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July 23, 2006
Arabs Pressuring Syria To Cut Hezbollah Support

The Arab nations continue to pursue a policy of opposition to Iranian dreams of hegemony in the Middle East, and have begun a campaign to pressure Bashar Assad into cutting off support for Hezbollah. Rather than unite behind the Persian power play, the Arabs appear to regard Teheran as a bigger threat than Israel:

Mideast diplomats were pressing Syria to stop backing Hezbollah as the guerrillas fired more deadly rockets onto Israel's third-largest city Sunday. Israel faced tougher-than-expected ground battles and bombarded targets in southern Lebanon, hitting a convoy of refugees. ...

With Israel and the United States saying a real cease-fire is not possible until Hezbollah is reined in, Arab heavyweights Egypt and Saudi Arabia were pushing Syria to end its support for the guerrillas, Arab diplomats in Cairo said.

A loss of Syria's support would deeply weaken Hezbollah, though its other ally, Iran, gives it a large part of its money and weapons. The two moderate Arab governments were prepared to spend heavily from Egypt's political capital in the region and Saudi Arabia's vast financial reserves to break Damascus from the guerrillas and Iran, the diplomats said.

If the other nations succeed in splitting Syria from its terrorist proxy, Hezbollah will have huge problems in Lebanon. While they get more support from Iran than Syria, Iran has no way to directly supply Hezbollah in Lebanon. Sheikh Nasrallah's lines of communications go to Damascus, and if Assad cuts those, Hezbollah cannot last as a military force. It's all fine to proclaim one's self free of the fear of death, as Nasrallah's terrorists have done, but it's another to keep fighting when the rockets, missiles, and grenades are all gone.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan want an end to the whole war. They want Israel to return the Golan Heights and Shebaa Farms and Assad to sign a comprehensive peace deal with Ehud Olmert. The Egyptians and the Jordanians have long had diplomatic relations with Israel, and they understand that an Israel with normalized relations is no threat to their sovereignty. However, a war breaking out in the region threatens everyone with either Iranian dominance or American intervention, neither of which appeals to the pragmatists in Cairo and Amman. Riyadh just wants to sell oil and keep Teheran bottled up in its corner.

Israel wants the same end as the three Arab nations. All Israel wants is to live in peace, and to stabilize the area so that they can finally come to a resolution in the West Bank. They would gladly negotiate with Syria as long as Syria gave up its terrorist proxies. Olmert would want a Western screening force to ensure Syria's compliance, and as the International Herald Tribune reported earlier, took the West by surprise with his request to have the force under NATO control:

With NATO straining to fulfill its commitment in Afghanistan and facing new demands from the United Nations to send troops to Sudan, Israel's proposal that NATO provide a buffer zone along the Israeli-Lebanese border surprised members of the alliance Sunday. Amir Peretz, the Israeli defense minister, told the German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, that Israel would welcome a NATO force, saying that the Lebanese Army was too weak to do the job. Diplomats said it was also a clear signal to the UN that its force in the area was of limited importance since it had failed to disarm Hezbollah fighters or protect the border since Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000.

Israel's message to the West was clear: either put up or shut up. Israel does not want the UN to take command of the forces, especially after the pathetic performance of UNIFIL's command over the past six years. (They also don't want to have to lock up their daughters, or force the Lebanese to do the same.) If France and the rest of the European peanut gallery want to demand cease fires, then let them stick their own troops in the region and try suppressing Hezbollah themselves. If they don't have the stomach for it, then they can shut the hell up and let Israel fight its own war.

NATO should take Israel's offer and send a real fighting force into southern Lebanon, and assist the Lebanese in building their army to take over the task. In fact, they can look to the east to see how it's done. The US has done a remarkable job in building an Iraqi army and security force, and NATO can use that as a model for Lebanon.

Faster, please, in the words of one of my favorite columnists. In fact, now.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 23, 2006 9:38 PM

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