Friday, August 04, 2006

Four Important Articles explaining how the US has misinterpreted the Lebanon Conflict

Here are four articles of interest. They explain why the new security regime between Lebanon and Israel will look much like the old one. Why the fight against Hizbullah is not simply a fight against "Islamic" terror, as argued by Bush. How the break-out of Shiite Islam, started by the Iranian revolution but unleashed in the Arab World by the US invasion of Iraq, is changing the balance of power in the region and will force the US to engage Iran and, by extension, Syria and the Shiites of Lebanon. And why Olmert will have to back track away from his goal of destroying Hizbullah and recognize international borders of his Arab neighbors and negotiate a prisoner exchange.

3 prerequisites for an effective international force
By Augustus Richard Norton
Daily Star
Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Civilian deaths in Israel's war in Lebanon now exceed 700, including about 60 victims in Qana and 18 Israeli civilians killed by Hizbullah rockets. By comparison, the six-year period between Israel's unilateral withdrawal from South Lebanon in May 2000 until the Hizbullah operation of last July 12 was more or less placid. During that earlier period, half a dozen civilians succumbed to Hizbullah weapons, and only a few more Lebanese civilians were killed by hostile action.

The rules of the game were well understood by Israel and Hizbullah. As Israeli analyst Daniel Sobelman wrote in 2004: "[T]he sides have abided by these ground rules, prudently avoiding disproportionate moves. Infrequently, when one party identifies an apparent imbalance, steps are quickly taken to re-impose the status quo ante. This dynamic has become one of the most important stabilizing features in the border landscape."

Contrary to superheated commentary in the United States and Israel, which often blurs the lines between the occupied Golan Heights and Israel, there were few attacks on Israeli civilians across the Lebanese border, and only about six on Israeli soldiers deployed in Israel, some of which were in retaliation for Israeli-caused deaths in Lebanon. This is important to recognize because it illustrates that the task of maintaining stability across this hostile border is not impossible.
Israel's over-the-top reaction to Hizbullah's abduction of two Israeli soldiers has more to do with settling scores with the party and eradicating an Iranian proxy than with the level of violence coming from Lebanon. Hizbullah provided a handy pretext, much as the attempted assassination of Ambassador Shlomo Argov by a sworn foe of Yasser Arafat provided a pretext for the launching of Israel's 1982 war in Lebanon to topple the Palestine Liberation Organization and install a puppet regime in Beirut.

Israel was given a green light for its latest war by the Bush administration, which found the opportunity to decimate Hizbullah and signal to Iran that "you may be next" too delicious to pass up. It is still early for a requiem, but it is clear that Israel's failure to deliver on its early promises of a decisive victory has left the White House discomfited and compelled to recognize, finally, that Israel's campaign is turning into a disaster in which time is working against success.

While it is noteworthy that the US is now working with greater seriousness toward an enduring cease-fire, there are significant issues to be resolved concerning the contemplated international force that is intended to stabilize South Lebanon and create a buffer zone there.

Under the right circumstances, it is certainly possible that an international force would help to restore calm in the border area, but this is one of those ideas that may sound more impressive at a press conference than on the ground. Aside from the practical problem of convincing skeptical states to send contingents to Lebanon, there is a substantial question that first needs to be answered: What would the mandate of the force be?

Will it be tasked to disarm Hizbullah? Will it use lethal force to prevent attacks on Israel, and will it protect Lebanese sovereign territory from Israeli incursions? How would the force respond to Israeli projects to impose a depopulated security strip inside Lebanese territory? Will the force be complicit in preventing Lebanese from returning to their homes, which may have been flattened and which occupants will want to rebuild? In addition, how will the new force complement or replace the present United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon? There is a bountiful minefield awaiting the "crisis force," especially if it lacks the mandate and determination to serve the core concerns of both Israelis and Lebanese.

In Israel and the US there is a callous disregard for the fact that residents of South Lebanon have good cause to worry about their security and safety. In the past three decades, some 20,000 Lebanese civilians have died at Israel's hands, most in the invasion of 1982. It is hard to find a family in Southern Lebanon that has been immune from the violence, a factor that significantly explains the popularity of Hizbullah. Any stable solution must take account of the security deficit afflicting the South.

