Walid Phares: Hezbollah's Iranian War in Lebanon

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Dr Walid Phares is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a visiting Fellow with the Foundation for European Democracy, the author of Future Jihad (English) and of books on Lebanon and Iran.]

When Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, secretary general of Hezbollah held his press conference to declare his new victory over his enemy, Israel, he was triggering –probably without knowing- a new era in the history of Lebanon and the region. “We will continue in faithfulness to our line,” he declared, in legitimizing his cross border attack on an Israeli patrol, killing soldiers and kidnapping two. But the real “fidelity” Nasrallah was referring to wasn’t to his captured men in Israeli jails, but to the regimes decision-makers in Tehran and Damascus. The “operation of July” came as a tipping point in a larger conflict, which superseded Hezbollah’s detainee, the Shebaa farms, borders skirmishes and Israeli tactical responses. Beyond and above the events of that day, Hezbollah was triggering the first Iranian war on Lebanon’s soil: A Syrian-supported offensive, even at the height of the Assad II regime. Bringing fire and smoke to the Lebanese-Israeli borders, and a week before to the Gaza-Israel demarcation lines, is not simply two local disputes, one over unilateral Israeli withdrawal in Gaza and the other over real estate on the western slopes of Mount Hermon. Nasrallah (as well as his counterpart of Hamas) has calculated perfectly how to conduct a hit and run with the Israelis ordered by regional regime who have miscalculated their strategies. Pressured by the new regional realities and world concerns about nuclear threats and Terrorism, Iran and Syria wanted to throw their allies into the greatest uncertainties of survival.                                                         
The road to the current conflict
But as Israel’s Air Force began to pound Nasrallah’s organization and Lebanon’s transportation and communications infrastructure, and the media reported the war in progress with its horrific images, world opinion and decision-centers commenced to swing in all directions, seeking a name to the War and a projection of its ending, with great difficulties. Attempts are still ongoing to frame it from the most simplistic to the most conspiratorial: Lebanon is a beautiful country, it doesn’t deserve violence and victimization, say the less informed. Indeed such lamentations should have been expressed since 1975, when this country was thrown to the lions. Between the PLO attacks since the beginning of the War, the Syrian occupation as of June 1976, the Israeli involvement in 1982 and the Iranian penetration of the 1980s, in addition to the civil war between all communities, more than 180,000 people were massacred and killed, with very little compassion under the Cold War and despite its end in 1990. While most militias disarmed in 1991, only one dodged that duty: Iranian-backed Syrian-protected Hezbollah. Co-ruling the country with Syria’s security services, the militia presented itself as a “resistance” for a whole decade, building its networks, and consolidating power inside the country while claiming liberation against Israel’s occupation of the south. The “Khumeinist resistance” endorsed the Syrian “occupation” of Lebanon and never struggled to free its compatriots in Damascus’ jails. In May 2000 it achieved victory over Israel and its local allies, by occupying the so-called “security zone” in southern Lebanon after the latter being evacuated by the Israeli Government. Since then, Hezbollah reached its golden age: Control of about 70 km of international borders with the “Zionist entity,” warranting hundreds of millions of dollars and other military support from Iran’s Pasdarans; but also appropriation of enormous Government assets and resources under the auspices of Syrian control.

