Lebanese President claims Israel uses phosphorus chemical weapons; Gaza militants & Hezbollah look for ceasefire deals; Kurd

Armies are criticized because the excess of power that they accumulate enables them to dictate steps of political significance during a time of crisis. In these situations, military contingency plans become the principal alternative available to the politicians, which is why they tend to accept the army's viewpoint. But this time we have before us a particularly extreme case. Not only was the military plan the only one, but the political leadership voluntarily relinquished its duty to discuss it thoroughly. This places political thinking, to which military thinking is supposed to be subordinate, in a particularly inferior situation.

A voluntary 'putsch' By Yagil Levy - Haaretz

"The enemy is deceiving its own people and the world by presenting the occupation of Maroun al-Ras as a great military achievement," a Hizbullah statement said. "An army using its elite forces and tanks backed by its air force that can enter a frontier village only after days of fighting ... is a defeated and useless army."

Lebanon Daily Star, July 24, 2006

Shaaba FarmsMajor diplomatic movement on all fronts as Israel finds itself in the middle of a sputtering yet shockingly ugly military campaign. However, Hezbollah has apparently said they will become an entirely defensive force if Israel vacates the small Shebaa Farms area, which is considered either part of Lebanon or Syria, depending on whose map you go with. (that link was pro-Israel, here's a Wikipedia one and one from Joshua Landis at SyriaComment.com) Blame this particular line in the sand on the French. Anyway... It's all up in the air, but it's clear that Israel's more fanciful goals have fallen flat, yet they may still get some sort of international armed force involved, but probably only if Hezbollah permits it.

Phosphorus chemical weapons used by Israel, alleges Lebanese Prime Minister, doctor on CNN: Story on RawStory, a segment on CNN placed on YouTube: Very graphic - actually showing injured, severely burned Arabs, which I thought had been banned on American television:

Reuters: Lebanon president says Israel uses phosphorous arms 24 July 14:16:57 GMT

There have been previous reports of white phosphorus chemical weapons use in Fallujah... The irony of these methods is not subtle. Naturally, when the regular weapons aren't getting it done, the dirty stuff becomes appealing...

Anti-Iranian war propaganda: The same shady Iranian neo-con guy, Amir Taheri, who made up the fake "yellow stars for Jews in Iran" story is now visiting the White House. It's guys like him that are grooming Bush, telling him what he wants to hear, playing the new Chalabis, expecting to stir up trouble, TPMmuckrakers report. It's Taheri's little cronies that are going to spoon-feed the damn corporate media with stories about WMD or whatever else to scare the shit out of America again, likely right before the election. This guy Taheri is in with Ledeen and the rest of them. Taheri proclaims:

"The mini war that is taking place between Israel and Hezbollah is, in fact, a proxy war in which Iran’s vision for the Middle East clashes with the administration in Washington."

And who's gonna play the proxy? Ahmed Chalabi Amir Taheri. The Iran propaganda spigot is on full until election day. Meanwhile...

How the Israeli military manipulated policy to start the war: As the kidnapping's fallout unfolded inside Israel, the top military echelon's off-the-shelf plans to bomb the shit out of Lebanon were quickly approved and put into execution, superseding any grand political process to evaluate the consequences and prepare alternative choices. Prime Minister Olmert and Defense Minister Peretz, lacking a certain respect because they aren't generals but "civilians," deferred to the IDF's plans. This is not a portrait of a rational decision-making process:

Haaretz: A voluntary 'putsch' By Yagil Levy:

In Israeli historical memory, two incidents have been metaphorically defined as a military "putsch": the pressure applied by Israel Defense Forces generals on then prime minister Levi Eshkol to embark on the Six-Day War in 1967, and the "quiet putsch" as journalist Ofer Shelach termed the behavior of the army at the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada. Nevertheless, neither of these resembles the move that led to the start of "Lebanon War II."

On July 12, 2006, the Israeli government decided to bring about "a new order in Lebanon" by means of a massive military attack, which would cause the Lebanese government to disarm Hezbollah, or at least to remove it from the border with Israel and to deploy the Lebanese Army in its place. Like the expanded goals of "Lebanon War I," an attempt is being made here to reshape Lebanon's fragile political order by means of force.

