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THE ELEMENTS OF THE MIDEAST CONFLICT

          “The Bible reveals that the God of the universe chose to establish His earthly throne at the physical center of the world.  This disclosure was made through the great Jewish prophet Ezekiel: Thus saith the Lord God: This is Jerusalem; I have set her in the midst of the nations and countries that are round about her.’  (Eze. 5:5).  Widespread belief that Jerusalem is truly situated at the geographical heart of the planet is even reflected in the common term for the region, Middle East.

           Spiritually speaking, the holy city also lies at the apex of many people’s religious affections.  No fewer than three faiths regard Jerusalem as sacred.  More than two billion self-professing Christians–from the Philippines to Argentina, from Siberia to South Africa, indeed from virtually every nation on Earth–gaze toward Earth’s central city with reverent eyes.  More than one billion Muslims also hold Jerusalem in high esteem, even though their primary hallowed sites are in nearby Saudi Arabia.  And although the Jewish people are far fewer in number, they undeniably look to the Old City’s Temple Mount as the earthly center of their faith, as they have done for more than 3,000 years.

           “Consequently, Jerusalem is sacred to around half the people on earth.  This fact alone helps explain why Israel’s growing capital city has now become the lightning rod of world media attention and the future address of Earth’s final conflict. “ [Excerpts from “Israel My Glory” or www.foigm.orgIMG/epicentr.htm) 

HISTORICAL HIGHLIGHTS OF ISRAEL

          1948                            STATE OF ISRAEL

        1948                          End of British Mandate (14 May) State of Israel proclaimed (14 May) Israel invaded by five Arab states (15 May) War of Independence (May 1948-July 1949) Israel Defense Forces (IDF) established.

         1949                          Armistice agreements signed with Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon.  Jerusalem divided under Israeli and Jordanian rule.  First Knesset (parliament elected).  Israel admitted to United Nations as 59th member.

1948- 1952                         Mass immigration from Europe and Arab countries.

          1956                          Sinai Campaign

          1962                          Adolf Eichmann tried and executed in Israel for his part in the Holocaust.

          1964                          National Water Carrier completed, bringing water from Lake Kinneret in the north to the semi-arid south.

          1967                          Six-Day War, Jerusalem reunited.

1968- 1970                         Egypt’s War of Attrition against Israel.

          1973                          Yom Kippur War; Israel becomes an associate member of the European Common Market.

           1977                         Likud forms government after Knesset elections end of 30 years of Labor rule.  Visit of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem.

           1978                         Camp David accords include framework for comprehensive peace in the Middle East and proposal for Palestinian self-government.

           1979                         Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty signed.  Prime Minister Menachem Begin and President Anwar Sadat awarded Nobel Peace Prize.

            1981                        Israel Air Force destroys Iraqi nuclear reactor just before it is to become operative.

          1982                        Israel’s three-stage withdrawal from Sinai completed.  Operation Peace for Galilee removes PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) terrorists from Lebanon.

            1984                        National Unity government (Likud and Labor) formed after elections.  Operation Moses, Immigration of Jews from Ethiopia.

            1985                        Free Trade Agreement signed with United States.

            1987                        Widespread violence (intifada) starts in Israeli administered areas.

            1988                        Likud government in power following elections.

            1989                        Four point peace initiative proposed by Israel.  Start of mass immigration of Jews from former Soviet Union.

            1991                      Israel attacked by Iraqi Scud missiles during Gulf War.  Middle East peace conference convened in Madrid.  Operation Solomon, airlift of Jews from Ethiopia.

            1992                        Diplomatic relations established with China and India.  New government headed by Yitzhak Rabin of Labor party.

           1993                       Declaration of Principles of Interim Self-Government Arrangements for the Palestinians signed by Israel and PLO, as representative of the Palestinian people.

          1994                    Implementation of Palestinian self-government in Gaza Strip and Jericho area.  Full diplomatic relations with the Holy See.  Morocco and Tunisia interest offices set up. Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty signed.  Rabin, Peres, Arafat awarded Nobel Peace Prize.

           1995                   Broadened Palestinian self-government implemented in West Bank and Gaza Strip; Palestinian Council elected. Prime Minister Rabin assassinated at peace rally.  Shimon Peres becomes prime minister.

           1996                     Fundamentalist Arab terrorism against Israel.  Operation Grapes of Wrath retaliation for Hezbullah terrorists’ attacks on northern Israel.  Trade representation offices set up in Oman and Qatar.  Likud forms government after Knesset elections.  Benjamin Netanyahu becomes prime minister, Omani trade representation office opened in Tel Aviv.

           1997                         Hebron Protocol signed by Israel and the P.A.

           1998                       Israel celebrates its 50th anniversary.  Israel and the PLO sign the Wye River Memorandum to facilitate implementation of the Interim Agreement.  (Taken from “Facts About Israel” at www.israel.org/mfa/go.asp?

NEWS SCRIPTS

           “Hezbollah or Hizbollah/Hizbullah or Hezb’Allah (Arabic: meaning Party of God) is a governmental and military Shia Islamic group, with a military arm and a civilian arm, founded in 1982 to fight the Israeli Defense Forces who occupied southern Lebanon until the year 2000.  Its leader is Nasrallah.  Hezbollah was “inspired by the success of the Iranian Revolution” and was formed primarily to combat Israel following the 1982 Lebanon War.  The United States and Israel say that Hezbollah has received financial and political assistance, as well as weapons and training, from Iran and Syria.  Syria says it supports Hezbollah, but denies supplying it with weapons.  Along with the Amal movement, Hezbollah is the main political party and military organization representing the Shia community, Lebanon’s largest religious bloc.  Founded with the aid of Iran and funded by it, Hezbollah follows the distinct Shia Islamic ideology developed by Aytatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

         “Hezbollah is regarded by many inside the Arab and Muslim worlds, such as the Iranian and Syrian governments, as a legitimate resistance movement and is a recognized political party in Lebanon, where it has participated in government.  The civilian wing participates in the Parliament of Lebanon, taking 18% of the seats (23 out of 128) and the bloc it forms with others, the “Resistance and Development Bloc”, 27.3%.  It is a minority partner in the current Cabinet.  The civilian wing also runs hospitals, news services, and educational facilities.  Its Reconstruction Campaign is responsible for numerous economic and infra structural development projects in Lebanon. 

The South Lebanon Period (1990 - 2000)

           “The continued existence of Hezbollah’s military wing after 1990 violates the Taif Agreement that ended the Lebanese civil war, which requires the “disbanding of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias” and requires the government to “deploy the Lebanese army in the border area adjacent to Israel.”  The Lebanese government did not try to disarm the Hezbollah during the 1990-2000 period, justifying its position by the fact that Hezbollah was a legitimate national resistance force, fighting for the liberation of the south, then occupied by Israel.

