Thursday, August 31, 2006

Pledges roll in...

Estimates of the cost of damages inflicted by Israel in its over-the-top, arguably vindictive war on Lebanon naturally vary widely. The working figure seems to be $3.5 billion, although the Ministry of Public Works has used a much larger number, $6 billion, which some observers suspect may reflect inflation for corruption. In any case, the pledges of nearly $2 billion from Arab and European donors, as well as the United States, begin to approach the scale of funding that the government will need. What remains to be seen is how much more the Stockholm donor's conference produces.
Two simple problems remain: there is a robust record of pledges to assist Lebanon stretching back decades, just as there is a long record of unfulfilled pledges. Also, while the donors are pledging, the government promising, Hezbollah is delivering.
So which benefactor do you think will be remembered?

Lebanon Offers Aid for Rebuilding: "The European Commission said Wednesday that it would add about $53 million to its pledge of $64 million for emergency relief and to assist Lebanese businesses. Kuwait has pledged $800 million, Saudi Arabia $500 million and the Bush administration has promised to earmark $230 million in aid to Lebanon.

The Lebanese government's compensation plan comes amid domestic and regional criticism for what some say has been a slow response to the needs of the people, and three days after Hezbollah's leader, Hasan Nasrallah, suggested that the government was not meeting the expectations of the Shiite Muslim community."

Update: pledges from Stockholm.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Four timely articles on Lebanon - Middle East Roundtable

Artful Iran outplays hesitant America / Comment & analysis / Columnists - Artful Iran outplays hesitant America: "Whatever else might be said about the Iranian regime, it has played its diplomatic hand adroitly. A calculatedly equivocal response this week to international demands that it suspend its nuclear activities was scarcely unexpected. It seems likely nonetheless to divide the United Nations Security Council.


After countless hours bargaining with their Iranian counterparts, European officials speak of a deeply frustrating process. The Iranians play by their own rules. In most international negotiations, diplomats will tell you, once agreement has been reached on the issues of principle, the details can be tidied up later. Not so with Tehran. Everything has be nailed down. Otherwise, as one official puts it: “You buy the car only to discover afterwards that you have to pay extra if you want the wheels.”"

Religious voters could doom the Democrats / Comment & analysis / Comment - Religious voters could doom the Democrats: "Howard Dean, Democratic National Committee chairman, is famous for his loose lips and exuberant vocal chords, which may help explain the muted reaction to his recent warning about religious participation in public life. A few months ago, Mr Dean told the Christian Science Monitor that the “religious community” would have to decide “whether they want to be tax exempt or involved in politics”.

It was not the most intelligent thing he could have said, given the current state of church-state relations in the US. Mr Dean tried to contain the damage by explaining that he was not pushing for challenges to the tax exemption of conservative churches. He was simply warning against giving congregation lists to political parties and other forms of prohibited political action by bodies of worship."

Monday, August 28, 2006

Eagle World News - » Article Archive » Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution Hangs In The Balance

Eagle World News - » Article Archive » Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution Hangs In The Balance

Hizbullah evacuates posts as Lebanese Army moves in

The Daily Star - Politics - Hizbullah evacuates posts as Lebanese Army moves in: "Hizbullah has dismantled several of its military outposts in the Shebaa Farms area, security sources told The Daily Star on Monday. The sources said that Hizbullah had also evacuated positions in areas where the Lebanese Army recently deployed.

A Hizbullah source said the group was keen to conceal any military equipment in the South, but refused to elaborate."

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Old Shiite-Sunni Blood Feud Drives the Mideast's New Power Play

Los Angeles Times: Old Shiite-Sunni Blood Feud Drives the Mideast's New Power Play

NewsHour on peacekeeping in Lebanon

Online NewsHour: Analysis | EU Sends Peacekeepers to Lebanon | August 25, 2006 | PBS: "
Europe to Send 7,000 Peacekeepers to Lebanon

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced that the European Union had agreed to provide 7,000 troops, or nearly half the expanded peacekeeping force, to southern Lebanon. Analysts discuss the U.N. mission."

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Naim Kassem (Na'im Qassim)

International News Article | "The magnitude of the Israeli response to Hizbollah's cross-border operation in July took the Lebanese guerrilla group by surprise, Hizbollah deputy leader Naim Kassem said in an interview published on Saturday.

Kassem told an-Nahar daily that Hizbollah had expected an Israel attack at some stage as part of a joint plan with the United States but it had no indication it would come in July.

'We were expecting the Israelis would respond at the most by bombing for a day or two or some limited attacks or targeting certain places, such that it would not go beyond three days and some limited damage,' he said."

Friday, August 25, 2006

EU Sends Peacekeepers to Lebanon | August 25, 2006 | PBS

Online NewsHour: Analysis | EU Sends Peacekeepers to Lebanon | August 25, 2006 | PBS: "Europe to Send 7,000 Peacekeepers to Lebanon

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced that the European Union had agreed to provide 7,000 troops, or nearly half the expanded peacekeeping force, to southern Lebanon. Analysts discuss the U.N. mission."

Damascus sends a power signal to Lebanon

Aljazeera.Net - Syria suspends power to Lebanon: "The country had been sending power to Lebanon for the last month after Israel destroyed electricity stations in Lebanon.

Syrian officials told Mohamed Finaish, the Lebanese energy minister, that a problem had been noted in electric transmission linkages between Egypt and Syria, which had adversely affected the flow of Syrian electricity supplies to Lebanon. "

Syrian pressure on Lebanon

Aljazeera.Net - Syria suspends power to Lebanon: "The country had been sending power to Lebanon for the last month after Israel destroyed electricity stations in Lebanon.

Syrian officials told Mohamed Finaish, the Lebanese energy minister, that a problem had been noted in electric transmission linkages between Egypt and Syria, which had adversely affected the flow of Syrian electricity supplies to Lebanon. "

Lebanese Army steps warily into its role as peacekeeper

Lebanese Army steps warily into its role as peacekeeper - The Boston Globe: "Lebanese soldiers have been welcomed by Sunni Muslims and Christians in some parts of the region where they hadn't been stationed in decades, but Hezbollah supporters express open mistrust of the troops, and the troops themselves show no enthusiasm for their new role.

``We just want to go home,' griped a Lebanese private who would give only his first name, Mohammed, and who has spent 25 years in the army."

U.N.: Cluster bombs litter south Lebanon -

U.N.: Cluster bombs litter south Lebanon - "Unexploded cluster bomb litter homes, gardens and highways in south Lebanon, the U.N. said Friday, as the State Department reportedly investigated whether Israel's use of the American-made weapons violated secret agreements with the United States."

"Dalya Farran, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Mine Action Coordination Center, said cluster bombs have been found in 285 locations in south Lebanon.

'And our teams are still doing surveys and adding new locations every day,' Farran said. 'We find about 30 new locations per day.'"

Ceasefire negotiations

Prospect Magazine issue 126, September 2006

Prospect Magazine issue 126, September 2006:

"The unfinished war
"Amir Taheri Augustus Richard Norton Judith Palmer Harik Why did the proxy war in Lebanon happen and whose interests did it serve?"

Peacekeeping in Lebanon

N.B., France has now committed 2,000 troops (plus Italy 3,000 and Belgium 250; Spain, Poland and Finland are also likely to pledge) to the new force, but that does not change the thrust of this article in today's Monitor.

The peacekeeping challenge in south Lebanon |

The peacekeeping challenge in south Lebanon

By Thomas Milo and Augustus Richard Norton AMSTERDAM AND BOSTON

The UN resolution that won a cease-fire in the Israeli-Hizbullah war calls for bolstering the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) - presently only a skeleton apparatus of some 2,000 soldiers - with thousands of additional soldiers. Contingents have been pledged by Malaysia, Bangladesh, and Indonesia - all nations that refuse diplomatic relations with Israel. At the same time, Europeans have been slow to offer troops. Only Italy, volunteering to lead the force, has offered a sizable contingent.

One of Hizbullah's telling successes is that it has acquired such a fierce reputation for its tough toe-to-toe battles with Israel that no sentient prime minister wants to send his or her soldiers to complete a job that Israel failed to do. Even Turkish generals, who lead a revered army, are balking at the prospect of sending fighting units as peacekeepers to Lebanon.

After more than a month of Israeli bombardment, Hizbullah emerged with its support intact, if not increased. Its impressive and rapid response to the needs of those whose homes and lives have been ravaged - mostly, but not all Shiite Muslims - has further consolidated its impressive base of support.

Outsiders often forget that the Lebanese have suffered tremendously under Israeli attacks. One of the key tasks is to insure Lebanese civilians peacefully return to and rebuild their devastated villages. If UNIFIL, created in 1978 to oversee an Israeli withdrawal that was 22 years in coming, cannot help restore the civilian population to their homes, then the next few months will only be an interlude in the 2006 war.

Given Hizbullah's broad base of support and the fact that its supporters see no other force that can thwart Israel should it decide to reignite the war, it is completely unrealistic that the new international contingents will succeed either in disarming Hizbullah or in diminishing its appeal. To succeed, UNIFIL will need the cooperation, not the animosity, of Hizbullah.

