Thursday, August 24, 2006

News Round UP (24 August 2006)

Bitter Lemons has another excellent round table on Lebanon and Hizbullah:

Whose Lebanon will it now be? Joseph Bahout
A symptom of the Lebanese system Ferry Biederman
Hizballah: where to go from here Oussama Safa
Force will not disarm Hizballah Rhonda Roumani

All four articles come to similar conclusions. They argue that the March 14 coalition must accommodate Hizbullah and struggle for a political compromise, by offering the Shiites a greater political role in the central government, either by renegotiating Taif (Biederman) or by offering them more cabinet positions (Safa). All insist that it cannot be disarmed by force and urge the international community no to force the government into a corner on this issue.

Bahout very skillfully describes the opposing projects of the March 14 movement and Hizbullah. He argues that the expulsion of Syria, which contained and balanced the aspirations of both groups, followed by the imposition of UN resolution 1559, demanding Hizbullah's demilitarization, forced the group on the defensive and drove it to reassert itself by kidnapping the Israeli soldiers. Bahout argues that Hizbullah did not carry out a "coup" as some have argued, but that "If Hizballah is not to become a state within a state or even the state itself, it will still have the ambition--some would say the right--to implant its own definition of Lebanese statehood and the new "Lebanonism". In such a venture, in which many Lebanese will have to learn to accommodate those they consider newcomers."

Another excellent article on Hizbullah is: Iran, the Vatican of Shi‘ism? Roschanack Shaery-Eisenlohr.

Roschanack deftly argues that Hizbullah is not a creature of Iran, as some have argued. She explains how it has defied Iran on a number of issues, by asserting its Lebanese and Arab identity in the face of Iranian efforts to dominate its cultural and spiritual agenda.

Firas Mikdad of the Eurasian Group helps explain what the French think they are doing in Lebanon:

24 August, 2006

French President Jacques Chirac will likely reverse course and announce a significant troop contribution to UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNFIL), possibly a battalion of more than 2000 French troops. The expected announcement will reinforce a fragile ceasefire and persuade other European countries to follow suit. On the other hand, Syria's 23 August threat to blockade Lebanon should UN forces deploy on the Lebanese-Syrian border is unlikely to materialize since Lebanon is not expected to sanction such a deployment.

President Chirac's is expected to put an end to differences between the French Foreign and Defense Ministries on the deployment of troops by announcing France's contribution of additional forces later today. Despite concerns voiced by French Defense officials about troop safety, Gaullist Chirac favors taking the risk in order bolster France's longstanding influence in Lebanon rather than surrendering force leadership to Italy. His expected decision was probably made easier by Israeli assurances against renewed hostilities and an amendment that now permits UN forces to engage Hizbullah if provoked.

France's expected announcement will likely bolster the fragile ceasefire and prompt hesitant European countries to step up their contribution. It will also help the UN meet its target of having 3,500 peacekeepers in place by 2 September, 6,500 by October, and 15,000 by yearend. That will then set the stage for a visit by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to the region next week, followed by the start of negotiations on a possible second UN resolution on an exchange of prisoner and the status of the disputed Sheba'a Farms by mid-September.

Despite Israeli demands however, UN forces are unlikely to take up positions on the Lebanese-Syrian border. UN resolution 1701 leaves the issue vague enough for Lebanon to deploy its own forces instead, thereby averting a confrontation with Hizbullah and Syria's threat to close all border crossing. Such an unlikely move would have a chocking effect on the Lebanese economy, preventing the great majority of Lebanese exports from reaching their markets in Arab Gulf countries.

Firas Maksad
Associate, Middle East & Africa
Eurasia Group
1101 30th Street NW, Suite 100B
Washington, D.C. 20007
Syria bars UN patrols on Lebanon border
Agence France-Presse, The Associated Press
Published: August 23, 2006
The deployment of international troops along the Lebanon-Syria border would be unacceptable, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria was quoted as saying Wednesday.

"This is an infringement on Lebanese sovereignty and a hostile position," Dubai Television quoted him as saying in an interview without showing video in advance of its airing.

Assad also urged the Lebanese government to adhere to its responsibilities and not embark on anything that could sabotage relations with Syria.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday that Israel had no plans to lift its air and sea blockade on Lebanon until an international peacekeeping force took up positions along the Syrian border and at Beirut's airport.

Foreign Minister Philippe Douste- Blazy of France said again Wednesday that Israel must end its sea and air blockade of Lebanon.

The blockade "cannot continue," Douste-Blazy told France 2 Television. "If Lebanon is to reconstruct, if it is going to recover economically, this blockade must be lifted."

He also said that the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, or Unifil, should at the same time enforce a strict embargo on arms. Israel accuses Syria of sending weapons into Lebanon to arm Hezbollah.

"The reinforced Unifil will have two missions," the foreign minister said. "It will be there to permit the Lebanese Army to deploy, and to guarantee the embargo on arms delivery across all borders - I repeat, across all borders."

Israel imposed a total embargo on Lebanon shortly after the start of its offensive against Hezbollah on July 12 and has maintained it even after a UN- brokered cease-fire went into effect on Aug. 14.

While the resolution did not explicitly call on the force to police the Syrian frontier, it said it could help Lebanon, at its government's request, to secure its borders and prevent illegal weapons from entering the country.
How the Shebaa Farms will be demarcated is also of importance to the resolution of this problem. Sami Moubayed has an excellent article of the regions checkered past, which sheds light on who it belongs to. As Sami shows the disputed area is legally Syria's but it has always been owned, registered, and farmed by Lebanese. The French Mandate authorities were lazy. Sami suggest there is a real dispute and it should be Lebanese. Here is a continuation of the API article quoted above:
Assad also was quoted as rejecting the demarcation of his country's border with Lebanon in Shebaa Farms, a small sliver of land where the corners of Lebanon, Syria and Israel meet.

