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Willisms

« Israel: Plenty Of Money To Finance War | WILLisms.com | Attaining Class Mobility Through Economic Growth »

Flashpoint: Lebanon

le-lgflag.gif
LEBANON

GlobalSecurity.org: Lebanon

CIA World Factbook: Lebanon
The Council on Foreign Relations has some superb backgrounders on the conflict in Lebanon:
Lebanon's Weak Government
Syria, Iran, and the Mideast Conflict
Hezbollah (a.k.a. Hizbollah, Hizbu'llah)
Profile: Hassan Nasrallah
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Casualties thus far in the conflict: "Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora put the death toll at more than 330 - at least 11 of them killed Thursday - with 1,100 wounded. At least 32 Israelis have been killed, including 17 service members - three of them killed in military operations Thursday and early Friday."

Brigadier-General Alon Friedman stated that air strikes have destroyed about 50 per cent of Hezbollah's arsenal.

Thousands of IDF troops are now operating inside Lebanon.

Hezbollah has fired over 1,000 rockets so far, and the IDF fears they may be trying to move rockets into Gaza, shortening the range to hit Israel. So far, indiscriminate Hezbollah rockets have hit a UN Post, Nazareth (killing two children), Haifa, Acre, Tiberias and several other towns.

LEBANESE RELIGIONS
from Encyclopedia of the Orient
Islam 2,000,000 54%
Shi'i 1,200,000 32%
Sunni 750,000 20%
Alawites 50,000 1.4%
Christianity 1,450,000 39%
Maronite Catholics 850,000 23%
Melkite Catholics 400,000 11%
Syrian Catholics 25,000 0.7%
Armenian Catholics 20,000 0.5%
Roman Catholics 20,000 0.5%
Chaldean Catholic 12,000 0.3%
Armenian Orthodox 120,000 3.2%
Syrian Orthodox 2,000 0.05%
Greek Orthodox 1,000 0.03%
Druze 210,000 5.7%
Baha'i 4,000 <0.1%

Lebanon is an incredibly diverse place religiously and politically with a long history of war and civil war since 1975. Nearly half of the population is some flavor of christian, while the unique Druze religion, Shia and Sunni Islam round out the rest. The Lebanese Constitution reflects the importance of these factions, and it requires that:

  • the President must be a Maronite Catholic Christian.
  • the Prime Minister must be a Sunni Muslim.
  • the Speaker of the Parliament must be a Shi'a Muslim.
Hezbollah has 35 seats in Lebanon's parliament. Hassan Nasrallah is the leader of Hezbollah, but does not hold a seat in the Lebanese parliament. Hezbollah was formed in 1982 by Iran in an attempt to export its revolution. Hezbollah is believed to be responsible for 838 terrorist fatalities, and widely acknowledged to be behind "a series of kidnappings of Westerners in Lebanon, including several Americans, in the 1980s; the suicide truck bombings that killed more than 200 U.S. Marines at their barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983; the 1985 hijacking of TWA flight 847, which featured the famous footage of the plane’s pilot leaning out of the cockpit with a gun to his head; two major 1990s attacks on Jewish targets in Argentina—the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy (killing twenty-nine) and the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center (killing ninety-five); a July 2006 raid on a border post in northern Israel in which two Israeli soldiers were taken captive. The abductions sparked an Israeli military campaign against Lebanon to which Hezbollah responded by firing rockets across the Lebanese border into Israel." The FBI has a $5 million dollar reward for the capture of Hezbollah leader Imad Mugniyah, for 'air piracy resulting in murder' among other things, and Mugniyah is believe to have carried out the 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut.

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Hassan Nasrallah

There is no definitive answer on how much Iran gives in financial support to Hezbollah. Estimates range from 100-200 million dollars annually to just $25-50 million annually. Hezbollah had an estimated 3,000 hardcore fighters as of the beginning of the conflict, and as many as 13,000 rockets. Israel claims that it has seriously degraded Hezbollah's command and control, and its supply of Katyusha rockets (a Russian design from World War II), and 'Fajr' type rockets of Iranian manufacture, the most powerful of which is the 333mm Fajr-5 rocket with a range of 75 km. Hezbollah's arms come from Syria, or from Iran via Damascus. However, the IDF reports that some of the Fajr rockets landing in Haifa were actually of Syrian manufacture.

