Politics & Policy

Who Wins?

On the Mideast muddle.

In the wake of Friday night’s vote on a ceasefire resolution at the United Nations on the crisis in the Middle East, are there any winners in the thirty-some days’ war? National Review Online asked a group of experts in the U.S. and Israel.

Anne Bayefsky

The most frightening part of the U.N. Security Council resolution is that the United States agreed to allow the U.N. to play a pivotal role in the battle of our age — between democracy and terrorism, freedom and bondage, dignity and intolerance.

Kofi Annan’s wide grin, as he stood side-by-side with Secretary Rice on Friday, said it all. He won. But America and freedom’s cause lost.

At exactly the moment the “reformed” U.N. Human Rights Council condemned Israel — and only Israel — for the third time in two months, America cut a deal with the same U.N. to pin down the arms of the state on the front lines of democracy’s war.

Why is the America that guards the right of self-defense so dearly willing to deny it, in effect, to the state of Israel? Why would America permit the U.N., which has systematically sided with Arab and Islamic states in their war against the Jews for half a century, to play-act as even-handed peacemaker? Why did the administration believe that denying Israel a win over Iranian proxies this time means America is more likely to win over their Iranian bosses next time?

Everything about this resolution is an assault on the shared values of America and Israel: labeling Israel’s battle against Hezbollah partially “offensive”; failing to mention Iran and Syria — the states driving the war; designing a force for southern Lebanon incapable of disarming Hezbollah; suggesting territorial gains for Hezbollah’s terror; signing a death warrant for the kidnapped Israeli soldiers by placing their release side-by-side with the release of Lebanese killers in Israeli jails.

So why did the administration sign on? The mistaken impression that the U.N. is a good place to make real friends and allies who will be there down the road; the erroneous belief that having the intolerant and the racist inside the tent is progress; the alleged lack of an alternative. These are a lot of very bad reasons for handing an international institution unable to define terrorism a central role in combating it.

Anne Bayefsky is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and at Touro College Law Center. She is also editor of www.EyeontheUN.org.

Ilan Berman

Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran.

At the outset of the conflict, Hezbollah had faced deteriorating popularity at home and the very real possibility of dismemberment at the hands of the Israeli military. But despite four weeks of heavy bombardment, the Shiite militia has survived to fight another day. There is no doubt that it will.

Syria is also sitting pretty. Early on, the Assad regime seemed to be caught in the crosshairs of a conflict that could quickly escalate into a regional conflagration — a nightmare scenario for a state whose survival strategy is simply to wait out the Bush administration. Now, however, not only is its security assured, but Hezbollah’s war with Israel, and the resulting political vacuum that has emerged in Lebanon, has provided Damascus with the opportunity to reclaim lost political ground.

Iran, meanwhile, is stronger than ever. Hezbollah’s resilience vis-à-vis Israel has reinforced the power — and the popular appeal — of the Islamic Republic’s principal terrorist proxy. And, with international attention diverted, the Iranian regime has gained valuable breathing room to forge ahead with its nuclear program.

–Ilan Berman is vice president for policy at the American Foreign Policy Council, and author of Tehran Rising: Iran’s Challenge to the United States.

Shoshana Bryen

Thus far, the U.S. and Israel lose; Iran wins.

The U.S. believed Israel’s destruction of Hezbollah would be a victory on one front in the war against terrorists and the states that harbor and support them; a proxy victory over Iran. The administration gave Israel time, space, and political support, although simultaneous U.S. military attacks on eastern Syrian staging grounds for terrorist infiltration into Iraq would have benefited both countries.

At the U.N., the U.S. held out for what Israel called its strategic goals: return of its soldiers, dismantling Hezbollah, and extending Lebanese sovereignty to the south. But UNSCR 1701 contains no enforcement mechanism, leaving continued and successful military operations by the IDF as the only hope for a satisfactory resolution. To date, unfortunately, IDF operations have been far from successful, and Israel’s civilian leadership appears to have decided against continuing offensive military operations. Israel’s chief of military intelligence acknowledged that Syria and Iran will continue to supply Hezbollah — a huge setback for the good guys.

Hezbollah’s decision Sunday not to entertain disarmament talks gives Israel one last chance. A coordinated and clever military campaign could, with luck, bring success — but time is running out and the political tide is turning.

