopes that strengthening the Lebanese Army will undermine Hezbollah’s argument for retaining its armed wing as a defense against Israel, which has invaded the country three times in the past 32 years. Hezbollah asserts that the Army, an underfunded, poorly trained, and ill-equipped force of some 55,000 troops, stands no chance against its Israeli counterpart, the most powerful military in the Middle East. Only Hezbollah’s brand of hybrid warfare – blending irregular and conventional tactics and weaponry – can defend Lebanon against the possibility of future Israeli aggression, the party’s leaders say.
Why Iran may be bluffing
Still, even if the US military assistance program were to end, some doubt that Iran would step into the gap. One retired Lebanese Army general said that it was in the interest of Hezbollah, and therefore Iran, not to provide too much support to the Army. “If the Army is allowed to grow strong and capable of defending Lebanon, there would be no need for Hezbollah,” the general said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. Mara Karlin, a defense analyst at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, says that there is “no indication” that any other party would replace the US in substance. “The Iranians, for example, have made assertions in the past on disbursing aid, but have not delivered,” she says. Ultimately, Ms. Karlin adds, the US military aid program should continue, but expectations should not be raised too high.
“It may be unsatisfying to members of Congress and the [Obama] administration, but a capable [Lebanese Army] serving as a presence throughout Lebanese territory is really the best one can hope for at this stage, given domestic and regional circumstances.”
The Week Lebanon Became Part of the Anti-Western Axis and West Governments Didn't Notice
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
By Barry Rubin
History will record that Lebanon was integrated into the Iran-Syria empire in early August 2010. Here are some of the stories that mark that turning point, and also show how Western willingness to make concessions and eagerness to avoid confrontation are interpreted by moderates as a signal or surrender and radicals as an invitation to advance further.
Former Lebanese cabinet minister Wiam Wahhab explained that Lebanon is now, in effect, a Syrian province in a television interview, explaining that the country is back to the rule of Damascus that prevailed in the 1980s:, "In the event of a civil war, Syrian tanks will enter Lebanon. Syria is not fooling around."
No, Syria is not fooling around. But the West is.
Wahhab added that UNIFIL and other UN groups are hostages that Lebanon and Syria can dominate. The last four years has shown that the international community is weaker than Hizballah and won’t defend its own people. The UN and international community did not make a serious effort to implement any of the promises made at the time they brokered the 2006 ceasefire in the Israel-Hizballah war. Once again, Hizballah rules southern Lebanon. It imports weapons and builds military strong points at will. Hizballah will never defeat Israel in this situation but it has succeeded in defeating the entire world.
Meanwhile the Syrian media brags about extensive victories, including the acceptance of Syria’s domination over Lebanon by both Western and Arab countries (the Saudi king's visit marked the submission of Syria's main rival in Lebanon), the surrender of the former Lebanese independence forces, the alleged growing influence of Syria in Iraq, and the integration of Turkey into the Iran-Syria alliance.
Most Western governments and media still publicly ignore the transformation (perhaps temporary) of Turkey into part of the radical, anti-Western alliance but Iran, Syria, and Hizballah are quite aware of this huge change. Equally, they pretend that Lebanon still functions as an independent country, though Congress's cut-off of aid to Lebanon's army shows that it comprehends the situation.
Meanwhile, Hizballah leader Hasan Nasrallah charges that Israel killed former Lebanese president Rafik Hariri, the act that set off the short-lived Lebanese national revival against Syrian domination. Everyone in Lebanon knows Hariri was killed by Syria through Lebanese agents, who seem to have included Hizballah officials. But no one in political life has the courage to say so. And if the international investigation does implicate Syrian-Hizballah involvement, all the Lebanese leaders who once shouted in anger against these assassins will now tremble and deny it.
Other Hizballah statements include the claim that the unprovoked assassination of an Israeli officer in the tree incident was a defense of Lebanon against Israeli aggression. The extol the resistance as being so brave and strong that it would not even let a tree be cut down in Lebanon, though it is now established that the tree in question was in Israel.
Western observers might find such points to be foolish or unimportant but few in Lebanon, or even in the Arab world, will hear abou the truth. They will believe that the shooting incident was a heroic defense of the Arab homeland against still another Israeli act of aggression.
