Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah; drawing by David Levine

1.

There are many ways to read the latest war in Lebanon. It may rightly, for instance, be seen as a proxy war, a nasty skirmish at the margins of a strategically bigger struggle. Like those cold war subconflicts in Africa, Indochina, and Central America, it pits adversaries equipped, ideologically inspired, and goaded by more powerful patrons. In this case, the patrons, waiting in the wings to see how their weapons and tactics performed, and hoping to frighten their bigger foes while limiting losses to themselves, are Iran and America, each using a pampered, martially minded client to defend against perceived threats to their interests in the region.

For America’s leaders, Hezbollah represents not just the long arm of Iran’s Islamic Republic, a hostile Shia power which has, since its inception, funded, trained, and armed the Lebanese Shia group. It also represents a form of what George Bush has taken to calling Islamic fascism. In other words, making war against Hezbollah is seen as a natural adjunct to the wider war against Islamist terrorism. Defeating it can only be good for America, and good for the vaguely defined cause of holding the Middle East within the international system that American power has for so long underpinned. So it is that America lent its diplomacy not to stopping the fighting as soon as possible, but to providing an umbrella for Israel to “finish the job” of crushing Hezbollah.

To Iran’s leaders, and particularly to the current administration of religious conservatives whose main support base lies with such ideologically zealous institutions as the security services and Republican Guard, Hezbollah is more than a like-minded organization deserving of support. It is also a watchdog for the Islamic Republic’s perceived mission of protecting itself, and the wider region, from American domination. Hezbollah’s soft-spoken and charismatic leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has himself indicated that Iran sees his party, and especially its rocket arsenal, as a deterrent against possible Israeli or American aggression aimed, for instance, at disabling Iran’s nuclear program.

Hezbollah serves another Iranian goal, too. Its example of determined resistance to Israel and passionate support for the Palestinian cause rallies fellow Muslims to the notion of confrontation with, rather than accommodation of, the “forces of international arrogance.” This model defuses, to some extent, the growing tension between the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam, as exemplified by the turmoil in Iraq. In this way, it reinforces Iranian pretensions to wider Islamic leadership, to the detriment of “soft” rivals such as Saudi Arabia.

Yet just as plausibly, the fighting can be seen as having been simply another round in the far older struggle between Israelis and Arabs. It fits well into the mold. As long ago as the early 1950s, “fedayeen” groups (meaning those who sacrifice themselves), often representing nonstate actors such as the Muslim Brotherhood, launched pinprick raids on the nascent Jewish state, which responded with savage reprisals that typically targeted not fedayeen themselves but Arab civilians as well as governments that the Israelis accused of shirking the responsibility of reining in troublemakers.

This cycle’s most vicious turn came in the early 1980s, when Israel invaded Lebanon and battered its capital, Beirut, in an ultimately successful, if brutal and costly, effort to chase out Palestinian guerrillas. A decade later, following the Oslo peace accords, many of the same fighters arrived in Palestine itself under the leadership of Yasser Arafat. But again, his inability, or unwillingness, in the eyes of Israelis, to tame a new set of nonstate actors led to large-scale Israeli reprisals, which in turn stripped his government of legitimacy and promoted the rise of more radical, more determined parties such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Like those parties, Hezbollah was a product of conflict. The cultlike intensity of its following was spawned by bitter personal experience of Israeli domination, not only under the direct military occupation of a large swathe of south Lebanon, which lasted between 1978 and 2000, but as a result of frequent Israeli punitive raids, such as the 1996 “Grapes of Wrath” offensive that caused the slaughter of 106 Lebanese civilians who had taken refuge at a UN peacekeeping base in the village of Qana. Such memories have allowed Hezbollah to pose as the protector not just of Shias but of Lebanon as a whole, with the argument that its guerrilla force performs a function that the weak Lebanese state and its ill-equipped army are incapable of.

Whatever Israel’s protests, Hezbollah’s capture of two Israeli soldiers, and killing of eight more, on July 12 was clearly a military operation, an act of banditry perhaps, but not of “terrorism.” The most notorious incident associated with the group is the 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, which killed 241 US servicemen. But Hezbollah was not formally founded until two years later. Its responsibility for two deadly attacks on Argentina’s Jewish community in the early 1990s is highly likely, but has not been definitively proven. Since then the group has cheered suicide attacks in Israel and the Iraqi resistance, but is not known to have taken part in international terrorism. It condemned the September 11 attacks on the United States and shuns Sunni extremist groups such as al-Qaeda—with good reason, since such groups are often virulently anti-Shia, and Hezbollah takes a relatively enlightened view of issues such as women’s rights. Aside from its military branch, the party fields twelve representatives in Lebanon’s parliament and one cabinet minister, and it runs an impressive number of social services, from schools to hospitals and orphanages.