Conflict in South Lebanon: “South Lebanon was occupied by Israel between 1982 and 2000.  Hezbollah, along with the mainly leftist and secular groups in the Lebanese National Resistance Front, fought a guerilla war against Israel and the Israeli proxy South Lebanon Army.  The National Resistance Front militias disarmed in accordance with the Taif Accords, but Hezbollah remained defiant, claiming until all Lebanese soil was liberated and Israel expelled, resistance against occupation would continue.  They had become by far the largest and most powerful and effective of the resistance organizations.  The fighting culminated during Operation Grapes of Wrath in April 1996 when Israel launched an assault and air-campaign against Hezbollah.  The campaign failed and resulted in the Israelis killing more than 150 civilians and refugees in an aerial bombardment of a United Nations base at Qana

          “On September 2, 2004, the UN Security Council adopted UN Security Council Resolution 1559, coauthored by France and the United States.  Echoing the Taif Agreement, the resolution “calls upon all remaining foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon” and “for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias.”  Lebanon is currently in violation of Resolution 1559 over its refusal to disband the military wing of Hezbollah.  Critics of the resolution argue however that an attempt from the weak and confessionally divided Lebanese army to disarm Hezbollah would be very difficult and could restart the Lebanese civil war.  Syria was also in violation of the resolution until recently because of their military presence in Lebanon.  On October 7, 2004 the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan reported to the Security Council regarding the lack of compliance with Resolution 1559.  Mr. Annan concluded his report by saying: “It is time, 14 years after the end of hostilities and four years after the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, for all parties concerned to set aside the remaining vestiges of the past.  The withdrawal of foreign forces and the disbandment and disarmament of militias would, with finality, end that sad chapter of Lebanese history.”  The January 20, 2005 UN Secretary-General’s report on Lebanon stated that “The continually asserted position of the Government of Lebanon that the Blue line is not valid in the Sha’a farms area is not compatible with Security Council resolutions.  The Council has recognized the Blue Line as valid for purposes of confirming Israel’s withdrawal pursuant to resolution 425 (1978).  The UN Security Council has repeatedly requested that all parties respect the Blue Line in its entirety.

         “On January 28, 2005 UN Security Council Resolution 1583 called upon the Government of Lebanon to fully extend and exercise its sole and effective authority throughout the south, including through the deployment of sufficient numbers of Lebanese armed and security forces, to ensure a calm environment throughout the area, including along the Blue Line, and to exert control over the use of force on its territory and from it.  On January 23, 2006 the UN Security Council called on the Government of Lebanon to make more progress in controlling its territory and disbanding militias, while also calling on Syria to cooperate with  those efforts.  In a statement read out by its January President Mahiga of Tanzania, the Council also called on Syria to take measures to stop movements of arms and personnel into Lebanon.”

           “Hezobollah’s ideology is based in the Shi’a tradition of Islam, specifically in the concept of “Willayat al Faqih” put forth by Ayatollah Khomeini and other Islamic scholars in Iran.  Hezbollah seeks to set up an Islamic government in Lebanon modeled after the one in Iran.  The following excerpt is taken from the group’s political platform, first published in 1985:  “The solution to Lebanon’s problems is the establishment of an Islamic republic as only this type of regime can secure justice and equality for all of Lebanon’s citizens.”  The Hizballah organization views as an important goal the fight against `western imperialism’ and its eradication from Lebanon.  The group strives for complete U.S. and French withdrawal from Lebanon, including all their institutions.

           “The conflict with Israel is viewed as a central concern.  This is not only limited to the IDF presence in Lebanon.  Rather, the complete destruction of the State of Israel and the establishment of Islamic rule over Jerusalem is an expressed goal.” {Taken From: the Wikipedia, Free Encyclopedia, pp.  1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9}.

           “Syria: Even before this latest outbreak, Syria was under a cloud of suspicion in Lebanon for its suspected involvement in the assassination of Lebanon’s previous prime minister, Rafik Harri, in February 2005.  President Bush has blamed Syria for its support of Hezbollah.  `Syria is trying to get back into Lebanon, it looks like to me,’ he said.  Damascus denies Bush’s charge and says it wields no control over Hezbollah.  `Whether they like it or not, Hezbollah is an independent, autonomous organization,’ says Imad Moustapha, Syria’s ambassador in Washington.  There is some truth to this.  While Damascus was a key Hezbollah patron when Syria had troops in Lebanon, it is now more of a patron and facilitator, Syria still has some sway over the group, however, and could influence Hezbollah and its chief backer, Iran.  Already, Syria appears to be trying to set itself up as a peacemaker, calling for a cease-fire.  Hezbollah is unlikely to agree to such a move without pressure from its sponsors.  But some experts warn against enlisting Syria’s help because it could reverse the gains Lebanon made after Syria removed its troops from the country last year, after nearly three decades.  `To go to Damascus now would be to betray the Lebanese people,’ says Martin Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel who is now at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy.  `They would in effect have our invitation to meddle in Lebanese politics, with the rationale that they are doing our bidding in dealing with Hezbollah.

           “Arab Gulf States: Perhaps the most surprising reaction to the fighting has been from several key Sunni Arab regimes.   In a remarkable first in Arab politics, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan have been openly critical of other arabs engaged in active conflict with Israel.  `We see what happened in Lebanon as an adventure and we’re afraid that everybody is going to pay the price,’s says a senior Egyptian diplomat.  These Arab regimes are still blasting Israel, but their tough words for Hezbollah suggest a new level of concern about its motives, and particularly its backers in Tehran.  Still, it’s not clear how long these governments can maintain their criticism of Hezbollah.  The group remains popular on the Arab street and might only gain deeper support if the conflict drags on.

           “Israel: The kidnaping of its soldiers was a useful pretext for launching an operation that military leaders had been eager to pursue for several years.  Not only was Hezbollah building up its stocks of rockets, but Israelis are also worried by a growing perception in the Arab world that its withdrawal from southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip was a sign of weakness.  Israeli military brass admit privately that they cannot hope to completely destroy Hezbollah, a goal they were unable to achieve during an 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon.  Instead, the Army is working fast to try to eliminate as many rocket launchers as it can before a potential cease-fire.   Before it’s over, Israel aims to weaken the militant group by imposing a no man’s land half a mile deep into Lebanon.  Instead of occupying the land, Israel will send in bulldozers to `flatten the area and remove any sign of a Hezbollah outpost and even trees so that Hezbollah can’t enter again,’ says an Israeli military official.  One other option: carve out a deeper buffer zone with a ground invasion.

