Sunday, August 13, 2006

No Real “Cease-Fire”

As a kid growing up in Civil War Lebanon, I used to think that “Cease-Fire” meant “Start Shooting”. I understood the concept of “Cease” and “Fire”, but I also believed that, when put together, the words meant just the opposite. It is a testament to all the failed accords brought down by mysterious “uncontrolled elements” that persisted in fighting it out.

Today, those “uncontrolled elements” are not so mysterious; all of Israel, Iran, and SyriaLebanon, the interests of the bigger players are not aligned with us. have their own ulterior motives in this farce. While Cease Fire only suits

Is Israel only interested in disarming Hezb?

Israel may have every interest in keeping its territorial gains; it has many reasons to stay, not leas the appeal of Southern Lebanon’s riches. Contrary to its previous forays, this time the south is empty; all it needs is some “clean up”, i.e. localized counter insurgency operations. As long as Hezb keeps its weapons, it will not withdraw, and may even push further.

If you think Israel’s goal was only to disarm Hezb, take a good look at the diverse list of targets that were pounded over the past few days. While the military rationale for many targets is obvious, the map shows other “terror infrastructure” such as airport, power plants, water pumps, and ports… As the pressure increases in Southern Lebanon, more and more people are leaving the region. The bombing saw more than 800,000 people, and about 30% of the country, are gone. Now, except for Tyre and Saida, the rest of the region is empty of its inhabitants; were the bombing to stop, economic activity will remain all but impossible. Soon Saida and Tyre would follow; Israeli leaflets were telling people to leave.

Does this mean a Land Grab? I am not suggesting that this is actually the plan, but the dynamics are such that events can easily take on a life of their own; Israel always had territorial claims on the South and the Litani. In addition, holding on to Southern Lebanon could allow them to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians.

Will Hezb give up its weapons? Could we expect a bunch of religious zealots who appropriate God’s name to themselves, and who shanghaied an entire country in their fight?

As of Sunday, August 13th, the signs were not encouraging. Its Iranian patrons made it clear that Hezb’s main role is in “challenging the ‘Infidel’ West, under US leadership”. The Iranians are using Hezb, not “prisoners, the Shebaa farms or even "Arab causes, […] but their struggle against the United States; they feel “ready for endless sacrifice and suffering, to provide humanity with leadership”.

The Syrians would not be helpful either. Under the guise of finding a solution to the bloodshed, their apologists are already advancing their many “reasons for the United States to engage Syria”. Doubtless the Syrians relish going back to being the pyromaniac fireman to whom we owe such mess; beyond an ideology that advocates the unity of “Greater Syria” (any similarities with Nazis are coincidental, of course), they are “hooked on Lebanon” and, at the very least, they hope to use this leverage to break their isolation. No wonder Bachar looks happier. Sieg Heil.

With this in mind, why would Syria and Iran give up such willing cannon fodder? Their intransigence was amply demonstrated when the “Lebanese cabinet meeting [was] postponed”.

What Can the Lebanese Government Do?

After one month of fighting, Lebanon has suffered extensive ecological and economicbroke. The only bright spot is PM Siniora, who has proven to be an excellent leader. damage, and is all but

His efforts should be saluted, but I do not think they will amount to much; his cabinet is divided, and many ministers either incompetent or frankly allied with Syria. The best the PM can do is to circumvent Hezb. He is making efforts on the humanitarian front. He was able to sideline a conniving, discredited Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh from the United Nations, and send the excellent Tarek Mitri.

And the Winner is…

Hassan Nasrallah, against all odds. This brilliant demagogue has stumbled into confrontation with Israel, and now effectively dictates the government’s agenda. However, as Hezb’s power rises, how long before most the other communities decide that they have had enough. Then many would decide that Hezb’s action against Israel was no less than a coup d’etat, and would move to “correct” this…

As the Israeli onslaught continues to destroy the Lebanese State, the country will surely fall apart. Sunnis, Druze and Christians may not look kindly upon those who shanghaied them into Iran’s struggle, especially after ruining the promising summer season... If Hezb decides to continue to resist and fails to hear the wise words of Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, his jusqu'auboutisme, will be untenable to the other Lebanese communities; the Druze are already chafing.

Lebanon is too small for a single powerful party such as Hezb; it can “absorb neither its victory against Israel nor itsdefeat”. Hezb may think itself untouchable, but long before July 12th, it had already overstepped its bounds. If Hezb persists in its intransigeance, a Civil War could easily break out; in that case, Israel could not possibly be asked to leave Southern Lebanon; after all, there would be no country to return the land to…

All of you threatened by the deam of a pluralist Lebanon, do not rejoice too soon. This time, the war may not be limited to Lebanon. This time, the "birth pangs" that are killing Lebanon could easily spread to the "New Middle East"...

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