Friday, July 21, 2006

Diplomacy and the Hounds of Hell, Part IV

Ha'aretz notes that there are now thousands of Israeli troops inside Southern Lebanon and thousands more Israelis are expected to be called up. The IAF continues to strike at rocket launch sites and infrastructure in Lebanon. This comes even as the rockets keep falling on Israel. More than 30 were hurt in Haifa when a rocket struck there.

One Israeli soldier was killed in the collision between two Israeli helicopters near Kiyrat Shimona. Three others were injured.

Hizbullah has fired at a UNIFIL position in Lebanon, although al Manar (Hizbullah's mouthpiece, says it was Israel who fired). For those who haven't been keeping track, UNIFIL is a United Nations peacekeeping force stationed along the Lebanese/Israeli border who was charged with ensuring that the border integrity was maintained and that UN SCR 1559 was implemented. Great job!

The NYT has an interesting article about how factionalized Hamas was, and how the current conflict in Gaza has galvanized the various Hamas factions.
It is difficult to say how many Palestinians are members of armed groups. Israeli intelligence officials say there are probably as many as 20,000 hard-core members of the various factions, most of which are in the Gaza Strip. But if you include freelancers who join in when the fighting picks up, intelligence officials say, the militias outnumber the 35,000 members of the Palestinian Authority security forces.

Israeli intelligence officials say the leadership of Hamas, previously split between Gaza and Syria, shifted to Damascus after the assassinations of Hamas’s charismatic leaders, Sheik Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi in 2004. Two months ago, General Eiland said, Hamas military leaders appeared to gain the upper hand.

According to the accounts of Israeli intelligence officers and senior Hamas officials, the influence of Hamas leaders in Gaza weakened further after they joined the Palestinian Authority in the wake of parliamentary elections earlier this year.

The Qassam Brigades, which is believed to have received money from Saudi Arabia until recently and now from Iran, grew in the 1990’s as a counterweight to the Aksa Martyrs Brigades of the Fatah movement, then led by Yasir Arafat.

Capt. Jacob Dallal, an Israeli Army spokesman, said that in the past few years Hezbollah had also helped underwrite some Palestinian groups and had provided technological skills.
The diplomats are coming out in force. Sec. State Rice and Kofi are meeting to discuss a French proposal for a ceasefire (my guess is it's the surrender option). EU's Javier Solana is meeting with the families of the three Israeli soldiers who were being held by Hamas and Hizbullah. The French Foreign Minister is doing the whirlwind tour of the region, and Sec. State. Rice is expected next week. Germany and Russia are trying to secure the release of the Israeli soldiers, with Germany reportedly using undercover agents to do so, but it always was more than just those soldiers. It was the invasion of Israel, the killing of other Israelis, and the ongoing terrorism against Israel from Gaza and Lebanon. Israel, meanwhile, has approved a humanitarian corridor between Lebanon and Cyprus, so that people fleeing the violence have a area of safe transit.

Not that any of this matters because Hizbullah refuses to agree to any ceasefire.

The Saudis think that an international force would be the best solution at this point. Never mind eliminating the terrorists, but stop the violence. Sure, so low-level violence can continue ad infinitum until the next major flare up. Hizbullah gets to rearm and reequip, Israel has to prepare for the next barrage of incoming rockets, and the diplomats feel good about themselves. Right.

The primary bloggers to check with are Carl in Jerusalem, Israellycool, Dave Bender, Meryl Yourish, Euphoric Reality, Pajamas Media, and Hot Air. Check back with them regularly for updates.

Fact checking Hizbullah? You bet your ass. We, and our readers, will fact check anyone.

Ed Morrissey takes a more detailed look at the NYT story about Hamas and the factions, and notes that the different factions - particularly between the military wing and the 'political wing' suggests that there is no reason to believe that a settlement could be reached unless sufficient pressure is put on Meshaal and his backers in Syria. Haniyeh isn't the key individual here.

Over on the northern border, Israel is continuing to learn about the network of underground bunkers and tunnels Hizbullah has dug into South Lebanon. Hizbullah has been preparing for this conflict for six years. To eliminate the tunnels and bunkers, Israeli special forces have to go in and identify them, which is an extremely dangerous mission and one such team was involved in a vicious firefight and suffered casualties yesterday.
In the six years since Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon, it has learned that Hezbollah was collecting a huge number of Katyusha rockets and Iranian-made missiles shipped from Syria.

But the drone planes and electronic intelligence didn't reveal what was going on underground.

To go after those fortified bunkers, Israel has begun sending special teams.

One team paid the price yesterday when it ended up in a firefight with Hezbollah in the Lebanese town of Marun a-Ras. Four Israelis were reported killed.

From the air, Israel has hit some 1,500 targets, mainly artillery arsenals and launchers.

"We are operating around-the-clock to interrupt the launching of rockets," said Air Force Brig. Gen. Benny Gantz.

He noted that only 60 Katyushas were launched at Israel yesterday, compared with 140 on Wednesday and 136 on Tuesday.

But to know where to shoot, his gunners need good information.

