Hezbollah sticks by its guns.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Aug. 16 2006 3:34 AM

Diss-Arming

The Washington Post leads with Hezbollah reiterating it won't disarm or really withdraw. USA Todayleads with Secretary of State Rice saying in an interview with the paper that the muscled-up U.N. force can't force Hezbollah to give up its guns. The New York Timesleads with—and the Wall Street Journal fronts—the coming aid battle: Hezbollah, and not the Lebanese government, is leading the relief effort. The Los Angeles Timesleads with California restricting fishing in some waters off its central coast. The Times calls it, "the nation's first comprehensive network of marine reserves next to a heavily populated coastline."  

Israel said it killed three Hezbollah fighters, but it also started pulling troops out and said it hopes all will be gone in about a week. Of course, that will depend on Lebanese and U.N. troops heading in. And there are still plenty of questions about when and how that's going to happen.

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Haaretz says a token force of Lebanese troops is due to arrive today. But as Lebanon's  defense minister explained, "The army is not going to the south to strip the Hezbollah of its weapons and do the work that Israel did not."

Citing "senior officials involved in the negotiation," the WP says Hezbollah and the Lebanese government have hammered out an impressive don't-search don't-show policy: "Hezbollah indicated it would be willing to pull back its fighters and weapons in exchange for a promise from the army not to probe too carefully for underground bunkers and weapons caches."

As for the much-anticipated international force, the LAT notes that U.N. officials "continued to haggle" about whether the soldiers will even have the authority to fire on guerillas who are fighting or smuggling weapons. The Post notices that no country has yet agreed to send troops. They're waiting on France, which has been expected to take the lead. But according to the Financial Times, France is now holding off until it gets assurances from Lebanon that Hezbollah's fighters will keep out of the south.

While expressing hope that Hezbollah will agree to "lay down their arms voluntarily," Rice said one of the U.N. force's key roles will be to enforce an arms embargo, a point she reiterates in a WP op-ed. President Bush repeated the line, saying part of the U.N.'s mission "will be to seal off the Syrian border." Except as the Post mentions inside, the current head of the U.N. force said he's planning no such thing and instead will be sending customs consultants to work with the Lebanese.

The Journal gets a sit-down with Lebanon's finance minister, who called the postwar period and the rebuilding effort "the real war." The Post watches Hezbollah's relief effort in action and hears from an "informed source" (as opposed to the other kind) that Hezbollah "planned to spend $150 million, already provided by Iran, in coming days." (In her WP op-ed, Rice notes that the U.S. has committed a whopping $50 million.)

The NYT's rebuilding piece offers a wider picture and is today's must-read: Hezbollah men were canvassing neighborhoods, cataloging needs, and offering $10,000 straightaway to those who lost their homes. With the Lebanese government having ignored the Shiite south for decades, one Lebanese professor said, "Hezbollah's strength is the gross vacuum left by the state." Hezbollah, she said, isn't a state within a state, but rather "a state within a non-state." The upshot, concludes the Times, is that the "beneficiary of the destruction was most likely to be Hezbollah."

The NYT goes inside with new figures from Iraq's Health Ministry showing 3,438 civilians killed in July. That would make it the deadliest month of the war so far, and about three times the number of people killed in the Lebanon conflict.

Nine people were killed in Mosul when a suicide bomber hit the HQ of the Iraqi president's party. The WP mentions that Iraqi forces clashed with an "anti-American" Shiite cleric (not Sadr) in Karbala. The Post says that as of last night, the fighting had spread to the southern cities of Basra and Nasiriyah.