In the history of the relationship between the political and military leaderships of Israel, the government has never made such a significant decision so quickly, operating in crisis mode just a few hours after the kidnapping of the soldiers. Under these circumstances, the military contingency plan was the main plan presented to the ministers, if not the only one. As absurd as it may sound, the government decision to embark on the Lebanon War I in 1982 was the result of a longer and more orderly decision-making process.

An expedited discussion in the cabinet does not enable an examination of non-military options - or, alternatively, a discussion of the full significance of a military operation and a positing of realistic political goals. The accelerated process did not enable the ministers to discuss the practicality of the demand to deploy the Lebanese Army, part of which is Shiite, along the border, as a force that is capable of imposing its authority on the independent Shiite militias that will remain after the dismantling of Hezbollah, if it is in fact dismantled.

It is doubtful whether the significance of the two possible results of the Israeli military blow - a change in the fragile inter-ethnic balance of power in Lebanon as a result of the disintegration of Hezbollah as the center of power that will not be replaced by another, or, alternatively, its success in surviving the attack - could be discussed in such a pressured time framework.

.......Armies are criticized because the excess of power that they accumulate enables them to dictate steps of political significance during a time of crisis. In these situations, military contingency plans become the principal alternative available to the politicians, which is why they tend to accept the army's viewpoint. But this time we have before us a particularly extreme case. Not only was the military plan the only one, but the political leadership voluntarily relinquished its duty to discuss it thoroughly. This places political thinking, to which military thinking is supposed to be subordinate, in a particularly inferior situation.

This inferiority stems, paradoxically, from the "civilian" label of the present leadership. The term "civilian" does not relate in this case only to the biography of the leaders, but to their political agenda as well - i.e., the convergence plan. A civilian leadership often tends to increase the army's freedom of operation, particularly when it operates in a cultural-political environment in which half of the voters favor the use of force to solve political problems. Under these circumstances, the civilian leadership needs the army as a political instrument for the purpose of implementing the civil agenda. After all, the "disengagement" plan was implemented thanks to the support of the army, and the same will be true of the convergence plan in the future.

This dependence makes it difficult for the political leadership to hold the army back in times of crisis - not to mention the fear of losing legitimacy by demonstrating "hesitancy" as compared to the determination of the army. Political leaders with a military past, or "hawkish" civilian leaders, have a greater ability to restrain the army in similar circumstances, as seen in the difference between former prime ministers Yitzhak Shamir (the Gulf War) and Benjamin Netanyahu (the Western Wall tunnel episode), on the one hand, and Moshe Sharett (the retaliatory operations), Levi Eshkol (the Six-Day War) and Shimon Peres (Operation Grapes of Wrath), on the other. Prime Minister Olmert now joins the second group.

Haaretz opinion: Stop now, immediately By Gideon Levy:

This war must be stopped now and immediately. From the start it was unnecessary, even if its excuse was justified, and now is the time to end it. Every day raises its price for no reason, taking a toll in blood that gives Israel nothing tangible in return. This is a good time to stop the war because both sides can claim they won: Israel harmed Hezbollah and Hezbollah harmed Israel. History shows that no situation is better for reaching an arrangement. Remember the lessons of the Yom Kippur War.

Israel went into the campaign on justified grounds and with foul means. It claims it has declared war on Hezbollah but, in practice, it is destroying Lebanon. It has gotten most of what it could have out of this war. The aerial "target bank" has mostly been covered. The air force could continue to sow destruction in the residential neighborhoods and empty offices and could also continue dropping dozens of tons of bombs on real or imagined bunkers and kill innocent Lebanese, but nothing good will come of it.

Those who want to restore Israel's deterrent capabilities have succeeded. Hezbollah and the rest of its enemies know that Israel reacts with enormous force to any provocation. South Lebanon is cleaner now of a Hezbollah presence. In any case, the organization is likely to return there, just as it is likely to rearm. An international agreement could be achieved now, and it won't be possible to achieve a better deal at a reasonable price in the future.