           “Palestinians: Even after Israel opened up a second front against Hezbollah, it continued its three week-old assault on the Palestinian militant group Hamas.  This also began with a kidnaping of an Israeli soldier, but it has become very much the forgotten front of this war.  In fact, Israel’s Army has been moving in and out of the Gaza Strip and even opened up another front on the West Bank last week, Israeli soldiers raided a Gaza refugee camp for two straight days last week, while besieging a Palestinian security post in the West Bank suspected of being used by Hamas militants.  Ironically, Hezbollah, which claims to have acted in sympathy with the Palestinians, has succeeded mostly in overshadowing them completely, leaving Israel with a relatively free hand to move against Hamas.  More than 100 Palestinians have been killed so far.  `No one is noticing what is happening to us,’ complains a Palestinian legislator.  `Everyone has forgotten about us.’

IRAN

           “An Impulse For Intrigue: A coup d’etat, and then a pro-American shah, Revolution, and chants of `Death to America.’  Blindfolded hostages held for an agonizing 444 days.  A symbolic offering of a Bible, pistols, and a cake-come to naught.  And, always, the bearded, be robed mullahs thundering against the `Great Satan.’  The scenes are seared into America’s collective memory, snapshots from what is perhaps its most irrepressibly maligned foreign relationship.  That, of course, would be the one with Iran.  New images came flooding in last week, as Hezbollah guerrillas rained rockets down on Israel, drawing a fierce Israeli bombardment in reply.  They added a new dimension to the old picture, one of an Iran with the power and the will to wreak havoc far from its borders.  U.S. officials and many analysts see an Iranian hand at work in Hezbollah’s new fractiousness.  Exactly how much is a point of debate, but not in the White House or in Washington’s other power centers.  `Part of those terrorist attacks,’ President Bush suggested last week, `are inspired by nation states, like Syria and Iran.’  Iranian officials deny involvement in the Hezbollah raid that resulted in the abduction of two Israeli soldiers, but they’re also happy stirring the pot, with Iran’s parliamentary chief warning ominously that `no part of Israel will be safe.’  Whatever the precise facts of Iran’s role in this latest crisis - at a minimum, both arming and financing Hezbollah its rapid escalation is a sign that the Middle East has changed.  And not simply because Lebanon has yet again been plunged into tumult.  Iran is emerging as a true regional powerhouse, more ready than ever to flex its muscles.  `Iran’ says Fawaz Gerges, a leading Mideast scholar at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, `really is making a bid for regional supremacy.’  Gerges was not a distant observer of the phenomenon last week; he was living it, temporarily trapped at his parents’ home in Beirut with his three children as Israeli war planes pressed the attack on Hezbollah. 

           “Pivotal: The spasm of violence reinforced the Bush administration’s conclusion that Iran is playing a pivotal role in the issues that will make or break the Middle East: nuclear weapons, terrorism, the stability of Iraq, democracy, and Israel’s security.  `They are all interrelated,’ says a senior administration official.  `The nexus of it is the regime in Tehran.’  The sources of Iran’s new strength, paradoxically, include Bush administration policy.  By toppling Iran’s next door enemies - Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Afghanistan’s Taliban -the administration unintentionally upgraded Iran’s strategic punch. After American troops rolled into Baghdad, Iranian officials feared partial encirclement by U.S. forces.  They had Swiss intermediaries pass on a feeler proposing comprehensive talks on Iraq, terrorism, and nukes.  The overture was rebuffed by an administration riding high at the time.  But as a murderous insurgency threatened Iraq’s U.S. sponsored government and unexpectedly bogged down American forces-Tehran’s fear receded.  Iran grew confident that Bush could not intervene in yet another country.  Iranian support for anti U.S. Shiite militias in Iraq, including money and weapons, and a campaign to gain sway with fellow Shiites there soon unfolded.

           “Soaring oil prices - rising in part because of tensions with Iran - have also given Tehran a new swagger.  The West’s brinkmanship over its nuclear program and now fears of a regional war sparked by the conflict in Lebanon, may be responsible for hiking Tehran’s monthly oil revenues by as much as $1.4 billion over just a year ago.  Iran has also funneled cash and arms to Hamas, which won Palestinian elections this year and has been battling Israeli troops in Gaza.  Last month, Hamas militants kidnaped an Israeli in a foray eerily similar to Hezbollah’s raid in the north.  U.S. officials consider Hezbollah and Hamas terrorist groups and Iran the world’s No. 1 state.  The alleged Iranian connection to the Hezbollah raid is also seen as part of an ominous signaling game directed at Israel and the United States: Attack our nuclear facilities, and you’ll reap an array of punishing reprisals.  This is known, in the argot of the military, as asymmetrical warfare countering a stronger adversary by terrorism, oil embargoes, and other unconventional tactics.” {Excerpts taken from: US News, July 31, 2006, pp. 30, 31, 34 - 37}.

THE ELEMENTS OF THE MIDEAST CONFLICT

         “The Bible reveals that the God of the universe chose to establish His earthly throne at the physical center of the world.  This disclosure was made through the great Jewish prophet Ezekiel: Thus saith the Lord God: This is Jerusalem; I have set her in the midst of the nations and countries that are round about her.’  (Eze. 5:5).  Widespread belief that Jerusalem is truly situated at the geographical heart of the planet is even reflected in the common term for the region, Middle East.

           Spiritually speaking, the holy city also lies at the apex of many people’s religious affections.  No fewer than three faiths regard Jerusalem as sacred.  More than two billion self-professing Christians–from the Philippines to Argentina, from Siberia to South Africa, indeed from virtually every nation on Earth–gaze toward Earth’s central city with reverent eyes.  More than one billion Muslims also hold Jerusalem in high esteem, even though their primary hallowed sites are in nearby Saudi Arabia.  And although the Jewish people are far fewer in number, they undeniably look to the Old City’s Temple Mount as the earthly center of their faith, as they have done for more than 3,000 years.

           “Consequently, Jerusalem is sacred to around half the people on earth.  This fact alone helps explain why Israel’s growing capital city has now become the lightning rod of world media attention and the future address of Earth’s final conflict. “ [Excerpts from “Israel My Glory” or www.foigm.orgIMG/epicentr.htm) 

HISTORICAL HIGHLIGHTS OF ISRAEL

          1948                          STATE OF ISRAEL

        1948                          End of British Mandate (14 May) State of Israel proclaimed (14 May) Israel invaded by five Arab states (15 May) War of Independence (May 1948-July 1949) Israel Defense Forces (IDF) established.

         1949                           Armistice agreements signed with Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon.  Jerusalem divided under Israeli and Jordanian rule.  First Knesset (parliament elected).  Israel admitted to United Nations as 59th member.

1948- 1952                         Mass immigration from Europe and Arab countries.

          1956                          Sinai Campaign

          1962                          Adolf Eichmann tried and executed in Israel for his part in the Holocaust.

          1964                          National Water Carrier completed, bringing water from Lake Kinneret in the north to the semi-arid south.

          1967                          Six-Day War, Jerusalem reunited.

1968- 1970                         Egypt’s War of Attrition against Israel.

