An interview by one of CNN’s Middle East correspondents with Mr. Mohammad Chatah, special advisor to Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, reviewed Lebanon’s proposal to send a contingent of 15,000 Lebanese Army soldiers to patrol their border with Israel. The proposal, subject to approval by Parliament, and to Israel agreeing to withdraw all its forces from southern Lebanon, is being drafted along with an American sponsored proposal to station an international force of 30,00-50,000 soldiers there as well, is being met by mixed feelings from both sides of the conflict, including the Hezbollah.
15,000 ‘Lebanese troops’? Hmmmm. This is a very intriguing and provocative suggestion for a variety of reasons. First of all, when Beirut Lebanon was bombed by Israel with the purpose of destroying the Hezbollah command headquarters in the city’s southern section, after all or most of the Lebanese air force had been disabled; why didn’t the 75,000 strong Lebanese Army spring in to action to defend their homeland? Even now, this force has had little participation in the nearly month-old conflict, except to man a few anti-aircraft batteries and assist with helping fellow Lebanese flee their country for safe havens in Cyprus and beyond.
Another factor to consider is due to Lebanon’s governing political ‘mix’, at least half of this military entity is composed of Shiite Muslims; undoubtedly very loyal to Sheikh Nasrallah who is himself a member of this branch of Islam, as well as most of his Hezbollah organization. It would be naÃ¯ve not to think that at least part of the official Lebanese armed forces, perhaps several thousand, actually possess two uniforms: one for their duties in the LAF, and the other for perhaps ‘volunteer’ activities in the HWSN (Holy Warriors of Sheikh Nasrallah).
Naturally, Sheikh Nasrallah and other Hezbollah leaders are all in favor of this idea, which will result in Hezbollah returning to southern Lebanon that much quicker, albeit in different uniforms. This would be with the sobering knowledge that should they try to engage in some of their former activities; i.e. firing Katyushas and other missiles into Israel, or kidnapping more Israeli soldiers; then Israel would have the right to declare all-out war against the Republic of Lebanon, with even more devastating results.
Other options involving some kind of international peacekeeping force, or even a more beefed-up version of UNIFIL, this time to be equipped with sufficient military hardware to make it a respectable military force; are also being discussed in the UN and by various other organizations, including NATO and the Arab League. The pitiful scene of Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora breaking into tears as he bemoaned the deaths and injuries of his country’s citizens; and massive destruction of property was enough to spur many into action to try to seek a end to this conflict that has wrecked absolute havoc to both sides. The P.M.’s enthusiastic support of Nasrallah and his organization, however, does make many wonder just where Mr. Siniora stands. Perhaps the Sheik might even offer Mr. Siniora a prominent position in Hezbollah; providing of course that Siniora agree to accept a different version of Islam â€“ Nasrallahâ€™s version, of course.