Peace in Lebanon is very precarious at the moment. While most of the world is focused on Yemen, slowly a true set of alliances in the Middle East could easily bring Lebanon once again to war with Israel:
Hypothetically, Israel would retaliate and bomb some Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon. Maybe Hezbollah reacts by firing some missiles into Israel causing a more serious conflict with Israel similar to 2006. Consequently, Syria gets involved and backs Hezbollah with more overt provision of more powerful arms – or worse, attacks Israel. Peace talks between Israel and Palestine break down as Hamas also fires missiles into Israel. The dangerous result of a minor catalyst would be the death of thousands of people in Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Israel as well as the complete breakdown of peace talks and the increase of racist and aggressive rhetoric world-wide. Of course, I would expect hope to see governments to show a little more restraint, but you never know.
Syria has promised its support to Hezbollah if there is an Israeli attack, as has Hamas. Iran would certainly not remain passive if such an event occurred and Hamas could take the opportunity to reopen attacks on southern Israel. And just like that, Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are over and we see more violence and death. Fortunately, that won’t happen… right?
[tweetmeme] Recently, Israeli PM Netanyahu has been trying to form a unity government with the Kadima. Lebanese MP Walid Jumblatt seems to think that this unity would mean that Netanyahu is planning another war on Lebanon for this year. While he has no proof of these plans, analysis, he says, he all he needs to see the writing on the wall. To increase speculation even further, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak confirmed that Israel would be ready for war in May 2010. While this seems like saber-rattling, such talk is certainly alarming. These developments come not days after the UNIFIL operation in Lebanon discovered bombs not one kilometer from the Israeli border.
The bombs, supplied by Syria or Iran, but planted by Hezbollah is another example of the tenuous peace that has been held since the Israeli withdrawal after its brief 2006 war with Hezbollah. Meanwhile, Israel is continuing its preparations. Currently, Israel is completing a defense overhaul on its borders with new missile defense technology. The Jewish nations successfully tested a defense system to protect against Syrian and Iranian missiles and distributed gas masks to the entire population as well. Israel is also in the midst of completing another defense system to protect the country from missiles launched from Gaza and Lebanon.
With all the war rhetoric let loose lately and the new defense projects that should be in place by mid-2010, one must wonder what the chances of war actually are. It is possible that Israel uses its new defenses to attack Hamas or Hezbollah, but they would gain little by doing so. More likely is the chance that new defense capabilities will give Israel more confidence in any clashes with Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria or Iran. With more protection against incoming rockets and missiles, isolated incidents such as the explosives that were recently found or the rockets shot at Israel could result in a more brazen response by Israel.
Or, with any luck, the new defense systems will neutralize incoming rockets and stabilize the area enough to make peace. Israel and Palestine will begin peace talks completely transforming the Middle East.
Or, nothing will really change.