US: Cease-fire a setback for Iran, Syria

Agreement strengthens democracy in Lebanon, stabilizes border with Israel.

condy rice 88 (photo credit: )
condy rice 88
(photo credit: )
The UN-declared cease-fire in Lebanon, if fully implemented, would be a strategic setback for Iran and Syria because it strengthens democracy in Lebanon and stabilizes the border with Israel, the State Department said Monday. "You will not have Hizbullah roaming freely in the south of Lebanon," spokesman Sean McCormack said. "Iran and Syria will not have had the ability to rearm Hizbullah." The militia, designated as a terrorist group by the department, have fought for 34 days with Israel. The guerrillas used rockets and other weapons provided by Iran and channeled through Syria, according to US and Israeli officials. The UN resolution sets the stage for 15,000 Lebanese troops and 15,000 foreign troops to be deployed in southern Lebanon, the main staging area for decades for Hizbullah cross-border attacks on Israel. Two years ago, the UN Security Council required Hizbullah to disarm, and that principle is carried over by the new resolution approved unanimously last week. McCormack said when the two resolutions are implemented "that would represent a setback for Hizbullah." Estimates vary as to how long it might take to assemble an international force and deploy it in Lebanon. "We are pushing for this force to be generated as quickly as possible," McCormack said. The United Nations has had two preliminary planning sessions, and a larger one is expected later in the week. "I would hope that very quickly we would see countries coming forward and saying that they will participate in the force," the spokesman said. McCormack said France was likely to play a leading role. In the meantime, Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Sunday, "There is no situation in which Hizbullah fires at [IDF] forces that we will not retaliate." Backing that position, McCormack said, "There is nothing in this resolution that calls upon Israel to abrogate its rights to self-defense." Private groups that monitor Middle East developments were cautious in their assessments. Provisions of the resolution are "likely to be realized in part, but none in its entirety," said Geoff Porter, an analyst with the Eurasia group, a private consulting firm that advises the US and Japanese governments as well as corporations. Hizbullah, Lebanese and Israeli positions "will probably conspire to scuttle" the resolution, he said. Mark Rosenblum, founder of Americans for Peace Now, a dovish Zionist organization, said, "We think that this is a necessary and potentially important piece of paper." "But the hard work in establishing peace on the ground has just begun, particularly for the Bush administration," Rosenblum said.