Moreover, many will be inspired by a struggle that will give neither an inch nor a tree. The message is also that the resistance will fight for one tree while the West won't fight at all. Such arguments are far more powerful than any rational matters of fact in stirring passions and shaping politics in the region.
If the Iran-Syria-Hizballah-Hamas-Iraqi insurgent-Turkish regime alliance is looking ever stronger and will kill over a tree, how is the leadership of the Palestinian Authority going to compromise over territory and give up the dream of conquering all of Israel? Now that the West has surrendered and, for all practical purposes, recognized the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip, why should Palestinians believe that the Palestinian Authority is going to be their sole legitimate leader, especially if it makes compromises to achieve peace with Israel?
Perhaps most chilling in the rhetoric coming out of Lebanion is a statement by a Hizballah member of Lebanon’s parliament that the Lebanese army’s murder of an Israeli officer on the border proves the Lebanese army is now part of the radical resistance. The main U.S. activity in Lebanon during the last decade has been to provide aid to Lebanon's army based on the reasonable argument that it was a bulwark against Hizballah. But that claim no longer holds. To a large extent, Hizballah is governing Lebanon today, either directly, through the intimidation of violence and veto power in the cabinet, or due to the pressure of its Syrian and Iranian big brothers.
Iran offered to subsidize the Lebanese army if the United States cut off aid, an eventuality is unlikely. But the point is that the Lebanese army under the current government serves the interests of Tehran more than Washington. One can certainly make an argument that U.S. aid should continue to avoid an Iranian monopoly and keep open contacts in hope things will get better in future. I'm not necessarily arguing against that idea. But have no illusions that the Lebanese government and army are "pro-Western."
If some day a war breaks out between Lebanon and Israel, as in 2006, and Israeli forces hit the Lebanese infrastructure hard, remember all of this. Lebanon has now joined—however unwillingly on the part of most of its citizens—the radical, anti-Western Islamist bloc and may well have to pay the price for that allegiance.
Only if the huge Western setbacks in Turkey, the Gaza Strip, and Lebanon are taken into account can anyone get a realistic picture of what's going on in the region.
**Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at http://www.gloria-center.org and of his blog, Rubin Reports, at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.
Lebanon through the Prism of
Jean-Pierre Katrib , L’Orient Le Jour Special Supplement, August 11, 2010
Since January of 2009 and in line with US President Barack Obama’s engagement strategy, multiple diplomatic openings towards Damascus were registered from the US administration.
Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns visited Syria on February 17th 2010, the highest ranking US official to visit Damascus in more than five years. Shortly after his visit, President Obama nominated Robert Ford as Ambassador to Damascus, filling in after Margaret Scobey was withdrawn in the wake of the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
The US has also removed the American block to Syria’s attempt to join the WTO, and in July of 2009, it eased some export licenses for Syria, mostly pertaining to aircraft. In October of 2009, Syria’s deputy foreign minister, Faisal Al-Miqdad, was invited to Washington, the first such visit after years of boycott.
The objective behind these overtures was to moderate the Syrian regime’s behavior, constructively engage it in a regional peace process and lure Damascus away from its strategic alliance with Tehran.
In response, less than ten days after Mr. Ford’s nomination and Undersecretary Burns’ visit, Syrian President Bashar Assad hosted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah at a banquet in Damascus amid increasing international pressure on Iran. During the visit, Assad openly mocked US efforts to distance Syria from Iran, and stressed as recently as April 14 following a meeting with Iran’s Ambassador to Syria that, “Syria will continue developing ties with Iran in all fields,” and that he “fully backs Iran’s nuclear program.”
Further undermining President Obama's efforts to engage Syria were the series of reported advanced weapons transfers in recent months from Syrian territory to Hezbollah in Lebanon – the latest of which was the Scuds transfer controversy.
While weapons have been flowing from Syria to Lebanon for decades, the latest allegations further violates UN Security Resolution 1701, undermines the Lebanese government's ability to exercise sovereignty over all of its territory and risks sparking a conflict that might derail the fragile stability in the region.
US concern over these revelations was communicated in private to Syrian officials in both Washington and Damascus and in public through statements by military and Foreign Service officials. As two statements issued from the US Department of State in mid-April put it, “the transfer of these arms can only have a destabilizing effect on the region,” and “potentially puts Lebanon at significant risk” posing an immediate threat to its sovereignty.
