Foreign Policy, in its “Seven Questions” format, asks regional expert David Shenker about some of the goings on in Lebanon, including the warnings of a “coup” (given by Walid Jumblatt in his last visit to Washington) and Hezbollah’s rearming:
FP: How actively is Hezbollah rearming?
DS: U.N. Special Representative Terje Roed Larsen stated recently that they are rearming. That fact probably accounts for Israel’s latest flyover of Beirut and the trial bombing runs. There’s a question as to whether the rearming going on now involves heavy weapons, but it is probably headed in that direction. The degradation of Hezbollah’s missile capability was the one accomplishment that Israel could point to from the war and if that has eroded, then the war was all for naught.
FP: Has UNIFIL had any impact on Hezbollah’s ability to rearm?
DS: No. In fact, UNIFIL has made it very clear that they will not do anything in this regard. [UNIFIL commander Alain] Pellegrini was asked recently what he would do if Hezbollah were about to launch a rocket. He said he would beg them to stop. There’s also a great article in the New York Times that describes in great detail how UNIFIL operates a checkpoint that allows all cars to pass and can’t do anything to stop them. There’s no doubt there is some benefit in having the increased number of UNIFIL troops and the deployment of the [Lebanese Army] to the south, even just in terms of international attention, but much of what Hezbollah is doing in terms of rearming and readying themselves for the next round is not over.
On a housekeeping note, I’m tentatively turning comments back on, even though I know I’m going to get hit with a deluge of comment and trackback spam. But I miss the back and forth on the blog.