Most of the attacks led by Hizbullah prior to July 2006 spared civilians and were directed at Israeli targets in the occupied Golan Heights, or border posts abutting Lebanon. Even so, Israelis living in the Galilee confront a non-trivial threat from a hostile group pledged to Israel's destruction. Especially after some 2,400 rockets fell on Israel in July, it is preposterous to think that the Israeli government would accept a solution that leaves Hizbullah lurking just across the border. Israelis need to be persuaded that the party's ability to act independently of the Lebanese state has been significantly curtailed.

In order to reconcile these dilemmas three conditions are essential. First, Hizbullah should be prevented from acting independently of the Lebanese state, especially for decisions of war and peace. Of course, the party is comprised of Lebanese citizens who see in it and its resistance wing both an effective political party and a stalwart defense force against Israel. The notion that Hizbullah can be disassembled - still popular in some Washington offices - is not serious. Thus, there must be a plan for bringing the resistance wing of the party under government control in conjunction with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559.
It is in Lebanon's interest to sustain a capacity for deterring Israel. Therefore, the resistance component of Hizbullah would be subsumed by the Lebanese Army, which is far more professional than is commonly understood. Several respected generals (representing several religious communities) are from the South, and they could be prime candidates to play a key role in the absorption of the resistance.

Second, Israel's scheme to flatten border villages - there are dozens of these lying only a few kilometers or less from the border - only provides instigation for organized efforts to destroy the buffer zone and for people to return to and rebuild their villages. Israel's plan is a sure recipe for further violence and needs to be expressly condemned in the Security Council resolutions now being drafted
Third, unless the international force pays as much attention to protecting the sovereign territory of Lebanon as it does to meeting Israel's security concerns, the force risks being seen as a mere extension of American and Israeli hegemonic ambitions. Only if the force is robust in its capability and fair-minded in practice will it avoid becoming part of the problem.

Much depends right now on the commitment of the belligerents to restoring stability and calm to the South, as well as on the behavior of mentors like the US, Iran and Syria. I have no doubt that the repercussions from this war will reverberate in Lebanon and in Israel, and across the Middle East in ways that that cause chagrin and regret on all sides, notwithstanding halcyon rhetoric from this or that house.
Augustus Richard Norton is a professor of international relations at Boston University. He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR.
Ground to a Halt
August 3, 2006
New York Times, Op-Ed

ISRAEL has finally conceded that air power alone will not defeat Hezbollah. Over the coming weeks, it will learn that ground power won’t work either. The problem is not that the Israelis have insufficient military might, but that they misunderstand the nature of the enemy.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom, Hezbollah is principally neither a political party nor an Islamist militia. It is a broad movement that evolved in reaction to Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in June 1982. At first it consisted of a small number of Shiites supported by Iran. But as more and more Lebanese came to resent Israel’s occupation, Hezbollah — never tight-knit — expanded into an umbrella organization that tacitly coordinated the resistance operations of a loose collection of groups with a variety of religious and secular aims.

In terms of structure and hierarchy, it is less comparable to, say, a religious cult like the Taliban than to the multidimensional American civil-rights movement of the 1960’s. What made its rise so rapid, and will make it impossible to defeat militarily, was not its international support but the fact that it evolved from a reorientation of pre-existing Lebanese social groups.

Evidence of the broad nature of Hezbollah’s resistance to Israeli occupation can be seen in the identity of its suicide attackers. Hezbollah conducted a broad campaign of suicide bombings against American, French and Israeli targets from 1982 to 1986. Altogether, these attacks — which included the infamous bombing of the Marine barracks in 1983 — involved 41 suicide terrorists.

In writing my book on suicide attackers, I had researchers scour Lebanese sources to collect martyr videos, pictures and testimonials and the biographies of the Hezbollah bombers. Of the 41, we identified the names, birth places and other personal data for 38. Shockingly, only eight were Islamic fundamentalists. Twenty-seven were from leftist political groups like the Lebanese Communist Party and the Arab Socialist Union. Three were Christians, including a female high-school teacher with a college degree. All were born in Lebanon.

What these suicide attackers — and their heirs today — shared was not a religious or political ideology but simply a commitment to resisting a foreign occupation. Nearly two decades of Israeli military presence did not root out Hezbollah. The only thing that has proven to end suicide attacks, in Lebanon and elsewhere, is withdrawal by the occupying force.