President Ahmedinijad
Between 2000 and 2005, Hezbollah increased its influence in Lebanese politics, becoming the dominant force, and remaining the principal ally of Syrian occupation. In this half decade, Tehran supplied the organization with weapons capable of reaching remote areas inside Israel. In those years as well, Hezbollah extended and grew its cells around the world including in South America, North America, West Africa and Western Europe. But the surge to high power, both in Lebanon and worldwide began to face challenges as of September 11, 2001. 
 The crisis years     
From when the American public mobilized against Terrorism in general to the first US-led intervention in Afghanistan, Tehran’s leaders got extremely nervous about the changes hitting their neighborhood. Any democracy anywhere around them is a bad omen. When the Taliban regime was removed from Kabul in 2001, Tehran’s Khumenists witnessed the rise of women in the electoral process and within the Afghani Government. Iranian leaders understood the future implications at home. When Saddam’s regime was removed from Baghdad, Khamenei’s elite wasn’t unhappy with the removal, but with the multi party process that followed, even though they succeeded in inserting their influence in it. And when UNSCR 1559 was approved-- calling on Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon and Hezbollah’s disarming--both Tehran and Damascus felt the heat pressuring their joint influence on the Eastern Mediterranean. The Syrian Baathist reaction to the new era was quick with the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri on February 14, 2005. Assad paid a dear price for this fast drawing and shooting against his opponents in Lebanon. In March of that year, and despite an attempt by Hezbollah to shore up popular support to the Syrian President inside Lebanon, one million and a half citizens marched in the street of Beirut, shattering the myth of both Syrian “brotherly” occupation and e He zbollah’s untouched position in the country. With the political weakening of its allied organization by the public and the pulling out of Damascus’ regular troops from Lebanon, Iran’s regime mobilized for the counter regional attack. Hezbollah readied for its role in the general Jihadi offensive.
The counter offensive
The Jihadi Syro-Iranian offensive started simultaneously in early 2005, with the Hariri assassination in Lebanon and the selecting of Mahmoud Ahmedinijad as head of the Islamic Republic in Tehran. In Lebanon as the pro-Syrian Government collapsed new elections were held and an anti-Syria majority was established, Hezbollah executed a sophisticated one year plan in preparation for the war launched in July 2006. It began with Nasrallah imposing on the Seniora Government a strange offer: taking three members of the Party into his cabinet, while Hezbollah maintains a strategic relation with Syria’s regime. That success brought other moves forward. For six months, political leaders and journalists of the Cedars Revolution were assassinated with car bombs: Samir Qassir, George Hawi and Gebran Tueni. This sufficed to convince the anti-Syrian politicians that any serious obstruction of the Iranian-Syrian axis and opposition to Hezbollah will be “punished.” The terror treatment seemed to have worked, as the Government was forced to abandon the implementation of UNSCR 1559 and have its components sit down with Hezbollah to “discuss” the future of its weapons. In short, it took Nasrallah and his allies less than a year to contain and weaken the Cedars Revolution and the Government it has produced. Twelve months passed after Syria’s withdrawal from the country, and yet the Lebanese army was not allowed by Hezbollah’s veto power inside the Seniora cabinet to deploy along the borders or even inside the sensitive area of south Lebanon. Strategically, Hezbollah absorbed the consequences of the Syrian withdrawal, penetrated the Government and along with pro-Syrian politicians created further divisions within Lebanon’s religious communities, including within Sunni, Druze and Christian political establishments.  
Regional acceleration
During 2006, several factors pushed Iran and Syria to press their allies in Lebanon and in Palestine to create havoc. The nuclear crisis with Tehran was the principal factor for convincing the Mullahs that a major crumbling of the region’s new democracies and peace processes is vital to deflect the crisis away from Tehran. In fact the international determination to remove the Iranian nuclear threat was breaking Ahmedinijad’s ambitions for increasing international power. The several elections in Iraq, despite terrorism, indicated the rise of the political process in that country, with future impact on Iran itself. Syria’s isolation as a result of the UN investigation in the Hariri assassination further convinced the Assad regime that inflaming the Gaza and the Israeli-Lebanese borders is the recipe for overshadowing the UN report. Hamas also had developed an interest in the clash with the “Zionist enemy,” as the financial credibility of their newly formed Government in the Palestinian areas was sinking down and a civil war with Fatah loomed on the horizon. And finally Hezbollah:  the militia-turned party and still listed as a Terrorist organization on the US list of terrorist groups, used extreme patience since 2000 in building its hyper-arsenal across the country, infiltrated the Army and avoided major escalation against Israel. But on Bastille Day Sayyed Nasrallah ended the previous era of preparedness: Now is the time for a qualitative Jihad, he seemed to imply. 
Lebanese factors
In addition to the regional injunctions to strike Israel in order to focus the international heat on the Arab-Israeli conflict, Hezbollah has also included a number of “Lebanese” factors in its decision to flare up the borders with its enemy. Back in March 2005, the leaders of the Iranian-backed organization saw in disbelief the enormous masses marching against Syria, and by ripple effect, against Hezbollah. Not only the largest democracy demonstration in the history of the Middle East, but also a multiethnic and multi-religious one: Christians, Druze, Sunnis and even some Shiites broke the taboo of Hezbollah’s “sacred” character in Lebanon. Second nightmare was with the actual withdrawal of the Syrian army from the country, opening the path for the implementation of the second item of the UNSCR 1559, i.e., disarming the fundamentalist militia. The third nightmare came when this anti-Syrian coalition brought a majority in Parliament during the May-June 2005 legislative elections in Lebanon. The threat to Hezbollah was not the formation of a cabinet opposing Syrian influence in as much as it was a signal that the people of Lebanon wasn’t endorsing the “resistance” story, or put it simply, wasn’t buying the party’s story period. The Cedars Revolution was the worse development the Khumeinist movement had to absorb since its inception. The sight of a million young men and women in colorful outfits marching in downtown Beirut was the beginning of a new era: liberal democracy, freedom and rejection of the dark ideology of Nasrallah. Hence, it became a must to eliminate that revolution at any price. 
The slaughter of the Cedars Revolution
In few months, a number of leading politicians and journalists were savagely murdered by the pro-Syrian camp: Syrian intelligence, Hezbollah and other groups were believed to be behind the assassination campaign. In parallel, Hezbollah and its allies outmaneuvered the parliamentary majority, which was supposed to form an anti-Baathist Government, bring down the pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud and remove the pro-Syrian speaker of the House, Nabih Berri. A magic hand convinced the so-called politicians of the March 14 movement, that none of these measures is feasible. Hence Syria maintained its power in Lebanon, while U.S and French Presidents were singing the praise of the liberation of Lebanon. Furthermore, and in a suicidal move the Lebanese cabinet, headed by Fouad Seniora invited Hezbollah to join the Government, before the latter disarmed. By the summer of last year, the Cedars Revolution was bleeding seriously. Not only entrenched in the legal Government of Lebanon, but Hezbollah succeeded in a penetration of the Christian community, the hardcore of the anti-Syrian resistance, by enlisting the former commander of the Lebanese Army who performed an about face after 10 years in exile, where he claimed opposition to Syria. Michel Aoun signed an agreement of “understanding” with Hassan Nasrallah during the spring of 2006. The “revolution” was beheaded and Hezbollah was waiting for the right time to operate its come back into the center of Lebanese politics, while executing the instructions of Tehran and Damascus.
The “Waad al sadeq” operation
By early July 2006, Hezbollah’s preparations for the bloody return to the top were fulfilled. The organization had already accomplished its Lebanese tasks:
1) Elimination (direct or in conjunction with Syrian intelligence or Syrian Social Nationalists) of visible symbols of anti-Syrian leadership: Tueni, Qassir and Hawi, and attempts against others such as May Chidiac, as an intimidation lesson to all others.
2) Paralysis of PM Seniora’s cabinet from the inside and in cooperation with President Lahoud's networks on the outside.
3) Paralysis of the parliament in collaboration with speaker Berri and the Aoun bloc.
4) Dragging the political forces in the country in the so-called national dialogue on the weapons of Hezbollah, a major waste of time and marginalization of the 1559 stipulation
3) Intimidation of the Lebanese army command.
4) Attempts to divide the Lebanese Diaspora by implanting agents linked to the axis.  
5) Reactivation of the pro-Syrian and Jihadist networks in Lebanon and within the Palestinian camps.
6) Distribution of weapons among allied militias
7)  Finally and most importantly, completing the final steps in the deployment of a system of rockets and long range artillery batteries aimed at Israel.
It is based on these domestic achievements in Lebanon and on strategic injunctions by its regional sponsors that Hezbollah decided to trigger its awaited Armageddon. What was the Hezbollah’s initial plan? The pro-Iranian militia had constructed a theory of invincibility based on the rationalization of a string of former successes against the United States and France in the 1980s, against Israel and the ex-South Lebanon Army in the 1990s, and its intimidation of the Cedars Revolution in 2005. In short, Nasrallah’s team was convinced of the following: A spectacular operation against Israeli military would 
  • Bring back the “struggle with Israel” to the forefront of Lebanese politics, thus cornering the Lebanese Government into capitulation on the Hariri and the disarmament matters.

  • Lead to a harsh Israeli retaliation, good enough to attract world condemnation, but not strong enough to change realities in Lebanon.
    The operation, dubbed “al-Waad al sadeq” (Faithful Promise) would signal the beginning of a series of skirmishes with Israel and a generalized assault on the Cedars Revolution and the Seniora cabinet, who were to be accused of treason and collusion with the Zionists.

    With the crumbling of the Lebanese Government under the strikes by Hezbollah-Lahoud-Aoun, the pro-Syrian President would dismiss the Seniora cabinet, and in cahoots with pro-Syrian Berri, would disband the Parliament. A massive campaign of assassinations, arrests and exile would target the March 14 movement, followed by Terror-backed legislative elections, brining back a pro-Syrian Hezbollahi assembly and a radical Government.

    The “putsch” would reestablish a Pro-Syrian-Iranian regime in Lebanon, and reconstruct a third wing to the Tehran-Damascus axis, reanimating the Arab-Israeli conflict, rejuvenating the Syrian dominance, isolating Jordan, reaching out to Hamas, crumbling Iraq, and unleashing Iran’s nuclear programs unchecked. The domino effects of Hezbollah’s “Waad al sadeq” are far from being even imagined by Western and Arab policy planners.
    Plans and surprises
    Nasrallah seemed to be in control of his strategy when he appeared in his press conference of victory. His back was safe since he has terrorized the Cedars Revolution’s movement, enlisted Aoun’s support (breaking Christian community unity), and pushed Sunni and Druze breakaways to challenge Jumblat and Hariri (the son). To his south, he was applauding Haniya’s Hamas “cabinet” for having already engaged the Israelis. To his east, Syria was mobilizing and waiting. In Iran, the “masters” were extending their strategic umbrella; and in Iraq, the Terror sapping of sectarian relations was on. All the brothers in Khumeini Jihadism were awaiting Hezbollah to break the chain of events from the Galilee. Nasrallah was at the forefront of a plan aiming at wrecking the rising democracy and the fledgling stability of the region. The stakes were really high for the “axis.”