Though Syria and Hezbollah both denied the charges, these developments have generated conflicting reactions in Washington and further unease in Beirut regarding engagement with Syria.
In Beirut, and following an uncoordinated engagement by France, Saudi Arabia, the EU, and now the US, an already fractured March 14th coalition feels abandoned and forced to compromise with the Syrian regime. It is argued that Syria's decision to upgrade Hezbollah’s arms cache proves Damascus is unwilling to distance itself from Tehran and that posting a US ambassador to Syria under current circumstances would send the wrong signal to Damascus and emboldens Assad further to bring Beirut back into his orbit.
On Capitol Hill, the shipment has refueled debate over recent overtures towards Syria. The US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations approved the nomination of Robert Ford as Ambassador to Syria. However, the Scuds crisis has further contributed to “holds” on Ford by senior Senators, making his confirmation unlikely anytime soon.
Although the senators holding up the appointment of the ambassador are all Republican, frustration with the Syrian regime’s behavior have crossed partisan lines, with leading Democrats like Senator Barbara Boxer and Representatives Eliot Engel and Gary Ackerman expressing reservations about the administration’s current policy of engaging Damascus. As Congressman Ackerman asserted in a May 4th statement applauding President Obama’s extension of sanctions on Damascus: “President Obama’s ‘open hand’ and willingness to engage the Assad regime is not a ‘get out of jail free’ card.”
Ackerman, who is the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, reiterated Obama’s concern about “Syria’s destabilizing and dangerous policies,” while concurring with the President on the reduction of the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq from Syria. Yet, he highlights a host of American concerns that Syria has yet to fulfill to date. From continuing “to seek an unwanted and illicit influence in Lebanon, provid[ing] Hezbollah of arms of increasing capability and sophistication,” to hosting the leadership of both Hamas and Iraqi Ba’ath in Damascus.
Notwithstanding American discontent with Syria’s behavior, the administration is not second-guessing its engagement strategy and is pushing forward with Ford’s confirmation. "Sending an Ambassador to Syria who can press the Syrian government in a firm and coordinated fashion ... is part of our strategy to achieve comprehensive peace in the region," the White House said in a statement. Proponents of engagement with Damascus argue that sending an Ambassador is part of a phased US reengagement with Syria that is to be tied to Damascus’s cooperation in Iraq, Lebanon and other areas, adding that an ambassadorial presence will improve communication with the Syrian regime.
While talking to adversarial states is necessary for progress, and while restoration of full diplomatic ties may allow the US to better deliver its message, there has been no shortage of communication when it comes to US-Syrian relations. Even in the best of times when Secretary of State Warren Christopher made twenty-six visits to Damascus during the period from February 1993 until April 1996, and after three summits between President Bill Clinton and President Hafez Assad (in January and October of 1994 and in March of 2000), engagement proved to be an exercise in futility. The crux of the issue is not about communication, but about the Syrian regime’s intransigence!
What have been lacking are concrete steps by the administration to accompany more engagement with more pressure. Toothless and unconditional engagement will not compel President Assad into tangibly delivering. Instead, open-ended engagement alienates US allies while gaining little, if any, from adversaries but a hardening in their belief that their intransigence will prevail in the end.
Evidently, the Scuds controversy reveals the limits of engaging Damascus without clearly defined objectives and benchmarks. Something the Assad regime can be judged upon and held accountable too. One mutual concern to Lebanon and US regional interests is the long overdue borders demarcation between Lebanon and Syria in accordance with UNSCR 1701. Another is the pariah status of pro-Syrian Palestinian militant’s camps, particularly along the porous border where arms smuggling routinely occurs. As both issues are monopolized by Damascus, and given the deleterious ramifications they pose not only to Lebanon but to the region at large, the US administration would be well advised to benchmark these in its next round of engagement against Syrian goodwill in promoting regional peace and stability. After all, the resolution of both issues is something that can be easily verified and corroborated.