The major question is whether UNIFIL-plus will operate not only competently but fairly. The key to restoring stability to southern Lebanon is not only to see Hizbullah stand down, but also for the new force to avoid being seen as an instrument of Israel. This means that it is crucial to recognize that both Lebanon and Israel have compelling security interests.

The new force will probably total no more than 8,000 soldiers, not the 15,000 originally envisaged. UNIFIL-plus will retain a major deficit that characterizes almost any international force, namely an endemic lack of local knowledge and language skills.

The deployment of thousands of Lebanese troops to the south should help to mitigate this problem, especially since the UN force is to work side by side with the Lebanese Army. Civilians have already welcomed their Army, and Hizbullah has usually treated the Army with respect. While outgunned significantly by Israel, the Lebanese Army is led by a professional officer corps, and it is technically competent.

The Security Council resolution anticipates that the Lebanese soldiers will disarm Hizbullah. There is no serious possibility that this will happen. Many soldiers applaud it for defending Lebanon, and the Army has been ordered to work "in cooperation with the resistance."

It is popular sport to castigate the UN for its failures, but no peacekeeping force will be any more effective than the contributing countries allow it to be. Will governments permit their soldiers to protect Lebanese civilians from Israeli "defensive" attacks, or will soldiers be ordered to mount risky offensive operations against Hizbullah? The problems are foreseeable, so we are doubtful.

Enhancing UNIFIL will do no more than freeze the situation in southern Lebanon. That in itself would be an accomplishment, but the real work that needs to be done is diplomatic. The integration of Hizbullah's military apparatus into the Lebanese Army should be a goal of diplomacy.

Thomas Milo is a specialist in Arabic Information Technology, and Augustus Richard Norton is a Boston University professor. Both writers served with UNIFIL as army officers.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Six Questions for Michael Scheuer on National Security (

Ken Silverstein, the Washington editor for Harper's does a great job asking important questions that provoke thoughtful answers.
Six Questions for Michael Scheuer on National Security ( "1. We're coming up on the five-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Is the country safer or more vulnerable to terrorism?

On balance, more vulnerable. We're safer in terms of aircraft travel. We're safer from being attacked by some dumbhead who tries to come into the country through an official checkpoint; we've spent billions on that. But for the most part our victories have been tactical and not strategic. There have been important successes by the intelligence services and Special Forces in capturing and killing Al Qaeda militants, but in the long run that's just a body count, not progress. We can't capture them one by one and bring them to justice. There are too many of them, and more now than before September 11. In official Western rhetoric these are finite organizations, but every time we interfere in Muslim countries they get more support."

Rice Orders Difficult Posts Filled First

If a corrollary may be drawn from the military, the impact of the changes that Rice has instituted will be to prompt many bright foreign service officers to depart. In the army, which has been hard hit by Iraq, officers are spending two even three one years in Iraq. The result has been that experienced company grade officers are hanging up the uniform. As I noted here a few weeks ago, the result is that the promotion rate to major is now about 95%, whereas historically it hovers around 60%. In other words, to find enough majors, the army has promote just about every sentient captain. The same thing might happen to the foreign service with the result that many of the finest young diplomats might decide to put away the top hat. This is a cost of the U.S. launching a war on highly dubious grounds and pursuing objectives that have long been unattainable in Iraq. Except for a few diehards, you find few people in Washington, in my experience at least, who believe that Iraq has been either the sacrifices or a success.
Rice Orders Difficult Posts Filled First

"The State Department plans to implement sweeping changes in the way foreign service officers bid for new assignments in an effort to more quickly fill vacancies in Iraq and the growing number of dangerous hardship posts in the Middle East.

"The new rules were outlined in a cable sent last week by Foreign Service Director General George M. Staples to department personnel that cited "increasing international turmoil." They are intended to shake up the State Department culture so that overseas service becomes more frequent and more focused on global hot spots."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Anatol Lieven in Prospect

Opinions: 'Bipartisan disaster' by Anatol Lieven | Prospect Magazine September 2006 issue 126: "The foreign and security strategy of the Bush administration lies in ruins. The battering of the Lebanese state by Israel, with US support, came only months after US leaders vowed to support and defend that country as a beacon of democracy and progress in the middle east. The doublethink in US policy does not relate only to the contrast between the language of democracy and the disasters in Iraq and Lebanon. Even more striking is that this public rhetoric is diametrically opposed to America's actual strategy in the middle east, admitted privately by many officials, which is a reversion to the pre-9/11 norm: US and Israel reliance on autocracies in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and elsewhere to hold down their own people. This is the strategy which Bush and the neoconservatives insist was proved to be bankrupt by 9/11; and whose proponents have been dismissed by Bush as racists because they supposedly don't 'believe that Muslims can self-govern.' "

Prospect Magazine--September 2006

Including Peter Bergen, Amir Taheri, A. R. Norton and others.
Prospect Magazine, Political and Cultural Essays and Arguments

Evidence indicates deliberate destruction of civilian infrastructure

This is an important and disturbing report based on first-hand investigation by Amnesty International. I know several of the experts who were on the ground and they are professional, experienced hands in conflict zones and disasters. One of them has more than three years experience in southern Lebanon, as well as much experience in the Balkans.
Arabic version.

Israel/Lebanon: Evidence indicates deliberate destruction of civilian infrastructure - news.amnesty - Amnesty International

Stretched too thin

BBC NEWS | Americas | Inactive US marines face call-up

Some sensible ideas for U.S. diplomacy

Michael Schiffer: 4 good ways to rethink approach to Mideast

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

In Lebanon, Even Peace Is a Battle - New York Times

CARLOS PASCUAL and MARTIN INDYK have written a thoughtful prescriptive essay that reveals an appreciation for the tough task of rehabilitating Lebanon from the ravages of the war. The key missing element in their analysis, which is only alluded to in the closing paragraph is security for the Lebanese. Unless that is addressed, the goal of reducing Hezbollah's support will elude even the most well-meaning effort.
In Lebanon, Even Peace Is a Battle - New York Times

Bush explains the war on terror

Listen in for a discussion of the challenges in southern Lebanon.

Timur Goksel is a walking encylopedia of peacekeeping in southern Lebanon - Vague UN plan not realistic

What role will the new UNIFIL-plus have in stopping war crimes

Several teams of international specialists have already gathered evidence that Israel's offensive in Lebanon included the intentional targetting of civilians and civilian facilities (reports are forthcoming). For instance, food stores in southern Lebanon were systematically targetted, apparently to help convince the civilian population to flee and scores of civilian housing areas were flattened in Beirut's southern suburbs. Recall the Israeli Chief of Staff's threat to destroy ten multistory buildings in Beirut when Haifa was hit. On at least two occasions, according to press reports, precisely ten buildings were bombed on the same day.
So, what happens if Israel reinitiates these attacks on civilians in the UNIFIL area of operations? Do those forces simply go to ground or do they have the responsibility to act to protect civilians, even if it means using force against Israel? This question is just as important as how and when Hizballah will be disarmed, and by whom. If there is not a satisfactory answer to the first question, then there will be satisfactory answer to the second one.

U.N. troops' mandate not all that clear

Monday, August 21, 2006

Don't expect to hear a lot about these negotiations, which may take some months to complete

Meantime, the situation in southern Lebanon will remain tenuous. The imperative is for a creative solution to re-restablish the security framework in the south. Israel has shown it cannot create that new framework and it doubtful an international force will either. The answer lies in figuring out how to address both Israeli and Lebanese security concerns. I will have more to say about this in the coming days.
UN envoys arrive to discuss prisoner swap - Haaretz - Israel News: "The United Nations delegation that arrived in Israel yesterday will discuss a possible prisoner exchange between Israel and Hezbollah at length. Members Terje Roed-Larsen and special envoy Vijay Nambiar said the issue was also the focus of their talks in Lebanon over the weekend.

'My team discussed concrete ideas with the Lebanese authorities,' Nambiar said. 'We will convey these ideas for further discussions as developments warrant,' he said, adding that it may become necessary to return to Lebanon 'to explore these ideas further.' "

Amr Hamzawy is always thoughtful and provocative

The Daily Star - Opinion Articles - The big loser after Lebanon: democracy: "The war in Lebanon deeply altered the concerns of elites and citizens in Arab societies. Following three years of unprecedented political dynamism and debates regarding the prospects for democratic transformation in the Arab world, the Arab-Israeli conflict returned to the forefront, turning attention away from the question of democracy."

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Eco-disaster in Lebanon

The Daily Star - Opinion Articles - The war's other victim: the environment: "An environmental catastrophe unfolded on July 12 when war broke out between Israel and Hizbullah. Around 1,000 people were killed in the course of the fighting and thousands more injured on both sides of the border. But in addition to the human tragedy, the environment took a number of deadly blows. The coastlines of Lebanon and Syria were polluted by oil spills, Turkey and Cyprus may be hit by the slicks in the coming weeks, and forest fires raged in Lebanon and Israel."

