A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman
May 11, 2008 Hezbollah Seizes Parts of Lebanon
Two dramas are playing out in the Middle East today. One is very important and one ultimately isnot that important. The important one is taking place in Lebanon while the farce is taking place in Israel.
A serious crisis is taking place in Lebanon, with Hezbollah coming close completing a military takeover of the country over the weekend. They have no real opposition, as the Sunnis and the Christians disbanded their militias. Hezbollah always promised it would never use its force against fellow Lebanese, only against Israel. Their forces are well trained and well armed. For the moment, Hezbollah leader Nasrallah seems to have held back from a full takeover, apparently since the government backed down and reinstated the Hezbollah security chief at the airport who has been responsible.
This situation could have major strategic implications for Israel and the entire Middle East. Israel will sooner or later find itself with a Northern border fully controlled by Iran. Israel is not the only country that fears this outcome. If Hezbollah seizes Lebanon, the nightmare of the Shiites, lead by Iran, will continue. It also underscores the disaster of the Lebanese War, which took place two summers ago. Israel had the perfect opportunity to change the strategic situation in Lebanon with the support of the whole Sunni Arab world, but because of the incompetence of the government that did not how to use the IDF, they missed a historic opportunity.
In Israel the farce continues, with Prime Minister Olmert claiming his innocence and his determination to fight. At the same time the court in Israel, moments before Shabbat, granted the governmentís request to take testimony from Morris Talansky, the American in question who allegedly gave money to Olmert. The court accepted the position of the state that if Talansky left the country, there can be no assurance that he would return. In addition, the court accepted Talansky's concerns that if he did not testify now he would fear for his safety. Olmert's lawyers said today that they would appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. Observers believe this is just a stalling tactic. Olmert does not want the Talanskyís testimony to take place while President Bush and hundreds of other dignitaries are in Jerusalem. Olmertís defense continues to be that he received campaign contributions and not bribes.