**Jean-Pierre Katrib is a political analyst and human rights activist based in Beirut.
**The article originally appeared in French in L’Orient’s special supplement on Lebanese-Syrian Relations.
Hezbollah is Lebanon’s Sherlock Holmes
Wed, 11 August 201/Al Hayat
By: Randa Takieddine
The news conference by Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah was certainly a skillful portrayal of a truth known by everyone, namely that Israel has intentions of committing sabotage actions and destabilizing Lebanon, and that it does not support the country’s economic revival. Lebanon’s modern history, since the civil war, has proven the existence of a situation that every honest and objective citizen acknowledges. However, the material presented by the secretary general of Hezbollah, particularly the photos taken from Israeli aircraft, do not constitute decisive evidence. Israel can certainly take such photos and follow the movements of Lebanese officials and leaders; however, the news conference was not decisive and convincing and did not have tangible evidence.
Today, with advanced IT capabilities, it is easy to create visual documents and fashion them at will. Becoming convinced by such visual materials reminds us of Sherlock Holmes, the British detective. Relying on such documentation matches the complaint by Hezbollah’s secretary general about the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, namely relying on false witnesses. However, regardless of the fact that the international investigation into the Rafiq Hariri assassination, since Serge Brammertz and after him Daniel Bellemare, has abandoned the evidence of the false witnesses, and no longer relies on it. This led to the release of four senior security and military officers. The international investigator and public prosecutor, Bellemare, is a judicial official with no connection to politics, and no one can influence him, even if they wanted to.
Bellemare asked to investigate matters with a number of countries, including Israel. The notion that the STL has not conducted investigations with all concerned countries is not accurate. Since the beginning, the STL has requested cooperation with a number of countries. The fact that the talk and the rumors are focusing on the international investigation and Bellemare’s work also reminds us of Sherlock Holmes.
The news conference completely ignored the political conditions that preceded the assassination of Hariri and the extension of then-President Emile Lahoud’s mandate, and the repercussions, and the local and regional political climate that prevailed as a result. It is as if these conditions had no impact, and they were completely absent from the secretary general’s investigation. The issue was absent from the news conference, even though it has become part of Lebanon’s history, as acknowledged by Hezbollah’s allies today, and it appeared in the statements by General Michel Aoun, when he was in Paris. This was the reality of the Lebanese domestic and regional situations during the period that preceded the assassination of Hariri and the other martyrs who fell after him. Nasrallah told the tale, citing Syrian leaders, that an Arab leader tried to convince the Syrians to receive Lebanon in exchange for crushing Hezbollah’s forces in the South. This reminds us of what the Israelis continually say to western and American leaders, namely that Israel prefers that Lebanon remain under Syrian control, because only Syria can control Hezbollah. Ever since the civil war and the expulsion of Yasser Arafat from Lebanon, Israel has sought Syrian domination over Lebanon, since it believes the Lebanese political system to be weak, and that only Syria can rein in Hezbollah.
The documented presentation by Nasrallah at the news conference, and everything he said about Lebanese agents for Israel, will be taken into consideration by the international investigator. Bellemare is not finished with his investigation and has yet to issue an indictment. Everything that Nasrallah said was useful in the framework of Bellemare’s investigation, which is studying all possibilities and documents; however, it is searching for tangible and precise evidence, in purely legal terms.
What Nasrallah put forward will certainly be studied by the international investigation, which is working seriously and objectively. Doubting Bellemare’s work is a negative act. Trying to convince the states that supervised the establishment of the STL that it would be better to delay the indictment, because it will lead to a civil war in Lebanon, will not succeed, because Bellemare is completely independent and the STL, like similar trials for Rwanda and Kosovo, cannot be eliminated.
Hizballah, a threat to the USA
Hizballah, second only to al-Qaeda in the number of American citizens murdered, is the most powerful terrorist group in the world today. Hizballah effectively controls Lebanon — thus finally putting an end to the idea of a state in which Muslims and Christians could share power — and will soon doubtless fight yet another war with Israel.
Hizballah has tentacles in numerous countries, and is especially powerful in Latin America. Originally financed from Iran, Hizballah now is also funded by drug operations in both hemispheres. It also receives contributions from Islamic charities around the world.
The degree of autonomy exercised by Hizballah is unclear, but its connection to Iran is close enough that it’s been called “the Foreign Legion of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.” It’s fair to say that one of the major factors that deters the US and Israel from military action against the Iranian nuclear program is the threat that Hizballah would both strike Israel with tens of thousands of rockets as well as unleash a wave of terror against American interests at home and abroad.
