Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The war of perception over the war

Some excerpts.

The Washington Post:
In an undecided war, perception becomes paramount, and the gaggles of fighters Monday, some with drawn faces, others with a look of contentment, walked like victors through a town that was gouged, cratered and pockmarked but, they said, still theirs.

"They couldn't enter," said Abu Abboud, wearing a jersey that read "Narkotic" and khaki military-style pants.
The Times of London:
Hezbollah officials had a parting gift for the Mehris and the many others leaving their temporary shelters in the capital. Young cadres scuttled among the refugees handing out freshly printed posters of their leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, instructing families to display them on their windscreens.

The slogan at the top, “The Divine Victory”, was written in English, French and Arabic, as Hezbollah officials realised this exodus would be filmed by the watching international media.

Mr Mehri did as he was told, loaded another eight relatives and friends into the open-sided truck and by 8.05am he was away, offering a victory salute through his window.

Government officials were astounded by the numbers daring to do the same.
When one reads Sun Tzu, one realizes that war is won before it is fought. Apparently, wars of perception are conducted in the same manner.

The Los Angeles Times:
Hezbollah's newfound clout has come at a staggering cost to Lebanon's infrastructure, economy and civilians, hundreds of whom died under the rubble of Israeli bombs. The fragile central government, which the U.S. administration strove to present as an example of democracy taking root in the Arab world, also has suffered from the month of fighting.

"The reality is, they have weakened the government significantly," said Charles Ayoub, editor of Ad Diyar newspaper. "What room do [officials] have to maneuver? If Nasrallah says he won't give up the weapons, what are they going to do?"
The Los Angeles Times:
That contrast was evident Monday, as President Bush sought to portray the United Nations deal as a success, calling his administration's efforts with Israel and Lebanon part of a "forward strategy of freedom in the broader Middle East."

But when asked how the resolution would weaken Hezbollah and cut it off from its sponsors in Iran and Syria, the president could make no assurances beyond a sense of optimism.

"Our hope is that this series of resolutions that gets passed gets after the root cause," he said after a meeting at the State Department with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

"We want peace. We're not interested in process. What we want is results."
The Washington Post:
"In both these countries, Iran is backing armed groups in the hope of stopping democracy from taking hold," Bush said. "The message of this administration is clear. America will stay on the offensive against al-Qaeda. Iran must stop its support for terror, and the leaders of these armed groups must make a choice. If they want to participate in the political life of their countries, they must disarm."

Bush's comments came at the close of an Israeli military campaign aimed at ending Hezbollah attacks and crippling the radical Shiite militia. The campaign did not go as well as the United States and Israel had expected. Despite a devastating air assault and an intense ground campaign, Israel's military was unable to gain full control of the border area in southern Lebanon against elusive and well-fortified Hezbollah fighters. Also, some observers believe the conflict burnished the popularity of Hezbollah in Lebanon, even as it resulted in hundreds of civilian causalities and massive destruction of infrastructure across Lebanon.
The New York Times:
Even as they expressed optimism, White House officials said nonetheless that only time would tell whether the cease-fire would hold and whether Hezbollah would ultimately be disarmed. And a senior official, who agreed to speak candidly in return for anonymity, acknowledged the possibility that Hezbollah would build public support in southern Lebanon by flooding the area with rebuilding money, as it has vowed to do.
Bloomberg News:
Hezbollah's disarmament is ``part of a national dialogue that is taking place right now,'' Hussein Hajj Hassan, who represents Hezbollah in the Lebanese Parliament, said in a telephone interview today. Discussions are ``serious and positive,'' he said.

Lebanese soldiers won't disarm Hezbollah by force, Mohammad Chatah, an adviser to Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, said in an interview late yesterday in Beirut. ``The army is not going to go there to be part of a conflict or to be there to forcibly go against any group or anyone,'' he said. ``The idea is to have the army go there as the sole military authority.''
The Christian Science Monitor:
Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, in a televised statement Monday night, said his fighters had won a "strategic and historic victory" over Israel, and that it is the "wrong time" to discuss disarming.

"Who will defend Lebanon in case of a new Israeli offensive?" Mr. Nasrallah asked, adding that the Lebanese Army and new UN force were "incapable of protecting Lebanon."

It is "immoral, incorrect, and inappropriate" to discuss disarming Hizbullah publicly now, Nasrallah said. "It is wrong timing on the psychological and moral level, particularly before the cease-fire."

Nasrallah promised that from Tuesday morning, Hizbullah teams would assess and repair damage to homes as well as pay a year's rent and the cost of furniture to every owner of some 15,000 destroyed homes.
The BBC:
Mr Assad, speaking in Damascus a day after the UN-brokered ceasefire took effect, was giving his first speech on the crisis since it began more than a month ago.

He praised the "the glorious battle" he said had been waged by Hezbollah, and said peace in the Middle East was not possible with the Bush administration in power in Washington.

"This is an administration that adopts the principle of pre-emptive war that is absolutely contradictory to the principle of peace," he said. "Consequently, we don't expect peace soon or in the foreseeable future."
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday that Hezbollah has "hoisted the banner of victory" over Israel and toppled U.S.-led plans for the Middle East.

Hezbollah's main backers -- Iran and Syria -- struck nearly identical tones a day after a cease-fire took effect in Lebanon: heaping praise on the guerrillas as perceived victors for the Islamic world and claiming that Western influence in the region was dealt a serious blow.

"God's promises have come true," Ahmadinejad told a huge crowd in Arbadil in northwestern Iran. "On one side, it's corrupt powers of the criminal U.S. and Britain and the Zionists .... with modern bombs and planes. And on the other side is a group of pious youth relying on God."


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