Saturday, July 22, 2006

Paralyzed: UN Failing Miserably


By John E. Carey
July 21, 2006
Op Ed News. Com

The U.N. is setting a new standard of ineptitude and weakness in international conduct.

Currently, the U.N. is paralyzed as Israel battles terrorists including Hezbollah. It is pretty clear that Iran and Syria have been backing the terrorist.

"Iran is standing by the Syrian people," Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi proudly told reporters.

Last Friday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad boasted that Israel was not tough enough to counter Iran and also warned against an attack against Syria.

"Thanks be to God, despite its criminal and savage nature, the Zionist regime and its supporters in the West do not have the power to look in the same way towards Iran," the fiercely anti-Israeli president wailed.

"If Israel commits another act of idiocy and aggresses Syria, this will be the same as an aggression against the entire Islamic world and it will receive a stinging response," Ahmadinejad said in a telephone conversation with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad.

The hard-line Iranian president, who said Israel should be "wiped off the map" or moved as far away as Alaska, has also compared Israel's military strikes on Gaza and Lebanon to tactics used by Nazi Germany's Adolf Hitler.

The U.N. has reacted with: nothing.

Israel and Hezbollah are engaged in a life or death struggle. Hezbollah, backed by Syria, Iran and large part of Lebanon, has proclaimed its intent to remove Israel from the earth.

Israel, backed by the United States, won't go without a fight. In fact, it looks like Israel may now be in the business of shelling its way to a new buffer zone on the border with Lebanon.

How do you make friends with a nation, or dare I say a people (What did Ahmadinejad call it? "The Entire Islamic World") when they are not shy about screaming that they want to destroy your country?

Israel's move against Hezbollah has revealed one of the reasons behind everyone's frustration in the region of South Lebanon. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon - known by its acronym Unifil -- has a long history of ineptitude, laxity and corruption. As a "peacekeeping" force, Unifil is a totally ineffective.

Some might say that the U.N.'s "peacekeepers" have allowed this pot to come to a boil.

Other smart Americans say we should give the U.N. more of a chance to solve the problems of the Middle East and elsewhere. Well, Unifil has been working to keep the peace in the Middle East for only 28 years. How much more time should we give them?

"They [Unifil] are barely able to take care of themselves," said Timur Goksel, referring to the UN peacekeepers. "How can you expect them to do their work?"

The blue-helmeted UN Unifil soldiers include a moderately trained and semi-disciplined Irish brigade. These Irish UN troops were routinely referred to as the "whisky army" by both Islam and Jewish observers who came into contact with them. The Israeli-backed Christian militiamen - known by the Unifil acronym LAUIs (Lebanese Armed and Uniformed by Israel) countered any effort by the Irish troops to stray far from their base at Camp Shamrock.

And we hate to give red meat to "red necks" but our dear friends the French command Unifil just now.

Over the past few years, with the U.N. paralyzed, Israel consolidated its border "security zone" and Iran began to openly support the terrorists, many of whom are called the Lebanese Shia Amal movement. Rememeber: these guys are in a life or death struggle.

Right now the U.N. is paralyzed again, or further, depending upon ones point of view. Unable to effectively manage and organize the evacuation of innocent civilians from Lebanon, the U.N. is enviously eying USS Nashville, USS Trenton, USS Whidbey Island, USS Iwo Jima, USS Gonzalez, a bunch of CH-53 Super Stallion helicopters, the commercial liner "Orient Queen," [leased by the U.S. to evacuate U.S. citizens and their families] the U.S. Marines, and a protective cover including U.S. Navy destroyers.Americans are leaving Beirut under a security umbrella of protected comfort and moving toward home in a fairly rapid manner.

Non-Americans are mostly leaving by cargo ship to make the five hour U.S. vacationer's cruise ship journey in the hold of a hot cargo vessel in a 16 hour manner without toilets.

Today, July 21, the American-leased motor ferry Rahmah, with a capacity of 1,400 passengers, arrived in Lebananon and the high-speed ferry Victoria M, with a capacity of 330, also started taking Americans out.

