July 21, 2006
Lebanon-Israel Crisis: The Demos Start (Updated)
Although less impressive than the scenes you can catch of the Arab Sats, this Al Jazeerah arty (Arabic) Continued Criticisms of Israeli Hostilities Against Lebanon and Palestine / استمرار التنديد بالعدوان الإسرائيلي على لبنان وفلسطين conveys in pictures (and of course text) the Islamic world reaction after the Friday prayers. The demos shown on the telly in Amman, Cairo, and Damascus were particularly large relative to the security presence. The article also notes the khutub (sermons) in particular in Baghdad; oddly perhaps the Israelis will provide Iraqis an inter-ethnic rally point.
Of course the big news is the fairly clear preparation by Israel for an all out incursion with the call up of reserves, as critically described in in the Financial Times and The Times (the lack of critical thinking in the American press in general renders it utterly useless at present). Again, at least in the commentary I am hearing in region, a sensation of Hizbullah, only a militia as the saying is going, punching above its weight is strong and even on Euro TV I've heard commentators note the suprising resistance (so far) of Hizbullah in the face of Israeli ground raids by front line units and punishing air assualt.
What seems clear is that while Hizbullah in a military sense has gotten itself into a real nasty spot, Israel's leadership having set a very high and very public benchmark of "destroying" Hizbullah has set itself up to lose in the probably most important arena, intimidating radicals on its border. Why the Israeli leadership was so foolish to set benchmarks that it will have at best a hard time of achieving under the best of circumstances - and was unable to do during the height of Hizbullah guerilla action, 90-00, escapes me.
I'm afraid that too many of the Israeli leadership have acquired an overly contemptuous view of Arab leadership (not to be sure unmerited) based on the simply stunning and sustained incompetence of the Palestinians. Hizbullah is a different beast, and while it will certainly have the living shit beaten out of it, I rather suspect it has thought better about the proper framing of the immediate situation - because it is the political propaganda that is most important in the medium term.
Finally, following on my comment on On Poodleness & Servility, I have a hard time seeing how the UK government is going to be able to sustain its already tattered image going along with the US administration's delusional policy position at present, with Rice saying there is no need for a ceasefire.... The Americans are committing the classic "writing blank cheques" mistake a la WWI - calling for a ceasefire is setting a benchmark that takes time to achieve.
I wonder sometimes what world American officials exist in.
Noting the following in The Washington Post:
In Beirut, President Emile Lahoud and Defense Minister Elias Murr vowed that the Lebanese army would fight Israeli forces if they invaded south Lebanon. ... At the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton dismissed the remarks, saying the United States looks to Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora for "definitive statements" on such matters.
Well, perhaps he might want to consult The Financial Times from yesterday, where "Mr Siniora, ..., said if Israel sent in ground troops the army would no longer stand by"; I understand spin and divide and conquer strategy, but spin should be somewhat better constructed.
Before I head off to sleepy time, I thought I would draw attention to this AFP Report (July 21) "Saad Hariri dénonce le "massacre" commis au Liban" / Saad Hariri denounces the massacres being comitted in Lebanon in the context of this disturbing article in Washington Post which quotes what appears to me to be an ever more delusional Bush administration (although not as utterly delusional as its Bolshy Right critics) as seeing the Israeli Leb Land Invasion II as " an opportunity to seriously degrade a big threat .... [and that] Israel's crippling of Hezbollah, officials ... [will] complete the work of building a functioning democracy in Lebanon ..... a moment of clarity has arrived." according to Bush. [The phrase bloody fucking hell comes to mind.]
Well, let me quote the AFP report wherein Hariri puts paid to such magical thinking:
Saad Hariri, le fils du Premier ministre libanais assassiné Rafic Hariri, .... a demandé que les aides humanitaires arrivent «le plus tôt possible» au Liban, dénonçant «le massacre» commis selon lui par Israël et refusant de faire porter la responsabilité du conflit sur le Hezbollah.
[Saad Hariri, son of assasinated Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri asked that humanitarian aide arrive in Lebanon 'as soon as possible', denouncing the "massacre" being commited, according to him, by Israel and refusing to place any responsibility for the conflict on Hizbullah.]
L'offensive israélienne «n'est pas logique», a estimé le fils de l'ancien Premier ministre libanais, assassiné en février 2005. «C'est vrai qu'il y a eu des soldats (israéliens) kidnappés» par le Hezbollah, «mais la manière dont Israël est en train de tuer les Libanais, c'est inacceptable». Déclarant qu'il ne voulait «pas mettre aujourd'hui la
responsabilité du conflit sur le Hezbollah ou sur n'importe quel Libanais», Saad Hariri a souligné que le pays du Cèdre avait «besoin de l'unité du peuple libanais», ajoutant qu'Israël essayait de diviser les Libanais par son «attaque vicieuse».