Israeli Leaders Fault Bush on War

Israeli Leaders Fault Bush on War | "Amid the political and diplomatic fallout from Israel's faltering invasion of Lebanon, some Israeli officials are privately blaming President George W. Bush for egging Prime Minister Ehud Olmert into the ill-conceived military adventure against the Hezbollah militia in south Lebanon.

Bush conveyed his strong personal support for the military offensive during a White House meeting with Olmert on May 23, according to sources familiar with the thinking of senior Israeli leaders."

Also see ConsortiumNews

"This man must die" says "senior Israeli officer"

Israel Committed to Block Arms and Kill Nasrallah - New York Times: "The officer would only speak on the condition of anonymity in an interview on Friday. But, speaking one day before commandos carried out a raid that Israeli officials said was to disrupt arms shipments for Hezbollah from Syria and Iran, he was explicit that Israel would continue to seek out and block any such attempts. He also emphasized that, despite criticism from the Israeli public and even troops of the performance of the Army and government, he considered the threat and the fighting ability of Hezbollah to have been severely diminished.

Furthermore, he made it clear that Sheik Nasrallah remained a target as the leader of a group that Israel and the United States have labeled terrorist. “There’s only one solution for him,” he said. At another point, he said simply, “This man must die.”"

Gideon Ezra, retired deputy chief of Shin Bet.
"Nasrallah is the serpent's head and, therefore, must be liquidated if possible. I do not think there is anyone on our side who would miss an opportunity like that. That need not be Israel's goal, but I do not discount that as one of Israel's objectives. I only hope that Nasrallah will become the punching bag of Lebanese residents who come to understand the great disaster that man brought upon them."

James Bamford on the Hamilton-Kean book on the 9-11 Commission

Readers will recall that George Bush was long stuck on the idea that people attack the U.S. because they "hate our values". He has also maintained the view that terrorism is displaced violence that originates from anger at dictatorial regimes, but the disconnect has always been a denial that U.S. policy in the Middle East is a core problem. One only needs to reflect on the skewed role that the U.S. played in the 2006 Lebanon war to grasp the essence of the problem, namely the failure of the U.S. to be the honest broker that it often claims to be.

Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission - The New York Times Book Review - New York Times: "Talking to the detainees was especially important because the commission was charged with explaining not only what happened, but also why it happened. In looking into the background of the hijackers, the staff found that religious orthodoxy was not a common denominator since some of the members “reportedly even consumed alcohol and abused drugs.” Others engaged in casual sex. Instead, hatred of American foreign policy in the Middle East seemed to be the key factor. Speaking to the F.B.I. agents who investigated the attacks, Hamilton asked: “You’ve looked [at] and examined the lives of these people as closely as anybody. . . . What have you found out about why these men did what they did? What motivated them to do it?”

These questions fell to Supervisory Special Agent James Fitzgerald. “I believe they feel a sense of outrage against the United States,” he said. “They identify with the Palestinian problem, they identify with people who oppose repressive regimes and I believe they tend to focus their anger on the United States.” As if to reinforce the point, the commission discovered that the original plan for 9/11 envisioned an even larger attack. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the strategist of the 9/11 plot, “was going to fly the final plane, land it and make ‘a speech denouncing U.S. policies in the Middle East,’” Kean and Hamilton say, quoting a staff statement. And they continue: “Lee felt that there had to be an acknowledgment that a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was vital to America’s long-term relationship with the Islamic world, and that the presence of American forces in the Middle East was a major motivating factor in Al Qaeda’s actions.”

Given the Bush administration’s current policies in the region, another 9/11-style attack is less a matter of if than when."

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Forward editorial frames the case for Arab-Israeli dialogue well for Bush

Jewish News, Jewish Newspapers - "Right now [Bush is] torn between the pragmatists in his administration, who favor dialogue, and the ideologues, who insist on seeing the world in blacks and whites and are willing to keep fighting to the last Israeli. Bush’s own instincts are with the ideologues, though he’s shown himself capable of acting pragmatically when he sees the need.

That is the challenge for Israel’s friends right now. Bush has been convinced by self-appointed spokesmen for Israel and the Jewish community that endless war is in Israel’s interest. He needs to hear in no uncertain terms that Israel is ready for dialogue, that the alternative — endless jihad — is unthinkable. Now is time to change the tune."

Turkey and UNIFIL--No combat troops

ZAMAN DAILY NEWSPAPER (2006082035786): "Ankara began analyzing on Friday the U.N.’s “draft” texts agreed on during its first meeting.

The Turkish General Staff and Foreign Ministry are jointly working on the documents to decide whether they meet Turkey’s demands.

Turkey is determined not to send combat troops.

As diplomatic sources abstain from confirming they have officially received the documents, Ankara’s statements over the issue suggest concerns are still persisting.

Ankara’s silence during the UN meeting could mean the drafts “failed to fulfill Turkey’s conditions.”

The provision in the drafts that foresees “the use of force against Hezbollah if obliged” does not match up with Turkey’s stance.

Ankara does not want to confront Hezbollah."

Hala Jaber on Hezbollah

Jaber published a book on Hezbollah with Columbia University Press. It is valuable particularly for it its account of social welfare activities.
Hezbollah seizes initiative as Israel is racked by doubt - Sunday Times - Times Online: "Iran’s money is crucial. Estimates vary widely, but one Hezbollah source said as much as $1 billion had been made available by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s president; another that the Iranian leader had placed no limit on the money pouring in.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has promised the Lebanese government $500m and Kuwait another $300m. But Hezbollah is giving Iran’s money directly to the people — a year’s rent for a homeless family here, a bundle of notes for some new furniture there, up to $12,000 per family within 48 hours of registration. The money buys loyalty to the “"

William S. Lind: Beaten

While the extent of damage to Hizballah's military resources may be far greater than Hezbollah lets on, William Lind strikes a number of telling points in this think-piece, not least the ineffectualness of a technology heavy army against a mobile, motivated and well-trained guerrilla force. it is quite possible, as he would agree I suspect, that Israel will choose to simply insure that Lebanon is left in a state of chaos that will make consolidating an effective government in Beirut impossible. Of course, that will drive out many Lebanese, except those too stubborn, poor or politicized to leave. In other words, Israel could make Lebanon a breeding ground for even more opponents. That would be foolish, but it might do it.

Perhaps Hezbollah's greatest success in the war is to establish such a fierce image that European prime ministers will refuse--despite entreaties from Malloch Brown and George Bush--to send serious military contingents to southern Lebanon. To be fair, I was extremely doubtful about the prospects for an international force from the very beginning of this war.

William S. Lind: Beaten: "With today's cease-fire in Lebanon, the second Hezbollah-Israeli War is temporarily in remission. So far, Israel has been beaten.

The magnitude of the defeat is considerable. Israel appears to have lost at every level-strategic, operational and tactical. Nothing she tried worked. Air power failed, as it always does against an enemy who doesn't have to maneuver operationally, or even move tactically for the most part. The attempts to blockade Lebanon and thus cut off Hezbollah's resupply failed; her caches proved ample. Most seriously, the ground assault into Lebanon failed. Israel took little ground and paid heavily in casualties for that. More, she cannot hold what she has taken; if she is not forced to withdraw by diplomacy, Hezbollah will push her out, as it did once before. The alternative is a bleeding ulcer that never heals.

But these failures only begin to measure the magnitude of Israel's defeat. While Hezbollah's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, is now an Islamic hero, Olmert has become a boiled brisket in the piranha pool that is Israeli politics. The cease-fire in Lebanon will allow camera crews to broadcast the extent of the destruction to the world, with further damage to Israel's image. Israel's 'wall' strategy for dealing with the Palestinians has been undone; Hamas rockets can fly over a wall as easily as Hezbollah rockets have flown over Israel's north"

"Thanks for all you have done for Iraq, --the words that George Bush yearns to hear chanted daily?

Where Is Euphrates Etiquette? - New York Times: "W. is sick of holding on to the bike as his legacy crashes. He wants to see some gratitude from his charges — pronto.

The Iraqis have no doubt offended W.’s keen sense of loyalty. He went back to sack Saddam to make up for his father’s lack of loyalty to the Shiites who were slaughtered after Poppy encouraged them to rise up, and now the Shiites show little loyalty to W.

Carole O’Leary, an American University professor who is working in Iraq on a State Department grant, told The Times that Mr. Bush offered the view that “the Shia-led government needs to clearly and publicly express the same appreciation for United States efforts and sacrifices as they do in private.”"

Lakdar Brahimi, the respected Algerian diplomat who assisted the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan on the Israeli-HIzbllah war in Lebanon

Start Talking to Hezbollah - New York Times: "WHAT a waste that it took more than 30 days to adopt a United Nations Security Council resolution for a cease-fire in Lebanon. Thirty days during which nothing positive was achieved and a great deal of pain, suffering and damage was inflicted on innocent people.

The loss of innocent civilian life is staggering and the destruction, particularly in Lebanon, is devastating. Human rights organizations and the United Nations have condemned the humanitarian crisis and violations of international humanitarian law.

Yet all the diplomatic clout of the United States was used to prevent a cease-fire, while more military hardware was rushed to the Israeli Army. It was argued that the war had to continue so that the root causes of the conflict could be addressed, but no one explained how destroying Lebanon would achieve that."

