Israel: The Real Winner in Lebanon
August 16, 2006: The success of the ceasefire in Lebanon hinges on a condition that Lebanon and Hizbollah both insist will not happen. Hizbollah is supposed to disarm, but says bluntly that it will not do so. The Lebanese government says it will not force Hizbollah to disarm. So what's going to happen? It appears that Israel is going to hold the UN responsible for carrying out its peace deal, and disarm Hizbollah. To that end, Israel will withdraw its troops from Lebanon, and leave it to UN peacekeepers to do what they are obliged to do. But here's the catch, not enough nations are stepping forward to supply the initial 3,500 UN forces, much less the eventual 15,000 UN force. However, it is likely that, eventually, enough nations will supply troops. But many of those contingents may not be willing to fight Hizbollah. Israel says it will not completely withdraw from Lebanon until the UN force is in place.
The Israeli strategy appears to be to allow the UN deal to self-destruct. If the UN peacekeepers can disarm Hizbollah, fine. If not, Israeli ground troops will come back in and clear everyone out of southern Lebanon. At that point, it will be obvious that no one else is willing, or able, to deal with the outlaw "state-within-a-state" that Hizbollah represents. Hizbollah will still exist after being thrown out of southern Lebanon, and it will be up to the majority of Lebanese, and the rest of the Arab world, to deal with Hizbollah and radical Shias.
Hizbollah suffered a defeat. Their rocket attacks on Israel, while appearing spectacular (nearly 4,000 rockets launched), were unimpressive (39 Israelis killed, half of them Arabs). On the ground, Hizbollah lost nearly 600 of its own personnel, and billions of dollars worth of assets and weapons. Israeli losses were far less.
While Hizbollah can declare this a victory, because it fought Israel without being destroyed, this is no more a victory than that of any other Arab force that has faced Israeli troops and failed. Arabs have been trying to destroy Israel for over half a century, and Hizbollah is the latest to fail. But Hizbollah did more than fail, it scared most Moslems in the Middle East, because it demonstrated the power and violence of the Shia Arab minority. Sunni Arabs, and most Arabs are Sunnis, are very much afraid of Shia Moslems, mainly because most Iranians are Shia, not Arab, and intent on dominating the region, like Iran has done so many times in the past. Hizbollah's recent outburst made it clear that Iran, which subsidizes and arms Hizbollah, has armed power that reaches the Mediterranean. This scares Sunni Arabs because a Shia minority also continues to rule Syria (where most of the people are Sunni). The Shia majority in Iraq, which have not dominated Iraq for over three centuries, is now back in control.
Hizbollah did enjoy a victory in its recent war, but it was over Sunni Arabs, not Israel.