    But Hassan Nasrallah’s master plan failed. First the Lebanese Government, smelling the odors of conspiracy was quick to distance itself from the operation. “The Government was not informed by it nor does it endorse it,” stated the Seniora release. Second,  Israel’s volte-face surprised Hezbollah and their allies. Why would the Olmert Government, declare a full war on an organization that classical armies cannot take out, thought the Tehran planners. Then came, the Arab position:  Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, followed discretely by others didn’t extend their full support to the move. They certainly criticized Israel to the fullest of rhetoric, but didn’t praise the “Hizb.” On the international level, the Terror group “that-provide-services” didn’t fare better. The United States firmly extended its bipartisan support to UNSCR 1559; France and the rest of Europe stated the same –with their continental language- Russia wouldn’t side with Nasrallah against the world, and China has other priorities on its plate. Only Iran threatened to wage wars in the rescue of its most western army. Nasrallah fell into his own trap but decided to come up with a contingency plan.     
    Hezbollah’s Contingency plan    
    Not so different from Plan A, the objectives of Plan B have been readjusted. If Israel bombards Hezbollah’s infrastructure to the ground, Iranian oil will rebuild it. If Israel invades by land, it will find itself against a more aggressive Hezbollah than the one of the 1990s. Besides, Hezbollah will attempt nevertheless to go after the Seniora Government anyway. Calling on the “reserves,” Hezbollah enlisted President Lahoud and his son in law Defense Minister Elias Murr to drag the Lebanese Army in the War against Israel’s forces. And in collaboration with Aounist cadres (while the majority of his partisans are still stunned by the events), Hezbollah has unleashed an international campaign against the “inhumane aggression.” If things go well, Nasrallah expects Plan B to become Plan A, and a land advance by Israel would unleash a total offensive against the Government of Lebanon by pro-Iranian and Syrian forces. If Israel moves north to create a safe area against rockets, Hezbollah would move north to control the rest of Lebanon. The Syrian-Iranian axis will refuse UNSCR 1559, reject international initiatives for disarming the militias, and will make its stand in Lebanon, even if the Switzerland of the Middle East is to be reduced to rubbles. Assad wants to save his regime in Beirut, and Ahmedinijad wants to shield his bomb in the Bekaa: Alea Jacta Est, the dice are rolling. 
    The Lebanese Army
    Hezbollah’s plan for the Lebanese Army is to drag it to a fight with Israel, as a way to destroy it. For the past 16 years Syria and Hezbollah have penetrated the Lebanese Army and installed their followers at various positions. For example, the command of the southern command, the officers in charge of the southern suburb of Beirut, the Murabb’a al amni (security zone for Nasrallah) and many offices in the second bureau are in the hands of Shiite officers linked to Hezbollah. Syria’s allies including the Hezb and Amal can count on 20% influence within the institution. The commander in chief, General Michel Sleiman is neutral, with possibilities of shifts to either side. The head of the military intelligence, a Christian, follows Lahoud's orders. The power map inside the Army keeps changing, but at the core of this institution, most officers are pro-Lebanese, close to the West. If Hezbollah pushes the regular troop into battle against Israel, the Army may split.
    The West
    The United Nations is bound by a resolution it cannot but implement: UNSCR 1559. Having been among those who worked on introducing it in 2004, I have followed up till very recently the international efforts in this regards. There is a solid consensus that the resolution has to be implemented; it is inescapable. The question is who would implement it? Reality is that the Lebanese Government and its armed forces are too weak in front of the Hezbollah-Baath-Ahmedinijad axis. So if a regional bloc is obstructing a UN resolution, the international community should provide the balance of power. Hence, the US and France, along with the European Union, the moderate Arab states with the consent of the Security Council must provide the tools for the Lebanese Government to spread its sovereignty over its national soil, and the support for the Cedars Revolution to revive itself. The options are very limited: Either Hezbollah will dominate the Lebanese Republic, or the latter will disarm Hezbollah. Anything in between would be a waste of time. If Israel stops its operations short of an international intervention, Hezbollah will win the war. If Israel moves forward inside Lebanon after Hezbollah, an international intervention is inevitable. The days, weeks and months ahead will tell.
    Propaganda war
    Meanwhile Hezbollah and its allies both in the region and in the West are and will be waging the mother of all propaganda wars. The task assigned to the propagandists is to stop military operations so that Hezbollah survives and to stop international intervention so that the Lebanese Government collapses. A war of images, photos, mudding, Internet, and media will explode in all directions. Operatives helping Hezbollah, including many with Christian names, will be waging an indiscriminate propaganda offensive against Lebanese, Arab, Western and obviously Israeli figures to spread confusion and psychological collapse in the international community. Objective: Obstruct the implementation of UNSCR 1559, trash the March 14 movement, criticize the Arab Government, and incite for Jihadi violence.
    Future of the Hezbollah War
    Hezbollah waged an Iranian War with Syrian backing. It knew how to start it, but it won’t know how it will end. The forces unleashed in this conflict have been unpredictable including Israel, Lebanon’s politics, the Arab Governments, and the international community. Hezbollah and its regional allies have spoken of “surprises” to come. In fact the latter are pretty much predictable: more rockets on and suicide attacks in Israel, coup d’Etat in Lebanon, and obviously international terrorism, including in the West. But “surprises” could also happen to Hezbollah. The “Waad al sadeq” operation may not be the only miscalculation by Secretary Hassan Nasrallah. The future of Hezbollah’s war is as uncertain as the fate of the organization.

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    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    Okay, I googled the "knowledgeable" Mr. Phares. He is obviously a Lebanese lawyer by training, currently a part time poli sci prof., and is often touted as an "expert" on terrorism. Evidently nobody except you, Mr. F., thinks he is any kind of "authority on Lebanon." I suppose it is reasonable to assume he learned something about the place while living there, although I rather doubt he has many fans in that country at the moment. Some websites suggest that Phare is a Maronite Christian with close ties to the militias who carried out the early 1980s massacres while Ariel Sharon whistled Dixie and looked the other way (for which the notorious Mr. Sharon he was subsequently banned from Israeli politics for some years).
    There is of course of divergence of opinion on this particular part of Phare's bio. What is clear from Google is that he has no degrees or other credentials as a historian - this was, of course, patently apparent already from his dubious speculative rant here.

    Just for fun, I tried searching the Economist website for Walid Phares. No hits. Bernard Lewis and Niall Ferguson, by contrast, are mentioned over a dozen times each in past Economist issues. Surely this discrepancy is not unrelated to the fact that Lewis and Ferguson have both written multiple significant books of history whereas Phares has written no such book.

    The Economist book review section is really quite good. I recommend it to you. They not only read the books they review, they actually understand what they have read as well.

    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    Steve, read the Economist article. Ask for help if your library doesnt' have the magazine or it you don't know where your library is or what a library is. It might interest to you to know that that publication endorsed John Kerry for president in 2004 after supporting the Republican candidate in at least the six previous presidential elections. Some people CAN learn from their mistakes.

    By the way, folks, I did some further googling, and Phares did actually write couple of history books a few decades ago early in his career. They are apparently so forgetable that he does not list them by title under the main page of the books section of his own website.

    Friedman: Osama et al planned the 9-11 attacks for years. That does not mean that accidents (blunders) on the American side (and yes Steve, before you go into auto-Rove-drive, even Clinton made a few mistakes in this regard too, though he was not the one in the White House ignoring the warnings in the months immediately prior) are irrelevant or that anyone thinking otherwise must be "smoking something."

    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    Given your past track record on this website I do not feel the slightest obligation to indulge your nitpicking and asking me to do your reading for you. If it makes you feel better, Economist, in the piece referenced, said "...this war did not spring from nowhere even if its timing was an accident. The conditions for it have been building, in slow motion for years." This strikes me as eminently sensible, and certainly vastly more plausible than Phare's "Jihadi Syro-Iranian offensive" explanation. If you still believe his dubious take, then how about YOU providing some evidence beyond Phares' circumstantial speculation? It makes about as much sense to me as would a statment from Al Qaeda on Al Jeezerah claiming that the slaughtering of Lebanese children by Israeli bombs is part of a premeditated "Chickenhawk Zionist Republican Party offensive."
    The difference of course is that Phares' brand of stinking BS is a regular feature on HNN, Al Qaeda's is not.

