The news coming out of Lebanon over the past two days reminds me too much of the news coming out of the Palestinian territories. Israelis assassinate a Palestinian they believe is responsible for past attacks and/or for planning future attacks on Israel. Palestinians fire rockets into Israel-proper in response. Israelis retaliate in-force against Palestinian positions.
The one exception today was that Hizballah "retaliated" on behalf of the Palestinians and escalated the already deadly situation. Their motive? I can think of none except the exploitation of this event to improve their domestic political position (and maybe, to provoke the Israelis into more deadly strikes for obvious reasons).
In the sectarian game that is played in Lebanon today, Hizballah and Syria's wild card appears to have become Palestinian fighters. March 14's one accomplishment over the past year has been to relegate Hizballah into nothing more than a Shi'a militia. Whereas, at one point in time, most Lebanese living in Lebanon would mute their criticism of that militia in public forums; today, the situation is obviously different.
Under these conditions, Hizballah no longer has the luxury to launch attacks against the Israelis to the extent that it used to. Relative to the time interval between the Israeli withdrawal and the emergence of March 14, for example, Hizballah can now be said to be militarily paralyzed. For as long as I remember, and with the exception of today, the Southern border has never been quieter.
For this reason, I believe, the Syrians, in concert with Hizballah and Iran, have decided to introduce a Palestinian element into the mix. They figure that if Future can convince the "Sunni street" not to support open confrontation in the South by arguing that Hizballah is a Shi'a militia under the direction of the Shi'a "superpower," Iran, it would be much more difficult to do so if Sunni Palestinians were the ones fighting (or at least instigating the fights).
Today, for example, it was the Palestinians who launched the first attack, and Hizballah “retaliated in their defense.” If you watched Future TV's news coverage of the conflagration, you would have heard them revert to blasting the worn out language of “the Arab cause” with gusto!
The tactical move of introducing armed Palestinian elements outside of the camps definitely succeeded to a certain extent. It has put Future in an uncomfortable position with regards their constituency. It has given Hizballah an opportunity to improve its political position in Lebanon. And it has allowed Syria to spark up the Southern border with more ease. However, it can be countered.
It can be countered if the ruling majority
- Continues to foster a sense of Lebanese identity among all of its constituents
- Secures the border with Syria and prevents any more shipments of weapons by force if necessary
- Communicates a message that the "Palestinian cause" can and will be resolved more effectively through other means
- And finally, eliminates the armed Palestinian presense outside of the camps so that they are not able cause trouble on behalf of Hizballah and Syria.