Analysis: Syria is the key for an agreement

The source of Hizbullah's power is Assad's encouragement, politically and militarily.

Assad Nasrallah 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Assad Nasrallah 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Ricewill play an intensive diplomatic role this week, seeking new approaches to end the current conflict between Israel and Hizbullah. Israel should assist her in that mission. This article concentrates on a new policy regarding that complicated, almost unattainable goal. The minimal goals which may vindicate this war, justify the pain and suffering of the northern Israel civilians, are: The return of the two Israeli abducted soldiers; a cease-fire; and control of the Lebanese-Israeli border by the Lebanese Army and multinational force. But the crucial goal is disarming and weakening the Hizbullah terror organization. Terror organizations do not give up their malicious power. Can you imagine that such a mission, which the IDF failed to accomplish during its 18 years in Lebanon, can be carried out by the Lebanese Army? Or perhaps by a foreign force, which is unfamiliar with the region, the country, the terrain, the different factions, and the culture of the Hizbullah? I don't. Israel seeks to weaken both Hizbullah's military and political strength. The IDF may achieve its mission to some degree, sooner or later, but the consequences will not endure for long. The achievements will be temporary and fluid. Why? Because there is no internal power in Lebanon that is able to prevent Hizbullah from recovering, receiving new rockets, recruiting, and training invigorated terrorists, and rebuilding its infrastructure. There is no army which is experienced and motivated enough to guard Lebanon's southern border from penetrations by Hizbullah terrorists into Israel to terrorize and kidnap civilians and soldiers. The Lebanese Army consists of roughly 40% Shi'ite soldiers. These soldiers and officers will not hinder their brothers. The Lebanese Army wasn't built, prepared, and trained for internal security missions. On the contrary, it will likely assist Hizbullah military activities. It will help them in intelligence gathering, in preparation for operations and the like. If so, how can Israel achieve a prolonged and stable agreement, and a peaceful northern border? There is no complete and assured answer. Israel will continue to fight for its existence in the foreseeable future. But there is a lot to do in the political and diplomatic dimensions to stabilize the situation, to cut off the edge of Hizbullah's sword, and to achieve a sustained agreement. The key for all these goals is Syria. Syria, despite the fact that its forces have left Lebanon recently, is the influential and leading power in Lebanon. The president and the generals mouth the proclamations of the Syrian leaders. The murder of Rafik Hariri has spread horror among Lebanese leaders and has frozen their courage to oppose Assad's policy, to counter his intervention in Lebanese politics. The source of Hizbullah's power is Assad's encouragement, politically and militarily. Contrary to the common assessment, more consequential Syrian assistance is political. Syria may be helpful in the second Israeli front as well. Notwithstanding the continuous military pressure on Hamas in Gaza, the abducted soldier is still hidden in a tunnel or a cave. Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal lives in Damascus, and follows the Syrian regime's directions. Israel, Syria, and the US may achieve prominent solutions to the several issues of mutual interests which will likely be discussed. The Israeli government should offer Syria a place at the negotiating table. Syria is extremely interested is improving its economic and political relations with the free world. Such discussions may be the first step. To achieve a satisfactory agreement it is important to obtain a significant change in Assad's policies in general, particularly regarding Hizbullah. Ms rice may find this approach promising an interesting one. Dr. Shmuel L. Gordon, a colonel (res.) in the IAF, is head of the Technology and National Security program at the Holon Institute of Technology, and an expert in national security, air warfare and counterterrorism. He is also the author of The Vulture and the Snake: Counter-Guerrilla Air Warfare: The War in Southern Lebanon.