"It feels wonderful to be back in the States. We just want to thank so much the State Department and the people that helped the government, the Marines, to help get us out," said one arrival at BWI.

But Americans who left Lebanon with European evacuees on non-U.S. vessels said they encountered a far rougher journey.

"We went on a cargo ship from the port of Lebanon. ... It was horrible. There were no facilities on the ship, just get out alive, that was it. We were on the ship for about 16 hours. I t's a trip that takes about 4 or 5 hours," said Tom Charara from Long Beach, Calif.

The cruise ships the U.S. chartered to bring out U.S. citizens - equipped with a duty-free shops, gourmet restaurants and beauty salons - normally carry up to 800 vacationers each on Mediterranean cruises.

Despite some criticism from the American liberal left, American evacuees coming out of Lebanon have mostly praised the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Navy and the Marines: but nobody has anything good to say about the U.N.

Amidst all this, on July 14 a court handed down the first guilty verdict in the "Oil for Food" scandal at the U.N. In that caper, sneaky insiders at the U.N. and other influence seekers made millions from Saddam Hussein while they were supposed to be enforcing post Desert Storm sanctions.

Americans should take heed that we are in a world-wide war against terror that has any number of ramifications and dangers -- especially when one travels to the Middle East on summer holiday.

Thanks to the Kofi Annan U.N., the world is managed like a bad little league team. Only the way the UN runs the team today costs way too much [but the US pays most of the bills so the little countries don't really seem to care].

The U.S. Department of State, Ambassador John Bolton, and the U.S. Armed Forces are demonstrating true professionalism. The rest of the bit players, especially Kofi Annan's U.N., should be ashamed. But shame is an emotion that has lost its impact on most world "diplomats" and "peacekeepers."

Multi-lateralism doesn't seem to always be in the best national interest of the United States. But don't forget for one second that this is an all or nothing proposition for the Israelis. Not a joking matter.

Our thanks to all involved at the U.S. Departments of State and Defense.


Changing the Rules in the Lebanese Arena

Dr. Boaz Ganor
ERETZ Magazine
July 24-28, 2006

The current situation in Lebanon isn’t the result of Israeli actions. Israel was dragged into taking military action in the wake of a Hizbullah attack and the kidnapping of its soldiers last week; every military strategist, and even every neophyte commentator, has known for years that Israel has been ignoring the growing threat on its northern border, like a bear that has decided to hibernate for the winter on top of a barrel of explosives. Things that have been said in the past need to be repeated now: by unilaterally withdrawing from Lebanon in 2000, Israel traded the tactical threat to IDF soldiers for a strategic threat that developed over the years and today endangers almost the entire Israeli home front.

For the past six years, the advocates of the withdrawal have been praising the fact that, with the exception of a few encounters with Hizbullah, the border has been quiet. They interpret this as proof of the withdrawal’s effectiveness and justness, even if it was executed hastily and without an agreement that is binding upon the Lebanese and/or Syrian government. From the sidelines of the disengagement, they taunted those who cautioned them from the gates, saying they had mistaken the shadow of a mountain for a mountain. These advocates were not prepared to recognize the fact that this was simply the silence before the storm and a temporary situation that would deteriorate in the future. Indeed, they resemble the person who committed suicide by jumping off a skyscraper. As he fell past one of the building’s many windows, someone called out, “How are you?” and he replied, “Fine - for now.”

However, that was not Israel’s only problem in dealing with the Hizbullah. Over the years (and even before the withdrawal from Lebanon), the Hizbullah has succeeded in creating a situation in which it deters Israel more than Israel deters it.

It is unprecedented for a terrorist organization to deter a state and not vice versa. This phenomenon was expressed on two levels simultaneously.

First, Hizbullah used terror attacks to make it clear to Israel that any effective offensive move against it (for example, the 1992 assassination of the organization’s former leader, Abbas Moussawi or the 1993 Israeli Air Force (IAF) attack on the organization’s training camp in the Bekaa Valley, in which dozens of Hizbullah activists were killed) would be followed by an severe response from the organization against Israeli or Jewish targets abroad (such as the terror attacks in Buenos Aires in those same years).