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Even so, from the Israeli perspective, the existence of a potent nonstate force on its northern border has been seen as an intolerable nuisance. This is particularly so since it has been backed by one state, Iran, whose leaders have declared a resolve to destroy Israel, and by another hostile state, Syria, which has used Hezbollah as a prod to remind the world that despite peace deals with other neighboring states, Israel remains in occupation of Syria’s Golan Heights.

Iran and Syria, in other words, have long had an interest in pushing Hezbollah to challenge Israel. That interest has intensified of late. America’s intervention in Iraq is seen by the two as an aggressive effort to weaken them by physically sundering their twenty-five-year-long alliance. Both have tried, in different ways and quite successfully, to ensure that America burns its fingers in Iraq. Meanwhile, Iran has grown increasingly concerned by international pressure for it to stop, or at least fully disclose, its nuclear program, while Syria’s government has grown increasingly frustrated by the Bush administration’s imposition of a diplomatic freeze that has allowed Israel to spurn repeated Syrian offers to resume negotiations over the Golan.

For Israel’s part, while the continuing existence of a last hot stretch of border has been an annoyance, the growth of Hezbollah’s offensive rocket capacity has been seen as an unacceptable threat. Israel tried to defuse it, via its superpower patron, with a Security Council resolution—1559—passed in 2004 that demanded the disarmament of all Lebanese militias. Lebanon’s delicate internal politics rendered the application of Resolution 1559 impracticable, however, while in Palestine, the election of Hamas to power and continued unrest in Gaza, including rocket attacks on Israel, raised fears of an emerging pan-Islamist front. Following the kidnapping of a soldier on the Gaza border in late June, Israel was hardly in the mood to react mildly to Hezbollah provocations, as it had sometimes in the past, releasing Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners in exchange for smaller numbers of Israelis. Hence the determination, once Hezbollah launched its July 12 raid, to smash the pest completely.

But the ongoing conflict in Lebanon can be understood in yet another light, as the latest episode in Lebanon’s own civil war. That vicious, fifteen-year-long conflict is generally held to have ended in 1990, with the signing of the Taif Accords that reapportioned power between the country’s main sects, and confirmed the role of neighboring Syria as a final arbiter. Yet the accord left important strings untied. While diminishing the dominance of Christians, to reflect changing demographics and the failure of Christian forces to unite during the civil war, it did not fully account for the rise in power, numbers, and ambitions of the long-deprived Shias, who had emerged as Lebanon’s largest single sect. It also left Israel in control of a thick wedge of territory in the largely Shia-populated south. This enemy occupation legitimized an exception to the Taif rules by which the main Shia resistance force, Hezbollah, remained the only Lebanese militia allowed to retain its arms.

Two subsequent changes brought these weaknesses in Lebanon’s political arrangements to the fore. The first was Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from its “security zone” in the spring of 2000. This move enhanced Hezbollah’s prestige, since the group’s relentless and skillful fighting was what prompted Israel to cut its losses and go. Yet at the same time it put into question, for other Lebanese, the party’s right to claim a legitimate monopoly of arms. This question came into the open following a second change, which was the withdrawal of Syrian troops, forced out by the popular uprising that came in response to Syria’s suspected involvement in the assassination, in February 2005, of Rafik Hariri, a Sunni Muslim politician and billionaire who had emerged as Lebanon’s main postwar public figure. In the wake of this unrest, an anti-Syrian coalition of parties known as the March 14 movement captured the reins of power in Beirut.

In the year since Lebanon’s so-called Cedar Revolution, the anomaly of Hezbollah’s weaponry emerged as the most dangerous and divisive issue in the country’s notoriously tricky politics. Lebanon’s 1.2 million Shias tended to see the party’s arms as a guarantor of influence for their sect, which has historically been the country’s poorest and most disenfranchised. Christians, Sunni Muslims, and Druze, by contrast, tended to view Hezbollah as both a tool of Syrian and Iranian meddling and an obstacle to the assertion of full control by the Lebanese state.