Former armed forces Chief of Staff Dan Shomron, who commanded the celebrated 1976 raid on Entebbe, said yesterday, "Without using ground operations to pinpoint targets and Hezbollah commanders, we will not be able to accomplish our mission in Lebanon."
Jay Tea gives a well-deserved remedial English lesson directed at the media outlets who are covering the conflict.

Fouad Ajami has a good read on the situation. He sees the Syrians and Iranians behind the 2-front war on Israel, and how the Lebanese are caught in the vise-grip, trying to spring their country from the hands of Hizbullah and Syria.
No less a figure than the hereditary leader of the Druze community, Walid Jumblatt, was quick to break with Hezbollah, and to read this crisis as it really is. "We had been trying for months," he said, "to spring our country out of the Syrian-Iranian trap, and here we are forcibly pushed into that trap again." In this two-front war—Hamas's in the Palestinian territories and Hezbollah's in Lebanon—Mr. Jumblatt saw the fine hand of the Syrian regime attempting to retrieve its dominion in Lebanon, and to forestall the international investigations of its reign of terror in that country.

Nasrallah was in the end just the Lebanese face of Hezbollah. Those who know the workings of the movement with intimacy believe that operational control is in the hands of Iranian agents, that Hezbollah is fully subservient to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

That raid into Israel, the capture of the two Israeli soldiers, was a deliberate attack against the new Lebanon. That the crisis would play out when the mighty of the G-8 were assembled in Russia was a good indication of Iran's role in this turn of events.

The Shiites are Lebanon's single largest community. There lie before them two ways: Lebanonism, an attachment to their own land, assimilation into the wider currents of their country, an acceptance of it as a place of services and trade and pluralism; or a path of belligerence, a journey on road to Damascus—and to the Iranian theocracy. By the time the guns fall silent and the Lebanese begin to dig out of the rubble, we should get an intimation of which Shiite future beckons. The Shiites can make Lebanon or they can break it. Their deliverance lies in a recognition of the truths and limitations of their country. The "holy war" they can leave to others.
AJ Strata has had enough of the diplomats and their calls for Israel to show restraint, especially Kofi Annan.

President Bush sees the current crisis in the Middle East as an opportunity to change the situation on the ground.
As the president's position is described by White House officials, Bush associates and outside Middle East experts, Bush believes that the status quo -- the presence in a sovereign country of a militant group with missiles capable of hitting a U.S. ally -- is unacceptable.

The U.S. position also reflects Bush's deepening belief that Israel is central to the broader campaign against terrorists and represents a shift away from a more traditional view that the United States plays an "honest broker's" role in the Middle East.

In the administration's view, the new conflict is not just a crisis to be managed. It is also an opportunity to seriously degrade a big threat in the region, just as Bush believes he is doing in Iraq. Israel's crippling of Hezbollah, officials also hope, would complete the work of building a functioning democracy in Lebanon and send a strong message to the Syrian and Iranian backers of Hezbollah.
Too many people, especially on the Left think that a reversion to the pre 2003 status quo would be better.

That's a revisionist misreading of history. The region was rife with terrorist attacks, Israel was hit repeatedly by the Islamic terrorists, as were US interests and assets (Khobar Towers, USS Cole, embassies, personnel, etc.). Iraq, Iran, and other countries were busy developing WMD, including nuclear capabilities. That situation was unacceptable, and the UN specifically pointed out Iraq's refusal to eliminate its WMD programs. More than a dozen times, in fact.

The regimes, all totalitarian dictatorships with a thin veneer of 'democratic elections,' all were funding terrorist groups and proxy military forces for use at the times and places of their choosing. Hizbullah had six years to build up in South Lebanon since Israel withdrew from the area in 2000. Hamas had nine months to do the same in Gaza. The regions players, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Iran are all vying to dominate the region and old ethnic and religious hatreds are shaping the conflict as well. These predate the current Administration. Indeed, they predate the establishment of the US by more than a thousand years.

Some think that more vigorous diplomacy is the solution. Again, diplomacy only works if the parties to a conflict share some common ground. Here, there is no common ground between Hizbullah (or Hamas) and Israel. Besides, how and why should anyone negotiate with terrorist groups dedicated to Israel's annihilation? No one, can come up with a satisfactory reason why negotiations are the proper route. Doing them for the sake of process or for photo opportunities is insufficent. Ending the current hot crisis doesn't eliminate the problem. It just turns a boil down to a simmer, which will boil over the moment Hizbullah or Hamas begin attacking Israel again (which will be almost as soon as the ink dries on the paper).

The Jerusalem Post reports (no link yet) that an Islamic terrorist was caught in Tel Aviv before they were able to strike. Meanwhile, the rockets keep falling in Haifa with more injuries.

The Israeli buildup of forces in Israel preparing for a mission inside Lebanon is garnering a lot of coverage.

Confederate Yankee has an eloquent posting about how Israel has had enough with the status quo of terrorists raining down missiles, seeking to drive Israel into the sea, and otherwise killing Israelis at random.

