Thursday, July 13, 2006

Lebanon In Turmoil Déjà vu?

Lebanon is currently under attack.

After Hezbollah abducted Ehud Goldvasser, 31, from Nahariya, and Eldad Regev, 26, from the Haifa suburb of Kiryat Motzkin, Israel decided to take more serious measures – targeting Lebanon and the Lebanese government.

Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport was forced to close after Israeli fighter jets hit all three of its runways, leaving huge craters that rendered them completely unusable. All flights had been diverted (mostly to Cyprus) and all other scheduled flights have been grounded trapping swarms of tourists vacationing in Lebanon for the summer.

Hezbollah retaliated (although they deny their involvement) and fired rockets against the Israeli port city of Haifa which is only 30 km (18 miles) away from the Lebanese border suggesting that Hezbollah potentially possesses rockets which have a much further range than previously thought. Israel responded only an hour ago by hitting fuel tanks in the airport causing them to explode like fireballs. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) is certain that the Haifa rockets came from Lebanon and from Hezbollah specifically and they place the blame on the escalation of violence on the guerillas who attacked inside Israel yesterday killing 8 soldiers and capturing Goldvasser and Regev. So far, 50 Lebanese civilians have died during the Israeli raids and most of them were citizens.

In the eyes of the Israelis, since Hezbollah has political leverage in the country and the Lebanese government, this implies that the government is to blame as well. However, Lebanese Information Minister Ghazi Aridi denounced the attacks and called for a cease-fire stating that the Lebanese government has nothing to do with Hezbollah’s attacks.

My previous two posts have in essence foreshadowed the current events and thus this is not surprising. However Israel’s retaliation on Beirut and on its airport is grief striking, moreover Israel have also blockaded Lebanese ports and have shelled other Lebanese towns. Israeli jets have also bombed Lebanese army air bases at Rayak and Baalbek TV transmitter in the Bekaa Valley.

The region is on the brink of full-fledged war.

Lebanese citizens are immediately reminded of the civil war in the 1980s and Israel’s occupation in 1982, they are stocking up on food supplies and heading to their other residences in the mountains – away from Beirut. Israel has been dropping Arabic leaflets in Beirut warning citizens to evacuate the southern suburbs of Beirut (essentially the areas concentrated with Hezbollah’s operations/bases).

The following are several observations made:

1) The situation could escalate very quickly despite efforts from Hezbollah to de-escalate. This could further incite Hamas to be involved from the Gazan side and create a ‘real’ two-front war.

2) Rhetoric of violence will continue to originate from Iran and Ahmadinejad. Iran, a Shiite Muslim state helped create Hezbollah under Ayatollah Khomenini. Such rhetroic will certainly incite further antagonism.

3) It will be much easier for Israel to place the blame on Syria and Iran for their military involvement with Lebanon and in planning the organized abduction of the two Israeli soldiers.

4) Israel has acted completely irrationally which the governments of France, Russia and members of the EU highly condemning the attacks and stating that the response was disproportionate.

5) Israeli soldiers have been killed/captured during clashes between Hezbollah, Hamas and the IDF in the past and yet Israeli retaliation has never been this severe.

6) The US might use current events as an excuse to further pressure Iran and Syria and possibly use coercion (military or economic sanctions) against both of them.

7) Israel has the Joker in its playing deck and is the only one capable of de-escalating and halting all the tit-for-tat. If they used the abduction of soldiers in Gaza and southern Lebanon as sparks to ignite the region then the controls are on one side of the playing field (i.e. if they eventually decided to light the cigarette, they should be the ones to extinguish it).

8) Hezbollah will not negotiate with Israel and will only agree to release the soldiers for a prisoner exchange.

9) Lebanese citizens are at the mercy of the Israelis and the stubbornness of Hezbollah. Syrian appointed President Emile Lahoud is a strong Hezbollah supporter and will not allow the Lebanese Army (who are weaker than Hezbollah) to stop the group’s activities.

