Bible Commentator

Special Stories

Rabbi Moshe Reiss

moshereiss@moshereiss.org

THE GEOPOLITICS OF THE MID EAST – PART 1

There are three major military powers in the Mid East: Turkey, Israel and Iran. Turkey has applied to join Europe and the E.U. Iran demands the elimination of Israel; that would leave it as the superpower of Central Asia and the Mid East.  

INTRODUCTION:

Over the last year since Israel left Gaza almost 1,000 kassam rockets have been sent to Sderot and other nearby cities in Israel. Fortunately for Israel the Palestinians cannot shoot straight and the explosives are not very effective. One cannot expect that to continue. One day a school full of children will be hit. Last month Hamas (or one of its branches) invaded Israel from unoccupied and free Gaza, killed two Israeli soldiers and took another soldier hostage.  Syria harbors Khaled Meshal, the leader of Hamas (and other terrorists) fully supports its actions.

Since Israel left southern Lebanon with the approval of the United Nations six years ago numerous unguided katyusha rockets have been send to various towns in Northern Israel. They had not done fatal damage; that also can not be expected to continue. In an act of unprovoked aggression Hizbollah invaded Israel as they have done before and kidnapped soldiers. In prior events they have succeeded in getting prisoners held by Israel in exchange. Israel changed the rules of the game. They will not trade prisoners nor allow the katyusha rockets to continue; this despite over 2,200 thrown in the last two weeks. This was an act of existential aggression against Israel as a result of its leaving Lebanon. That cannot be tolerated; anymore than England could tolerate the Nazi Blitz over London and Coventry.

Proportionality is not based on body count. If Israel reaction is disproportionate what can one say of England’s fire bombing of Dresden and killing 50,000 people - in February 1945 when WWII was essentially over – Hitler committed suicide two months later. Do we need to refer to Pearl Harbor which led to Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Ten of millions of civilians were killed during WWII, this is not to complimented but to realize that civilians, both Lebanese and Israelis die in wars.

The reason Lebanon’s civilian death is much more than Israel’s is that Hizbollah’s weapons are not accurate nor effective while Israel are and Israel spends a great of effort, in advance, protecting its civilians with siren systems, bomb shelters and emergency medical care. As Nasarallah and others of his ilk have openly stated they sanctify death while Israel sanctify life.  

Several hundred thousand Lebanese and several hundred thousand Israelis have been displaced from their homes. There has been a terrible killing of innocent primarily Lebanese civilians which is greatly regrettable and will have a terrible long term impact of Israel-Arab relations.

Israel cannot afford the failed state of Lebanon on its border, any more that Central Asia could afford the failed state of Afghanistan. Lebanon and the world tolerated the growth of Hizbollah; Israel has the right and obligation to defend its citizens as did the various countries after New York (Sept. 11, 2001) Madrid (March 11, 2004) and Mumbai (July 13, 2006). Hizbollah is ideologically associated with the groups who did all this.  

Israel will degrade (although not eliminate) Hizbollah’s armed power. Sheik Nasrallah miscalculated Israel’s intentions.

The last geopolitical war took place in Europe; it began in 1914 and ended in 1989. The world faces another geopolitical war centered in central Asia with three opposing parties: The West represented in the Mid East by Americans and its allies in Iraq and Israel; the Persian Shia in Iran with its representatives in Lebanon, the Hizbollah and Iraq; and the Sunni Radical Islamists Arabs represented by Hamas, Al Qaeda and similar groups largely supported by Saudi Arabia.

Syria is an odd party to this conflict, a Sunni country with a secular government run by a minor variant Shi’a tribe – the Alawites -  associated with Shia Iran. They consider Lebanon as part of Greater Syria. The Syrian support of the largely Sunni insurgency in Iraq adds to the inconsistency. In addition its enemies include the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood and a potential Kurd minority associated with the Kurds in Iraq, Iran and Turkey. Should Iraq split into three states (as seems likely to me - http://www.moshereiss.org/columns/19_iraq.htm) the Kurds of Syria would almost certainly join the new state of Kurdistan. Syria is isolated and their only support comes from their enemies enemy.

Lebanon, the battleground, is called a ‘confessional state’ consisting of 18 religious and tribal  communities including Shia (the single largest), Druze, Sunnis and Christians (both Catholic and Greek Orthodox). Each group identifies itself first by its ethnic identity and second as Lebanese. It consequently is not a state itself but a coalition of different religious clans; many with their own army even if part of the Lebanese ‘national’ army. Three quarters of a century ago Lebanon was a majority Christian country but they have left and live primarily to Brazil.  

Lebanon is in an unfortunate position; it did not have or take the power to eliminate or reduce Hizbollah power as requested by the U.N. almost two years ago. Now Prime Minister Fuad Saniora stated that ‘Hizbollah answers to the political agenda of Teheran and Damascus (July 20). That statement obviously needed to be stated earlier.

The current proxy war was set up by Iran and Syria; the people of Lebanon are being sacrificed. In Gaza the Radical Islamists of Hamas or one of its wings chose to fight Israel fearful that peace or at least a cease fire would break out.

It is obvious by now that Israel’s conflict with Hezbollah and Hamas is part of a larger conflict largely paid for and directed by Iran and Syria and others. This may be the first battle in the Clash between the West and Radical Islam.

THE SHIA-SUNNI CONFLICT:

Are the Arab Sunni governments more concerned and frightened by Shiite Islam than it is committed to Arab unity and the Palestinian cause?

Al Qaeda’s Sunni ideology regards Shiites as heretics and profoundly distrusts Shiite groups like Hezbollah. It was Al Qaeda that is reported to have given Sunni extremists in Iraq the green light to attack Shiite civilians and holy sites. Many Al Qaeda believe the Shiites are conspiring to destroy Islam and to resuscitate Persian imperial rule over the Middle East and ultimately the world (Bernard Haykel).

The Shiites account for slightly more than 10% of the world's Muslims, but in the Mid East stretching from the eastern Mediterranean to Iran, the Sunnis and Shiites have near parity. The Shiites predominate in the oil-producing regions, Iran and Iraq and with significant minorities in the Gulf including Saudi Arabia.

In a new development the governments of Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have accused Hizbollah’s of recklessness. Last week they even endorsed the U.N. Security Resolution 1559.

King Abdallah II of Jordan, has expressed his concern about the appearance of the ‘Shi’ite Crescent’ stretching from Iran to Lebanon will tilt the balance of power in the region and is likely to threaten the Gulf countries. Egyptian President Husni Mubarak’s has noted his concern that Iraqi Shiites are Iranian loyalists. Abdulaziz Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, called Abdullah's comments "ridiculous," but the remarks resonated in Arab countries. Egypt has little interest in seeing the Assad regime collapse given the potential fallout. In the face of its own troubles with the Muslim Brotherhood, Mubarak finds little virtue in an Islamist rise in Syria.

Saudi Arabia (with 2 million Shi’ites – 15% of its population and living and working among the oil asstes) anxiously seeks the restoration to power of Syria's Sunni majority, fearing that Damascus may attempt to destabilize the Saudi peninsula if pushed too far. Riyadh seeks to counter what it considers the menace of Iranian influence and for it to retain the Sunni leadership of the Arab Middle East.  

These countries rightly fear the rising tide of Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and Iran--the forces of radicalism.

