Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Breaking the Status Quo

George Friedman, in his latest special report for Stratfor on the Middle East conflict, considers that Israel has lost an important psychological battle in its struggle with Hizballah. While in 1973 Egypt withdrew its forces and accepted the arrangement whereby the Sinai was turned into a buffer zone, and Syria stopped making direct challenges to Israeli power in the region, preferring to seek accommodation with Israel, Hizballah has now broken that status quo:
In this conflict, what Hezbollah has achieved is not so much a defeat of Israel as a demonstration that destruction in detail is not an inevitable outcome of challenging Israel. Hezbollah has showed that it is possible to fight to a point that Israel prefers a cease-fire and political settlement to a military victory followed by political accommodation. Israel might not have lost any particular battle, and a careful analysis of the outcome could prove its course to be reasonable. But the loss of the sense -- and historical reality -- of the inevitability of Israeli military victory is a far more profound defeat for Israel, as this clears the way for other regional powers to recalculate risks.
Friedman supposes that neither Hizballah nor its Syrian and Iranian backers expected such an outcome. The question now, he suggests, is how they will utilize that outcome, having achieved it.
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