Lebanon Asks for UN Cease-fire as Total Middle East War Looms

The government of Lebanon petitioned the United Nations for help in stopping Israeli bombings. This happens as all signs point to the war expanding into a broader regional conflict involving Syria and Iran. Meanwhile, the spreading conflict in the region is dividing longstanding international allies while creating some unusual bedfellows.

Beirut Bombed Smokey Photo Yahoo

Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora called for a cease-fire under U.N. auspices Saturday, as Israeli warplanes hit central Beirut for the first time and smashed the Hezbollah leadership’s main strongholds. Strikes killed at least 18 Lebanese fleeing the onslaught, and Hezbollah rockets continued to pour into Israel, where officials warned citizens that Tel Aviv could be hit.

The deadly barrages came as Israel charged that Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards have 100 troops in Lebanon providing Hezbollah key support — including helping fire a missile Friday that badly damaged an Israeli warship. Hezbollah denied it.

Neither side showed signs of backing down from the conflict, which erupted Wednesday when Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid. As civilian deaths mounted, diplomatic efforts to end the crisis had yet to get off the ground.

President Bush, on a trip to Russia, said it was up to Hezbollah “to lay down its arms and to stop attacking.” Arab foreign ministers gathered in Cairo but fell into squabbling after moderate states, led by Saudi Arabia, denounced Hezbollah for starting the fight.

In a sign the West expects a drawn-out battle, the U.S. Embassy said it was looking into ways to get Americans in Lebanon to Cyprus. France said it had already decided to send a ferry from Cyprus to evacuate thousands of its nationals.
[…]

At a G-8 summit in St. Petersburg, Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the worsening situation but appeared divided on how to restore calm. Bush blamed Hezbollah and Syria for the escalating violence in the Middle East. “In my judgment, the best way to stop the violence is to understand why the violence occurred in the first place,” Bush said. “And that’s because Hezbollah has been launching rocket attacks out of Lebanon into Israel and because Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers.” Putin said it was unacceptable to try to reach political goals through abductions and strikes against an independent state. “In this context we consider Israel’s concerns to be justified,” he said. At the same time, he said, “the use of force should be balanced.”

[…]

Meanwhile, Lebanon sought support from fellow Arabs at an emergency session of foreign ministers in Cairo on Saturday. But sharp rifts erupted over as moderate Arab states denounced Hezbollah for starting the conflict. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal called the group’s actions “unexpected, inappropriate and irresponsible,” telling his counterparts: “These acts will pull the whole region back to years ago, and we cannot simply accept them.” Supporting his stance were representatives of Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq, the Palestinian Authority, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, delegates said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.

Another camp, led by Syria, defended Hezbollah as carrying out “legitimate acts in line with international resolutions and the U.N. charter, as acts of resistance,” delegates said.

Putin, certainly, is in little position to condemn Israel given the disproportionate force applied against Czechen rebels. That so many Arab governments are willing to condemn Hezbollah even though doing so effectively puts them on Israel’s side is particularly interesting.

There are reports that Israel has given Syria 72 hours to restrain Hezbollah or, presumably, the war will expand to a third front with other reports saying the Assad government really has little control over events and still others saying that Iran is goading Hezbollah’s current campaign of violence.

One wonders whether the so-called moderate Arab regimes will be able to stay on the sidelines if a wider war breaks out. Or, should I say, when. It seems inevitable given Israel’s presumptive goals.

Austin Bay correctly points out that, “Dealing Hezbollah more than a temporary defeat means terminating the Assad regime in Damascus. No doubt about it— the Israelis can seriously damage Hezbollah. Reducing Hezbollah’s arsenals may reduce its local clout in Lebanon. But Syria promotes Hezbollah and Iran finances it.” Taken to its logical conclusion–and the Israelis tend to do precisely that when it comes to matters of security–this means regime change not only in Demascus but in Teheran, too. Further, the Iranians have every incentive to jump in if Israel targets Syria, owing to their mutual defense pact with Assad and their joint interest in Hezbollah.

And, somehow, I don’t think the UN will be able to do much.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    Putin, certainly, is in little position to condemn Israel given the disproportionate force applied against Czechen rebels.

    The severity of Putin’s response to the Czechen uprising will be conversational fodder for some years. Given the level of attack that everybody else was putting up within that period from Islamic radicals, I think the argument can be made that it in fact was not excessive.

  2. Dale says:

    IMO Israel needs to go ahead and finish this thing once and for all. They should stop only when Hizb’allah is no more. If that means taking out the Syrian regime so be it. Iran’s loud mouth not withstanding there will be little they can do to stop it. They can’t put troops on the ground (other than what they already have in Lebanon) as they don’t have a shared border with Syria. They could fly over Turkey or Iraq but I’m guessing that we won’t let that happen. That reduces them to firing missiles over Iraq (I’m sure we would object). In short this reduces Iran to sending money and moral support.

    We’ll see. The next few days will be interesting indeed.

  3. jr says:

    The UN won’t do anything

  4. Rodney Dill says:

    Shouldn’t Lebanon be petitioning for the return of the Israeli solders. One wonders about the thinking that is so one sided.

    I live in the Detroit Area, worked for an Israeli owned company that was bought out by an American company. The news channels here so far have only interviewed arabic people that have relatives in the Middle East.

    So far the real terrorist slant of Hamas and Hezbollah kidnapping Israeli soldiers is being ignored.

  5. Herb says:

    With the petition by Lebanon to the UN, This war should last for another 5 to 6 years or until Israel completely eliminates Hezbollah. The UN, as everyone has witnessed, couldn’t move off the toilet that quickly, even if the toilet had a bomb under it with a 6 month fuse.

