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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Lebanon: A War Waiting to Happen (and Yes, Obama Is to Blame)

I barely slept last night, troubled by the assassination of Israeli Lieutenant Colonel Dov Harari, a reserve officer with four children, by a Lebanese Army sniper. Even the UN acknowledged that the IDF was engaged in uprooting trees on the Israeli side of the border, that Israel had coordinated the removal of these trees with UNIFIL, and that the exchange of fire had been initiated by the Lebanese Army.

War didn't break out, because Iran denied Hezbollah permission to fire its 40,000 rockets and missiles at Israel. Iran is reserving this card for a time when confrontation draws near with the West, and Ahmadinejad seeks to distract the Muslim street with an attack targeting the Little Satan.

Netanyahu also displayed political maturity by exercising restraint. The Iron Dome anti-rocket system will not be operational for another four months, and it would make no sense to jeopardize the Israeli civilian population in the interim.

But war is coming, and it's not a matter of "if", but "when".

Of course, it could have been different. Demonstrations in Beirut after the 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri by Hezbollah and Syria, resulted in the withdrawal of 14,000 Syrian troops from Lebanon, and for two short years there was hope . . . until Obama came along.

Intent on a new style of diplomacy which would set himself apart from his White House predecessor, Obama sought rapprochement with longstanding tyrannical opponents of the U.S. John Kerry was flown by Obama to Damascus to curry favor with Syrian President Bashar Assad, but in this part of the world "nice" means "weak", and Assad was not interested in anything Kerry had to offer. Observant of Obama's naïveté and navigating the resultant Middle East power vacuum, Assad continues to rearm Hezbollah to the teeth following its 2006 war with Israel, notwithstanding the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 1701.

The Cedar Revolution is over. When you see Rafik Hariri's son, Saad, traveling to Damascus to pay obeisance to Assad, and hear Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt apologizing to Assad for calling him a "monkey, snake and butcher" at a rally commemorating the death of Rafik Hariri, you know that democracy in Lebanon is doomed.

The war in the offing will be devastating for Lebanon, because Israel cannot again permit its civilian population to suffer sustained rocket fire as in 2006, particularly given the longer range and larger payloads of Hezbollah's current arsenal. Such being the case, why does the U.S. continue to provide Lebanon with $100 million of military aid each year, and why does France provide the Lebanese Army, which has been infiltrated by Hezbollah, with advanced anti-tank missiles? Ultimately, all of this will add to the bloodbath, when the Lebanese Army, feeling its oats, goes up in smoke.


  1. Thanks for the reality check. This will come as such a shock to naive Americans who are so busy contemplating their sluggish economic navals and bemoaning their shackled credit markets that an explosion in that perpetually troubled part of the world will have seemingly come out of nowhere. Obama-taking credit for cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico, Obama-taking credit for saving the auto industry, Obama-unaware of the physical law that power in the M.E. abhors a vacuum and indeed that being a sycophant IS really lame.

  2. From today's online Jerusalem Post:

    "[Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael] Oren described increasing ties between Lebanese military officials and Hizbullah members.

    'Israel tends to view the distinction between the Lebanese Army and Hizbullah as increasingly cloudy,' he said on the conference call with the the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. 'The Lebanese Army shares all its intelligence with Hizbullah. There are highranking officers in the Lebanese Army who are closely associated with Hizbullah.'

    He continued, 'Our assumption is that particularly advanced weaponry in the hands of the Lebanese Army could very well find its way into the arsenals of Hizbullah.'”

    Yet, as further reported by the Jerusalem Post, "on Wednesday, US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley defended American assistance to the Lebanese military despite its shooting of two IDF officers".

  3. Asymmetry in Lebanon
    J. E. Dyer - 08.06.2010 - 3:39 PM
    "[sources cited with links]...if it was indeed planned by elements of the Lebanese army acting as agents for Hezbollah, then it appears as though the Lebanese were counting on Israeli restraint and professionalism to keep the event a photo-op and not let it spiral out of control. They counted on Israel, in other words, to treat the attack as it does Hezbollah’s terror attacks.
    The essential recklessness of inviting peril that must be held in check by a reliable enemy is foreign to the consensual-democratic mind. ..."

    Many thanks to JE Dyer for her always penetrating, carefully researched posts, especially this one.


    [postscript: U.S. accountability will extend to Iraqi Kurdistan: from the Kurdish Aspect:

    "...The Turkish government recently announced plans to dispatch a new, professionalised 'special army' to fight the PKK along the Iraqi border and to build 150 new military outposts in the area. The U.S. has also started opening wider swathes of Iraqi airspace to facilitate Turkish attacks on the PKK.

    "We are looking at additional ways that we can provide assistance to Turkey, including weapons platforms," outgoing U.S. ambassador to Turkey James Jeffrey recently said. "We are basically trying to get as much as possible for Turkey, as quickly as possible." ..."

    Ambassador Jeffrey's next assignment is Baghdad.