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In the spring of 2005, Nasrallah had warned, ominously, that he would “cut off any hand” that reached for Hezbollah’s weapons. A series of assassinations targeting critics of the party, and of Syria, looked to some like the carrying out of this threat. To others, however, the killings were a suitable reward for what they regarded as the treachery of the traditional Lebanese political and business elite, which, reasserting itself through the March 14 movement in the wake of Syria’s departure, seemed intent on acting as a regional bridgehead for Western influence.

Meanwhile, the necessary inclusion of a Hezbollah minister, along with allied Shias, in the sectarian-balancing coalition formed in the summer of 2005 by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora had the effect of stymieing efforts at reform, such as a push to remove the Syrian-installed president, Émile Lahoud. In a belated attempt to break months of deadlock and to contain the growing polarization, Siniora agreed to a series of dialogues that brought together sectarian leaders and prominent politicians. The talks made progress on some issues, but the key question of disarming Hezbollah, as called for by the Security Council, was repeatedly postponed as too contentious. A session to resolve the issue was at last scheduled for mid-July, but the flare-up of war on July 12 preempted it.

The initial response of most non-Shias in Lebanon to the Hezbollah kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers, which sparked the war, was of fury, and of frustration at their own impotence to prevent the party from taking unilateral action that put the country as a whole at risk. Some concluded that Iran had instigated the attack, to distract attention from its nuclear program. Others fingered Syria, on the grounds that it feared being charged by UN investigators into the Hariri assassination. As a result, quite a few Lebanese quietly cheered as the bombs began to fall. At last, it was whispered, the political playing field would be leveled. The Shia party would be brought to heel, and its revolutionary zeal, culturally as well as politically jarring to many Lebanese, would be muted. A foreign army, and the vaunted and powerful Israeli one at that, would eliminate the last remaining nonstate actor of the civil war.

But such schadenfreude would largely dissipate as the scale and mercilessness of Israel’s vengeance became clear.

2.

The actual eruption of fighting marked a point of convergence among a range of different pressures and motivations, most of them extraneous to the causes cited by the belligerents. Israel claimed it was fighting to free the two captured soldiers. Hezbollah, for its part, has long declared its casus belli to be the desire to free Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails, and to liberate a tiny patch of hillside known as Shebaa Farms.

Many in the Muslim and Arab worlds are under the impression that Israel holds dozens of Lebanese “hostages.” It certainly used to, but nearly all were released in previous exchanges. Before the fighting, Israel held precisely two known Lebanese prisoners in Israel, along with a possible third, a fisherman who disappeared at sea and whom Hezbollah asserts is a captive. One of the prisoners, Samir Kuntar, is serving multiple life sentences for murdering a father and his daughter back in 1979, before Hezbollah’s founding, when he took part in a raid by Palestinian guerrillas. The other is an Israeli citizen of Lebanese origin, sentenced as a Hezbollah spy. In other words, these “hostages” are, under international law, not prisoners of war but simple criminals.

The land issue is equally tenuous. It is true that some Sunni Muslim residents of the Lebanese village of Shebaa, on the slopes of Mount Hermon, hold title deeds to orchards in what is now the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. But old maps place this land not in Lebanon but in Syria. Before wars wracked the region, such distinctions mattered little in this border zone of smugglers and goatherds. Lebanon never raised the issue before Israel’s withdrawal in 2000. And Syria has, rather slyly, never formally relinquished its title: “We find it useful to be ambiguous” is what an adviser to the Syrian Foreign Ministry once told me. Small wonder that when the United Nations, following Israel’s withdrawal, was asked to draw a “Blue Line” delimiting Lebanon’s border, it placed Shebaa Farms on the outside.

Obviously it is not such relatively trifling issues but the convergence of historical and geostrategic imperatives that explains why, once started, the conflict so quickly escalated, with Hezbollah lobbing rockets at Israeli cities, and Israeli bombs wreaking far greater, if more systematic, destruction across Lebanon. The intensity of the war took most people by surprise, including, or so its leaders insist, Hezbollah itself. “Of course there was tension on the border,” says Rasha Amir, a Beirut novelist and publisher, and a secular Shia. “But no one thought we’d get the full-blown, big-budget Hollywood blockbuster.”