Hezbollah also has the 610 mm Zelzal-2 'missile' (it is really an unguided rocket) which might be capable of launching half a ton of chemical weapons as far as Tel Aviv.

ranges.jpg
iranrockets.jpg

Syrian still exercises considerable de facto power in Lebanon through its political allies, even though Syria's security forces left Lebanon completely in 2005.

Émile Lahoud

Lebanon's President is Émile Lahoud, a Maronite Christian and minion of Damascus, "owes his position to the Syrians," says Richard Murphy, a former U.S. ambassador to Syria and Saudi Arabia. Murphy also says. "He's not seen as a forceful or particularly capable leader, or as a figure with any personal following. He has Syria's blessing, period." Lahoud is unfortunately the nation's commander-in-chief and in nominal control of Lebanon's army, a large percentage of which is composed of poor Shia recruits.

Saniora.jpg
Fuad Saniora

The army may fracture into pro- and anti- Hezbollah factions if forced to confront Hezbollah - thus goading the Lebanese army into attacking Hezbollah may be worse for Lebanon than having them sit on the sidelines.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora - a Sunni who was once a close aide to Rafik Hariri - has turned against Hezbollah, stating that it was a 'state within a state' and should be disarmed, and was taking orders from Syria and Tehran. Indeed, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559 (02 September 2004, China and Russia abstaining) states that the Security Council -

1. Reaffirms its call for the strict respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity, and political independence of Lebanon under the sole and exclusive authority of the Government of Lebanon throughout Lebanon;

2. Calls upon all remaining foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon;

3. Calls for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias;

4. Supports the extension of the control of the Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory.

It appears that Israel is doing the job requested by the Security Council. Thus one can presume that Israel's actions are legal (not to mention Israel's inherent right to self-defense, as per UN Charter Article 51).

Parlimentary seats are divided as follows, among 128 seats altogether (from the Council on Foreign Relations):

hariri.jpg
Said Hariri

Tayyar al-Mustaqbal (Future Tide) coalition, 72 seats. An anti-Syria opposition coalition led by Said Hariri, a 35-year-old businessman and son of the former prime minister. Hariri, a Sunni Muslim, joined forces with Walid Jumblatt, [who recently told Al-Arabiya that "the war is no longer Lebanon's ... it is an Iranian war."] head of the minority Druze community and leader of the al-Taqadummi al-Ishtiraki, or Progressive Socialist Party. Jumblatt led a Syria-backed armed militia against Christian groups during the civil war; after the war he served as a cabinet official in several pro-Syrian Lebanese governments. In 1988, Jumblatt responded to attempts by Syrian President Hafez al-Assad to strip him of power by leaving government and joining the anti-Syria opposition movement. Future Tide also includes several notable Christian politicians.

Amal Party/Hezbollah, 35 seats. Hezbollah is an armed Shiite militia backed by Iran that has wide support in Lebanon's Shiite south, where it is credited with ending the Israeli occupation. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's leader, formed a coalition with the Amal Party, a Shiite group led by Nabih Berri, a former military officer considered one of Syria's main collaborators in Lebanon. The Amal/Hezbollah group, which polled strongly in the south, is now the main Shiite party in Lebanon.

Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), 21 seats. General Michel Aoun, the FPM leader, is a Maronite Christian and former military officer who led a failed coup against Syria in 1989 and served briefly as Lebanon's prime minister and acting president before fleeing to France. He returned to Lebanon May 7 after 14 years in exile. Aoun shocked many supporters by forming a last-minute alliance with Suleiman Franjieh, a Maronite Christian former cabinet minister and part of a prominent pro-Syrian clan. The alliance made strong gains in the third week of voting in the Christian areas of central Mount Lebanon and the eastern Bekaa Valley. That showing made Aoun the most influential Maronite leader in the country. "It's clear now that Aoun speaks for the Maronite interests," says Hussein Ibish, vice chair of the Progressive Muslim Union and former Washington correspondent for Beirut's Daily Star. Maronite Christians in Lebanon's heartland voted overwhelmingly for Aoun and against the Christian leaders who ran on their own or joined the Future Tide coalition.

