- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 16, 2006

According to the Bush administration and the Israeli government, the U.N. Security Council peace plan for Lebanon is an important step forward for Middle East peace and a defeat for Iran and Syria. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, for example, calls the U.N. plan a “good first step” toward a lasting Mideast peace and a “strategic setback” for Tehran and Damascus. Miss Rice said in a letter to The Washington Post that Resolution 1701, approved on Friday, would result in “a weakened Hezbollah with fewer opportunities to rearm and regroup.” And, “for the first time, the international community has put its full weight behind a practical political framework” that would help the Lebanese government achieve “the disarmament of all militia operating on its territory,” Miss Rice added.

Such comments have an almost surreal quality, given the fact that Hezbollah refuses to disarm, and neither the Lebanese government nor the United Nations has indicated any real interest in forcing them to do so. For example, the Lebanese cabinet reportedly decided yesterday that it would be the only force to bear arms south of the Litani River. But a senior Hezbollah official, Sheikh Hassan Fadlallah, denied the group had any intention of disarming. The Jerusalem Post reported that when French Maj. Gen. Alain Pellegrini, the commander of UNIFIL (the “muscular” new U.N. peacekeeping force), was asked about the possibility of renewed fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, he said he would “beg” the sides to stop.

Other reports said that Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and Mr. Nasrallah agreed that Hezbollah could keep its weapons so long as they were not displayed in public. Israeli officials point to this as a violation of Resolution 1701, which requires Hezbollah’s removal from the border area.

The Israelis would hardly expect any help from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who said Tuesday that “dismantling Hezbollah is not the direct mandate of the U.N., which could only help Lebanon do the job.” But Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr said that: “The [Lebanese] army is not going to the south to strip Hezbollah of weapons and do the work that Israel did not.”

Yet the realities on the ground haven’t dissuaded the Bush administration and the Israeli government from continuing to make the farcical assertions that Israel has won a “victory” over Hezbollah, that the strategic situation has been changed in Israel’s favor, and that if Hezbollah violates the cease-fire and continues to behave as it has since its founding 24 years ago, that the world will suddenly realize that Hezbollah is really a terrorist group, bad actor, etc.

There is simply no way to credibly spin what has taken place in Lebanon as a victory. While we appreciate the fact that insincerity is often required of diplomats, Washington and Jerusalem undercut their credibility by continuing to make arguments that have so little basis in reality.

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