Monday :: Aug 14, 2006

Did Anyone Really Win In Lebanon?

by pessimist

Bush Says "Israel Defeated Hezbollah Guerillas", yet the Israeli opinion is: "We lost the war".

So who is right? You have to ask? King George is almost always so wrong that any likelihood that his opinion resides in the same universe as reality is strictly accidental.

Regardless of who 'won', Israelis who live near the border with Lebanon see only a lull in the fighting, and can thus be seen as being among the losers - their war isn't over:

Inside Kiryat Shemona, some residents who had fled south or had been living underground were gingerly returning to homes and businesses, surveying damage and sweeping up. Restaurant owner Yaakov Peretz pushed broken glass and chunks of shrapnel out onto the sidewalk. He was disappointed with the cease-fire - for him it was a sign that Israel would simply face another war against Hizbullah.

The question on thoughtful minds: when?

Analysis: When will the next war come?
By STEVEN GUTKIN, AP bureau chief in Jerusalem
August 14, 2006

Is the next Iranian-inspired war, perhaps with even more sophisticated weaponry, just around the corner?

Developments on the ground will determine the war's ultimate winners and losers - whether Hezbollah will be pushed back from Israel's border and eventually disarmed, whether Israel will be able to prevent Iran and Syria from funneling weapons to Lebanese guerrillas, whether Islamic radicals everywhere will be propped up by Hezbollah's successes.

Hezbollah's ability to withstand more than a month of Israel's punishing assaults while firing an uninterrupted stream of more than 4,000 rockets has given its fighters heroic status on Arab and Muslim streets. "The biggest thing here is that Hezbollah and their small force has been able to restore the dignity of the Arabs. That is the bottom line," said Timur Goksel, an American University of Beirut professor who spent more than two decades as a senior U.N. adviser in south Lebanon.

Israel failed to achieve its original goal of destroying Hezbollah or the group's fearsome array of Iranian- and Syrian-provided rockets. "This now shows that irregular forces with Iranian support can be effective against a large and sophisticated conventional army," said Chuck Freilich, Israel's former deputy National Security Adviser, who is now a senior fellow at the Kennedy School of Government.

The war has called the survival of Olmert's government into question.

The finger-pointing has already begun:

Israel begins its search for a scapegoat
By Ian MacKinnon and Stephen Farrell
August 15, 2006

“A ceasefire is necessary because the army has not managed to defeat Hezbollah militarily, but they failed because of the Government, not the army,” said Ishai Michael, 23, a computing student crowded into a shelter with fractious children, elderly women and Russian immigrants too poor to move south.

“I blame the Prime Minister and Defence Minister. Olmert doesn’t know how to organise an army — in the beginning he put all his hopes on the air force, then he called up the reserves too late.” Analysts believe that Mr Olmert and his Government face a rocky ride as the fighting subsides and reservist soldiers return home.

“I think politically he’s in trouble,” Professor Ephraim Inbar, director of the Begin- Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies, said. “The whole war was mismanaged, in setting political goals and military strategy. It’s clear it was no great victory. Hezbollah fired 4,000 rockets and were only stopped by a ceasefire.”

Shlomo Brom, a senior research associate at the Jaffee Centre for Strategic Studies, said that the public anger would not fade. “When people are not satisfied and frustrated they’ll look for a scapegoat. They may find it in the political leadership, or the military. Both created unrealistic expectations from day one and may pay the price.”

The Israeli opposition is begining its assault on the ruling coalition (paying attention, Democrats?):

Israeli PM faces opposition criticism
August 14, 2006

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told parliament Monday that he took full responsibility for the conduct of the battle with Hezbollah, as Israel's wartime unity collapsed and opposition politicians began criticizing the monthlong fight against the Lebanese guerrillas.

Opposition politicians demanded a commission of inquiry into the conduct of the battle as a new poll showed support for Olmert and his centrist Kadima Party had plummeted.

There will be an investigation into what Olmert did, and when and why he did it, with an eye toward toppling his government (watch this move closely, Dems!):

In Israel, politicians begin review of war's conduct
By Carol Rosenberg
Aug. 14, 2006

The discussion was especially pointed in parliament, where many members are military veterans.

[P]arliamentarian Effie Eytam, who commanded a company during the Yom Kippur war in 1973 and led an elite commando unit in the 1976 Entebbe rescue mission in Uganda, said that once the soldiers were home, both political and military decision-makers should be investigated. Likely topics include how successive Israeli governments allowed Hezbollah to become so mighty on the northern border, whether Israeli forces were hobbled by logistical snafus in Lebanon and whether reservists were ill-prepared for the fight.

"The shooting war is over; now the political war begins," said Israeli historian Michael Oren, an army major who was called up for duty as military spokesman.

In terms of military management, he said, Israelis no doubt would clamor for an examination of whether the reserves were properly prepared. While Israel waged a mostly air battle against Hezbollah for two weeks, thousands of reserve soldiers underwent three to four days of refresher training before being dispatched to fight in Lebanon. For some it was the first training in more than two years.

