As Israel's war versus Hizbullah wound down last summer, the idea of an international force in Lebanon won near-universal approval, including even from the Olmert government, which announced its agreement "to consider stationing a battle-tested force composed of soldiers from European Union member states." To this, I responded that
such a force will certainly fail, just as it did once before, in 1982-84. That was when American, French, and Italian troops were deployed in Lebanon to buffer Israel from Lebanon's anarchy and terrorism. The "Multinational Force" collapsed back then when Hezbollah attacked MNF soldiers, embassies, and other installations, prompting the MNF's ignominious flight from Lebanon. The same pattern will no doubt recur. Back then, Americans and others did not regard Hezbollah as their enemy, and this remains the case today, notwithstanding the war on terror; in a recent Gallup poll, 65% of Americans said their government should not take sides in the current Israel-Hezbollah fighting.
Today comes a report by Uzi Mahnaimi in the Sunday Times (London), "Hezbollah's missiles back in Lebanon," that Hizbullah's forces are back in south Lebanon and stronger than ever. He quotes an Israeli intelligence officer. "Since the ceasefire, additional rockets, weapons and military equipment have reached Hezbollah. We assume they now have about 20,000 rockets of all ranges — a bit more than they had before July 12." In a recent interview with Al-Manar, Hizbullah's television station, Hassan Nasrallah confirmed the Israeli estimate, claiming Hizbullah now possesses at least 30,000 rockets.
Israeli military intelligence has warned the government that renewed fighting with Hezbollah, which it regards as a terrorist organisation, should be expected as early as next spring. In response, Israeli forces have taken emergency action. They have postponed a plan to reduce the length of national service — currently 36 months for men and about 24 months for women — and are stepping up production of better armoured tanks. They are also grouping all special forces into a single new division and are developing laser technology, jointly with the United States, to shoot down Hezbollah's rockets.
Comment: (1) One might say that all this predicament was entirely predictable. (2) Israel has had many incompetent governments in the past fifteen years but this one appears to top them all. (November 12, 2006)
Dec. 3, 2006 update: More confirmation, this time in the Jerusalem Post, "Syria smuggling long-range missiles to Hizbullah":
according to new intelligence obtained by the defense establishment, in the four months since the war, Hizbullah has received weapon convoys carrying short-range missiles, anti-tank missiles and long-range missiles. Most of the weapon convoys crossed into Lebanon from Syria at night. … Hizbullah, Military Intelligence believes, might use the Lebanese political instability as an excuse to launch attacks against Israel - not necessarily by renewing Katyusha rocket attacks like the ones used during the 34-day war this past summer, in which 4,000 rockets were fired at Israel, but by firing anti-aircraft missiles at Israeli aircraft flying over Lebanon to collect intelligence. …
While UNIFIL and the LAF presence in southern Lebanon has forced Hizbullah to conceal its weapons, MI does not believe that the multinational force is not an "obstacle" for the guerrilla Shi'ite group. … Hizbullah, MI has learned, has been using the post-war period to rehabilitate its armed wing. MI believes that "sooner or later" Hizbullah will resume military operations against Israel in the form of mortar and rocket attacks on northern Israeli communities as well as kidnapping attempts along the border.