Damascus, Syria -- Anybody in the Arab world who believes that Hezbollah will win this war, liberate the Sheba Farms or destroy Israel is simply nurturing a fantasy. I am amazed at the number of people who argue that "miracles can happen, because God is on our side!" God has nothing to do with this war. Had God been involved in the Middle East, then so much bloodshed would have been avoided over the past 100 years. And if God was involved in the Middle East, then he definitely was not on our side of the conflict since 1948. I have been hearing stories all over Syria about how Muslim leaders through the ages commanded and won terrific battles, from Omar Ibn al-Khattab to Khalid Ibn al-Walid. This talk, if anything, shows how naive we are in the Arab World.
This war is between a non-state entity and the strongest military power in the Middle East.
It is a war of logistics. It is a war of attrition where each side is waiting until the other party collapses and can no longer sustain physical, financial, moral and psychological defeats. To date, more than 300 people have died in Lebanon and another 29 have been killed in Israel. More than 500,000 have been displaced in Lebanon and more than 1,000 have been wounded. Missiles have landed on cities inside Israel, including Kiryat Shmona, Haifa, Acre, Safad and Nazareth. Israelis are not used to missiles landing on their cities and to the killing of their highly trained troops in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). And as a matter of fact, the new generation of Lebanese who were born during the final years of the civil war or after it ended in 1990 are not used to such casualties. Hasan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah, knows this very well and is waiting until Israeli public opinion turns against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Pretty soon the Israeli Street will start asking the Prime Minister: "Why did you drag us into this war? Why is it that the State of Israel cannot wipe out and defeat a small numbered of armed guerrilla warriors? Missiles have landed on our cities and you (Olmert) are still unable to liberate the two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah on July 12."
The damage has been done to Lebanon and there is not much more the Israelis can do to destroy the beautiful country, turned to rubble in the past 10 days. Hezbollah, however, is scoring more points against the enemy with every missile attack that lands inside Israel. But Hezbollah faces a dilemma similar to Israel's, which is that if this war goes on for much longer, public opinion in Lebanon might also turn against Hezbollah. The Lebanese do not like to die. It's that simple. They are showing unity against Israel, but at the end of the day, all of them want this war to end. If the killing continues, they would start saying to themselves: "Why are we fighting this war, where for every 1 Israeli that is killed, 10 die in Lebanon?"
Nasrallah was not planning for this war, but now that it has erupted, there is no turning back for him. For 10 years now, his warriors have been training for combat. Many of them saw this war as a blessing in disguise and a golden opportunity to fight the Israelis.
The international community seems to be in no hurry to end this war. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has now arrived in the Middle East, 12 days after the war began on July 12. Washington wants this war of attrition to continue and it will not allow Hezbollah to defeat its main ally, Israel. Washington will tolerate whatever measures Israel takes in Lebanon, waiting for public opinion in Lebanon to turn against Hezbollah. It will wait until everybody in Lebanon starts saying: "Hezbollah is responsible for all the blood and destruction around us." This will bring mounting pressure on Hasan Nasrallah to call for a cease-fire. To date, that has not happened in Lebanon and so far, the Lebanese are showing solidarity because Israel is not only firing at Hezbollah, but at the Lebanese state, the Lebanese Army, and public property in Lebanon. All of these are not the property of Hezbollah.
When the Lebanese become exhausted, financially, morally, physically, and psychologically, U.S. diplomacy will come into play to get Hezbollah to abide by rules that are unfavorable to Arab public opinion.
Hezbollah will get its prisoner exchange with Israel -- which is what Nasrallah wanted in the first place -- and it will be allowed to operate within the political system of Lebanon. UN police will be placed on the border, however, making Hezbollah's war on Israel very difficult because they would be deprived of a battleground for their offensive. They cannot wage war against Israel with UN troops standing in the middle. If Hezbollah is pushed back into the Lebanese heartland, away from the border with Israel, it will get disarmed, sooner or later, by the Lebanese state because there would no longer be reason for it to keep its arms.
If this is done while the Israelis continue to occupy Sheba or hold Lebanese prisoners captive, a high risk arises of rebellion by the Shiites of Iraq. Muqtada al-Sadr, who was a nightmare to the Americans in 2004, is of Nasrallah's age, religion, and caliber. If he needs a nudge to rise against the Americans, it can be provided by Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. The Shiites of Iraq are overwhelmingly supportive of Nasrallah's war with Israel and they will not stand by and watch him being disarmed by force. They already have their own scores to settle with the Americans in Iraq. Sadr is opposed to America's courting of the Iraqi Sunnis. He might launch a new war against the Americans to force them to ease pressure on Hezbollah. The United States values the security of Israel, but it certainly attaches greater value to its own security in Iraq. The Bush administration, with upcoming congressional elections in November 2006, cannot afford a new Shiite insurgency in Iraq. So disarming the Shiites of Lebanon by force, would certainly not make the world safer, neither for America or Israel.
In the past we used to hear that war was necessary to bring peace to the world. History is riddled with such arguments since World War I led to the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. In the Arab World, the October War of 1973 led to the Camp David Accords in 1978, and the Palestinian uprising in 1987 led to Oslo in 1993. Did World War I really bring peace and democracy to the world? The answer is no because the unjust terms of the Versailles Treaty inspired someone like Adolph Hitler to re-build the German Army and threaten the security of Europe in the same manner done by Kaiser Wilhelm II, which had led to the outbreak of World War I. Similar unjust terms on Hezbollah today will only lead to more war in the future. Hezbollah or Hezbollah-like groups will only demand revenge for terms they view as unjust, imposed on them after the Lebanon War of 2006.
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