Big Pharoah, whose dad was an Egyptian general, thinks that we're on the verge of a very gruesome war (his words) if Israel decides to send in ground forces to deal with Hizbullah. A ground war will be painful, but a ceasefire with the status quo completely unacceptable - Hizbullah retains the capabilities to kill Israelis on a whim, and Israel is constrained by the international community from taking the decisive actions needed.

Tigerhawk examines the change of heart among Sunni Muslims in dealing with Iran since 2003. QandO suggests a notion of progressive realism to deal with the circumstances presented thus far in the Middle East.
The first theme will give the Left heartburn the second, the Right. Neither should, though. In both cases, the key is moderation. Democratization should not be the sole driving force of US foreign policy, nor should international institutions be the sole source of authority. But both, in moderation, make positive contributions.

The "Progressive" part of the phrase "Progressive Realism" may worry the Right, but if you look past the name, you'll find that Progressive Realism resembles nothing so much as the ultimately very effective Nixon Doctrine. Robert Wright even uses similar language — cost-sharing/free riders, reciprocal concessions, economic interconnectivity as a tool of progress, and a closer alignment of our interests with our ideals.
It calls for a reallignment of foreign policy objectives, and would bridge some of the differences between the Left and Right, but I think it still fails in one crucial area - there are no international organizations or systems that can do what needs to be done under this theory. The UN is hopelessly corrupt and incapable of taking action when needed because countries will put their own economic interests first - see China and Russia thwarting action in Darfur for a prime example.

Others blogging: Blue Crab Boulevard, Daily Pundit, and Outside the Beltway.

Turns out there were multiple terrorists caught before they were able to carry out suicide bombings. A total of three were arrested. Two were caught in one operation, and a female suicide bomber appears to have been involved. So, does that count towards a proportional response by Israel?

More than 100 Hizbullah terrorist minions have had their tickets punched.

How come no one is noting that there are quite a few refugees inside Israel as a result of the rocket fire? Many of the Israeli towns along the border are shuttered, except for a hardy few to tend to crops or herds of animals.

Many have headed South to be out of range of the rockets coming across the border.

The UN counts hundreds of thousands of Lebanese as refugees. Where is the UN count on the Israeli side of the border? After all, this latest round of fighting started with terrorists firing rockets into Israel.

Despite Israel continuing to take out Hizbullah rocket cells in Lebanon, Hizbullah continues to fire rockets into Israel, including some that hit in Haifa.

A meeting of diplomats in Rome is scheduled for July 26 to deal with the situation in Lebanon. US Ambassador John Bolton correctly notes that a ceasefire would only give Hizbullah the opportunity to rearm and reequip. That surely isn't stopping some diplomats from accomplishing just that with a return to status quo ante.

This article gives a pessimistic take on Israel's air campaign to eradicate the Hizbullah terrorists from South Lebanon. Ground forces are massing to deal with the threat, because airpower alone will not solve the problem. Among the tidbits of note:
The air force learned that lesson in Beirut as fighter-jets sought to destroy Hizbullah headquarters, Middle East Newsline reported. Officials acknowledged that 23 tons of munitions failed to penetrate the thick walls of the underground command headquarters constructed by Iran.

Indeed, the air force did not even deem the purchase of deep penetration munitions a priority. Earlier this year, Israel decided against purchasing U.S.-origin bunker-buster weapons regarded as a requirement for any air strike against Iran or Syria.
So, does this mean that the Israelis hit the Hizbullah bunker, but that the terrorists were able to survive because their Iranian designed bunker survived? This has serious ramifications for those who are tasked with planning raids on Iran and Syria in case the need arises.

Ben Stein questions what is 'disproportionate.' So does It Shines For All. Mere Rhetoric takes on Juan Cole and catches Cole lying. Go figure.

Others blogging the conflict: Jeff Goldstein, Vital Perspective, Atlas Shrugs, and Euphoric Reality.

The terror alert level in Tel Aviv has been lowered since a cell was apprehended earlier today.

Anyone else noticing lots of talk about World War III in relation to Israel's campaign against the terrorists infesting Lebanon? Meanwhile, Neo-neocon has a very good posting on Israel's newfound resolve. A sampling:
There's that metaphor again: being held hostage. And the linked Jerusalem Post article goes on to point out that Israel and its leaders (usually so fractious) are presently united behind Olmert.

Why is this? It seems to me that it's because so much else has been tried, for so very long, and been found so very wanting. If the slogan of the peace movement is "Give peace a chance," Israel can honestly say (although its enemies will never credit this, of course) "Been there, done that, many times. And it didn't work."

Another reason Olmert can stand firm is that the Bush administration is refusing to pay any more lip service to the 'peace process" as a way of dealing with terrorist entities such as Hezbollah.
Belgravia Dispatches has concerns over the diplomatic maneuverings and thinks there needs to be more engagement and less transformational diplospeak.

Others covering the conflict, the difficulties that can be expected during a ground campaign against a terrorist group firmly entrenched with six years of prep time to arrange weapons caches and bunkers: Liberty and Justice, Dan Riehl, Donald Sensing (also at Winds of Change), The Politburo Diktat, Decision 08, Cox and Forkum have another great cartoon, and Elder of Ziyon.

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