Sheik Abdullah bin Jabreen of Saudi Arabia declared it against Muslim Sharia law to support, join, or even pray for Hizbollah, writing, ‘our advice to the Sunnis is to denounce them and shun those who join them to show their hostility to Islam and to the Muslims’.

Ahmed Al-Jarallah, editor-in-chief of Kuwait's Arab Times Kuwait stated

Almost unbelievably ‘The operations of Israel in Gaza and Lebanon are in the interest of people of Arab countries and the international community.’

Many  Sunni’s accept the Arabic proverb ‘my enemies enemy is my friend. Saudi cleric Salman al-Awda has defied his government’s anti-Hezbollah position, writing on his Web site that ‘this is not the time to express our differences with the Shiites because we are all confronted by our greater enemy, the criminal Jews and Zionists.’ The Sunni Al Qaeda have of course agreed to this position. ‘These court paid muftis of the courts of Saudi Arabia and Egypt have carried out the most shameful act of all.’

That the leaders of these countries fear losing their government is clear. What is not clear is the degree to which this conflict reaches the people. Graham Fuller stated ‘These Sunni regimes are terrified that Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and even Sunni Hamas are all creating inspirational models of independent mass resistance against reigning US and Israeli power in the region.’ By the time (after the Rome conference) it became clear that the U.S. would not back a simple cease fire even these leaders  backed down. A day later (July 27) al-Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri suggested a joint Zionist-Crusader alliance.

THE TEHERAN - DAMASCUS – HIZBOLLAH AXIS:

Three men have decided to play the Israel card: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of the Islamic Republic of Iran, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, and Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hizbullah. The reason is that these members of this triple alliance are under increasing pressure both from their domestic constituencies and from international opinion. Iran and Syria despite significant differences have intersecting regional interests revolving about Israel and Iraq. After his election Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad first overseas visit was to Damascus. Was it a coincident that a suicide bomber carried out a successful attack in Tel Aviv at the same time?

Iran:

The President of Iran based on his public statements is rabidly anti-Jewish and anti-Israel. He seeks the destruction of ‘Zionist’ Israel, ‘wiping it off the map’ and the United States. His objective is the genocide of Israelis. Ayatollah Khamenei the country’s spiritual guide stated ‘The source of all human torment and suffering is the 'liberal democracy' promoted by the West’

Iran has influence from Afghanistan to the Mid East including Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and the Moqtada al-Sadr and his Shi'a party in Iraq.  

 

While the Clerics control Iran we should not forget that almost 25% of Iranians are Turkish speaking, another 10% are Kurds, and another 10-15% are Arab and other non-Persian ethnic groups. The Turkish speakers are Azens ethnically related to Azerbaijan and the Kurds would probably join Iraqi Kurdistan given a chance. (Azerbaijan is a moderate secular Islamic country having diplomatic relations with Israel.) Azens, Arabs, Kurds and Baluchis, have all staged protests in the past year as political dissent in the Iran has risen.

Ahmadinejad is under pressure to respond to the offer made by the five permanent members of the Security Council. He knows that a positive response to the offer could mark the end for his strategy of extending the Islamic Republic's influence throughout Central Asia and the Middle East. At the same time he knows that a rejection of the package could isolate his regime, bring about international sanctions and weaken his already shaky rule inside Iran.

The Ahmadinejad camp forcefully argued that Iran should enlarge the conflict and make Israel a critical and visible part of the international debate. Viewing Iran’s nuclear program in isolation only benefited the West. Only by expanding the scope of the issue could Iran find the necessary levers to defend its position.

There are moderate voices in Tehran opposed to this approach, due to the difficulties they predicted it would cause for Iran’s nuclear diplomacy. They favored former President Mohammad Khatami’s tactic of invoking the suffering of the Palestinian people and Israel’s unwillingness to make territorial concessions.

But moderates in Iran are a strange breed. Khatami recently hailed Hizbollah as ‘a shining sun that illuminates and warms the hearts of all Muslims and supporters of freedom in the world’.

The timing of this sanctioning of Hezbollah’s aggression into Israel was not coincidentally just before the G-8 meeting whose main agenda was Iran’s nuclear armament. Iran may well understand that this current conflict will further exacerbate relations between the U.S. and Europe.

Hizbollah’s power is a foothold in the Middle East heartland, which it built up as a strategic deterrent against US or Israeli military strikes on Tehran’s nuclear program. It will not give this up easily.

Syria

Syria despite almost 60% of its population being Sunni is controlled by a variant Shia Alawi clan. The Alawi’s control in Syria is based on the Assad family power, ruthlessness  and the coopting of the majority Arab Sunnis.

Under Bashar’s leadership, the country has pursued a disastrous set of policies that have rapidly led to serious international opposition. The latest and most serious of these began in fall 2004, when Bashar forced an extra-constitutional extension of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud’s term through the Lebanese legislature, a naked display of power that antagonized then Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. He resigned the government and joined the political opposition. On February 14, 2005, Hariri and twenty-one others were killed in a massive car bombing in downtown Beirut. Detlev Mehlis, head of the U.N. investigative group accused Lebanon of this murder. This led to a unanimous Security Council resolution ending Lebanese 29 year occupation of Lebanon and requiring the disarmament of Hizbollah. (http://www.moshereiss.org/columns/08_syria.htm)

Damascus is not averse to destabilizing its neighbors if doing so will diffuse Western pressure. These neighbors most notably Egypt and Saudi Arabia representing the region's Sunnis power (as well as Israel) are concerned about instability in Syria. There is simply no attractive alternative to the status quo at present and fear that a cornered Damascus could create problems of Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

Syria has stated that the U.S. needs to speak to it, Hizbollah and Iran, what it calls the ‘players on the ground’.  

Hizbollah:

The third member of the triple alliance is Hizbollah. With democracy beginning and Lebanon being economically resurrected Hizbollah extremism became increasingly isolated within the country. Its performance in Lebanon's first free democratic general election gaining only 14 seats in the 128 seat legislature was disappointing. Amal, another Shia organization has 15 seats and is run by Nabih Beri, Speaker of the Parliament for fourteen years.  Seats are based on the different ethnic/religious groups in the country. Does that represent Hizbollah support in Lebanon? Has it changed as a result of the Israeli bombing; has it radicalized the non-Shia Lebanese?

The Shia represent approximately 40% of the Lebanese population. Hizbollah controls 25% of Lebanese territory. Hizbollah ‘embassy’ in Teheran is larger that Lebanon’s. It allows Hamas to ‘rent’ space in its ‘embassy’. It is openly an Iranian agent in the Middle East. Ayatollah Khamenei is its spiritual guide, and a bridgehead for the Iranian plan to destroy Israel. Hizbollah’s spiritual enemies aside from Israel are radical Sunnis inspired by the theology propounded by Saudi Arabia.

A high-level Iranian official recently emphasized to Western diplomats in London Hizbollah’s importance to Iran: ‘Hizbollah is one of the pillars of our security strategy, and forms Iran’s first line of defense against Israel.’

According to Iranian media, the Islamic Republic has increased the size of its military advisory delegation to Hizbollah as a ‘precaution against Israeli aggression.’ This strategy includes Hizbollah created by Iran is its partner in feeding instability in Iraq and it has a role in equipping and training insurgents in Iraq. Nasrallah’s theological message comes from his late mentor Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr father of Muqtada al-Sadr, The younger Sadr is Iran’s agent in Iraq. While Iran and Syria are clearly militarily related Nasrallah and Sadr have not, so far been militarily related.