Shoshana Bryen is director of special projects for the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA).

Peter Brookes

If there is a clear winner in this war, it’s Iran. Regrettably, the “Mullahs of Mayhem” came out of the conflict with nary a scratch — politically, economically, or militarily. While Tehran lost no soldiers, and suffered no attacks on its territory, it was able to:

a) Divert a great deal of world attention from its nuclear (weapons) program, and its support for anti-American Shia militias in Iraq;

b) Strike out at its arch-enemy Israel using its terrorist toady, Hezbollah;

c) Severely damage public opinion about the U.S. in the Muslim world;

d) Put a deep freeze on the Middle East peace process;

e) Push global oil prices even higher, filling its national coffers for advancing its nuclear program, its conventional military, and its support of Hamas and Hezbollah;

f) Catapult itself to a position of leadership in the Muslim world through its support of Hezbollah;

g) And, lastly, remind the region — and the world — that it is capable of creating even more instability if anyone tries to get in the way of its plans for hegemony in the Middle East.

Peter Brookes is senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation. He is author of A Devil’s Triangle: Terrorism, WMD and Rogue States.

Caroline Glick

The big winners in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, which set the terms of a ceasefire between the state of Israel and the Hezbollah terrorist organization, are U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran.

Kofi Annan is a major beneficiary of the resolution because it named him the arbiter of compliance with the ceasefire. Moreover, by retaining UNIFIL and widening its mandate, it rendered him Generalissimo Annan of Lebanon. Israel can expect daily condemnations from the U.N. Secretariat’s office for any act it takes to defend itself against Hezbollah strikes.

Hezbollah is the big winner of the resolution because it adopts almost every Hezbollah demand. Hezbollah will not be disarmed. An arms embargo will not be instituted against it. Its unsupportable claim to Lebanese sovereignty over the Shebaa Farms on the Golan Heights has received international recognition. It is not going to be forced to release the Israeli soldiers it holds as hostages. As Hassan Nasrallah put it, “Yipee, we won. But we still have more demands so better watch out in Haifa!”

Syria is a winner because the resolution made no mention of the fact that Syria is Hezbollah’s logistical base. By ignoring Syria’s central role in the war, the resolution effectively gave its blessing to continued Syrian aggression against Israel (and U.S. forces in Iraq) through terrorist proxy armies.

Iran is the greatest winner of the Security Council’s ceasefire sweepstakes. Iran, which was the architect of the entire war, did not even receive a mention in the resolution. It is already using this victory to force the Arab world to accept its leadership. The Iranian foreign minister’s visit Sunday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was a clear sign that its stock is sky high. Iran has not had full diplomatic relations with Egypt since 1979.

– Caroline Glick is a columnist for the Jerusalem Post.

Nikolas Gvosdev

Halting the violence and ending the humanitarian catastrophe are commendable goals. Anyone expecting dramatic changes as a result of this resolution, however, is going to be disappointed.

One very big gamble is whether Hezbollah will remain, from the perspective of the resolution, a non-state actor and militia subject to disarmament. Left unspoken is what happens if the Party of God cloaks itself within the veneer of Lebanon’s state sovereignty. After all, in Kosovo the KLA transformed itself from a terrorist organization on the State Department’s watch-list into the province’s official police force.

The resolution also does not solve what I have termed “Israel’s Napoleonic conundrum” — its inability to transform its battlefield superiority into acceptance — even grudgingly — of its permanence in the Middle East. The dream of a latter-day Horns of Hattin has not been damaged by the latest round of fighting.

I see two long-term losers beyond Israel and Lebanon.

The first is the “onward march of democracy.” Given the central role of semi-authoritarian states like Jordan and Pakistan in the war on terror — particularly after the foiling of the liquid-explosives-on-airliners plot — does anyone in Washington still want to pressure Amman, Islamabad, or any other friendly capital to continue pell-mell with democratization if the end result is to bring into government forces profoundly hostile to U.S. interests? Fuad Siniora’s heart may be in the right place, but with Hezbollah in his coalition his freedom of action is highly constrained. Does anyone want Pervez Musharraf similarly handicapped?