          1973                          Yom Kippur War; Israel becomes an associate member of the European Common Market.

           1977                         Likud forms government after Knesset elections end of 30 years of Labor rule.  Visit of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem.

           1978                         Camp David accords include framework for comprehensive peace in the Middle East and proposal for Palestinian self-government.

           1979                         Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty signed.  Prime Minister Menachem Begin and President Anwar Sadat awarded Nobel Peace Prize.

            1981                        Israel Air Force destroys Iraqi nuclear reactor just before it is to become operative.

            1982                      Israel’s three-stage withdrawal from Sinai completed.  Operation Peace for Galilee removes PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) terrorists from Lebanon.

            1984                        National Unity government (Likud and Labor) formed after elections.  Operation Moses, Immigration of Jews from Ethiopia.

            1985                        Free Trade Agreement signed with United States.

            1987                        Widespread violence (intifada) starts in Israeli administered areas.

            1988                        Likud government in power following elections.

            1989                        Four point peace initiative proposed by Israel.  Start of mass immigration of Jews from former Soviet Union.

           1991                       Israel attacked by Iraqi Scud missiles during Gulf War.  Middle East peace conference convened in Madrid.  Operation Solomon, airlift of Jews from Ethiopia.

            1992                        Diplomatic relations established with China and India.  New government headed by Yitzhak Rabin of Labor party.

           1993                       Declaration of Principles of Interim Self-Government Arrangements for the Palestinians signed by Israel and PLO, as representative of the Palestinian people.

          1994                    Implementation of Palestinian self-government in Gaza Strip and Jericho area.  Full diplomatic relations with the Holy See.  Morocco and Tunisia interest offices set up. Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty signed.  Rabin, Peres, Arafat awarded Nobel Peace Prize.

           1995                  Broadened Palestinian self-government implemented in West Bank and Gaza Strip; Palestinian Council elected. Prime Minister Rabin assassinated at peace rally.  Shimon Peres becomes prime minister.

           1996                     Fundamentalist Arab terrorism against Israel.  Operation Grapes of Wrath retaliation for Hezbullah terrorists’ attacks on northern Israel.  Trade representation offices set up in Oman and Qatar.  Likud forms government after Knesset elections.  Benjamin Netanyahu becomes prime minister, Omani trade representation office opened in Tel Aviv.

           1997                         Hebron Protocol signed by Israel and the P.A.

        1998   Israel celebrates its 50th anniversary.  Israel and the PLO sign the Wye River Memorandum to facilitate implementation of the Interim Agreement.  (Taken from “Facts About Israel” at www.israel.org/mfa/go.asp?

NEWS SCRIPTS

           “Hezbollah or Hizbollah/Hizbullah or Hezb’Allah (Arabic: meaning Party of God) is a governmental and military Shia Islamic group, with a military arm and a civilian arm, founded in 1982 to fight the Israeli Defense Forces who occupied southern Lebanon until the year 2000.  Its leader is Nasrallah.  Hezbollah was “inspired by the success of the Iranian Revolution” and was formed primarily to combat Israel following the 1982 Lebanon War.  The United States and Israel say that Hezbollah has received financial and political assistance, as well as weapons and training, from Iran and Syria.  Syria says it supports Hezbollah, but denies supplying it with weapons.  Along with the Amal movement, Hezbollah is the main political party and military organization representing the Shia community, Lebanon’s largest religious bloc.  Founded with the aid of Iran and funded by it, Hezbollah follows the distinct Shia Islamic ideology developed by Aytatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

         “Hezbollah is regarded by many inside the Arab and Muslim worlds, such as the Iranian and Syrian governments, as a legitimate resistance movement and is a recognized political party in Lebanon, where it has participated in government.  The civilian wing participates in the Parliament of Lebanon, taking 18% of the seats (23 out of 128) and the bloc it forms with others, the “Resistance and Development Bloc”, 27.3%.  It is a minority partner in the current Cabinet.  The civilian wing also runs hospitals, news services, and educational facilities.  Its Reconstruction Campaign is responsible for numerous economic and infra structural development projects in Lebanon. 

The South Lebanon Period (1990 - 2000)

          “The continued existence of Hezbollah’s military wing after 1990 violates the Taif Agreement that ended the Lebanese civil war, which requires the “disbanding of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias” and requires the government to “deploy the Lebanese army in the border area adjacent to Israel.”  The Lebanese government did not try to disarm the Hezbollah during the 1990-2000 period, justifying its position by the fact that Hezbollah was a legitimate national resistance force, fighting for the liberation of the south, then occupied by Israel.

Conflict in South Lebanon: “South Lebanon was occupied by Israel between 1982 and 2000.  Hezbollah, along with the mainly leftist and secular groups in the Lebanese National Resistance Front, fought a guerilla war against Israel and the Israeli proxy South Lebanon Army.  The National Resistance Front militias disarmed in accordance with the Taif Accords, but Hezbollah remained defiant, claiming until all Lebanese soil was liberated and Israel expelled, resistance against occupation would continue.  They had become by far the largest and most powerful and effective of the resistance organizations.  The fighting culminated during Operation Grapes of Wrath in April 1996 when Israel launched an assault and air-campaign against Hezbollah.  The campaign failed and resulted in the Israelis killing more than 150 civilians and refugees in an aerial bombardment of a United Nations base at Qana

          “On September 2, 2004, the UN Security Council adopted UN Security Council Resolution 1559, coauthored by France and the United States.  Echoing the Taif Agreement, the resolution “calls upon all remaining foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon” and “for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias.”  Lebanon is currently in violation of Resolution 1559 over its refusal to disband the military wing of Hezbollah.  Critics of the resolution argue however that an attempt from the weak and confessionally divided Lebanese army to disarm Hezbollah would be very difficult and could restart the Lebanese civil war.  Syria was also in violation of the resolution until recently because of their military presence in Lebanon.  On October 7, 2004 the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan reported to the Security Council regarding the lack of compliance with Resolution 1559.  Mr. Annan concluded his report by saying: “It is time, 14 years after the end of hostilities and four years after the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, for all parties concerned to set aside the remaining vestiges of the past.  The withdrawal of foreign forces and the disbandment and disarmament of militias would, with finality, end that sad chapter of Lebanese history.”  The January 20, 2005 UN Secretary-General’s report on Lebanon stated that “The continually asserted position of the Government of Lebanon that the Blue line is not valid in the Sha’a farms area is not compatible with Security Council resolutions.  The Council has recognized the Blue Line as valid for purposes of confirming Israel’s withdrawal pursuant to resolution 425 (1978).  The UN Security Council has repeatedly requested that all parties respect the Blue Line in its entirety.

