Friday, July 14, 2006

Hezbollah escalates

Michael Young, the editor of the Daily Star in Lebanon has a good brief on the Hezbollah inspired near-war in Lebanon this week:

The two sides have long engaged in a conflict in southern Lebanon — albeit, since Israel’s pullout in 2000, one mostly limited to a disputed territory known as the Shebaa Farms and contained by unwritten rules. This week, however, Hezbollah transgressed three political lines.

The first was its expansion of military operations outside the Shebaa area. While Hezbollah has done this before — even killing some Israeli troops — the latest operation was certain to be intolerable to an Israeli government already dealing with the kidnapping of another soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, by Hamas in Gaza.

A second line that Hezbollah crossed was its evident coordination of strategy with Hamas; this went well beyond its stated aim of simply defending Lebanon and left Israel feeling it was fighting a war on two fronts.

The third line crossed was domestic. By unilaterally taking Lebanon into a conflict with Israel, Hezbollah sought to stage a coup d’├ętat against the anti-Syrian parliamentary and government majority, which opposes the militant group’s adventurism.

This is an interesting observation:

It would be far smarter for Israel, and America, to profit from Hezbollah’s having perhaps overplayed its hand. The popular mood here is one of extreme anger that the group has provoked a conflict Lebanon cannot win. The summer tourism season, a rare source of revenue for a country on the financial ropes, has been ruined. Even Hezbollah’s core supporters, the Shiite Muslims in the south, cannot be happy at seeing their towns and villages turned again into a killing field.

Young sees an opportunity here for useful! UN intervention.

What to do? While the United Nations has been ineffective in its efforts toward Middle East peace, it may be the right body to intervene here, if only because it has the cudgel of Security Council Resolution 1559, which was approved in 2004 and, among other things, calls for Hezbollah’s disarmament.

The five permanent Security Council members, perhaps at this weekend’s Group of 8 meeting, should consider a larger initiative based on the resolution that would include: a proposal for the gradual collection of Hezbollah’s weapons; written guarantees by Israel that it will respect Lebanese sovereignty and pull its forces out of the contested Lebanese land in the Shebaa Farms; and the release of prisoners on both sides. Such a deal could find support among Lebanon’s anti-Syrian politicians, would substantially narrow Hezbollah’s ability to justify retaining its arms, and also send a signal to Syria and particularly Iran that the region is not theirs for the taking.

Young makes sense. Israel should damage Hezbollah as much as possible but refrain from unduly harming the anti-Syrian Lebanese government. Which means raids should be directed towards Hezbollah directly and not to 'punish' the Lebanese government.

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