May 9, 2008

Terrific Lebanon Coverage

by Michael J. Totten

Lebanon always seems to explode when I'm somewhere else and can't get there. It is impossible to predict when it will happen, and the airport is always the first casualty. So I can't report first-hand. No one else can get there either. That didn't stop me from filing a medium-length piece just now for Commentary, which I will republish here when it goes up over there. In the meantime, check out Noah Pollak's coverage at the same magazine. It is excellent.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at May 9, 2008 4:20 PM
Comments

Mike, I was just wondering, I've been catchin' up on Hezbollah myself, and it's unflattering to say in the least that everything people throw against it, it keeps coming back. In your experience, what is the best way to defeat a militia like this so entrenched in one part of Lebanese society?

Also, my theory is that the Sinora government looked at what Maliki was doing, and then tried to carbon copy it in Lebanon with what appears to be disastrous results. Another good note is that Maliki in Iraq might of looked at Lebanon, then took one look at the Mahdi Army, and realised what the end result would be, hence why he launched the Knights campaign and launched an offensive into Sadr city.

But the end question is, how long will it take for each of these governments too root out and completely discredit these organisations? Will it ever happen?

Ryan

Posted by: Ryan Author Profile Page at May 9, 2008 4:39 PM

Hezbollah is executing a plan that can have only one objective: becoming the ruling force in Lebanon, as proxy for Iran. Whether or not Syria will pop up as "peace keepers" is neither here nor there. This is all about Iran.

Hezbollah doesn't need, and probably does not want, formal recognition as the new government. They must simply exist and prevent trade, travel, and communication without the outside world.

Lebanon's people outside of Hezbollah are still treating Hezbollah as a political problem. I think the amount of time they have to adjust to being in a purely survival situation is measured in hours.

I thought the kickoff would come later this spring, myself.

GAME ON!

Posted by: TmjUtah Author Profile Page at May 9, 2008 5:00 PM

Ryan,

It's a tough problem. Best proposed solution I've heard is here. It won't happen, though.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 9, 2008 5:35 PM

MJT: The airport is always the first casualty. So I can't report first-hand. No one else can get there either.

A boat from Cyprus?

Posted by: Edgar Author Profile Page at May 9, 2008 8:53 PM

Unfortunately, it may be a necessary step in the dialectic of Hezbollah's destruction for them to first take over Lebanon. Once one group has the monopoly on power, then the country can be dealt with as friend or foe, without worrying about whether you're undermining the "legitimate" national government. This was the stalemate that Israel found itself in for a long time, and in spite of the rockets from Gaza, it's probably a net positive that at least the game has moved past that point. Hamas has painted itself into a corner in Gaza and finds itself with far fewer options than it had before it took over. It avoided actually taking over for a long time, and even afterwards tried to return to the status quo with a power-sharing agreement that Fatah rejected. Hezbollah likewise will desperately avoid taking on the governance of Lebanon. This would only divert it from it's central aim, which is war with Israel, and may be what lead's to it's downfall, even as it remains undefeated on the battlefield.

Posted by: MarkC Author Profile Page at May 9, 2008 11:22 PM

Also, my theory is that the Sinora government looked at what Maliki was doing, and then tried to carbon copy it in Lebanon with what appears to be disastrous results.

I think that the organisation Maliki is associated with is far closer to being the Iraqi version of Hezbollah than Sadr's movement is. Sadr's movement isn't the main Shi'ite party and wasn't based in Iran during Saddam's rule.

Posted by: Daniel E. Author Profile Page at May 10, 2008 6:26 AM

Neither Hez nor the Mook exercise power stemming from an internationally recognized general election... which Maliki does.

MarkC, I agree that Hez will go to great lengths to avoid being recognized as more than a faction, and will actually be aided by western media toward this end, as well. But Hezbollah's central aim isn't Israel, but rather it is Iran's will and foreign policy objectives that define Hezbollah's actions.

Those priorities certainly effect Israel, yes,but only as a factor, not a goal, in Iran's eyes.

Ahmadinejad is reacting to Maliki's spoiling attack in the south of Iraq and the continuing reduction of militia and terror players elsewhere. I believe that the strategic results stemming from the last few month's hammering have not been fully appreciated by the coalition.