         “On January 28, 2005 UN Security Council Resolution 1583 called upon the Government of Lebanon to fully extend and exercise its sole and effective authority throughout the south, including through the deployment of sufficient numbers of Lebanese armed and security forces, to ensure a calm environment throughout the area, including along the Blue Line, and to exert control over the use of force on its territory and from it.  On January 23, 2006 the UN Security Council called on the Government of Lebanon to make more progress in controlling its territory and disbanding militias, while also calling on Syria to cooperate with  those efforts.  In a statement read out by its January President Mahiga of Tanzania, the Council also called on Syria to take measures to stop movements of arms and personnel into Lebanon.”

         “Hezobollah’s ideology is based in the Shi’a tradition of Islam, specifically in the concept of “Willayat al Faqih” put forth by Ayatollah Khomeini and other Islamic scholars in Iran.  Hezbollah seeks to set up an Islamic government in Lebanon modeled after the one in Iran.  The following excerpt is taken from the group’s political platform, first published in 1985:  “The solution to Lebanon’s problems is the establishment of an Islamic republic as only this type of regime can secure justice and equality for all of Lebanon’s citizens.”  The Hizballah organization views as an important goal the fight against `western imperialism’ and its eradication from Lebanon.  The group strives for complete U.S. and French withdrawal from Lebanon, including all their institutions.

         “The conflict with Israel is viewed as a central concern.  This is not only limited to the IDF presence in Lebanon.  Rather, the complete destruction of the State of Israel and the establishment of Islamic rule over Jerusalem is an expressed goal.” {Taken From: the Wikipedia, Free Encyclopedia, pp.  1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9}.

       “Syria: Even before this latest outbreak, Syria was under a cloud of suspicion in Lebanon for its suspected involvement in the assassination of Lebanon’s previous prime minister, Rafik Harri, in February 2005.  President Bush has blamed Syria for its support of Hezbollah.  `Syria is trying to get back into Lebanon, it looks like to me,’ he said.  Damascus denies Bush’s charge and says it wields no control over Hezbollah.  `Whether they like it or not, Hezbollah is an independent, autonomous organization,’ says Imad Moustapha, Syria’s ambassador in Washington.  There is some truth to this.  While Damascus was a key Hezbollah patron when Syria had troops in Lebanon, it is now more of a patron and facilitator, Syria still has some sway over the group, however, and could influence Hezbollah and its chief backer, Iran.  Already, Syria appears to be trying to set itself up as a peacemaker, calling for a cease-fire.  Hezbollah is unlikely to agree to such a move without pressure from its sponsors.  But some experts warn against enlisting Syria’s help because it could reverse the gains Lebanon made after Syria removed its troops from the country last year, after nearly three decades.  `To go to Damascus now would be to betray the Lebanese people,’ says Martin Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel who is now at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy.  `They would in effect have our invitation to meddle in Lebanese politics, with the rationale that they are doing our bidding in dealing with Hezbollah.

         “Arab Gulf States: Perhaps the most surprising reaction to the fighting has been from several key Sunni Arab regimes.   In a remarkable first in Arab politics, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan have been openly critical of other arabs engaged in active conflict with Israel.  `We see what happened in Lebanon as an adventure and we’re afraid that everybody is going to pay the price,’s says a senior Egyptian diplomat.  These Arab regimes are still blasting Israel, but their tough words for Hezbollah suggest a new level of concern about its motives, and particularly its backers in Tehran.  Still, it’s not clear how long these governments can maintain their criticism of Hezbollah.  The group remains popular on the Arab street and might only gain deeper support if the conflict drags on.

         “Israel: The kidnaping of its soldiers was a useful pretext for launching an operation that military leaders had been eager to pursue for several years.  Not only was Hezbollah building up its stocks of rockets, but Israelis are also worried by a growing perception in the Arab world that its withdrawal from southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip was a sign of weakness.  Israeli military brass admit privately that they cannot hope to completely destroy Hezbollah, a goal they were unable to achieve during an 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon.  Instead, the Army is working fast to try to eliminate as many rocket launchers as it can before a potential cease-fire.   Before it’s over, Israel aims to weaken the militant group by imposing a no man’s land half a mile deep into Lebanon.  Instead of occupying the land, Israel will send in bulldozers to `flatten the area and remove any sign of a Hezbollah outpost and even trees so that Hezbollah can’t enter again,’ says an Israeli military official.  One other option: carve out a deeper buffer zone with a ground invasion.

         “Palestinians: Even after Israel opened up a second front against Hezbollah, it continued its three week-old assault on the Palestinian militant group Hamas.  This also began with a kidnaping of an Israeli soldier, but it has become very much the forgotten front of this war.  In fact, Israel’s Army has been moving in and out of the Gaza Strip and even opened up another front on the West Bank last week, Israeli soldiers raided a Gaza refugee camp for two straight days last week, while besieging a Palestinian security post in the West Bank suspected of being used by Hamas militants.  Ironically, Hezbollah, which claims to have acted in sympathy with the Palestinians, has succeeded mostly in overshadowing them completely, leaving Israel with a relatively free hand to move against Hamas.  More than 100 Palestinians have been killed so far.  `No one is noticing what is happening to us,’ complains a Palestinian legislator.  `Everyone has forgotten about us.’

IRAN

          “An Impulse For Intrigue: A coup d’etat, and then a pro-American shah, Revolution, and chants of `Death to America.’  Blindfolded hostages held for an agonizing 444 days.  A symbolic offering of a Bible, pistols, and a cake-come to naught.  And, always, the bearded, be robed mullahs thundering against the `Great Satan.’  The scenes are seared into America’s collective memory, snapshots from what is perhaps its most irrepressibly maligned foreign relationship.  That, of course, would be the one with Iran.  New images came flooding in last week, as Hezbollah guerrillas rained rockets down on Israel, drawing a fierce Israeli bombardment in reply.  They added a new dimension to the old picture, one of an Iran with the power and the will to wreak havoc far from its borders.  U.S. officials and many analysts see an Iranian hand at work in Hezbollah’s new fractiousness.  Exactly how much is a point of debate, but not in the White House or in Washington’s other power centers.  `Part of those terrorist attacks,’ President Bush suggested last week, `are inspired by nation states, like Syria and Iran.’  Iranian officials deny involvement in the Hezbollah raid that resulted in the abduction of two Israeli soldiers, but they’re also happy stirring the pot, with Iran’s parliamentary chief warning ominously that `no part of Israel will be safe.’  Whatever the precise facts of Iran’s role in this latest crisis - at a minimum, both arming and financing Hezbollah its rapid escalation is a sign that the Middle East has changed.  And not simply because Lebanon has yet again been plunged into tumult.  Iran is emerging as a true regional powerhouse, more ready than ever to flex its muscles.  `Iran’ says Fawaz Gerges, a leading Mideast scholar at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, `really is making a bid for regional supremacy.’  Gerges was not a distant observer of the phenomenon last week; he was living it, temporarily trapped at his parents’ home in Beirut with his three children as Israeli war planes pressed the attack on Hezbollah. 