Iraq is the second loser. Like Lebanon, it too has a weak central government ruled by an unstable coalition cobbled together from ethnic and sectarian parties. Hezbollah has just demonstrated not only to like-minded elements like Sadr’s Mahdi army but to others like the Kurds that a well-organized, determined subnational actor can bypass the central government and unilaterally decide questions of the utmost importance for the entire state, not a particularly useful lesson for a country already on the eve of civil war. (On a side note, pro-Hezbollah demonstrations in Baghdad have not helped Iraq’s cause among the American public either.)

The only glimmer of hope is whether this resolution starts a process of making what happens in southern Lebanon accountable. Will the West have the backbone and staying power to establish and maintain this region as a demilitarized neutral zone? Will Israel end up concluding that Damascus is a “known quantity” and that it is a lesser evil to return to the pre-2005 status quo ante Cedar Revolution — tolerating an overt Syrian presence in return for holding Hezbollah in check? One thing seems clear — three years of “transformation” have not made the region more stable or Israel more secure. Perhaps what is needed is a good dose of realism.

– Nikolas Gvosdev edits The National Interest and blogs at The Washington Realist.

Aaron Mannes

One loser in the fighting in Lebanon is the staunch proponents of airpower alone as a response to asymmetric threats. For military and political leaders, responding to Hezbollah attacks with air strikes held the charm of providing clean victories without heavy casualties. It is a terrific theory with one problem: it does not work against an enemy dug in and using easily portable rocket launchers. (Although this does not guarantee that it will not be tried again. Israel’s previous experience hunting down Katyusha launchers by air should have been sufficient warning of the limitations of airpower against Hezbollah.)

This academic debate had real-world implications. While Israel’s leadership tested the airpower theory, valuable time was lost. This was a unique situation when Israel went to war with a relatively high-level of international sympathy. This advantage was squandered with a semi-effective air campaign, which inevitably made tragic mistakes. When the campaign brought disappointing results Israel’s leadership dithered before finally committing substantial ground forces. But the ground campaign suffered from a lack of strategic clarity. Although the IDF fought well, poor leadership created the appearance of a Hezbollah victory — establishing Hezbollah as the only Arab army that can meet Israel head on.

– Aaron Mannes, author of the TerrorBlog and Profiles in Terror: The Guide to Middle East Terrorist Organizations, and he researches terrorism at the Maryland Information and Network Dynamics Laboratory at the University of Maryland. Opinions expressed here are his own.

Laurent Murawiec

Israel has been defied and found wanting: It neither defended territory and population from attack nor brought the war to its enemy. A hesitant war never tried to hit the enemy’s center of gravity. Some fingers were crushed — Hezbollah fighters — but neither the head, Iran, nor Syria, their connector, were hit. They have shown themselves able to unleash more terror against Israel, through their utensil Nasrallah, without having to pay a price.

For close to a month, George Bush re-emancipated himself from the bureaucracy. Once military operations started, he properly opened a window for Israel, since she was fighting the right war against the masters of terror. The window is now closed. Political capital has been spent in vain: Olmert and Halutz have squandered an extraordinary strategic opportunity; the U.S., by accepting the disastrous U.N. ceasefire resolution, is making it worse. We still need to crush the Iranian threat, but are worse off to do so.

Iran and the Syrian enabler now triumph: They have substantially lowered Israel’s deterrence. Israel should expect a new, bigger wave of terror attacks, a new war. We should expect an Iran-led Shiite insurrection in Iraq within months. The dynamic of success holds especially for jihad. Before the Lebanon affair, Ahmadinejad et al. were drunk with impunity: they will now hasten their flight forward.

– Laurent Murawiec is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.

Walid Phares

Before July 13, Hezbollah was winning by building its massive terrorist infrastructure and feeding its cells around the world, unchecked. Tehran was readying Hezbollah for a future strategic strike against the U.S., Europe, and Israel at Ahmedinijad’s timing (connected to the nuclear crisis).

The state of play as of Sunday night? Hezbollah lost its preeminence as a military power in south Lebanon (for few months), its ability to surprise Israel (and the U.S. and the West) in the near future, and part of its legal protection inside Lebanon. This partially curtails Hezbollah, but only on paper. Israel depleted significant Hezbollah capacities but stopped short of a strategic change on the ground. The Lebanese government, which was being suffocated gradually by Nasrallah, got an opening. In short:

Saul Singer is editorial-page editor of the Jerusalem Post and author of Confronting Jihad: Israel’s Struggle and the World After 9/11.

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