Israel learned the lesson quickly and has refrained over the years from taking actions that claimed more than a certain number of casualties and refrained from killing the heads of the organization in order to prevent the Hizbullah from responding abroad. But that wasn’t enough. The Hizbullah also succeeded in deterring Israel from carrying out routine operations against it by creating a dangerous and unjust equivalency in which any Israeli action that harmed Lebanese civilians, even if it was by chance or to a minor extent, would be followed by a rain of Katyusha rockets on Israeli civilian sites. The result was that Israeli responses to Hizbullah attacks in many cases were no more than words and posing. They were actions that were aimed more at satisfying Israeli domestic demands than to cause real damage to the Hizbullah’s operational ability, such as IAF attacks on abandoned Hizbullah bases.

These were part of the military rules of the game and it was clear to every student of the region that Israel would demand, sooner or later, that they be changed. However, since the withdrawal from Lebanon, Hizbullah has forced Israel to become accustomed to a number of other dangerous rules: Despite the declarations of the state’s leadership – the architects of the withdrawal from Lebanon and their heirs – that aggressive actions against Israel that originated from Lebanese territory would be responded to gravely, Israel repeatedly chose to ignore the Hizbullah’s attacks on military and even on civilian targets and to be satisfied with only token responses. While Israel was bound by its statements, the Hizbullah was very active; it brought about new escalations in the Palestinian arena by initiating terror attacks, inciting the public, recruiting and training activists, providing Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian organizations with weapons and funding, and, above all, training Palestinian terrorists by sharing Hizbullah’s operational theory and the experience it had accumulated in its attacks on Israel.
At the same time, the Hizbullah armed itself to the teeth with dangerous, sophisticated new military equipment; Israel has long been aware of the existence of some of this equipment, while other equipment is being discovered only now, such as the Iranian coast-to-sea missile that hit the Israeli missile ship. Israel protested to everyone possible, threatened and warned, but refrained from taking operative steps to halt the growing threat. Israel chose to ignore the fact that these sophisticated, long-range weapons were not in the hands of actors that are reasonable states with an obligation to defend their citizens and interests and an awareness that they have something to lose by using such weapons.

Alongside such military rules, which synergistically led to the growth of a severe strategic threat to Israel’s peace and security, the state’s leadership found itself paying a heavy price to the Hizbullah in the diplomatic arena. As artists of psychological warfare and fashioners of public opinion locally and internationally, the Hizbullah leadership chose to grab the stick at both ends. They declared that they wouldn’t abandon terror activities (or, to use their words, “armed opposition”), but also developed an extensive diplomatic arm based on their broad popular support – many Hizbullah representatives were even elected to the Lebanese parliament.

Hizbullah’s efforts to establish a political arm misled a large part of the Western world, first and foremost, the European states which chose to emphasize Hizbullah’s political, welfare and religious activities instead of the fact that it is a terrorist organization.

Israel’s efforts to remove the mask from Hizbullah and reveal it for what it was were fruitless. Thus, even the changes in the rules in the political arena after the withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 were detrimental to Israel. While Israel was pressured to come to terms with the growing threat on its northern border, the Lebanese government washed its hands of it and didn’t even begin trying to impose its authority over southern Lebanon and the territory in the Bekaa Valley that was under the Hizbullah’s control. The Lebanese completely ignored the

The Lebanese government wasn’t the only one that closed its eyes to the Hizbullah’s activities and military preparations. Syria also chose to maintain and even to increase the Hizbullah’s power in Lebanon and thus keep the embers of the conflict with Israel burning and maintain its hold on Lebanon through its marionette – the Hizbullah.

Another political ploy that Hizbullah has used to harm Israel has been the claim that Israel is still holding Lebanese territory (the Sheba Farm). Even though this claim has been completely discredited and the international community has recognized the fact that Israel has withdrawn to the international border, Hizbullah has managed to make it part of the political debate in the international arena.