    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    In America we have peace. Are you moving to Israel to join the IDF? If not, then why try impose Israeli militaristic nihilism on a discussion of American foreign policy? If America wants it badly enough, and has a president who knows how to speak English and tell his VP and Defense Secretary what to do (rather than vice versa) peace is possible in the Mideast. Carter got it. Clinton and Norwegians got it (temporarily). The only way America will get stuck fighting the entire Moslem world is if enough Americans are deluded into thinking it is inevitable because of policy-makers and commentators who cannot or do not want to distinguish between (a) America and (b ) the rightwing Israeli political parties and their not always identical interests.

    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    I stand by my prior positions. The sort of speculation you advance could as readily be conjured up in support of a Israeli-America conspiracy theory with as little credibility. All such speculation is incidental to my main point which is that Phare's theory of a general "offensive" involving Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and unspecified other "Jihadists" is a highly dubious notion concoted to further his "neo-con" views, and sell his new book, not an attempt to understand what is actually going on.

    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    Mr. Friedman:

    I don't know the source of your obsession with the UK Guardian, but you are way off base to associate it again, for the 3rd or 4th time in recent weeks, with me. In fact I very rarely read it. Not that it has the slightest relevance to the topic of this page, but my main regular sources of news and commentary about world affairs (supplemented by many others on a occasional basis) are the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Economist. The lead story last week in the latter, is relevant, however, and is headlined: "The accidental war: A pointless war that no one may have wanted and no one can win. It should stop now." It concludes: "America should START its work at once" [my emphasis]. I recommend this excellent column to you. It may still be reachable at www.economist.com. The Economist knows as much about the basic dynamics of current Mideast geopolitics as do all your "books" put together. Certainly it has a vastly clearer picture than the muddled paranoia-based slice of "understanding" that you have taken from your neo-Likud websites...or "books". Open your mind. You might learn something.

    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    It SHOULD subscribe to The Economist. Unfortunately, I just tried getting the article referred to in my last post, and the on-line version is evidently available only to subscribers.

    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    Just a few years ago, Hezbollah got something like 400 prisoners released in return for ONE Isreali, under a deal with none other than Ariel Sharon (who before his recent demise was under indictment for war crimes IN LEBANON). What greater incentive could they have been given for snatching a few asleep border guards/ Even now, they (Hezbollah) still have a reasonable chance of getting some kind of (probably less lopsided) deal. Firing rockets is only a way of proving their machismo to the Arab "street". Besides they have such a ridiculous huge supply of these little terror missiles, from their warped standpoint, why not a fire a few and scare the beMoses out of the cowardly Israelis? They (Hez) will not suffer great moral criticism as long as Israel is slaughtering (much greater numbers of) civilians as well.

    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    Phares is on the payroll of a notorious "neo-con" (=neo-fascist) "think tank". As ducks quack, that makes his personal views less than the full explanation of his agenda. Maybe Goebbels was not a anti-Semite at heart, but that does not exonerate his complicity in the Holocaust.

    As for the Lebanon accident theory, I suppose your guess is as good as mine. The point really is that Israel was not prepared for kidnapping and Hezbollah and the "moderate" Arabs such as the Saudis, and the nitwit Bush adminstration were not prepared for ferocity and degree of atrocities committed by the bunging and cowardly Israelis. At least that is how it appears to me (from reading the NYT and Wash Post - NOT Economist). You may have a different sense, but neither your guess nor mine changes the speculation-based bogusness of Phare's piece. He may understand Hezbollah, but I don't think he has a very solid grasp of what Bush or the Israelis are up to, and his supposition that all the disparate Arab and Moslems factions are acting according to some master plan is quite preposterous.

    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    Mr. F., I don't like it any better than you do, and would willing vote to sacrifice a fraction of one percent of the Pentagon budget for the school and schoolbook reform needed to combat these preferences, but if Arabs in Arab countries want Sharia law, it is their democractic right to screw themselves with it. Sometimes people have to learn things the hard way on their own. I won't ask you for your polling cites, so don't ask me either, but the percentage of Moslems in favor of Sharia law in America, England, France or even Israel is surely way below 50%. Palestinians are not a mentally inferior people, and it would not take long, if Sharia law were ever to be established in a Palestinian state for more them to compare their situation to that of Arabs and Moslems in western countries and draw the obvious conclusions. Islam is not monolithic, and more than anything else, it is the repression of the Palestinians' legitimate rights to self-determination -as legitimate as Israel's right to exist as Jewish homeland state- which prevents the coming and sorely needed reform of Islam. Most Arabs and Moslems are not terrorists, and the best way to erode their sympathy for terrorism is to stop treating them as if they WERE all terrorists. What you say about it being easier to settle with a state is true, so cut the crap and give the Palestinians their state.

    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    Mr. F., You clearly have not got a clue what the Economist's capabilities and positions are on the Mideast or anything else, just as you have been hopelessly clueless but arrogantly strident about what I read and rely on. Your claim that that magazine believes "but for the Arab Israeli dispute, the Arab regions and the Europeans, among others, have a shared futur" is a sheer fantasy for which you will never find any actual evidence.

    Why not read the link which our fellow poster has made available, think about what it says, and offer a comment or two, instead of parading your ignorance and trumpeting for the umpteenth time your list of neo-Likud propagandists, plus the now near senile Mr. Lewis ?

    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    This article presents one of the most far-fetched and dubious conspiracy theories to disgrace HNN in recent years. The Likudnik stooges' standard line (regurgitated by the decrepit Frat Boy Bush administration) -that Olmert's Lebanon rampage is all the fault of Hezbollah, which allegedly threatened the existence of the most powerful state in the Mideast by kidnapping two of its soldiers- is not enough for Mr. Phares. He wants us to believe that the kidnapping-miscalculation was actually part of a wide-ranging "Jihadi Syro-Iranian offensive."

    This sort of convoluted gobbledygook and the kind of longwinded deceptive spinning which accompanies it here, correlate well with compulsive trickery and serial lying. According to Google, Mr. Phare's "Foundation for the Defense of Democracies" turns out to be something of a successor organization to the now defunct "Project for an American Century", the notorious gang of fake conservative arm-chair imperialists who conned Frat Boy Bush and his minder Karl Rove into implimenting their disastrously failed "cakewalk" to Baghdad, which is now well on its way to becoming a greater foreign policy defeat for the USA than was the Vietnam War.

    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    Mr. F. Well, you are reading at least. But not very accurately.

    Your latest post is full of further fantasies about things the Economist never said, and laden with contradictions. Ever heard of proof-reading?

    "I would love to see a list" of countries that "make war with moderation," you say. Then on the VERY NEXT LINE, you talk about Israel, in its current "war" in Lebanon, behaving "moderately."

    You utter dubious and vague clichéd expressions, such as "defeat a well dug in terror army," and use them to prove your foregone conclusion that whatever Israel must inevitably be better than any other alternative.

    In fact, Economist said no such gobbledygook about “defeating” “terror armies” whatever the heck they might be (IDF slaughtering civilians as a form of collective punishment is probably the closest candidate but I’m sure you will agree, not very close) or whatever “defeat” means in a contest of ideas, ideologies, loyalties, and psychological deformities.

    Even you can do better than this, Mr. F.

    What Economist actually said (in the short excerpt provided) was things such as:

    “Airpower alone will never destroy every last rocket and prevent Hizbullah’s fighters from continuing to send them off.”

