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August 7, 2006
A Day For Lebanese Reversals

Lebanon's Saniora government reversed itself twice today on the war. First, after accusing Israel of killing 40 Lebanese civilians in an air strike last night, Fuad Saniora had to cut the number down ... by thirty-nine ... and still couldn't get it right:

Late Monday evening IAF fighters struck targets in a Hizbullah-controlled neighborhood of Beirut. Security officials at the scene reported at least five dead and 20 others wounded.

Earlier in the day, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora said only one person had died in an earlier Israeli air raid on the southern village of Houla, reversing his earlier claim that 40 were killed there.

Saniora reportedly broke into tears during opening remarks appealing to Arab League foreign ministers for help, saying that 40 had died in Houla. A security official later said there were about 30 people trapped and the death toll was not known.

The efforts of the Lebanese government to play for sympathy in this war should really have gone into stripping Hezbollah's ability to provoke a war with its southern neighbor instead. The disinformation coming from the Lebanese side of the border, whether through the Saniora government or through Reuters, has made it impossible to take these allegations seriously any more. Of course people die in war; that is why governments should do their best not to provoke one by allowing armed terrorists haven within their borders.

In another reversal, it appears that Saniora may have finally gotten that message:

The Lebanese government unanimously agreed Monday to send 15,000 soldiers to south Lebanon as soon as Israeli troops withdraw, said Information Minister Ghazi Aridi.

Earlier in the day, the Lebanese army called up reserve soldiers in a move linked to the possible deployment on the border if a cease-fire agreement is reach to end more than four weeks of fighting between Hizbullah guerrillas and Israeli forces.

Aridi told reporters after a Cabinet meeting that "the government expresses its readiness to send a 15,000-member Lebanese army force after occupation forces withdraw behind the blue line." He said that the Lebanese army is ready to accept help from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon that currently has 2,000 peacekeepers in south Lebanon.

Of course, this development holds great promise in helping to put an end to the current conflict. Hopefully it will form the basis of a peace plan that actually delivers peace and not just a hudna that allows the terrorists to rearm themselves. If Beirut can call these divisions up quickly and work with a muscular NATO-led force, it might have the intended effect.

However, let us please remember that had Saniora given this order last year after the Syrian withdrawal, this war would never have occurred. Saniora could have called on Turkey, France, Germany, and a number of other countries to help them deploy the Lebanese Army into Hezbollah territory to eject the terrorists that had dug themselves into the countryside. In fact, it will be easier to do that now, with the IDF pounding those fortifications and launch sites into oblivion, but even without that the Lebanese could have still made the effort.

Now, with Beirut in flames, they have no choice, at least not if they want to put an end to the war Hezbollah provoked. Saniora and the Lebanese government should have made this move when they had the chance to avoid war. That they did not puts the responsibilty for the conflict on their shoulders as well as on Hezbollah.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 7, 2006 5:50 PM

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