Hizballah is a tremendous threat to the US — probably more so than al-Qaeda — especially since it could easily infiltrate terrorists through our porous Mexican border.
So you would think that our foreign policy would be aimed at weakening it. You would think we would be doing our best to help keep weapons out of its hands.
You would think that if we knew that major parts of the Lebanese Armed Forces were controlled by Hizballah, we wouldn’t train them and give them advanced weapons.
You would think that we would help Israel, which directly confronts Hizballah. For example, if Israel was spying on Hizballah (and giving information to the US), we wouldn’t beef up the Lebanese security services, which in effect work for Hizballah, so they can use our equipment to catch and kill the agents working for Israel.
You would think all of this, but you would be wrong, because you would not have reckoned with the sheer stupidity — or worse — of the US State Department.
WASHINGTON – The State Department is working to allay the concerns of members of Congress who have put a hold on funding to the Lebanese military, following last week’s deadly border incident with Israel, a spokesman said Tuesday.
“We understand that this incident has raised very legitimate questions on the Hill and we will continue to engage leaders on both sides of the aisle to help assuage concerns that exist,” said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley.
However, he defended US military assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces [LAF] as something that’s “in our national interest and contributes to stability in the region.” He added that the US has “no indications” that its training programs were in any way implicated in the incident.
Crowley also pointed to statements by Iran that it would fill whatever funding gap is left by the US with its own money as an example of the need for the US to keep up its contributions. “The statements by Iran are expressly the reason why we believe continued support to the Lebanese government and the Lebanese military is in our interest,” he said.
In addition to the recent border skirmish between Lebanon and Israel, House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Howard Berman cited more general concerns of Hizbullah involvement with the Lebanese army in placing a hold on $100 million in funds slated for 2010.
Crowley responded to the concern by saying that, “Hizbullah is a fact within Lebanese society and much of our effort in supporting the Lebanese military is in fact the very professionalization that we think helps mitigate that risk.”
The suggestion that the Lebanese Army “contributes to stability” by confronting Hizballah is ludicrous. Here are some facts:
» The LAF confronts Israel on its border, as this recent incident shows. However, it takes absolutely no action to stop the continuous smuggling of weapons — including Scud missiles — to Hizballah across the border with Syria.
» The LAF, as far back as 2006, cooperated with Hizballah. Targeting information provided by the LAF allowed Hizballah to hit an Israeli ship with a missile during the last war.
» In 2008, the Lebanese President, Michael Suleiman, issued ‘guidelines’ that the LAF could fight alongside ‘the resistance’ [Hizballah] in order to “resist Israeli aggression.”
» There may have been a time where anti-Hizballah forces had a chance to prevail in Lebanon, but that time is past. In May 2008, in a bloody coup, Hizballah took effective control of the nation. Although they did not officially establish a Hizballah government, the real power is in their hands.
» The border ambush — which was not the action of a ‘rogue officer’, but was carefully planned — sent the message that the LAF and Hizballah are on the same side.
The argument that ‘if we don’t buy them weapons, Iran will’ is completely absurd. It would only be worth considering if Lebanon were ruled by pro-Western forces. But it isn’t. That battle is over. Perhaps we could have supported that side more effectively, but we didn’t, and now we can’t make up for it by arming our enemies. This is yet another case of the US trying to influence bad actors by bribing them in advance, the ‘all-carrot, no stick’ policy. The result is that they take our guns and think we’re stupid. They’re right.
Hizballah directly confronts Israel, but Israel is prepared for the inevitable war. That is more than can be said for the US, where the threat from Hizballah is being studiously ignored. My prediction is that if we don’t start taking it seriously, Hizballah will make al-Qaeda look like pikers.
Lebanon: Predictions of war and vain hopes
Sunday, August 8, 2010
by Ami Isseroff
Elias Bejjani is a Lebanese Christian patriot and a good friend of Israel. Bejjani thinks that war between Israel and the Hezbollah is inevitable. He may be right.
