Call it a meme-crusher. If Israel really did win the war, word of the victory is, shall we say, slow to reach home. Fully 63% want Olmert out compared to 29% who want him to stay. Likud will be the likely beneficiary of the disaffection, which means Ariel Sharon might actually outlive Kadima.
Early indications are that UN peacekeepers will be allowed to shoot back in self-defense and “back up” the Lebanese army, but that’s only a proposal on the table. Think about that. 15,000 troops are being sent to help disarm a top-notch guerrilla army, and the UN hasn’t yet decided whether they can return fire. The proposed rules also allow for offensive actions, but Kofi put terrorist minds at ease about that earlier this afternoon when he reiterated that peacekeepers won’t be involved in disarming Hezbollah. That’s the Lebanese army’s job. Israel’s response?
Israel has essentially given up hope of Hizbullah being disarmed, and instead is now concentrating on ensuring that an arms embargo called for in UN Security Council resolution 1701 be implemented, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Furthermore, senior Israeli officials have made it clear in recent days during talks with foreign governments that Israel realizes a Hizbullah presence south of the Litani River is unavoidable, if for no other reason than because the organization is so well rooted there that the only way to get rid of Hizbullah would be to evacuate the entire region.
If this is a defeat, what would a Hezbollah victory have looked like?
Some people are pointing to the fact that Siniora said Hezbollah’s learned its lesson, but as Michael Totten notes, how can that be true if they’re being resupplied by Syria and Iran? Lebanon, apparently at Syria’s behest, is in fact refusing to allow peacekeepers to guard the Syrian border and prevent weapons from being smuggled in. Merkel calls Assad’s maneuvering “unconstructive.”
After originally promising to lead the force, France scaled back its contribution of troops to 200. When the world screamed, they insisted they felt no embarrassment — then upped their contribution to 2,000, thus becoming the first country in history to make a troop deployment look like a surrender. Italy’s going to lead the force now with a contingent of 3,000 soldiers.
A few French troops have already been deployed. AFP captured the stirring scene:
So what’s the solution? Killing Nasrallah, according to a senior Israeli commander. They actually had Hassan Nasrallah in custody a few weeks ago, but — you know the punchline. He’s a full-blown, honest to goodness folk hero in the Arab world now, which might explain why a Hezbollah official felt bold enough to tell Tony Blair not to come to Lebanon or else. The secular Sunni regimes in the region are sufficiently spooked by his power play to make peace overtures to Israel, the idea being that a Palestinian state would cool some of the fundamentalist fires that Hezbollah’s victory — I mean, defeat — has stoked. Egypt’s even taken to reporting some of Assad’s “excesses” in Lebanon in one of its house organs.
Remainders: no one knows how al-Manar managed to stay on the air despite being targeted by the IAF, although I’ll bet some folks in the Iranian embassy have a theory or two; Italy says it knows the two IDF soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah are alive, but they’re not doing so hot; and the New York Sun discovers a surprising conduit for Iranian weapons smuggling into Lebanon. If it’s true, says Totten, they can forget joining Europe. I only wish that were true. As, I’m sure, does he.