         “Pivotal: The spasm of violence reinforced the Bush administration’s conclusion that Iran is playing a pivotal role in the issues that will make or break the Middle East: nuclear weapons, terrorism, the stability of Iraq, democracy, and Israel’s security.  `They are all interrelated,’ says a senior administration official.  `The nexus of it is the regime in Tehran.’  The sources of Iran’s new strength, paradoxically, include Bush administration policy.  By toppling Iran’s next door enemies - Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Afghanistan’s Taliban -the administration unintentionally upgraded Iran’s strategic punch. After American troops rolled into Baghdad, Iranian officials feared partial encirclement by U.S. forces.  They had Swiss intermediaries pass on a feeler proposing comprehensive talks on Iraq, terrorism, and nukes.  The overture was rebuffed by an administration riding high at the time.  But as a murderous insurgency threatened Iraq’s U.S. sponsored government and unexpectedly bogged down American forces-Tehran’s fear receded.  Iran grew confident that Bush could not intervene in yet another country.  Iranian support for anti U.S. Shiite militias in Iraq, including money and weapons, and a campaign to gain sway with fellow Shiites there soon unfolded.

         “Soaring oil prices - rising in part because of tensions with Iran - have also given Tehran a new swagger.  The West’s brinkmanship over its nuclear program and now fears of a regional war sparked by the conflict in Lebanon, may be responsible for hiking Tehran’s monthly oil revenues by as much as $1.4 billion over just a year ago.  Iran has also funneled cash and arms to Hamas, which won Palestinian elections this year and has been battling Israeli troops in Gaza.  Last month, Hamas militants kidnaped an Israeli in a foray eerily similar to Hezbollah’s raid in the north.  U.S. officials consider Hezbollah and Hamas terrorist groups and Iran the world’s No. 1 state.  The alleged Iranian connection to the Hezbollah raid is also seen as part of an ominous signaling game directed at Israel and the United States: Attack our nuclear facilities, and you’ll reap an array of punishing reprisals.  This is known, in the argot of the military, as asymmetrical warfare countering a stronger adversary by terrorism, oil embargoes, and other unconventional tactics.” {Excerpts taken from: US News, July 31, 2006, pp. 30, 31, 34 - 37}.

THE ELEMENTS OF THE MIDEAST CONFLICT

        “The Bible reveals that the God of the universe chose to establish His earthly throne at the physical center of the world.  This disclosure was made through the great Jewish prophet Ezekiel: Thus saith the Lord God: This is Jerusalem; I have set her in the midst of the nations and countries that are round about her.’  (Eze. 5:5).  Widespread belief that Jerusalem is truly situated at the geographical heart of the planet is even reflected in the common term for the region, Middle East.

         Spiritually speaking, the holy city also lies at the apex of many people’s religious affections.  No fewer than three faiths regard Jerusalem as sacred.  More than two billion self-professing Christians–from the Philippines to Argentina, from Siberia to South Africa, indeed from virtually every nation on Earth–gaze toward Earth’s central city with reverent eyes.  More than one billion Muslims also hold Jerusalem in high esteem, even though their primary hallowed sites are in nearby Saudi Arabia.  And although the Jewish people are far fewer in number, they undeniably look to the Old City’s Temple Mount as the earthly center of their faith, as they have done for more than 3,000 years.

          “Consequently, Jerusalem is sacred to around half the people on earth.  This fact alone helps explain why Israel’s growing capital city has now become the lightning rod of world media attention and the future address of Earth’s final conflict. “ [Excerpts from “Israel My Glory” or www.foigm.orgIMG/epicentr.htm) 

HISTORICAL HIGHLIGHTS OF ISRAEL

          1948                          STATE OF ISRAEL

        1948                          End of British Mandate (14 May) State of Israel proclaimed (14 May) Israel invaded by five Arab states (15 May) War of Independence (May 1948-July 1949) Israel Defense Forces (IDF) established.

       1949                               Armistice agreements signed with Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon.  Jerusalem divided under Israeli and Jordanian rule.  First Knesset (parliament elected).  Israel admitted to United Nations as 59th member.

1948- 1952                         Mass immigration from Europe and Arab countries.

          1956                          Sinai Campaign

          1962                          Adolf Eichmann tried and executed in Israel for his part in the Holocaust.

          1964                          National Water Carrier completed, bringing water from Lake Kinneret in the north to the semi-arid south.

          1967                          Six-Day War, Jerusalem reunited.

1968- 1970                         Egypt’s War of Attrition against Israel.

          1973                          Yom Kippur War; Israel becomes an associate member of the European Common Market.

          1977                         Likud forms government after Knesset elections end of 30 years of Labor rule.  Visit of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem.

          1978                         Camp David accords include framework for comprehensive peace in the Middle East and proposal for Palestinian self-government.

          1979                         Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty signed.  Prime Minister Menachem Begin and President Anwar Sadat awarded Nobel Peace Prize.

          1981                        Israel Air Force destroys Iraqi nuclear reactor just before it is to become operative.

         1982                        Israel’s three-stage withdrawal from Sinai completed.  Operation Peace for Galilee removes PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) terrorists from Lebanon.

         1984                        National Unity government (Likud and Labor) formed after elections.  Operation Moses, Immigration of Jews from Ethiopia.

         1985                        Free Trade Agreement signed with United States.

         1987                        Widespread violence (intifada) starts in Israeli administered areas.

        1988                        Likud government in power following elections.

        1989                        Four point peace initiative proposed by Israel.  Start of mass immigration of Jews from former Soviet Union.

        1991                        Israel attacked by Iraqi Scud missiles during Gulf War.  Middle East peace conference convened in Madrid.  Operation Solomon, airlift of Jews from Ethiopia.

       1992                        Diplomatic relations established with China and India.  New government headed by Yitzhak Rabin of Labor party.

       1993                        Declaration of Principles of Interim Self-Government Arrangements for the Palestinians signed by Israel and PLO, as representative of the Palestinian people.

       1994                      Implementation of Palestinian self-government in Gaza Strip and Jericho area.  Full diplomatic relations with the Holy See.  Morocco and Tunisia interest offices set up. Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty signed.  Rabin, Peres, Arafat awarded Nobel Peace Prize.

      1995                     Broadened Palestinian self-government implemented in West Bank and Gaza Strip; Palestinian Council elected. Prime Minister Rabin assassinated at peace rally.  Shimon Peres becomes prime minister.

     1996                   Fundamentalist Arab terrorism against Israel.  Operation Grapes of Wrath retaliation for Hezbullah terrorists’ attacks on northern Israel.  Trade representation offices set up in Oman and Qatar.  Likud forms government after Knesset elections.  Benjamin Netanyahu becomes prime minister, Omani trade representation office opened in Tel Aviv.

