The following question was posed by The Washington Post a few days ago. It was answered, for The Daily Star Egypt by M.J. Akbar:
Question: If Lebanon survives as a state, many analysts predict it will be dominated by Hezbollah. How will post-war Lebanon change the political dynamics in the Middle East?
Sand doesn t shift faster than in the Middle East, so discussing the future is not without its pitfalls. Nevertheless:
1. Israel s miscalculation has already ensured that while someone will be in office in Beirut in post-war Lebanon, Hezbollah will be in power.
2. Syria has already been pulled out of the axis of evil and placed merely into the box of misfortune by Washington. In the region, Syria reoccupies the space that it surrendered with the withdrawal of its troops from Lebanon and more. The Syria-Iran understanding, if not alliance, will form a new strategic bulwark. In a parallel development, Syria, Iran and Turkey will consolidate and cooperate against any American effort to create a Kurdish state out of a poisoned Iraq.
3. Syria will play an active role in the stalemate that will follow the Lebanon ceasefire, with America pretending to maneuver around this reality with terms that might be self-comforting but add up to nothing more than that. If Iran does not find a direct place on the table, it will work through Damascus. Hezbollah s new strength means that Iran can no longer be isolated.
4. Israel, which has been changing the definition of victory, will try to eliminate as many of Hezbollah s top leaders as it can in the final stages of this battle (one of the more important objectives in a long war). Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah has risen from leader to hero in the last three weeks; if he became a martyr, Hezbollah would become even more powerful.
5. Peace is a word with many meanings, but this much is now certain: Arabs will no longer accept the peace of an Israeli prison. Those 10,000-plus prisoners in Israeli jails, including three hundred children, will now become as much a part of the basic reasons for conflict as any other issue.
6. Israel s military action has turned Lebanon s infrastructure into rubble, as well George W. Bush s rather more fragile notions. Architects and builders will probably make Lebanon a better place in time.
There is no architect visible who seems to have any coherent idea of what to do with the rubble in the White House.
M.J. Akbar, is the editor of The Asian Age as well as the author of several books, the last being The Shade of Swords: Jihad and the Conflict Between Islam and Christianity.