However, what seems inevitable in the Middle East is often not so at all. I remember when we all believed that Lebanon would be the second country to sign a peace accord with Israel, and I remember when we all believed that King Hussein of Jordan would not last another year on his throne because he would be wiped out by assassins. We said it every year for a very long time, until King Hussein died in his bed, after having concluded an amicable peace with Israel.
All of us can remember when Turkish-Israeli friendship was taken for granted, and many of us can remember when Iran and Israel were active and close allies. Even in the unchanging Middle East, things change all the time.
I also remember when the goal of Israeli policymakers regarding Lebanon was to get the Lebanese army to deploy in South Lebanon in order to secure the border. The goal was achieved. The Lebanese army deployed in South Lebanon. On August 3, the army that was supposed to secure the southern border of Lebanon fired on our soldiers for no reason, and then the Lebanese government accused Israel of aggression. Instead of grasping at UN Security Council Resolution 1701 as a means to rid themselves of the Hezbollah and bring peace to Lebanon, the Lebanese government has made a mockery of that resolution.
Bejjani also hopes that Israel will oust the Hezbollah as it ousted the PLO in 1982. He is probably not alone. It seems to me that many Lebanese hope that someone, anyone, will stand up for Lebanese freedom: Israel, France, the United States - anyone but themselves.
If they hope for Israeli intervention, they hope in vain. Many things changed since 1982. The first is that Israel learned the bitter lessons of two wars in Lebanon. In the first, Israel did free Lebanon of the PLO. But what did the Lebanese do with their freedom? They massacred some Palestinians, for which Israel took the blame, and then they proceeded to tear their country apart. After that, to stop the chaos of the civil war, they let "sister" Syria take over Lebanon.
For a brief time after the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, it looked as though Lebanese patriots of the March 14 movement just might unite and kick out Syria and the Hezbollah. But the Lebanese are Lebanese. You never know when they will stick to the plan, and when they will go back to being Lebanese. The hopes that so many of us had for Lebanon were dashed.
Hezbollah flexed a few muscles and Lebanese patriots scuttled away to huddle under the banners of "unity" and "national dialogue." They united, as usual, behind the slogan of "edbach al yahood" - murder the Jews. Not only the relatively reasonable Druze leader, Walid Jumblatt, embraced the cause of Hezbollah, but even the Christian Michel Aoun vowed his loyalty to "sister Syria" and its Islamist ally, the Hezbollah. The Christians and the Druze joined in the Islamist cries of "Murder the infidels," without stopping to think, "Hey wait a minute, that's us." Lebanese politics are Levantine. The term "Levantine" was coined because the term "Byzantine" was not sufficient to describe the illogical, contradictory, convoluted and confounded nature of Lebanese politics.
In the second Lebanese war, Israel learned that the elected government of the Lebanese stood foursquare behind the Hezbollah war criminals and supported both the kidnapping and murder of Israeli soldiers and the murderous rocket fire on northern Israel. Israel also learned that the great powers, through the United Nations, would never allow Israel to do what is needed in Lebanon, and that the Lebanese people were happy to shield the Hezbollah with their lives. Almost nobody in Lebanon protested. Hardly any politicians spoke out. Israel was roundly condemned both in Lebanon and around the world for a war it did not start and did not want - a war that began only because Lebanon shields the terrorist and genocidal Hezbollah organization, and because no Lebanese of any confession or political persuasion will lift a finger to stop them. Many may want to remove the Hezbollah, but they seem to be waiting for some external deus ex machina to float into the stage of history and save them.
The Lebanese government made it clear time and again that it supports the Hezbollah, and so have leading Lebanese journals. When it still could have done so, the Lebanese government did not lift a finger to disarm the Hezbollah, as was required both by the Taif accords and UN Security Council resolution 1559 The Lebanese were unwilling or unable to raise an army, so they subcontracted the defense of their country to the Hezbollah. Even their French allies gave up on them.
The Second Lebanon war cost the lives of about 150 Israelis and many times more Lebanese. A war to eliminate Hezbollah would exact perhaps ten times as many casualties on both sides. How can any Lebanese expect Israel to make such a sacrifice to free Lebanon, when they themselves were unwilling to do anything? If the Hezbollah start a war, Israel will defend itself and no more. It is not realistic to expect that we will try to eliminate the Hezbollah, to sacrifice the lives of our soldiers and civilians if it is not necessary to do so for the defense of Israel. As for the rest of the world, it may be too much to hope that they will even allow us to even do what is necessary to defend ourselves.
