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August 11, 2006

128 More Nasrallahs on the Streets of Egypt
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Even if Nasrallah is killed, there will, apparently, be hundreds more. This, from the newspaper Al-Masri al-Youm (translation of the first sentence):

Health offices in Alexandria (Egypt) found that 128 newborn babies were given the name "Nasrallah."

Don't worry guys. These are the birth pangs of the "new Middle East."


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In a culture where less patents are filed then anywhere else in the world by many orders of magnitude, where less books have been translated into Arabic in the totality of history than are translated in one year in Spain, where women are often treated as slaves and human rights have little or no meaning it's not surprising that Nasrallah is a popular name this month. The UN today passed a resolution that amplifies it's earlier unenforced 1559 that Hizbollah must be disarmed but Nasrallah is somehow a winner simply because he's still alive after attacking the jews?

When victory is defined as simple survival or just being around to kill more civilians and this is actually seen as victory by a wider culture then you've got bigger problems than what you chose to name your child. When children are taught to want to grow up and die while killing other children then you've somehow missed the simple fact that your culture is dying.

Perhaps there will be no new Middle East but this one is simply full of stagnation and death. Will any of the hundreds of newborns named after Nisrallah grow with any hope of any kind or will they simply be taught to love death? A Mid East with a little hope and a bit less death would be a better world for these newborns whether one calls that "new" or not.

Nasrallah was, himself, once a Nasrallah on the street, waiting for his chance.

In 1992, the IDF killed the leader of Hezbollah, setting off a bloody search within Lebanese society for a replacement.

Obviously, decapitation at the top didn't work then, just as it wouldn't now if the Shi'i answer to Osama (perpetually forced, from now on, to hide in safe houses, caves, anywhere the IAF can't find him) were to perish in the Cedar Republic.

Of equal importance is the realization that Hezbollah, despite its ties to Iran and Syria, is a relatively impressive military organization, with a strong internal capacity to learn and solve problems related to the IDF's inherent advantages.

It was Hezbollah, for example, that developed IEDs and TOWs that could best be employed against IDF tanks, not Iran.

Syria and Iran supplied the materiel, but the doctrines they instructed on their proper use were worthless against a vastly superior IDF (bad scuttlebutt included firing at Israeli tanks in the open, a suicidal proposition).

Hezbollah units learned in very sophisticated ways how to mitigate the likelihood of counterattacks by employing the TOWs in innovative ways inside villages.

But it's still a symbiotic relationship. It was Iran that supplied Hezbollah with communication technology after the terror network realized that the Israelis were jamming their com.

People forget that there is a long history between Iran and Hezbollah. Tehran began working with a loose confederation of Shi'a militias in Lebanon in 1982, after the Israeli invasion. Within six years, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards were helping out a far more centralized, lethal force.

Cragin has written about this evolving "learning budget" in some detail.

Despite the "cease fire" arrangement, I have no doubt that the institutional flux of Hezbollah will continue to demand a high, ongoing operational tempo.

Hezbollah will seek increasingly sophisticated logistical ties to Syria and Iran (and other states and transnational groups; bear in mind that Hezbollah has journeyed to Colombia to procure expertise) to buy the ordnance necessary to overcome tactical weaknesses exposed by the IDF.

This "cease fire" won't cease much fire. At best, it delays more Katusha launchings into Israel.

Next time, I assume the IDF will have a very different war plan, under a different administration, with a more finalized result, with or without Nasrallah's smoking carcass.

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