.......Now Israel is hoping for the elimination of Nasrallah. That's an atavistic impulse, even if understandable, which seeks the head of the enemy in order to prove our victory over him. There's no wisdom or practicality in it. Once again it is worth reminding ourselves of the dozens of people Israel assassinated in Lebanon and the territories, from Sheikh Abbas Mussawi to Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, each replaced by someone new, usually more talented and dangerous than the predecessor. The goals of the war should not be dictated by dark impulses, even if they come in response to the wishes and demands of the mob. The only advantage that would benefit Israel from the elimination of Nasrallah would be that maybe it would bring about an end to the warring. But it can be halted even without that. The other desired goal, the return of the prisoners, will anyway only be achieved through negotiations to release prisoners. Israel could have done that before the war.

It is still too early to weigh out the balance of achievements and failures of this war. The day will come when it will become clear that it was purposeless, as are all wars of choice. Ceasing it now guarantees a limited achievement at a limited price. Continuing it guarantees a heavy price without any guarantee of a suitable reward. Therefore, Israel must cease and desist. The president of the United States can push us to continue the war all he wants, the prime minister of Britain can cheer us in parliament, but in Israel and Lebanon, the blood is being spilled, the horror is intensifying, the price is rising and it is all for naught.

Billmon is top notch these days, observing plates shifting throughout the Mideast in, as always, unlikely yet ugly ways: The All Against the All:

I've been waiting to see whether the Turks are going to flatter the Israelis by imitating their invasion of neighboring country -- Kurdistan, in this case. So far, there've been no official cross-border troop movements (although Turkish special forces have been operating inside Iraq since just after our cross-border troop movement, if not before.)

But today the Kurds accused the Iranians of intervening in their internal affairs, with a cross-border movement of artillery shells:

"A senior Iraqi-Kurdish official accused Iranian forces on Thursday of shelling Kurdish guerrillas in northern Iraq.

"Othman Mahmoud, interior minister of the Kurdish regional government in the north, said shelling was going on along the border about 170 km (105 miles) north of the city of Sulaimaniya....."

......So many hatreds, so little time!

Let's see. We've got: Israeli Jews fighting Lebanese Shi'a and Palestinian Sunnis; Palestinian Fatah militants who've stopped fighting Hamas militants, but only because they're both fighting the Israelis; Saudi Sunni fundamentalists issuing fatwas against Hezbollah Shi'a fundamentalists; Egyptian Sunni fundamentalists backing those same Hezbollah Shi'a fundamentalists; Iraqi Sunnis killing Iraqi Shi'a and vice versa; Iraqi Shi'a (the Mahdi Army) jousting with Iraqi Shi'a (the Badr Brigade); Iraqi Kurds trying to push Sunni Arabs and both Sunni and Shi'a Turkomen out of Kirkuk; Turks threatening to invade Kurdistan; Iranians allegedly shelling Kurdistan, Syrian Kurds rebelling against Syrian Allawites who are despised by Syria's Sunni majority but allied with the Lebanese Shi'a who are hated and feared by the House of Saud and its Sunni fundamentalist minions. Oh, and American and Israeli neocons threatening to bomb both Syria and Iran......

......There is a passage in Kanan Makiya's book Republic of Fear that has haunted me ever since I read it. I've quoted it before to explain why I expected nothing but horror from the "liberation" of Iraq. It describes what happened in the summer of 1959 in the city of Mosul (a patchwork of ethnic, religious, tribal and class distinctions, then and now):

"For four days and four nights Kurds and Yezdis stood against Arabs; Assyrian and Aramean Christians against Arab Moslems; the Arab tribe of Albu Mutaiwat against the Arab tribe of Shammar; the Kurdish tribe of al-Gargariyyah against Arab Albu Mutaiwat; the peasants of the Mosul country against their landlords; the soldiers of the Fifth Brigade against their officers; the periphery of the city of Mosul against the center; the plebians of the Arab quarters of Al-Makkawi and Wadi Hajar against the aristocrats of the Arab quarter of ad-Dawwash; and within the quarter of Bab al-Baid, the family of al-Rajabu aggainst its traditional rivals, the Aghawat. It seemed as if all social cement dissolved and all political authority vanished."

Did you get that?? You better...

You also might be interested on Antiwar.com: July 25: Syria Emerges Front and Center by Pat Buchanan and Israel Is Winning the Battle, but Not the War by Ivan Eland.

July 25: Haaretz: ANALYSIS: The road to peace runs through Shaba Farms By Zvi Bar'el

The Lebanese government is pleased with itself, and Syria, too, has reasons to smile. As the fighting continues, Lebanese government officials are coming up with new definitions for what is known as "the complete arrangement," the one that is supposed to replace the arrangement that existed before July 12.