Very few people do not accept that Hizbollah began this war, even those who justify their action.

Walid Jumblatt, the Lebanese Druze leader stated ’The war is no longer Lebanon’s. . . it is an Iranian war. Iran is telling the United States: You want to fight me in the Gulf and destroy my nuclear program? I will hit you at home, in Israel. . . . We had been trying for months, to spring our country out of the Syrian-Iranian trap, and here we are forcibly pushed into that trap again.’ Saad al-Hariri, son of the assassinated former Prime Minister said ‘These adventurers put us in a difficult situation because of their irresponsible adventurism.’

Nasrallah and his Teheran masters have overplayed their hand. Israel representing the West took full advantage of the situation. Israel is obliquely threatening to enlarge the conflict attempting to obtain the cessation of logistical, financial and military support by Iran and Syria to radical Islamic groups in Lebanon and in the Palestinian Territories. Israel could destroy Basher’s regime but result would be a replay of the fall of Saddam in Iraq. The degrading of Hizbollah and consequently of Syria may have a moderating impact on Iran.

Hizbollah and Iran while committed to the Palestinian cause, do not believe in a peace between Israel and Palestine. If Israel and the Palestinians were to reach a peace agreement, Hizbollah would oppose it. It will continue to fight Israel, and will threaten the fragile stability such an agreement achieves.

Sheik Nasrallah has evoked his party’s claim to a holy mandate. “You are fighting the sons of Muhammad and Ali and Hassan and Hussein and all the prophet’s household,” he told the Israelis in a recorded message broadcast on the group’s satellite television station, Al Manar.

PALESTINE AND HAMAS:

Israel's relations with the Palestinians are utterly different than the Hizbollah situation. The Israelis and Palestinians must live together. Our fates cannot be separated. The moderates on both sides have a clear interest in reaching a compromise.  Both sides know that our conflict cannot be resolved by force. Each side has its zealots who are certain God promised them the same land.

Hizbollah's deadly attack this week impels the great majority of Israelis to view the two fronts as one, both constituting threats to Israel's existence. It is likely to postpone to the indefinite future a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh was perhaps beginning to show relative moderation, because he is obligated as a government to run schools and hospitals, paying wages to state employees and providing security for the Palestinians.

Khaled Meshaal, who observes events from his home in Syria, sees Palestinian politics from a different angle. He believes that the more Hamas stays in government, the more it will be reduced as a terrorist movement. He believes in brinksmanship with Israel, and eventual radicalization of all Palestinians. He does not really belief in a peace process. His position is in fact close to Nasrallah’s.

(http://www.moshereiss.org/special/17_hamas.htm)

CONCLUSION:

Most Arabs states (if not the ‘street’) refuse to be dragged into a war with Israel. Moreover, most Lebanese (despite their current anger at Israel) do not see why they should risk the destruction of their country solely to allow Hizbollah to remain a state within a state.

From a geopolitical point of view, a cease fire after the degrading of Hizbollah, a robust seriously armed multiparty armed force separating Israel from Lebanon and the rebuilding of Lebanon would be a serious strategic loss for Iran.  According to Nasser Hadian, an expert at  Tehran University ‘this was God’s gift to Israel, Hezbollah gave them the golden opportunity to attack.’.

For Syria, it means that its position toward Israel will be weaker than it is now. A weakened position would damage Syria's future negotiations with Israel on the return of the Golan Heights. For Iran, an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement could lead toward a pacification of relations between Israel and the Arab states. Moreover, Iran wants to retain Hezbollah as a potential instrument against other Arab regimes. The Iranian leadership wants to continue to demonstrate Shi'a friendship with the Palestinians and other Sunni underclasses. It is a weapon to assist Iran's search for a more prominent role in the Middle East.

That is why Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and even the PLO have condemned Hizbollah. Saudi Arabia stated ‘A distinction must be made between legitimate resistance and uncalculated adventures undertaken by elements inside Lebanon and those behind them.’

Rachel Bronson of the Council on Foreign Relations believes the ‘Saudis are truly worried about the Iranians. They think Ahmadinejad is a nut who represents a return to messianic Khomeinism. They don’t know what he wants, and they’re worried about the nuclear program’.

These states clearly do not want Iran to dominate the Middle East.

The day after Saudi Arabia’s statements noted above Ali Larijanii, the  Iranian Supreme National Security chief went off to Riyadh for consultations with King Abdullah. Did Iran see the results in Lebanon as its possible future?

While many have doubted that Israel can defeat Hizbollah Sami Moubayed, a Syrian and very anti-Israeli writer (Asia Times, Washington Post and Lebanon Daily Star) concedes the possibility. He believes Israel may well ‘push Hezbollah back into the Lebanese heartland, and lobby for UN peacekeeping troops on the Lebanese-Israeli border. With that done, Hezbollah would have no battleground from which it could launch a war on Israel. Its arms would be useless. It would have no choice but to transform into a 100% political party in the Lebanese political system, with no military agenda. If the US continues to place full support behind Olmert, this very well might be the last military battle of Hezbollah.’

Perhaps. If Israel fails to stop Hizbollah from lobbing katyusha’s toward Israel a war with Syria is a certainty and Iran getting involved a likelyhood.

Given the results of the Gaza disengagement and the Lebanese withdrawal Prime Minister Olmert’s plan for further unilateral disengagement in the West Bank has been postponed if not permanently eliminated. Unilateralism was probably logical but not realistic. That is the problem of the Middle East. As the Arab League stated the peace process is dead; perhaps for a decade or more.

Israel is determined to change the status quo! Israel had little choice; but the result may be postponing a peaceful future for a very long time.

Everyone wants to go to basic causes. Timothy Garton Ash of Oxford University traces the beginning of this current war to European anti-Semitism. He quotes Theodore Herzl as stating ‘What made me a Zionist was the Dreyfus trial’.

“http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,1831149,00.htmlan”

SHOULD ISRAEL EXPAND THE WAR INTO SYRIA? GEOPOLITICS – PART 2

INTRODUCTION:

This war may be one of the defining stages in the Clash of Civilizations between radical militant Islam and the West. The Mid East is a critical stage of this war.

The War began on Sept 11, 2001; the first battle began in Afghanistan against the Taliban but that was an incomplete victory; the Taliban are returning. The current conflict is in the geographic center the Arab Mid East between Turkey at the European end and Egypt, Libya and the Magreb [Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia] at the Northern African end. The Arab culture is where Radical Islam began and the Mid East is its center.

Europe may have many decades until Radical Islam becomes a real danger; for Israel the danger is immediate.

Europe has a pacific attitude towards the world based on Europe history of the twentieth century. When the Mid East becomes Europe-like it too can afford pacifism; we are not there yet.

Unilateral Land for Peace has become Land for War in two separate cases; Gaza and Southern Lebanon. Land exchanges in the future will have to be Bilateral.

The U.S. response to Sept. 11 was to destroy the government of Afghanistan; was that proportionate? The only reason Israel should not destroy the government of Lebanon is the next government could be worse. Whether that is true of Syria remains problematical.

Major Arab states were quietly happy that Hezbollah and its Iranian patrons might be dealt a heavy blow. They still are; only Arab Culture requires there opposition to any Israeli victory. They have finally understood that Hizbollah representing Radical Islam and its imperial aims. Hezbollah's rockets are a foretaste of what they too might expect if Tehran gets a nuclear bomb.

