ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, May 06, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 49
Columns - Inside the glass house

Why Washington now admits that Olmert lost Lebanon war

By Thalif Deen at the united nations

A man takes a photograph of effigies of Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz (L), Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former Chief of Staff Dan Halutz (R), as thousands gather in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square 03 May 2007, during a protest calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defence Minister Amir Peretz. After facing down a mutiny from his own party over a scathing Lebanon war report, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert faced a new battle today with street protests and angry lawmakers. AFP

NEW YORK - A committee that investigated Israel's failed war against Lebanon last July has come up with a report whose findings have a striking parallel to the American debacle in Iraq. The study, whose revelations triggered a 150,000-strong protest march in Tel Aviv last week, was a damning critique of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's role in that disastrous war last summer.

In reviewing the study, perhaps only the names have to be inter-changed — Olmert to Bush, both held together by their political and ideological affection to each other. The committee has concluded that Israel (read: US) acted hastily in going to war; had no exit strategy; and was presided over by an incompetent leadership.

Worse still, the study found "serious failings" in the conduct of the war, and placed the "severe failures" in Lebanon on the shoulders of Olmert (read: Bush on Iraq). As the Washington Post pointed out last week, the Bush administration was "largely alone" in supporting Olmert's decision to go to war against the Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The Israeli army, described as one of the world's most invincible fighting machines, received a drubbing in the hands of Hezbollah battling a classic urban guerrilla warfare which, not surprisingly, finds a parallel with the US military in Iraq. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has already called for Olmert's resignation. In the US, there is a grassroots online movement called the "United Coalition of Bloggers for the Impeachment of President Bush." The web address reads: (

The Israelis may succeed where the Americans are bound to fail primarily because of the huge growing public outcry in Israel. And one of the demands of the mass demonstration in Tel Aviv — which some estimated at closer to 200,000 than the conservative 150,000 — was Olmert's resignation.

The Israeli war against Hezbollah was, for all intents and purposes, a failure. It was also one of the more significant military defeats for Israel. The Israelis also failed to achieve their primary objective in going to war, namely, release of two Israeli soldiers held captive by Hezbollah.

While virtually the whole world acknowledged Israel's defeat, Bush asserted that it was Hezbollah that lost the month-long conflict against Israel. Speaking to reporters last August, Bush said: "Hezbollah attacked Israel, Hezbollah started the crisis, and Hezbollah suffered a defeat in this crisis."

Bush also said. "The reason why is . . . there's going to be a new power in the south of Lebanon, and that's going to be a Lebanese force with a robust international force to help them seize control of the country." But he has been proved wrong on both counts. And in a strange political twist to the story, the Bush administration officials have been urging Turkey, a close military ally of the US, not to attack Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq.

The reason: Turkey may suffer the type of "strategic defeat" that Israel suffered in the hands of Hezbollah. And so the Bush administration that declared Israel the victor in Lebanon is now admitting that Israel really lost the war in Lebanon. And, more importantly, it is using the "defeat" as an argument to dissuade Turkey moving into northern Iraq.

Like Israel, Turkey will have to use mostly its airpower to strike the Kurdish rebels in Iraq, whose militant organisation, the Kurdistan Workers Party (known by the acronym PKK) is fighting for a separate state inside Turkey. The Bush administration has had no qualms about its liaison with the Kurds because of their support for the current Shia-Sunni-Kurd coalition government in occupied Iraq.

At the same time, Turkey has a significant military role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). The dilemma for the Bush administration is to walk a political tightrope balancing a military ally with a designated terrorist organisation, the PKK.

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