Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Israeli Assault on Lebanon

The assault on Lebanon continues. It's been in the works for quite a few years now. For situational updates here's a few resources you mightn't be aware of. All of these links will open in a window or tab depending on which browser you use:

I don't have time to comment on Gaza so I just suggest you read this remarkable woman's writings:

Not counting the various Iraqi resistance groups. There are five major political groups in the Middle East:

  1. Hamas,
  2. Hizbollah,
  3. Syria,
  4. Iran,
  5. The Muslim Brotherhood.

With whom the western governments in particular the U.S. government won't talk. The Israelis won't talk to any of them either and are currently trying to militarily overthrow the elected Hamas administration. There isn't a hope in hell of ending any of the current conflicts when the only party the west will talk to is Israel and when western governments, in particular the U.S. government, gives them money and weaponry like they were sweets. Mealy mouthed platitudes about "restraint" are recognised in Tel Aviv as what they are - mealy mouthed platitudes.

Here's a quick take on Lebanon. Six years ago Hizbollah successfully threw the Israelis out of South Lebanon. They did it by killing the invaders and by being prepared to be killed. That's how you get rid of invaders you accept that you yourself are going to take unbearable pain and you make it too unbearably painful for the invaders to continue to occupy your country by killing a lot of them. The Israeli retreat destroyed the myth of Israeli military invincibility but did not however end the war. The Israelis have been looking to recreate the myth ever since. The excuse used by the Israelis for what they're currently doing is manifestly a ridiculous lie. The storyline goes something like this:

"Terrorists crossed into Israel from Lebanon and kidnapped two of our soldiers. They did this in coordination with and at the behest of either the Syrians or the Iranians or both. We are going to punish Lebanon for not controlling the Hizb."

The facts are very different. Hizbollah arose from the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and Lebanese civil war. The Israeli invasion of Lebanon was characterised by savage brutality and caused a civil war in which everyone slaughtered everyone else and brought Hizbollah to prominence in the South. Hizbollah defeated three Israeli armies in a row Lebanon was effectively crippled and divided and that suited the Israelis, the Syrians, the French, the Saudis, and everyone else.

The idea that the Lebanese army could take over from Hizbollah even if Hizbollah were willing is ridiculous, the Lebanese army is good at looking pretty in a snappy uniform. That's all they're good at. The Hariri assassination discussed in the comments to a posting on this blog here created a situation in which for the first time all of the Lebanese parties got serious, well as serious as they get, about actually strengthening Lebanon. I did a short posting on this giving a quick summary back in March. What hasn't changed is that Israel and Hizbollah are at war. Hizbollah arose in reaction to the brutality of the Israeli invasion and occupation of Lebanon. To dismiss them as just a terrorist organisation is very foolish. Like Hamas and the Ikhwanis they're a social and religious movement incorporating well organised and functional:

  • Nationalist.
  • Religious,
  • Political,
  • Social,
  • Economic and,
  • Military departments.

Granted their military wing often uses terrorist tactics but the fact that they have integrated all of the aspects of their struggle makes them far more formidable than any mere "terrorist group" such as ETA, the UVF, the IRA, or the various groups collectively referred to as "al-Qaeda." In social terms they're what has kept Southern Lebanon together, in military terms they're what defeated three Israeli armies in a row, and every Lebanese knows it. They may have been becoming somewhat less politically popular as they moved toward "using the ballot box more than the AK47" but that hasn't stopped them from being a formidable military force. They and they Israelis have been watching and attacking each other on the border ever since Hizbollah was formed neither side has ever stopped.

So what happened and why? The immediate cause was that a bad decision by a junior Israeli officer meant that an Israeli unit was left vulnerable to attack and capture. A panicked attempt to get them back using a tank crossing the border and being destroyed. Or to put it another way - a local Hizbollah commander saw an opportunity that was too good to pass up. An Israeli commander faced with an equivalent opportunity would have done the same thing.

Israel wants to defeat Hizbollah and doesn't care what it does to achieve this goal. I doubt that that their often stated goal of destroying it is achievable my guess is that for the moment all they want Hizbollah visibly defeated and forced to withdraw a long way from the border. I don't believe that's achievable either. Israel's massive attack against all of Lebanon especially infrastructure and civilians has over the last 48 hours rallied the Lebanese against Israel. Even if this Israeli operation were to succeed and even if their wildest dream was to come true and Hizbollah's defeat was such that it was effectively destroyed the impact on Israel's own security is likely to be disastrous. The 1982 invasion produced Hizbollah; this latest aggression against all of Lebanon will either strengthen their support which was beginning to weaken or produce another adversary, more tightly organised, more radical, more militant, more ruthless, and determined to revenge themselves both on those who attacked Lebanon and upon those who facilitated and justified the attack.


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