And so July 12 is joining the long line of historical dates that mark the stages of Lebanon's "new" independence just like February 14, the date of Rafik Hariri's assassination in 2005; or May 25, the date of the Israel Defense Forces withdrawal from Lebanon.

Saturday saw another development in the status of Fuad Siniora's government versus the strength of Hezbollah. After the government received "a franchise" to enter into negotiations on a prisoner-exchange deal, Energy Minister Mohammed Fneish, a Hezbollah representative, announced that once the IDF withdrew from the Shaba Farms area, Hezbollah's role as a "liberating" army would be over, and it would stick to a purely a defensive role.

This is a very significant statement, because it begins to define the conditions for Hezbollah's disarmament.

The government of Lebanon, Hezbollah, the United States, France and the United Nations have all realized now that the key to achieving a long-term and sustainable cease-fire by means of the deployment of the Lebanese Army in the south lies in a resolution to the Shaba Farms dispute.

At this stage, however, it is not enough for only Hezbollah and the Lebanese government to agree that the return of the Shaba Farms area would spell an end to the movement's "liberating" role. Syria is no less an important player in this regard. In keeping with maps approved by the UN, the Shaba Farms area lies in Syrian territory, so an official document in which Damascus relinquishes the area would be required too. For years now, Damascus has refused to provide such a document.

Will Syria agree to grant one now? An agreement to this end may be reached later in the week, when Syria learns both that it is the only one standing in the way of a settlement, and more importantly, according to Lebanese sources, that Washington is likely to offer Damascus a generous benefits package and a warm return to the "family of nations."

The next stage would have to be securing Israel's consent to withdraw from the Shaba Farms area, as this would then be a withdrawal from Lebanese territory; and only then could the Lebanese Army take up positions in the south, perhaps with the assistance of a multinational force if Hezbollah gives its okay.

The Lebanon Daily Star is a badass paper, no doubt.

Hizbullah gives government negotiation power

Daily Star staff: By Nada Bakri and Mohammed Zaatari

Monday, July 24, 2006

BEIRUT/SIDON: Israeli warplanes continued their bombardment of Lebanon on Sunday, killing at least eight and wounding 45, as Hizbullah gave the Lebanese government the green light to negotiate on its behalf for a prisoner swap with Israel. Any swap would include the two Israeli soldiers captured by Hizbullah in a cross-border raid on July 12, and Lebanese and Arab prisoners in Israeli jails.

"The Lebanese government will lead the exchange through the intermediary of a third party. This has been accepted by Hizbullah," Speaker Nabih Berri said Sunday.

It was not immediately known who the third party would be. Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh said Sunday that the two Israeli soldiers were "in good health" and called on "the United Nations or any third friendly party to engage in discussions of a prisoners' exchange."

"Germany has played an important and prominent role between Lebanon and Israel in the past, and it can play a similar role now," Salloukh said after a meeting with Peter Witteg, the head of international affairs at Germany's Foreign Ministry.

Meanwhile the Israeli offensive continued for the 12th straight day, bringing the overall death toll to at least 380 with over 1,000 wounded, according to Lebanese authorities.

A Lebanese press photographer, Layal Najib, 23, was also killed when an Israeli missile struck near her car on the road between the villages of Qana and Siddiqine. Najib worked at Al-Jaras (The Bell) magazine and was also a freelance photographer for AFP and several other news outlets.

Israel on Saturday attacked telecommunications installations in the North of Lebanon, killing a technician with the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation, Suleiman Chidiac, and wounding two others. The station's signal was cut in several areas across the country. The destroyed relay stations were used by TeleLiban, LBCI and Future TV, and several radio stations.

Israeli air strikes also hit a mini-bus carrying 16 people fleeing the village of Tairi as it worked its way through the mountains from the Southern port city of Tyre.

A missile hit the bus near the village of Yaatar, killing three and wounding the rest of the passengers, who were taken to hospitals in Tyre. The Israeli military had told residents of Tairi and 12 other nearby villages Saturday to evacuate by 7 p.m. The villages form a corridor about 6 kilometers wide and 18 kilometers deep, believed to be the "buffer zone" desired by Israel.

