By Ardain IsmaCSMS Magazine Staff WriterTonight, oppressed people around the world may be feeling a sign of relief. A UN resolution has just been passed, demanding an immediate halt to the hostilities that have already caused the lives of more than one thousand people. According the BBC, Israel seems to have already reacted positively to the new text drafted once again by France and the United States. CSMS Magazine does not have the text, as we are getting ready to publish. Nor do we know its substance. However, the reaction from both Jerusalem and Washington appears to indicate that a cessation of hostilities may be imminent. According to several sources, including French television station France 2, this new text is a revised version of the old one previously rejected by Lebanon for it allowed Israel to remain in Lebanese territory while a cease fire was in place. This one appears to have the language that pleases the Lebanese authorities if it clearly stipulates that a redeployment of the Lebanese army to its southern border, something that would correspond to a simultaneous Israeli withdrawal. The new text also upholds resolution 1559, which requires all militias in southern Lebanon to disarm. According to ABC News, a “robust 15,000 UN troops will back the Lebanese army (also 15,000) with a clear mandate to confront any militia that refuses to disarm.” It is also said that France will lead the force. Concretely, in a practical sense Hezbollah would be the lone loser, although it appears at least in the surface that it is the main winner. The resolution demands that it be disbanded. It is highly unlikely that the Lebanese militia will oppose to the presence of Lebanese troops in what it calls its “area of influence.” The world most sophisticated proxy army, Hezbollah could be useful to Lebanon if it were to incorporate in to the Lebanese army and pledge to abide by the country’s laws and use its influence to help create a true Lebanese country based on ethnic and cultural diversity, but not on religious beliefs. Whether Sunni, Shiite or Christian, “Country” should be first, not religion. But these divisions are the prime results of European colonization, mainly France—which occupied Lebanon and which used the Christian community to promote French or western values as opposed to Arab or Muslim cultures. Before the first Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, the Shiite community that lives mostly in the south was a marginalized community, living virtually in the fringe of society, far away from the Sunni and Christians dominated North. In fact, the Shiite community welcomed the Israeli invading forces at the initial phase of the war, something they considered necessary to eradicate the PLO (Sunni) presence and its growing influence in the country. That quickly changed after the Arab and Muslim nations realized that it was their patriotic duty to fight Israel. With the help of Shiite Iran, Hezbollah or Party of God came into existence. It is a well-disciplined militia that Richard Bennett calls “the natural offshoot of the Iranian Islamic Revolution” and the “extension of Tehran’s power westward to the shores of the Mediterranean.” Israeli forces remained in Lebanon until 2000; and it was Hezbollah effectiveness in the battlefield that drove Israeli forces out of the country, 18 years later. Apart from being a militia, Hezbollah, like Hamas in the Palestinian territories, provides much-needed social services, including schools and hospitals, to the vastly disenfranchised Shiite population. Many observers believe that the militia’s growing authority and influence has made it like a state within a state. The big question now is how Article sixth, which asks for the disbanding of Hezbollah, is going to be enforced. It does not stipulated in the tonight’s resolution. It is fair to say that only a national reconciliation can bring about the melting of Hezbollah in to the civilian population.
