Guests: Rafael Franken, Hisham Melhem, Jed Babbin
JOE SCARBOROUGH, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” HOST: This is MSNBC breaking news coverage. I‘m Joe Scarborough.Tonight, we‘re following a wave of deadly attacks that are ripping through communities across Israel and Lebanon, which carry consequences few dare to predict.
Earlier, Israel launched raids deep into Lebanon in hopes of neutralizing Hezbollah. Hezbollah responded by launching attacks deeper into Israel than ever before, with an extended range on some missiles that caught Israeli officials off guard. One 90-pound warhead rocketed into the city of Haifa.
Israel then launched attacks on Hamas, targeting the Gaza strip and destroying the Palestinian foreign ministry. While the death toll escalates on all sides, President Bush and other world leaders issued a joint statement at the G8 summit today, calling for a cease-fire, but failing to determine where the blame for this international crisis lies.
Can the United States, Russia, and other world powers prevent a border conflict in the Middle East from escalating into what Newt Gingrich is calling the advent of World War III?
We‘re going to have reports from across the Middle East tonight, as well as from the G8 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. But let‘s start first with NBC Middle East Bureau Chief Richard Engel.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC MIDDLE EAST BUREAU CHIEF: Good evening Joe. There have been new Israeli air strikes tonight in the Lebanese cities of Baalbeck and Tripoli. Today, the prime minister of this country told us in the past five days, Israel has set Lebanon back 50 years.
(voice-over): As the airport tonight was attacked again, parts of Lebanon are starting to look like Baghdad. Israeli air strikes, until now mostly specific, seem to be broadening their targets to urban areas in south Beirut and missing some targets altogether.
An Israeli attack killed eight Canadian nationals in southern Lebanon. They were in a building used by rescue workers.
As more Europeans are evacuated from Beirut, today it was the Swiss. The U.S. embassy choppered in security teams to organize an evacuation this week for Americans who want to leave.
Amid it all, Lebanon‘s government seems powerless. Israel and the U.S. are calling on this man, the prime minister, to take charge of his country and reign in Hezbollah. But he told us the Israeli offensive is only leading to more extremism.
FOUAD SINIORA, LEBANON PRIME MINISTER: They talk about terror. They talk about terror, but they act, they do terror every day.
ENGEL (on-camera): What can be done, sir, to get out of this situation?
SINIORA: An immediate cease-fire, a comprehensive cease-fire.
ENGEL (voice-over): But the prime minister said he needs international help to control south Lebanon, now run by Hezbollah.
(on-camera): Will you send your army to the south?
SINIORA: This is the thing that, as I said very clearly, that we want to reinstate the role and the presence of the Lebanese state in all Lebanon.
ENGEL: Is your government powerful enough to do that?
SINIORA: I mean, this is something that we have to be empowered to do that.
ENGEL (voice-over): The prime minister‘s plan, a cease-fire, followed by a prisoner exchange with Israel. Then Lebanese army troops, backed by the U.N., would replace Hezbollah along the border.
But Hezbollah has other plans. Today, the group‘s leader said the war was, quote, “just beginning. Our missile stockpiles are still full,” he said. And now Beirut is filling with refugees escaping the fighting, some sleeping in public parks.
“We are homeless,” said this man. “We want our government to talk to the great powers to resolve this.”
The government here is talking today to a U.N. delegation, while Hezbollah and Israel continue their war.
(on-camera): And the Americans trapped here are getting ever more anxious. The U.S. embassy says it‘s now receiving six or seven calls a minute from Americans asking about possible evacuation plans.
SCARBOROUGH: Thank you so much. Richard Engel in Beirut.
Now, since the early 1980‘s, Lebanon has been ripped apart by the deadly conflicts between Hezbollah terrorists, Syria and successive Israeli governments fighting for security on its northern border.
Earlier this year, Lebanon made historic progress in its march to create a free and stable state. But that progress, as Richard said, has been set back 50 years, according to Lebanon‘s prime minister, who sat down and gave this exclusive interview to Richard Engel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ENGEL: What can be done, sir, to get out of this situation?
SINIORA: An immediate cease-fire, a comprehensive cease-fire. This is the way how we can proceed forward, because with the continuation of destruction, bombardment, killing, injuries, and the destruction of all the infrastructure., this is not an environment in which you can talk.
I think the best way and the only way is to work for an immediate and comprehensive cease-fire.
