The Israeli-Libanese War 2006
- Israel has argued that the war against Hezbollah's rocket arsenal was a defensive response to the Shiite organisation's threat to Israeli security, but the evidence points to a much more ambitious objective -- the weakening of Iran's deterrent to an attack on its nuclear sites.
- Israeli forces have systematically failed to distinguish between combatants and civilians in their military campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon. The pattern of attacks in more than 20 cases investigated by Human Rights Watch researchers in Lebanon indicates that the failures cannot be dismissed as mere accidents and cannot be blamed on wrongful Hezbollah practices. In some cases, these attacks constitute war crimes.
Lara Deeb: 'Hizballah: A Primer', Middle East Report Online, 31 July 2006.
- Hizballah, the Shi'i Islamist movement whose militia is fighting the Israeli army in south Lebanon, has been cast misleadingly in much media coverage of the ongoing war. Much more than a militia, the movement is also a political party and a provider of social services. Not a creature of Iran and Syria, Hizballah arose to battle Israel's occupation of south Lebanon from 1982-2000 and, more broadly, to advocate for Lebanon's historically disenfranchised Shi'i Muslim community. While it has many political opponents in Lebanon, Hizballah is very much of Lebanon.
- The Middle East is immersed in its worst crisis in years following the capture of three Israeli soldiers by the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and Lebanese Party of God (Hizbollah) in late June 2006 and early July, Israel’s comprehensive offensive throughout the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, and the daily firing of rockets deep into Israel. And horrific as it is, the current toll of death and destruction could reach entirely different proportions should a new threshold be crossed – a Hizbollah rocket that strikes a chemical plant or a heavily populated area in Tel Aviv or Haifa, an Israeli bombing raid resulting in massive casualties, a major ground offensive, or the expansion of the war to Syria or Iran. A political solution to the twin crises of Lebanon and Palestine must be the international community’s urgent priority. Waiting and hoping for military action to achieve its purported goals will have not only devastating humanitarian consequences: it will make it much harder to pick up the political pieces when the guns fall silent.
- This report pieces together the strands of this multi-headed crisis in Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories, Lebanon and elsewhere, based on talks with officials and others, including Hamas and Hizbollah representatives. There are many dimensions to the explanation of why the capture of three soldiers has, so suddenly and so intensely, escalated at an extraordinary pace into a deep and widespread conflict: local ones like Hamas’s struggle to govern and Hizbollah’s desire to maintain its special status in Lebanon; regional ones, notably the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict, Syria’s interests in Lebanon, and the growing Sunni-Shiite divide; and wider international ones, especially the confrontation between Washington and Tehran.
- The two weeks of Israeli air and sea bombardment following Hizballah's raid on an Israeli army convoy have placed all of Lebanon under siege. But the bombing has been concentrated in areas populated by Lebanese Shi'a -- the southern suburbs of Beirut, the Bekaa Valley and, most of all, the south. This pattern shows that Israel aims to play on Lebanon's sectarian tensions to impel Hizballah's disarmament, with potentially very dangerous consequences for Lebanon.
Trita Parsi and Gareth Porter: 'Is Iran Behind the War in Lebanon?', NIAC Issue Brief, National Iranian-American Council, 24 July 2006.
Robert Blecher: 'Converging Upon War', Middle East Report Online, 18 July 2006
- For many in Israel, and apparently also in the Bush administration, the escalating wars in Lebanon and Gaza are conjoined in a single war against a unified "axis of terror" linking Hizballah and Hamas to Damascus and distant Tehran. By lumping together the different struggles of Hizballah and Hamas, Israel casts resolvable political crises as unfathomable, irrational hatred, in an attempt to justify its massive bombing campaigns.
- As Robert Blecher argues, the dual conflicts are indeed linked by more than captive Israeli soldiers -- not by radical Islam, but by Israel's plan to "disengage" unilaterally from much of the West Bank to manage its conflict with the Palestinians. With its two-front war, the Israeli government has set out to prove to the Israeli public that disengagement is not a mistake.
- As the fighting between Israel and the Hezbollah persists, an Israeli strategy of enlarging the conflict seems to be crystallising.
- Just over a year after the departure of Syrian troops from Lebanon, it is abundantly clear that Lebanon's political problems are homegrown, and not simply imposed from outside. The terms of the 1989 Ta'if accord continue to create gridlock in the government, and much-needed economic, judicial and other reforms are stalled. The UN Security Council, pushed by the US and France, is entrenching the stalemate with ever more demanding resolutions, the latest passed on May 17, calling on "Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias" to disarm. This demand elevates disarmament of the Shiite Islamist party Hizballah, which is important but not urgent, above other more pressing matters, and unnecessarily alienates Hizballah from a reform process it
might otherwise support.
- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's inflammatory rhetoric about Israel, coupled with Israeli leaders' agitation against Iran, gives rise to the impression that the conflict between the two countries is a great ideological battle that cannot be resolved except by the victory of one side over the other. But should this rhetoric be taken at face value?
- As Trita Parsi contends in "Under the Veil of Ideology: The Israeli-Iranian Strategic Rivalry," these two non-Arab powerhouses in the Middle East share a critical common interest -- "the need to portray their fundamentally strategic conflict as an ideological clash."
Trita Parsi: 'The Iran-Israel cold war', Open Democracy, 28 October 2005.
- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s new president, has called for the extinction of Israel. But the Islamic Republic and the Jewish state were not always enemies.
Compiled by Kjeld Schmidt,
Updated 10/8/06, 0:05