Iran gives Hezbollah "unlimited budget" to rebuild Lebanon

According to an anti-Syrian Lebanese MP who claims he was told by Hezbollah capos themselves. It figures that the one time the west actually wants to see an Arab government propped up with Sunni cash, the Egyptians, Jordanians and even the Saudis are asleep at the wheel. And Nasrallah’s taking full advantage:

Hezbollah’s reputation as an efficient grass-roots social service network — as opposed to the Lebanese government, regarded by many here as sleek men in suits doing well — was in evidence everywhere. Young men with walkie-talkies and clipboards were in the battered Shiite neighborhoods on the southern edge of Bint Jbail, taking notes on the extent of the damage.

“Hezbollah’s strength,” said Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a professor at the Lebanese American University here, who has written extensively about the organization, in large part derives from “the gross vacuum left by the state.”

Hezbollah was not, she said, a state within a state, but rather “a state within a nonstate, actually.”…

Sheik Nasrallah’s speech was interpreted by some on Tuesday as a kind of watershed in Lebanese politics, establishing his group on an equal footing with the official government.

“It was a coup d’état,” said Jad al-Akjaoui, a political analyst aligned with the democratic reform bloc.

It is a coup d’etat, in slow motion. Debka says they’re using the community services crap as cover to redeploy to their bases in the south before the Lebanese army and UNIFIL peacekeepers get there. A “symbolic” contingent of national troops is moving in today, equipped with obsolete weapons; Haaretz says foreign journalists in Lebanon are calling it “a joke.” The French commander of UNIFIL told Le Monde yesterday that it might take a year — a full year — to deploy the entire 15,000-man force, and even so, the responsibility for disarming Hezbollah will lie “primarily” with the Lebanese. The U.S. is begging Kofi Annan to make them deploy sooner, but the best Kofi can do is hope there’ll be 3,500 troops there within the next two weeks or so. Israel’s northern commander says he wouldn’t be surprised if Hezbollah coopts the Lebanese troops by joining/infiltrating their ranks.

As for disarmament, Nasrallah and Siniora were working on a compromise yesterday morning by which Hezbollah would be allowed to keep its weapons provided it kept them hidden from public view — a sort of “concealed carry” exception to the UN resolution, if you will. A late article from WaPo mentions a new compromise, the details of which are vague yet clear enough: “Hezbollah indicated it would be willing to pull back its fighters and weapons in exchange for a promise from the army not to probe too carefully for underground bunkers and weapons caches, the officials said.”

Israel says if they don’t disarm, the IDF is going back in; foreign minister Tzipi Livni will convey the message to Kofi in person later this afternoon. For the moment, though, Stratfor provides the epitaph for the conflict: “[Olmert] was sufficiently aggressive to increase hostility toward Israel without being sufficiently decisive to achieve a desired military outcome.”

Odds and ends: as usual, the Palestinians learn all the right lessons; compared to Hamas’s offer, Egypt’s proposal for the return of Gilad Shalit is a bargain; the rematch the whole world’s been waiting for is only weeks away; and yes, really and truly, I question the timing.

Update: Some of the commenters in the Giuliani thread are giving me static for being down on Condi. Here’s her op-ed in WaPo this morning. Choke on this:

[T]his resolution will help the democratic government of Lebanon expand its sovereign authority… The new UNIFIL will have a robust mandate, better equipment and as many as 15,000 soldiers — a sevenfold increase from its current strength. Together with this new international force, the Lebanese Armed Forces will deploy to the south of the country to protect the Lebanese people and prevent armed groups such as Hezbollah from destabilizing the area…

Finally, this resolution clearly lays out the political principles to secure a lasting peace: no foreign forces, no weapons and no authority in Lebanon other than that of the sovereign Lebanese government. These principles represent a long-standing international consensus that has been affirmed and reaffirmed for decades — but never fully implemented. Now, for the first time, the international community has put its full weight behind a practical political framework to help the Lebanese government realize these principles, including the disarmament of all militias operating on its territory.

The implementation of Resolution 1701 will not only benefit Lebanon and Israel; it also has important regional implications. Simply put: This is a victory for all who are committed to moderation and democracy in the Middle East — and a defeat for those who wish to undermine these principles with violence, particularly the governments of Syria and Iran.

Update: Here’s a subdued Dan the Man from Monday night’s O’Reilly, trying to put lipstick on a pig.