Monday, February 11, 2008


Michael Totten warns of rumblings in Lebanon again. "Just a few nights ago I said to some out of town friends that I thought another war, between Hezbollah and whichever adversary first decides to pick up the sword, is all but inevitable in Lebanon. I wish it weren't so, but it probably is. If the Israelis don't do it, someone in Lebanon will unless the Syrian and Iranian regimes are first brought to heel."

Beirut to the Beltway quotes Walid Jumblatt, who declares his March 14 movement is being forced into a showdown with Hezbollah and the pro-Syrian forces in Lebanon, as evidence that hostilities may be afoot.

"Our existence, dignity and Lebanon are more important than anything else. You want disorder, so be it.", he said, addressing Hizbullah and the forces he said are trying to bring back Syrian hegemony. "You want war, so be it. We have no problem with weapons, no problem with missiles. We will take your ready-to-use missiles. We have no problem with martyrdom and suicide."

Jumblatt's words were of course uttered in the context of Lebanese politics. The Saudis and Jumblatt apparently fear the momentum generated by Hariri assassination is fading and they are being ground down by Damascus. So these blood-curdling warnings may simply be posturing.

However, if the threatened matches are bluffs the powder lying around Lebanon is real enough. The IDF says that Hezbollah has rearmed itself with enormous quantities of rockets right under the noses of the UN Peacekeeping force.

Hezbollah has managed to deploy large numbers of Katyusha rockets and anti-tank missiles in southern Lebanon, senior Israel Defense Forces officials have told Haaretz. These weapons in Shi'ite villages have been undetected by UN observers, the officials say.

They say the weapons have been smuggled south of the Litani River despite the increased presence of the United Nations Forces Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) since the end of the Second Lebanon War. The sources add that Hezbollah's reluctance to use the weapons since the war ended a year and a half ago reflects the strong blow the IDF dealt the militant group and that Israel's deterrence has not been diminished.

But deterrence is fundamentally comprised of perception. If Hezbollah's perception of Israeli determination changes or they alter their calculations, nothing physically prevents the rockets from being fired again. It's worth noting that the 2006 war with Hezbollah started when they miscalculated the Israeli reaction to the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier. And oddly enough, that kidnapping may set the new baseline for what it takes to start Israel on the warpath. Even though the IDF's operations in that war were not notably impressive, the fact alone that it went to the mat over the kidnapping may have been responsible for the peace that has prevailed so far. But the situation has inherent risks.


Blogger soflauthor said...

Hezbollah has managed to deploy large numbers of Katyusha rockets and anti-tank missiles in southern Lebanon, senior Israel Defense Forces officials have told Haaretz. These weapons in Shi'ite villages have been undetected by UN observers, the officials say.

Unless the international media decides to condemn Hezballah for placing offensive weapons in the middle of civilian populations; unless the UN “observers” enter these “Shi'ite villages” with the express intent of finding and destroying those missiles; unless the US and EU publicly warn Hezballah to remove the missiles immediately, under threat of violence coming not from Israel, but from them—it’s advantage, Hezballah.

Of course, none of those things will happen.

The minute hostilities start, the international media will re-initiate its “war crimes” mime every time Israel attempts to destroy the missiles, place conveniently next to schools, mosques and hospitals. The UN will withdraw, it feckless observation matched only by its utter uselessness. And the US and EU will again put pressure on Israel to cease fire. The cycle repeats, ad nauseum.

2/11/2008 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger Yashmak said...

All of this was predicted, by writers for and commentors on this very 'blog.

How is it, that when we can see this all coming so clearly, our elected officials (and those in Israel) cannot?

2/11/2008 04:15:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Levy said...

Yashmak -

Perhaps I can offer some insight to your question in the case of the Israeli Prime Minister (Olmert).

He cannot see it because he has bound his political career to the lie that the last war in Lebanon was a success, however qualified.

Since the war was a success, he must affirm that resolution 1701 is somehow better than its predecessor; That the new and improved UNIFIL is somehow less supine than the old; that the new stockpiles of Hizbollah rockets are somehow less threatening; and that the tense quiet which reigns today is somehow less volatile than that which lasted from 2000 to 2006.

And when hostilities break out again, our dismay and bewilderment will doubtless be as complete as during the last round.

There are none so blind as those who will not see.

Jonathan Levy

2/11/2008 11:33:00 PM  
Blogger JoseyWales said...

IMHO, it's not just Olmert short-sightedness.

Israel can easily cut off all sorts of bad things (missiles and jihadists) from Lebanon.

One bomb on Syria would have the effect of 10,000 bombs on Lebanon, with less pain for all and less PR damage to Israel in the stupid international arena.

Yet, Israel prefers to get into a long costly and disastrous war with Lebanon every few years.

What gives?

2/12/2008 04:39:00 AM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

Hezbollah has managed to deploy large numbers of Katyusha rockets and anti-tank missiles in southern Lebanon, senior Israel Defense Forces officials have told Haaretz. These weapons in Shi'ite villages have been undetected [emphasis added] by UN observers, the officials say.

Undetected my ...! Undeterred & unbothered is more like it. I guess the idea the UN forces were/are impotent (and more likely than not cheering on Hezbolalah) just goes without having to say it.

2/12/2008 05:30:00 AM  
Blogger JoseyWales said...

Marcus Aurelius,

I reiterate my above point:

The UN sucks, we know that. However all these weapons came through Syria with its assent and on its highways and backways.

2/12/2008 06:03:00 AM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...


If Israel were to have a war with Syria and cause the downfall of its govt what kind of govt would replace it? A democracy? An islamist republic?

If the outcome of a war with Syria would be a new Syria worse than the old Syria it would certainly give pause to anyone contemplating such a war.

2/12/2008 03:41:00 PM  
Blogger JoseyWales said...


Assad wants to stay prez and alive.

A couple of F16s over his head would get him to quickly cut off his terrorist friends in Lebanon and go screw with some other biz.

Thereby leaving the Islamists in Syria at bay and Israel happier than with attacks and protracted wars with Hezbollah.

The Turks "explained" to him as much when they wanted him to hand over Ocalan, a Kurdish rebel. Ocalan is now dead (in Turkey) or in some Turkish jail somewhere.

2/12/2008 05:31:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Levy said...

joseywales - One bomb on Syria would not be sufficient. The only thing that would work
would be convincing Syria that Israel meant business, and might be prepared to go all the
way. An air raid would not suffice for this.

As for the "couple of F16s" over his head, this was done a few years ago. His reaction
was to go buy some very advanced surface-to-air missiles from Russia. Bashar is more
bold than his father.

utopia parkway - You raise a good point. But any new government in Syria would be painfully
aware of one fact - that if they provoke Israel, they might be toppled.

There is another obstacle to the toppling of Bashar which must be considered. He sits
on a very large pile of missiles with chemical warheads. Who knows what he might do, if
all is lost?

As I see it, the path to solving Israel's problem in Lebanon is by attacking Syria, causing
a coup, in which the ruling Alawite elite to replace Bashar with one of them. The result
will be a relatively stable, but more tractable Syria. But this path has grave risks on
either side - too strong an action might cause Bashar to trigger the doomsday weapons; too
weak an action would leave him stronger than before; the elites may close ranks against
the invader; a coup may be plotted, but fail.

And any war against Syria would be a three-front war - Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinians.

It's not an easy decision to make.

2/12/2008 11:45:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Powered by Blogger