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There is a also a ghost army of blue helmets in Lebanon, the 2,000 man force called the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon or UNIFIL Milos Strugar, senior adviser to UNIFIL said that due to being hemmed in by war damage to the south Lebanese infrastructure, it is no longer able to patrol the blue line, which is its mandate, and part of its mission:

"According to Security Council resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978) of 19 March 1978, UNIFIL was established to:

  • Confirm the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon;
  • Restore international peace and security;
  • Assist the Government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area.

Most recently the mandate of UNIFIL was extended until 31 July 2006 by Security Council resolution 1655 (2006) of 31 January 2006."

Hezbollah has violated these Security Council Resolution 425 numerous times, attacking the Shebaa Farms often since Israel's pullout from Lebanon, and in one instance UNIFIL was accused of being complicit with Hezbollah in a kidnapping. UNIFIL is as equally pointless a military organization as the Lebanese army right now, and the only thing it has accomplished is establishing that the duration of the official United Nations unit of time known as the 'Interim' lasts approximately 30 years.

There is also the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force or UNDOF, a force of 1,000 troops stationed between the Golan Heights and Syria.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 21 July 2006 04:27 AM

Comments

More background from Stratfor (subscription) compliments of Tigerhawk:

The Lebanese government and military operate on a shaky ethno-sectarian system reflecting the country's explosive mix of religious sects. The armed forces consist of about 60,000 men divided into several brigades, most of which are also divided along sectarian lines. Most army recruits come from rural areas in Lebanon, such as Akkar in the north, Iqlim al-Kharroub in the Shouf Mountains southeast of Beirut, and from southern Lebanon. Approximately 70 percent of the enlisted men are made up of Sunnis and Shia, divided almost equally.

Lebanon's military vastly outnumbers Hezbollah's cadre of trained fighters, but still lacks the ability and will to overtake Hezbollah bases in southern Lebanon and force the Shiite guerrilla force to disarm, a demand Israel says must be met before any move toward a cease-fire can be made. This is largely due to the significant number of Hezbollah sympathizers and members operating among the army's conscripts.

When the French created Lebanon in 1941, Paris sought to ensure Maronite Christians would monopolize the armed forces' top brass, which was intentionally designed to remain a small, defensive force out of fear that a strong Lebanese army would become embroiled in wider Arab regional conflicts. When Syria became the de facto ruler of Lebanon as result of the civil war in the 1980s, however, the Syrians decided to do some remodeling. Damascus played a direct role in putting Hezbollah members in important positions in the Lebanese army -- to the extent that Hezbollah now occupies many of the important positions previously held by Maronites. When Syria withdrew its approximately 20,000 troops from Lebanon following the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, it maintained a powerful presence in Lebanon's political, military and intelligence circles, keeping Hezbollah's position intact.

Considering the number of Hezbollah sympathizers and members in the Lebanese armed forces, it comes as no surprise that the militant group is receiving logistical and intelligence support from the army to stage its missile attacks. Hezbollah recently attempted to launch missiles from mobile launchers near the Kfar Shima army base, located in a Druze-Christian area just outside Beirut's southern suburbs. The Israeli air force subsequently destroyed the launcher and killed 10 Lebanese soldiers.

Posted by: Bat One at July 21, 2006 07:47 AM

us and israel now have matching quagmires. We should envy Iran.

Posted by: lester at July 21, 2006 12:23 PM

Better to actually DO something about the situation, rather than sit back like some moronic capon waiting for the UN to once again demonstrate its feckless ineptitude.

Time for some heavy duty spring cleaning up and down the ol' Bekaa Valley.

Posted by: Bat One at July 21, 2006 06:31 PM