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Emerging Security System in South Lebanon--not unlike the old one

Guardian | Stand alongside Hizbullah, Lebanon's army tells troops: "According to sources close to the army command, there has been a tacit agreement between Hizbullah and the army that those fighters who hail from the south will return to their villages and all arms will be put out of sight. Publicly displayed weapons will be seized but any further attempt to disarm the group has been ruled out for the time being."

Hizbullah gives rent money to owners of destroyed houses

The Daily Star - Business Articles - Hizbullah gives rent money to owners of destroyed houses: "'Every house owner who lost his house will receive $12,000, and every tenant will receive $8,000' the worker told The Daily Star as he was overseeing the distribution of the money on Friday.

He said that the party is paying each citizen who lost his house $8,000 to buy furniture and another $4,000 to cover one year's rent, until the original houses are rebuilt.

'They will move their new furniture to their new houses afterward,' he said.

As for those living in the heart of the extremely damaged areas of Haret Hreik, Mouawwad, Sfeir and Roueiss, residents started to receive their compensation on Friday at the Hizbullah-run Al-Shahed school, near the airport road.

'People present their applications to any of nine pre-designated schools in the southern suburbs. We process their applications and then they come here and get paid,' the Hizbullah worker said."

If U.S. or Israeli officials are surprised that Hizballah emerges from this war with popularity and following intact then they need to examine their own assumptions going into this war. See this Tony Shadid column for on-the-ground reporting.

Middle East TV news--translated

Link TV - Mosaic

Jimmy Carter: "The US and Israel Stand Alone"

Two main topics: Cuba and the U.S. in the Middle East.
In many ways, Carter shares a lot with Dwight D. Eisenhower in his approach to the Middle East. In particular, both men were wary of too firm an embrace of Israel and both men emphasized that fundamental tenets of international law apply to all states, including our friends and allies. I suspect that Ike would have shared Carter's view here that Israel's war on Lebanon was excessive and disproportionate.

SPIEGEL Interview with Jimmy Carter: "The US and Israel Stand Alone" - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News

SPIEGEL: Now even President Bush appears to have learned something from the catastrophe in Iraq. During his second term he has taken a more multilateral approach and has seemed to return to international cooperation.

Carter: I think the administration learned a lesson, but I don't see any indication that the administration would ever admit that it did make a mistake and needed to learn a lesson. I haven't seen much indication, by the way, of your premise that this administration is now reconciling itself to other countries. I think that at this moment the United States and Israel probably stand more alone than our country has in generations.

Two UNIFIL vets reflect on peacekeeping in south Lebanon

Jordan Times (Opinion Section): "While it is popular sport in some circles to castigate the United Nations for its failures, when it comes to operations like UNIFIL the force will be no more effective that the contributing countries will allow it to be. Will European governments allow their soldiers to protect Lebanese civilians from Israeli “defensive” attacks, or will it allow its soldiers to forcefully disarm Hizbollah. We are doubtful.

Therefore, as we contemplate a new departure in United Nations peacekeeping, we can only be sceptical but hopeful."

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Zogby International

Zogby International: "While 52% said the U.S. should remain neutral, 34% said it should back Israel in its fight against Hezbollah forces in Lebanon. Almost no one thinks the U.S. should stand with Lebanon against Israel, the poll shows.

Among Republicans, 51% said Israel should get the backing of the U.S., while just 22% of Democrats agreed. Instead, most Democrats (62%) said the U.S. should remain neutral. Women were much more likely than men (59% to 45%) to say the U.S. should remain neutral in the fight.

Americans were split as to whether current U.S. policy is as fair with the government in Lebanon as it is with Israel – 35% agreed the U.S. was equally fair to both nations, while 37% said the U.S. favored Israel. Another 28% said they were not sure."

U.S. tries to counter Hezbollah rebuilding efforts in s. Lebanon - Haaretz - Israel News

U.S. tries to counter Hezbollah rebuilding efforts in s. Lebanon - Haaretz - Israel News: "Hezbollah's leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah vowed after Monday's truce that his guerrilla group would help fund repairs for about 15,000 bomb-damaged homes across Lebanon.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said Hezbollah was using the same tactics as the Palestinian militant group Hamas and al-Qaeda in getting on the ground quickly to rebuild.

'This is an emerging tactic, which is commit acts of terror, try to get people to fight against each other, and set up a charitable foundation to hand out cash and crumbs to the victims,' Snow told reporters.

A senior U.S. aid agency official Bill Garvelink said the near-term focus would be on helping to rebuild people's homes and that American engineers were in the area assessing damage to bridges and roads.

The U. S. is pushing Arab states like Saudi Arabia to deliver aid rapidly to southern Lebanon. Saudi Arabia has committed half a billion dollars to humanitarian relief and promised another billion for rebuilding.

Israel is nervous that Iranian funding will be used by Hezbollah and is pushing for tight restrictions on such assistance, telling the Bush administration to tighten up any loopholes."

Lebanon's Future

On Point : Lebanon's Future - Lebanon's Future: "Thanassis Cambanis, Middle East bureau chief for the Boston Globe
· Sofia Sade, professor of modern Middle Eastern studies at Lebanese University
· Lokman Slim, filmmaker and founder of Hayya Bina [hi-yah been-ah], a pro-democracy, independent organization campaigning for secular politics
· Ibrahim Mousawi, director of foreign programming for Al-Manar Television
· Wael Abou Faour, Druze MP in the Lebanese Government
· Raghida Dergham, senior diplomatic correspondent for Al-Hayat."

KCRW News: To the Point

KCRW News: To the Point: "Thursday, August 17, 2006
Hezbollah, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority"

Middle East: Lebanon's Cedar Revolution Hangs In The Balance - RADIO FREE EUROPE / RADIO LIBERTY

Middle East: Lebanon's Cedar Revolution Hangs In The Balance - RADIO FREE EUROPE / RADIO LIBERTY

Is Hamas Ready to Deal?

This is a thoughtful and constructive piece that shines a light on a path toward an understanding in the Israel-Palestine conflict. As OPED pieces go, this one is exceptional and it deserves to be widely read.

Is Hamas Ready to Deal? - New York Times: "Tangible results, like prisoner exchanges, are important. However, so are symbolic actions. Hamas officials have stressed the importance of Israel’s recognizing their suffering from the original loss of Palestinian land. And survey research of Palestinian refugees and Hamas by my colleagues and I, supported by the National Science Foundation, reliably finds that violent opposition to peace decreases if the adversary is seen to compromise its own moral position, even if the compromise has no material value.

“Israel freeing some of our prisoners will help us to stop others from attacking it,” said the Hamas government spokesman, Ghazi Hamad. “But Israel must apologize for our tragedy in 1948 before we can talk about negotiating over our right of return to historic Palestine.”

As the Pew survey made clear, the Israel-Palestinian issue has become the principal fault line in world conflict. There would be some sad satisfaction if the bloodshed in Gaza and at the Lebanon border served as a starting point for bringing the larger conflict to an end."

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Henrik Hertzberg on Bush's Iraq Gamble

The New Yorker: PRINTABLES: "It is in the nature of gambling that the gamble may lose. The dice have now been well and truly rolled, and they have come up snake eyes. The war’s sole real gain—the overthrow of the murderous Saddam Hussein regime—is mocked by the chaos and suffering that have overwhelmed millions of Iraqis, whose country is again a republic of fear. The concrete losses are horrific: nearly three thousand American and “coalition” troops killed; thousands more maimed; scores of thousands of Iraqi civilians dead; a third of a trillion dollars burned through. So are the less tangible ones: the unprecedented levels of anti-Americanism throughout the Muslim world and Europe; the self-inflicted loss of America’s moral prestige; the neglect of real nuclear dangers, in Iran and North Korea, while chimeras were chased in Iraq. The neoconservative project of a friendly, democratic Middle East, with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace, is worse than a charred ruin—it is a flaming inferno."

Meanwhile, a group of respected officials, generals and diplomats will release a letter on August 17, 2006, challenging the Bush adminstration's posturing on Iran and its policies in Iraq.

"Seeking to counter the White House's depiction of its Middle East policies as crucial to the prevention of terrorist attacks at home, 21 former generals, diplomats and national security officials will release an open letter tomorrow arguing that the administration's "hard line" has actually undermined U.S. security."

'Sources' Say Nasrallah 'Doomed,' Unless Kidnapped Soldiers Released, Maariv, August 15, 2000--Translated from Hebrew.

These threats will help insure that the Israeli-Lebanese border will not be quiet. If Olmert is interested in designing a situation in which there is absolutely no chance that Hizballah will stand-down, he seems to be succeeding. It bears remembering that the Israeli assassination of 'Abbas Musawi provided the opportunity for Hassan Nasrallah to take over the reins of Hizballah.

Israel: 'Sources' Say Nasrallah 'Doomed,' Unless Kidnapped Soldiers Released

[Report by Ben Kaspit, Menahem Rahat, and Maya Bengal: "Nasrallah Will Spend the Rest of His Life in a Bunker"]

"Nasrallah is a doomed terrorist. He will have to spend the rest of his life in a bunker," senior political sources said on the day after the cease-fire with Hizballah went into effect.

