August 2, 2006


Nasrallah: a hero forged in the fires Israel built (Patrick Cockburn, 3 August, 2006, the Independent)

A year ago he seemed a rebel without a cause. Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, was an important figure in Lebanon but seemed destined to remain on the sidelines of Middle East politics. He was the most important leader of the 1.4 million strong Shia community in Lebanon and nobody doubted the efficiency of Hezbollah as a paramilitary organisation. He was intelligent, charismatic and experienced but he seemed to have reached the peak of his influence.

Nasrallah’s great moment had apparently come and gone in May 2000 when Israel had unilaterally withdrawn its troops from southern Lebanon after years of harassment by Hezbollah guerrillas. He returned in triumph to re-conquered Lebanese territory and, if the military victory over Israel was small in scale, it was still an accomplishment not enjoyed by many Arab leaders over the last half century. But the departure of the Israelis from Lebanon also robbed Hezbollah of its raison d’etre and excuse for forming a state within a state. No doubt its leader, Nasrallah, would remain a power within Lebanon but it seemed increasingly unlikely that he would be anything more.

It was Israel that decided otherwise.

Even Br'er Rabbit learned to stop punching the tar baby.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 2, 2006 10:36 AM

Patrick Coburn? Really?

Next time you can cite Alexander Cockburn to support your position in Lebanon.

(When I find myself siding with the Independent, the Guardian, the Nation, et al., I usually reexamine my position. But then, hey, I'm not willing to tolerate 8 dead Israelis and two kidnapped Israelis on a cross border attack by the self-styled lions of the Shia.)

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at August 2, 2006 11:03 AM

Yes, the Cockburns had Iraq right too. They understood how deeply we'd alienated the Shi'a by backstabbing them in '91 and that we needed to exploit the Shi'a/Sunni rift.

Mature nations tolerate minor incidents or use them as fake provocations for meaningful actions rather than merely reacting in counterproductive ways. The intolerance you advocate has hurt Israel, not Hezbollah.

Posted by: oj at August 2, 2006 11:12 AM

Judging by their most recent actions, Israel apparently has decided to stop punching the Shia tar baby and start taking a couple of whacks at his Sunni fight manager over in the eastern corner of Lebanon (there may also be a few Shia trainers over there to knock around a bit, but since they come from the other side of Iraq, any appearance in Lebanon would lead to there being a lot of 'splanin to do).

Posted by: John at August 2, 2006 11:13 AM

Nibbling at the corners is scant improvement.

Posted by: oj at August 2, 2006 11:32 AM

If it gets Assad to react, it's worth the effort, since al-Sistani reportedly is starting to make noise in Iraq about Israel's continuing focus on the Shia in Lebanon (in fact, it may be those noises as much as Sunday's building collapse that Condi mentioned during her weekend visit, and which may have prompted Israel to modify its plan of attack).

Posted by: John at August 2, 2006 11:58 AM

Israel is the reacting party.

Posted by: oj at August 2, 2006 12:14 PM

Ain't over yet.

Condi's gonna have to put on a whole mess 'a weight and start taking voice lessons.

By that time, the dust may clear.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at August 2, 2006 12:53 PM

So sending ground troops into Lebanon, bombing the heck out of Hezbolleh, moving troops to the Bekaa Valley to take on whomever is there, forcing Nasrullah to bug out, and making direct threats to Syria and to a lessor extent Iran is "nibbling at the edges"?

"Israel is the reacting party" - can't the same be said of the US after 9/11?

Agree with Barry - I don't this thing is close to being over yet.

Posted by: AWW at August 2, 2006 1:11 PM


Yes, we were the reacting party but note that our reaction was to regime change Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, and to disarm Libya, while pretty much ignoring the remnants of al Qaeda after Tora Bora. We act when we react. The israelis are pussyfooting around.

Posted by: oj at August 2, 2006 1:24 PM

It's over--Sharansky gets it, but the rest don't.

Posted by: oj at August 2, 2006 1:25 PM

At the very least, the more the Israelis take the conflct towards Syria by attacking the resupply lines, the less weaponry Hezbollah has on hand, and the more likely it is Assad will try to get into the fray directly. The combination would allow Israel to turn its focus away from their Shia opponents in Lebanon -- no sense in sending in warplanes if they're down to the Palestianian arms level of throwing rocks within the next week or so -- and towards taking on Assad and the Sunnis running Syria, if he's forced to either fight or really lose face by backing down.

Posted by: John at August 2, 2006 1:32 PM

Of course, Nasrallah the hero is also a marked man who will never be able to show his face in public again.

Posted by: PapayaSF at August 2, 2006 1:32 PM

For Nasrallah, every day is borrowed time. He probably won't live out the month. If the IDF tabs him in Damascus, they would probably strike. His best bet is to go to Turtle Bay and lock himself in Kofi's office.

Posted by: ratbert at August 2, 2006 3:30 PM

the Assads have always understood the war, even if Israel doesn't.

Posted by: oj at August 2, 2006 3:48 PM

Now you're really grasping at straws oj. Baby Assad hasn't understood anything since he took over from dear ole Dad.

Israel is putting the smack down on HB, and when the dust settles what they've done will be quite productive.

They'll have rid Lebanon not only of Syria but also of the pernicious Iranian influence -- which btw will help bring down the mullahs back in Tehran and Assad in Damascus.

You might want to read this

Israel is already dividing the Iranian bootlickers in HB from the truly nationalist elements among the Lebanese Shia.

Not sure why you persist in ignoring what is happening and what the true nature of HB is. After all Fuad Ajami, another Lebanese Shia pointed all of this out 2 weeks ago. But hey Coburn knows better than Ajami, right?

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at August 2, 2006 5:36 PM

8 dead is a minor incident?

How many of those does a "mature" nation have to tolerate exactly?

Palmerston said it best: "civis Romanus sum"

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at August 2, 2006 5:38 PM


All you have to do is engage in a simple thought experiment and you can dispell all your confusion: who wins an election held in Southern Lebanon today? And because it is Hezbollah Israel's actions have been a waste.

Sure some leadership elements in Hezbollah hate Israel more than they love their own country, just like Hamas. But reality will force them to serve their people.

Posted by: oj at August 2, 2006 5:55 PM

Ah, but remember - who won the last election in Iraq prior to April 2003? And by what margin?

Furthermore, if the Hezbys cannot win a majority across Lebanon, they will never serve the interests of their country, eh?

Of course, if the rest of Lebanon is willing to just give up title to everything below the Litani River (and also the Bekaa Valley), then your point would be stronger, as would Hezbollah's chances of 'growing' into a mere political entity.

Posted by: ratbert at August 3, 2006 2:26 AM

They're Shi'a countries and when the Shi'a take power they have regular elections.

Posted by: oj at August 3, 2006 7:41 AM