Thursday, August 05, 2010

Lebanese Soldiers: We Were Following Orders

The border skirmish along the Lebanese-Israeli border that left four people dead was initiated by the Lebanese military. That was the finding of UNIFIL, which continues its investigation.

The Lebanese representative to UNIFIL said that it was Lebanon's stated policy to respond to any violation of its sovereignty with force.

So, if that's the case, when will Lebanon's military finally disarm Hizbullah, which has carved out Southern Lebanon as a state-within-a-state where Hizbullah continues stockpiling weapons and turning the place into an armed camp under the nose of UNIFIL and the Lebanese military. Both the Lebanese government and UNIFIL are mandated to disarm all militias operating in Southern Lebanon as part of UN SCR 1701. They've failed miserably to do so. Yet, when Israel is on Israel's side of the border and has informed UNIFIL of their plan to clear brush and trees leaning on Israel's security fence, Lebanese troops opened fire.

Israel has the right to protect its sovereignty with force, and it did so by returning fire on Lebanese forces that attacked its troops.

The greatest threat to Lebanon's sovereignty isn't Israel. It's Hizbullah, which threatens to overturn the apple cart and exert its power and authority by force and all means at its disposal.

Yet, there are still people who think that Israel is somehow to blame for the incident. Juan Cole thinks that Israel should have left the tree-clearing to UNIFIL.
Couldn’t they, like, have called in the UNIFIL United Nations peacekeepers to cut down the trees? That is what UNIFIL is there for. Some trees were worth the lives of Lebanese troops and a journalist and that of an Israeli officer?

One surprising thing is that the Lebanese army showed such spunk in the face of the perceived Israeli affront. They know very well that they are vastly outgunned, and of course the Israeli military hit them with fire from helicopter gunships and artillery pieces. What made them so bold, that they shot and killed an Israeli officer over the tree removal?

Another surprise is that the secretary general of the Hizbullah party and militia, Hasan Nasrullah, called on his people to show restraint. Even so, he threatened to intervene if there was another Israeli provocation.
That's nonsense. Israel informed UNIFIL of the maintenance operation, received approval to do so at a time of UNIFIL's choosing, and yet the Lebanese opened fire on that approved project.

Moreover, it's easy to show spunk when you've set up an ambush to attack the Israelis while they were doing maintenance work. If this was a straight up fight, which it turned into, the Lebanese troops got hammered hard.

Hizbullah realized very quickly that this attack could be blamed on them, and they didn't want any part of the fight because they also know how devastating Israel's response was in the 2006 Hizbullah war. While it didn't result in victory for Israel, Hizbullah got pasted and Israel's military is notable in how it learns from its previous mistakes. Hizbullah isn't quite ready to initiate another conflict with Israel, so it is merely biding its time.

The bottom line is that Lebanon's military has to be held accountable for this incident. They refuse to enforce UN SCR 1701, but are trigger happy to go after Israel when Israel is operating on the Israeli side of the Blue Line.

Media mendacity continues apace. Various captions on photos showing Israelis working along the border where the skirmish between Israeli and Lebanese soldiers occurred makes it appear that the fighting broke out over a tree.

This from the AP:
Israeli soldiers use a mechanical grabber to cut trees in disputed land, claimed by both Israel and Lebanon near the southern village of Adaisseh, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2010. The Israeli military said it would cut more trees Wednesday in the tense border area where Israel and Lebanon fought the most serious battle between the countries in four years, touched off by a dispute over a cypress tree.
That's factually wrong.

It broke out when a Lebanese soldier opened fire on Israelis carrying out planned maintenance along the fence after consultation and notice to UNIFIL. The precipitating event leading to the deaths was the Lebanese opening fire. UNIFIL clearly stated that Israel was working on clearing brush and trees from its side of the border.

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