When Hizbullah drove the Israeli military out of southern Lebanon in August last year, winning a stunning victory in a war by which the US and Israel had hoped to destroy Lebanon’s main Islamic movement and secure control over the country, it was a defeat not only for Israel but for the US as well. The US-Israeli plans for war had been drawn up in meetings between political and military leaders of the two countries in Washington earlier in the year -- the war was not simply a response to Hizbullah’s capture of two Israeli soldiers, as claimed -- and Israel’s military assault was given full political support by the US and its allies, notably Britain. The scale of the US-Israeli plan was reflected in US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice’s statement, made to justify the US’s refusal to call for a ceasefire, that the suffering in Lebanon was the “birth pangs of a new Middle East”.
The destruction of Hizbullah was, of course, only one of several short-, medium- and long-term goals that the US hoped to achieve by the war. “The new Middle East” was Rice’s shorthand for the US’s ultimate objective of securing control over the entire region and all its resources by defeating the region’s independent Islamic movements, and installing pliable, pro-Western and pro-Israeli regimes in all Arab and Muslim countries. In the shorter term, the war was intended to secure Israel’s northern border, at a time when it is coming under increasing pressure from within the occupied territories, distract attention from the US’s failures in Iraq and Afghanistan; increase pressure on Syria, a major player in Lebanese politics; and ultimately contribute to the defeat of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the one state in the region that stands firmly against the US’s plans and supports, politically if not always materially, Islamic movements opposing the US and its allies in other countries. All these objectives were foiled by Hizbullah’s victory and, far from restoring some credibility, the US was further embarrassed.
“He is cocky, he is arrogant, but at least from our experience with him, to my regret, what he has said, he has done.”
Speaking at a massive rally in southern Beirut on August 14, to mark the first anniversary of the victory, Hizbullah leader Shaikh Hassan Nasrallah made clear that the movement is prepared for another Israeli attack, which many expect to take place within the next year, as Israel seeks to reverse both its own humiliation and the gains Hizbullah has made in the last year. Shaikh Nasrallah promised that Israel will be in for “a big surprise” if it attacks again, and one which will change the course not only of any war, but of the future of the Middle East. These statements are taken seriously by all observers, for Shaikh Nasrallah has an established record for speaking the truth and nothing but the truth on such matters. Even the Israelis acknowledge this; cabinet minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told the press that “He is cocky, he is arrogant, but at least from our experience with him, to my regret, what he has said, he has done.”
What Shaikh Nasrallah meant by this is not clear, but the speculation is that Hizbullah has acquired new weaponry, possibly anti-aircraft missiles that could challenge Israel’s supremacy in the air. Last year, Israel was shocked when Hizbullah succeeded in hitting an Israeli naval ship with missiles as it sat off Lebanon’s coast and bombarded targets in southern Lebanon. Forall its military belligerence, and the advanced weaponry provided by the US, Israel is not used to fighting enemies that can hit back so effectively.
It is not only Hizbullah that can expect further US-Israeli attacks. The US may have lost a major battle in Lebanon last year, but its determination to secure control over the Middle Easthas not been dented and its main target remains Islamic Iran, which stands, nearly 30 years after Iran’s Muslims expelled American influence from their country, as a model and an inspiration for Islamic movements elsewhere in the region. Gradually, over a period of years, the US has focussed its political rhetoric on to Iran, accusing it of “meddling” in Iraq andAfghanistan, supporting terrorism elsewhere, undermining the supposed Middle East peace process, developing nuclear weapons, and planning the genocide of Israel’s Jews, among other things. In their rhetoric against Iran, Rice and other US leaders may not offer any more hostages to fortune such as promises of “a new Middle East”, but the ultimate objective of their warmongering against it is clear. Muslims everywhere would do well to be as prepared as Hizbullah clearly is.