Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Broader agenda at work

Aug.12, 2006

Broader agenda
at work at UN

THE TUG-of-war at the UN over a draft resolution on the Israeli military assault on Lebanon is, in reality, a battle over reshaping the Middle East. It is not a simple question of restoring calm to the Lebanese-Israeli border and ending Hizbollah rocket attacks against Israel and a return to the status quo ante. It has to do with the Israel-inspired US plan for a "new Middle East" that had gone awry with the unexpected slap of the face the US received in Iraq after invading that country in 2003. A new sense of purpose was injected into the idea when the latest crisis erupted in Lebanon following Hizbollah's capture of two Israeli soldiers. And now Israel and the US are determined to see it through and never to let go of what they see as the opportunity that presented itself for bulldozing their way through the region regardless of what it takes, including massacres and wanton destruction in Lebanon. It is transparent that Israel believes and has convinced the US that there would not be a second opportunity and hence the bitter dispute at the UN over how to go about handling the crisis.
There are two distinct streams of diplomacy at work at the UN Security Council.
The first could be seen as representing the world conscience after having witnessed the carnage and wanton destruction that Israel has unleashed on Lebanon and this group wants an urgent cease-fire in place before anything else. This group does agree over the need for long-term solutions to the conflict, but is opposed to letting Israel continue its merciless assault that is punishing the people of Lebanon in the name of Hizbollah. They want an immeidate cessation to hostilities that would allow relief material to reach those wounded and displaced in the country.
The second stream represents the combined Israeli-American goal of "destroying" Arab resistance as represented by Hizbollah and the Palestinian group Hamas. This group wants to take advantage of the crisis in Lebanon to suit its broader purpose of scrambling the Middle East equation and imposing on the region the Israeli version of a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. This would mean dragging Syria and Iran into the ongoing crisis since those two countries are seen to represent the hardest of all nuts to crack in the combined Israeli-American campaign to reshape the Middle East. Hamas would be brought into the picture at that time, and Israel wants to set an example with Hizbollah at this point in time because the outcome of the current crisis would determine to a large extent the Palestinian options.
Indeed, there is also a school of thought which believes that the US is not yet ready to take on Syria or Iran, but Israel, by exacerbating the crisis in Lebanon, is forcing the American hand by expanding the conflict to drag in the Syrians and Iranians where the US would have no choice but to engage itself as a direct party and launch military action against those two countries. There is of course a strong element of unpredictability over a course of events in that direction, but then the US would have no choice but to take on developments as they unfold.
It is also being argued that by seeking to destroy Hizbollah's missile and rocket capabilities, Israel is trying to remove American concerns that the Lebanese group would retaliate against the Israelis if the US carries out strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities. Therefore, crippling Hizbollah's capabilities to retaliate for military action against Iran means reducing concerns in this respect.
As such, an immediate cease-fire in Lebanon would not suit Israel's purpose — and who is the US to say no to what the Jewish state wants anyway? —  and thus the dispute at the UN between the French-led first group and the US-led second group over Arab demands to change the draft resolution they are co-sponsoring to call for a complete cessation of Israeli-Hizbollah hostilities and withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon.
In diplomatic terms, the US argues against any change in the draft resolution — which is heavily tilted in favour of Israel — saying that without a strong "international stabilisation" force there would be a vacuum in southern Lebanon that could not be addressed by the Lebanese army and the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which is already there. The US would agree to only cosmetic amendments to the resolution and would not accept any changes that would negatively affect the broader agenda.
In real terms, the US and Israel wants to use the proposed Europe-led international force as a tool in their hands to disarm Hizbollah using force as and when necessary. They want the proposed force to be authorised to take an aggressive posture to disarm Hizbollah — and indeed Palestinian groups in south Lebanon — in the name of UN Security Council Resolution 1559.
That being their goal, they would not settle for anything less than preparing an irrefutable ground for deployment of such a force before calling a cease-fire in Lebanon. And, if more massacres and an obliteration of Lebanon's infrastructure take place in the interim, so be it. That is the open-ended price the US has set for the Lebanese and Arabs to pay for refusing to accept Israel's hegemony.