Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A conflict unresolved

Let us not forget that George W. Bush refused to call for an immediate ceasefire, which would have saved a number of innocent lives, because he wanted Hezbollah to be disarmed and removed from influence. The opposite is much more likely. The militia will not disarm. It's early work with a building program is likely to boost its prestige. There are troubled times ahead.

Syrian analyst Sami Moubayed in the Asia Times Online:
In the broader sense, the Americans and the Israelis wanted several things out of the war - none of which, with the exception of sending the Lebanese Army to the south - has been achieved. They wanted to create a Sunni Arab coalition, spearheaded by Saudi Arabia, to obstruct Shi'ite ambitions in the Arab world. Although both Saudi Arabia and Jordan at first showed readiness, they quickly became silent in fear of the wrath of their own streets, which are supportive of anyone fighting - and winning - a war against Israel.


The war means many things to different people. Despite all the face-saving being done by Olmert and Bush, it was a grand surprise to the Americans and the Israelis. And it is wrong to assume that the war is over only because a ceasefire has gone into effect.

War will break out once again if anybody tries to disarm Hezbollah by force, or if Israel launches any provocations against Hezbollah. This cannot be prevented by the Lebanese Army or by the multinational forces as long as Hezbollah remains armed. And Hezbollah will not disarm until the occupied Sheba Farms are returned to Lebanon.

Israel might also be tricking the Lebanese with the ceasefire. Olmert might be seeking time to retrain, rearm, replan and reinvade South Lebanon to achieve his original stated goal of annihilating Hezbollah. If he needs more urging, cover-up, arms or money, he could get it from the White House, which is just as determined to see an end to Hezbollah.

Naturally, Olmert would need an excuse to attack again, or else Israel would be accused of violating the ceasefire. But excuses are very easy to find in the Middle East. This scenario is not all that far-fetched: one can be sure that the guns have not been silenced permanently.
The Financial Times:
French officials on Tuesday insisted Paris would resist leading a bolstered international force in southern Lebanon without Lebanese government assurances that Hizbollah, the militant Shia group, would be disarmed.
The Los Angeles Times:
But questions remain as to whether the force would meet U.S. and Israeli interpretations of the U.N. cease-fire resolution approved last week. Though small numbers of U.N. troops already are in Lebanon, a beefed-up U.N. force of as many as 15,000 is not expected for as long as a year, Maj. Gen. Alain Pellegrini, the Frenchman who leads the current U.N. peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, told the French daily Le Monde.

U.N. officials in New York continued to haggle Tuesday over the mandate and operational rules of the international troops in southern Lebanon, including whether they would have the ability to detain or fire upon suspected Hezbollah fighters engaged in warfare or gunrunning.

Many of the nations considering contributing troops to the force have made their participation contingent upon the outcome of the debate. Some have said they prefer a monitoring role, while others seek more robust rules of engagement, said a U.N. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Washington Post:
Hasan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, had insisted that any disarmament of his militia -- even in the border area -- should be handled in longer-term discussions within the Lebanese government, according to government ministers. But the Lebanese army, backed by key political leaders, refused to send troops into the just-becalmed battle zone until Hezbollah's missiles, rockets and other weapons were taken north of the Litani River, the ministers said.
The Times of London:
"Even if the Lebanese Government had been crazy enough to try to force the army to do it, I think the army would have refused. A lot of its senior officers are loyal to President Emile Lahoud, the last leading ally of Syria to remain in office in Lebanon.
The building program

This sort of charity work, if you can call it that, will be increasingly influential as non-state entities engage in global insurgencies.

The Washington Post:
KHIAM, Lebanon, Aug. 15 -- In military-style black shirt and pants, Abu Shaker had a gait that was a little light for someone in combat boots. He smiled through his red-tinted beard, as returning residents waved and shouted greetings. And he pointed with authority, guiding a bulldozer plowing the streets of this Shiite Muslim town, blocked by refuse from a month-long barrage of air raids and shelling.

For 34 days, Abu Shaker was a Hezbollah fighter. By 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, he had taken charge as a relief worker.
The Christian Science Monitor:
"How do we get this help from Hizbullah?" asks one woman, referring to the promise by Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah to repair and rebuild for owners of 15,000 destroyed homes.

"Where are you staying?" he replies in the manner of a seasoned bureaucrat. He says the family should fill out a claim form listing address, size of house, scale of damage, and furniture lost.

"You will get money in an envelope," reassures the black-turbaned cleric, who gave his name as Sayyed Nasri Nassar. "Don't worry, our people are coming to you."


Many non-Shiite Lebanese blame Hizbullah for recklessly bringing the current ruin on Lebanon, which officials estimated suffered $2.5 billion in damages. The government, of which Hizbullah is a part, will be responsible for repairing the widespread damage to infrastructure.

But Hizbullah's immediate promise to rebuild - along with widespread confidence here that the resistance won a victory over Israel - is tapping into fresh anger over the destruction, and winning more support for the "Party of God."
Mossad, and the West, miss this important trend that has been used by the likes of HAMAS in Palestine and Sadr in Iraq. The Washington Times:
Israel's storied foreign-intelligence service failed to fully understand the threat posed by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, based on a view among many analysts that the guerrilla organization was an evolving political group, according to U.S. officials and private intelligence specialists.

The Mossad had intelligence about most Hezbollah weapons, including rockets fired into Israel and other hardware. But the service knew little about the military and intelligence side of Hezbollah, a diverse organization made up of Islamic terrorists, conventionally armed militia forces, a charity wing and a political movement.