[The Israeli offensive "doesn't make any sense" opined the son of the former Lebanese Prime Minister assasinated in February 2005. "It's true that there have been [Israeli] soldiers kidnapped" by Hizbullah, "but the manner in which Israel is killing Lebanese is unaccaptable. Declaring he did not want to "place responsability for the conflict on Hizbullah or any other Lebanese," Saad Hariri emphasised that the Land of Cedars [ndlr, Leb Land] needed "unity among the Lebanese people," adding that Israel was trying to divide the Lebanese people by its "vicious attack."]
Brilliant illustration of where things may go.
This current American Administration has a truly stunning ability to live in its own looney-tune world, utterly divorced from the complexities of other parties political motives, calculations and incentives - or the interwoven consequences of its own actions. This rather reminds me of the equally and utterly magical thinking the Right Bolshies came up with c. 2003 regarding the great friendship that would break out btw Israel and a 'democratic Iraq' - substituting their own wishful thinking and 'what ought to be' for any kind of rational analysis of potential consequences.
I wouldn't give a bloody fuck were they and the Poodle making my life more dangerous.
Finally on a more entertaining note, I was pleased to find that the (in)famous Shakira has a position on her ancestral homeland, pro-ceasefire..... Maybe we can find mutual understanding behind snakey slithering Leb Pop Tart (honorary) hip movements.....
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For the sake of accuracy, the translation should be, "Continued Condemnation of Israeli Aggression Against Lebanon and Palestine".
Those search engine translators must be in league with Rice or Bolton!
Posted by: Oryx at July 21, 2006 05:52 PM
Translation is me own mate, and I'd still go with criticism and hostilities.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at July 21, 2006 06:06 PM
OK, it's yours, take it or leave it.
I just think the demonstrators wouldn't be happy to know they were out in force only to "criticize" Israel!
Posted by: Oryx at July 21, 2006 06:47 PM
I don't give a flying fuck what half-literate demonstrators speaking in another language might prefer. Criticise came to mind in a quick rendition and is perfectly accurate. Strongly criticise or denounce (or condemn) might be better, but translation is art, not mechanics, and I'm not inclined make the headline longer than necessary - and me personal prefernce in this case wins.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at July 21, 2006 07:06 PM
Regarding poodleness and servility, I'd love to see a transcript from a converstation between Ehud and George.
Posted by: Anonymous at July 21, 2006 07:12 PM
ﻳﺴﻗﻄ ﺬﻻﻭﻨﺯﺑﺮﻱ !
Translation (with artistic freedom): Viva The Lounsbury!
Reversingn the Arabic like that wasn't part of the art!
Posted by: Oryx at July 21, 2006 08:34 PM
Ash 3ndk mouchkil qaouid?
Posted by: The Lounsbury at July 21, 2006 08:40 PM
Anyone have any sense what it would mean, in practical terms, for the Lebanese army to get involved? BTW, Josh Landis has an overview of the will-they/won't-they argument about such a move.
Posted by: Tom Scudder at July 22, 2006 05:36 AM
Louns - I must say thia was funny; now you do sound like one of them fortress diplos. I know you're so fucking vain and there is just no way you're going to change the stupid translation! Fine with me; I guess the comical relief of the exchange is worth it.
BTW, why does the antispam thing alway has the same fucking picture?
Posted by: Oryx at July 22, 2006 06:34 AM
One would suspect not much.
Oryx: are you still whinging on about the triviality of denounce versus criticise? Comic relief is in your bloody hair splitting, not my disinclination to wet my pants. Now fuck off or say something of actual substance stupid git.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at July 22, 2006 07:01 AM
as it stands right now (middle of the day, saturday, 22 july), if the i.d.f. is launching a major ground offensive into lebanon then there will be lebanese army units who will be engaging them. some might coordinate with HA units, there might even be "combined forces".
so far, the lebanese army seems to not have done much. (those israeli assertions that the leb army's radar posts on the coast have helped HA to hit that i.d.f. vessel look more like an excuse to take them all out -- certainly the radar post in tripoli doesn't even reach to beirut, off whose shores the vessel was it.) the army doesn't have the equipment to defend the country against the israeli (or anyone else's) airforce.
once israeli boots are on lebanese soil, however, the situation changes. the army (read: the gov't) would not be able to explain why it doesn't fight the invaders when the HA does. and nor will they even want to NOT fight in that situation.
also, at this point, the make-up of the army is very skewed: the majority of officers are christian and druze, whereas the majority of the troops are shi'ites. there have been attempts to recruit christian troops in the north and to create special educational incentives for shi'ite troops and subalterns, but they haven't been run long enough to effect a shift.
THUS, should israel launch a ground offensive (or shoudl i say "when it does"?) ... commanding the army to NOT fight them might actually result in the desertion of a lot of regular soldiers from the army - only this time not to avoid fighting, but to JOIN the fight.
units of the lebanese army fighting the israeli invaders will not, however, make a difference in the political/international sphere. and i im not even sure if israel would extend its bombing campaign to all army barracks and the h.q. and such. the lebanese army would, in any case, only fight the i.d.f. on lebanese soil, and not lob shells and/or rockets onto israel. even if it would like to do so -> it doesn't have the means.
i hope this somewhat answers your question.
ps: about the anti-spam pic -- the point is that it takes a human to recognize what is pictured and then type in the password, thus barring automated comments a la "24/7 poker" & the like.