A serious fighting force
Hezbollah is a serious fighting force, which reminds many observers of the mighty guerilla force of El Salvador, the Farabundo Marti for National Liberation (FMLN), fighting and winning against the Salvadoran army in the 80s, the most technically advanced army in Central America at that time. It is well trained, heavily armed with competently led combat units. Estimates vary on its true strength, but the probable number of front line fighters available before the current conflict began was about 3,000. To this, must be added up to 20,000 veterans and well-armed militia. Its potential overall strength numbers over 50,000 if party workers, relatively untrained supporters and the potential assistance from the well-armed gunmen of the Syrian-controlled PFLP-GC (Popular Front of Liberation of Palestine – General Command) and the militia of the SNSP (Syrian National Socialist Party), operating in the Marjeyoun area of Lebanon, are taken into account. According to Bennett, “the most significant and to the Israelis the most worrying element is the presence of an unknown number of Iranian Islamic Republican Guards. Thought to number anything between 500 and 2,000, these tough soldiers are responsible for the operation of most of Hezbollah’s most sophisticated weapons.” They fired a C802 anti-ship missile, which damaged an Israeli warship off the Lebanese coast. They are thought to possess significant amounts of Russian AT-5 Spandrel, AT-3 Sagger, a few AT-10 and a number of US TOW anti-tank guided missiles. Huge numbers of Russian RPG-7 and the Iranian-built version, the Saghegh, with a lethal 80mm tandem HEAT warhead, 82mm B-I0 and 107mm B-11 recoilless anti-tank guns, supplement 60mm, 82mm and 120mm mortars, vast numbers of anti-tank and anti-personnel mines of Chinese, Russian, Italian and Iranian origin. According to the Daily Star, a mainstream Lebanese newspaper, Hezbollah maintains huge quantities of explosives and a proven ability to produce highly effective improvised explosive devices (IEDs – booby-traps and road side bombs) round out the inventory. It also may have SA-7 and perhaps some SA-14-man portable surface-to-air missiles and twin 23mm ZSU anti-aircraft guns in southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley. Many analysts believe that Hezbollah has established a large number of cleverly placed and well-defended fire positions and bunkers along the border with Israel and every road north is mined, sowed with IEDs and covered by numerous possible ambushes. The upper Bekaa Valley will only be taken at considerable risk to the Israeli ground forces and only the use of overwhelming military force will provide any certainty of success.Great Popular SupportDespite the devastating effect that Israeli constant daily bombardments have on the civilian population, Hezbollah still enjoys high level of fanatical support among many ordinary Lebanese and particularly in South Beirut, southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley. It is highly respected “as the only Islamic force that has achieved any serious military success against Israel and is indeed the only Arab force willing, or perhaps capable, of joining the Palestinian Hamas campaign against Israel.” It continues to operate openly throughout the border regions with the willing assistance of the local Lebanese population and the connivance of the government in Beirut. Hezbollah has its political leadership well hidden in the tightly packed suburbs of south Beirut, while its main military command is split between bunkers near Ba’albek and safe havens in Syria.Israeli invasion: a strategic blunderWhen Israel dropped its first salvoes over South Beirut last month, it made it clear that it would not stop until Hezbollah was wiped out from the face of the hearth. When it became clear that Hezbollah was not a paper tiger, not a ragtag militia, and no traditional Arab army soldiers being humiliated in the battle field while begging for their lives in front of US or Israeli soldiers, The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) leadership adjusted its aim from destroying Hezbollah to degrading its capacity to hit Israel. Then they changed their objective again to pushing Hezbollah to the northern bank of the Litani River in order to keep Hezbollah’ s medium range missiles from reaching northern Israel. After 31 days of heavy fighting and relentless bombardments, the IDF is no closer to wiping Hezbollah than it was before that start of hostilities. The daily-mounting casualties mixed with daily barrages of Hezbollah rockets landing in northern Israel have put a major strain on the Israeli population, which is now demanding more explanation on how the war is being conducted. While the Siniora government is firmly in control in Lebanon and perhaps reinforced as a result of the war—for even Hezbollah has agreed to a deployment of 15,000 Lebanese troops in the south—Israeli Prime Minister, David Holmet, may be the biggest casualty in Israel. His rating has substantially dropped in public opinion polls, coming from 75% before the war to only 45% now. To make matters worse for him, member of the Israeli parliament and leaders of the ultra-reactionary Likud party are already talking of a vote of confidence on Holmet in order to bring down the government and hold new election. Overall, the biggest loser of this war is Lebanon and its people. It will take years to bring the once “the Paris of the Mediterranean” back to the level it was just a month ago. Lebanon, tonight, is country in mourning brought to its knees by cruel Israeli warmongers. Its infrastructure crippled, its heart filled with anger, its cemetery swelled to capacity, its population internally displaced, and its tourism—its prime revenue—completely halted. No one knows for sure how many who have really perished in the Israeli onslaught. Only time will tell. But who will take those responsible for such hideous crime to the war-crime tribunal in The Hague? Note: Dr. Ardain Isma is the chief editor of CSMS Magazine. He teaches Cross-cultural studies at Nova Southeastern University.