Thus the new Israeli land offensive may take ground and destroy weapons, but it has little chance of destroying the Hezbollah movement. In fact, in the wake of the bombings of civilians, the incursion will probably aid Hezbollah’s recruiting.
Equally important, Israel’s incursion is also squandering the good will it had initially earned from so-called moderate Arab states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The countries are the court of opinion that matters because, while Israel cannot crush Hezbollah, it could achieve a more limited goal: ending Hezbollah’s acquisition of more missiles through Syria.

Given Syria’s total control of its border with Lebanon, stemming the flow of weapons is a job for diplomacy, not force. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, Sunni-led nations that want stability in the region, are motivated to stop the rise of Hezbollah. Under the right conditions, the United States might be able to help assemble an ad hoc coalition of Syria’s neighbors to entice and bully it to prevent Iranian, Chinese or other foreign missiles from entering Lebanon. It could also offer to begin talks over the future of the Golan Heights.

But Israel must take the initiative. Unless it calls off the offensive and accepts a genuine cease-fire, there are likely to be many, many dead Israelis in the coming weeks — and a much stronger Hezbollah.

Robert A. Pape, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, is the author of “Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism.”

Ancient Rift

Rising Academic Sees Sectarian Split Inflaming Mideast. Vali Nasr Says 'Shiite Revival' Is Met by Sunni Backlash; Resurgent Iran Leads Way Can Mullahs be Moderated?
Wall Street Journal, August 4, 2006; Page A1 (Thanks to Ehsani)

WASHINGTON -- As Vali Nasr dashed for the airport last week after briefing a small group of academics and policy makers here, a hand pulled the political scientist aside.

"That was the most coherent, in-depth and incisive discussion of the religious situation in the Middle East that I've heard in any setting," said Richard Land, a Southern Baptist leader and influential conservative.

Sen. Joseph Biden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, heaped similar praise on Mr. Nasr in May for giving what Mr. Biden called the most "concise and coherent" testimony on Iran he had ever heard.

From the violence in the Mideast, new realities are emerging -- and a new generation of experts to interpret them. Shiite Muslims are asserting themselves as never before. Followers of this branch of Islam, generally backbenchers in the region's power game, are central players in Lebanon, Iran and Iraq -- often acting out against traditional powers such as Israel, the U.S., and Sunni Arab states.

Mr. Nasr, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., calls this a historic "Shiite revival" and has gone further than most in identifying it as a central force in Mideast politics. He also frames a possible U.S. response: Engage Iran, especially over the issue of reducing violence in Iraq, and try to manage Tehran's rise as a regional power rather than isolating it.

The issues are more than academic for the 46-year-old professor. He was raised in Tehran and hails from a prominent intellectual and literary family in Iran that traces its lineage to the prophet Muhammad. His father was once president of Iran's top science university and chief of staff for the shah's wife.

In 1979, after the Iranian revolution, the Nasrs "started from zero" in the U.S., says Mr. Nasr. He received a doctorate in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, writing his thesis on the political dimensions of radical Islam, while his father, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, became a renowned professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University.

The younger Mr. Nasr has laid out his views in a series of speeches and articles, as well as a new book. He is gaining a wide hearing in Washington. "The problem with the current Middle East debate is it's completely stuck. Nobody knows what to do," says political economist Francis Fukuyama of Johns Hopkins University, who attended Mr. Nasr's private briefing last week. "Vali Nasr offers a plausible alternative that may gain traction."

Mr. Nasr's analysis begins with the idea that the removal of Saddam Hussein in Iraq has transformed the Mideast, but not in the ways promised by President Bush. By replacing Iraq's Sunni-led dictatorship with an elected government dominated by the country's Shiite majority, the U.S. destroyed the Sunni wall that had contained the restless Shiite power to the east, Iran. The clerical regime in Tehran was immeasurably strengthened.

Reopening a Fault Line
This power shift, Mr. Nasr argues, has reopened an ancient fault line between Shiites and Sunnis that crosses the entire region. The schism dates back to the prophet Muhammad's death in 632, when his companions -- the forebears of the Sunnis -- chose Muhammad's close friend and father-in-law, Abu Bakr, to succeed him and become Islam's first caliph. Shiites believe Muhammad's son-in-law, Ali, was more deserving.