The U.S. official said Mossad's lack of intelligence about Hezbollah dates back to 1998, when the terrorist group began a strategy of conducting clandestine attacks while also seeking public support through charitable work and joining the political process in Lebanon.

The bias regarding Hezbollah's evolving nature had an effect on the activities of Israeli spies and agents in the field, which contributed to misperceptions about the group, the officials said.

Robert Baer, a former CIA operations officer who is familiar with Mossad, said the Israeli intelligence agency failed to gather good intelligence on Hezbollah, in stark contrast to its very successful efforts against Palestinian terrorists.


Hezbollah operates its military and intelligence wings in utmost secrecy, and they are completely separate from the charitable and political wings, he said.

"Military-intelligence people do not talk to political leadership or rank-and-file people who do social work," he said.
Hezbollah's martial tactics

The Jamestown Foundation:
As the world waits to see if the UN-brokered ceasefire in Lebanon holds, the Israeli army will begin assessing its disappointing performance against Hezbollah guerrillas. Among the many aspects to be investigated is the vulnerability of Israel's powerful armored corps to small, hand-held, wire-guided anti-tank weapons. Indeed, Hezbollah's innovative use of anti-tank missiles was the cause of most Israeli casualties and has given the small but powerful weapons a new importance in battlefield tactics.


Current battlefield reports suggest that Hezbollah fighters are well-trained in aiming at the Merkava's most vulnerable points, resulting in as many as one-quarter of their missiles successfully piercing the armor (Yediot Aharonot, August 10). Hezbollah attacks on Merkava tanks during the November 2005 raid on the border town of Ghajar were videotaped and closely examined to find points where the armor was susceptible to missile attack. While some of their missiles have impressive ranges (up to three kilometers), the guerrillas prefer to fire from close range to maximize their chances of hitting weak points on the Merkava. Operating in two- or three-man teams, the insurgents typically try to gain the high ground in the hilly terrain before selecting targets, using well-concealed missile stockpiles that allow them to operate behind Israeli lines (Jerusalem Post, August 3).

Without artillery, Hezbollah has adapted its use of anti-tank missiles for mobile fire support against Israeli troops taking cover in buildings. There are numerous reports of such use, the most devastating being on August 9, when an anti-tank missile collapsed an entire building, claiming the lives of nine Israeli reservists (Y-net, August 10). Four soldiers from Israel's Egoz (an elite reconnaissance unit) were killed in a Bint Jbail house when it was struck by a Sagger missile (Haaretz, August 6). TOW missiles were used effectively in 2000 against IDF outposts in south Lebanon before the Israeli withdrawal. There are also recent instances of anti-tank weapons being used against Israeli infantry in the field, a costly means of warfare but one that meets two important Hezbollah criteria: the creation of Israeli casualties and the preservation of highly-outnumbered Hezbollah guerrillas who can fire the weapons from a relatively safe distance.
Evaluating the war in Israel

The AP:
The 34-day war against Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas, widely seen here as just, had united Israel's fractured society. Hezbollah was considered a growing threat after it had vastly expanded its arsenal of missiles in recent years.

But the unity crumbled after Israel's fabled army pulled out of south Lebanon without crushing Hezbollah or rescuing two soldiers whose July 12 capture by the guerillas during a raid in Israel triggered the fighting.

The war began just two months after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, men with little military experience, took office. Surveys in two major Hebrew-language dailies on Wednesday showed low approval ratings for both.

A poll of 500 people by TNS-Teleseker showed support for Olmert sinking to 40% after soaring to 78% in the first two weeks of the offensive.
The Boston Globe:
Israeli analysts across the political spectrum branded the war against Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon ``an embarrassing defeat" for a ``semi-rookie government" that should have known the goals it set for itself were ``impossible to achieve."

Ha'aretz, one of Israel's leading daily newspapers, summed up the national mood by presenting readers with an online poll that asked: ``Who should resign?"
Israeli reservists appear to have influenced polling in Israel because they did not like their leadership's tactics. The Christian Science Monitor:
But calling home from the front to commission a poll, one analyst says, is an unprecedented example of the keen understanding of how influential public perceptions in wartime have become.

"The polls can create a climate of opinion," says Raphael Ventura, an expert at the Israel Democracy Institute in Jerusalem. "Polls can enhance the legitimacy of views that were considered unorthodox. When people believe that they are holding opinions outside the consensus, they hide these opinions. But if they see polls, they're more likely to express these opinions openly."

"We saw it in Vietnam and in Bosnia," he adds. "The more you had negative reports in the media, showing that mistakes are being made ... people begin to think maybe the war is not going so well," he says.

Though the poll was instigated by those at war, an army spokeswoman says that it was commissioned by private individuals, which includes off-duty reservists. "Any reserve officer is a private citizen," the officer says, "and can say whatever he wants to say - until he's in uniform again."
I guess that is getting within your superior's decision cycle.

Iraq: ever present in all things Mid East

I am monitoring reports of Katyusha rocket fire in Iraq (with Google News). The AP:
An Iraqi militant group Wednesday released a video showing a Katyusha rocket purportedly fired at the U.S.-controlled Green Zone in a gesture of solidarity with Shiite guerrillas in Lebanon.

The footage obtained by The Associated Press showed several masked men casually setting up a launcher in a parking lot containing a number of burned-out buses before firing the rocket, which streaked across the sky out of view.

The group, calling itself "Screaming the Truth," said the rocket was fired Sunday to demonstrate support for Hezbollah guerrillas who battled the Israeli military in Lebanon until a U.N. cease-fire ended 34 days of fighting Monday.


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