For Israel, it is these problematic rules that set the scene for the recent crisis and the deterioration of the situation following the attack last week on an IDF patrol along the northern border and the kidnapping of two of the soldiers in the patrol. This situation forces Israel to change the rules of the military and political game so that they are not biased against her. It has been asked whether the decision to act immediately after the attack on the IDF soldiers was correct. Was this the most effective path for Israel to follow in dealing with the Hizbullah?

As far as the timing of the Israeli action, it is important to differentiate between two types of military action that were taken after the attack on the IDF patrol. The first was the immediate military response that was aimed to limit the perpetrators’ mobility and ability to move the kidnapped soldiers even further away from Israel and into Lebanon or another state. This action included firing upon transportation routes and infrastructure, including bridges, major intersections, etc. The situation demanded that this action be taken as quickly as possible in order to increase the odds of finding and perhaps rescuing the kidnapping victims.

In addition to this military action, Israel also launched a reprisal attack immediately after the attack in order to make it clear to the Hizbullah that Israel did not intend to accept such actions as routine and that the Hizbullah would be forced to pay a high price for its actions, in the hope that this would deter both the Hizbullah and other organizations from taking similar steps in the future.

While the first action had to be taken as soon as possible after the attack, it is not at all clear if the second, the reprisal attack, also needed to be taken so soon after the attack and if the most justified targets selected for that attack.

It is clear that Israel needed to carry out an attack that was as wide ranging as possible in order to change the rules of the flawed game being played with the Hizbullah. The targets attacked were: Hizbullah offices, bases and facilities, Lebanese infrastructure (such as airports, seaports and bridges), and Hizbullah Katyusha launchers and weapons storerooms. The efficacy of Israel’s almost reflexive move after the attack is questionable. It is reasonable to assume that the Hizbullah, as other Palestinian organizations have done in Lebanon in the past, immediately forbade its activists and certainly its senior activists, to remain at their bases and offices and most likely their homes as well. In that case, bombing those sites is not only an inefficient step, but it also reveals important intelligence information and makes it impossible to target those sites in the future when the organization’s activists actually are on site.

Israel basically decided to act at the most convenient time for the Hizbullah – at a time when its activists and facilities were in the highest state of alert. Israel could have decided to execute a limited military operation immediately after the attack to make it difficult to transport the kidnapped soldiers elsewhere and declare that the attack was an act of war against Israel by Lebanon and the Hizbullah and that Israel would respond to it at the appropriate time. Had Israel waited a few days, until the Hizbullah had returned to its routine, the attacks on those targets would have been much more effective.

Alternatively, Israel could have focused on bombing infrastructure and Katyusha launchers in the first stage and refrained from carrying out an aerial attack on the offices and homes of Hizbullah activists, waiting instead until they returned to them. There is at least one qualitative disadvantage of delaying an attack for Israel – such an action definitely would have received much less international understanding than a military action that was taken immediately after the attack, while the difficult images of the attack were still fresh in the collective consciousness of the international community. The answer to the question of when is the appropriate time for an Israeli aerial attack is the result of a costs-and-benefits analysis that was not necessarily conducted fully before the aerial attack was implemented.

From the beginning, Israel correctly declared that Lebanon and its government were responsible for the deterioration in the situation, while the Lebanese government tried to wash its hands of responsibility with the claim that it hadn’t been aware of the Hizbullah’s plans and therefore wasn’t responsible for the attack. The government of Beirut cannot be allowed to enjoy two worlds at once. It cannot be accepted by the international community as a legitimate, sovereign government that is acting to advance its economic, diplomatic and political interests, if at the same time it is permitted to shrug off responsibility for quasi-military actions and terror attacks launched from its territory against Israel. This is especially true since it has not made even the smallest effort to assert its sovereignty in southern Lebanon.

Israel’s critics in the international arena should imagine if a military attack were launched from French territory against a German military patrol and all of the soldiers in the patrol were killed, except for two who were kidnapped and taken into French territory. Imagine if Germany blamed France for this and France rejected the blame by claiming that the attack had been carried out by a local militia and it had not been aware of the militia’s intention to carry out an attack.

