- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 30, 2006

The extension of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into the Lebanese arena has created a multifaceted crisis in the Middle East, a crisis where the protagonist is unmistakable — Hezbollah.

If ever there was doubt that Israel’s response to Hezbollah’s calculated acts of aggression was appropriate, given the threat it poses to Israeli security, it has been dispelled by the escalating violence in the region.

By smashing into Hezbollah, Israel is aiding Lebanon and the region by engaging an extremist organization that threatens the very existence of a struggling, fledgling democracy. Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora has stated unequivocally there can be no sovereign Lebanese state without first dismantling and disarming Hezbollah. Yet the Lebanese government has repeatedly failed to confront this terrorist organization and disarm it.

Lebanon has an army of about 70,000 to 80,000 men. Its size, capabilities and reach is far greater than Hezbollah’s standing army of a reported 5,000 or 6,000 However, the Lebanese administration has proved both unwilling and incapable of taking the fight to these fanatics who move with impunity throughout the country.

Disarming and dismembering Hezbollah will be difficult but not impossible for the Lebanese government. Hezbollah, the political party, boasts 12 members and two Cabinet ministers in the Lebanese parliament.

Despite these constraints, Lebanon, if it is to be regarded as a dependable and trustworthy member of the international community, must combat the Hezbollah terrorist organization. The Lebanese leadership must recognize the enormous damage done by Hezbollah and strip them of their weapons — or assist Israel with intelligence and resources to combat and defeat the extremists. If they fail to act decisively, Lebanon will continue to flounder as proxy captives to Iran and Syria.

Hezbollah terrorists operate with funds and weapons that pour over the border from Iran and Syria. Media reports suggest Hezbollah had more than 14,000 rockets at its disposal. Israel had no option but to strike Hezbollah swiftly and forcefully. We must remember that Israel is facing a relentless and callous enemy dedicated to wiping the Jewish state from the map on behalf of Iran.

Israel is not the only nation to suffer through the actions of the Iran/Syria agent, Hezbollah. Like any parasite, Hezbollah has little compassion for its host, in this case the Lebanese people. By attacking Israel, Hezbollah ensured a punishing military reaction with tragic human consequences. Perhaps Hezbollah underestimated the Israeli reaction, or maybe their Iranian and Syrian masters calculated perfectly. We must not lose sight of the very nature of these rogue states and their enormously destabilizing practices. If they acquire a nuclear capability, they will act as if immune from any form of deterrence or responsibility. They will embrace a more belligerent foreign policy, including perhaps arming Hezbollah with a nuclear device. This is clearly an untenable result.

History has taught us Israel will always respond purposefully to provocation. A nation cannot sit idle as its sons are kidnapped and its towns are struck by rockets. Israel’s response has been mostly measured and warranted. It has targeted key infrastructure, highways and Beirut’s Rafik Hariri Airport, to make it difficult for Syria to resupply or reinforce Hezbollah. The Knesset must continue to make it clear to Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist groups that there is a heavy price to pay for acts of wanton aggression.

The Bush administration has rightly called for restraint — this is important to strengthen Lebanese democracy. However, as a priority, we should insist Lebanon abide by U.N. Resolution 1559, which demands it disarms Hezbollah.

Meanwhile, in an effort to ratchet up the pressure, the House of Representatives has condemned Hezbollah’s attack on Israel and urged President Bush to bring sanctions against the governments of Syria and Iran.

It is incumbent upon world leaders to reflect on an official Saudi statement issued immediately after the start of the conflict. The Saudi government accused Hezbollah of “uncalculated adventures” that could bring destruction to Arab nations. Hezbollah elements should “shoulder the full responsibility for this irresponsible behavior and that the burden of ending the crisis falls on them alone.”

It is no secret the U.S. has differences with Saudi Arabia. However on this crucial issue, Riyadh is talking complete sense.

Edward R. Royce, California Republican, is chairman of the House International Relations Terrorism and Proliferation Subcommittee.

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