Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Non-intervention would be nice...

As Condi's heart-aching sympathies for "innocent people" - gloriously backed up by tacit support for the Israeli action - ring out around the world, Simon Jenkins has been calling for non-intervention as the way forward. He has peddled the same line on Iraq, and it's certainly persuasive. Constant meddling in Middle East affairs seems to have averted little and perhaps prolonged the crisis.

I agree with Jenkins so far as any intervention will undoubtedly come with strings attached by the peacekeepers. The chances of this seem lessened by UN intervention, but the chances of Lebanon becoming a football for the West as they squabble over its fate - something which has crippled Afghanistan - seems an unenticing prospect.

However, the issue in Lebanon is not a stand alone issue. As I have argued before, so much of the world is tied up in the region that leaving Lebanon alone will be a massive advantage for Israel with its $2.3 billion p.a. of US military aid jangling in its pockets. Hizbullah, of course, receives aid from Syria and Iran but this is NOT the Lebanese state which is being so gouged and gutted by the current crisis as to make stable democracy myth if it were left on its own.

Iraq has diminished such hopes of a supervised transition to stability, but there is hope from Bosnia. As the UN High Representative with almost absolute power, Paddy Ashdown - although sometimes controversial - seemed to do just job and its good to see his successor, Christian Scwarz-Schilling, easing up on those powers. The strength of the scheme was that simple existence of a guarantor of the country's integrity, responsible to an organisation which is as close as you can get to neutral.

This of course rests on getting the right man for the job but it seems a far more sensible option than leaving the Middle East at the mercy of the US.

Friday, July 21, 2006


I cannot remember being surrounded in such a cloud of depression caused a world event as I am currently over the Lebanon situation. Israel's actions and rhetoric have been frightening, no less so than yesterday's comment from Amir Peretz:

"Let no terror organisation feel we would cower from any operation," he said. "We have no intention of conquering Lebanon but... we will do it without thinking twice."

It seems clear that Israel's actions are not merely a response to the two soldiers killed by Hizbullah a week ago. As the Economist describes, the military aid given to Hizbullah by Syria and Iran has built it into a major force in the region. From Israel's point of view this is an intolerable situation.

Any sympathy this may have drawn however has been totally extinguished by the manner of the invasion. With over 300 Lebanese dead, a paltry proportion of which can be identified as Hizbullah is ripping the heart out of a country only recently finding its feet after Syrian occupation. This is not to forget, either, the smokescreen the Lebanon action provides for the renewed shelling of Gaza (are we now seeing the real reason for the withdrawal?) with 130 dead there in the last week.

There are some glimmers of hope. Louise Arbour of the UN Human Rights Commission has stated that Israel's attacks on civilians and there are some in Europe
willing for some kind of intervention.

Unfortunately Britain, or rather Blair, has not seen fit to join this club. Contrary to Foreign office advice, "Tony" Blair has again deigned to stand strong and boldly do whatever the US tells him to. I would love to know waht defintion of diplomatic expediency old Tony subscribes to, but being afraid of not treading on toes when such outrage is being committed gives lie once more to the opinion that ours is a morally driven Prime Minister.

The worrying thing about Lebanon is that so many of the world's web of problems seem tangled within its small borders: Israel-Palestine, Iran, US-Europe relations, European unity, post-colonialism, neo-colonialism. I don't think its too sensationalist to say that all these could unravel if the situation escalates. Lets hope the cloud lifts soon.
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