ENGEL: Who can do that?
SINIORA: Well, actually, there are quite a number of groups who are trying to replay the work of or the role of an honest broker. We are going to receive in a little while the delegation of the United Nations sent by the secretary general and we will be receiving, as well, Mr. Surana (ph).
So we will have an honest and a good discussion. But the point is that we want to have a cease-fire. Israel is insisting that it doesn‘t want to have any cease-fire and it would want to continue its bombardment of the country.
For the past five days the country has been under fire. The doors of hell have been opened against Lebanon.
ENGEL: Will you send your army to the south?
SINIORA: This is the thing that, as I said very clearly, that we want
to reinstate the role and the presence of the Lebanese state in all of
ENGEL: Is your government powerful enough to do that?
SINIORA: I mean, this is something that we have to be empowered to do that. And if we want to continue that Lebanon is under continuous fire, I don‘t think that the Lebanese government is going to be empowered.
This is not the way to empower the Lebanese government. The way how to do that is to start by having the cease-fire and then the Lebanese government will step in in order to deal with the abducted soldiers.
And then the second step would be to go ahead, under the auspices of the United Nations, so that the Lebanese government can reinstate its presence as the only authority in the southern Lebanon.
ENGEL: Some would say if you can go in now, if there were a cease-fire, why didn‘t your government go in to exert its authority before?
SINIORA: The point is that Israel has not been responding. Israel is breaking Lebanon. It is cutting it into pieces.
There isn‘t one single bridge that hasn‘t been destroyed. It has destroyed so far more than 50 bridges in the country. It has destroyed the runways in Beirut, Kleyate (ph) and other airports. It has really destroyed so many of the telecommunication centers.
So why is it doing that? It wants to bring back Lebanon 50 years
backwards. Do you think this can bring stability? This is the thing that
can bring peace?
If Israel really wants peace, this is not the way, definitely. This
is going to really create a feeling, a feeling among so many people, a feeling of suicidal reaction.
We don‘t want really to have anything of the sort. We want to really have the moderates. We want to have reason to prevail.
So let‘s try to move ahead one step after the other. A cease-fire, then reason will step in.
ENGEL: So do you think that Hezbollah‘s actions taking those soldiers, sparking this crisis, were justified?
SINIORA: I don‘t really. I have expressed our view very clearly that such an action, we were not consulted with and we take no responsibility and we disavow such an action.
But nevertheless, I‘m trying to paint this picture. You see, what led to this problem, that is the case. Let‘s try to sort things and resolve issues. I am for a real solution and this is the way how it can lead to a real solution.
ENGEL: It sounds like your government is stuck in the middle between Hezbollah on the one side and Israel on the other.
Do you feel pressured, squeezed in the middle?
SINIORA: Well, I mean, definitely such an action, as I said, we were not consulted. We found ourselves in it and we have to deal with it. But at the same time, we are representing the people and we represent the people who are suffering. So we have to deal with the situation. We do not deny the fact that these people who should have been released a long time ago have not been released.
ENGEL: Do you agree with Hezbollah on that?
SINIORA: I want to really make my position very clear. It‘s that I‘ve said from the very beginning that the government was never consulted or we didn‘t know about this action and we are disavowing this.
ENGEL: Are you looking for these prisoners or are you asking Hezbollah to give them back? Do you have any idea where they might be held? Are your security agencies looking for them, the intelligence apparatus?
SINIORA: Hezbollah, actually what they are saying is that they are in good condition and they are being held by Hezbollah.
Now, this is the situation as it stands. You see, Israel has been acting in one way or another like—I mean, if Hezbollah has abducted soldiers, Israel has been detaining these people in spite of their will and for no reason, like the thing it has done in Gaza.
They already took in custody scores of parliamentarians, scores of ministers and thousands of people.
ENGEL: What is happening to this city, this country right now?
SINIORA: Well, I can really say what has been done, Israel, in a matter of five days, took Beirut and the whole country 50 years backwards.
I know that the will and the determination of the Lebanese and every Lebanese is that nothing is insurmountable. But nevertheless, what they have done is a major crime against humanity, against civilization.
We have a barbaric war machine that‘s killing people, that is destructing an infrastructure, that is causing harm and terror. This is the real terror that‘s being exercised by Israel.
They speak about terror. This is the thing that they are doing.
