They just got a different tool to use than we do: They kill innocent lives to achieve objectives. That's what they do. And they're good. They get on the TV screens and they get people to ask questions about, well, you know, this, that or the other. I mean, they're able to kind of say to people: Don't come and bother us, because we will kill you. Bush - Joint News Conference with Blair - 28 July '06

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Boosting Extremists With Bombs

Israel's air strikes on Southern Lebanon boost support for Hezbollah in the Arab world, as many lose faith in already struggling Arab democracies. Outlining the history of Hezbollah in a region prone to setbacks and violence, Middle East analyst and author Dilip Hiro predicts that the present fighting paves the way for more Arab rulers to resort to repressive measures in order to control dissent or extremism. Hezbollah's attacks may have been just one more step in their long struggle over prisoner exchanges with Israel, but Israel's fierce retaliation could have much wider consequences. The Israeli attacks, Hiro says, undermine the legitimacy of the moderate Arab regimes and unwittingly shore up the fortunes of the Islamist forces in the Arab world as well as those of Iran. The attacks spur anger against Israel, support for Hezbollah and repression by Arab governments, thus setting back the movement toward democracy in the region - an avowed goal of American policy. -- Yale Global

While Hezbollah's kidnapping of Israeli soldiers has provided Israel with a casus belli to wreak widespread death and destruction in Lebanon, its continuing resistance raises its standing in the Arab and Muslim worlds - despite Hezbollah's minority Shiite credentials, closeness to Iran, and censure by many Arab governments. If the current fighting ends in a prisoner exchange - as part of a package, or separately, as has happened in the past - the bloody episode will only widen the gap between the ruler and the ruled in the predominantly authoritarian or semi-authoritarian Arab world, leading the ruling elites to resort to repression.

To understand how and why Hezbollah has loomed so large on the Israeli radar, take a quick canter down the history lane. Read more