Ali managed to become Islam's fourth caliph, only to face multiple rebellions. He was ultimately murdered while at prayer at a shrine in what is now Iraq. His son, Hussein, refused to accept his father's Sunni usurpers and was slain 19 years later.

Shiites commemorate Hussein's murder in the holiday called Ashura, a 10-day period of mourning and self-flagellation. Their reverence for Hussein's stand against tyranny is the touchstone of Shiite political passions -- often invoked during the Iranian revolution, the ensuing war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and even recently by the leader of the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah in its war against Israel. Traditional Sunnis view Shiites as heretics, led astray by Persian Zoroastrianism and other pagan beliefs.

Today, the conflict is most visible in Iraq, where foreign and local Sunni insurgents refuse to accede to the country's Shiite majority. But Mr. Nasr sees the backlash in Iraq as auguring a wave of similar sectarian battles in a broad swath of Asia from Lebanon to Pakistan where the populations of the two sects are roughly even.

"In the coming years, Shiites and Sunnis will compete over power, first in Iraq but ultimately across the entire region," Mr. Nasr writes in his new book, "The Shia Revival: How Conflicts Within Islam Will Shape the Future," published by W.W. Norton & Co. "The overall Sunni-Shiite conflict will play a large role in defining the Middle East as a whole and shaping its relations with the outside world."

For the U.S., the Sunni-Shiite divide is fraught with challenges -- and opportunities. By creating in Iraq the first Shiite-led state in the Arab world since the rise of Islam (Iran is mostly ethnic Persian), the U.S. ignited aspirations among some 150 million Shiites in the region, Mr. Nasr says. Many live under Sunni rule, such as in Saudi Arabia, where they have long been persecuted. Yet U.S. foreign policy still operates under the "old paradigm" of Sunni dominance, he contends.

Take the current crisis in Lebanon. The U.S. has long relied on its traditional Sunni Arab allies -- Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia -- to keep the Arab-Israeli conflict in check. But now the Sunni axis is failing, says Mr. Nasr, because these nations are incapable of containing a resurgent Iran and its radical clients on the front lines against Israel -- Hezbollah and the Palestinian group Hamas.

To adapt, the U.S. must "recalibrate" its diplomacy and re-establish contacts with Iran, he says. That would require disavowing any interest in "regime change" in Tehran -- an unrealistic aim anyway, Mr. Nasr argues -- but would offer the best hope of moderating Iran's growing influence.

"The Iranian genie isn't going back in the bottle," he says. "If we deny these changes have happened -- that Cairo, Amman and Riyadh have lost control of the region -- and we continue to exclude Iran, we'd better be prepared to spend a lot of money on troops in the region for a long time," Mr. Nasr says.

The Bush administration is listening to Mr. Nasr, but his influence on U.S. policy is unclear. Two White House foreign-policy aides attended his talk here last week. And last year, Mr. Nasr briefed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Since last year the influence of neoconservatives who championed the invasion of Iraq has ebbed at the White House, and Mr. Bush recently held a roundtable discussion at Camp David with other analysts critical of his Iraq policy.

One White House official points out that Mr. Nasr's prescription assumes the U.S., by recognizing and engaging Iran as a regional power, could moderate its behavior. But that outcome, the official adds, doesn't inevitably flow from Mr. Nasr's core argument about the Shiite revival. Many Republican foreign-policy specialists, including some who opposed the Iraq war, believe Iran is a threat and may have to be confronted militarily if diplomatic efforts fail.

In the Lebanon crisis, the U.S. has so far ruled out talking to Syria or Iran, Hezbollah's main suppliers of money and missiles. "Frankly, there is nothing to negotiate," White House spokesman Tony Snow has said.

Mr. Nasr sees it differently. Hezbollah's brazen attack on Israel July 12, and its heady self-confidence from parrying Israel's onslaught since then, illustrate why the U.S. needs a new policy toward Iran and the region's Shiites, he says. Immediately after the fighting stops in Lebanon, he says, the U.S. should convene a conference with all of the interested parties -- including Syria and Iran -- to redraw Lebanon's political map. In 1989, Saudi Arabia convened a similar conference in the Saudi city of Taif that helped end Lebanon's civil war by redistributing political power among the country's four main religious groups.