    Israel blundered by trading 400 captured militants for one of its sorry soldiers. It is now compounding that blunder by creating far more new long term recruits for terrorism against it (due to the slaughter of civilans in Lebanon) that it is killing off. George Worthless Bush, the ultimate incompetent, who has made almost a religion out of relentless blundering, is screwing up even worse than usual by rubberstamping this Israeli rampage, without the slightest clue of how to do things any differently or even what to do next week. And you are making a mistake by reacting reflexively rather than thinking. And it is utterly irrelevant what I or anyone else here has read or not read. What matters is being logical, consistent, open-minded, and being able to support one’s conclusions with facts, logic, citations and quotes.

    God bless George Washington and praise be to his wise advice about avoiding foreign entanglements.

    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    1. Nowithstanding its many shortcomings, this place is indeed a forum for discussions of current affairs in historical context. It is not a forum for grade school playground interpersonal comparisons.

    2. Reading is not the same thing as understanding. People can, for example, "read" the Koran, by mouthing the words line by line while comprehending nothing.

    3. The preponderance of the evidence so far suggests that the current violence in Lebanon and Israel erupted accidentally (as Economist opines) not through some premediated "general Jihadi offensive against Israel" as the propagandist Phares tries to claim here.

    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    the closing quotation mark in my prior post was misplaced:

    "general Jihadi offensive against Israel" should read

    "general Jihadi offensive" against Israel

    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    Friedman, I didn't say that lopsided trades BEGAN with Sharon. Perhaps you received your information - again erroneous - from that font of wisdom, your inability to comprehend what you have read.

    I am not sure about when Sharon was indicted and/or exonerated. But I am fairly certainly that he was out of Israeli politics for some years, and mainly because of the general horror at his allowing the 1982 Lebanon massacres to happen without intervening to prevent them. That was far from the only atrocious action of his long career. Despite his cleverness, and he was without doubt one of the most clever and skillful politicians of all time in the Mideast, Israel and the world are better off without him, as the Palestinians, and every one else, are better off without Arafat. If America did not have one of its most lame and inept presidents ever, the new leadership in both Israel (Olmert) and the Palestinians (Abbas) would surely have been seized upon as a rare opportunity to get back to the bargaining table that was abandoned by Arafat and smashed to pieces by Sharon.

    N. Friedman - 8/16/2006


    Jack Torre - 8/2/2006


    40% of British muslims want sharia, and 20% identify with terrorists:

    More than 60% of Palestinians say Sharia must be the sole source of legislation, and 30% say Sharia must be a source. See the bar graph on page 53.


    N. Friedman - 8/2/2006


    I think you are missing the big story here. I think the issue is the rise of Islamism. There is no peace possible in the Middle East due to it.

    I am not really sure there ever was a peace for a variety of clear reason, the most obvious being the small size of Israel, the competing claims of many on both sides, etc. But, now that the view is clear - and I believe it was always lurking in the background - that the "people" on the Arab side, in this case Muslims, reject Israel on religious principle (e.g. HAMAS's covenant which states rejection of Israel as an explicit religious principle and Hezbollah which takes basically the same view), I see no basis to talk, much less settle the dispute.

    I remind you that it is easier to settle with a state (e.g. Israel with Egypt) than with a people, which is what is involved. And that is oh so much more difficult when the issue involves the religious conviction that the other side is an invading infidel which must be destroyed to save the faith, which is the HAMAS view.

    I might add: sometimes there really is not basis for people to make a real peace (e.g Hitler and Chamberlain). Sometimes, the driving ideology precludes peace.

    In this regard, I do not think you can claim that it is Israel's ideology that is causal here. After all, Israel has been ceding land: twice since 2000. Where has the reciprocation been. None has even been offerred by the Islamist side. And they have the upper hand in the area. Polling shows - and do not ask me for a cite - that 65% each of Jordanians, Palestinian Arabs and Egyptians favors implementing Shari'a law which, in simple terms, means that Islamism is the people's position - as shown also by the election of HAMAS.

    N. Friedman - 8/1/2006


    There is no peace to be had. Wake up.

    N. Friedman - 8/1/2006


    I believe you will find that Sharon was not under indictment. I think you will find that there was such an attempt regarding the Sabra and Shattila massacre but the complaint was rejected in June of 2002 by the pertinent Brussels Appeals Court.

    I might add, it would have been a unique case, brought against a person who was not at the scene of the crime, where there was no evidence that he ordered any massacre, where the best investigation of the matter held him only indirectly responsible - which, more or less, means negligent - and where there was no imaginable possibility of obtaining a conviction.

    You will recall that Sharon sued Time Magazine for suggesting that he was responsible and the court found that Time had erred, able not intentionally.

    As for your analysis, the Israelis have often made lopsided trades. That, despite your implication, did not begin with Sharon. Perhaps, you received your information - again erroneous - from that font of wisdom, the Economist.

    N. Friedman - 7/31/2006


    I do not think that Phares thinks the Arabs are acting according to a master plan. I think he thinks that groups like Hezbollah are dominated by people who see the world as people saw it during the Middle Ages. Such people believe they are on a mission from Allah, a jihad to reclaim the greatness of the early Islamic period. Such is what his recent book argues.

    If Phares says that there is a connection between Hezbollah and Iran that is operational, such is quite possible. On that topic, I would take his word over the NY Times, etc. because he has really good sources of information and because he actually has experience with such people.

    N. Friedman - 7/31/2006


    Your case might make more sense - although, probably not - if Professor Phares were a neo-con, which he is not. He is not even pro-Israel - although he not hostile either -. He views the world as a Maronite Christian generally does, something that a read of his writings would make clear.

    In any event, the accident theory makes no sense on the surface. An event planned in advance is not an accident. Perhaps, it can be said that the full scale war was not forseen by Hezbollah, but that is different from saying that we have an accident. And, the event happened when it did for a reason - whatever the reason may be -, not by accident.

    I note that the connection with Iran and/or Syria does make a lot of sense, whether or not it is true. Neither the Economist nor Professor Phares can know for sure as neither has spies in Hezbollah, Syria or Iran. So, we are dealing, in either event, in speculation.

    Now, the talk of accident is, on the surface, pretty dumb. Now, you have the Economist claiming: "...this war did not spring from nowhere even if its timing was an accident. The conditions for it have been building, in slow motion for years."

    In that Hezbollah did what it did at a specific time, it is rather strange to speak of an accident of timing. Hezbollah surely had a reason to act when it did, whatever the reason may be. The question is what drove Hezbollah to act when it did.

    The Economist claims it was an accident because, perhaps, the publication does not either have Professor Phares' sources of information - which are extensive, based on what I have seen - or because the publication thinks there are other reasons or because, lacking any information, it assumes, because it does not know, that the event must be an accident.

    Steve Broce - 7/31/2006

    “Given your past track record on this website I do not feel the slightest obligation to indulge your nitpicking and asking me to do your reading for you.”

    You must mean my track record of requesting that you provide some evidence for your unlikely conclusions. You refer to that as “nitpicking”; most people call that “documenting your assertions”.

    But I understand your reluctance to admit that ultimately your argument boils down to “The war was accidental, because the Economist says so”. Novel argument, but not very persuasive.

    Actually though, at least Dr. Phare provided some evidence, circumstantial as it may be. So refreshing compared to your insult-laden rants, which are so devoid of logic, evidence or reasoning.

    Now then, since you decline to provide any reasoning and you’re just too embarrassed to admit that you haven’t got any evidence, I’ll give you my reasoning.

