As the Security Council meets to explore ways of solving the Lebanon crisis, it ought to focus on the only place where it can really be solved: Syria. As long as Syria continues to supply Iran’s and its own weapons to Hezbollah, Hezbollah will be able to fire missiles at will — and there isn’t anything that Israel, the Lebanese army, or the highly improbable multinational force can do about it.
The umbrella of missile terrorism which has been unfurled over the northern third of Israel is an existential threat to the viability of the Israeli state. Israel is fighting in Lebanon, ferociously and in some ways pointlessly, for one simple and tragic reason: It desperately needs to convince the inhabitants of its northern cities to stay home. Those Israelis are willing to live in bomb shelters for now only because they still hope that the Israeli army will be able to roll back the missile-terror umbrella. But Israel is powerless to accomplish that. Only the United Nations can protect Israel now.
The West needs to recognize that Iran’s grand strategy is to depopulate Israel through missile terror. And Hezbollah, which is dedicated to the “liberation” of Palestine (by which it means expulsion of the Jews) will go on fighting — or threatening to fight — as long as it has missiles to fire. Israel’s enemies see a historic victory within reach. It may well be.
Israel cannot lift the terror umbrella by fighting in Lebanon. Hezbollah’s positions are too well-dispersed, and its increasingly long-range missiles can be fired from central Lebanon — and even north of Beirut. The buffer zone Israel is trying to create in south Lebanon — now whittled down to a few miles even on the drawing board — will only inconvenience the Hezbollah missile teams. Any stabilization force is likely to have to watch impotently as missiles get fired into Israel over their heads, and they will have as much luck rooting the missile teams out as Israel is having now, which is to say, very little. With all the firepower Israel has unleashed against Hezbollah, the shower of missiles reaching its towns and cities has hardly abated. Israel’s offensive is palpably failing.
The West must focus on the pivotal role of Syria. It is the exposed bottleneck in the Hezbollah supply chain. Its airports serve as conduits for a steady stream of missiles from Iran. And its factories are churning out many of the missiles now raining down on Israel. And attempts to control the Lebanon-Syria border won’t work. The border is too long, and too porous.
The only thing that has any hope of bringing light to the end of the tunnel is a robust Security Council resolution under Chapter VII that requires Iran to stop supplying weapons to Syria, and requires Syria to stop supplying weapons to Hezbollah. The Council should demand of Syria a transparent accounting of the weapons shipments it has received from Iran, as well as a comprehensive declaration of Syria’s missile production infrastructure, with full details of its inventories and disposition of missiles. Syria must then be required to admit U.N. inspectors at all of its military and civilian airports, as well as its missile production facilities. And finally, the resolution should authorize the use of all necessary means, including the use of force, to enforce its terms.
In the meantime, the world must recognize something about the innocent civilians in Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon whose homes and lives have been devastated by this war. Over a third of Lebanon’s population voted for Hezbollah in the last elections. They did not cast their votes for peace. What they voted for was war, and war is what they got.
In light of that, one is justified in asking what their calls for an immediate ceasefire really mean. Do they mean that they have changed their minds, and now would rather have peace? Or do they simply mean that they want Israel to stop fighting, and accept life under an umbrella of missile terrorism?
Though important, the question is academic. Hezbollah has vowed to fight on. And it will, as long as Syria is able to keep a veil over the flood of weapons that is flowing, from it, and through it, into the tortured land of Lebanon.
– Mario Loyola is a former assistant for communications and policy planning at the Department of Defense. He last wrote for NRO on the social contract of terrorism.