Lebanon's Sunnis emerged from Taif much stronger, particularly under Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a Sunni construction magnate who helped rebuild Beirut after the civil war. Mr. Nasr sees the Shiites, who he estimates make up 40% to 50% of Lebanon's population, as relatively disenfranchised. Shiites hold just 35 of 128 seats in Lebanon's Parliament, largely because the country hasn't held a census since 1932. Lebanon's system assigns the nonexecutive post of parliamentary speaker to a Shiite but bars Shiites from becoming president or prime minister.

Mr. Nasr says the crisis in Lebanon underscores the importance of engaging Iran as the U.S. did after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. At a conference in Bonn, Germany, the U.S. and Iran negotiated extensively, giving rise to the relatively stable government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. In Lebanon, America's Sunni Arab allies are likely to oppose apportioning rival Shiites greater political power. Mr. Nasr argues that is the only way to give Lebanon's Shiites -- and Iran -- a stake in stability.

"You can beat Hezbollah to a pulp, but you can't change the fact that around 45% of Lebanese are Shiites," Mr. Nasr says.

Mr. Nasr also sees room for engagement with Tehran over Iraq. Prior to the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the Bush administration argued change in Iraq would help spawn democracy in the region. At a seminar in Toronto around the start of the war, historian Bernard Lewis, who was instrumental in advising Vice President Dick Cheney and other top U.S. officials on the Iraq invasion, said: "The Iranian regime won't last very long after an overthrow of the regime in Iraq, and many other regimes in the region will feel threatened."

This prediction was based on a pivotal misunderstanding about Iraq's Shiites, Mr. Nasr says: that their Iraqi and Arab identity would supersede their Shiite affinity with Iran. As it turned out, as soon as Shiites took power in Iraq, they eagerly threw open the gates to Iranian influence and support. Now, Iran operates a vast network of allies and clients in Iraq, Mr. Nasr says, ranging from intelligence agents and militias to top politicians in Iraq's Shiite parties.

"Ethnic antagonism [between Arabs and Persians] cannot possibly be all-important
when Iraq's supreme religious leader is Iranian and Iran's chief justice is Iraqi," writes Mr. Nasr in the current edition of Foreign Affairs magazine. The references are to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the Iranian-born Iraqi religious leader, and the Iraqi-born head of Iran's judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahroudi.
Mr. Lewis, in a phone interview, says he still believes the "tyrannies" neighboring Iraq feel threatened by the prospect of a stable democracy in Baghdad. He says Iran's activities in its neighbor are a sign of its fears.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, quipped about Iran's influence in a recent speech in Washington. When he met his Iranian counterpart in Afghanistan, Mr. Khalilzad said, "I used to joke with him that 'you guys ought to be much more helpful to us, because look, you couldn't deal with the Taliban problem, you couldn't deal with the Saddam problem, and we've dealt with both. That's a big deal. We'll send you a bill one day for that.' "

Two Main Threats
Mr. Nasr sees two main threats arising from today's Shiite revival. The first is Iranian nationalism, fueled by perceptions in Iran that a Sunni Arab-U.S. nexus wants to stifle its rise as a regional power. That explains the widespread support among Iranians for their country's nuclear program, he says. It also explains why some Iranian leaders have been sounding less like Islamic revolutionaries and more like the late shah, a Persian nationalist who extended Iran's influence into Shiite and Farsi-speaking areas beyond its borders.

The second major threat, he says, is the Sunni reaction to the Shiite revival. As Iraq's insurgents have shown, hatred of Shiites is ingrained in Sunni militancy, Mr. Nasr says. He worries about a replay of the 1980s and 1990s, when Saudi money poured into Sunni extremist groups throughout the region to counter the Shiite fervor coming out of Iran after the revolution. The same groups became the backbone of al Qaeda, Mr. Nasr says.

In a speech last year in New York, the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, said it "seems out of this world" that U.S. forces would protect allies of Iran who are building a power base in Iraq. "Now we are handing the whole country over to Iran without reason," the prince said.

But Mr. Nasr says U.S. and Iranian interests in Iraq may converge because both want lasting stability there. Comparing Iran to 19th-century Prussia and Japan of the 1930s, he says it is important to manage the rise of regional powers. "You can't regulate them by isolating them," he says.

