Thursday, August 17, 2006

Ceasefire Collapse?

From GLORIA [the Herziliya IDC], August 16, 2006, by Barry Rubin ...

We may be on the verge of the most amazing turnaround regarding the ceasefire in Lebanon organized by the UN Security Council. Consider the following points:
A. Hizballah says that it will not disarm voluntarily ....
B. Lebanon says that it will not disarm Hizballah ...and that it might not send its 15,000 troops into southern Lebanon without Hizballah's cooperation.
C. France, which is leading the national force of 15,000 UNIFIL soldiers ... says that it will not send any troops if Hizballah still has arms in southern Lebanon and the Lebanese army does not arrive there.
D. Israel says that if the Lebanese army does not arrive, it will not leave southern Lebanon.

In short, the whole basis of the ceasefire is on the verge of collapse and it is hard to see how it can be saved.

The reason for this is because Hizballah will not even accept the minimum actions needed to activate the ceasefire. Its motives for this are several:
- Hizballah leaders may believe their own propaganda that they scored a victory in the war. - As usual, given their ideology and practice, they are not interested in making any compromise but believe they can get everything they want.
- They are being prodded toward intransigence by Iran and Syria.
- They have contempt for the West, which they see as a paper tiger, unwilling to take action against them.

Yet, their concept of the situation is quite wrong. If Hizballah provokes a renewal of the fighting, its claims of success could evaporate very quickly. On a military level, they lost the war, despite their public relations successes. .... If the war restarts, Hizballah is going to face far greater pressures, especially since the Israeli government's leaders have already been harshly criticized for going too slowly in the ground offensive.

And that is not all. Hizballah may face a two-front war. Lebanese Christians, Druze, and Sunni Muslims, the majority of the population, are largely angry at how Hizballah dragged their country into a war and is increasingly subjugated it to Iran and Syria.

Even within Hizballah's own Shia constituency, the rival Amal movement is trying to make a comeback by showing Shia Muslims that it provides better services than Hizballah. How are those just returning to southern Lebanon going to feel about the prospect of fleeing again? The Saudis are eager to fund anti-Hizballah forces in Lebanon. There may or may not be another civil war in Lebanon but Hizballah is definitely not becoming more popular there, whatever cheers it receives from those elsewhere in the Arab world who paid no price for the fighting.

And what about the international community? It is not going to be happy about Hizballah, with the help of its Iranian and Syrian backers, wrecking the UN peace effort. It is going to be hard to criticize Israel for taking military action under such conditions.

Everything could turn around very quickly. Given what is happening, this prospect seems pretty possible.

Barry Rubin is Director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Interdisciplinary Center university. ... Prof. Rubin's columns can now be read online at:

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