        1997                         Hebron Protocol signed by Israel and the P.A.

       1998                         Israel celebrates its 50th anniversary.  Israel and the PLO sign the Wye River Memorandum to facilitate implementation of the Interim Agreement.  (Taken from “Facts About Israel” at www.israel.org/mfa/go.asp?

NEWS SCRIPTS

           “Hezbollah or Hizbollah/Hizbullah or Hezb’Allah (Arabic: meaning Party of God) is a governmental and military Shia Islamic group, with a military arm and a civilian arm, founded in 1982 to fight the Israeli Defense Forces who occupied southern Lebanon until the year 2000.  Its leader is Nasrallah.  Hezbollah was “inspired by the success of the Iranian Revolution” and was formed primarily to combat Israel following the 1982 Lebanon War.  The United States and Israel say that Hezbollah has received financial and political assistance, as well as weapons and training, from Iran and Syria.  Syria says it supports Hezbollah, but denies supplying it with weapons.  Along with the Amal movement, Hezbollah is the main political party and military organization representing the Shia community, Lebanon’s largest religious bloc.  Founded with the aid of Iran and funded by it, Hezbollah follows the distinct Shia Islamic ideology developed by Aytatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

           “Hezbollah is regarded by many inside the Arab and Muslim worlds, such as the Iranian and Syrian governments, as a legitimate resistance movement and is a recognized political party in Lebanon, where it has participated in government.  The civilian wing participates in the Parliament of Lebanon, taking 18% of the seats (23 out of 128) and the bloc it forms with others, the “Resistance and Development Bloc”, 27.3%.  It is a minority partner in the current Cabinet.  The civilian wing also runs hospitals, news services, and educational facilities.  Its Reconstruction Campaign is responsible for numerous economic and infra structural development projects in Lebanon. 

The South Lebanon Period (1990 - 2000)

           “The continued existence of Hezbollah’s military wing after 1990 violates the Taif Agreement that ended the Lebanese civil war, which requires the “disbanding of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias” and requires the government to “deploy the Lebanese army in the border area adjacent to Israel.”  The Lebanese government did not try to disarm the Hezbollah during the 1990-2000 period, justifying its position by the fact that Hezbollah was a legitimate national resistance force, fighting for the liberation of the south, then occupied by Israel.

Conflict in South Lebanon: “South Lebanon was occupied by Israel between 1982 and 2000.  Hezbollah, along with the mainly leftist and secular groups in the Lebanese National Resistance Front, fought a guerilla war against Israel and the Israeli proxy South Lebanon Army.  The National Resistance Front militias disarmed in accordance with the Taif Accords, but Hezbollah remained defiant, claiming until all Lebanese soil was liberated and Israel expelled, resistance against occupation would continue.  They had become by far the largest and most powerful and effective of the resistance organizations.  The fighting culminated during Operation Grapes of Wrath in April 1996 when Israel launched an assault and air-campaign against Hezbollah.  The campaign failed and resulted in the Israelis killing more than 150 civilians and refugees in an aerial bombardment of a United Nations base at Qana

           “On September 2, 2004, the UN Security Council adopted UN Security Council Resolution 1559, coauthored by France and the United States.  Echoing the Taif Agreement, the resolution “calls upon all remaining foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon” and “for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias.”  Lebanon is currently in violation of Resolution 1559 over its refusal to disband the military wing of Hezbollah.  Critics of the resolution argue however that an attempt from the weak and confessionally divided Lebanese army to disarm Hezbollah would be very difficult and could restart the Lebanese civil war.  Syria was also in violation of the resolution until recently because of their military presence in Lebanon.  On October 7, 2004 the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan reported to the Security Council regarding the lack of compliance with Resolution 1559.  Mr. Annan concluded his report by saying: “It is time, 14 years after the end of hostilities and four years after the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, for all parties concerned to set aside the remaining vestiges of the past.  The withdrawal of foreign forces and the disbandment and disarmament of militias would, with finality, end that sad chapter of Lebanese history.”  The January 20, 2005 UN Secretary-General’s report on Lebanon stated that “The continually asserted position of the Government of Lebanon that the Blue line is not valid in the Sha’a farms area is not compatible with Security Council resolutions.  The Council has recognized the Blue Line as valid for purposes of confirming Israel’s withdrawal pursuant to resolution 425 (1978).  The UN Security Council has repeatedly requested that all parties respect the Blue Line in its entirety.

           “On January 28, 2005 UN Security Council Resolution 1583 called upon the Government of Lebanon to fully extend and exercise its sole and effective authority throughout the south, including through the deployment of sufficient numbers of Lebanese armed and security forces, to ensure a calm environment throughout the area, including along the Blue Line, and to exert control over the use of force on its territory and from it.  On January 23, 2006 the UN Security Council called on the Government of Lebanon to make more progress in controlling its territory and disbanding militias, while also calling on Syria to cooperate with  those efforts.  In a statement read out by its January President Mahiga of Tanzania, the Council also called on Syria to take measures to stop movements of arms and personnel into Lebanon.”

           “Hezobollah’s ideology is based in the Shi’a tradition of Islam, specifically in the concept of “Willayat al Faqih” put forth by Ayatollah Khomeini and other Islamic scholars in Iran.  Hezbollah seeks to set up an Islamic government in Lebanon modeled after the one in Iran.  The following excerpt is taken from the group’s political platform, first published in 1985:  “The solution to Lebanon’s problems is the establishment of an Islamic republic as only this type of regime can secure justice and equality for all of Lebanon’s citizens.”  The Hizballah organization views as an important goal the fight against `western imperialism’ and its eradication from Lebanon.  The group strives for complete U.S. and French withdrawal from Lebanon, including all their institutions.

           “The conflict with Israel is viewed as a central concern.  This is not only limited to the IDF presence in Lebanon.  Rather, the complete destruction of the State of Israel and the establishment of Islamic rule over Jerusalem is an expressed goal.” {Taken From: the Wikipedia, Free Encyclopedia, pp.  1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9}.

           “Syria: Even before this latest outbreak, Syria was under a cloud of suspicion in Lebanon for its suspected involvement in the assassination of Lebanon’s previous prime minister, Rafik Harri, in February 2005.  President Bush has blamed Syria for its support of Hezbollah.  `Syria is trying to get back into Lebanon, it looks like to me,’ he said.  Damascus denies Bush’s charge and says it wields no control over Hezbollah.  `Whether they like it or not, Hezbollah is an independent, autonomous organization,’ says Imad Moustapha, Syria’s ambassador in Washington.  There is some truth to this.  While Damascus was a key Hezbollah patron when Syria had troops in Lebanon, it is now more of a patron and facilitator, Syria still has some sway over the group, however, and could influence Hezbollah and its chief backer, Iran.  Already, Syria appears to be trying to set itself up as a peacemaker, calling for a cease-fire.  Hezbollah is unlikely to agree to such a move without pressure from its sponsors.  But some experts warn against enlisting Syria’s help because it could reverse the gains Lebanon made after Syria removed its troops from the country last year, after nearly three decades.  `To go to Damascus now would be to betray the Lebanese people,’ says Martin Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel who is now at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy.  `They would in effect have our invitation to meddle in Lebanese politics, with the rationale that they are doing our bidding in dealing with Hezbollah.