Write to Peter Waldman at peter.waldman@wsj.com1
A history of miscalculations
By Mark Perry, Conflicts Forum, August 3, 2006
When Ehud Olmert responded to the killing of three Israeli soldiers and the kidnapping of two others by saying that Israel would "destroy" Hezbollah, he meant it. When, five days later, Olmert said that he would hold the Lebanese government responsible for disarming Hezbollah, he meant that too. And when, just fourteen days into the war, he said that Israel would push Hezbollah north of the Litani River he also meant that. Now, on Day 23 of The War for Lebanon, it's clear that Ehud Olmert does not exactly know what he means -- an uncertainty that is resulting from an internal Israeli cabinet debate about the war's goals: something that, we would have thought, might have been decided on the night of July 12.

The Israeli cabinet debate is the result of the less-than-stellar military results handed to Olmert by the IDF senior leadership. It is no secret that IDF senior commander Lt. General Dan Halutz believed that the vaunted Israeli Air Force would have little problem chasing Hezbollah from the Lebanese border. As recently as July 28, Halutz was telling the international press that the IAF had inflicted "enormous" damage on Hezbollah "at the strategic level" and that "hundreds of [Hezbollah] fighters" had been killed. After a short lull -- purposely corresponding to the a U.S. call for a 48-hour cessation in Israel's air campaign -- Hezbollah responded, firing 230 rockets at Israel on August 2 and 160 on August 3.

This is not the first time that Halutz has miscalculated. Shortly before midnight on July 23, 2002, Halutz ordered a bombing mission that destroyed the house of Hamas militant Salah Shehada -- as well as every member of his family: 15 people in all, including six children. The attack took place after Hamas announced that any cessation in Israeli activities would be followed by a complete end to Hamas operations. When he was killed, Shehada was actually in the process of initialing a ceasefire order for all members of Hamas's brigades, due to take effect immediately. Shehada's killing ended whatever chances for a ceasefire remained and Hamas continued its campaign targeting Israeli civilians. Asked how he felt knowing that his order resulted in the killing of innocent people, Halutz answered by saying that he was undisturbed: "...if you want to know what I feel when I release a bomb, I will tell you: I feel a light bump to the plane as a result of the bomb's release. A second later it's gone, and that's all. That is what I feel."

Halutz is now caught in a similar situation. While the U.S. press treated Hassan Nasrallah's recent (August 3) speech saying that Hezbollah would attack Tel Aviv if Israel attacked Beirut as a threat, the Hezbollah leader's clear intent was to limit the war. Condi Rice, touted as an intellectual heavyweight, didn't get it: "The international community needs to say to Hezbollah that these kinds of threats are also not helpful at a time when the international community, the Lebanese people, the Israeli people, all want an end to the hostility," she told CNN. Nasrallah went further, saying that Hezbollah would stop its rocket attacks if Israel stops its "aggression." Halutz, who is still apparently confident in IDF capabilities, apparently agrees with Rice. He told the Israeli cabinet that any attack by Hezbollah on Tel Aviv would result in an attack on the Lebanese infrastructure -- or what's left of it. As in July 2002 -- when an antagonist held out an olive branch -- Halutz may live to regret his words.

Hezbollah is alive and fighting well, according to one of the movement's leaders in contact with European officials in Beirut. "The leadership wants to report that it is intact at the very top," one of these diplomatic officials reports, "and was not surprised by the Beirut bombing of last night [Wednesday evening, August 2]." These officials say that Hezbollah's leadership claims that its communications systems -- "though somewhat degraded" -- are still "working well" and that Hezbollah's command and control of its units in the south "remains surprisingly resilient." How long can Hezbollah hold out? According to the European diplomat, the Hezbollah official laughed when he heard the question: "The real question is how long can Israel hold out."

Mark Perry is U.S. director of Conflicts Forum.


At 8/04/2006 02:07:00 PM, Blogger Ausamaa said...

Nice and informative articles, but perhaps not the one written by Mr. Nasr. He comes out sounding like an ex-Shah analysist trying to portaray things from a Persia/US/Arab angle, despite the fact that the Shah, and with him Iranian pro-US impreialist interst took flight out of the Islamic Republic of Iran twenty years ago.

I simply refuse to accept all this as Shite trevival;, or as a counter revival by the Sunnies. It fits nice with leaving Israel and the strategic interests of the US out of the matter, but "Things" have never been that simple in our area of the world. You can sell such a theory to semi-informed US congressmen and analysists. But not to many others.