Ms. Amir was lucky. Her family’s 150-year-old ancestral home is one of the few old structures in the Dahiya, the densely crowded southern suburb of Beirut that was haphazardly built by waves of Shia refugees from successive wars, and has become Hezbollah’s firmest stronghold. Nearby streets were entirely devastated, with dozens of ten- and fifteen-story buildings compacted into ashen hills of rubble. Every window in her house was blasted out, every wall cracked, and every door flung off its hinges. But the stone structure still stands, with a rare rose jasmine climbing in the walled garden.

Many were not so lucky. A single bomb on July 13 erased the entire Akash family, including eight children aged between three months and twelve years, at the village of Doueir, near the busy Shia market town of Nabatiyeh. The Akhras family, from Montreal, met a similar fate. Like many émigré Lebanese, they had recently built a summer villa in Lebanon with the idea of giving the children a taste of life in the old country. Unfortunately, it was in the border village of Aitaroun. One week into their holiday, and three days into the war, Israeli shells flattened the house, killing ten people—three generations of the family.

One Akhras cousin, Dallal, who works as a head nurse in a Beirut hospital, is the only member of the clan not to have emigrated to Canada. Like the entire population of the Dahiya—perhaps 300,000 people—she fled her apartment there for safety. Trying to keep her young girls occupied while living in a friend’s house in upscale West Beirut, she gave them crayons and paper. Four-year-old Lin drew a picture of coffins filled with blood. Eight-year-old Nadine drew a beautiful house with a garden, but half in flames, with an Israeli aircraft overhead. “Doesn’t God say you shouldn’t kill children?” asks Nadine.

Miraculously, the bombing of the Maliban glass factory at noon on July 19 killed only one person. The plant, which makes jam jars and beer bottles, is one of Lebanon’s oldest and largest industrial enterprises. Normally the shop floor, now a blasted heap of tangled girders and mangled machines, would have been crowded with workers at this time. Aurobindo Chowdhury, who has managed the plant for its Anglo-Indian owners since 1972, stopped production only two days before. He told me it would cost as much as $70 million to get the place working again. In the meantime 380 employees are out of a job.

Many Lebanese remain puzzled by the strategic thinking behind a month-long aerial campaign that killed approximately 1,287 people, injured 4,054, severed three quarters of the country’s roads and bridges, smashed some fifty factories, and left an estimated 100,000 people homeless. But one goal was nearly achieved by the last days of fighting. Aside from the general infrastructural damage and occasional effectiveness at hitting probable rocket-launching sites, as well as at clobbering Hezbollah targets that ranged from its main offices in the Dahiya suburb to party-run village orphanages, clinics, and schools, the bombing did succeed in displacing some nine tenths of Lebanon’s estimated 1.2 million Shias. Touching nearly every concentration of Shias in the country, the nine thousand air strikes emptied not just the Dahiya and the southern borderlands. Shia villagers even in the northern Bekaa Valley, fifty miles from the front, also found it wise to seek shelter in public schools, stadiums, and private homes across the Sunni Muslim, Christian, and Druze- dominated regions of the country.

This Israeli campaign appears to have had two purposes. One was psychological: underlining the fact that Hezbollah had failed to fulfill its role as a protector of even its own people, the Shia, let alone of Lebanon as a whole. The other was military: to clear the south Lebanon “fighting box” of civilians, so as to allow the Israeli army to make use of its heaviest antipersonnel weaponry without fear of bad publicity. In the very last hours of the war, Israel does seem to have saturated parts of the border landscape with cluster bombs. But either its army was given too little time and leeway or the technique was inefficient. The final twenty-four hours of fighting saw Hezbollah firing its single largest daily volley of rockets, some 250, at northern Israel. Many were shot from positions that had been repeatedly bombed, often within sight of Israel’s border.

In fact, aside from destroying much property and frightening large numbers of people out of their homes, Israel’s entire month-long campaign appears to have been singularly ineffective. This was a classic asymmetric war, pitting a large, highly mechanized, and modern army, with hugely greater firepower and full control of the skies, against a few thousand foot soldiers. Yet Israel’s forces barely managed to probe a few miles across the frontier, often feinting and then withdrawing under heavy fire. When the cease-fire whistle blew after thirty-three days of fighting, they had secured only a single salient on the Litani River, which lies less than twenty miles from the border.