Suppose there is a war with Iran, and suppose that as Bejjani thinks, Israel and the U.S. and the rest of the Western countries will all be fighting on the same side, an unlikely occurrence. Israel will have its hands full coping with Iran. In any case, that coalition will need the support of the Arab states and of Turkey. The latter will hardly be likely to support the war if Israel starts a war with Lebanon as well.
And suppose Israel could do as the Lebanese dreamers ask, and remove the Hezbollah. For how long will Lebanon remain free after that, if its people will not agree among themselves even on the vital issue of defending their freedom? How can Lebanon function as a nation, if there is an unending supply of Lebanese politicians willing to sell themselves to Syria, to Iran or to the Devil himself for the right price, while the Lebanese do nothing except try to enjoy the "good life" and pretend there is no problem? Nobody can free Lebanon unless the Lebanese people are willing to unite and free their own country.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.
needs to rethink its Lebanon policy
In the wake of this week's flare-ups of hostilities in Lebanon and in the south, Israel would do well to reconsider its assumptions about the IDF's power of deterrence.
By Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff /Haaretz
The border incidents this week - in the north, and to a lesser degree in Eilat and the area around Gaza - called into question Israel's operating assumptions during the past four years, since the end of the Second Lebanon War. The relatively low number of casualties, as well as intelligence information indicating the Lebanese Army was responsible for the gunfire in the north, enables the Israeli leadership to keep claiming that what happened this week does not necessitate serious reconsideration of its policies. Even after these latest incidents, the prevailing trend this summer - of maintaining relative quiet despite mounting tensions - still appears intact. But these incidents, particularly the Lebanese sniper fire that killed reservist battalion commander Lt. Col. Dov Harari near Misgav Am, raises the question of whether the stories we've been telling ourselves about the Second Lebanon War and its ramifications are still applicable in August 2010.
The Israel Defense Forces, according to conventional wisdom in the defense establishment, employed such great force in the last two wars, in Lebanon in 2006 and in Gaza in 2008, that the Arabs were frightened off, and therefore Hezbollah and Hamas are wary of another round. When GOC Northern Command Gadi Eizenkot elaborated on this idea (in a much more sophisticated way ) at a lecture at Tel Aviv University a few months ago, he was approached at the end of his talk by former defense minister Moshe Arens. You're right, Arens told the major general, but you forgot to mention the other side of the equation: Hezbollah is also using deterrence - against us.
Ever since the Gaza flotilla affair in late May, there has been a bad feeling in the region. Provocateurs of every stripe have discovered the potential for diverting hostilities into unexpected channels. Fighting need not take place just on the battlefield or under conditions chosen by Israel. Indeed, the country's enemies have a whole array of reasons for starting a confrontation: to prevent harsher sanctions on Iran; to escape the looming International Court of Justice indictments against senior Hezbollah figures over the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri; or to provide a response to the isolation Egypt is imposing on Hamas in Gaza.
On a small scale, there were confrontations already this week. Hamas opened a new front against Israel by firing rockets from Sinai at Eilat. Meanwhile, the Lebanese Army snipers ambushed IDF reservists removing vegetation along the border, on the (false ) pretext that Lebanese sovereignty had been violated.
The report two days ago of an assassination attempt targeting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seems dubious. True, Iran is under pressure because of sanctions and the American threat to use military force against it, but its back is not yet against the wall and it has some room for maneuver. And yet, one cannot be certain that all the players in the region will behave rationally. It was Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah who admitted, in a rare moment of candor at the end of the last war, that had he known that there was even a 1-percent chance that Israel would respond with such force to the abduction of two reservist soldiers, he would not have approved the operation in Lebanon.
In private army forums, Eizenkot often presents the following assessment: The Second Lebanon War was a tactical failure that led to a strategic success, and Operation Cast Lead was a tactical success that ended up as a strategic failure. He is referring to the implications of the Goldstone report: The IDF's use of extensive force amid Gaza's civilian population drew scathing international criticism, which could tie the army's hands in the next confrontation.
