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THE CRISIS TODAY - An Insider's Briefing (Wednesday, July 26, 2006)

Israeli Security Expert Yossi Alpher offers a daily briefing during the elevated crisis in Israel...

Today's Briefing - Wednesday, July 26

"At Least Another Week" by Yossi Alpher

Condoleezza Rice has come and gone. Western and Arab countries are meeting today in Rome to begin hammering out the outlines of an international force that will accompany a ceasefire in Lebanon. But this conflict appears nowhere near its conclusion.

The conditions for ending the conflict simply are not there. Shi'ite leader Nabih Berri, authorized to speak on behalf of Hezbollah, turned down Rice's proposal in Beirut that a ceasefire include withdrawal by Hezbollah from the South. The Lebanese government indicated it is incapable of imposing anything on Hezbollah's "state within a state" without help. No international force is going to fight Hezbollah; the idea is that it monitor a ceasefire and escort Lebanese Army units to the border with Israel once Hezbollah is out of the way.

Nor can an international force materialize overnight: days are required for vanguard units to appear; weeks or even months for larger contingents. Besides, there appear to be few volunteers. The NATO idea implies American, British, French and German troops; none are volunteering. Surprisingly, the EU seems interested. But its foreign ministers will only meet to discuss the idea well into August, when in any case much of Europe is on vacation.

Nor does the United States appear as yet to understand how to lead an international effort. Rice talked in Lebanon of the "birth pangs of the new Middle East". Unfortunately, Hamas and Hezbollah are the new Middle East, and Washington's democratic reform program for the Arab world helped install them. To deal with Lebanon we may need more of the old Middle East: backroom compromises with factions in Beirut; Syrian involvement.

Meanwhile, until and unless the IDF seriously depletes Hezbollah's capabilities and demoralizes its rank and file, there is simply no way the fundamental precondition for an international force--the reversal of the power relationship between Hezbollah and the Lebanese government, so that Lebanese sovereignty can begin to be imposed on Hezbollah--can be met.

The IDF appears to be making more progress on the ground in terms of depleting Hezbollah capabilities than from the air. But from a geographical standpoint--eliminating Hezbollah bunkers and launchers--the ground campaign is just beginning, and IDF losses are mounting. Hassan Nasrallah may still have some surprises up his sleeve, such as rockets on Tel Aviv. And the threat of escalation with Syria has not been eliminated.

Another week at best.

The Crisis Today-An Insider's Briefing is a new daily, internet publication of Americans for Peace Now. A new edition of The Crisis Today will be posted every weekday morning by 9:00 a.m. for as long as the current crisis continues.

The Crisis Today is written by Yossi Alpher, whose views do not necessarily reflect those of Americans for Peace Now or Peace Now.

Link to APN's Crisis Resource Page

Links to previous Briefings:

July 25, 2006
July 24, 2006
July 21, 2006
July 20, 2006
July 19, 2006
July 18, 2006