Furthermore, that same militia actually has an active role in the political system of France and even has a number of representatives in the French parliament. A situation that the Europeans would not deem acceptable in their own backyard is deemed completely accepted in the Middle East. Israel has the moral right to act to defend itself against the Hizbullah and against the sovereign government of Lebanon which is fully responsible for what happens in, and originates from, its territory.

As to the question of whether Israel’s actions were just or wise, as far as justice is concerned, the answer is that it was quite just. Israel, which withdrew to the international border and received full approval from the U.N. for doing so, has not only the right but also the obligation to defend its citizens and to take all actions, both as a response or a deterrent, to do so.

Another moral argument being made against Israel is that its actions are completely out of proportion to the damage it suffered. However, as a state fighting a terrorist organization which has chosen to hide among a civilian population and use civilians as a living shield, Israel has demonstrated, both in the past and the present, great fastidiousness in its military operations. Civilians that are injured in Lebanon are victims of the Hizbullah policy of not differentiating itself from the civilian population. In contrast, the injury to Israeli citizens by Hizbullah missiles is the result of a terrorist policy that aims to harm civilians. Hizbullah leader Nasrallah’s claims that the Hizbullah aims its missiles at military sites are hard to believe considering the fact that hundreds of missiles hit civilian homes that are nowhere near military sites.

Israel is justified in it current struggle, but is it acting wisely? It appears that Israel was dragged into a situation that the Hizbullah initiated. Even if the Hizbullah was surprised by the extent of the Israeli response and the steadfastness of the Israeli public in the face of a week of exchanges of fire and repeated attacks on the home front, the Hizbullah walked into this situation more prepared than Israel. Its activists are embedded in the civilian population, its arms are hidden underground, and the firing capability of its missiles is extremely high.

Previous experiences have shown that it is unlikely that Israel will be able to completely halt the firing of missiles into its territory by relying solely on aerial bombing. In this battle, it appears that the Hizbullah has more space to maneuver than Israel does, based upon the real damage inflicted upon the Hizbullah thus far.

Israel could end this chapter of exchanging fire by reaching a ceasefire agreement with the Hizbullah. There are many parties who would be happy to help mediate such an agreement. However, it would be a strategic mistake for Israel to agree to a ceasefire before it achieves its main goals:

--Destroying the Hizbullah’s missile system or significantly reducing their capability to fire missiles.

--Creating credible arrangements that will guarantee that the Hizbullah will not be able to rehabilitate its military infrastructure and perhaps even be disarmed by the Lebanese government.

--Preventing or at least minimizing Iranian involvement in and Syrian support for Hizbullah.

--Creating broad international consensus for labeling Hizbullah as a terrorist organization that is not legitimate and that targets Israeli civilians.

If Israel does not achieve the majority of these goals before signing a ceasefire agreement, then the agreement will be considered a failure that will only increase the Hizbullah’s popularity in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East.

The other option for halting the firing of missiles into Israel is launching a ground operation in Lebanon so extensive that Israel conquers almost all of southern Lebanon again. An operation this extensive is almost impossible since, in addition to the high price Israel would have to pay to conquer southern Lebanon, the range of the Hizbullah’s missiles means that the IDF would need to control a strip of land extending more than 100 kilometers north of the border.

Israel’s experience following the Lebanon war will definitely lead the nation’s decision-makers to avoid the possibility of sinking once again into the quagmire of Lebanon. In addition, in light of Israel’s hasty withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, when it abandoned its Christian partners and left them exposed to the retribution of the Hizbullah, Israel cannot expect any Lebanese party to be prepared to cooperate with it if it decides to conquer Lebanon again. It currently seems highly unlikely that the option of conquering southern Lebanon will be selected; if it is selected, it will be as the option of last resort.

The one positive aspect of the current exchange of fire between Israel and the Hizbullah is that damaging the organization’s infrastructure will make it easier for Israel to cope in the future with the repercussions of a possible attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. As mentioned above, Israel traded a tactical threat in Lebanon for a strategic threat, but in recent months a new threat to Israel has developed, a threat more severe than any of its predecessors, a threat to the state’s existence: the nuclearization of Iran. An Iran with nuclear weapons will endanger the existence of the state of Israel, as well as the stability of the Middle East and the Gulf and world peace.