NON–STATE ACTORS – THE POLITICAL/TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS:

Hamas and Hizbollah – fighting Israel are a combination of Political, Social Service organization and Terrorist organization. In Egypt and Jordan the Muslim Brotherhood ( the founders of Hamas) have seats in their respective Parliaments and essentially have after being defeated by powerful governments, given up their terrorist arms at least temporarily. One must be concerned about these Janus faced political-terrorist organizations.

This entire Radical Islamist program began with Saudi Arabia creating Mosques and Madrasses (religious schools) propagating intolerance and suggesting holy wars in Central Asia, Southeastern Asia, Europe and America. It is not a coincidence that 15 of the 19 suicide bombers in 9/11 were Saudis.

    

There is a difference between fundamentalists who themselves are involved in Violence and those like Saudi Arabia who have theologically supported and financed violence but do not act violently themselves. Both oppose any form of secularism, modernity and democracy. In terms of Saudi Arabia the chickens have come home to roost.

The crisis between Israel, Palestine and Lebanon is not merely a conflict between two states, but is a more complicated question involving states  and non-state actors -- Hezbollah, Hamas and other Palestinian militant factions. It is in Iran's and Syria's interests to support these armed groups -- especially Hezbollah -- but if Israel threatens to expand the war to include Syria the support could weaken.

LEBANESE POLITICS:

There are three Lebanon’s; Christian Lebanon, Sunni Lebanon and Shi’a Lebanon. For the first Lebanon ‘the Party of God’ is ‘the Party of the Devil’, for the second Lebanon Hizbollah has ruined Lebanon. (Sami Moubayed, Asia Times Aug. 3) . The first Lebanon wants to progress into modernity, the third Lebanon revert into medievalism. It is totally unclear what the result of the Israeli/Hizbollah war will have of the three Lebanon’s.

Walid Jumblatt, the Leader of the Druze has stated his disagreement, but his minority position (8 Parliamentary seats) makes him less important than the Christians with their 64 seats (half of the {Parliament, but divided into six different groups) and the other Shia political party (Amal) led by Nabih Beri having 15 members; Hizbollah has 14 seats. The spiritual guide of Nasrallah is Ayatollah Khamemei, the leader of Iran while Beri’s guide is the moderate Ayatollah Sistani on Iraq.  Beri’s acts as spoksman for Nasrallah. The Christians have not yet stated their position.

Sheik Hassan Nasrallah is the War Lord who controls much of Southern Lebanon. He has stated that it is good that all the Jews gathering in Israel is that "it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide". In this he follows Iran’s President Ahmadinejad. This makes Hizbollah an existential threat to Israel and Jews world wide. Nasrallah met with the Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani who is in charge of Nuclear negotiations for Iran in the week of July 25, no doubt to discuss the war. Most commentators believe Iran approved the kidnapping of the Israeli soldiers.

Nasrallah has called Israel a ‘A Spider's Web’. Some have described that as meaning sophisticated and complex, but also fragile and easily destroyed through the soft underbelly of a society that cannot tolerate soldier's deaths. Israelis who sanctities life rather than death have become Black Widow Spider’s.  

The Shia are the largest of the 18 ‘confessional’ groups in Lebanon and could have gained control of Lebanon politically over time. But like Arafat Nasrallah preferred to fight wars (and follow Iran’s needs) rather than run a country.

Nasrallah who will undoubtedly claim victory will like Arafat be another failed Arab hero – what did Arafat accomplish for his own people – the Palestinians? After losing six wars the future Palestinian state gets smaller and smaller, yet the Arabs keep claiming victory. That is the Arab Culture we have written about before (unfortunately I have not been able to include that yet in my website.)

By concealing rockets in the homes of ordinary citizens, by having its fighters dress like civilians and operate out of civilian areas, and by preventing large numbers of people from moving out of battle zones Hizbollah knows that civilians will be struck. They are guilty of War Crimes. Unable to stop Israel on the battlefield, it is relying on the psychological impact of civilian death and destruction on the nightly news all over the world to reach its goal.

CEASEFIRE

A Security Council package is expected to include the following:

1. A Cease fire-

2. Multi National Force (MNF) - Hezbollah would agree to withdraw its armed fighters from south Lebanon and accept an international force there that would accompany the Lebanese army. Israel, for its part, would agree to halt its attacks and lift its air and sea blockade.

3. Negotiations over the return of a disputed territory known as Shebaa Farms, claimed by Lebanon even though the United Nations ruled in 2000 that it was Syrian. That much be approved by Syria.

4. An exchange of prisoners as part of this package: Hezbollah would give up the two Israeli soldiers it captured in the July 12 border raid that started the crisis; Israel would release Lebanese prisoners it holds.

The last two items involve some degree of acceptable blackmail.

Will Hezbollah agree – it is unlikely? If not a there will be no MNF; everyone remembers what Hizbollah did to the 300 American and French soldiers in 1983. Israel will agree to cease fire only after the MNF is in place. How will Israel react to continued rearming from Syria?

Syria has already stated that ‘This force would occupy southern Lebanon, and it would be assigned the mission of wiping out the Lebanese national resistance, on Israel's behalf’. (Editorial in Syrian government ‘Al Ba’th’ newspaper, July 31)

IRAN AND SYRIA

Lebanon and the Palestinians can be seen as pawns in a regional balance power game, although there is of course a real Palestine/Israel Conflict. Iran and Syria are the external powers most involved in the crisis. Tehran strongly supports Hezbollah in order to increase its own role in the region. It does not want peace between the Arabs and Israel and wants to use the current crisis to avoid any sort of agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Using Hezbollah and Hamas' hard-line faction against Israel, Tehran sends a clear message to Washington on what its allies in the region are capable of. Tehran is also using the crisis to draw attention away from its nuclear program.

Nevertheless, neither Syria nor Iran want a military conflict with Israel. Olmert understands this reality, and Israel's harsh response toward Lebanon is a clear message to Tehran and Damascus. By threatening to enlarge the conflict, Israel is attempting to obtain the cessation of logistical, financial and military support by Syria and Iran to radical Islamic groups in Lebanon and in the Palestinian Territories.

IRAN

The Hizbollah/Israel war began as the G-8 were meeting in St. Petersburg with their main agenda being Iran and its nuclear armaments.

On July 25, "Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said ... Israel is pushing the region into utter chaos," warned the July 15 editorial in the Foreign Ministry daily Tehran Times, warning that America's backing for Israel "will harm the whole world, from exacerbation of the global security situation to undermining the world economy". .  [Its] survival depends on creation of crises and unrest in the Middle East region," Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency reported. On the same day, "Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi said that the United States has thrown the region into chaos to reach its ultimate goal of the new Middle East," again according to IRNA.

On Monday, July 31, 2006, as war raged in Israel’s northern border with Lebanon the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution (1696) that gives Iran until Aug. 31 to suspend its uranium enrichment and nuclear fuel reprocessing activities or face possible economic sanctions.

The resolution, passed by a vote of 14-1 (Qatar was the opposition vote) , marks the first time that the Security Council has made legally binding demands on Iran, with a threat to consider sanctions, regarding its nuclear program. The resolution demands that Iran "suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development." If Iran does not comply by Aug. 31, the Security Council would consider taking "appropriate measures" under a section of the U.N. Charter that allows the imposition of economic and diplomatic sanctions to deal with threats to international peace.

Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, Javad Zarif, promptly rejected the resolution, saying it lacked any legal basis. "Iran's peaceful nuclear program poses no threat to international peace and security and therefore dealing with this issue in the Security Council is unwarranted and void of any legal basis or practical utility," Zarif told the council, Reuters news agency reported. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a news conference yesterday that such a resolution was unacceptable and that Iran has the right "to take advantage of peaceful nuclear technology,"

Is this all a coincidence?

On the one hand, the quest for nuclear weapons represents Iran's reach for modernity via the power symbol of the modern state; at the same time it continues its fervent religious extremism that has kept the Arab Middle East in the Middle Ages for centuries.

The other problem that Iran is a key player and can influence the stabilization of  Iraq'. Are they telling Washington they can destabilize Iraq with Moqtada al-Sadr and his Shi'a party and militia in Iraq as they are doing in Lebanon? The answer may well be the division of Iraq into three separate countries. (http://www.moshereiss.org/columns/14_iraq.htm and

 http://www.moshereiss.org/columns/19_iraq.htm) I suggested this as the best and likely result many months ago.

SYRIA

Syria continues to cause trouble in Iraq as well as Lebanon. On the other hand Syria has kept the peace with Israel on its own border.

Syria, more than Iran, has an interest in avoiding military conflict with Israel because Damascus' geo-strategic position is weaker than Tehran's. Unlike Iran, Syria has a direct frontier with Israel. Additionally, they are in a weaker position domestically than the Tehran government. Tehran is concerned with Syria's weaknesses because it could affect its own regional position. Should Syria and Hizbollah fail Iran will be compelled to pursue a softer approach toward its expansionist geo-political strategy.

Damascus, through its support of militant groups fighting Israel, wants to deflect international pressure away from its regime. It is attempting to foment sectarian strife in Lebanon in order to reclaim its influence over that country. President Bashar al Assad wants to reduce Syrian internal divisions and unify the country against an external enemy. In the long run Syrian diplomatic relations with Israel all are based on the return of the Golan Heights. They seems a long way in the future.

Is Regime Change in Syria necessary to sole the Northern problem?

Efraim Inbar of the Begin Center believes ‘Subduing Syria is the key to resolving the Lebanese crisis, to rolling-back Hizballah, and to weakening Iran and its radical Islamist influence in the Middle East.’

In 1998 Turkey fighting its war against its Kurds threatening with military might to invade Syria to stop the Kurdish support. Bashar’s father acceded to the Turkish demand. Can Israel do the same? Perhaps Israel should warn Syria that if they continue to rearm Hizbollah after the cease fire they will start bombing military air bases and the tanks on the Syrian side of the border?

Should Hizbollah bomb Tel Aviv as threatened by Nasrallah an attack on Syria is a certainty.

CONCLUSION

Will Hizbollah – and Iran - emerge strengthened from this conflict or be weakened?

An effective draw in the present hostilities would be perceived in the Middle East as a spectacular success for Hezbollah, and it would contribute greatly to Iranian prestige. The dangers of such an outcome cannot be overstated: Growing self-confidence in Tehran could further encourage Iranian interference in Iraq or even entice the mullahs to reach out to the Shia minority in Saudi Arabia. Most disturbingly, it could jeopardize any chance that the West might convince Iran to suspend its nuclear program.

Hizbollah and Iran are being weakened by this war. Hizbollah has so far sustained losses far greater than those to which it admits. Its basic infrastructure has been mauled, and it has almost certainly concealed the deaths of senior commanders in the field.

After the Israeli operation got into full swing, Hizbollah realised the full significance of what was happening and appreciated that the final outcome of this war could ultimately be involuntary disarmament under unfavorable conditions. This is an outcome that Hizbollah is not prepared to accept, as it would mean the end of the movement, and a return to the time of old, when the Shi'a of Lebanon were reduced to the status of second-class citizens.

The current war is therefore a matter of survival for Hizbollah. Israel is already occupying Maroun al-Ras, a village just north of the border, and is working with a view to taking Bint Jbeil, a town of 30,000 inhabitants. It would be utterly humiliating from Hizbollah's point of view if Israel managed to consolidate its position and reoccupy a part of Lebanon.

Meanwhile, the group has been forced to accept a plan put forward by Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora intended to lead to its eventual disarmament. Its missile launches--designed to provoke fear in northern Israel--have not weakened the resolve of the Israeli public to see the war through. Nasrallah has acknowledged that morale within his group is suffering. His decision to fire missiles with escalating payloads and greater range deeper and deeper into Israel could be seen as an act of hubris on his part, but I suspect it is instead an act of desperation. Hezbollah's long-range missiles are its weapons of last resort. Once they are launched, and once Israel has withstood them and continued to fight, Nasrallah will have no other cards left to play.

Negotiation with Syria and--especially--Iran may be the only way to achieve the results that Israel needs from this war.  

The problem is not Israel, Lebanon or Syria; the problem is Radical Islam represented by Hizbollah and Hamas. They are not interested in peace between the West and Islam. The New Middle East can only come after the defeat of the Old Middle East. Israel is fighting the West’s war.

Spengler (Asia Times)

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/HF06Ak03.html

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/HH01Ak01.html

GEOPOLITICS OF THE MID EAST – PART 3

WHO WON THE WAR: PERCEPTIONS OF VICTORY

Basil Liddell Hart said ‘the balance between victory and defeat turns on mental impressions and only indirectly on physical blows’ (Quoted by Alun Benn and Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz, Aug. 11)

Haaretz columnist Ari Shavitt believes Israel‘s Prime Minister’s war failed and he should resign (Aug. 11).

Haaretz columnist Akiva Elder believes Israel’s Prime Minister’s war succeeded and he should remain (Aug. 14).

Yossi Klein Halevi of The New Republic and Shalom Center in Jerusalem stated ‘However hard Ehud Olmert tries to spin it, the U.N. ceasefire that began yesterday is a disaster for Israel and for the war on terrorism generally’.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the owner of Hezbollah, called the U.N. ceasefire ‘a Zionist document’.

INTRODUCTION:

If on July 11 Hezbollah, an openly armed militia and enemy of Israel had largely left Lebanon south of the Litani River so that the vast majority of the short range Katyusha rockets could no longer reach major Israeli cities and towns and a Lebanese army of 15,000 soldiers assisted by 15,000 soldiers primarily European - Multi National Force (MNF) - were to take over security of Southern Lebanon Israelis would consider it a miracle; no doubt the Rabbis could claim credit.

 

Parts of these has happened after a five week war and a U.N. Security Council Resolution (1701) calling for the MNF and for Hezbollah's disarmament, the forbidding of its rearmament (by Iran and Syria) and the ‘unconditional release’ of two Israeli soldiers without calling for a quid pro quo prisoner exchange. It is unclear how many of these can be implemented but some are already. “http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/HH15Ak02.html”

The Lebanese government in combination with the MNF may limit armed Hezbollah bands from parading in Lebanon south of the Litani. The danger of Hezbollah sending Katyushas into Northern Israel will have diminished. There was a cost to Israel; a limited number of Israeli civilian and military deaths (167) and several hundred thousand Israeli civilians living for a month under the fear of bombing. It also resulted in almost 1000 dead Lebanese civilians, 600 or so Hezbollah soldiers and a great deal of damage to the Lebanese infrastructure and economy. Probably one million civilians lived for a month under the fear of bombing. Many of their homes were destroyed.