Hezbollah has acted irresponsibly and Israel responded irrationally and in an erratic manner. The situation is extremely delicate and can reverse years of Lebanese rebuilding and any wounds which might have healed from the civil war.


Blogger Norman said...

Wow, you think that Israel is acting "irrationally"? What I find irrational is you making a judgment call only a few days into this crisis. You and I have no idea what is really going on and should defer such subjective opinions to historical hindsight. That being said, I have some guesses as to what is going on too. You state that Israel has never responded so severely. I answer by stating that I don't ever remember Israeli soldiers being kidnapped on Israeli territory we are seeing a response to a new type of provocation. The way Nasrallah immediately had a news conference after the kidnapping and called for negotiations for a prisoner exchange shows me that Iran, Syria and Hezbollah miscalculated the Israeli response. If this was a chess game, they left their queen unprotected. They forgot that what distinguishes a lousy army from a great army is the knowledge of each individual soldier that his/her life is worth a war. Hezbollah will be erased and the vacuum filled by the Lebanese army. Assad will soon be gone...I think he has a nice Swiss chalet and a billion or so dollars. If Iran even twitches its trigger finger the US Navy, to protect the oil routes, will destroy everything Iranian above and under the Persian Gulf and all nearby installations. Every nuclear installation will be destroyed and a economic embargo placed on Iran. Lastly, the most important thing. The free elections in Iraq has now become a seminal event. Since that time it is very obvious that Arab opinion and thought has become freer, more diverse, and independent. Bush's strategy is going to work.

6:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nLOL... you say that Hezbollah has attacked Israel before and it never did anything so this response is unusual. Thanks for the invitation to your blog, but you're clearly an idiot so I won't be back.

12:20 PM  
Blogger The Machinist said...

4) If you think Israeli lives are cheap, then it might seem irrational.

5) Obviously this moderation as you describe it did not end kidnappings.

7) H&H can de-escalate in five minutes by returning the prisoners unharmed.

8) "Hezbollah" will not negotiate with Israel? Who is "Hezbollah?" If "Hezbollah's" family is under the knife will "Hezbollah" not think twice?

"Hezbollah's" edge is that "Hezbollah" is hard to hit because "Hezbollah" hides behind women, children, the UN and the foreign press.

The question is how one find something of "Hezbollah's" to hold at risk. Maybe if Israel started slaughtering prisoners Zarqawi style?

But that is the difference, Israel has moral constraints and "Hezbollah" has none. Only Israel has volition in your depiction of the scenario; "Hezbollah" has none, nor does "Hamas."

Meanwhile, "somebody" is still holding previous sets of Israeli prisoners such as Ron Arad. Previous prisoner exchanges did not seem to suffice for him.

But I'm sure Israel will be happy to extinguish the flames, with a nice thick boot-heel if needed.

9) Why are Lebanese citizens helpless against "Hezbollah?" Does "Hezbollah" outnumber them?

It certainly is valid to consider whether it is better to start whacking Syria and Iran. That part of the criticism is fair enough.

1:35 PM  
Blogger M. Simon said...

Disproportionate reaction builds deterance.

"Don't tread on me" is good advice.

Arabs appear to be very stupid. Every time they put their hand in the fire they get burned. Yet they keep telling themselves: "This time it will be different. The Jews are weak. The Americans will stop them if it goes badly, like they always do." Evidently the old rules no longer apply.

My advice FWIW - don't attack the Israelis. They might do something unusual. LOL

Seriously - are you representative of the Arab mind? Are you among the best Arabs have to offer? If so, you folks are going to be in a world of hurt.

It makes me sad. Egyptian culture is 5,000 years old. This can't be the best you can do. Egyptians were building great cities when Jews lived in caves and tents. Has it come to this?

BTW I live in Rockford. Which makes us on a world scale practically neighbors.

11:31 AM  

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