The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 70/No. 33           September 4, 2006  
Israeli troops conduct raid deep in Lebanon
as deployment of int’l force delayed
(front page)
August 23—The assembling of an international “peacekeeping” force to be deployed to southern Lebanon, as mandated by a recent United Nations resolution, is moving at a snail’s pace. At the same time, the Israeli military sent commandos deep into Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley near Syria August 19 to raid an area it said was controlled by Hezbollah. Facing a fire of criticism at home for their handling of Tel Aviv’s monthlong assault on Lebanon, officials of the Israeli government told the media that Israel is preparing for another round of fighting.

The French government had been expected to lead an “international force” of 15,000 into southern Lebanon, but on August 20 pulled back from its commitment, saying it could send only 200 combat engineers instead of thousands of troops Paris had initially promised.

“In the past, when peacekeeping missions were not properly defined, we’ve seen major failures,” said French foreign ministry spokesperson Agnès Romatet-Espagne. “There are the bad memories of Bosnia. This time we want the answers beforehand,” including whether the “peacekeepers” will be expected to disarm Hezbollah.

Romatet-Espagne was referring to “peace initiatives” by European Union powers, especially the French and German governments, in Bosnia and elsewhere in the Balkans in the 1990s, which were de facto sabotaged by Washington. Through that course, the U.S. rulers humiliated their allies in Europe, which came to be seen as incapable of stopping the massacres in Yugoslavia. This course also rationalized a massive U.S.-led intervention in Bosnia, which helped Washington strengthen its domination in Europe. (For more see “How U.S. imperialism, allies fueled Yugoslav war” in January 9 Militant.)

The Italian government said August 20 it would commit 3,000 troops to lead the “international force.” Italian prime minister Romano Prodi then said Rome would only deploy its troops “at the end of broad consultations” with the French, German, and Turkish governments.

Tel Aviv is also demanding a veto over which governments may send troops as part of the UN force. “We will not agree that countries which do not have relations with Israel will participate in the multinational force,” Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert reportedly told the Israeli Security Cabinet. This would rule out soldiers from Indonesia, Malaysia, and Bangladesh, which have all offered troops.

On August 11 the UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution that has established a tenuous cease-fire following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) bombing campaign throughout the country killed more than 1,100, wounded 3,700, and forced about 1 million to flee their homes.

But faced with a much stronger than expected response from militias of the Lebanese group Hezbollah, which it had intended to smash, Tel Aviv accepted the UN resolution. In addition to Hezbollah’s ability to fire thousands of rockets into Israel, the Washington Post reported, the IDF was “surprised by the effectiveness of Hezbollah and its missile armaments, which hit an Israeli ship, may have downed a helicopter, and penetrated about 20 of Israel’s most modern tanks.” According to an article in the August 20 New York Times, Hezbollah used advanced antitank missiles, including Russian Metis-M and Kornet missiles that were sold to the government of Syria and passed on to Hezbollah.

The UN resolution calls for the disarmament of all armed groups other than those of the Lebanese government, no sales or supply or arms to nongovernmental forces, and the removal of “foreign” forces in Lebanon. The Lebanese government is sending 15,000 soldiers to the area below the Litani River, the center of the fighting, to be joined by the projected 15,000 UN troops.

Until this force is deployed, the Israeli government claims it has the right to continue to carry out military actions inside Lebanon.

On August 19 the IDF conducted a commando raid in the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon. Israel’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Mark Regev, said the raid aimed to stop the transport of arms to Hezbollah. “Had the Lebanese forces, augmented by international troops, been on the border-crossing points with Syria the way they should have been,” he said, “then our attack would have been superfluous…. We cannot have an open border with arms coming from Syria to rearm Hezbollah.”

Hezbollah—or the “Party of God”—is a capitalist party with two seats in the Lebanese cabinet that won prominence for its role in the fight against the 1982-2000 Israeli occupation (see article in this issue for more on the roots and character of Hezbollah).

The slowness in putting together the UN force has highlighted Tel Aviv’s failure to achieve its goal of disabling Hezbollah with its own forces.

“For four weeks we failed to defend ourselves against daily bombardments against our cities,” Yuval Steinitz, a member of the Israeli opposition Likud Party and former chairman of parliament’s defense committee, told the Washington Post. “This is a failure that never happened before.”

Hundreds of members of the IDF’s Spearhead Paratroop Brigade have criticized “the cold feet of the decision-makers” in an open letter to Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz. “The heavy feeling that in the echelons above us there is nothing but under-preparation, insincerity, lack of foresight and inability to make rational decisions, leads to the question—were we called up for nothing?” the letter said. “In order to face the next battle prepared—and this may happen soon—a thorough and fundamental change must take place.”

“In the last six years, there hadn’t been any preparation” for putting soldiers into combat, said Shaul Givoli, an Israeli retired major general, according to the August 19 Washington Post.

“One of the main conclusions of the war against Hezbollah will be the fact that the fighting abilities of the ground forces deployed by the Israeli Defense Forces in Lebanon have been blunted by years of police action in the territories,” noted Ze’ev Schiff, military analyst for the Israeli daily Haaretz. He was referring to the occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. “The character of the IDF—known for its blitzkrieg methods, encircling movements deep inside enemy territory, and the ability to bring about a quick and decisive conclusion to the fighting—has been spoiled by years of involvement in operations that tied it down.”

Schiff recommended a sharper division of labor between the army and police to better safeguard the interests of the Israeli rulers. “Many of the advantages and operational qualities of the IDF have been lost over the years because the army has been fighting the wrong war—from a military point of view.”
Related articles:
U.S. military blocks Iranian arms shipment to Hezbollah
‘We are for whatever strengthens the confidence and capacity of the toilers’
Letter from SWP leader on Israel’s murderous war on Lebanon
Fascism: not a form of capitalism but a way to maintain capitalist rule  
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