Since it is not reasonable to assume that Iran will abandon its nuclear plans on its own, and since international sanctions have proven ineffective in the past, it is reasonable to assume that there will be an international need to use military means to force Iran to give up its plan to acquire nuclear weapons. When and if military action is taken against Iran by any party, it is likely that Iran’s first step will be to order the Hizbullah to shoot its entire arsenal of missiles at targets deep inside Israel. This arsenal grows smaller each day that Israel now spends fighting in Lebanon.

Israel is caught in a dilemma – it cannot swallow or vomit out the Hizbullah. In such a situation, it must focus on military operations against Hizbullah’s missile launchers and missile and weapons storehouses, with the aim of harming the organization’s activists with aerial, sea, artillery and ground operations. At the same time, Israel must halt the Hizbullah’s ability to recover both by taking military action and by putting diplomatic pressure on Lebanon, Syria and Iran.

However, above all, Israel must strive to reach a ceasefire agreement from a position of strength that will enable it to achieve the goals listed above and, first and foremost, change the rules of the game between Israel and the Hizbullah and disarm the Hizbullah. The address to turn to reach such a ceasefire agreement is not the Hizbullah or even Iran, but Syria and Lebanon. Therefore, Israel must effectively pressure Syria by wisely using all of the means at its disposal – sticks as well as carrots - in the military, political, economic and diplomatic arenas.

Dr. Boaz Ganor is the deputy dean of the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy and the founder of the Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.

Brookings' Indyk on Crisis in Lebanon

"What's needed is an international consensus for a ceasefire, an end to the rocket-launchings by Hezbollah, an end to Israel's military operations in Lebanon, the return of the captured Israeli soldiers, the removal of Hezbollah from southern Lebanon—replaced with the Lebanese army backed by an international force with teeth—and the establishment of an armistice agreement between Israel and Lebanon."
Martin Indyk, Aljazeera.Net (July 21)

'Hezbollah and Iran Are to Blame'

By Brooke Anderson in Washington
Friday 21 July 2006,
8:49 Makka Time, 5:49 GMT

Martin Indyk, director of the Saban Centre for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, and a former US ambassador to Israel, says that while the potential is there, neither Israel nor Syria want the Lebanese crisis to explode into a regional conflict.Before joining the US State Department, Indyk served for eight years as founding executive director for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

He has taught at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Columbia University, Tel Aviv University, and Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.Indyk has published widely on Middle East issues.

What was your reaction when this latest conflict between Lebanon and Israel began?

Indyk: My reaction was to think that it was foolish of Hezbollah to kidnap the two Israeli soldiers.

This was an unprovoked act of aggression across an internationally recognised border, which gave Israel the justification it had been waiting for to take down Hezbollah's strategic capabilities.

Israel has been observing Hezbollah build up its power with Iran's help and was just biding its time. [Hezbollah leader Hasan] Nasrallah is renowned for his cleverness, but he seems to have miscalculated in this case.

Did you foresee this sort of violence between the two countries?

Indyk: No, I didn't foresee it. I don't know anyone who has predicted wars that have broken out in the Middle East … and especially not the tens of thousands of people on vacation in Lebanon this summer. But I did expect that at some time, Hezbollah would overreach and Israel would grab the opportunity to respond.

How do you think the situation got to this point?

Indyk: Hezbollah wanted to take a ride on the Palestinian cause. First, if they kidnapped soldiers like Hamas had done, and then demanded the release of Palestinian as well as Lebanese prisoners, they could become champions of the Palestinian cause.However this crisis ends, Iran will no longer have that deterrent capability in Lebanon.

Second, this relates to Iran's agenda: To divert attention at the G8 summit away from Iran's nuclear programme. That worked very effectively. But here too, I think Iran miscalculated, extracting short-term gains at the price of long-term strategic interests.

Iran was using Hezbollah's Iranian-supplied capabilities to deter the US and Israel from attacking Iran's nuclear programme. However this crisis ends, Iran will no longer have that deterrent capability in Lebanon.

