Thursday, February 4, 2010

New steps by Hizballah

A recent article from the Washington Post says that Hizballah has redeployed its long-range rockets "deep into northern Lebanon and the Bekaa valley"--that is, away from the southern border with Israel--which would mean conflicts between Hizballah and Israel would now involve a much broader territorial swath of Lebanon, probably forcing a conflict between the two states (or a crackdown by the Lebanese government on Hizballah, which seems unlikely, though I would be fascinated to see how that would play out--it would be very tricky PR for the government and a very interesting test of the rebuilt Lebanese army).

This is an interesting development for its own sake, but particularly so coming fairly quickly after Hizballah's announcement of its new political platform, which has been received by most observers as a sign of moderation and a swing away from militiadom and toward full-fledged political party status. Qifa Nabki agrees.

Nabki in particular is not necessarily saying that this represents a moderation or a path toward full political engagement and military quiescence, but that is a sense I get from much of the commentary. I didn't quite buy this notion at the time and I still don't. Hizballah is and has been a political movement for a few years now; they are also, at the same time, a guerrilla fighting force. I don't think they have any plans to give up either end of the operation, because what they are is, in fact, something different from either of these characterizations. I'll wait to talk more about what that is after I've actually written my thesis, but this is what it's about.

In addition, I find this bit from the WaPo article interesting:

Hezbollah "learned their lesson" in 2006, when vital intelligence enabled the Israel Defense Forces to destroy the group's long-range launch sites in the first days of the conflict, said reserve Gen. Aharon Zeevi Farkash, a former head of IDF intelligence. In effect, he said, "the 'border' is now the Litani River," with Hezbollah's rocket sites possibly extending north of Beirut.

It's an interesting statement because the original objective of Israel's 1978 intervention into Lebanon was to make the Litani river the actual border (see Benny Morris's Righteous Victims). The notion of annexing Lebanon south of the Litani and leaving the rest for a Christian Maronite state that would enter an alliance of religious minorities with Israel in a sea of Arab Muslims goes back to David Ben Gurion.

I have no way of knowing if it was Gen. Farkash's intention to reference this particular tradition. If it was, it's an unfortunate reference to make on the public record (or at all, one would like to think). Either way, his statement seems to interpret Hizballah's move as a defensive one, a form of retreat. This is inaccurate. It represents, as most other observers have concluded, Hizballah's confidence in its penetration of greater areas of Lebanon and its aim to strategically invest more of Lebanon in its endeavors, rather than remaining limited to the South. (Of course, the Bekaa is and has been a Hizballah stronghold for years, but as far as I know this represents a new level of military investment.)

I'm interested to see what Hizballah's next move is.

No comments:

Post a Comment