Speaking before the Knesset yesterday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made an explicit hint in that context, while his associates confirmed yesterday: "Hasan Nasrallah will not go unpunished. A terrorist who persistently attacks the sovereignty of the State of Israel and its citizens is doomed to die. It has nothing to do with the cease-fire. Nasrallah and others like him must realize that there is no forgiveness when it comes to terror attacks against a state and its innocent civilians. The rules that applied to Ahmad Yasin and the others will apply to him too."

"If He Comes Out, He Will Die"

Nasrallah did not emerge from his hiding place yesterday. In Israel, it is believed that he is aware of the fact that his life is in danger and that the IDF is still making a huge effort to hunt him down. "If he comes out, he will die," a senior military source said yesterday. In an interesting remark, however, political sources hinted that Nasrallah may have a way to live longer, if he releases the kidnapped Israeli soldiers. "What if he releases the soldiers? Let him release them first," a senior source said yesterday. It is believed that Nasrallah may be taken out of Israel's "most wanted" list as part of a POW exchange deal, in the same way Israel removed Palestinian fugitives from its hit list after the hudna [respite] was introduced.

In the coming days, the IDF is expected to complete a report that will offer a professional estimate concerning the chances that the two kidnapped soldiers -- Eldad Regev and Uri Goldwasser -- are still alive. The report authors are examining the state of the vehicles the soldiers were in, bloodstains, firing angles, and additional evidence. Nasrallah's famous slip, the one he made on the day of the abduction, is a key detail. As may be recalled, reports in Israel mistakenly identified one of the kidnapped soldiers as a Druze. A few hours after the soldiers were kidnapped, Nasrallah delivered a speech in which he promised Walid Junblatt, leader of the Lebanese Druze, that the Druze abductee will not be hurt and will be treated well. The Israeli reports made him wrongly believe that he is holding a Druze soldier, which is why he made this remark.

Israel is currently drawing the outline for the POW exchange negotiations. The prime minister would be willing to release all the Hizballah men who were captured during the operation, as well as two Lebanese prisoners that Israel has been holding for a while. At the current stage, Samir Quntar is not on the POW lists. "Olmert will have a serious public problem should he decide to release Quntar under the current circumstances," the prime minister's associates said. On the other hand, this may be a media spin, designed for negotiations' purposes. Israel is holding Quntar, expecting to obtain information about Ron Arad in exchange for his release. If Iran should become part of the deal and provide the required information, Quntar may be released as part of a circular move. Olmert intends to instruct Ofer Deqel, his emissary for the release of the soldiers, to make it clear that Israel does not intend to engage in lengthy and exhausting negotiations like those it held in the past. "We will either finish this fast, here and now," Israeli sources said, "or we will let them come looking for us." We will have to wait and see.

Veteran foreign correspondent John Kifner on Hezbollah and rebuilding

Kifner knows Lebanon as well as any journalist. He reported from Beirut during some of the toughest times in the 1980s, and he has been periodically back on the scene.
It must be underlined that Hizballah's (and Iran's) ability to turn a catastrophe into a victory was not only foreseeable but foreseen. One wonders what prevented Israeli and American policymakers from seeing what should have been obvious to any of their advisors. Might they have been blinded by an ideological framework, or an over-confidence in air power?
That question need needs to be answered because it addresses the very competence of the men and women who make life and death decisions in Washington.

Hezbollah Leads Work to Rebuild, Gaining Stature - New York Times: "As stunned Lebanese returned Tuesday over broken roads to shattered apartments in the south, it increasingly seemed that the beneficiary of the destruction was most likely to be Hezbollah.

A major reason — in addition to its hard-won reputation as the only Arab force that fought Israel to a standstill — is that it is already dominating the efforts to rebuild with a torrent of money from oil-rich Iran.
nameme Y. Tohme, a member of Parliament from the anti-Syrian reform bloc and the countryÂ’s minister for the displaced, said he had been told by Hezbollah officials that when the shooting stopped, Iran would provide Hezbollah with an "unlimited budget"” for reconstruction.

In his victory speech on Monday night, HezbollahÂ’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, offered money for "“decent and suitable furniture" and a yearÂ’s rent on a house to any Lebanese who lost his home in the month-long war.

Also see this piece by Trudy Rubin, Shock and Awful.

The Secretary of State spins the "victory" of Reso. 1701

I will be you one thing: you tell a group of Arabs in the Middle East that the U.S. is bringing democracy to the region and they will run and find someplace to hide. "Democracy" evokes disdan and ridicule in the region.
Why is that?

A Path To Lasting Peace

"The implementation of Resolution 1701 will not only benefit Lebanon and Israel; it also has important regional implications. Simply put: This is a victory for all who are committed to moderation and democracy in the Middle East -- and a defeat for those who wish to undermine these principles with violence, particularly the governments of Syria and Iran."

Israel's Failed Strategy of Spite - Early Warning

Israel's Failed Strategy of Spite - Early Warning: "In the 24 hours before the agreed cease-fire, the Israeli Air Force carried out more than 200 air strikes, including attacks on eight 'gas stations serving Hezbollah.'

Gas stations.

If Israel and Hezbollah are fighting again in six weeks or six months, it will be because of those gas stations.

President Bush says Hezbollah was the loser. Israelis are already asking whicih mistakes allowed Hezbollah to outwit and outlast their vaunted high-tech force. "

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Triumph of Unrealism

The Triumph of Unrealism: "Cooperation between Pakistani and British law enforcement (the British draw upon useful experience combating IRA terrorism) has validated John Kerry's belief (as paraphrased by the New York Times Magazine of Oct. 10, 2004) that 'many of the interdiction tactics that cripple drug lords, including governments working jointly to share intelligence, patrol borders and force banks to identify suspicious customers, can also be some of the most useful tools in the war on terror.' In a candidates' debate in South Carolina (Jan. 29, 2004), Kerry said that although the war on terror will be 'occasionally military,' it is 'primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world.'

Yet another danger sign of an army that is over-extended

This article illustrates the obvious, namely that the U.S. army is stretched too thin.
US Sending 300 Newly Returned Troops Back to Iraq - New York Times

A very -in-the-know active officer who has his hand on the data told me a few months ago that the promotion rate for army captains to be selected for promotion to major is about 95%. Typically, the rate is 60% or so. What this number tells you is that captains, the officers who command companies and fill key staff jobs in battalions and brigades, are leaving the army in droves.

Israel warns Lebanese not to return

Not unlike May 2000, when Israel unilaterally withdrew from Lebanon, a flood of Lebanese seem to be returning to their often-wrecked homes in southern Lebanon. Israel hopes that they will aim their ire at Hizballah, but their aim is southward.

Inevitably, Hizballah will return with the returning residents. Hizballah fighters are not from Mars but from the South and other parts of Lebanon. This points up one of the key problems with the notion of disarming Hizballah. The key weapon that cannot be "disarmed" is the fact that Hizballah has a motivated, skilled fighters who are not afraid of Israel. Years ago, a resistance member told me: "we used to think the Israeli soldiers were ten feet tall, but now we have seen fear in their eyes." They are not nearly so tall.

A key Israeli objective was to "re-establish its deterrence." In one respect Israel. It has shown the fury of their vindictiveness, and provided an object lesson for those who offend it. Yet, on another, arguably more important level, this war has shown that Israel's presumed superiority can be checked by clever mobile tactics and the effective use of portable, relatively cheap weapons that are not much good for holding territory but very effective for raising the costs of war for Israel. So, has Israel re-established its deterrence? Probably not in the sense they hope to do so.

Aljazeera.Net - Israel warns Lebanese not to return: "'We warn you not to head to the southern regions before the deployment of the forces that are supposed to safeguard your security,' said leaflets dropped by Israeli aircraft in south Lebanon on Tuesday.

Despite the warning, Thousands of vehicles jammed the bombed-out coastal highway linking Beirut to the south from the early hours of Tuesday as thousands of displaced people headed home.

The United Nations refugee agency warned that returning civilians were at danger from unexploded bombs and shells.

'People need to be aware the dangers are very high,' said Astrid van Genderen Stort, spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency UNHCR. She said there had been at least eight incidents involving unexploded ordnance, but had no word on casualties.

Israeli forces have pulled back from the town of Marjayoun in southern Lebanon and nearby areas, Lebanese security officials said on Tuesday."

There is also a useful assessment in the SF Chronicle.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Thumbs down on U.S. diplomacy

Zogby International: "With two wars raging in the Middle East and the status of a third conflict – the on–again, off–again fight between Israel and Hezbollah forces in Lebanon – so unstable as to defy a predictable course, and with other global hotspots from North Korea to Venezuela stealing headlines, Americans are pessimistic about how their leaders are conducting diplomacy around the globe, a new Zogby Interactive survey shows.

Just 34% give the Bush administration positive marks for its diplomacy, while 64% give it negative marks. "

Cautious hope as ceasefire begins

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Cautious hope as ceasefire begins: "Reuters reported that thousands of cars were queuing on a bomb-damaged road leading south from the port city of Sidon. Drivers hooted their horns, gave victory salutes and showed pictures of the Hizbullah leader, Hassan Nasrallah.

