Game point: Hizbullah wins sympathy

Israel's risky bombing of suspected Hizbullah launching sites killed civilians and swayed public opinion.

History may recall a shift in the Middle East power balance in the three weeks since Hizbullah's provocative cross-border attack on an Israeli Army patrol.

One element in that shift is the discovery that Hizbullah has sophisticated weapons that can inflict significant damage, even with Israeli domination of the air. These weapons, including laser-guided antitank artillery, were supplied by the government of Iran, apparently in preparation for this test of will.

Israel, trying strenuously to eliminate hard-to-find, well-dug-in Hizbullah launching sites, was drawn into risky bombings that killed civilians, including women and children, and spread sympathy and support for the Lebanese insurgents throughout the region and indeed the world.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, speaking for President Bush, found it necessary to exert pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for at least a partial suspension of Israeli airstrikes.

Dr. Rice found that Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora no longer welcomed her. Under pressure from his own citizens, he found it embarrassingly necessary to ask that Rice stay away from Beirut.

Since then, the negotiating scene has shifted to the United Nations Security Council, where argument has raged about what kind of cease-fire can be considered a "sustainable" cease-fire, as mandated by Mr. Bush. On Monday in Miami, Bush repeated a demand that Iran cease its weapons supplies to Hizbullah, but he is not in a very good position to enforce his demand, because the tide of public opinion has shifted in the direction of Hizbullah.

For Iran, on the other hand, its proxy war in Lebanon must appear to be going well and will undoubtedly embolden the mullahs to take a defiant position in the Security Council debate on sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program. If the July 12 attack on the Israeli patrol was meant to provoke this confrontation, it has been wildly successful.

Daniel Schorr is the senior news analyst at National Public Radio.

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