Lebanon claims the region as its own, but Israel has occupied the area since capturing it from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war.

Syria says the territory is Lebanese but has not provided official documents stating that, and the United Nations has said the territory is Syrian.

The Lebanese government has asked that Shebaa Farms be put under UN control until an official border with Syria could be delineated.

The UN-brokered cease-fire called for Secretary General Kofi Annan to come up with proposals to demarcate Lebanon's borders, especially in disputed areas such as Shebaa Farms, and to present those ideas to the Security Council within 30 days.
Italy refuses to send troops until Israelis stop shooting: Globe and Mail
Max Boot: Israel Should Hit Syria First: Los Angeles Times

Syrian Foreign Minister Waleed Muallem stressed in an interview with Kuwaiti daily al-Anbaa' Wednesday that "Israel tried military option in Lebanon lately, but the Lebanese national resistance inflicted on it a certain defeat."

"This is a lesson that Israel should acknowledge... The option of military force and arrogance is not useful, leaving no choice for Israel but that of a just peace settlement," Muallem added.

Syria has been trying to take credit for and advantage of Hezbollah's resistance during the 33 days of Israeli onslaught on Lebanon in reviving its peace discussions with Israel. The hostilities, which came to a halt Aug. 14 in line with Security Council Resolution 1701, claimed the lives of 1,200 people, mostly civilians. Three thousand people were injured, and the civilian infrastructure largely destroyed.

Muallem said the path for a just and comprehensive peace is based on returning Arab territories seized in 1967 and
"guaranteeing the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people according to international resolutions."

Muallem called on Arab countries to boost and warm up relations with Syria's non-Arab but Muslim ally, Iran, which he said adopts the Arabs' rightful cause against Israel.

"We do not see any contradiction between our Arab allegiance and alliance with Iran, which is a Muslim country with clear standing on the just causes of the Arabs."
The shaky cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah was tested Wednesday as the Israeli Army fired artillery into a disputed border region in response to what it said was an attack from inside Lebanon.
An Israeli soldier was killed Wednesday and three others were wounded by a land mine that Israel had planted in southern Lebanon, Israeli officials said.

Israel said its army had planted the minefield just inside Lebanon to prevent Hezbollah guerrillas from infiltrating. Lebanese security officials said the soldiers' tank drove over a mine, but Israel said it could not confirm that.

Another Israeli soldier was shot in the head during a military operation in the Lebanese border village of Taibe, Al Arabiya television reported. It did not specify the soldier's condition. Israel did not immediately comment on that report.


At 8/25/2006 08:08:00 AM, Blogger Ausamaa said...

Intersting articles. Some of which seemingly motivated more by wishfull thinking and self preservation rather than a realisation of certain facts obvious to those who want to see them. But after reading them all, a lot of questions remain unanswered. This is so because some still refuse to accept few basic facts some of which are:

1- Syria, Iran, Hizbullah, Palestine, and the arab masses seem to be undefeatable at the moment despite the various attempts by the US camp to "contain thier effect". You do not have to like Facts (You only need to acknowledge them).
2- Israel is in a big mess at the military, political, social, ideological, and the strategic level. It has no answers to provide to its citizens. It can not "lead" US policy in the area, niether can it even "support" it meaningfully.
3- Lebanon, UNIFIL or not, would remain where it is; part and Parcel of the Arab-Israeli conflict. It can blow up in the face of US designs at any moment. Same like Palestine, Iraq, and who knows?? Maybe Jordan next???
4- The US Administration seems to have lost all its "promising" cards. Shock and Awe did not work, nor has Winning the Hearts and Minds succeeded. It has proved that it can not win wars here, it can not stablize countries, it can not effectively intimidate regiems, and to add to all the above, it now "seems" to have doubts about it's dependance on both the "advice" and "support" of its strategic pertner here; Israel. To top it off, the US elections are looming near. Which matters a lot.
4- Iran does not seem in an acomodating mood, and seems capable of calling the bluff or joining the battle. And the risks of such a battle are great, espicially if Israel tries a "regain face" by playing along the US in such a game. Same goes for threats about attacking Syria. Any doubters can cross-check the above with the comments appearing daily in the Israeli newspapers (expert US THINK-TANK opinion is still trying to digest what the hell has happened, and except for analysists such as Anthony Cordseman many are still silent yet).
5- Europe seem eager but hesitant in taking over from the US. Britain is always there searing to foil such attempts, and France's policies during the past few years has antagonised potential local friends. And Chirac would be leaving soon too.
6- Lebanon, with its current political leadership composition is incapable of playing a meaningful role.
7- The US Arab camp is lost between dodging friendly bullets, supporting US policy, pocketing oil prices windfall margins and protecting its own backyard.
8- Of course, Russia and China are having the fun of thier lives watching all this happening around them without costing them a penny.
9- A neat deadlock that the planners for CLEAN BREAK and the NEW MIDDLE EAST did not expect, because they underestimated or discounted a "tiny" componot of the area; being the will of the area's people and some of its political elites to fight back. And win.
10- Deadlocks such as those, are historically preludes to future events. Or future changes. And since the Pro-US camp is incabable of intiating, directing, or controlling such changes, would it be possible that we see the "other" side taking (or instigating) the intiative. Be it WAR or PEACE? For both of which they seem ready.

Let the world opt for whichever option, but for God's sake keep Rummy, Chieny, Faith and Mubarak out of it. If allowed to voice an opinion, they will mislead everyone again. As they did time and again, or had they not????

At 8/25/2006 01:48:00 PM, Blogger Karakuz said...

Since the LA Times does not make a response possible to Max Boot's article, I will make my response here:

Max Boot can shampoo my crotch.


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