'Since day one, the resistance [Hizbillah] told us that it will get us back our homes, and now it has delivered on its promise,' one woman told Reuters. 'Thank you, Hassan Nasrallah.'

'I'm going to make sure my house is okay,' Adel Abbas, from a village near Tyre, told Reuters. 'If Israel sticks to its word and continues to stick to the ceasefire, I'll take my family back home later today.'

However, Lebanese government officials warned people against returning to their homes until army engineers had swept the area for unexploded weapons.

Officials said at least one child and 15 adults had been killed by artillery or bombs that went off as they began returning home.

In southern Beirut, air strikes continued until 15 minutes before the deadline, with warplanes destroying an antenna belonging to Hizbullah's al-Manar television station."

Sunday, August 13, 2006


The Daily Star - Politics - Lebanon's middle class is disillusioned with America: "People who marched in the million-strong demonstration on March 14 last year are now wondering what happened to freedom, democracy, humanity, sovereignty, and all the lofty principles that the US said it so badly wanted for Lebanon when the issue involved forcing a Syrian departure from Lebanon. The destiny of Lebanon and its march to a secular welfare state are not on Washington's agenda as previously rumored, and Lebanon and its 4 million citizens are held ransom against the release of two Israeli soldiers. People are now seeing the unfolding events in Gaza and occupied Iraq through different eyes. These are not events of liberation and democratization, but of occupation and self interest disguised as a war on terrorism.

The Lebanese middle class, long resisting religious fundamentalism and totalitarian ideologies, is now disillusioned with a hypocritical Washington that would consent to bury the Lebanese alive and destroy their country. "

Eye For an Eye: Inside the New Hizbullah

While the ceasefire is supposed to go into effect on Monday morning, there are giant loopholes in the resolution, including the fact that Israel is only obliged to stop "offensive" operations. Of course, Israel will continue its "defensive" operations meaning that anything it does will be described as defensive.
For its part, Hizballah will strike at occupying Israeli forces, building on its lessons from the 1982-2000 period. Israel will continue to suffer a trickle of deaths, if not more. After a period, the generals will grow frustrated and strike harder, and thereby ignite heavier exchanges. There is a very strong possibility that the next weeks will look very much like the past few weeks, except that Israel may (here the US input is important) reduce its attacks on infrastructure.
As for the international force, don't expect much enthusiasm from troop providing countries for jumping into the fray.
Read carefully, the resolution requires the international troops--UNIFIL plus--to protect civilians. This poses an interesting challenge, since Israel is more likely to strike civilians in Lebanon than Hizballah.
All in all, the U.S.-Israeli war for hegemony has created a difficult mess, and it falls far short of the easy victory that Israelis privately promised to Bush, Cheney and Co. Incidentally, Elliott Abrams, the deputy NSC advisor whose portfolio is the Middle East, has a lot to answer for in promoting this war. He did, to quote Bush in another context, a "heck of a a job".

Eye For an Eye: Inside the New Hizbullah - Newsweek Mideast Crisis -

Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker

The New Yorker: PRINTABLES
Hersh argues that the July 12 incident was a convenient pretext, which is certainly true.

Also, reporting is beginning to emerge on Bush reining in Rice who has argued for opening a dialoge with Iran and Syria.

Multiple, well-connected sources have pointed to deep discomfort in the Oval office, where a quick Israeli victory was expected based on Israeli promises. Elliott Abrams carried the water.

As Mideast Smoke Clears, Political Fates May Shift

Many beltway-bound policy experts, and others around the U.S., were quick to support Israel's war for hegemony in Lebanon. It would be interesting to see a requiem on their assessments, whether right on track or way off the mark. Please send me your favorite quote by a credentialed academic, policymaker, politician or intellectual and I will post the ten best. As always, no favoritism for left, center or right.

In the spirit of full disclosure every substantial word that your host said or wrote on the war is available here.

My nominee is the U.S. Secretary of State who famously opined in Beirut:

"What we're seeing here, in a sense, is the growing -- the birth pangs of a new Middle East. And whatever we do, we have to be certain that we are pushing forward to the new Middle East, not going back to the old one. "

As Mideast Smoke Clears, Political Fates May Shift

Haaretz's Gideon Levy, who saw the war for hegemony as a mistake from the beginning

To failure's credit - Haaretz - Israel News: "The bad (and predictable) news: Israel is going to come out of this war with the lower hand. The good (and surprising) news: This ringing failure could spell good tidings. If Israel had won the battles in an easy, sweeping victory of the kind Israelis prayed so much for, it would have caused enormous damage to Israel's security policies. Another slam-bam win would have brought disaster upon us. Drugged with power, drunk with victory, we would have been tempted to implement our success in other arenas. Dangerous fire would have threatened the entire region and nobody knows what might have resulted. "

Will Olmert be the first political victim of the war for hegemony? The calls for his head will grow. Here is Moshe Arens, the former Defense Minister and a Likudnik.

Lebanon Supporters Converge at White House

In the 2000 election many Arabs--both Muslim and Christian--voted for George Bush. The expected him to move in the same direction as his father on key Middle East issues, especially the Arab-Israeli conflict. Of course, these hopes were disappointed, especially when then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stiff-armed Bush in the spring of 2002 when the president demanded that Israel withdraw its forces from Palestinian designated areas of the West Bank. Bush--probably for a combination of religious, ideological and politician reasons--showed no interest in pushing the point. From that point forward Bush has accepted Israel's interests as his own. The result is the U.S. has subordinated its national interests to Israel's more during Bush's presidency than during the administration of any other president.
Even so, Bush retained the support of many Arab Christians, who tend to be from Lebanon, Syrian and Egypt and who are more likely to be prosperous and Republican than Arab Muslims. Bush's willingness to clear brush while Lebanon burned has lost him much of that Christian Arab support.
When you consider that Muslims account for about 6 million people in the U.S., and then add in the million or so Americans of Arab Christians descent, you begin to see a large bloc of voters who are not likely to swarm to support any candidate closely identified with Bush and his policies. Of course, they Democrats moved with such abandon to support Israel's war in the Lebanon, it does not follow that Democratic candidates will benefit from the backlash that I posit.

Lebanon Supporters Converge at White House

Jon Lee Anderson is one of the more perceptive journalists.

He has written fine pieces from Afghanistan and Iraq. This article, from the New Yorker, deals with Hizballah and Lebanon.
The New Yorker: PRINTABLES

Nobody's victory, but in the end Israel could not defeat Hizbollah

The Observer | World | Nobody's victory, but in the end Israel could not defeat Hizbollah: "So who has won? Not Israel. Certainly not Lebanon or its fragile democracy, the development of both of which will have been pushed back half a decade and more. But what about Hizbollah? What can be said is that, on its own terms, it has not lost. Not yet. It has resisted Israel and thus far at least has survived, which was all it had to achieve. If it continues to survive until an international force is deployed - which seems likely - then the issue of its disarmament will have disappeared again into some vague future. In psychological terms, it can claim that its few fighters have inflicted disproportionate damage on the Israelis for a second time, and put the issue of the Shebaa farms on the negotiating table.

But the real test for Hizbollah will be applied not by the international community but by Lebanon itself, which must decide if the price it paid for Hizbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah to claim bragging rights was far, far too high.

August 13, 2006 01:57 AM

As long as Hezbollah shoots rockets into Israel,the IDF will continue to attack Lebanon...The Israeli politicians would commit political suicide if they ordered a cease fire or withdrawal while the rockets red glare continues...

Offensive? Unsuitable? Email us

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Oh my, another "mistake"--Qana, Khiam, Marwahin

Aljazeera.Net - Israel's attack on convoy a 'mistake': "'The attack was carried out based on a suspicion. It was found to be incorrect,' an army spokeswoman said."

Human Rights Watch analyzes the "mistakes" and finds that the mistakes add up to a pattern, namely a blatant disregard for the protected status of civilians.

Not only is there a pattern of attacks on protected persons, but the Israeli forces deliberately targetted civilian installations, including food stores, gasoline stations, fuel supplies, water storage sites, and civilian homes. The assertion that Hizballah is deployed in civilian areas does not excuse the invading force from practicing discrimination and proportionality in its targetting.

Of course, Israel had three underlying objectives, and all have been clearly stated by senior officials, including the Chief of Staff: to inflict an object lesson on Lebanon and its government, to punish the civilian population for supporting Hizballah, and to create a killing zone in southern Lebanon.
Residing in the background is that fact that many members of the security establishment in Israel do not take Lebanon very seriously as a country. I surmise that they would not be particularl distressed if Lebanon collapsed into self-consuming turmoil, although this might irk George Bush a bit.

Also see this earlier post referring to an article by Adam Shatz.