It is true that Hezbollah’s offensive weapons were not especially effective, either. The four thousand or so rockets it fired killed just forty-one civilians, a third of them “Israeli Arabs,” i.e., Muslim Palestinians. But the guerrillas’ skillful use of light field weapons, such as mortars, shoulder-fired rockets, and laser- and wire-guided antitank missiles,* appears to have rendered Israel’s lumbering Merkava (“Chariot”) tanks pretty useless. Israel also seems to have shied from applying close air support, such as the attack helicopters that advanced armies typically wield to great effect in counterinsurgency warfare. Most likely this reflected a fear of being shot down.

Israel’s loss of 116 soldiers was not large as major wars go. Hezbollah claims to have lost a smaller number of front-line fighters, although many more troops associated with Hezbollah may have been lost as well. It is difficult to judge, since rearguard reserves are typically dressed as civilians. Israel’s claim to have destroyed up to 70 percent of the guerrillas’ longer-range rocket launchers may also be correct. But the uncomfortable fact for Israel is that whereas Hezbollah killed two Israeli soldiers for every Israeli citizen it killed, Israel’s ratio in inflicting “collateral damage” was, at best, exactly the reverse.

3.

As a cease-fire came into effect on August 14, every party tried to claim victory. Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, asserted that the fighting had “changed the rules of the game” in the region. President Bush stated flatly that Hezbollah had lost; that this was a victory for “freedom” and a blow to “state sponsors of terrorism” such as Iran and Syria. Yet as his supporters set off fireworks, and passed out both sweets and posters proclaiming “a Victory from God”—a pun on Nasrallah’s name, which literally means God’s Victory—the Hezbollah chief went on television to declare what he called “a strategic triumph.” Syria’s president, Bashar Assad, was even more bullish, trumpeting a defeat both for American plans for a “new Middle East” and for Siniora’s government, which he accused of being a stooge for America and a traitor to the Arabs. Iran went furthest of all, declaring public transport in the capital, Tehran, free for a day in celebration.

Security Council Resolution 1701, which set the basic rules for the ceasefire, appeared on paper to meet Israel’s main demand, by insisting that Lebanon south of the Litani River be secured solely by a joint force from the United Nations and the Lebanese army. In other words, Hezbollah’s rocket arsenal would, as a first step, have to be pulled back, eliminating the threat to Israel of short-range missiles, and further diminishing the threat of longer-range projectiles.

Yet this was a far cry from Israel’s initially stated objective of eliminating and disarming Hezbollah. More troubling still, applying the agreement relied on a number of shaky variables: the willingness of Hezbollah and its patrons to relinquish their cherished “deterrent” against the “Zionist Entity”; the untested ability of the Lebanese army, a scantly armed conscript force with close ties, at both the command and foot soldier level, to Hezbollah; and the willingness of outsiders to insert troops into a potentially volatile region. Most crucially, the peace deal relied on the durability of the Lebanese government, at precisely a moment when Hezbollah and its supporters felt triumphantly immune to pressure.

As the leaflets it rained on Beirut made clear, Israel’s strategy was to pin the blame for war damage on Hezbollah, so turning other Lebanese against the party. It failed, as dramatically as have most campaigns of persuasion-by-bombing in modern wars. Support for Nasrallah was, of course, particularly intense among the Shia, whose faith enshrines both martyrdom and sacrifice: even in a pre-war poll they expressed 96 percent backing for his party. Wartime loss seems only to have intensified Shia identity with the party. The day after the cease-fire, one reporter found an old woman weeping amid the ruins of the Dahiya. Puzzled on learning that her whole family, as well as her house, had survived unscathed, the reporter discovered that the cause of Umm Abbas’s grief was that she had not been able to sacrifice even her home for “the Sayyed,” a term of respect that refers to Hassan Nasrallah’s descent from the Prophet. Such examples of cultish fervor reverberated across the country, as hundreds of thousands of refugees returned to shattered villages, and gaunt guerrilla fighters stumbled out of their foxholes to be hailed as heroes.

Yet many other Lebanese from across the country’s fractured spectrum, backed up by a vast chorus from the wider Arab and Muslim worlds, now expressed similar awe for the achievements of the Resistance. After all, Israel had defeated combined Arab armies in just six days in 1967. It had swept to Beirut within a week in 1982. But now, a ragtag peasant force, armed with little more than faith and a willingness to die, had held the invader at bay for a whole month. Many recalled what Hassan Nasrallah had said: “When the people of this transient state lose confidence in their legendary army, the end of this entity will begin.”

