Hamas, Hezbollah, and others: a new 'coalition of the willing'

Ali Khan [Washburn University]: "Endangering international peace and security and defying international law, the Middle East is spinning out of control. The recent spiral of violence intensified when Palestinian militants captured an Israeli soldier and converted him into a bargaining chip for obtaining the release of thousands of prisoners, including women and children, rotting in Israeli prisons. Ever responsive Israel started bombing houses and bridges in Gaza. Israel has also threatened to kill Hamas leaders directing events from Syria.

While the Gaza confrontation deepened, the Lebanese guerillas opened another front on the northern border of Israel. In a show of solidarity with predominantly Sunni Hamas, the Shia Hezbolla headquartered in Lebanon launched a daring daylight attack on Israeli forces, killing several Israeli soldiers and capturing two. As Ze'ev Schiff puts it: Israel now faces an extreme foursome: Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran. Israel has fired hundreds of missiles on numerous targets inside Lebanon, including the Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut. Domestic pressure is also building on Israeli government to hit Syria and possibly Iran.

This time the stakes are high. If Israel attacks Syria or Iran, numerous guerrilla groups will emerge in the region, including Jordan and Egypt, opening a new chapter in the Middle Eastern conflict. Two distinct forces are at work. First, the stubborn guerilla resistance in Iraq and Afghanistan has emboldened militants in the Middle East, showing that even the mightiest military power can be reduced to an ineffective giant through a suicidal but unrelenting war of attrition. Second, a tacit understanding is emerging between governments and guerillas that a strategic gap should be maintained between the two entities. The governments would play by the rules of international law while guerillas plan and conduct hostilities. These developments however will produce no winners.

Israeli strikes against Lebanon or Syria or Iran, even under the legal cover of self-defense, will spawn new guerilla groups in the region and beyond. The Hezbollah surprise attack on the IDF from across a settled international border exposes a new thinking. The militancy infrastructure is weighing to follow the ways of Iraq. If Iraqi insurgency continues, multiple guerilla groups will sprout at expected and unexpected places to challenge Israel. A new coalition of the willing to die and kill will radicalize the Middle East, most assuredly to the detriment of international peace and security.

"We do not negotiate with terrorists" has been an ineffective policy. It has complicated international relations, and solved nothing. Military initiatives have killed dozens of militants and hundreds of civilians. But they have failed to curb militancy. I discuss this point in more detail in A Theory of International Terrorism (2006)

The UN Charter prohibits the use of force in international affairs and mandates negotiated solutions for international disputes. The Charter incorporates a historically validated legal principle that the use of force does not resolve disputes, only complicates them. The illegal war in Iraq demonstrates the wisdom of the Charter that the Bush administration dismissed with superciliousness. Even the UN sanctioned war in Afghanistan reveals inherent deficiencies of using weapons rather than minds in resolving international disputes."

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