For a change, here is good news from Beirut. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made news during his recent visit. "I am deeply concerned about the military capacity of Hezbollah and the lack of progress in disarmament," he told a news conference in Beirut after meeting Lebanese leaders. "All these arms outside of the authorized state authority, it's not acceptable," he declared.
It's about time somebody made things clear to the Lebanese.
The response of Hezbollah's leader Hasan Nassrallah could have been predicted. "We are pleased by your concern," he said, addressing the UN secretary general. "We want you, the U.S. and Israel to be concerned ... Hezbollah will not relinquish its weapons."
Nassrallah should know that we are all really concerned, and what's more we intend to do something about it.
The weapons in question are tens of thousands of ballistic missiles in addition to all sorts of additional modern weaponry that have been supplied to Hezbollah over the years by Iran and shipped to Lebanon via Syria, and are not under the authority of the Lebanese government. They are deployed all over Lebanon and aimed at Israel. The range of the ballistic missiles in the Hezbollah inventory is sufficient to cover all of Israel and rain destruction on Israel's civilian population. They are terror weapons in the hands of a terrorist organization.
For the UN secretary general this situation is not acceptable - for Israel, as for any other nation faced by a similar terrorist threat, it is intolerable. For a number of years now Israel has been faced by the Hezbollah missile threat from Lebanon, and that threat has been growing from year to year. It is a ticking time bomb threatening stability in the Middle East, and in addition it is a violation of Lebanese sovereignty.
But the Lebanese should not forget that it also represents a threat to the physical existence of Lebanon and the people of Lebanon. The Hezbollah missiles are deployed throughout Lebanon and have been deliberately emplaced in the midst of Lebanon's civilian population centers, in the vicinity of schools, mosques and hospitals. They will be launched against Israel whenever Nassrallah so decides, or the order is given in Teheran. They are a protective shield for Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Like the deployment of Soviet missiles in Cuba in 1962 that brought about the Cuban missile crisis and the removal of these missiles, the Hezbollah missiles will have to be removed. When the time comes for Israel to neutralize this missile threat - and that time will come sooner or later if the missiles are not dismantled - there is bound to result wholesale destruction all over Lebanon. Hezbollah's missiles are a suicidal invitation to the destruction of Lebanon.
However, it is clear that the Lebanese government and the Lebanese army are not capable of pursuing Lebanon's national interest by overpowering the Hezbollah militia and forcing the dismantlement of the missiles, which pose so great a threat to Lebanon itself. So the time bomb keeps ticking away.
Of course, it is preferable that the removal of the Hezbollah missiles in Lebanon be accomplished by diplomatic action rather than by military measures. The Lebanese government should be encouraged to insist on demonstrating its sovereign rights in all of Lebanon and order Hezbollah to remove the missiles. Any assistance that it would require should be provided. The international community should make it clear that the deployment of these missiles is a violation of Lebanese sovereignty and constitutes a danger to peace in the region.
For too long has there been a conspiracy of silence about the deployment of these missiles in Lebanon. The statement made by the UN secretary general on his recent visit to Beirut has come just in time. The issue should be taken up at the UN Security Council, and the necessary diplomatic action should be taken by the U.S. and the countries of Europe and Asia. The Hezbollah missiles represent a threat to peace in the area. Ban Ki-moon has finally sounded the alarm. Better late than never.
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