Bush's Black and White World / Home UK / UK - Bush 'believes conflict is a US-Iran proxy war': "The first is the president's visceral instinct to support Israel against its enemies, which he sees in terms of democracy versus totalitarianism. 'People should not underestimate just how strongly the president feels in support of Israel and in his anger towards Iran and Syria [because of their sponsorship of Hizbollah],' said Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former senior official at the Central Intelligence Agency and now at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

The second is Mr Bush's belief that the fighting between Israel and Hizbollah is a proxy war between the US and Iran's theocratic regime, which Washington sees as the most serious threat to stability in the region and beyond. US officials say they have intercepted communications between Tehran and Hizbollah that show Iran continues to supply arms to the Lebanese group."

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Guns Of August

The Guns Of August: "Two full-blown crises, in Lebanon and Iraq, are merging into a single emergency. A chain reaction could spread quickly almost anywhere between Cairo and Bombay. Turkey is talking openly of invading northern Iraq to deal with Kurdish terrorists based there. Syria could easily get pulled into the war in southern Lebanon. Egypt and Saudi Arabia are under pressure from jihadists to support Hezbollah, even though the governments in Cairo and Riyadh hate that organization. Afghanistan accuses Pakistan of giving shelter to al-Qaeda and the Taliban; there is constant fighting on both sides of that border. NATO's own war in Afghanistan is not going well. India talks of taking punitive action against Pakistan for allegedly being behind the Bombay bombings. Uzbekistan is a repressive dictatorship with a growing Islamic resistance.

The only beneficiaries of this chaos are Iran, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda and the Iraqi Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr, who last week held the largest anti-American, anti-Israel demonstration in the world in the very heart of Baghdad, even as 6,000 additional U.S. troops were rushing into the city to 'prevent' a civil war that has already begun."

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Slippery Analysis by Ze'ev Schiff, followed by important comments by authoritative peacekeeping veterans

In this piece, Ze'ev Schiff is reflecting the anxiety of the Israeli security elite that UNIFIL will be given a larger role in implementing a ceasefire. Schiff is being quite disingenuous in his analysis. The original mandate, UN Resolution 425, did not create UNIFIL in 1978 to protect Israel. The point of the resolution was for UNIFIL to confirm the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon, and to assist the Lebanese government in restoring it control over southern Lebanon after Israel invaded Lebanon.
Israel at that did not withdraw in full. Instead, it left behind a cadre of agents to work with a proxy militia headed by Sa'ad Haddad. Through a process of intimidation, political pressure and violence, the proxy militia, acting with full Israeli support, did its best to prevent UNIFIL from operating in its area. When UN peacekeepers were assassinated or attacked, as in al-Tiri or in al-Qantarah in the early 1980s, Israel was pulling the strings. I was there.
After the 1978 war, which left the PLO in place because of Israel's failure in the Litani Operation, UNIFIL was obliged to accept the reality that both the PLO and Israel were the real players in southern Lebanon.
After the 1982 war, Israel occupied about 10% of Lebanese territory and prevented UNIFIL from operating in the areas where it operated.
When Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, it was not the mission of UNIFIL to attack Hizballah, whose legitimacy was emphasized by the Lebanese government.
Resolution 1559 of 2004 does not task UNIFIL to protect Israel, contrary to Schiff's claims.
Finally, UNIFIL is the product of its constituent national parts. In other words, it can only be as effective as the national governments that contribute troops allow it to be.

A recipe for disaster - Haaretz - Israel News

These are comments by Timur Goksel, who served for a quarter century with UNIFIL, and Tom Milo, a Dutch linguist and former peacekeeper. Milo, a former colleague, offers timely reflections on the challenges faced by UNIFIL in its early years of deployment. The belligerents, including Israel, often interfered in its operation. If a new forced is deployed in southern Lebanon, either to bolster UNIFIL or as an autonomous entity, it will face many of the same problems.

Rice’s Hurdles on Middle East Begin at Home - New York Times

Rice’s Hurdles on Middle East Begin at Home - New York Times:

NPR : Fresh Air from WHYY for Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2006

NPR : Fresh Air from WHYY for Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2006: "Augustus Richard Norton

August 10 · The professor of anthropology and international relations at Boston University has been writing about lebanon for 25 years; much of his work has focused on Shiite political movements."

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Human Rights Watch on Israel's (and Hizballah's) Violations of the Laws of Warfare

Under U.S. law, the Arms Export Control Act for instance, U.S. weapons purchasers must agree only to use those weapons for purposes of self-defense. A finding that a country has failed to adhere to that committment requires that arms transfers be suspended. As this initial report from Human Rights Watch clearly indicates, Israel's has established a pattern in this war of shelling and bombing targets without taking sufficient care to minimize civilian casualties. The report draws upon on-the-ground interviews, examinations of impact areas, and other observations. Moreover, Israel has targeted areas extensively inhabited by civilians simply because those areas are known to be sympathetic to Hizballah.
The report is essential reading if you wish to understand how this war is being fought.

While the main focus of this report is Israel, the report makes clear that Hizballah has also committed violations, such as intentionally targetting civilian areas. However, Hizballah's actions do not excuse Israel from its obligations under international law, indlucing the Geneva conventions of 1949.
Israel's charges that Hizballah is using civilians as "human shields" is not really borne out in the report, although the report does allude to instances of weapons stored in civlian homes. Israel, for its part, has used Palestinian civilians literally as human shields in the occupied territories, which has drawn little comment from the U.S. press.

Fatal Strikes: Israel’s Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon: Summary: "The Israeli government claims that it targets only Hezbollah, and that fighters from the group are using civilians as human shields, thereby placing them at risk. Human Rights Watch found no cases in which Hezbollah deliberately used civilians as shields to protect them from retaliatory IDF attack. Hezbollah occasionally did store weapons in or near civilian homes and fighters placed rocket launchers within populated areas or near U.N. observers, which are serious violations of the laws of war because they violate the duty to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian casualties. However, those cases do not justify the IDF’s extensive use of indiscriminate force which has cost so many civilian lives. In none of the cases of civilian deaths documented in this report is there evidence to suggest that Hezbollah forces or weapons were in or near the area that the IDF targeted during or just prior to the attack.

By consistently failing to distinguish between combatants and civilians, Israel has violated one of the most fundamental tenets of the laws of war: the duty to carry out attacks on only military targets. The pattern of attacks during the Israeli offensive in Lebanon suggests that the failures cannot be explained or dismissed as mere accidents; the extent of the pattern and the seriousne"

Amira Hass reflects on the Lebanon War

Their power of endurance - Haaretz - Israel News: "It comes as no surprise that this war has not yet been finished in one fell swoop. For six years, the Israeli army has accustomed its soldiers to regard their assaults in the occupied territories as 'fighting' and 'battles.' They fostered the myth that there was symmetry between the advanced regular Israeli army and groups of Palestinians armed with light weapons and homespun bombs, scurrying among the tanks and helicopters that are demolishing their houses and fields. Indeed, on a few occasions, the Palestinians succeeded in guerrilla operations that killed or wounded the troops. But these were the exception. The suicide attacks inside Israel attest to the 'military' weakness of the Palestinian organizations.

In contrast, reflect for a moment on the U.S. Congress falling over itself to thoughtlessly but enthusiastically support a counter-productive war

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Angry MPs demand recall of parliament: "Up to 100 MPs, most of them Labour, are to demand an immediate recall of parliament to debate the crisis in Lebanon because of growing fears about the government's strategy.

The call is expected to come in the next 48 hours and its organisers have been in discussion with the Liberal Democrat and Scottish Nationalist parties. Negotiations are also under way with campaign groups backing the call for an immediate ceasefire that attracted the support of 200 MPs.

Jon Trickett, chairman of the Compass group of 50 leftwing MPs and a force behind the appeal, said: 'In this crisis, parliament needs to speak for the nation. We are living in a 24/7 society, yet our parliament seems so ossified that it goes into recess for 11 weeks and there seems no way for backbenchers to bring MPs back.'"

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Israel's March of Folly (

Harper's has been publishing timely and concise interviews and essays on a variety of topics, including the war in Lebanon. The following by Ken Silverstein deserves a wide readership. As you are reading essay consult yesterday's statement by Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz, who offers a glimpse of Israeli official thinking.

Israel's March of Folly ( "Israel now faces a problem in Lebanon similar to the problem faced by the United States in Iraq: it must try to win a “victory” in order to justify its foolish decision to go to war, and only then can it withdraw. But even if Israel manages to drive north to the Litani River, it's unlikely that many people will remember this as a triumph for the Jewish state. The members of Hezbollah who are killed in the conflict will be remembered as martyrs, and the call to destroy Israel will become even more fervent. “The Jews all died at Masada,” said Milt Bearden, a former CIA officer with broad experience in the Middle East, “but no one remembers that it was a Roman victory.”"

The instructive period of 2000-2006 and what this war is really all about

In Mideast, shades of 1982
Boston Globe
By Augustus Richard Norton August 7, 2006

ISRAEL'S WAR in Lebanon, like its 1982 forbear, was launched with the ambitious aim of buttressing Israel's regional hegemony and security. The 1982 invasion turned into an occupation of southern Lebanon that nurtured and hardened Hezbollah, which became the formidable foe that Israel today confronts. Whether the present war is over in a few days or even weeks, it is clear that not only will Hezbollah survive Israel's onslaught as perhaps the dominant political force in Lebanon, but most distressing is the possibility of Lebanon collapsing into chaos, even civil war.

