The Peace process, Phase One: Past Accomplishments, Future Concerns
Edited by Dr. Stephen C. Pelletiere. | January 1997
The most illuminating insight to come out of this analysis is the future of Lebanese-Syrian ties. If Lebanon and Syria are moving toward an informal federation, Syria has the potential to be a formidable actor in the Middle East.83 Moreover, a Syria-Lebanon federation with ties to Saudi Arabia and to Europe through France would be in an advantageous position economically.84
Of course, all of this could be moot if Lebanon does not recover from Operation GRAPES OF WRATH. Immediately after the truce, the Shias in the south were quoted as saying that they would certainly rebuild,85 and Hariri announced that he had pledges of support from the Europeans to rejuvinate the construction effort.86 There was even talk that Operation GRAPES OF WRATH had forged a new consensus in Lebanon; for the first time, all of the Lebanese--of every sect--were pulling together, determined to rebuild their country.87
This may be pure rhetoric. But if it is not, and the rebuilding effort does go foward again, then the spotlight will shift to Israel's new Prime Minister Netanyahu and to the Likud Party, the winners in the Israeli elections. If Netanyahu orders another Operation GRAPES OF WRATH and the economy of Lebanon once more is targeted, not only Lebanon but all of the Arabs will cry foul. They will claim with justification that it is not Hizbollah the Israelis are trying to eliminate, but the chance of Lebanon's ever recovering.
Effectively, this should provide a pointer to U.S. policymakers. Washington should take the position that hostilities between the guerrillas and the IDF must be restricted to the security zone. The IDF must not perpetuate violent actions north of the zone; the guerrillas must not fire on Israel's northern settlements. There is a mechanism in place that is capable of preventing this.88 We should use it.
Washington must see that after Operation GRAPES OF WRATH, the expansion of hostilities outside the zone is a very dangerous proposition as it has the potential to touch off yet another Arab-Israeli War.
83. Syria has always suffered from being resource poor, unlike its chief rival, Iraq, which has enormous supplies of oil. Syria in a position to exploit a dynamic Lebanese society would be another matter. It would be a significant economic force in the Middle East.
84. Asad has been in good standing with the Saudis since he agreed to take part in Operation DESERT STORM on the side of the coalition. However, his standing is now, if anything, improved. Prince Abdullah has taken over as de facto head of the desert kingdom, and Abdullah is a long-standing supporter of Syria. If, as everyone feels is inevitable, King Fahd is forced to step down because of illness, then Abdullah is likely to become king. As for France, the French inserted themselves into the negotiations to end Operation GRAPES OF WRATH over the objections of the Americans and Israelis. However, in the end, the Syrians and Lebanese maintained that it was France primarily that enabled the truce to come about. Paris would like to develop strong commercial ties with both Syria and Lebanon, countries for which it formerly held mandates after World War I.
85. See "Lebanese Determined to Rebuild," The Washington Post, April 28, 1996.
86. See "Assault Stalls Lebanon's Postwar Recovery," The Washington Post, April 27, 1996.
87. See "Plight of Qana's Victims Unites Lebanon Factions," The Times, April 22, 1996.
88. This is the committee to monitor the ceasefire. For Hariri's description of how this mechanism will work, see "Lebanon: Al Hariri Holds News Conference," FBIS-NES-96-084,April 30, 1996.