Friday, July 14, 2006

What is happening in the Middle East

I don't profess to understand much about the Middle East, Israel, and the regional troubles. Frankly, I stopped reading Thomas Friedman six years ago, and of course, I can't read him now that he's behind the "Times Select" firewall, so my go-to source on the subject is gone. But here's my rough understanding of the situation:

1. Hezbollah, a half-terrorist, half-political organization backed by Iran and Syria, basically controls the southern part of Lebanon. The Lebanese government, despite repeated entreaties from the world community, has not taken measures to disarm Hezbollah. Also, George Clooney's character in Syriana is on good terms with them.

2. A few weeks ago, someone (I think Hamas) kidnapped an Israeli soldier. This provoked a strong military response from Israel, whose government is currently being run by non-generals and thus may have felt the need to emphasize Israel's military might moreso than, say, Ariel Sharon would have.

3. Despite this show of force, Hezbollah decided it would join the fun and also kidnap some Israeli soldiers.

4. Israel believes Hezbollah is acting with the backing of Syria and Iran. Because they are worried that their soldiers will be transported from Lebanon to one of these countries, they have basically sealed off Lebanon, bombing the airports and major highways out, and imposing a naval blockade.

5. Israel's demand for an end to hostilities: "The release of the two Israeli soldiers seized by Hezbollah in the cross-border raid on Wednesday that touched off the current fighting; a halt to rocket fire by Hezbollah; and a decision by the Lebanese government to implement a United Nations resolution calling for the disarmament of Hezbollah."

Israel's demands seem reasonable. But do they stand any chance of success? The future of the region hinges on the answer to that question.


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