What these two things show is that Hezbollah is not pursuing a Lebanese agenda. Its actions serve the agenda of Syria and Iran. But Hezbollah is a part of the Lebanese government?Indyk: Hezbollah wanted to be in the Lebanese government so that it wouldn't have to disarm. It used the elections process to move into the government so as to exercise a veto over any attempt by the government to disarm Hezbollah, as the Taif Agreements (1989 conference that paved the way for the Lebanese civil war to end) and UN Security Council resolution 1559 require.

Who do you think is to blame for this crisis?

Indyk: Hezbollah and Iran are to blame.Do they benefit from this?We will see who benefits when the crisis ends. If it ends with Hezbollah pushed out of southern Lebanon and replaced by the Lebanese armed forces, its missile capabilities destroyed, and a process of disarmament under way, Lebanon will benefit.If it ends with the destruction of the Lebanese government and the re-entry of Syria into Lebanese politics, then Hezbollah and Iran will benefit, but Lebanon will be the big loser.

How do you think that this can be resolved?

Indyk: What's needed is an international consensus for a ceasefire, an end to the rocket-launchings by Hezbollah, an end to Israel's military operations in Lebanon, the return of the captured Israeli soldiers, the removal of Hezbollah from southern Lebanon - replaced with the Lebanese army backed by an international force with teeth - and the establishment of an armistice agreement between Israel and Lebanon. Hezbollah could agree.

But I doubt that it would go quietly into the darkIt also needs the establishment of a joint border demarcation committee between Israel and Lebanon that would deal with territorial issues such as Sheba Farms, and the implementation of UNSC resolution 1559, which calls for the disarmament of Hezbollah.

That package could be agreed upon. In fact the governments of Israel and Lebanon are very close to accepting those principles. But the challenge would be to persuade Hezbollah to accept it. With the backing of the international community and the support of the Lebanese government, Hezbollah could agree. But I doubt that it would go quietly into the dark.

What is the United States' responsibility at this point?

Indyk: The United States should take the initiative to put together a ceasefire package containing the elements listed above. It will need to combine it with a commitment to lead an international effort to rebuild Lebanon. Then it should get the government of Lebanon and Israel to agree to the package. That's the easy part.The difficult part will be persuading Hezbollah to go along without inviting Syria or Lebanon to be the arbiters of Lebanon's fate.

Is it possible for the United States to be considered an honest peace broker in the Middle East?

Indyk: Yes, as long as it uses its influence for good purposes. The United States has a special relationship with Israel, which enables it to exercise influence over Israel. That is more valuable to Arabs who seek to redress their grievances through peacemaking than European powers that cheer them on but can't deliver anything because they have such poor relations with Israel (eg France).On the other hand, if the United States is to be effective in making peace, those who would make war on Israel instead should know that they'll get no American support.Some people have said that Hezbollah's bombing of Israel is bad for Hezbollah and Israel's bombing of Lebanon is bad for Israel.

What do you think?

Indyk: If that logic prevails it will drag the whole region back to warI think there's a measure of truth in both statements. It's always better, as Winston Churchill said, to "jaw-jaw rather than war-war". But remember who started this particular conflict. Hezbollah thought that it could gain from attacking Israel. If that logic prevails it will drag the whole region back to war.Some people think that Iran and/or Syria are waging a proxy war in Lebanon.

What do you think?

Indyk: Hezbollah had its own reasons for attacking Israel, but Syrian and Iranian interests were being served as well, otherwise they would've intervened to stop their client organisation.

Do you think that Iran or Syria could use this conflict as a bargaining chip?

Indyk: I am sure they will both try. Having lit the fire, they would be delighted to have the US turn to them to act as the fire brigade. But, as my mother used to warn me: "If you play with matches don’t be surprised if you get burnt."

Do you think this is the beginning of a larger war in the Middle East?

Indyk: My experience of wars in the Middle East is that you know where and how it starts, but no one can accurately predict how it will end.So I do think this war has the potential to spread to an Israeli-Syrian conflict, even though Syria and Israel have made it clear that they don't want that to happen.