    1. The timing of the Hezbollah action, coming just days before the G8 summit, was suspicious to be “accidental”.

    Most observers agree that Iran exerts great influence over Hezbollah. The pre-summit talk was of possible sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program. The attack certainly took the G8 summit’s attention off the Iranian nuclear program and talk of any sanctions disappeared like a fart in a hurricane. A little to convenient for this whole thing to be an “accident”.

    2. Iran provided the rockets that Hezbollah showers on Israel. Iran provided these rockets for a reason. What better reason than to get the world and the G8’s attention off Iran. It begs credulity to think that Iran, who benefited so greatly from the attack, would just leave it to chance as to when these missiles would be used.

    3.Hezbollah had a front row seat to Israel’s reaction to Hamas’ identical action just a few weeks before. Hezbollah could not have missed the fact that the kidnapping precipitated Israel’s re-entry into Gaza and must have known that committing the identical act would result in the identical reaction-Israel would re-enter Lebanon to try to rescue its soldiers. This could not have been “accidental”.

    4. It has been reported that Iranian soldiers were in Beirut to fire the anti-ship missile that struck the Israeli warship early in the conflict. It is possible that it was a coincidence that the Iranian soldiers were with Hezbollah just when the missiles were needed, but this is another “coincidence” needed to make the war an “accident”.

    5. Hezbollah “Counsel General”, Hassan Nasrallah is on record as saying the attack had been planned for sometime, and that is undoubtedly true. Hezbollah not only carried out the initial operation smoothly, but also repulsed the Israeli armored rescue attempt with complete precision. Pretty slick to be an “accident”, especially given that Nasrallah insists that it wasn’t.

    Pete, you claim that even though this attack might have been planned for months, that “blunders” committed by either side somehow make it “accidental”. This is nonsense. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was certainly attended by many blunders on the American side. That doesn’t make WWII an “accident”.

    N. Friedman - 7/30/2006


    The reason Phares' books are not well known in the West is that his books, other than his recent book, are written in Arabic. Since the books are on topics of, at this point, limited interest - other than his early espousal, back in the late 1970's, of the clash of civilizations theory (and that makes him a proponent long before Huntington) -, they are not likely to be translated.

    Steve Broce - 7/30/2006

    Pete, for the sake of continuity of discussion , since you have read the article and believe the preponderance of evidence establishes that the current violence “erupted accidentally”, why don’t you summarize the three most important pieces of evidence that, in your mind, establishes that proposition.

    Elliott Aron Green - 7/30/2006

    Steve, since Hamas has its political HQ in Damascus, and is dependent on Syria like hizbullah, there is the possibility that both hamas and hizbullah were operating under Syrian/Iranian guidance.

    N. Friedman - 7/30/2006


    I noticed that Peter said that. Your point is well taken. In that Hezbollah's leaders say that the attack on Israel was planned over the course of 6 months, Peter is likely smoking something.

    Steve Broce - 7/30/2006

    “The preponderance of the evidence so far suggests that the current violence in Lebanon and Israel erupted accidentally (as Economist opines)”

    Pete, if you really believe that the “preponderance of evidence” suggests that the current violence “erupted accidentally”, why don’t you list the three most important pieces of evidence suggesting that the war started “accidentally”.

    N. Friedman - 7/30/2006


    Phares is an expert on Lebanon. Yes, he is a Maronite. He claims to be a social democrat, politically speaking. His book in English - and I have not read his various books written in Arabic - got very good reviews. It was also a pretty good book.

    I might add that he has numerous degrees, not just a law degree. I believe that he has a background in history and - I may be wrong about this - has taught history.

    Be that as it may, your point is idiotic.

    N. Friedman - 7/29/2006


    You write: 2. Reading is not the same thing as understanding. People can, for example, "read" the Koran, by mouthing the words line by line while comprehending nothing.

    Yes, the Koran makes difficult reading, being poetic. However, one has to pick it up - which I doubt you have - to learn anything about it. On the other hand, most Muslim sources seem to take it, historically speaking, to favor Jihad, as war. As does Islamic theology, by and large.

    You next write: 2. Reading is not the same thing as understanding. People can, for example, "read" the Koran, by mouthing the words line by line while comprehending nothing.

    Professor Phares is an authority on Lebanon, in particular. He is rather expert on the Jihadist movement. I doubt there is anyone at the Economist who has his combined learning, experience and knowledge of Jihadist movements.

    N. Friedman - 7/28/2006


    You write: "I would love to see a list" of countries that "make war with moderation," you say. Then on the VERY NEXT LINE, you talk about Israel, in its current "war" in Lebanon, behaving "moderately."

    I was making fun of what the Economist said.

    You write: You utter dubious and vague clichéd expressions, such as "defeat a well dug in terror army," and use them to prove your foregone conclusion that whatever Israel must inevitably be better than any other alternative.

    I did not say or imply your stated conclusion. That is in your head.

    You, or perhaps, your version of the Economist article claim "It is now compounding that blunder by creating far more new long term recruits for terrorism against it (due to the slaughter of civilans in Lebanon) that it is killing off."

    You seem to think that Israel's behavior, rather than its existence, is what fuels the dispute. Israel's enemies are not shy about saying that it is Israel's existence - just ask our own Omar - which fuels the dispute.

    Lastly, Peter, you write the ultimate paragraph of ignorance, claiming: "And it is utterly irrelevant what I or anyone else here has read or not read. What matters is being logical, consistent, open-minded, and being able to support one’s conclusions with facts, logic, citations and quotes."

    In other words, let us make our decisions by logic, not by the experience of what has occured. So much for history. My suggestion: Read a book before you reach conclusions.

    N. Friedman - 7/28/2006


    I have now read the Economist article you wanted me to read - or at least the available materials that is available online. It is a trite article. It also includes this idiotic statement:

    If hundreds of civilians are killed, and hundreds of thousands put to flight, so be it: in war, under Israel’s philosophy, moderation is imbecility. Hizbullah is no different, and in some ways worse. The “open war” declared by Mr Nasrallah consists chiefly of firing rockets indiscriminately into Israel’s towns.

    Evidently, the Economist knows of countries which make war with moderation. I would love to see a list.

    I should add, the Israelis have behaved, by world, including current British and American standards - and compare losses throughout Lebanon with losses during the comparitively short US response to the killings in Fallujah -, pretty moderately.

    Israel has not employed saturation bombing. They have not sent in a Sherman-like force nor 50,000 or more soldiers. This, despite being bombed by a force which intentionally tries to hit, albeit with comparatively little sucess, civilians.

    Consider, the perspective of the Economist is to advance the current Arab position. Perhaps Hezbollah, not Israel, needs a cease fire. I do not know. The Economist says Israel cannot win, which, in effect, means that it is not possible to defeat a well dug in terror army. That cannot possibly be true. Otherwise, the world would be controlled by such forces. Perhaps the Israelis would be looking for a cease fire if they thought they were losing. I do not know but I do not think the Israeli government is stupid. Do you?

    At the same time - and not much reported (and perhaps overlooked by the Economist) -, Hezbollah says it would accept an immediate cease fire, something they would not do if they thought things were going entirely their way or, unless, they have, going forward, something to lose. So, I would not take the Economist position as saying anything other than gross speculation.

    Now, I certainly have no idea who will win the war and what the impact of the war, whomever wins, will be. It is not at all clear what Israel is even trying to do so it is not clear what, to them, winning really means.

