The Strategic Implications of the Lebanese Cease-Fire

Posted in Broader Middle East | 15-Aug-06 | Author: Dr. Federico Bordonaro and Jea

Following U.N. Resolution 1701, a cease-fire between belligerent forces in Lebanon began on August 14. During the first hours after the cease-fire took effect, both the Israeli Defense Forces (I.D.F.) and Hezbollah were abiding by it, notwithstanding isolated incidents.

Security issues concerning the region's stability and the risks for the U.N. international force that will be sent to Lebanon within ten days are now the main concerns for global and regional powers. At the same time, the 2006 Israeli-Lebanese conflict and the subsequent U.N.-sponsored cease-fire are having important political and strategic implications for the Middle East's balance of power and, more generally, for the global geopolitical chessboard.

Speaking to Lebanese television network al-Manar on the evening of August 14, Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah delivered a significant speech. He called Hezbollah's performance in the conflict a "historical and strategic triumph." Nevertheless, his statement was expected, as part of the "battle of communiqu├ęs" in which both sides claimed a clear victory.

The political importance of Nasrallah's words lie instead in the political plans that emerge from some key phrases. He made clear that the Shi'a militia's heavy armament "will constitute the basis for a strong Lebanese state," thus proposing himself and his organization as an all-national leadership and explicitly de-legitimizing the Lebanese army, saying that it is "unable to protect the country in case of war." He then concluded by saying that Hezbollah will actively take part in humanitarian assistance for the hard-hit population and called it "immoral" to even talk about the militia's disarmament.

The problem for the United Nations is that Resolution 1701 explicitly calls for such a disarmament; in paragraph 8, it states that "there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese State" and, in paragraph 11e, it decides that the multinational force shall "assist the Lebanese armed forces in taking steps towards the establishment of the area as referred to in paragraph 8."

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