           “Arab Gulf States: Perhaps the most surprising reaction to the fighting has been from several key Sunni Arab regimes.   In a remarkable first in Arab politics, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan have been openly critical of other arabs engaged in active conflict with Israel.  `We see what happened in Lebanon as an adventure and we’re afraid that everybody is going to pay the price,’s says a senior Egyptian diplomat.  These Arab regimes are still blasting Israel, but their tough words for Hezbollah suggest a new level of concern about its motives, and particularly its backers in Tehran.  Still, it’s not clear how long these governments can maintain their criticism of Hezbollah.  The group remains popular on the Arab street and might only gain deeper support if the conflict drags on.

           “Israel: The kidnaping of its soldiers was a useful pretext for launching an operation that military leaders had been eager to pursue for several years.  Not only was Hezbollah building up its stocks of rockets, but Israelis are also worried by a growing perception in the Arab world that its withdrawal from southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip was a sign of weakness.  Israeli military brass admit privately that they cannot hope to completely destroy Hezbollah, a goal they were unable to achieve during an 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon.  Instead, the Army is working fast to try to eliminate as many rocket launchers as it can before a potential cease-fire.   Before it’s over, Israel aims to weaken the militant group by imposing a no man’s land half a mile deep into Lebanon.  Instead of occupying the land, Israel will send in bulldozers to `flatten the area and remove any sign of a Hezbollah outpost and even trees so that Hezbollah can’t enter again,’ says an Israeli military official.  One other option: carve out a deeper buffer zone with a ground invasion.

           “Palestinians: Even after Israel opened up a second front against Hezbollah, it continued its three week-old assault on the Palestinian militant group Hamas.  This also began with a kidnaping of an Israeli soldier, but it has become very much the forgotten front of this war.  In fact, Israel’s Army has been moving in and out of the Gaza Strip and even opened up another front on the West Bank last week, Israeli soldiers raided a Gaza refugee camp for two straight days last week, while besieging a Palestinian security post in the West Bank suspected of being used by Hamas militants.  Ironically, Hezbollah, which claims to have acted in sympathy with the Palestinians, has succeeded mostly in overshadowing them completely, leaving Israel with a relatively free hand to move against Hamas.  More than 100 Palestinians have been killed so far.  `No one is noticing what is happening to us,’ complains a Palestinian legislator.  `Everyone has forgotten about us.’

IRAN

           “An Impulse For Intrigue: A coup d’etat, and then a pro-American shah, Revolution, and chants of `Death to America.’  Blindfolded hostages held for an agonizing 444 days.  A symbolic offering of a Bible, pistols, and a cake-come to naught.  And, always, the bearded, be robed mullahs thundering against the `Great Satan.’  The scenes are seared into America’s collective memory, snapshots from what is perhaps its most irrepressibly maligned foreign relationship.  That, of course, would be the one with Iran.  New images came flooding in last week, as Hezbollah guerrillas rained rockets down on Israel, drawing a fierce Israeli bombardment in reply.  They added a new dimension to the old picture, one of an Iran with the power and the will to wreak havoc far from its borders.  U.S. officials and many analysts see an Iranian hand at work in Hezbollah’s new fractiousness.  Exactly how much is a point of debate, but not in the White House or in Washington’s other power centers.  `Part of those terrorist attacks,’ President Bush suggested last week, `are inspired by nation states, like Syria and Iran.’  Iranian officials deny involvement in the Hezbollah raid that resulted in the abduction of two Israeli soldiers, but they’re also happy stirring the pot, with Iran’s parliamentary chief warning ominously that `no part of Israel will be safe.’  Whatever the precise facts of Iran’s role in this latest crisis - at a minimum, both arming and financing Hezbollah its rapid escalation is a sign that the Middle East has changed.  And not simply because Lebanon has yet again been plunged into tumult.  Iran is emerging as a true regional powerhouse, more ready than ever to flex its muscles.  `Iran’ says Fawaz Gerges, a leading Mideast scholar at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, `really is making a bid for regional supremacy.’  Gerges was not a distant observer of the phenomenon last week; he was living it, temporarily trapped at his parents’ home in Beirut with his three children as Israeli war planes pressed the attack on Hezbollah. 

           “Pivotal: The spasm of violence reinforced the Bush administration’s conclusion that Iran is playing a pivotal role in the issues that will make or break the Middle East: nuclear weapons, terrorism, the stability of Iraq, democracy, and Israel’s security.  `They are all interrelated,’ says a senior administration official.  `The nexus of it is the regime in Tehran.’  The sources of Iran’s new strength, paradoxically, include Bush administration policy.  By toppling Iran’s next door enemies - Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Afghanistan’s Taliban -the administration unintentionally upgraded Iran’s strategic punch. After American troops rolled into Baghdad, Iranian officials feared partial encirclement by U.S. forces.  They had Swiss intermediaries pass on a feeler proposing comprehensive talks on Iraq, terrorism, and nukes.  The overture was rebuffed by an administration riding high at the time.  But as a murderous insurgency threatened Iraq’s U.S. sponsored government and unexpectedly bogged down American forces-Tehran’s fear receded.  Iran grew confident that Bush could not intervene in yet another country.  Iranian support for anti U.S. Shiite militias in Iraq, including money and weapons, and a campaign to gain sway with fellow Shiites there soon unfolded.

           “Soaring oil prices-rising in part because of tensions with Iran - have also given Tehran a new swagger.  The West’s brinkmanship over its nuclear program and now fears of a regional war sparked by the conflict in Lebanon, may be responsible for hiking Tehran’s monthly oil revenues by as much as $1.4 billion over just a year ago.  Iran has also funneled cash and arms to Hamas, which won Palestinian elections this year and has been battling Israeli troops in Gaza.  Last month, Hamas militants kidnaped an Israeli in a foray eerily similar to Hezbollah’s raid in the north.  U.S. officials consider Hezbollah and Hamas terrorist groups and Iran the world’s No. 1 state.  The alleged Iranian connection to the Hezbollah raid is also seen as part of an ominous signaling game directed at Israel and the United States: Attack our nuclear facilities, and you’ll reap an array of punishing reprisals.  This is known, in the argot of the military, as asymmetrical warfare countering a stronger adversary by terrorism, oil embargoes, and other unconventional tactics.” {Excerpts taken from: US News, July 31, 2006, pp. 30, 31, 34 - 37}.

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