Hezbollah-Israel 8/15/06

As Israeli soldiers return tired and weary from the 34 day “war” and Lebanese civilians flood back into Lebanon to claim the remains of their obliterated towns and cities a question lingers across the dusty horizon: who won the war? As far as casualties are concerned recent estimates reveal a stark disparity between the losses suffered by the two sides, with deaths tolling 120 civilians on the Israeli side compared to the alarming 1000 Lebanese deaths. Though the Lebanese suffered huge losses the majority of the citizens, especially Shi’ites, stand behind Hezbollah triumphantly claiming a davidic victory over Israel. Many analysts are describing the war as being merely a stalemate conceding that Israel made minimal strategic gains. Israel believes that the stipulation in Res. 1701 asking for Hezbollah to disarm completely is a major breakthrough and an important achievement for Israel; moreover Acting Israeli PM Olmert has claimed that Hezbollah, due to Israeli military action, will cease to exist as a state within a state: neither claim, however, is completely accurate. In fact Hezbollah will emerge as an even more powerful political force following the war. Even when Israeli soldiers were making headway into Lebanese territory and despite the fact that the Lebanese apparently experienced far more heavier losses in the fighting than Israel, Hezbollah was and is being praised by a lot of people in the greater Muslim world for being the David that challenged Goliath. In this regard the fighting did give Hezbollah’s reputation a major boost in the region. Another important factor to consider in assessing the results of the war, apart from logistical factors, is the way people on both sides perceive themselves for if anything the Arab-Israeli conflict from the onset has been a fight over ideologies and constructed, imagined metanarratives in which semantics are the prime weapon. Hezbollah has effectively mobilized popular support, evoking some of the most revered themes in Shi’ite religious lore, by portraying itself and those peoples affected by the presence of Israel as being the disenfranchised soldiers of justice fighting to overthrow a tyrranical status quo. On the contrary Israeli policies in the region often lack the dramatic leverage that Hezbollah and the larger Palestinian struggle enjoys. Logistically it is no doubt that Israel has stricken some very powerful blows upon Hezbollah, which finds itself with a diminished cache of missiles, its most critical weapon in the fight against Israel and a formidable mound of rubble, but the media savvy and ingeniously dramatic group is nowhere close to being gone; its morale and that of its supporters running high. The human losses will be lost in the semantics of martyrdom and the logistical losses, considering the group’s patrons, can be shaken off. The logical move by Israel would be to invite Hezbollah to talks if the conflict is to end.

Following is a news article from the LA Times:-

Iran and Syria Claim Victory for Hezbollah

The nations deride U.S. hopes for eradicating the militia and belittle Israel’s firepower. The White House calls the talk ‘blustering. From the Associated Press

TEHRAN — The leaders of Iran and Syria asserted Tuesday that Hezbollah had defeated Israel in Lebanon, with Syrian President Bashar Assad saying U.S. plans for reshaping the Middle East have been ruined.

In separate speeches, Assad and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ridiculed U.S. hopes for eradicating the guerrillas and belittled Israel’s high-tech military as useless against Hezbollah.

“The Middle East they [the Americans] aspire to has become an illusion,” the Syrian leader said in Damascus, the capital.

Addressing Israelis, he said that “after tasting humiliation in the latest battles, your weapons are not going to protect you — not your planes, or missiles, or even your nuclear bombs…. The future generations in the Arab world will find a way to defeat Israel.”

In Arbadil, Iran, a few hours later, Ahmadinejad saluted Hezbollah for hoisting “the banner of victory,” and referred to the United States, Britain and Israel as corrupt and criminal.

Tehran and Damascus may be the biggest winners in the 34 days of fighting in Lebanon, buoyed by the ability of ally Hezbollah to stand up to Israel’s punishing assaults.

Hezbollah hasn’t come out unscathed as a fighting force, and its domination of southern Lebanon and attacks on Israel are likely to be hampered by the deployment of the Lebanese army and international troops. But the Shiite Muslim militia appears to have gained strength in Lebanon thanks to broadened support among the country’s ethnic and religious communities.

The popularity of Hezbollah’s chief, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, has grown even among Sunnis in Saudi Arabia, whose strict school of Islam considers Shiites to be heretics.

In Berlin, Germany quickly registered a protest to Assad’s speech, with Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier canceling a trip to Damascus.

In Washington, David Welch, an assistant secretary of State, said at a news conference that Iran and Syria were “trying to pile on popular emotion and anger at a time of tragedy for their own selfish advantage.”

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack dismissed Syria’s claims as “blustering” and said the country was “quite isolated from the rest of the people in the region.”

As for Iran, McCormack said Ahmadinejad’s remarks “simply ignore the facts.”

The cease-fire between Hezbollah and Israel does not propose the eradication of Hezbollah, but it revives a 2-year-old United Nations Security Council demand for the militia’s disarmament, a job the Lebanese government has not attempted on its own. Hezbollah has made it clear that it does not intend to comply.

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