There is no doubt that the majority of Arabs and especially those in Southern Lebanon believe that Hezbollah was victorious despite almost 30,000 buildings and the countries infrastructure being destroyed. Hezbollah will claim victory despite hundreds of their soldiers being killed and their army and arms being diminished. This is based on the Arab definition of victory which I will discuss in a moment.

HEZBOLLAH:

As I noted in my two previous articles this war is really between the West representing modernity and Iran representing Radical Islamic theology for control of the Mid East. Europe with its large Muslim populations and perhaps of that that does not seem yet to recognize the dangers of Radical Islam despite the bombing in Madrid and London. Many Sunni autocracies and monarchies in the Mid East reject both the West and its modernity and Iran and its theology. In the current war Israel represents the West and Hezbollah represents Iran.

When Hezbollah killed eight soldiers and kidnapped two Hezbollah it did not expect the Israel response nor did Israel expect the counter attack on its cities. As the nineteenth century military strategist Helmuth von Moltke noted ‘No battle plan survives contact with the enemy’.

Hezbollah has not been defeated, but it has been degraded and its leaders will think twice before provoking Israel.

Nasrallah is another Yassar Arafat claiming to be Saladin; but Saladin actually conquered Jerusalem. He was not a false hero. In many Arabic newspapers he has been compared to Nasser.  What have Nasser, Arafat or Nasrallah conquered?

An Arab Israeli, Ayman Sikseck write Nasrallah a letter. ‘I'm curious to know if you understand that the ostentatious operation in which you abducted the soldiers has cost Lebanon more than 500 civilian casualties at the time of the writing of this letter. You didn't know whom you were dealing with, Mr. Nasrallah. You wanted to "show off your manliness" and catch the Israeli army with its pants down, but you didn't know you were stepping on the very sensitive toes of an establishment that has to prove its manhood at any price, be it the destruction of infrastructure, the elimination of wanted militants, or outright killing, as occurred in the village of Qana. . . . I'm not sure who I want to win this war, Mr. Nasrallah: the government that kills Lebanese and apologizes, or the organization that kills Israelis and apologizes.’ (Haaretz Aug. 12)

In 1948 and 1967 the Arabs claimed they were defeated as a result of treason by fellow Arabs. Arabs celebrate the 'victory' of the 1973 war, though it resulted in yet another stunning and catastrophic defeat for the Arab armies. In 1991, Saddam Hussein's army was driven out of Kuwait in a humiliating manner, but that did not prevent him and his regime from celebrating annually their alleged victory over the US-led coalition forces. After all he sent a dozen or so rockets into Israel. Nasrallah will be a bigger hero he sent thousands of rockets in Israel and killed dozens of civilians.

Despite being in jail it would be no surprise if he claimed that he had won that war too.

In every Arab rejection from the Peel Report in 1938 to the U.N. Partition Plan in 1947, to the 1967 Six Day War to Olso, to the Camp David-Taba negotiations the Palestinians have lost more territory that will Never be returned. Refugees from each war are in U.N. Camps Never to return to Israel while the Arab states of Lebanon, Syria and Saudi Arabia refuse to give them citizenship – Jordan is the exception to this cruel Arab game. Israel on the other hand invites all Jews (defined as having one Jewish grandparent – Hitler’s definition) to become immediate citizens in its country. (Millions of Germans were expelled from Czech after WWII and were welcomed into Germany.)

Syrian President Bashar Assad congratulated Hezbollah yesterday for what he described as their success in ‘defeating Israel.’ The Ayatollah Khamenei stated, ‘It's a divine victory. It is a victory of Islam.’

Zuheir Aboud, writing in the London-based Elaph online magazine, has asked: "Why do the Arabs always boast of their defeats?"

Asymmetry has entered the dictionary as a description of war between unequal parties. But it is also a value system; despite the death of your enemy including civilians, terrorists can simply claim victory by throwing one more missile against Israel. Dead civilians and soldiers are called martyrs. That is the way Hamas claimed to won the intifada, but Israelis continued to live fairly normal lives in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. So who did win the second intifada? Hamas can claim victory but what did they win?

Arabs have a strange sense of victory and hospitality.

Despite the current backing of the Arab League – dictated perhaps by the Arab Street – it is clear that Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt did not favor the claimed Shia victory and the destruction and possible Civil War that will ensue in Lebanon. The Saudi’s did call Hezbollah ‘uncalculated adventures’ not ‘resistance fighters’. It is interesting that no mass crowds of Sunnis have demonstrated in any Sunni country against Israel.

Hezbollah is more than a militia or terrorist group; it is actually an armed State within the failed State of Lebanon. It has guided Missiles (and not just unguided rockets – Katyushas), it has a disciplined well trained well armed military including antitank weapons, Semtex plastic explosives, satellite communication systems, unmanned air drones and controls territory. They are the best army Israel has ever faced.

After the war Hezbollah will go on the offensive to refocus the anger of its supporters away from its own responsibility for the disaster and toward its domestic foes. They will certainly not admit that their irresponsible action allowed the Israelis to respond and destroy their own people’s homeland.

Nasrallah told Al Jazeera in an interview broadcast a week after the conflict began: ‘‘If we succeed in achieving the victory . . . we will never forget all those who supported us at this stage. . . . As for those who sinned against us . . . those who made mistakes, those who let us down and those who conspired against us . . . this will be left for a day to settle accounts. We might be tolerant with them, and we might not.’’

While Hezbollah’s military power has undoubtedly been reduced its political power has improved. Hezbollah’s ability to spend an almost unlimited amount of money from Iran to reconstruct homes and supply social services in Southern Lebanon will make it appear as a Phoenix. Within one week after the cease fire began Hizbollah was giving $12,000 in cash to each person whose home was destroyed. Nasrallah  believes he is the new King of Lebanon with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the kingmaker. Whether that will be acceptable to the majority non-Shia Lebanese remains to be seen.

LEBANON

The Cedar revolution and U.N. Security Resolution 1559 required Syrian forces to leave Lebanon and Hezbollah to be disarmed; the first was accomplished the second not. However it is now obvious that Hezbollah, a proxy of two foreign powers – Iran and Syria – could and did bring Lebanon into a war without the approval of the Lebanese government. How will the non-Shia majority of the country react to Hezbollah’s actions? For them the Cedar revolution was a chance to enter the modern world. Hezbollah has no interest in joining the modern world and have at best delayed it for a decade if not the longer.

Hezbollah’s arrogance has created destruction in Lebanon and possibly a new Lebanese civil war whose result is unknown. Will Lebanon become a relatively democratic state, an Islamic Republic, divide into two – the South dominated by Shia and the north by Christians and Sunnis or become like Iraq?

Regardless of the current anger over Israel the Lebanese Christians and Sunnis will realize that Hezbollah acted as part of Iranian Shia plan to take over the Middle East. Michael Young Opinion Editor of Lebanese Daily Star wrote that ‘there was much criticism of Hezbollah [in the Sunni, Christian and Druse communities] and there is also quite a bit of fear [of] Hezbollah. (Interview in Council on Foreign Affairs, Aug. 17) For the Christians and Sunnis who prayed to enter the twenty first century Hezbollah is a fifth column representing a way backward to medievalism.

Syria one of Hezbollah’s main backers after killing former Prime Rafik Hariri and many other civilians backed Hezbollah’s adventure into Israel. Hezbollah destroyed the famed Cedar Revolution.

It is unclear as yet what will happen in relations between Israel, Lebanon and Hezbollah except that they will be different.   

