“WAR,” proclaimed the three-inch headline in Ma‘ariv, Israel’s leading daily, the day after Hizballah launched its cross-border attack on an Israeli army convoy on July 12. With the onset of Israel’s massive bombing campaign in Lebanon that evening, its aerial and ground incursions into Gaza were transformed into the southern front of a two-front conflict. But are the two fronts, in Lebanon and Gaza, part of a single war? Speaking in such terms risks misidentifying what really links Israel’s actions on its northern and southern borders.
Since the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1559 in September 2004, Hizballah has been in the international spotlight. In addition to demanding the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, the resolution calls for the “disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias,” primarily a reference to the Islamic Resistance that is Hizballah’s armed wing. Following the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, the resulting “Independence Uprising” in Lebanon and the hasty withdrawal of the Syrian army in the spring of 2005, some thought Hizballah would have to bow to pressure and dissolve the only Lebanese militia remaining after the Ta’if agreement that helped to end the 1975–1990 civil war.
The Iranian state, controlled de facto by the conservatives in the government, promotes the idea that Iran is the center of Shi‘ism. It bases its argument on the fact that Iran is a Shi‘i-run state, whereas Shi‘i Muslims in other parts of the world live in states that are dominated by Sunnis, and so Iran is free to pay near exclusive attention to Shi‘i concerns.
With George W. Bush stubbornly insisting that the US is making “progress” in the “central phase of the war on terror” in Iraq, pro-Israel Democrats and Republicans in Congress figure it is time for phase three. Some think tankers want to train Washington’s gunsights on Iran, but next week Congress will reconsider a measure targeting Syria.
June 19,1985. In Beirut, TWA flight 847 stands desolate on the empty tarmac, a huge hulk of white metal shimmering in the heat, a picture off the cover of some bungled tourism brochure. Some 40 Americans are unwilling guests in the southern shantytowns known as the “suburbs” of Beirut. More than a hundred other passengers have been released. One, a young US Navy underwater construction expert, was beaten and executed. The two original hijackers are now said to be adherents of the Hizb Ullah (Party of God).