    Any Nation seeking anything at the UN will go down the tubes waiting for the UN to act. That is, unless there was a few million dollars in it for the members to steal.

  6. Jim Henley says:

    James, you quote a story which reports that pretty much every Arab state of any consequence except Syria has blamed Hezbollah for roiling the region in an inter-Arab meeting, then conclude the entry talking about “so-called” moderate states. What would they have to do to drop the “so-called” modifier?

  7. Bithead says:

    Suggestion to Jim Henley:

    How about (Hmmmm…) Stopping the islamic terrorists?

  8. Jim Henley says:

    Oh, and how would they do that, precisely? Maybe by abridging civil liberties at home and locking up or killing all the Islamists they can get their hands on? A lot of them have already tried that. (Egypt, Jordan, SA, even Syria blasted hell out of its chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood.) Maybe it’s even worked to an extent. Maybe it’s bred more terrorists. Maybe it’s just shifted them around.

    Or do you want Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain to actually go to war with Hezbollah and Hamas on behalf of Israel? Because the term for that isn’t “moderate.” That’s called being allied.

  9. As to the current problems that have spiraled into a near full scale regional war, Iâ??m convinced that the solution to the many issues rests solely upon one defining problemâ?¦from which all others emanate and from which all others can be resolved. In fact, in what some may call my fanciful Hollywood formulaic prescription, one particular movie quotation seems to capture the essence of my proposed story lineâ?¦â??If you build it, they will comeâ??. The â??itâ?? is none other than a Palestinian state.

    Read an analysis on the Middle East that posits that the solution to the regions turmoil rests in the immediate creation of an independent Palestinian state…here:

    http://www.thoughttheater.com

  10. Christopher says:

    LOL!

    Daniel, Israel has supported a Palestinian state! But the Palestinians want it ALL! They won’t agree to anything less than their demands which is more and more territory. They are CRAZY! And of it takes bombing them into submission, then I guess that is what it takes.

  11. NOTR says:

    Geesh! If were about the Lebanese “Government” it would never have been an issue. But is never was, and it IS an issue. But the heart of it goest to Teheran and Damascus.

  12. Bithead says:

    Oh, and how would they do that, precisely? Maybe by abridging civil liberties at home and locking up or killing all the Islamists they can get their hands on?

    Look, they’re already being charged with abusing civil liberties… what would be the loss?

    A lot of them have already tried that. (Egypt, Jordan, SA, even Syria blasted hell out of its chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood.)

    Well, they made a show out of looking like they were trying, yes.

    Or do you want Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain to actually go to war with Hezbollah and Hamas on behalf of Israel? Because the term for that isn�t �moderate.� That�s called being allied.

    The word ‘moderate’ in the context you’ve placed it here, expresses the though that there is any half-way with Hezbollah and Hamas. History seems to indicate nothing of the sort.

    So, yes, I want them to ally themselves with Israel against Hezbollah and Hamas, because in the end all their existance depends on it… and yes, I think that’s what it really comes down to.

    Because, (think, now…) do you really consider that once Israel is out of the way, these suppsoedly ‘moderate’ governments will be allowed to stand by Hezbollah and Hamas?

    Or, for that matter, anyone else?

  13. Jim Henley says:

    Bithead, your response is too full of logical fallacies for me to know quite where to start. I’m sure you’ve got a perfectly logical plan for dealing with some alternate dimension in your mind, but it has nothing to do with life on Earth.

    Just to get you started: You know all that blather about “Jacksonians?” Do you think we’re the only country that has them? We’re not. Every country has them.

    Meanwhile you’ve somehow got into your head that the preeminent military power in the Middle East is somehow facing an existential threat.

  14. Bithead says:

    Yes, it does.
    The largest one of which is American leftists.

    Do you really think that sans American support, the Israelis would survive for fifteen minutes? I don’t, and neither do they. More, removal of said support would send exactly the wrong message to an enemy intent on having the entire world under the crescent.

    The fact of the matter is is that there is no moderate government in the Middle East at the moment that would withstand Hamas being turned loose. It’s really that simple. This is not merely a military judgment but a political one, as well. I’m not talking about the parent country is going to war with Hamas and Hezbollah on behalf of Israel. I’m suggesting that they better start considering doing it for themselves. If that happens to place them in alliance with Israel temporarily, so much the better.

  15. Bithead says:

    There is much in the way of history which lends credence to this theory. The fall of the Shah for example, And the militant Islamics which sprung up in their place. The Chechnya situation, and the Strength of response that Puten was forced to use. The Somalian situation. The Taliban in Afghanistan. All of these lend credence to the idea that with militant Islamics in place, even outside of government, rational governments cannot stand.

    It is in the best interests of these so called moderate Islamic governments to wage war against Hamas and Hezbollah and win. I say again the future existence of these governments, of these countries, depends on it.

  16. Christopher says:

    Read “6 days of War” by Michael B. Oren, and you will see exactly how tough the Israelis can be!

  17. Bithead says:

    But for how long without external support?

  18. jodie khourshid says:

    it makes you wonder over the years of fighting between Israel and Palestine what has been happing to the Palestinians behind closed doors while the world is sleeping.
    Israel has no right to attack a country, (which in turn has many innocent people) on the bases of terrorism acts as its not the country at fault.
    we all have terrorist breeding in all of our country’s ie Tymothy McVeigh. but we cant go and attack con tries and demolish the land.
    Israel are attacking a country weaker than they are!
    let them try a bigger country next time and see where it gets them.
    but then again they have always go the USA to help