Debate also is likely to focus on logistical failures, which were the subject of Israeli newspaper reports throughout the fighting.

Labor parliament member Dani Yatom, a former chief of Israel's Mossad intelligence service, said the problems would have to be investigated because, if true, they were unacceptable. "I participated in every Israeli war since 1963 and never, not even in the Yom Kippur war, did we lack food, lack water," said Yatom, a retired general who served in Israel's special forces.

Yatom, whose Labor party is a partner in Olmert's government, also raised questions about the government's response to civilians, who were subjected to weeks of Hezbollah rocket fire. "There were many mistakes done, concerning the handling of the war, and concerning the attitude toward the citizens of Israel who had to stay in shelters," he said.

For left-wing parliamentarian Ran Cohen, the issue was how the Olmert government had allowed itself to be dragged into a conflict on what he characterized as Hezbollah's timetable. Sharon, Olmert's predecessor who was disabled by a stroke in January, had avoided such provocations, Cohen said. He added that Sharon would have fought Hezbollah at a time of Israel's choosing.

As we sure they weren't prompted to act before they were ready, as the British were against the airliner bombers last week?

But I digress.

How did Israel fare in this action?

What Israel Gained - Or Lost
by Peter Hirschberg
Aug 14

The major achievement for Israel was the expansion of UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) that has been in south Lebanon since 1978 to 15,000 troops (from 2,000) and the fact that the ceasefire resolution authorised it to use force to impose its authority.

[T]he litmus test in the coming days will be to what extent the United Nations ceasefire resolution, which calls for the deployment of an international force and the Lebanese Army in south Lebanon, and the removal of Hezbollah from the area, is implemented.

Israel's insistence on staying put in south Lebanon until an international force deploys, to ensure Hezbollah does not re-establish itself in the area, was accepted by the UN. But the Israeli military is concerned that Hezbollah fighters will carry out attacks on soldiers on the ground. In the 12 hours after the ceasefire went into effect, six Hezbollah fighters were killed in clashes with Israeli troops.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Monday that Israel would not countenance a situation in which its soldiers became "sitting ducks." But Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah made it clear that the Shia organisation will continue targeting Israeli troops as long as they remained on Lebanese soil.

The longer Israeli troops stay on the ground, the more confrontations there will be with Hezbollah fighters, and violence could again escalate, threatening the nascent ceasefire.

Israeli military chiefs have recommended to the political leadership that if the ceasefire holds, then troops should be pulled out of south Lebanon as quickly as possible. This will also depend on how quickly the Lebanese Army and foreign troops are deployed in the area.

Events in the field indicate that haste won't necessarily be waste, as Hezbollah's only real victory is surviving to fight another day:

Israel Shooting of Hizbollah fighters highlights truce's fragility
15 August 2006

While on the whole the guns have fallen silent, the shooting of two Hizbollah guerrillas by Israeli troops on Monday highlighted the fragility of a truce.

It didn't stop there (these are links which confirm the KABC reports I mentioned below in my previous post)

10 Katyusha rockets explode in Lebanon
The Associated Press

Hezbollah guerrillas fired at least 10 Katyusha rockets into southern Lebanon early Tuesday, the army said. None of them reached Israel and no injuries were reported. The rocket explosions reported by Israel came hours after the start of a U.N. cease-fire in Lebanon. Hezbollah, which frequently used the katyusha rockets in its battle against the Jewish state, has said it will attack Israeli forces in southern Lebanon despite the truce.

Israeli forces killed six Hezbollah fighters in four separate skirmishes that illustrated the fragility of the truce that ended 34 days of fighting.

This is not good news, but it isn't the worst information available. If I were Israel, and their coat-holding cheerleader You-Fight-'Em George of Crawford, I would be much more concerned about this:

Liberal Lebanese U.S. view turns sour
Big News Network
14 August, 2006

The war between Israel and Hezbollah is traumatizing Lebanon's Western-oriented middle class, the (Lebanon) Daily Star reported. A contingent of educated middle-class Lebanese who oppose the current Israeli attacks inside Lebanon -- and who were pro-American -- are increasingly questioning American concern for the plight of Lebanon.

They could have been allies in a political solution to Israel's Hezbollah dilemma:

Members of the Lebanese middle class see themselves as open-minded believers in a Western-style secular democracy, the newspaper said Sunday. They did not hesitate to make their views known that when Israel pulled out of Southern Lebanon in 2000, it was time then for Hezbollah to disarm. There is a strong belief in Lebanon that disarming Hezbollah is better dealt with as an internal Lebanese matter through dialogue, as opposed to using violent means, the newspaper said. Many, including Shiites, wrote articles critical of Hezbollah and its state-within-a-state in Lebanon, the newspaper said.

Instead, Israeli attacks against the Lebanese are likely to result in a blowback - the likes of which Israel and the United States will prefer not to have ignited.

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