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The Rearming of Hezbollah By: P. David Hornik
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Israeli leaders have been meeting with world leaders to try and stir up some alarm over what’s happening in Lebanon. Last week Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to tell him how brazenly Hezbollah and Syria have been flouting UN Security Council Resolution 1701 that purported to put a peaceful end to the summer 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war. Livni told Ban that Israel “cannot accept” the ongoing, massive rearming of Hezbollah via the Syrian-Lebanese border; Barak said 1710 “did not work, doesn’t work, and is a failure.”

Barak also remarked, after meeting with Vice-President Richard Cheney, that since the war Hezbollah has doubled or tripled its missile arsenal. Most of the weapons are Iranian-made and smuggled through Syria; some are made in Syria itself; and then there are the Russian-made SA-8 anti-aircraft missiles that appear set for delivery and would constitute a dangerous escalation by threatening Israel’s crucial air superiority.


There is no small irony in the fact that Israeli leaders, particularly Livni, are now petitioning world figures to do something about this problem. Back in 2006 Livni was one of the main enthusiasts of 1701 and particularly its stipulation of enhanced UNIFIL and Lebanese-army forces in southern Lebanon—even though UNIFIL is a fundamentally hopeless extension of the UN and the Lebanese army is largely Shiite and sympathetic to Hezbollah.


Indeed, the Lebanese state itself, which three weeks ago gave a hero’s welcome to child-killer Samir Kuntar, is now set to formally approve Hezbollah’s right to “liberate or recover occupied lands”—i.e., wage war on Israel with an official Lebanese imprimatur and support if not outright participation. Nor is it clear what sort of action Barak and Livni hope to elicit from the same UN and world community that have essentially stood passively by while Iran marches relentlessly toward nuclearization.


But the irony runs still deeper when Barak and Livni’s boss, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert—also a fan of 1701 who still fatuously claims Hezbollah is now deterred by Israel even as it feverishly rearms—has literally been making a fool of himself chasing Syrian president Bashar Assad as a supposed peace partner. The main effect of the Olmert-driven, Turkish-mediated, Israeli-Syrian talks has been to rehabilitate Assad’s image and get him invited as a featured guest to French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s Mediterranean conference in Paris last month, thereby cutting Assad slack in his effort to ward off being seriously investigated for the 2005 murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and other Lebanese leaders.


For Barak and Livni, though, serving under Olmert means inevitably being fatuous themselves as they try to focus world ire at the same Assad whom Olmert fawningly courts.


And what of UNSC 1701 itself—fervently pursued at the time by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, hailed at the time by Olmert and Livni as signaling Israeli victory and a future of peace with its northern neighbor? Two years later, what does the fate of 1701’s provisions indicate about relying on the “international community” and legal documents to put an end to conflicts?


1701: “…emphasizing the need to address urgently the causes that have given rise to the current crisis, including by the unconditional release of the abducted Israeli soldiers…”


Reality: Although the two abducted Israeli soldiers, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, were actually already dead at that time, no world body exerted the slightest pressure on Hezbollah or Lebanon to disclose their whereabouts or fate—let alone release them and redress the gross illegality of kidnapping them in the first place. The release of the two soldiers’ remains was only achieved two years later by Israel in a morally and prudentially flawed, humiliating deal entailing the freeing of Kuntar and other terrorists.


1701: “Calls for…the establishment between the Blue Line [Israeli-Lebanese border] and the Litani river of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL…”


Reality: Despite—and in some respects because of—the Lebanese-army and UNIFIL presence, this area is now infested with Hezbollah personnel, fortifications, bunkers, weapons and so on to a level well beyond the level before the war.


1701: “Calls for…full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, and of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), that require the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon…”


Reality: Clearly Hezbollah has not been disarmed, and the presence of these words in a Security Council resolution had no effect whatsoever on whether it was armed or not.


1701: “…authorizes UNIFIL…to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind, to resist attempts by forceful means to prevent it from discharging its duties under the mandate of the Security Council…”


Reality: “Enhanced” UNIFIL in southern Lebanon is a standing joke, doing nothing whatsoever to prevent Hezbollah’s military buildup and having been bullied and tricked by Hezbollah into passivity the few times it purported to inspect a weapons shipment or the like.


1701: “Calls upon the Government of Lebanon to secure its borders and other entry points to prevent the entry in Lebanon without its consent of arms or related materiel…”


Reality: As noted, since summer 2006 Lebanon’s border with Syria has, even more than ever before, been a sieve for the delivery of high-grade weapons. The pivotal word in 1701’s clause is “consent” since it’s not clear to what extent the Lebanese government or parts of it have approved of the “smuggling.” Presumably, though, at least until last May’s Doha Agreement that established Hezbollah’s dominance in Lebanon, parts of the March 14 faction of the Lebanese government disapproved of the smuggling but were unwilling or unable to do anything about it.  


1701: “Decides further that all States shall take the necessary measures to prevent, by their nationals or from their territories…[t]he sale or supply to any entity or individual in Lebanon of arms and related materiel of all types…whether or not originating in their territories…except that these prohibitions shall not apply to arms, related material, training or assistance authorized by the government of Lebanon or by UNIFIL…”


Reality: Given that the Lebanese government and UNIFIL, whatever their actual positions and attitudes, have never formally authorized the weapons deliveries, to say that Syria, Iran, and Russia have not complied with this clause is a great understatement.


Rational Israeli conclusions would be: The Oslo-era dream of withdrawing Israeli forces from militarily sensitive areas and having them be replaced by foreign forces (including ostensibly friendly terrorist organizations like Fatah) ostensibly backed by peace treaties or international legal documents has been buried even deeper. With the United States—the only country substantially geopolitically aligned with Israel—now enmeshed in two violent conflicts and unwilling to spread its forces thinner, there is no hope that any international body will act effectively to stop the supply of Hezbollah and Hezbollah’s buildup. It is something Israel will have to do itself as part of recovering its role as an assertive power capable of wielding deterrence.


Whether Israel can draw and act on such conclusions depends on what sort of government will eventually replace the Olmert government as the current turbulent political process unfolds.

P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva. He blogs at http://pdavidhornik.typepad.com/. He can be reached at pdavidh2001@yahoo.com.

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