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Saturday, July 22, 2006

In an interview published in Haaretz, Martin Kramer, an Israeli professor, former director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies discussed the situation in Lebanon. He believes that:

Hizbollah's hubris has created an opportunity for Israel... Hezbollah probably believed it would score a few points in Arab public opinion by a cross-border operation, and that it would make one more incremental change in the rules of
the game. It was a strategic miscalculation...

But more importantly and that pretty much covers why this is going to carry on for a while, Kramer states

In any case, it is in the interests of Israel and the United States to deal with the Hezbollah threat now, and not later in the midst of a far more dangerous crisis over Iran's nuclear plans. So a war now to degrade Hezbollah is a shared Israel-U.S. interest, which means that Israel can wage it without many

Moreover, with such a mandate from the US,

Ending the crisis is obviously not an end in itself. The objective has to be to reduce Hezbollah to a negligible factor in larger calculations, to degrade and deplete its capabilities, to the point where it's about as significant a constraint as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or Jordan. It will take some time to reverse the years of neglect, and Hezbollah will not allow the halo around it to be smashed without fighting back. But Israel has a U.S. license to take its time now and get it right, and it would be foolish not to use it.

When asked if he expects the crisis to tear apart the “fragile fabric of Lebanese society”? Kramer’s response was

I don't know about the society, but I do expect it to tear apart the fragile fiction of Lebanese politics. An independent Lebanon is incompatible with an extra-legal, extra-territorial status for any militia. This fact could be papered over before; now it is exposed for all to see.

So there you have it, Israeli thinking. They saw and probably saw to it that their interests converge with those of the west. Iran had alienated most of the players on the international scene so much that they are all willing for Lebanon to pay the price of disarming Iran of any tools that it may use in what Kramer calls a future “Megacrisis”. Moreover, the fact that the perception everywhere is that Hizbollah answers to Iran also explains Saudi Arabia’s position of laying the blame squarely on their feet for Lebanon’s predicament.

The ball is rolling, nobody can stop it now, our civilian casualties will continue to mount and be counted as collateral and our basic infrastructure will continue to be hit, because it is terrorist infrastructure in western eyes.

But who is to blame? Who miscalculated gravely? Who gave our vicious neighbours, not only the excuse but also the necessary international support to carry out its operations in Lebanon? Obviously Hizbollah, who failed to read the situation in its proper geopolitical context and also failed to portray themselves as a purely Lebanese contender on the scene. They bullied the independence movement in Lebanon serving the interests of both Syria and Iran. They blindly aligned themselves with regional players whose international standing at the moment is more than questionable. Their strategy has not changed since 2000, and their quest to make themselves relevant may well end in them becoming less of a player...

In the midst of this struggle between a regional superpower and the proxies of another regional superpower, is poor Lebanon. Our diplomats have their work cut out for them, they have to explain, to plead and to bargain. They have to try and show that what Israel is doing is counterproductive and that such an Israeli policy is nothing more than a temporary solution, that this will only deepen the split in Lebanese society, that they are threatening the budding Lebanese state and our chances of evolving into a real democracy... But alas, the stigma associated with Hizbollah, both internally, on the arab scene and on the international scene, may well be to large to overcome.


Hassan said...

Good post R. Could you add a link to the interview you quoted?

dougjnn said...

Iran's rockets, of the type that are reaching Haifa (or a somewhat longer range version of them) could reach Haifa from Syria. So why doen't Iran and Syria just fire from Syria?

Because Syria doesn't what Damascus bombed and more territory from the Golan lost.

Why doen't Hamas or Hezbollah then, rather than the Syrian military, fire Iranian rockets at Israel from Syria.

Because Syria won't let them. It's military is in effective control of it's territory.

Why does Lebanon allow Hezbollah to fire rockets and stage raids on Israel from it's territory, when it's obviously so dangerous?

Because Lebanon isn't in control of it's southern territory, or the Bekaa Valley, or the southern suburbs of Beirut.

What Lebanon can do is wail to the West that Geneva is being violated, so that is what it is doing.

dougjnn said...

If one believes that Israel took this action merely to recover it’s two captured soldiers, then of course it is obscenely disproportionate.

It is probably disproportionate if one believed that Hezbollah would never move beyond the level of missile attacks it used as a diversion in the soldier grab, and that it has rained down on a few villages along the border over the last six years. (Although maybe not, if it were thought to go on forever if an action such as the present one wasn’t undertaken.)

Many Lebanese, including the PM, like to say that if Israel gives back the little bit of disused territory (Sabaa Farms) that belonged to Syria when Israel took it in the 67 war, but which Syria sometimes says it has given to Lebanon (to give their allies Hezbollah a clear Lebanese nationalistic cassus belli against Israel), that Hezbollah will no longer have any reason to fight Israel or hold onto (and ever increase) it’s private militia arms.

What Israel believes is that Hezbollah’s true aim is to remain a well armed state within a state, that inexorably increases it’s arms and rachets up it’s missile and raiding attacks on Israel not with nationalistic aims but Islamacist, eventually make Israel leave the area aims.

It’s not an irrational fear. (I’m neither an Israeli nor Jewish nor a fanatical Israel supporter of any other sort.) It may be a bit early, but the Israelis believe in being early. When your population is small in a sea of opponents that’s probably wise. It’s worked for them in any event.

If Haifa is continually shut down how can the Israeli economy prosper? Will Jews leave? Not just Haifa but Israel.

Rockets that are regularly fired at Israeli cities are intolerable.

So too are rockets which can reach such cities in the hands of radical Islamists who wish the destruction of the Jewish state, and who operate from large safe havens in a neighboring state.

All that would change if Hezbollah were seen as merely a nationalist resistance movement, or deterrable.