Lebanon on the Brink

For a solid rundown of what precipitated the violent clashes in Beirut today, this AFP report is a good place to start. For wall-to-wall blog coverage, the gang over at Blacksmiths of Lebanon seem to be putting in extra hours. There’s obviously a lot of tangled threads involved here, but I think it’s safe to say that Lebanon has been the functional equivalent of a frozen conflict for quite some time now, with the temperature gradually rising to thaw level.

What Hezbollah’s willingness to push back this forcefully against the government’s attempt to rein it in says about Iran and Syria’s position about a potential civil war is unclear. The threat Hezbollah poses to Israel’s northern border, after all, is often cited as one of Tehran’s “sleeper deterrents” to American military intervention. But a significant aspect of the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war was the way in which it galvanized Lebanese solidarity. A Lebanese civil war, on the other hand, dilutes Hezbollah’s ability to threaten Israel by opening up at least a second front, if not more.

Meanwhile, what jumped out at me from this AP report is that Hezbollah’s private telecommunications network that triggered the confrontation is a “secure network of primitive private land lines [that] helped the guerrillas fight Israel’s high-tech army in the 2006 summer war.” Of course,an asymmetric communications capacity makes sense in the age of tracable satellite links, especially for an insurgent force playing on its “home field.” But for some reason, it got me thinking about carrier pigeons.