Will Power Shift Due to Israel-Hezbollah Fight?

NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr discusses the nearly three-week long conflict between Israel and Hezbollah and how that could lead to a shift in power in the region.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

President Bush briefly addressed the fighting in the Middle East today. He was in Miami attending a variety of events, public and private, and while at the Port of Miami, Mr. Bush said he would continue to work for a sustainable cease-fire.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: As we work with friends and allies, it is important to remember this crisis began with Hezbollah's unprovoked terrorist attacks against Israel. Israel is exercising its right to defend itself and we mourn the loss of innocent life, both in Lebanon and in Israel. We're determined to deliver relief to those who suffer, we're determined to work to resolve this crisis.

BLOCK: That was President Bush speaking today in Miami. He's having dinner with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington this evening.

NPR's senior news analyst, Daniel Schorr, has these thoughts on the current situation in the Middle East.

DANIEL SCHORR reporting:

History may recall a shift in the Middle East power balance in the 19 days after Hezbollah's provocative cross-border attack on an Israeli army patrol. One element in that shift is discovering that Hezbollah has sophisticated weapons that can inflict significant damage, even with Israeli domination of the air. These weapons, including laser guided anti-tank artillery, were supplied by the government of Iran, apparently in preparation for this test of will.

Israel, trying strenuously to eliminate hard to find, well dug-in Hezbollah launching sites was drawn into risky bombings that killed civilians, including women and children, and spread sympathy and support for the Lebanese insurgents throughout the region and indeed the world.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, speaking for President Bush, found it necessary to exert pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for at least a partial suspension of Israeli air strikes. Secretary Rice found that Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora no longer welcomed her. Under pressure from his own citizens, he found it embarrassingly necessary to ask that Ms. Rice stay away from Beirut.

Today in Miami, President Bush repeated a demand that Iran cease its weapons supplies to Hezbollah, but he is not in a very good position to enforce that demand. For Iran, on the other hand, its proxy war in Lebanon must appear to be going well and will undoubtedly embolden the mullahs to take a defiant position in the Security Council debate on sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program.

If the Hezbollah attack on the Israeli patrol was meant to provoke this confrontation, it has been wildly successful.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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