Monday, August 14, 2006

Ceasefire takes hold in Lebanon

The guns fell (mostly) silent today in Lebanon, and refugees began heading home in droves.

The fighting went right up to the deadline, and afterwards there were hiccups: scattered clashes between Israel and Hezbollah. But nothing serious or unexpected.

The biggest question now is when the Lebanese/UN force will deploy into South Lebanon. Various observers have raised concerns, such as:

1. Whether it will happen (Captain's Quarters).

2. Whether it will involve disarmament of Hezbollah (Times of London).

3. When it will happen (Jerusalem Post).

Regarding the first question, I think the answer is "yes." As to the last two, it's still up in the air. Here's what Lebanon's UN ambassador had to say:

"Lebanon will be, I think, the last state to sign a peace treaty with Israel," UN ambassador Nouhad Mahmoud told CNN television's "Late Edition" program, without explaining the remark.

He called the agreement a "crucial" test for all the parties involved.

"Now it is the moment of truth for everyone, and we'll see who will abide by the Security Council resolutions and who will not, so (what) we have this week is very crucial," Mahmoud said.

The diplomat added that the 15,000 Lebanese soldiers to be dispatched to south Lebanon to help keep the peace alongside a similarly-sized international UN force "are not going to use force" to disarm the Hezbollah militia which has been battling Israel.

"Hezbollah will just leave the area as armed elements as I understand it, and the Lebanese army will take over the whole region along with the
United Nations forces," he said.

This is probably how it'll shake out -- Hezbollah heading north, but keeping its weapons. That's less satisfactory than disarmament, but it still accomplishes the two key objectives: Pushing them out of rocket range of Israel, inserting Lebanese and UN troops in between as a buffer force, and finally getting Lebanon to assert responsibility for what goes on in its territory.

Lots of things could still go wrong. But for now, there's hope.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree, there is plenty of reason for hope. My first relief is that rabid right-wingers in both Israel and the US have not managed to exert control. The death and destruction is halted, which halts the flow of fuel on the fire. If Hezbollah does keep its word, and if Lebanese troops (along with UN) occupy the south, and if Israel keeps its word about withdrawing, then I see a path for progression. Only during an absence of hostilities can we use this as an opportunity to examine the larger issues.

Hezbollah should realize that it's getting nowhere with the militant tactics and should join fully in the political process.
Israel will not increase its security by devastating Lebanon and its people. Apparently some people still confine themselves to a box where massive military might is the perpetual answer in a struggle of "good vs. evil". But their voices are waning in a crowd increasingly clamoring for moderation.

As an aside, Israel must amend its blockade to allow the cleanup of the huge oil spill on Lebanon's coast (caused by the bombing of a power plant). It's already an environmental disaster, and without quick attention it will become a catastrophe.
- Caracarn

8/14/2006 12:01 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Whatever Hezbollah thinks of this depends on what its goals are. A third or so of Lebanon is Shiite, and Hezbollah has positioned itself as their representative. If its goal is simply to gain power within Lebanon -- both for itself and its sponsors -- then it is succeeding quite well.

One reason people think Hezbollah will never disarm is that a disarmed Hezbollah is useless to both Syria and Iran as a lever against Israel (Syria) or a tool for exerting regional influence (Iran).

There's a fascinating article in Sunday's New York Times magazine exploring many of the complexities and contradictions that riddle Lebanon. Worth a read.

8/14/2006 12:16 PM  
Blogger Douglas said...

There's always hope, but I'm rather pessimistic about Hezbollah disarming. They launched a war against Israel without suffering disasterous consequences, their status in the Middle East soared, their media operations made Israel look bad and them look good. From their point of view, they have lots of good reasons to launch another attack at their convenience.

8/14/2006 8:25 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Pessimism is always justified in the Mideast. But I think it's significant that Hezbollah is being made to leave south Lebanon. Even if they want to attack Israel again, how are they going to do it?

But we'll have to wait and see. And hope.

8/15/2006 6:58 AM  

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