Posted by: raf* at July 22, 2006 07:09 AM
Raf: I'm also wondering how effective the Leb army is likely to be - how many of them are kids serving their required military service vs. how many of them are actual trained professionals, and so forth. Globalsecurity.org's Lebanon army page is not very helpful, nor is the wikipedia entry. Maybe someone who can translate militarese into English can tell me if this list of equipment means "potentially dangerous" or "likely to hold up as long as wet tissue paper in case of contact with Israeli ground forces".
Posted by: Tom Scudder at July 22, 2006 08:19 AM
You want delusional American rhetoric? Last night on CNN I heard some idiots (including one former deputy undersecretary) talk about how Hezbollah had links with Al Qaeda and they were part of the global axis of terror, and then some Israeli policy "experts" chimed in about how this was a war between Judeo-Christian civilization and fanatical Islam. Then some administration type started to talk about how the Lebanese government was a fragile democracy that must be helped against the terrorists on its soil who wanted to weaken it (yeah, apply the Iraq frame here, the Middle East is all the same, innit).
Posted by: SP at July 22, 2006 08:51 AM
raf – The two most likely scenarios floated by the media now include either lightening incursions in the South and Bekaa (and possibly other areas) to destroy specific targets then withdrawing a.s.a.p; or a sweep of the south all the way up to the Litani (per the 1978 invasion) to clear the area of HA fighters and stay there till a UN-patrolled security zone is established (to be replaced later by Lebanese army units as part of a complete package deal to sort out all outstanding issues).
The firs scenario would most likely avoid hitting the army (assuming it hasn’t disintegrated and shifted loyalty to HA). The Litani option by default won’t involve much of a confrontation with the army either. If I’m not mistaken there is not much army presence south of the Litani; and given the destroyed road and bridges (an Israeli air superiority) the army would find it impossible to deploy to the South to confront the Israeli invasion.
On a different point, a closing of ranks of sort seems to be happening among Lebanese political elite, avoiding the criticism of HA, emphasizing the need for national unity and blaming Israel squarely for the war. I just watched Hariri Jr. in Paris talking about Israel’s occupation of Shebaa farms and the Lebanese prisoners it holds and describing Israel’s war as barbaric. Many of the MPS and intellectuals hosted around the clock on the LBC, NTV and other TV stations seem to echo the same line.
Another interesting development is that some of these voices (including Hariri’s) are now asking or appealing to HA to hand in the 2 captured soldiers to the Lebanese government. It’s hitting 2 birds with one stone; give the very weak Siniora government a card to start an acceptable and legitimate negotiating process over a prisoners exchange (probably as part of the big package deal); and find a face-saving formula for HA out of the bind they unwittingly created for themselves (and everybody else). Whether HA would actually agree to this is another story; but given the mounting pressure on them and the priority of closing ranks, they may just yield (and hope that at least the government would get the prisoners back).
I’m no astrologer, but I think a Litani operation seems the more likely course of events. But war, like a black hole, has its own logic, and so any thing can happen.
p.s. as for the anti-spam, I was just thinking of word verification where the letters change constantly whereas in this case it’s the same pic.
Posted by: Oryx at July 22, 2006 08:56 AM
Sorry CL, the last hope of mutual understanding behind slithering Leb Pop Tart hip movements has vanished...they bombed LBC.
"Israeli planes hit at least two communications and TV transmission towers - one in the Kesrwan mountains, east of Beirut, and in Terbol in northern Lebanon.
The strike disrupted broadcasts for Hezbollah's Al-Manar television and the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation.
An Israeli military spokesman said the television and mobile phone networks were being used to spread the militant group's propaganda."
Posted by: SP at July 22, 2006 11:47 AM
They also bombed Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera TV crews few hours ago on their way from the South to Hasbiya. Nobody was hurt but they had to flee, leave vehicles and equipment behind and take cover in orchards; later they were picked by the Red Cross. LBC is back on on Nilesat , but Al Manar is still out.
Posted by: Oryx at July 22, 2006 12:59 PM
Israel is so good with media.
Posted by: Klaus at July 22, 2006 02:21 PM
ok, there is this:
UN says destruction is horrible.
Then there is this:
...Walking and driving around the streets, I noticed a peculiar trait of Beirut: it’s not always possible to tell the difference between the old war damage and the new. Beirut is ramshackle and delightfully dilapidated in some parts — mostly the poor Shi’a parts, which are also the main target areas. Sometimes you realize that a balcony that appears freshly shorn off actually collapsed in the 1980s.
article: In search of Beirut.
So, is the UN inspector misinterpreting the damage? Can't say.
Posted by: Klaus at July 23, 2006 02:03 PM