To see Lebanon claim to victim status see http://www.tnr.com/docprint.mhtml?i=w060807&s=behe080706

Lebanon will attempt to limit Hezbollah to a political party with the help of new U.N. forces. If it fails their may well be a civil war in Lebanon.

If the Lebanese government stabilizes itself Hezbollah and Iran lose. This will have an effect of the nuclear negotiations with Iran to begin at the end of August. Because of this Iran may consider a civil war in Lebanon a better alternative.

Will Hezbollah attempt to gain control over Lebanon and if so will this cause a civil war?

It is doubtful that Lebanon (like Humpty Dumpty) can be put back together.

ISRAEL

Despite the two kidnapped soldiers not yet being returned there can be little doubt that Israel’s security situation improved from July 11. Syria no longer has a significant military power base in Southern Lebanon and Hezbollah not being on the border is not in the position to kidnap Israeli soldiers again.

Israel despite 4,000 katyushas thrown at it survived the worst Hezbollah could throw at it as they had previously survived the suicide bombing intifada.

On June 25,  2006, the  Hamas military  wing  used  a tunnel months  in the  making to surprise an Israeli post on the Gaza  border, abducting  a wounded  soldier named  Gilad Shalit. Israel reacted by having its soldiers invade Gaza that it has evacuated almost a year earlier. A deal almost certainly would have been struck negotiated by Egypt and approved by PLO President Abbas and the Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh but the Hamas leader-in-exile Khaled  Meshaal, resident in Damascus, vetoed it. The end result of this is still uncertain.

When on July 12 Hezbollah thinking Israel had its eye on Gaza killed eight Israeli soldiers, kidnapped two and sent some Katyushas into Israel. Israel finally reacted with massive retaliation.

The bulk of the Israelis felt the war was forced on Israel. Even Yariv Oppenheimer, the secretary general of Peace Now, stated ‘We’re a left-wing Zionist movement, and we believe that Israel has the legitimate right to defend itself,” Mr. Oppenheimer said. “We’re not pacifists. Unlike in Gaza or the West Bank, Israel isn’t occupying Lebanese territory or trying to control the lives of Lebanese. The only occupier there is Hezbollah, and Israel is trying to defend itself.’

Given the Katyushas and the Kassams it appears that Israel’s hopes of unilaterally ensuring its security by walling itself off from resentful neighbors is not a successful strategy. The next steps need to be bilateral.

Hezbollah and Iran consider that Israel is occupying Arab-Palestinian land as bin Laden considers that Christian Spain occupies Andalusia. Jews have nowhere else to go, Israel’s is a Jewish State. The war will not end until Radical Islam is defeated by the West.

CONCLUSION:

It is interesting to read others views of the purpose of the war.

Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, in the Asia Times holds that Israel wanted to annex Southern Lebanon despite withdrawing six years ago.

Another Edward Littwak (former National Security Council) stated that Israel wanted to tell Washington that those holding back on bombing the nuclear facilities in Iran for fear of Hezbollah’s bombing Northern Israel; that Israel would survive that. This is consistent with Seymour Hersh’s article in the New Yorker magazine. According to Hersh he was told by a State Department officer that the White House wanted to strip  ‘Hezbollah of its missiles, because, if there was to be a military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities, it had to get rid of the weapons that Hezbollah could use in a potential retaliation at Israel’ (Aug. 21). That deterrent is no longer available to Iran as Hezbollah long range missiles were destroyed and it could not destroy Lebanon a second time and retain any credibility.

When very shortly the nuclear issue resurfaces Iran will no longer have Hezbollah as a weapon against Israel if the U.S. and the West should economic sanctions or even America contemplates a military strike. The threat to Israel has already been used.

Since it is now obvious that Hezbollah will not be disarmed another war between Israel and Lebanon is possible if not probable.

Does the fact that Iran gave guided missiles to Hezbollah and supported suicide bombers even when Hamas stopped suggest they might give nuclear arms – if they had them - to a group like Hezbollah. If Iran refuses to observe the UN resolution on enriching uranium George Bush may very well bomb them before he departs as US President.

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/HF06Ak03.html

The Mullahs in Iran, in Iraq and in Lebanon control events. The Mid East is in a transitional period. The end result is unknown! The Old Mid East is dying; until it is dead a New Mid East cannot arise!

Israel will continue to be surrounded by Arab states too weak to destroy it but strong enough to create trouble. Radical Islam objective is the genocidal destruction of Israel as a stepping stone to defeating the West. As they see it a Jewish state does not belong in an Arab region, a Western country does not belong in a Muslim region, and democracy does not belong in a region full of despotism and religious fanaticism.

It is Radical Islam that must be defeated and that will take decades. Moderate Islamists do not seem able to defeat their medieval oriented co-religionists. Judaism and Christianity have done; so perhaps there is hope.

As Pastor Martin Niemoller during WWII wrote ‘First they came for the Communists but I was not a Communist - so I said nothing. Then they came for the Social Democrats, but I was not a Social Democrat - so I did nothing. Then came the trade unionists, but I was not a trade unionist. And then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew - so I did little. Then when they came for me, there was no one left who could stand up for me.’

The state of Israel is the first that Radical Islamist wish to destroy, but it is not the last.

GEOPOLITICS OF THE MID EAST – PART 4

We are going away until after Rosh Hashona (Jewish New Year).

Hezbollah Didn't Win: Arab writers are beginning to lift the veil on what really happened in Lebanon.

BY AMIR TAHERI

Friday, August 25, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT

The way much of the Western media tells the story, Hezbollah won a great victory against Israel and the U.S., healed the Sunni-Shiite rift, and boosted the Iranian mullahs' claim to leadership of the Muslim world. Portraits of Hassan Nasrallah, the junior mullah who leads the Lebanese branch of this pan-Shiite movement, have adorned magazine covers in the West, hammering in the message that this child of the Khomeinist revolution is the new hero of the mythical "Arab Street."

Probably because he watches a lot of CNN, Iran's "Supreme Guide," Ali Khamenei, also believes in "a divine victory." Last week he asked 205 members of his Islamic Majlis to send Mr. Nasrallah a message, congratulating him for his "wise and far-sighted leadership of the Ummah that produced the great victory in Lebanon."

By controlling the flow of information from Lebanon throughout the conflict, and help from all those who disagree with U.S. policies for different reasons, Hezbollah may have won the information war in the West. In Lebanon, the Middle East and the broader Muslim space, however, the picture is rather different.

Let us start with Lebanon.

Immediately after the U.N.-ordained ceasefire started, Hezbollah organized a series of firework shows, accompanied by the distribution of fruits and sweets, to celebrate its victory. Most Lebanese, however, finding the exercise indecent, stayed away. The largest "victory march" in south Beirut, Hezbollah's stronghold, attracted just a few hundred people.

Initially Hezbollah had hesitated between declaring victory and going into mourning for its "martyrs." The latter course would have been more in harmony with Shiite traditions centered on the cult of Imam Hussain's martyrdom in 680 A.D. Some members of Hezbollah wished to play the martyrdom card so that they could accuse Israel, and through it the U.S., of war crimes. They knew that it was easier for Shiites, brought up in a culture of eternal victimhood, to cry over an imagined calamity than laugh in the joy of a claimed victory.

