The Duck of Minerva

Some developments that, I hope, will prove me wrong

17 July 2006


I’ve been critical of the strategic wisdom of the IDF attacks in Lebanon, but some new developments suggest that it might work after all. Haagi at American Footprints:

The Lebanese government appears to be throwing in its lot against Hezbollah, appealing for international help to change the dynamic in the south of the country:

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora called Saturday for an immediate cease-fire with Israel, and asked for help in deploying the country’s army in the south, from where Hezbollah has for days pounded northern Israel with Katyusha rockets.

“We call for an immediate cease-fire backed by the United Nations,” said Siniora in an address to the nation. “We call to broaden the state’s control over all of its territory, in cooperation with United Nations forces, in southern Lebanon.”

Siniora also called on Lebanon to “work to recover all Lebanese territories and exercising full sovereignty of the state over those territories,” Saniora said in a televised address to the nation.

His voice cracking with emotion, Saniora criticized Hezbollah without naming the group, saying Lebanon “cannot rise and get back on its feet if its government is the last to know.”

“The government alone has the legitimate right to decide on matters of peace and war because it represents the will of the Lebanese people,” he said.

A cease-fire alone will not be seen as sufficient by Israel, if it leaves the military infrastructure of Hezbollah intact for future attacks. International troops alone aren’t enough either, as UN troops in Lebanon contributed little or nothing to preventing escalation at various times in the last 30 years. But an internationally backed deployment of Lebanese government forces in the south is surely the best that Israel can hope for at this point. Disarmament of Hezbollah will have to follow, not just some co-existence where they get to preserve their military infrastructure under someone else’s cover, but Israel can’t realistically expect more at this point than what Siniora is now effectively giving them.

Brian Ulrich adds:

Today, at least one IDF officer is predicting that the offensive will end next week. What will it have accomplished from the Israeli perspective? Hizbullah will still be there, though perhaps weak enough for the Lebanese army to move in. But how might they be received by Hizbullah’s supporters? And what kind of relationship would Hizbullah and the rest of Lebanon develop after this affair? What good was bombing some of Hizbullah’s supply routes?

And, if I might chime in: what kind of international presence will be necessary to assist the Lebanese government? Surely not a peacekeeping force. We’ve been there and done that.

But the escalating attacks by both sides lead me to question, again, the probability that the current “best case” option will come to pass.

Hezbollah and Israel traded rocket and missile barrages for a sixth day Monday, as warfare that has erupted in the Middle East showed no sign of easing. Hezbollah rockets struck deep inside Israel, killing eight people in the northern city of Haifa, and Israel retaliated with waves of missiles from Lebanon’s north to south and into the Bekaa Valley near Syria.

The toll on both sides rose to above 200, most of them civilians, as strikes continued into Monday. In addition to the Israeli victims at a rail repair facility in Haifa, an Israeli rocket blew up a Lebanese army position, killing eight soldiers, and a sea-launched missile killed at least nine people in the southern Lebanese port of Tyre.

Israel had warned of massive retaliation after the Haifa attack, and accused Iran and Syria of providing the weaponry used in it. Israeli military officials said four of the missiles were the Iranian-made Fajr-3, with a 22-mile range and 200-pound payload, and far more advanced than the Katyusha rockets the guerrillas had rained on northern Israel earlier.


Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed “far-reaching consequences” for the Haifa attack, Hezbollah’s deadliest strike ever on Israel. The morning barrage of 20 rockets came after Israeli warplanes unleashed their heaviest strikes yet on Beirut, flattening apartment buildings and blowing up a power station to cut electricity to swaths of the capital.

Even before the latest Israeli retaliation, Israeli airstrikes had devastated southern Beirut, a teeming Shiite district that is home to Hezbollah’s main headquarters.

The Jiyeh power plant, on Beirut’s southern outskirts, was in flames after it was hit, cutting electricity to many areas in the capital and south Lebanon. Firefighters pleaded for help from residents after saying they didn’t have enough water to put out the blaze.

Some residents of Beirut’s southern Shiite neighborhood, Dahiyah, ventured out of shelters to collect belongings from their shattered city blocks, where buildings were collapsed on their sides, missing top floors or reduced to pancaked concrete. Many emerged from their destroyed apartments with bulging shopping bags or suitcases as young Hezbollah gunmen urged them to leave quickly.

Large swaths of Beirut were covered with dust, and the city of 1.5 million people was emptying as residents fled. Furniture pieces, blankets, mattresses, clothes and soft toys were scattered on the streets. A copy of the Quran, Islam’s holy book, lay in the street with its dusty pages fluttering until a Hezbollah gunman reverently lifted it and kissed it.

“We want to sleep on our own pillows in the shelter,” Mariam Shihabiyah, a 39-year-old mother of five said as she emerged from her home with an armful of pillows and clothes. “Can you believe what happened to Dahiyah?”

The Israeli military warned residents of south Lebanon to flee, promising heavy retaliation after the Haifa assault. “Nothing will deter us,” Olmert said.

Regardless, US and Israeli officials say that the campaign could go on for weeks.

Israel, with U.S. support, intends to resist calls for a cease-fire and continue a longer-term strategy of punishing Hezbollah, which is likely to include several weeks of precision bombing in Lebanon, according to senior Israeli and U.S. officials.

For Israel, the goal is to eliminate Hezbollah as a security threat — or altogether, the sources said. A senior Israeli official confirmed that Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah is a target, on the calculation that the Shiite movement would be far less dynamic without him.

For the United States, the broader goal is to strangle the axis of Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and Iran, which the Bush administration believes is pooling resources to change the strategic playing field in the Middle East, U.S. officials say.

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