Not Seeking Peace But the Destruction of the the Jewish State

Patience wearing thin
By Victor Davis Hanson
July 22, 2006
The Washington Times

The conventional wisdom is that the United States is so tied down it can't do much about the rocket attacks on Israel, the blatant sponsorship of terrorists by Iran and Syria, or the Iranian nuclear program.

Oil prices are already sky-high. Any unilateral American action might disrupt tight global supplies. That would derail the economies of our Western allies and only further enrich enemies with windfall profits.

Trying to win hearts and minds for the fragile democracy in Iraq also means we can't afford to offend Arab sensitivities elsewhere. And a lame-duck George Bush, low in the polls and facing uncertain congressional elections this fall, certainly doesn't want to involve the taxpayer with more costly commitments abroad.

But despite that sound conventional wisdom, an exasperated West is running out of choices in the Middle East.

For years, the Arab world clamored for the Israel "problem" to be solved. Then peace and security would at last supposedly reshape the Middle East. The Western nations understood the "problem" as being Israeli retention of lands it had captured in Sinai, the West Bank, Gaza, Syria and Lebanon after defeating a series of Arab forces bent on destroying the Jewish state.

But after the Israeli departure from Sinai, Gaza and Lebanon and billions of dollars in U.S. aid to Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians, there is still not much progress toward peace. Past Israeli magnanimity was seen as weakness. Now its reasoned diplomacy has earned another round of kidnapping, ransom and rocket attacks.

Finally, the world is accepting that the Middle East problem was never about so-called occupied land -- but only about the existence of Israel itself. Hezbollah and Hamas, and those in their midst who tolerate them (or vote for them), didn't so much want Israel out of Lebanon and Gaza as pushed into the Mediterranean altogether. And since there will be no second Holocaust, the Israelis may well soon transform a perennial terrorist war they can't easily win into a conventional aerial one against a terrorist-sponsoring Syria that they can.

For its part, the United States has spent thousands of lives and billions in treasure trying to birth democracy in Iraq. We wished to end our old cynical support for Middle East dictators that earned us such scorn and instead give liberated Iraqis a choice other than either theocracy or autocracy.

In multilateral fashion, America has also welcomed the help of the European Union, the United Nations, China and Russia in convincing the Iranians of the folly of producing nuclear weapons. But like Hezbollah and Hamas, Iran does not wish to parley -- the beheaders and kidnappers in Iraq don't, either.

The two most liberal societies in Europe -- Denmark and the Netherlands -- welcomed almost anyone to their shores from the Middle East. Their multicultural hospitality was supposed to have led to a utopian "diverse" nation of various races, nationalities and religions. Instead, such liberality has earned both small nations pariah status in the Muslim world for the supposed indiscretions of a few freewheeling filmmakers and cartoonists.

Yet for all their threats, the Islamists -- from Hezbollah in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley to the Iranian government to the jihadists in Iraq's Sunni Triangle -- don't understand they are slowly pushing tired Westerners into a corner. If diplomacy, or aid or support for democracy, or multiculturalism, or withdrawal from contested lands, does not satisfy radical Islamists, what would? Perhaps nothing.

What would be the new Western approach to terrorism? Hard and quick retaliation -- but without our past concern for nation-building, or offering a democratic alternative to theocracy and autocracy, or even worrying about whether other Muslims are unfairly lumped in with Islamists who operate freely in their midst.

Any new policy of retaliation -- in light both of September 11, 2001, and the messy efforts to birth democracies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and the West Bank -- would be something of an exasperated return to the old cruise-missile payback. Yet in the new world of Iranian nukes and Hezbollah missiles, the West would hit back with something far greater than a cruise missile.

If they are not careful, a Syria or Iran really will earn a conventional war -- not more futile diplomacy or limited responses to terrorism. And history shows massive attacks from the air are something the West does well. So in the meantime, let us hope democracy prevails in Iraq, that our massive aid is actually appreciated by the Middle East, that diplomacy ultimately works with Iran, Syria quits supporting terrorists and Hamas and Hezbollah cease their rocket attacks against Israel -- more for all their sakes than ours.

Victor Davis Hanson is a nationally syndicated columnist and a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and author of "A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War."