If you want it put in very simple terms, what we are really seeing is the World's reaction to the "uncalculated" and "overambitious" attempts of the US to dominate the world. And the worlds reaction to it. THe reactio seems unorchestrated of course, but things build upm slowly but surely. The US is foolishely seeking control in each area; Militarily, Industrially, Politically, Strategically, or in whichever way it can manage to do. And by the looks of it; it is not managing to much except building up and fostering more coherent/reactive anti-US sentiments and "endangering" reactions and responses.
Cut the Sunni/Shiits stuff and look at the true causes. Injustices and the desires to Rule single handedly. God himself could not do it through one single religion so he kept revising his message; and now Bush has given it a nasty try and wound up in deep mud everywhere. Lebanon, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Korea, and he is on the verge of loosing Africa, Central Asia and the Far East as well. Not to mention Castro II in Venzuella.

Should any one have the time, a worthy article of how the US was done in and by who, titled "Ending the Neoconservative Nightmare" by Daniel Levy and can be found at:
www.haaretz/hasen/spages/746312.html it is published in todays edition (friday). May explain where someone fould things up and who statrted the ball rolling in certain directions. Heck, even sober Israelies are worried.!!!!

At 8/04/2006 08:38:00 PM, Blogger Eternal Lebanon said...

I agree with most of August Richard Norton analysis. In particular, his three conditions for resolving the dilemma are very accurate. First, Hezbollah must be prevented from acting independently from the Lebanese Government. Second, Israel must be restrained. Third, the International force must protect Lebanon’s sovereignty as much as Israel’s security. I should add a fourth condition to those of Mr. Norton. Syria must be prevented from ever using Lebanon as a theatre to instigate such acts that triggered the conflict. This can be done by creating a robust and well equipped force that may consist of Lebanese and international troops to control the Syrian-Lebanese borders in addition to the Israeli border. It can also be achieved on a political level by declaring the State of Lebanon as a neutral State in the Arab/Israeli conflict. The declaration can be made by the Security Council as well as by the Arab States and Israel. This will take out the pretext for Syria to continue its spoiler role in Lebanon since the alternative to Neutrality of Lebanon would be a formal peace treaty with the Jewish State. Since all parties to the conflict, except perhaps Israel, seem to agree that this Lebanese/Israeli peace treaty should wait until the overall conflict Arab/Israeli conflict is resolved, the neutrality of Lebanon is the only alternative.

Mr. Robert Pape’s analysis is also excellent especially in his allure to the need to hold Syria accountable for its actions and creating the conditions through regional allies or otherwise to impose upon it a behavior that conforms to international norms.

I have great respect for the Nasr family and I have read many books of Mr. Vali’s father Seyyed Hussein Nasr. I must disagree with Mr. Vali’s simplistic analysis regarding his perceived Shia/Sunni divide. I also find a tendency on his part to inflate statistics in order to support his argument. Historically, Sunnis are the majority in terms of demographics in the Muslim world comprising 90% of the Muslim World population. The Sunnis were never the rulers in the Muslim world in the sense that they created religious states where the supreme leader is a religious figure. The government is required only to observe those rules created by known competent jurists that eventually compiled the body of Islamic Law called Sharia and which also includes verdicts from Shia jurists. Even other non-Muslim minorities were accorded their rights to conduct their affairs according to the rules of their faiths. In other words, the Sunnis have known secularism even before the concept was accepted in Europe and the west in general. The State under these rulers can be called Islamic in the sense that it respects and applies the rules as stipulated by the jurist, Sunni or Shia alike. Khomeini introduced the concept of the rule of the learned scholar which can be seen as despotism in the West since it essentially diverts drastically from Western norms of Democratic societies. It also fails to accord other Muslim groups such as the Sunnis and others their rights to the application of their Laws since it is stipulated in the Islamic Republic constitution that the Shia laws are the exclusive laws of the state. This has been demonstrated in Iran as well as in Iraq in this so-called exercise of Democracy in which the so-called learned scholar has essentially a veto power over popular vote. The current sectarian violence in Iraq cannot be described as a Sunni backlash against Shia revival as Mr. Nasr stated.

Regarding Mr. Perry, It is too early to predict who miscalculated in this conflict. We should not forget that Hezbollah was the first to miscalculate and it is still the party considered to be the aggressor.


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