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August 15, 2006
Lebanon Balking At The Terms

Rick Moran tipped me to this story from the Jerusalem Post which indicates that Lebanon may blow the cease fire within hours of its implementation. Despite the clear language in the agreement that not only calls for the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1559 to disarm Hezbollah but also to ensure that the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL have the only arms in the sub-Litani region, Beirut now says that Hezbollah can keep their weapons -- as long as the weapons stay concealed:

Hizbullah will not hand over its weapons to the Lebanese government but rather refrain from exhibiting them publicly, according to a new compromise that is reportedly brewing between Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Seniora and Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

The UN cease-fire resolution specifically demands the demilitarization of the area south of the Litani river. The resolution was approved by the Lebanese cabinet.

In a televised address on Monday night, Nasrallah declared that now was not the time to debate the disarmament of his guerrilla fighters, saying the issue should be done in secret sessions of the government to avoid serving Israeli interests.

"This is immoral, incorrect and inappropriate," he said. "It is wrong timing on the psychological and moral level particularly before the cease-fire," he said in reference to calls from critics for the guerrillas to disarm.

According to Lebanon's defense minister, Elias Murr, "There will be no other weapons or military presence other than the army" after Lebanese troops move south of the Litani. However, he then contradicted himslef by saying the army would not ask Hizbullah to hand over its weapons.

Unless Lebanon strips Hezbollah of their weapons, the Israelis do not have to move an inch from the Litani. The UN wants to have a series of meetings with Lebanese and Israeli military commanders to strategize on the handover from the Israelis, and I suspect that the IDF will tell both that nothing moves until Lebanon agrees to implement all points of the resolution. If 1701 becomes a smorgasbord rather than a series of requirements, then neither Lebanon nor the UN will like Israel's selections from Column A or Column B.

This follows reports last night that Hezbollah had launched missiles from their positions north of the Litani, but that they had fallen in Lebanon, not Israel. It demonstrated the need to keep Nasrallah north of the river, where the vast majority of their weapons are out of range of Israeli cities. Israel chose not to respond to the ten missiles, noting their lack of damage to Israel or the IDF.

Small arms in the sub-Litani are probably not much of an issue for Israel, but they will be for the Lebanese Army. Israel needs to be sure that Beirut can take control of their own territory before they withdraw back across the Blue Line. That's the goal for which they fought, and they will not withdraw without having achieved it. Expect the Israelis to make this an issue today.

Lastly, let's get a little perspective on the supposed Hezbollah victory. Many yesterday continued to bemoan the cease fire, arguing that it gave Hezbollah enhanced prestige in the Arab community. Unfortunately, any war that didn't involve Syria would have delivered that result, because Hezbollah would survive any kind of frontal attack, no matter how prolonged, as long as the Assad regime survives in Damascus. Wars are not won or lost on prestige, or the Arab street, or the creation of martyrs and heroes. Wars are won when one side either captures territory or changes the threat level in a significant manner.

The critucs operate from a narrow context, believing that Israel has made itself vulnerable because it did not crush its enemies beneath its tank treads. However, that has rarely been the case in Israel's wars, as evidenced by the fact that the Assad regime remains in Damascus, the Hashemites still rule Jordan, Sadat remained in power in Egypt after all the wars -- until he actually made peace with Israel, when he was assassinated by his own people. Israel is still surrounded by its enemies, and they remain armed. No one would make the case that Israel therefore has lost every war it fought.

In this war, they pushed Hezbollah out of the sub-Litani, forced them to fire off a third of their missile and rocket inventory, and destroyed a number of their launchers. This all took place over two kidnapped soldiers, and Hezbollah didn't even get the prisoner swap they wanted. After six years of relative non-action to Hezbollah provocations, Olmert changed the dynamic by launching a massive war after a relatively routine terrorist action by Hezbollah. Israel also forced Lebanon to finally address the conundrum of sovereignty and drove a wedge between Hezbollah and the rest of Lebanon's institutions. Does anyone think that Fuad Siniora would even have discussed disarming Hezbollah before this war? They had a year after UNSCR 1559 and completely shrugged it off.

The goals for Israel have always been a Hezbollah-free sub-Litani without having to conduct another generational occupation. They got the agreement they wanted that delivers on these goals, and at the same time served notice that the era of non-response to provocations had passed. The key for Israel is to insist on full implementation of 1701 and 1559. They cannot budge on these points. If Lebanon reneges, Israel can go back to their military options until the Lebanese get the message for good.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 15, 2006 5:53 AM

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» Conceal Your Weapons! from Liberty and Justice
Hmm, they will not turn in their weapons, they will only refrain from exhibiting them publicly. Nice compromise. I'm sure that Nasrallah is more than pleased with this decision. [Read More]

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» The gnashing of teeth from Dean's World

Cap'n Ed gets it right:

[L]et's get a little perspective on the supposed Hezbollah victory. Many yesterday continued to bemoan the cease fire, arguing tha...

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