Meanwhile, on the ground, Israel's deterrence appears to be eroding. A significant part of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the Second Lebanon War, has never been enforced: prevention of arms smuggling to Hezbollah via the Syrian border. The incident on Tuesday also illustrated the weakness of some of the resolution's other directives. The efficacy of the resolution relies on the cooperation of the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL, which deployed in the south in order to block Hezbollah's presence there.
In this same vein, the photo of the week was taken by Agence France-Presse and published two days ago on the front page of Haaretz: Lebanese soldiers firing on the IDF as UNIFIL personnel in their blue berets look on without doing a thing. This is precisely what Israel complained about to the UN years ago, especially after UNIFIL personnel sat and watched as three soldiers were abducted from Har Dov in October 2000.
Since the 2006 war, the Israeli public has been told that the army is on high alert along the northern border, determined to demonstrate sovereignty over every millimeter of its land so as not to abandon it to Hezbollah's machinations. But this week, the shooting of the battalion commander who was killed, and the company commander who was wounded, took place outside an IDF-protected position. At first glance, it appears that the forces were deployed in a way that did not indicate the IDF anticipated a shooting attempt. If this was a deliberate, planned Lebanese ambush, why didn't the army have prior intelligence about it?
After the incident, senior IDF personnel stated with full confidence that it was a "local" initiative by some Lebanese army officers and that Hezbollah was not involved. One would presume this assertion would be based on solid intelligence. However, can it really be that Hezbollah recruited a Shiite Lebanese Army officer, and the organization's activists in the field were not aware of this? Just a week ago, when the Hariri assassination affair came up again, the IDF discussed the possibility that Hezbollah might try to spark a flare-up on the border.
It's also hard to ignore the fact that placing the blame (not just the responsibility ) on the Lebanese Army is somewhat convenient for Israel. Thus, perhaps, the IDF's measured and controlled response and avoidance of a wider escalation may be enough. In any event, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not keen to repeat the entanglements of his predecessor Ehud Olmert.
The words and the attack
IDF intelligence's blanket exoneration of Hezbollah ignores the fact that about half of the soldiers in the Lebanese Army are Shiites, as are about a third of the senior officers. In May 2008, a violent clash erupted between Hezbollah and the anti-Syrian camp in Lebanon. Hezbollah started the violence, offering two justifications: The Siniora government's decision to reject the organization's requests to create an independent communications network throughout the country, and to dismiss the Lebanese Army commander of Beirut airport security, Wafiq Shqeir, who is considered close to Hezbollah.
"Shqeir shall remain as head of the defense system at the airport. The fate of any other officer who tries to obtain that position is preordained, no matter what sect he belongs to," Nasrallah announced. And the Lebanese government backed down.
On Tuesday evening, Nasrallah wanted to talk about the unity of Lebanon, the weapon of "resistance" and Hezbollah's firm determination in its struggle against Israel. The following morning was the incident, which reinforced his comments. In the hours after the shooting, the television stations in Lebanon broadcast songs about national unity and "the country's army."
Even the Al-Mustaqbal station, owned by the Hariri family, took part in the patriotic effort. The International Court of Justice was forgotten, and instead hours of airtime were devoted to the heroism of the Lebanese troops.
The Hezbollah station Al Manar reported that the Lebanese soldiers received a clear order to prevent any violation of Lebanese sovereignty - meaning, to shoot at any more cases of tree-pruning next to the border. The A-Nahar newspaper, which is also identified with the anti-Syrian camp, published a cartoon depicting a hand emblazoned with an Israeli flag trying to cut down the Cedar of Lebanon, and a second hand with scissors cutting off the Israeli hand.
Nasrallah, in his fourth speech in two weeks, immediately clarified who Lebanon's real ally is, promising that his organization would defend the Lebanese Army from any further aggression on Israel's part. At the end of this speech, he promised another address, on August 9.
The Israeli response to that fourth speech came the next day: Prime Minister Netanyahu - as if he too were being forced to hide in some bunker - distributed a brief pre-recorded statement to the television channels. He recommended that the Lebanese Army (in the north ) and Hamas (in the south ) try not to test Israel's determination.
"We will continue to respond with strikes after every attack," Netanyahu declared, but his comments sounded more like an effort of self-justification than a threat. For the time being at least, Israel is choosing restraint.