Across the Bay

Monday, June 25, 2007

Syria's Threats Fulfilled

'Regarding the Syrian stand on these forces, Moallem explained that Damascus "does not want these international forces to meet the same fate of the multinational forces in 1983".' Al-Hayat, 8/1/06 (Moallem Warns Against Turning Lebanon 'Into Another Iraq' and 'Al-Qa'ida' Infiltration.)

"The first casualty of a Chapter 7 tribunal will be UNSCR 1701 and UNIFIL." Wiam Wahhab (Syria's pitbull and agent in Lebanon), 2/8/07.

I have been writing both here and elsewhere that the Syrians have been threatening an attack on UNIFIL for a year now. It has finally happened.

The choice of the Spaniards (who were repeatedly harassed by Hezbollah, a) was equally predictable. That it came after D'Alema's attempt at appeasement is equally predictable. The hyenas smelled blood.

In fact, all these points which I have raised in the past were also made to me by a veteran Lebanon expert yesterday. Here's what they wrote:

This most definitely is in the boringly predictable category. The Syrians indicated from August last year that the 1983 story was in prospect for UNIFIL and 1701. The Italians literally asked for the prospect to be activated with their imbecilic appeasement -- so Spain knows who to thank.

I'll have more later.

Addendum: I suggest you review Michael Young's recent piece, as it seems to have it exactly right.

Many have overlooked that the Nahr al-Bared fighting might have been a stage in a process to render the army less effectual in South Lebanon. Several units have been pulled out of the South in the past six months - first to prevent sectarian clashes in Beirut after the opposition built its tent city in the Downtown area last December; then to engage in fighting in the North. This has given Hizbullah much more room to maneuver in the border area, while also opening space up for groups operated from Syria. Even if Hizbullah did not fire the rockets against Kiryat Shmona on Sunday - probably the work of pro-Syrian Palestinians - it almost certainly was aware of the attack, and did not oppose it.

Iran's, Syria's and Hizbullah's purpose in reopening a northern front against Israel, aside from reviving Hizbullah as a military force (which is essential for its own survival), is to empty Resolution 1701 of its content. Better still, if cross-border rocket attacks continue, it will be Israel, not Hizbullah, that will start casting doubt on the UN resolution's merits. Hizbullah's recent insistence that the Cabinet return to its 2005 policy statement as a condition to end the governmental crisis only showed the party's true intentions toward Resolution 1701. The policy statement defends the right of armed resistance, unlike the later UN resolution.

I think Michael's guess that pro-Syrian Palestinians (read PFLP-GC) are probably responsible for these recent operations -- with Hezbollah's knowledge and consent -- is probably right. What this does is further constrain UNIFIL and Lebanese Army movements in the south, which will then allow for more margin to operate and reopen the front against Israel, and as Michael notes, the plan may be to have enough attacks to force Israel to respond militarily, effectively signing the end of 1701 and UNIFIL.