In terms of the US role in the Lebanon wars, what is most remarkable are the naive assumptions that have framed presidential decision-making. President Ronald Reagan, commenting 24 years ago on the rationale for Israel's invasion, referred to the Palestine Liberation Organization rockets constantly raining on Israel. Reagan did not seem to know that the PLO had been scrupulously observing a cease-fire negotiated by the renowned US diplomat Philip Habib. In a similar vein, President Bush refers regularly to Hezbollah's terrorist attacks on Israel, while Israel's border with Lebanon has been mostly quiet since Israel ended its occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000.

Bush is a one-trick pony when it comes to terrorism, so he has little need for nuance or contradiction. Hezbollah is designated by the United States as a ``terrorist group," a label that Israeli officials use with alacrity to cement support for their actions. The word ``terrorism" is a convenient rhetorical bludgeon. It substitutes for serious thinking and leads to the nonsensical conclusion that whatever Hezbollah does is an act of terrorism. The result is a US policy that supports Israel's ``counterterrorism" war to the point that a third of Lebanon's people are now refugees, hatred of America has become red hot, and the war has caused a major rift with important European allies.

All of this to fight terrorism, we are told. The war's hefty death toll includes hundreds of Lebanese and dozens of Israeli civilians, human sacrifices on the altar of the war on terrorism. What most casual observers are not expected to know, but what Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Bush should know, is that the six years between Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000 until the momentous Hezbollah attack on July 12 were comparatively placid.

During that period, one Israeli civilian was killed by Hezbollah weapons (and five more were killed in a Palestinian operation that may have been helped by Hezbollah ). Meanwhile, more than a score of Lebanese civilians were killed either by hostile action or by mines left behind by Israel. The dead deserve that we not treat their violent end lightly. Haviv Donon, 16, who was felled by a Hezbollah antiaircraft round fired at Israeli planes violating Lebanese airspace, and Yusif Rahil, 15, a shepherd killed by an artillery round intended for Hezbollah after an attack in Shebaa Farms, were innocent victims. Thankfully, such victims were far fewer then than may be commonly imagined.

There were serious clashes in the vicinity of the Shebaa Farms, part of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights claimed by Lebanon during that six-year period. Nine Israeli soldiers died in Hezbollah attacks in the contested area, and 16, including eight on July 12, were killed along the international border in seven clashes. Some of the attacks were in retaliation for Israeli-caused deaths in Lebanon. At least 21 Israeli soldiers were also wounded. By way of comparison, an average of 25 Israeli soldiers died annually during Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon, according to Justice Minister Haim Ramon. More Israeli soldiers than that already have died in the present war.

With one possible exception, there were no purposeful attacks on Israeli civilians across the Lebanese border. This is important to recognize because it illustrates that the task of maintaining stability across this hostile border was neither impossible nor infeasible. Indeed, the rules of the game were well understood by both Israel and its Hezbollah foe.

Israel's over-the-top reaction to the Hezbollah cross-border operation has more to do with settling scores with Hezbollah, eradicating an Iranian proxy, and restoring the credibility of Israel's deterrence than with the actual level of violence coming from Lebanon. Hezbollah provided a handy pretext when it breached Israel's border to capture two Israeli soldiers. Much as the attempted assassination in 1982 of Ambassador Shlomo Argov in London by a blood foe of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat provided a pretext for an Israeli army poised to destroy the PLO and to remake Lebanon, so the foolhardy July 12 operation provided a pretext for Israel to secure its mantle of hegemony.

As for President Bush, he flashed a green light for Israel. He found the opportunity to decimate Hezbollah and to signal to Iran ``you may be next" too delicious to pass up. It is still early for a requiem, but one has to wonder whether the 2000-2006 period might, in a year or so, look pretty good compared to the new realities and new violence that history warns us to expect.

Augustus Richard Norton is a professor of anthropology and international relations at Boston University.
(also available from Common Dreams)

Monday, August 07, 2006

John Waterbury, President of AUB

Unfortunately, it is all connected: Hezbollah, Israel, Palestine, Syria, Iran and, indeed, Iraq. One cannot "solve" the Hezbollah problem without coming to terms with all the pieces. Anyone who has dealt with the successive Middle East crises over several decades knows there is a kind of infinite regress of cause and effect. I cut into the process somewhat arbitrarily in 1967.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Rice argues that the Middle East "was never stable"--it is illusion that the region was stable.

Here is the Secretary of State talking about a transition to a "new Middle East". Bet you can't wait for it?

RICE: Well, I would not say that it's become less dangerous. I would say that it was never stable. And the sense that things were going along just fine when this Administration began a new set of policies in the Middle East is shortsighted and ahistorical ... A failure in Lebanon? Compared to what? The false stability of Syrian troops occupying the country for 30 years?
I find it a very odd way of looking at things that because it's hard and turbulent, that we should wish for the good old days of the false stability of Saddam Hussein and his 300,000 people in mass graves and his chemical-weapons use and his two wars started in a period of 20 years. Or Yasser Arafat stealing the Palestinian people blind, watching the second intifadeh, the Passover Massacre. What Middle East are we talking about?
We are in transition to a different kind of Middle East. And it is very turbulent. It is even violent. But it has a chance, at least, of being a Middle East in which there is a democratic, multiethnic Iraq where people solve their differences by politics, not by repression. It has a chance of having Israel and Palestine live side by side in peace. It has a chance of having a Lebanon that can control its own territory without Syrian forces.

Israel's Arrest of Speaker of PNC Speaker Reveals Israel's Quest for a Middle East Devoid of Interlocutors

A spokesman for the Israeli army confirmed that Aziz Dweik, 58, was arrested at his home on Saturday night."We arrested him because he is a leader of Hamas, which is a terrorist organisation," said the spokesman.

Americans Serving in the Israeli Army--What is their status in U.S. law?

A question for those with a background in U.S. laws regarding citizenship: May Americans lawfully join a foreign army? My recollection is that this used to be illegal under U.S. law. If it is now legal, when did it become legal? May an American whose grandparents were Turkish join the Turkish army and retain his citizenship? How about a Lebanese, who may wish to join the Lebanese army to defend his country against Israel? If readers have serious legal answers to this question please post them (you may post anonymously). While opinions, expressions of concern, support, outrage, approval, etc., are always welcome, I am particularly interested in the legal status of the Americans mentioned in this article.
O'Neil, 20, and several other soldiers at the Tiberias hotel are part of a program that brings Americans to Israel specifically to join the army to fulfill their concept of a Zionist mission. Hundreds of young Americans have taken part.
They come without their families. Some are placed in a kibbutz or similar situation, and all end up in the military. After a three-year tour of duty, many stay as residents and Israel gives them financial aid with school tuition and housing. O'Neil, who said one of his first acts Saturday after marching out of Lebanon was to call his mother in California, said he never imagined that he would be fighting in Lebanon when he joined the Israeli army two years ago.

H. L. Mencken's theory of evolution in U.S. politics

With thanks to Joe.

The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.

The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.
-- H. L. Mencken

From the Baltimore Sun, July 20, 1920.

Talking to adversaries

But critics of the administration's approach say the administration has simply lectured countries such as Syria, refusing to detail concrete benefits that might flow from closer cooperation. Leverett, now at the New America Foundation, interviewed Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, for a book after he left the White House and said Assad complained that all he heard from U.S. officials was a long list of demands.

Syria is "a state, not a charity," Assad told Leverett. "If it is going to give something up, it must know what it will get in return."

For instance, administration officials have always demanded that Syria prevent militant groups from operating on its territory but have never explained what Syria would get in return. Leverett said the administration should have explicitly linked Syria's removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism to its expelling groups such as Hamas and severing the links that allow arms to flow to Hezbollah.

Syria also could be induced to cooperate if it receives some acknowledgment that it has a role in an Arab-Israeli peace deal, experts said. Syria nearly reached a peace agreement with Israel during the Clinton administration, but the Bush administration has been reluctant to involve Syria in its peace efforts.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Reverberations from Lebanon in Iraq and Saudi Arabia : Tens of thousands rally in Baghdad to show support for Hezbollah

Civil war warning blow to Blair

Guardian | Civil war warning blow to Blair

The "C" word

The British and American governments have avoided the use of "civil war" to describe the situation in Iraq, but this only denies the obvious, namely that significant numbers of people are being killed by their own countrymen because of their sectarian identity.
BBC NEWS | UK | Iraq civil war warning for Blair: "William Patey, who left the Iraqi capital last week, also predicted the break-up of Iraq along ethnic lines.

He did also say that 'the position is not hopeless' - but said it would be 'messy' for five to 10 years.

Mr Blair said the violence was designed to put extremists in charge rather than leaders committed to democracy.

'What should our response be? However difficult it is, stay the course, stand up for those people who want democracy, stand up for those people who are fighting sectarianism, stand up for a different vision of the Middle East based on democracy, liberty, the rule of law,' he told reporters.

The Foreign Office said it did not comment on leaked documents but added that Iraqi security forces were getting more capable every day."