    Hezbollah, win or lose, will be able to claim a victory and would have, just the same, for merely taking Israeli soldiers captive and kiling some of them. So, Hezbollah, it seems to me, likely has little reason to want to fight any further. They got what they wanted on day one and, at this point, are losing assets that are difficult to replace and they, long term, risk losing a desireable position in society as the Lebanonese in the end tire of Hezbollah creating trouble.

    Again, I think the article is trite. I note that the Israelis, despite expert help from Europeans - and perhaps the Economist -, managed largely to put down the use of kamakaze Jihadis. They did that with means which Europeans - and I bet the Economist - said would not work, namely, doing in Yassin and Rantisi and building a barrier.

    The Israelis, on the other hand, now face the problem of rockets. I do not know if they will solve that problem. But, I have not heard the Economist - and tell me I am wrong - have any useful answers other than to cede land, something, to note, which has not stopped the rocketry but, instead, seems to have encouraged their use.

    The comparison with Arafat is, to me, stupid. The circumstances and the sources of the problems are unrelated. The only similarity is the battle field.

    I do note that the world needs to consider that the failure to set back the private armies forming accross the Muslim regions will be an unending source of trouble - and not just for Israel -. Hezbollah, as its leaders have said repeatedly and unequivically, are not working to assist Palestinians form a state alongside Israel. Such is immaterial to Hezbollah, just as it is to HAMAS and al Qaeda.

    It is, I think, simply not true - a delusion - that the ire of the Muslim side can be placated by Israel ceding land to form a Palestinian state (which is not to say that Israel should or should not do so). Having ceded all the land that Lebanon, according to the UN and the Lebanese government, was entitled to, it ought to give you pause that Hezbollah still needs a full army, in order to capture land, they say, which, in fact, the world - including the Lebanese government - does not claim for Lebanon.

    N. Friedman - 7/28/2006


    I shall read the link. Surely, in the meanwhile, you can list just a few of the books you have read on the pertinent topic. There must be one?

    N. Friedman - 7/27/2006


    You write: The Economist knows as much about the basic dynamics of current Mideast geopolitics as do all your "books" put together.

    Since you do not read any books on the topic at hand, how can you make the judgement you make? As I see things, the predictions of most of the papers have simply been wrong. Which is to say, all of the papers you cite, particularly pre-9/11, had a remarkably unrealistic view of the Arab regions. Some retain the same basic view they previously held.

    Most would do well to read Paul Berman, David Cook, Timothy Furnish, Bernard Lewis, Ephraim Karsh, Patricia Crone, Walid Phares, Bat Ye'or, among others, who report that the dynamic of that part of the world is toward conflict. Lewis has been writing that since the late 1980's.

    The writers who influence publications like the Economist assume, by contrast, that, but for the Arab Israeli dispute, the Arab regions and the Europeans, among others, have a shared future. So far as I can discern, the Economist still peddles that nonsense.

    So again, name some books you have read.

    Alastair Mackay - 7/27/2006

    Here is a blogger's fair-use (I hope) extract of The Economist's 7/20/06 leader, "The Accidental War."

    N. Friedman - 7/26/2006

    Mr. Paul,

    You write: "The major cause of conflict in the middle-east is due to post and neo-colonialism."

    Well, I do not know the cause of the Middle East conflict. However, I think the post and neo-colonial theory is rather weak.

    More to the point, we have a revival of religion as a political ideology - positing the conquest of the world -, the formation of non-governmental armies for that purpose, the rise of the Internet (and thus new forms of communication), large numbers of children being taught the importance of the noted ideology, etc., etc. Your theory accounts for none of this, as there is no similar conflict, for example, involving the Indians or the Chinese, among others, with the West. Do you doubt that India was any less colonized? Yet, people from Muslim India (i.e. Pakistan) are rather centrally involved in the dispute while Indians largely side with the West.

    Alastair Mackay - 7/26/2006

    Here is the 7/25/06 AP story that quotes Hezbollah Politburo deputy Mahmoud Komati:

    Meanwhile, a senior Hezbollah official said the group did not expect Israel to react so strongly to its capture of two Israeli soldiers in a July 12 raid, saying it expected "the usual, limited response."

    Mahmoud Komati, the deputy chief of the Hezbollah politburo, also told The Associated Press that his group will not lay down its arms.

    "The truth is -- let me say this clearly -- we didn't even expect (this) response ... that (Israel) would exploit this operation for this big war against us," Komati said.

    Past Israeli reponses included sending commandos into Lebanon and kidnapping Hezbollah officials or briefly targeting its strongholds, he said.

    Steve Broce - 7/26/2006

    Perhaps all three factors apply.

    Based upon a policy (deeply flawed, in my opinion) of exchanging a few hostages, or even remains of hostages, for hundreds of Hezbollah terrorist, Israel gave Hezbollah cause to think that there was profit in kidnapping Israeli soldiers.

    I also believe that the timing of the kidnappings, coming just before the G8 summit at which sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program was certain to be a key issue, is revealing as to the motive for the attack.

    Hezbollah has fired missiles at Israel for years. In fact, the recent kidnapping was done under the cover of a rocket attack. Nothing new there. To get the spotlight off itself, Iran required a dramatic escalation. Iran could not have missed the identical Hamas action of a few weeks before and noted that it precipitated a re-entry by Israel into Gaza. What better way to get the world attention off Iran’s nuclear program than a re-entry by Israel into Southern Lebanon?

    Of course, Hezbollah and Iran may have misjudged Israel’s willingness or ability to fight a “two-front war” and as such, the Hezbollah spokesman’s statement regarding “surprise at Israeli reaction” may be accurate.

    Elliott Aron Green - 7/26/2006

    would the good Ms Paul explain how an "ism" or "isms" can produce wars and other crises all by itself?

    But if one wants to speak of ideologies, what are the ideologies of the Iranian mullahs/Hizbullah/Syrian Ba`ath? Hizbullah and Iran are clearly imbued with a Muslim supremacist ideology, jihad, shari`ah, etc. But maybe Ms Paul thinks that these ideologies are "progressive" or "anti-imperialist," or "anti-post-colonial"? If so, can she explain why the United States, led by national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski [in the Carter administration], helped Khomeini take power in Iran? Should Brzezinski be considered a hero of the anti-post-colonial struggle???

    Alastair Mackay - 7/26/2006

    > Good lord! What a load of piffle. The major cause of conflict in the middle-east is due to post and neo-colonialism.

    Perceptive analysis, thanks.

    Lorraine Paul - 7/26/2006

    Good lord! What a load of piffle. The major cause of conflict in the middle-east is due to post and neo-colonialism.

    As for The Treaty of Westphalia would that it had applied for even a short time in Europe! It has gone the way of the Geneva Conventions.

    Alastair Mackay - 7/26/2006

    I read an account of a recent news interview with a Hezbollah parlamentarian in Beirut (alas, I can't find the link). He claimed Hezbollah was "surprised" by the forceful Israeli response, having expected German-brokered negotiations to lead to a prisoner exchange.

    Tactically, this may well be so--no way to know. Strategically, the objective seems to have been, "put Israel in a painful bind."

    A different possible reason not to start with larger-scale rocket attacks is to hold them back, allowing them to loom as a threat of unknown dimensions. Even now, Nasrallah talks of "surprises" in store for Israel, and he's probably not bluffing.

    Yet a third possibility is that Hezbollah's patron, Iran, wishes to time certain actions to serve its own ends, rather than pursuing a course based entirely on the situation in Lebanon.

