Friday, July 28, 2006

Israel's continuing use of force is swinging the Lebanese toward Hezbollah

Kash Kheirkhah

Israeli officials say their military campaign against Hezbollah could take weeks and that Israel will continue to strike Hezbollah targets until the captured soldiers are freed and Israelis are safe from attacks. Also, President Bush today supported Israel's continuing offensive against Hezbollah saying "Hezbollah attacked Israel. I know Hezbollah is connected to Iran. Now is the time for the world to confront this danger...Now is the time to address the root cause of the problem and the root cause of the problem is terrorist groups trying to stop the advance of democracy. Our objective is to make sure that those who use terrorist tactics are not rewarded."

President Bush's "root cause" argument is exactly what I said right from the beginning of this conflict and I'm glad the President of United States finally made an enquivocal note of Iran's role in the current crisis . The only problem here is that Israel's continuing offensive in Lebanon is beginning to hurt rather than help America's democracy obejectives in the Middle East. Take a look at the following report sent by Yahoo's Kevin Sites from the city of Tyre, Lebanon:

One man walking amid the rubble was a doctor who works at the Tyre Municipal Union, a collective of small villages and cities in the south. I had talked to him in his office earlier in the day. I asked him why he thought the building was targeted. This is an example of American democracy," Dr. Raed Ghassan said. "This was my house. I hate America. I will fight America every day, every time."

Mr Sites reports that mounting civilian casualties, is causing a gradual closing of ranks by many Lebanese behind Hezbollah.

Lebanon Profile from "Lebanese Political Journal" also writes:

Shia Lebanese, incredibly, questioned the actions of Hezbollah. Like the rest of the Lebanese, Shia asked, "Why now? Why this? Is this our battle? Why must we suffer at the exact time we hope to profit from so many years of loss and oppression? The longer the bombing went on, the less and less concerned people were for Hezbollah's actions...When the violence stops, Syria will be stronger. The West will be ever more hated for allowing this atrocious activity to continue.

The United States obviously wants to see Hezbollah neutralized before any ceasefire, but at what cost? Destruction of Lebanon? Isn't this why Baathists in Syria and mullahs in Iran helped create this mess in the first place ?

As I mentioned before, Israel's initial response was completely justified but the overwhelming military campaign that followed and so far has claimed the lives of more than 400 people on the Lebanese side seems to have lost its grounds now.

A well-trained, deeply-rooted movement like Hezbollah, that also claims to be Lebanon's "resistance force", can only be neutralized when it is delegitimized within Lebanon and by the Lebanese Government. This is only possible by the US and Israel, strengthening Fouad Siniora's hand in dealing with Hezbollah, thus paving the way for the UN's 1559 resolution that calls for the disarming of Hezbollah to be fully implemented. How can the Lebanese Government in its current status achieve such an important objective?

Also, The US and its allies should come up with practical ways (instead of making media-friendly statements) to cut the hands that feed Hezbollah and by that I don't mean military action. The right way to address the "root cause" of the current crisis is to call Both the Iranian and Syrian regimes to account through UN Security Council. Unfortunately, The focus of International community has now shifted from Iran's nuclear program and UN's Harriri assassination report--the Achilles’ heel of both regimes-- to the war between Israel and Hezbollah, relieving both Tehran and Damascus from the immense international pressures they were under.

The more this war continues, the more difficult it becomes for Mr Bush and his administration to talk of a new, prosperous Middle East. After what happened in Iraq, the Last thing the US-backed New Middle East plan needs is another "war".

Also read: NY Times-Tide of Arab Opinion Turns to Support for Hezbollah