Politically, however, Hezbollah had to declare victory for a simple reason: It had to pretend that the death and desolation it had provoked had been worth it. A claim of victory was Hezbollah's shield against criticism of a strategy that had led Lebanon into war without the knowledge of its government and people. Mr. Nasrallah alluded to this in television appearances, calling on those who criticized him for having triggered the war to shut up because "a great strategic victory" had been won.

The tactic worked for a day or two. However, it did not silence the critics, who have become louder in recent days. The leaders of the March 14 movement, which has a majority in the Lebanese Parliament and government, have demanded an investigation into the circumstances that led to the war, a roundabout way of accusing Hezbollah of having provoked the tragedy. Prime Minister Fuad Siniora has made it clear that he would not allow Hezbollah to continue as a state within the state. Even Michel Aoun, a maverick Christian leader and tactical ally of Hezbollah, has called for the Shiite militia to disband.

Mr. Nasrallah followed his claim of victory with what is known as the "Green Flood"(Al-sayl al-akhdhar). This refers to the massive amounts of crisp U.S. dollar notes that Hezbollah is distributing among Shiites in Beirut and the south. The dollars from Iran are ferried to Beirut via Syria and distributed through networks of militants. Anyone who can prove that his home was damaged in the war receives $12,000, a tidy sum in wartorn Lebanon.

The Green Flood has been unleashed to silence criticism of Mr. Nasrallah and his masters in Tehran. But the trick does not seem to be working. "If Hezbollah won a victory, it was a Pyrrhic one," says Walid Abi-Mershed, a leading Lebanese columnist. "They made Lebanon pay too high a price--for which they must be held accountable."

Hezbollah is also criticized from within the Lebanese Shiite community, which accounts for some 40% of the population. Sayyed Ali al-Amin, the grand old man of Lebanese Shiism, has broken years of silence to criticize Hezbollah for provoking the war, and called for its disarmament. In an interview granted to the Beirut An-Nahar, he rejected the claim that Hezbollah represented the whole of the Shiite community. "I don't believe Hezbollah asked the Shiite community what they thought about [starting the] war," Mr. al-Amin said. "The fact that the masses [of Shiites] fled from the south is proof that they rejected the war. The Shiite community never gave anyone the right to wage war in its name."

There were even sharper attacks. Mona Fayed, a prominent Shiite academic in Beirut, wrote an article also published by An-Nahar last week. She asks: Who is a Shiite in Lebanon today? She provides a sarcastic answer: A Shiite is he who takes his instructions from Iran, terrorizes fellow believers into silence, and leads the nation into catastrophe without consulting anyone. Another academic, Zubair Abboud, writing in Elaph, a popular Arabic-language online newspaper, attacks Hezbollah as "one of the worst things to happen to Arabs in a long time." He accuses Mr. Nasrallah of risking Lebanon's existence in the service of Iran's regional ambitions.

Before he provoked the war, Mr. Nasrallah faced growing criticism not only from the Shiite community, but also from within Hezbollah. Some in the political wing expressed dissatisfaction with his overreliance on the movement's military and security apparatus. Speaking on condition of anonymity, they described Mr. Nasrallah's style as "Stalinist" and pointed to the fact that the party's leadership council (shura) has not held a full session in five years. Mr. Nasrallah took all the major decisions after clearing them with his Iranian and Syrian contacts, and made sure that, on official visits to Tehran, he alone would meet Iran's "Supreme Guide," Ali Khamenei.

Mr. Nasrallah justified his style by claiming that involving too many people in decision-making could allow "the Zionist enemy" to infiltrate the movement. Once he had received the Iranian green light to provoke the war, Mr. Nasrallah acted without informing even the two Hezbollah ministers in the Siniora cabinet or the 12 Hezbollah members of the Lebanese Parliament.

Mr. Nasrallah was also criticized for his acknowledgement of Ali Khamenei as Marjaa al-Taqlid (Source of Emulation), the highest theological authority in Shiism. Highlighting his bay'aah (allegiance), Mr. Nasrallah kisses the man's hand each time they meet. Many Lebanese Shiites resent this because Mr. Khamenei, a powerful politician but a lightweight in theological terms, is not recognized as Marjaa al-Taqlid in Iran itself. The overwhelming majority of Lebanese Shiites regard Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, in Iraq, or Ayatollah Muhammad-Hussein Fadhlallah, in Beirut, as their "Source of Emulation."

Some Lebanese Shiites also question Mr. Nasrallah's strategy of opposing Prime Minister Siniora's "Project for Peace," and instead advancing an Iranian-backed "Project of Defiance." The coalition led by Mr. Siniora wants to build Lebanon into a haven of peace in the heart of a turbulent region. His critics dismiss this as a plan "to create a larger Monaco." Mr. Nasrallah's "Project of Defiance," however, is aimed at turning Lebanon into the frontline of Iranian defenses in a war of civilizations between Islam (led by Tehran) and the "infidel," under American leadership. "The choice is between the beach and the bunker," says Lebanese scholar Nadim Shehadeh. There is evidence that a majority of Lebanese Shiites would prefer the beach.

There was a time when Shiites represented an underclass of dirt-poor peasants in the south and lumpen elements in Beirut. Over the past 30 years, however, that picture has changed. Money sent from Shiite immigrants in West Africa (where they dominate the diamond trade), and in the U.S. (especially Michigan), has helped create a prosperous middle class of Shiites more interested in the good life than martyrdom à la Imam Hussain. This new Shiite bourgeoisie dreams of a place in the mainstream of Lebanese politics and hopes to use the community's demographic advantage as a springboard for national leadership. Hezbollah, unless it ceases to be an instrument of Iranian policies, cannot realize that dream.

The list of names of those who never endorsed Hezbollah, or who broke with it after its Iranian connections became too apparent, reads like a Who's Who of Lebanese Shiism. It includes, apart from the al-Amins, families such as the al-As'ad, the Osseiran, the al-Khalil, the Hamadah, the Murtadha, the Sharafeddin, the Fadhlallah, the Mussawis, the Hussainis, the Shamsuddin and the Ata'allahs.

Far from representing the Lebanese national consensus, Hezbollah is a sectarian group backed by a militia that is trained, armed and controlled by Iran. In the words of Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of the Iranian daily Kayhan, "Hezbollah is 'Iran in Lebanon.' " In the 2004 municipal elections, Hezbollah won some 40% of the votes in the Shiite areas, the rest going to its rival Amal (Hope) movement and independent candidates. In last year's general election, Hezbollah won only 12 of the 27 seats allocated to Shiites in the 128-seat National Assembly--despite making alliances with Christian and Druze parties and spending vast sums of Iranian money to buy votes.

Hezbollah's position is no more secure in the broader Arab world, where it is seen as an Iranian tool rather than as the vanguard of a new Nahdha (Awakening), as the Western media claim. To be sure, it is still powerful because it has guns, money and support from Iran, Syria and Hate America International Inc. But the list of prominent Arab writers, both Shiite and Sunni, who have exposed Hezbollah for what it is--a Khomeinist Trojan horse--would be too long for a single article. They are beginning to lift the veil and reveal what really happened in Lebanon.

Having lost more than 500 of its fighters, and with almost all of its medium-range missiles destroyed, Hezbollah may find it hard to sustain its claim of victory. "Hezbollah won the propaganda war because many in the West wanted it to win as a means of settling score with the United States," says Egyptian columnist Ali al-Ibrahim. "But the Arabs have become wise enough to know TV victory from real victory."

Mr. Taheri is author of "L'Irak: Le Dessous Des Cartes" (Editions Complexe, 2000)