Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Implications of a Shaky Cease-Fire - Aug 15

I haven't had a decent article from stratfor to give to you in a while. As this article goes on to say, Hezbollah has won a huge propaganda victory, one that could change foreign policies of neighbouring Arab countries near Israel. Israel lost because it did not win. Hezbollah won because it did not lose. Such is the way when fighting an asymmetrical war.

The Man in Black

Geopolitical Diary: Implications of a Shaky Cease-Fire
Aug 15, 2006

The fighting in Lebanon over the past 34 days has set off a chain of unprecedented events. Hezbollah declared a "strategic, historic victory" against Israel on Monday, and rightfully so; the invincibility of Israel's military might has come into question. The importance of this reality cannot be overestimated.

Hezbollah has gotten exactly what it was aiming for. As we have stated throughout the conflict, an imminent cease-fire allows Hezbollah to emerge effectively victorious. It hardwires the perception throughout the region that a nonstate militant actor has defeated Israel (by fighting it to a draw) in a conventional war. Regardless of what Israel states it accomplished on the ground in Lebanon, Hezbollah has sustained itself as a viable fighting force.

The battle of perception is what Hezbollah's patron, Iran, values most. Iran has used its influence in Iraq, in concert with its nuclear gambit, to reclaim its position as the regional hegemon. Activating Hezbollah in Lebanon and exposing Israel's weakness -- when no Arab state dared to confront the Jewish state militarily -- has only reinforced Iran's ability to reconfigure the balance of power in the Middle East in favor of the Shia.

While Hezbollah, Iran and Syria are celebrating, the Arab regimes surrounding Israel are beginning to reconsider the Israeli military deterrent. Meanwhile, a tenuous cease-fire is hanging over Lebanon, with enough caveats in place to make the entire agreement fall apart. If the cease-fire does actually fall through -- which is extremely likely -- it will probably not be due to a conscious decision by one side or the other to breach it. Rather, it will be the inevitability of events that will lead to its collapse.

The cease-fire is fraught with Catch-22's: Israel will not withdraw until the Lebanese army deploys to the south, the Lebanese army won't deploy to the south until Hezbollah disarms on its own, and Hezbollah says it will not disarm, period. At the same time, Israel and Hezbollah have each reserved the right to resume hostilities if they feel threatened.

Hezbollah's leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, delivered a very telling speech Monday, in which he essentially told the Lebanese army to think twice before attempting to disarm Hezbollah south of the Litani River. Nasrallah welcomed the return of National Dialogue talks with the leaders of Lebanon's major factions, shedding light on Hezbollah's intention to use its political prowess to gridlock the government once again and postpone the issue of disarmament. Iran is not about to give up its most prized militant asset in the region, and Hezbollah is feeling confident enough to deflect any attempts to disarm it.

But Hezbollah has its own share of worries. The Lebanese army will not go into southern Lebanon unless ordered to deploy there alongside U.N. peacekeeping forces. If Hezbollah is confronted with a forceful attempt by the Lebanese army to disarm its fighters, it will face the dilemma of whether to open fire on its countrymen -- something Hezbollah wants to avoid at all costs. With much of the country already in ruins, and with frustration brewing among Lebanese over the conflict provoked by Hezbollah, going to war against the Lebanese armed forces will only undermine Hezbollah's position as a resistance movement working on behalf of Lebanon against Israeli aggression. At the same time, the Lebanese army refuses to get embroiled in a situation in which it will be forced to open fire on Hezbollah fighters, especially as the group's success against Israel is being celebrated by a significant number of Lebanese civilians. The dilemma on both sides bodes ill for the permanence of the cease-fire.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has to answer to a country and military that is largely outraged by the results of the fighting. For Israel, this shaky cease-fire is not the end -- it has maintained the preponderance of its force and can revisit the issue of breaking Hezbollah's back once again to reaffirm its military prowess in the region. Whether Olmert will still be in charge if and when that revisit occurs, however, is an entirely different question.

Copyright 2006 Strategic Forecasting Inc. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think in light of the worldwide crisis with Islams push for dominance, although the Isreali middle east situation has been held up as significant for many years, its now just a skirmish rather than a major event.
This really is a world war, Israel and Lebanon being one battle ground amongst many.