Monday, March 05, 2007

The slow but quickening death of Hezbollah

A year ago Michael Totten described a Lebanese-Israeli border on the brink. Eight months ago Hezbollah's bombardment of Israel inspired the anti-Israel world to look to the "resistance" militia for leadership.

Today, it is widely said that Hezbollah has once more been re-armed. However, within UNIFIL's territory south of the Litani river, the truth is gradually spreading, buried deep in news stories with deceptive headlines like "There will be another war in the summer": Hezbollah is being disarmed!
February 22: Averaging around 200 patrols a day, the Unifil forces, working with the Lebanese army, have been locating and demolishing those Hizbullah bunkers and long-range rocket launchers that were not destroyed by Israeli air strikes during the war.
March 5: A further 10,000 Lebanese troops have been deployed to the area, tasked with preventing any militia groups, first among them Hezbollah, carrying weapons south of the Litani River. UNIFIL now make up to 400 patrols a day, said McDowall, accessing "all areas" of southern Lebanon, a region that was formerly tightly controlled by Hezbollah..."We continue to turn up rockets and weapons," said McDowall. "The Lebanese army are performing well and their activities are closely coordinated with us..."

Note carefully that these operations go beyond the mandate of UNSC 1701 (interdicting Hezbollah's re-supply) and are fulfilling the mandate of UNSC 1559 by gathering caches of Hezbollah's existing weapons. This is only possible because of the co-operation between the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL, and improved intelligence related to Hezbollah, as revealed by Hezbollah's own complaints about such activities. It isn't difficult to guess that such intelligence mostly consists of phoned-in tips from Lebanese Shi'a disillusioned with the "Party of God" who secretly wish for a quick exit of its yellow-flagged fist from their everyday lives.

Hopefully these operations will continue, and aren't just a temporary show for visiting U.N. officials. U.N. officials visited Lebanon last week to discuss Lebanon's continued violations of UNSC 1701 - the Israeli "abductees" still haven't been returned - and Israeli overflights of Lebanese territory - a violation of sovereignty, yes, but the SC spokesman was careful to not characterize them as violations of the cease-fire.

As Hezbollah declines, so does the shadow lift from the minds of the Lebanese, as their calls for Hezbollah's ejection from Lebanese politics and society grow bolder and more frequent: can anyone in Lebanon who truly cares about his country trust anyone brandishing a yellow Hezbollah flag?...Hezbollah has no place in Lebanon's future, the time to disarm and disband is now."

Hezbollah isn't taking this lying down; they have a fallback plan: purchasing land north of the Litani for their exclusive use. However, since these areas are open ground, it seems they are meant to be purely military compounds, secure bases for the Iranian-supported puppet army that is the true nature of the Hezbollah beast.

In other words, Hezbollah has lost the support of the people, and Hezbollah knows it. How deep will Hezbollah's leaders have to dig their new bunkers to secure themselves not just from bombs, but from the enmity of the Lebanese people?

Update: In what I fear will be a replay of the failed Western intervention of the early 80s, it looks like Lebanese politicians may try to preserve Hezbollah after all, just so they can keep their fingers in the pie. Once that happens, expect to see the firmness the Lebanese Army has displayed thus far fade away - if Hezbollah is going to stay, the soldiers will want their families to stay alive as well - U.N. peacekeepers attacked, and UNIFIL withdrawn or reduced to its previous ineffectual scope of operations, while Hezbollah whoops it up, rearms for another war, and slaughters its Lebanese enemies.

In other words, Lebanese politicians may be preparing to betray their constituencies once more, out of a desire for personal gain and glory. Ordinary Lebanese can fight this by applying the "people power" of mass demonstrations. However, if everything fails, the deals are made, and everything falls apart, Lebanese can take some comfort in the thought that, although their own fate may be sealed, in the 80s many of the leaders who betrayed them were murdered as well.

Yet such schadenfreude ultimately only plays into the hands of the Asad regime in Damascus. Consider:
1) According to Michael Totten, small arms sales in Lebanon have tripled recently.
2) Hezbollah's pansy in the Lebanese government, the General Security Department, controls the borders.
3) Shipments of small arms from Syria have been seized recently only after they have passed the border.

The conclusion is inescapable: Hezbollah's enemies have been purchasing their arms through Hezbollah's own proxies. The only possible reason for that would be if someone - obviously the Syrian regime - looks forward to promoting disorder throughout the country.

So one of the desired end scenarios of Hezbollah's puppet-masters is to write off Hezbollah's putative leadership as a failure. No wonder Nasrallah is reported to be looking glum nowadays.

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