War in Lebanon

The Atlantic recently asked a group of foreign-policy authorities about the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah
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In the long run, who is likely to benefit the most from the armed conflict between Hezbollah and Israel?
43% Iran

“Iran benefits the most, as it diverts attention from the nuclear issue; undermines the more secular Arab leaders (such as those in Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia), and gives Israel a black eye.”

“Iran staged this operation with Syria's support. The fighting is not in Hezbollah's interest, proving that Nasrallah will do what he is told by his state sponsors. This is Iran, widening the context of the nuclear negotiation by demonstrating that it is a regional power that can hurt us more than we can hurt them.”

“Iran has again demonstrated its ability to export instability well beyond its borders, making clear it is a region-wide player to be reckoned with. It is being empowered by a broader Shiite resurgence, one piece of which is Hezbollah's increased stature and influence. And Tehran, through Hezbollah's challenge to Israel, is taking control of the Islamist street.”

“Iran — While Hezbollah's initial attack seemed to widen the division between Sunnis and Shiites, the unrelenting (yet quite ineffective) military campaign by Israel is uniting the Muslim world — Sunni and Shiite — in opposition to Israel, the United States and the West. Over time, this cannot help but strengthen Iran's position in the region.”

“Iran. The longer it goes on, the more that Iran can position itself as a peacemaker, pull strings with Hezbollah as the latter seeks to re-supply itself, strengthen its negotiating position with the P5+1 [Britain, China, France, Germany Russia, the EU, and the U.S.], and split some of the P5+1 away from the U.S.”

“Iran has again demonstrated its ability to export instability well beyond its borders, making clear it is a region-wide player to be reckoned with. It is being empowered by a broader Shiite resurgence, one piece of which is Hezbollah's increased stature and influence. And Tehran, through Hezbollah's challenge to Israel, is taking control of the Islamist street.”

“As a revolutionary state claiming to represent radical Islamic fundamentalism, Iran comes out as the clear winner—without risking very much. It will be widely seen in the region as the architect of the first Islamic victory over Israel. A Shia victory will send the Sunni rulers in the Gulf into a search for accommodation with Iran and put an end of any hope for political reform. The fallacy of Israeli policy and the Bush-Rice approach is to believe that what was at stake could be determined by the exercise of superior Israel military force. Even if the Israeli military strategy and execution had shown the brilliance of an earlier generation of Israeli political-military leaders - and it clearly has not - this was always going to be a political contest with military force in support. While many will say that the US and Israeli governments are following in the same failed track that resulted in the current situation in Iraq, this does not truly comprehend the scale of what has happened. The closer analogue is the criminal ineptness of Tsar Nicholas II and his Generals in the Russo-Japanese War 1904-05. The Japanese victory led directly to the rise of virulent nationalism across Asia and in Russia ended any hope of reform. In ten short years the Western state system began to unravel and 30 years of war and revolution descended on the world. Those who believe that while history does not repeat itself, but does rhyme will understand the bloody chaos that lies ahead.

In the context of the Israel-Lebanon-Hezbollah relationship, Hezbollah wins the political victory. The nascent democratic, multi-confessional political system in Lebanon is shattered.”

33% Hezbollah

“While Hezbollah's initial attack seemed to widen the division between Sunnis and Shiites, the unrelenting (yet quite ineffective) military campaign by Israel is uniting the Muslim world — Sunni and Shiite — in opposition to Israel, the United States and the West. Over time, this cannot help but strengthen Iran's position in the region.”

“Whatever military weakening Israel inflicts [on Hezbollah] will be more than compensated by the rise of Hezbollah’s stature and power (and especially that of their leader, Hassan Nasrallah) throughout the region.”

“Unless the Israeli military campaign is changed to reflect a deeper involvement with more ground troops, the Hezbollah will be over-whelming winners. They will use this operation to propagandize the Middle East that Israel cannot defeat them and that the US has marginal, if any, influence in the Middle East. By-product winners are: first, Iran; second, Syria; and third, the terrorist-backed and Iranian-backed elements in Iraq using the same analogy that Western democracies can be defeated and that the US is a paper tiger.”

“Hezbollah and other radical groups. Their military capability will be eroded by the war, but their political standing within the Arab world will climb.”

“Hezbollah seems headed to be the big winner—every day they can keep trading shots is a day more than any Arab government was able to do so, while every day of Israeli air strikes weakens the Lebanese government further, strengthening Hezbollah's relative position within Lebanon too.”

“Hezbollah will become the new poster boy for standing up to the Israelis and, by proxy, the Americans. if Israel could not wipe them out over a period of years, they are unlikely to do so in weeks. All Hezbollah has to do to 'win' is still be standing when the crisis is over.”

“At the moment it appears that Hezbollah and its sponsors, Iran and Syria come out the best though events could change the tide once again.”

“Hezbollah, if nothing is done by the US to end the conflict there and between Israel and Palestine; also F. Al Qaeda, which will gain a big bump in recruits as a result of what is now happening.

But if the US does what it ought to do in terms of 1) Lebanon (Immediate ceasefire then major relief efforts and international force and serious political support for the Government of Lebanon); 2) Israel-Palestine peace (Clinton Principles and press constantly for a final settlement); and 3) Iran (open negotiations without preconditions and offer it a "grand bargain"), then the winners can be the US, the allies, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, other regional states, and the anti-terror effort. The Middle East is "all of a piece," and trying to deal with it piecemeal will fail as it always has.”

7% Lebanon
5% Israel

“Israel will gain the most if they prevail, as will the United States. Humiliating one of Iran's proxies advantages the U.S. By defeating Hezbollah Israel removes one of the most lethal threats from its borders.”

5% Syria

“Syria may benefit the most. There is a push to get the administration into diplomacy with Syria and Iran. Bush is reluctant to engage with Iran, lest he bolster the regime politically and demoralize the Iranians who oppose it. Some people argue that Bush should court Syria to drive a wedge between it and Iran and deprive Hezbollah of Syria's support. If Bush goes along with that argument, he'll have to reverse the course of US policy toward Syria, which could substantially benefit the Syrian regime.”

5% Radical Islamic Groups

“Radical Islamic groups: Hezbollah may lose both because Israel will degrade its capability and some of the Lebanese population will blame them once the dust settles, but the images of Qana will be a powerful recruitment tool for Al Qaeda and similar organizations throughout the Muslim world.”

2% Palestine
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