At least four other people were killed by Israeli strikes in the South, Lebanese television reported, but the deaths could not be confirmed. Some 45 people were wounded in Israeli air raids that targeted villages and towns around Tyre on Sunday, security and hospital officials said.

Israeli warplanes also targeted Hizbullah strongholds in the southern suburbs of Beirut.

On Sunday, Israel hit the Southern port city of Sidon for the first time, destroying a religious complex linked to Hizbullah and wounding four people. More than 5,000 people have sought refuge in the city from other Southern villages. Four people were wounded in the strike. Israel also targeted Hizbullah's power base in the Bekaa Valley, hitting three factories, a house and bridges and roads. The air strikes ignited large fires, killed at least one civilian and wounded two others.

Three rescuers from the Civil Defense personnel of the Islamic Scout Mission, an association affiliated with the Amal Movement, were wounded after Israeli air raids struck their ambulance as it transported wounded civilians to nearby hospitals, according to Hassan Hamdan, the association's official in the South. "After the rescuers succeeded in crossing the fields and arrived in Bourj Rahal, Israeli warplanes launched missiles, leaving three of them wounded," he added.

Israeli troops continued to hold a Lebanese border village that they battled their way into the day before, but did not appear to be advancing, Lebanese security officials said. But warplanes and artillery were battering areas across the South. Hizbullah confirmed on Sunday that Israeli forces had occupied a key Lebanese frontier village and said three of its fighters had been killed there.

"The enemy is deceiving its own people and the world by presenting the occupation of Maroun al-Ras as a great military achievement," a Hizbullah statement said. "An army using its elite forces and tanks backed by its air force that can enter a frontier village only after days of fighting ... is a defeated and useless army."

"Our steadfast fighters have presented through the Maroun al-Ras confrontations and the losses of the enemy - in troops, tanks and helicopters - an example of what the confrontations will be in every town, village and position," it said. A spokesman for UN peacekeepers stationed along the Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel confirmed for AFP the Israeli advance. "Israeli troops and tanks are now inside Maroun al-Ras," said UNIFIL adviser Milos Strugar.

In the latest salvo into Israel, Hizbullah launched rocket attacks across northern Israel, including Haifa. Some of the rockets slammed into a house, an apartment building and a major road, killing at least two people, Israeli police said.

With the attacks Sunday, a total of 17 civilians have been killed by Hizbullah rockets over the past 12 days and 19 Israeli soldiers in fighting in Lebanon. - With agencies

Meanwhile, in Gaza a prisoner deal may be afoot as well. Perhaps the realists around the world's governments are actually motivated to help put something together before the neo-cons start armageddon.

Haaretz: IDF artillery shelling kills 2 children, 4 others in northern Gaza Strip

Gaza groups ready to deal on cease-fire, release of Shalit

Last update - 05:36 25/07/2006 By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent

All groups in Gaza, including Hamas, would now accept a cease-fire deal with Israel which would include releasing Gilad Shalit, according to the Palestinian Agriculture Minister, who also heads the coordinating committee of Palestinian organizations there.

Ibrahim Al-Naja said the factions were ready to stop the Qassam rocket fire if Israel's ceased all military moves against the Palestinian factions in Gaza. They are also ready to release Shalit in exchange for guaranteeing the future release of Palestinian prisoners. Hamas leaders did not confirm this report on Monday, but if it is true, then this is the first time that Hamas has indicated its acceptance of the Egyptian proposal to solve the crisis.

Egypt's proposal did not include an Israeli commitment to the immediate release of Palestinian prisoners, only guarantees for their future release. Al-Naja said the Palestinian faction's conditions were that the cease-fire would be mutual and Israel would stop all its actions against the Palestinians.

He also said Israel must provide clear guarantees to free veteran prisoners, minors and female prisoners incarcerated in Israel. "This initiative was presented in an attempt to alleviate Palestinian suffering, but now it depends on Israel, which is showing no indication yet of its willingness for a cease-fire," he said.

PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas will present the understandings among the Palestinian factions to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at their meeting on Tuesday, Palestinian sources said.

It looks like, well, everyone is refactoring... Tuesday's gonna be interesting.

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Tags for Lebanese President claims Israel uses phosphorus chemical weapons; Gaza militants & Hezbollah look for ceasefire deals; Kurd