commentary

(International Herald Tribune)

June 6, 2008

A Chance in Lebanon; No Place for Tyrants

by Theodore W. Karasik and Ghassan Schbley

Hezbollah's recent flexing of its muscles in Lebanon may well lead to an unintended effect: the long-overdue disarming of the militant group.

For the first time, Hezbollah suggested that its weapons may be used not only against outsiders — namely, Israel — but against Lebanese. The Lebanese people responded that they were truly fed up.

As part of the peace talks that ended the crisis, it was agreed that the question of Hezbollah's arsenal will be discussed. The question of Hezbollah's weaponry and intentions are now, more than ever, on the table.

Until these recent events, Hezbollah could hang onto its arms by invoking the Israeli threat and the unresolved "four bleeding wounds:" the disputed Shebaa Farms in the Lebanese-Syrian-Israeli border area, the Israeli Air Force "buzzing" over Lebanon, Lebanese detainees in Israel, and the map of the land mines Israel planted in southern Lebanon before 2000 along with the coordinates of cluster bombs dropped during the 2006 war with Hezbollah.

This new dynamic presents an opportunity for the United States. It could work with the international community — including Arab states that see Hezbollah's actions as a security threat — and push Israel to resolve these outstanding issues with the organization.

Once the four wounds are healed Hezbollah will face increasing internal Lebanese pressure to disarm.

Momentum is on the side of diplomacy. With the Lebanese people fed up, and international pressure building, there just may be a shot at positive unintended consequences.


The writers are, respectively, senior political scientist and research assistant at the RAND Corporation in Washington.

This commentary originally appeared in International Herald Tribune on June 6, 2008. Commentary gives RAND researchers a platform to convey insights based on their professional expertise and often on their peer-reviewed research and analysis.