ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
The Israeli army entered southern Lebanon to fight Hezbollah guerillas, who have control of that part of the country. Since the cease-fire was agreed to, Hezbollah has claimed victory in the war.
NPR Senior News Analyst Ted Koppel has been thinking about the future of the militia and its role in Lebanon.
TED KOPPEL: In the worst of all possible worlds, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah will order his Hezbollah fighters into military hibernation over the winter. No more rocket attacks on Israel, no more cross-border raids. Instead, the Party of God will burnish its reputation as the social conscience and savior of Lebanon, while Iran and Syria collaborate in replenishing its supply of short- and medium- range rockets.
As things already stand, no other political party in Lebanon approaches Hezbollah's organizational skills, and for all of the Bush administration's professed admiration for Prime Minister Siniora's democratically elected government, it isn't rebuilding Lebanon and Hezbollah is. The Lebanese, meanwhile, cannot help but notice that Iran is providing massive funds for the reconstruction effort and the United States is not.
Meanwhile, the world heaves a collective sigh of relief. The Lebanon crisis, which seized our attention throughout half the summer, has slipped off the front pages of our newspapers and is barely mentioned on the television network newscasts.
But what has really happened? Security in southern Lebanon has been entrusted to a U.N. security force that has yet to materialize in any numbers and to the Lebanese army. If the idea is to keep Hezbollah from rearming and resuming control over southern Lebanon, the U.N. forces need a clear mandate for robust intervention, which they don't have and probably don't want. The Lebanese army has never had either the stomach or the capacity to intervene in the south.
The Israelis, who may have lost some of their appetite for engaging Hezbollah, nevertheless do have the capacity. Should they intervene, however, in order to prevent a renewed flow of weapons from Syria, they can count on United Nations condemnation. All in all, it's been a costly but productive summer for Hezbollah and its Iranian sponsors, and the upcoming winter looks even better.
This is Ted Koppel.
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