It's a long time until January. I for one don't think that Bush intends to leave the Iranian dictatorship in a position to build nukes. Nor do I think he regards McCain, who will be shackled by a Democratic congress and senate, as able to do the cutting necessary to cripple Iran.

And leaving a nuclear capable Iran to an Obama administration AND a Dem legislative majority would simply be criminal.

I wonder if we will even attempt to invoke the UN here?

Posted by: TmjUtah Author Profile Page at May 10, 2008 8:17 AM

Neither Hez nor the Mook exercise power stemming from an internationally recognized general election… which Maliki does.

They're not politically comparable situations. Maliki couldn't be prime minister or President in Lebanon because he's a Shi'ite. Plus in Iraq shi'ites are 2/3's of the populations whereas in Lebanon they're only 1/3. If the Lebanon had the same demographics then Hezbollah-Amal may very well become the ruling party.

I really don't understand why people who are usually anti-islamist give a free ride to Maliki and co. I mean, the organisation he leads bombed the American Embassy in Kuwait. All Tariq Ramadan's done is not condemn stoning for adultery.

Posted by: Daniel E. Author Profile Page at May 10, 2008 9:25 AM

"I really don't understand why people who are usually anti-islamist give a free ride to Maliki and co. I mean, the organisation he leads bombed the American Embassy in Kuwait. All Tariq Ramadan's done is not condemn stoning for adultery."

Daniel E. -

Given the demographics, especially tribal and religious, of Iraq, who (or what party) would you find acceptable to lead Iraq right now?

I don't comment much here even though I have tremendous respect for Mr. Totten and his work, going back literally years. A part of the reason is that I think that Mr. Totten, in spite of his intimate and laudable involvement on the ground across multiple venues of the ongoing war, still misses the ultimate stakes and the ultimate costs we face in this worldwide clash between civilization and barbarism.

I've no doubt that he disagrees with my framing of the issue that way, too. So be it.

You see Maliki as a coddle. Again, if not him, then who? It can be said, truthfully, that The Sons of Iraq, the IA/IP, and other organizations stemming from the Sunni Awakening movement contain scores or hundreds of men guilty of planting IED's or participating in other acts of insurgency.

What of them?

The policy objective of the coalition where Iraq is concerned is to leave Iraq as a self-governing federal republic. This goal does not pretend to win the wider "GWOT" (and yes, I've got serious problems with the semantics of that, too.)

To see Iraq conduct elections today puts them in a place literally a galaxy away from where Iraq was under the Ba'athists.

We cannot kill every Islamist. Well - we can, but we have elected to treat "Fundamental Islam" as not the same as "Islam". So be it. That's the policy, which I do not completely agree with BUT am willing to support in the absence of any thing better...

We cannot govern Iraq as a penal colony or imperial satrap - unless we redefine the victory conditions from what was published as the Bush Doctrine lo those few but full years ago. So Maliki is the man for now, and I believe that his actions in Basra, combined with other, more subtle moves regarding Iranian personnel and influence, make supporting him not merely legally necessary, but a fairly smart bet for the short term and possibly much longer.

Sorry to go on so long. Just know that where "Islamists" and the response thereto are concerned, I'd prefer to start in Michigan, Texas, Virginia, and Arizona, myself.

But that's not the policy. So the Long War continues.

Posted by: TmjUtah Author Profile Page at May 10, 2008 10:30 AM

Are we supposed to think less of Walid Jumblatt because he isn't a 100 percent unarmed cowering victim?”

Nah, I think less of him for massacring Christians.

But the huge cache of weapons being surrendered along with the men surrendering them lays bare the claim that there is only one militia in Lebanon.

Posted by: zdracks Author Profile Page at May 11, 2008 8:37 PM

Are we supposed to think less of Walid Jumblatt because he isn't a 100 percent unarmed cowering victim?”

Nah, I think less of him for massacring Christians.

But the huge cache of weapons being surrendered along with the men surrendering them lays bare the claim that there is only one militia in Lebanon.

Posted by: zdracks Author Profile Page at May 11, 2008 8:38 PM
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