    N. Friedman - 7/25/2006

    Maybe the idea was that Israel would be placed in a bind, not knowing whether to attack or negotiate. Or, maybe the idea was that if Israel responded by attacking, Hezbollah would claim that the Israelis attacked.

    michael Randolph stephenson - 7/25/2006

    I must admit that it is rare when I find an article with which I largely agree. Phares' assessment is a first. My only area of concern is this: why use a kidnapping as a precursor to start a war after whihc you believe that your power in the region will be enhanced. Iran and Syria (certainly the junior partner) cannot afford democracy on their doorstep. Syria is run by a Baathist regime that is no more religious than if they were communists and Iran has for years sought to dominate the region going far beyond the Shah. But why not simply use Hezbollah to fire missiles in the first place. If you believe that a general war is good for your regime's future (like Serbian nationalists believed in 1914) then why not just fire a few rockets. The kidnapping itself seems more like a sideshow.

    N. Friedman - 7/25/2006

    Alastair Mackay,

    You write: The world of the Treaty of Westphalia is dying in more and more places.

    I am not at the point where I have a theory to explain all that is now going on in the world, much less in the Arab and greater Muslim regions, which are of particular interest to me.

    I do not think that deep belief in the sanctity of the nation state system has ever played a major factor in the Arab regions or political thought. Which is to say, the Treaty of Westphalia may have less to do with this than meets the eye. Which is not to say I think you are wrong but that there are some apparent difficulties with your view.

    In Islamic theology, history brings, every 100 years or so, persons who are suppose to revive the Muslim nation (i.e. umma). We are clearly in a period of revival. Some call this period the third great Jihad, although I think such people overlook some other major jihads.

    This is also a period where there is Mahdist talk among many Muslims. In particular, there are the words of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, who speaks of the return of the hidden imam or Mahdi. The Mahdi heralds an era of great violence to restore Islam and eventually, an end of the world as we know it sort of struggle that involves Issa (i.e. Jesus) and other characters.

    In any event, the winds running through the Muslim regions are extremely violent and, to some extent, unpredictable. Things may stay that way for some time. Then again, when the revival or Mahdi talks bears no fruit and only hardship, different winds may begin to blow in the Muslim regions. We can only hope that the winds blow sooner rather than later and bring something that is less violent than what now exists.

    I tend to think that the Arab Muslim regions must be analyzed with reference to their own history. Which is to say, I think that there are some very different influences that cause things in that region than in Europe. The result may well be, as you claim, the destruction of the nation state and that is a likely possibility in the Arab and, perhaps, greater Muslim regions. What that means for the world is anyone's guess.

    Alastair Mackay - 7/25/2006

    N. Freidman,

    I find it useful to try and build understanding up from detailed accounts, rather than top-down from preexisting notions or received wisdom (though we all have those as our starting points).

    I'd suggest that ThreatsWatch and The Counterterrorism Blog have some first-rate military and political analysis, with links embedded in their articles to many other useful sources.

    Nasrallah and his sponsors have closely studied Sun Tzu and Clausewitz, and initiated this round of war with some clear goals and expectations in mind--though none of us, PK Clarke and W Phares included, can say exactly what contingencies they deemed likeliest, and planned most carefully for. Clearly, a major factor was to put Israel's leadership in a terrible bind, where Israel would lose no matter what course it took: inaction, negotiation, "proportional" response, or robust attack.

    Israel's chosen the latter, and it is plain to see the havoc it has wreaked on Lebanon, and the damage it has done to Israel itself. What is wholly hidden from my view is what alternate Israeli response would have been "less bad," in terms of the long-term responsibility of a State to provide security to its citizens.

    These events call to mind Robert Kaplan's grim Atlantic Monthly essay "The Coming Anarchy." (Eponymous and relevant blog here.) Those of us fortunate enough to live in "The Functioning Core" aren't usually confronted with The Non-Integrated Gap. Lebanon is a failed state--a place where the government is a an uneasy mix of foreigners (Syrians) and Lebanese sectarians, with Hezbollah standing out. Integrated into Parliament and the Executive, it is an Iranian-proxy NGO that was voted into power by a majority of the Shi'ite community, itself the largest plurality in the country. At the same time, it is Hezbollah and not the State that has holds the reins of power in much of Lebanon--even areas of Beirut are "no-go" for Police and Army.

    The world of the Treaty of Westphalia is dying in more and more places. It is not only Arabs and Israelis who will have to spend the 21st century dealing with the consequences of that.

    N. Friedman - 7/25/2006

    Alastair Mackay,

    It is nice to see someone so neatly take apart Mr. Clarke's bluster and ignorance.

    I do not know, one way or the other, whether there is an Iranian conspiracy. However, Professor Phares' article provides considerable insight into Hezbollah's effort to undermine the Lebanese government.

    And, clearly, Iran and Syria do not benefit from Lebanon in the Western camp. So, the good professor's theory is not all that implausible. Certainly, Professor Phares' knowledge of the workings of things in Lebanon deserves more consideration than the asinine insults that Mr. Clarke throws around to anyone who challenges the orthodox view of The Guardian newspaper (UK).

    Alastair Mackay - 7/25/2006

    It's always wise to take a skeptical view of Conspiracy Theories. They are easy to manufacture, and hard to disprove. But then, sometimes people do get together and plot under cover of darkness.

    In that regard, it might be noted--to pick one example--that Hezbollah stocks C-802 antiship missiles, and capably operated C3I facilities in choreographing a two-missile strike (one sea-skimming, one pop-up) on an Israeli frigate 16 km off the Lebanese coast.

    These missiles were not smuggled to Hezbollah against the wishes of their Iranian suppliers or Syrian transshippers. These parties facilitated their secret delivery (and the associated training and support), because they thought it was in their interests to do so.

    In this regard--again, staying narrowly focused on this one instance of technology transfer--proposing a conspiracy among Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah is hardly far-fetched. Is there a plausible explanation of this NGO's acquisition of such heavy weapons that does not involve such secret collusion?

    Alastair Mackay - 7/25/2006

    DM Cregier,

    Some additional analyses that have struck me as exceptionally well-informed:

    Bill Roggio is providing detailed commentary and maps of the IDF ground campaign at The Counterterrorism Blog. His latest report is here.

    A solid tactical analysis of the Hezbollah missile strike on the Israeli frigate is at Austin Bay's web-log; more thoughts on that subject offered by Spook86.

    From the point of view of an expert in the economies and investment opportunities in the Arab world, Lounsbury offers dyspeptic and insightful commentary at at 'Aqoul.

    The Glittering Eye)

    Lorraine Paul - 7/25/2006

    All I can say, Dr Cregier, is that you are easily pleased!

    Christopher Newman - 7/24/2006

    Wow, Louis, I'm impressed by your brilliant analysis of Dr. Phares's article. All you have to do is remind us that the board members of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies are "glassy-eyed" and "prune-faced," . . . and Dr. Phares's whole argument collapses like a house of cards.

    From now on, I guess, anyone who disagrees with you doesn't have to engage your arguments (if they exist) but only to find out who signs your paychecks. That's refutation enough, right?

    Don M. Cregier - 7/24/2006

    Although I am not in complete agreement, I must acknowledge that this is a masterful synthesis of information from many different sources and perspectives--in short, superb political journalism. It is the best "take" on the conflict that I have encountered, and was a joy to read.

    D.M. Cregier, Ph.D.
    Independent Scholar

    Louis Nelson Proyect - 7/24/2006

    If Phares sounds like a neoconservative, it is no surprise given the composition of the board of directors of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

    Steve Forbes (glassy-eyed billionaire who inherited his father's fortune)

    Dr. Jeane J. Kirkpatrick (prune-faced Reaganite)

    Jack Kemp (ex-football player)