19 August 2006

Lebanon and the Ceasefire

The ramifications of the conflict in Lebanon are unclear, although three issues seem to stand out: Hezbollah's “victory”, the political fallout in Israel and the ceasefire.

In the short-term, the conflict may result in a propaganda victory for Hezbollah locally, as they spend vast sums of money in the rebuilding of Beirut, winning loyalty and news coverage across the Middle East. Merely surviving the onslaught of the IDF is taken by many in the Middle East as a “victory”, irrespective of the civilian casualties and the longer term consequences for Lebanon.

In Israel, Prime Minister Olmert's position is very weak and there is considerable criticism of how the General staff and government conducted the war. The result may be a shake-up amongst the military and Olmert’s replacement by Binyamin Netanyahu.

The ceasefire established on the UN resolution 1701 seems to be holding but the key element: the UN force, looks decidedly shaky.

After the initial pronouncements of participation from France and Germany, they have backtracked and significantly scaled down their involvement. Seemingly the problem is over the rules of engagement, which is a polite way of saying, how they would have to deal with Hezbollah.

France and Germany’s unwillingness to provide a sizeable element of the UN force may doom the whole project, a substantial military force would be required to disarm Hezbollah.

The disarmament of Hezbollah is central to resolving this and any future conflict.

I suspect that Germany and France are unwilling to place their soldiers directly in the firing line, as it appears that Hezbollah will not willingly give up their weapons.

So the UN force will be obliged to either:

1. disarm Hezbollah, according to UN resolutions 1701 and 1559
2. or play along with the façade of removing weapons, rockets and missiles from southern Lebanon, when in reality they will be hidden for “round” two.

The latter is more likely and so we can expect another conflict within the next year or so.

Unless Hezbollah disband their militia and remove the constant threat to Israeli civilians there will be another conflict, and I suspect much bloodier, next time around.

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