When the shy, soft-spoken, and turbaned Nasrallah, with an occasional whimsical, ironic smile, now spoke on television, silence fell across Arab capitals. Chiding as “wooden-tongued” the members of the March 14 movement who had dared to hint that the time was now ripe for Hezbollah to disarm, Nasrallah quietly declared that in the light of the Resistance’s victory, such suggestions were immoral as well as premature. His critics, he said, had sat in air-conditioned rooms while the people suffered.

As in many of his speeches, Nasrallah counseled his own followers to be patient and understanding. But rather than reassuring his foes, the call was understood by many Lebanese as an indirect threat to release Hezbollah’s street power, should any effort be made to thwart the party’s goals. It is a potent threat, since no other party commands such mobilizing force: in June, police largely stood by when Hezbollah supporters rioted in Christian and Sunni quarters of Beirut, in protest against a television satire in which a bearded Shia cleric had vowed to “liberate” Lebanese property in Dearborn, Michigan.

At this writing, most Lebanese who do not share Hezbollah’s triumphalism, and they are many, remain pessimistic about the chances of taming the party. “Lebanon is finished” is a refrain often heard in private. The flight, during the war, of much of Beirut’s polyglot elite, and their replacement by a crowd of destitute Shia refugees, offered to them a brief vision of this famously cosmopolitan country being transformed into a drab Islamist state. Harking back to the civil war, some even whisper that it is time to divide the country into sectarian cantons.

Yet as the scale of wartime damage to the country becomes clear, more Lebanese may be emboldened to hold Nasrallah to account for his role in the disaster, and so to counterbalance his current popularity. Clever formulas may be found for dealing with the arms issue, for instance by categorizing the weapons as either offensive (useless rockets) and therefore dispensable, or defensive (highly effective antitank gear) and therefore serviceable, perhaps by incorporating Hezbollah’s front-line force within the Lebanese army. It is even possible that new constitutional mechanisms can be devised to make possible an effective executive branch while guaranteeing sectarian rights.

Lebanon, despite its divisiveness, is also a country with extraordinary political resilience, largely built on the unspoken understanding that no one group can dominate the rest without serious bloodshed. Yet resolving its troubles requires a degree of patience and sensitivity that is poorly understood by outside powers such as America and Israel, or Iran and Syria. What they want is immediate results. One big danger is that America pushes too hard, in the name of “freedom,” for Siniora’s government to deliver up Hezbollah. That could result in collapse. Another danger is that Syria, fearing further isolation, and the weakening of its connection with Hezbollah—which may be likely if joint Lebanese army and UN patrols block Syrian attempts to resupply the group with arms—tries to sabotage the peace.

Evidently, like the background to the war, its outcome also carries many-layered implications, for the contest between an American-led “West” and Iran, for the Arab–Israeli conflict, and for Lebanon’s own internal struggles. For the time being, Israel’s bungled offensive appears to have empowered the forces opposed to it, and opposed to a regional Pax Americana. That does not bode well for the future of the Middle East, where what looms right now is a wholesale rollback of “moderates” in favor of chauvinistic Islamist nationalism.

Yet it is also, if only faintly, possible that responsible foreign powers may act with wisdom, and seize the real potential for change that lies within this crisis. This is not the “opportunity” seized on by George Bush at the war’s onset to bash his favorite bad guys, but rather the chance to push for a much- wider-ranging regional settlement. This would, of course, necessarily include addressing such issues as Israel’s continued occupation of the Golan Heights. In other words, it would require engaging, rather than demonizing, such unwholesome players as the governments of Syria and Iran, as well as Hamas in Palestine, that sadly troubled land that remains the eye of the surrounding storm.

—August 24, 2006

This Issue

September 21, 2006

  1. *

    Most of these were advanced, Russian-made systems supplied via Syria and Iran. Ironically, however, some anti-tank gadgetry is likely to have been 1980s vintage and American-made. The Reagan administration plied Iran with TOW wire-guided missiles as part of the Iran-contra boondoggle, a scandal which, incidentally, implicated the current administration’s leading Hezbollah hawk, Elliott Abrams, the National Security Council’s Middle East policy chief. Iran may have shipped these goods to Hezbollah.