Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Hezbollah, Israel and Difficult U.S. Allies

After three weeks, Israel, War on Terror, Iraq and US Diplomacy Show Little Progress

By John E. Carey
August 1, 2006

After three weeks of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, the clear winner is Hezbollah.

This does not necessarily mean that Hezbollah will be victorious at the end. But it does mean that Hezbollah and its allies are now more confident and more dangerous.

The Arab world seems more united than ever against Israel, the United States and the United Kingdom.

The deaths by apparent air raid at Qana, Lebanon, proved to be both a public relations fiasco for Israel and an annealing agent for Arab unity.

Even the fledgling democratically elected Iraqi government couldn’t get behind Israel, a slap in the face to the US.


Overshadowed after three weeks of Israeli incursion into Lebanon is the fact that the bloodshed continues unabated in Iraq. And the U.S. Army announced troop movements in Iraq: not, as we expected just a month or so ago, a scaling down of U.S. troops in Iraq but a “redeployment” of troops into Baghdad from areas outside the Iraqi capitol to the center of the city.

Some US troops had their in-country rotation dates extended as the US tries to slightly raise troop levels in Iraq by not sending troops home as soon as normally expected.

The US military death toll in Iraq ell for a third straight month in July to one of the lower levels of the 3-year-old war despite the rising violence, indicating that the Iraqis are doing more of the fighting and dying in their own country.

But 135,000 U.S. troops are tied down in Iraq and the long, slow blood letting has robbed the U.S. of international prestige and respect. The events in Iraq have undoubtedly further exacerbated tensions with the Arab world.

Meanwhile, twelve Congressional Democrats urged the president to start planning to bring U.S. troops home. In a letter to the president dated July 30, the Democrats said, “In the interests of American national security, our troops, and our taxpayers, the open-ended commitment in Iraq that you have embraced cannot and should not be sustained.” It was signed by a dozen Democratic leaders, including Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate minority leader, and Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader.

Insurgent bombings in Baghdad continue to take a heavy toll on Iraq civilians, coalition troops, and the prospects for an early U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. And, in Baghdad, protests against Israel’s fighting in Lebanon meant that TV images transmitted around the world featured the poster child of US efforts to bring democracy to the Middle East, Iraq, firmly in agreement with Arab terrorists.

Even the visit of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to the US was clouded by controversey. Democrats resisted Maliki's address to a joint session of the US Congress and the media seemed to gasp when Maliki refused to side with the US against Hezbollah.

Finally on Iraq, the Washington Post reported that a project to build a critical oil pipeline in northern Iraq has fallen more than two years behind schedule.


While knowledgeable Israelis detailed a plan for Israel and the US to obtain Syria’s abdication from involvement with Hezbollah and Iran, prospects for success seemed dim. Syria wants Israel to return the Golan Heights—an event most observers see as extremely unlikely.

According to new intelligence obtained by the Israeli defense establishment, Syrian President Bashar Assad, alongside senior military officials, is directly involved in the attempts to smuggle weapons and rockets to Hezbollah in Lebanon.


The fighting in Lebanon has underscored previous predictions that the war on terror would be a “long war” with inestimable costs and no time-line for completion – never mind about talk for a “victory” or even an “amicable solution.”

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on July 31 there will be no cease-fire, adding that "Israel is continuing to fight." He also said, "we will not give up on our goal to live a life free of terror."

A senior Israeli army officer said later that Israeli forces might have to move as far as 70km (40 miles) into Lebanon to destroy Hezbollah positions. Another said Israel expected to sustain the combat effort for another 10 days to two weeks.

The Hezbollah-Israeli debacle should also highlight to Americans the difficult position the United States faces diplomatically with “allies” around the globe.

The UK

While Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair remains steadfast in his support for US policies generally, he continues to suffer from the “George Bush’s lap dog” image created by the media in Britain.

The Blair-Bush open mike G-8 luncheon discussion only highlighted Blair’s subservient position to the media in Britain. Bush called Blair by his last name and Blair was the only one to notice the microphone was on. He shut it off in front of an incredulous US president.


A traditional Lebanese friend and ally, France has shown absolutely no support for US policies, the war on terror or the Israeli claim that they are fighting for all western nations against Arab extremists.

French President Jacques Chirac castigated Israel for its military offensive in Lebanon on Friday, calling it "totally disproportionate." In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, the French president said, “One could ask if today there is not a sort of will to destroy Lebanon, its equipment, its roads, [and] its communication."

Separately, France demurred from US initiatives to sanction Iran for its nuclear power program at a UN Security Council meeting Monday, July 31.

France has also said it should not be expected to contribute many troops to a new peacekeeping effort in Lebanon but they do continue as a part of Unifil.


President Putin has been relatively quiet since hosting President Bush at the G-8 Summit in Saint Petersburg July 18. During that summit, Bush told Putin that Russia’s bid for entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) could not yet be endorsed by the US – a bitter pill for Bush’s host to swallow.

Just a few days ago, Russia approved a draft agreement with Iran on cooperation in the tourist industry.The five-year agreement aims to promote tour groups and individual tourism to both countries by simplifying travel bureaucracy, to facilitate the arrangement of symposiums and exchange schemes for experts and journalists specializing in tourism issues, and to boost contacts between tour operators.

While tourism between Russia and Iran might seem insignificant, it shows the importance that Iran has to Russia. While the US wants to discuss Iran’s nuclear program, Russia wants to strengthen tourism.But Russia’s big gold mine with Iran is in supplying the technology Iran needs to grow and expand it’s nuclear program and its oil industry.

To no one’s surprise, Russia refused to endorse a proposal offered by John Bolton, US Ambassador to the UN, to sanction Iran for its nuclear power program.

Secretary of State Rice and the UN

What started as a call to normalcy and assurances that in Lebanon we were seeing "the birth pangs of a new Middle East," three weeks ago looked more like a forced abortion after 21 days.

A senior diplomat, who spoke to me only on the condition of anonymity said, “This is getting like a bad Tom Clancy novel.”“There is a sense now that Secretary of State Rice was taken aback, taken by surprise by the Israeli resolve,” he said.

Secretary Rice has returned from the Middle East without a deal on anything with anyone after canceling a Monday trip to Beirut. She hopes to push forward a UN resolution to end the war in Lebanon.

But a critical element of the cease fire plan would have to be the assembly of a peacekeeping force: and the Secretary of State has nothing but a pile of rejections messengers have slipped under her door in the dark of night. France, Russia and nearly every NATO and Arab nation publicly stated a desire not to participate. The US and UK also sent out assurances that they should not be expected to participate.

The make-up of this force may compound the problem. Still under discussion are troop contributions from places like Turkey, Indonesia and France -- nations unlikely to prove unfriendly to Hezbollah and, to varying degrees, hostile to Israel. In short, this will be just another anti-Israel U.N. mission, providing protection to the Free World's terrorist foes and doing little if anything to keep them from readying new attacks on freedom-loving peoples.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan consequently gained approval for a one month extension for Unifil. Apparently the UN peacekeepers led by Ghana and others will stand by to return to observation and peacekeeping duties when the smoke clears in Lebanon. If the smoke clears in Lebanon.

What to Look For

In the weeks ahead, we can anticipate continued Israeli military action in Lebanon until such time that Isreal believes that Hezbollah’s missile assets have been destroyed and Hezbollah itself is neutralized or seriously disrupted.

Secretary of State Rice hopes to obtain a favorable cease fire agreement in the UN followed by initiation of sustained talks on regional peace, security and difference resolution.

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