Look, today they committed a massacre in Tyre, in south Lebanon. Yesterday, in Marwaheen, the day before in Bi‘arah, and they are killing innocent people.
These are the massacres. This is a repetition of what they have done in Prana six or eight years ago.
They talk about terror, they talk about terror, but they act, they do terror every day. Nevertheless, we still want peace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: That was NBC‘s Richard Engel, interviewing the prime minister of Lebanon earlier today.
Let‘s turn now to Rafael Frankel. He‘s a reporter for “The Christian Science Monitor” and he joins us on the phone from Jerusalem.
Thank you so much for being with us, Rafael. Well, you heard Lebanon‘s prime minister there demanding a cease-fire, but that certainly doesn‘t seem to be in the cards, certainly not the plans for Israel or Hezbollah.
What is the sense tonight in Israel about how far that government will go to destroy Hezbollah?
RAFAEL FRANKEL, “THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR”: Well, I mean, they‘ve said that their goal in this operation is to make it so Hezbollah basically cannot continue to strike at Israel with the impunity that it has and also to push Hezbollah back from the border so it cannot conduct in the future any operations like it did which touched this whole confrontation off, where it killed six soldiers and kidnapped two others.
And I think the determination is very strong amongst the military and the government here and, almost more importantly, amongst the people of Israel. Everyone I talk to is pretty much behind this campaign, even especially those in the north who are the victims of the bombardment from the rocket attacks.
They say that it‘s about time that Israel takes care of this. They feel that Hezbollah attacked them, an unprovoked and a completely unjustifiable attack and they‘re willing to do what it takes to take care of the situation now.
SCARBOROUGH: Rafael, that‘s interesting, of course, because certainly as you know and other people who have been following Israeli politics over the past decade know, that country has been split on how much to yield to Palestinians and others on their borders.
But you‘re saying tonight that the Israeli people are unified and
they‘re willing to take this battle as far north as they have to take it to
make sure their northern border is secured from Hezbollah attacks.
FRANKEL: Well, I don‘t know if I‘d say they‘re willing to take it as
far north as they have to take it. They don‘t have any intention of sending ground forces to Beirut, like they did in the early 1980‘s.
But for sure, where the Israeli public was for a long time split about how to deal with the Palestinians, and even to this day is very split about how to deal with the Palestinians, I haven‘t seen any polls conducted on the issue, but my sense of just the reporting that I‘ve done, going around the country, is that the Israeli population really views this as a different story, because Hezbollah attacks nondisputed territory.
This is Israel, by every map that is drawn in the world, and the U.N. certified Israel‘s withdrawal Lebanon back in 2000. And so when they see their sovereign territory being attacked, after they had withdrawn, in order to provide peace for the region, the reaction is quite a bit different and everyone really is behind it.
SCARBOROUGH: Richard, you heard Lebanon‘s prime minister accuse the Israelis, the Israeli government of terror attacks, certainly tough talk coming from him.
But do Israelis, does the Israeli government believe that Lebanon, its prime minister and its elected leaders have any influence over what Hezbollah does in southern Lebanon?
FRANKEL: Well, I think it‘s important to remember that Hezbollah is a part of the Lebanese government and a strong part. They have a very strong showing in their parliament. They have ministers in the cabinet.
And I do believe that Israel definitely acknowledges that Hezbollah gets its main financing and arms from powers like Syria and Iran. But it‘s impossible to ignore the fact that the Lebanese have allowed them to be the only militia from the old Lebanon civil war that was not disarmed and they have allowed them to act on the southern border with Israel with impunity and with taking no responsibility for their actions.
And so Israel views it as totally justifiable to hold Lebanon, as a sovereign state, accountable for the actions that take place in its territory.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, thank you so much. Rafael Frankel, from “The Christian Science Monitor.” We greatly appreciate that update from Jerusalem.
And coming up, we‘re going to have the latest from Haifa where a Hezbollah rocket attack today killed eight Israelis.
And our breaking coverage of the crisis in the Middle East continues after this.
SCARBOROUGH: Welcome back to our breaking coverage. Israeli officials say that at least eight people were killed by Hezbollah rocket attacks in Haifa earlier.
That Hezbollah rockets could reach so far into Israel is a fact that carries with it ominous overtones. Will Israel allow Hezbollah to exist next door now that it‘s proven its ability to strike deep within Israeli territory? And if it does move to destroy that terror outfit, will its chief sponsor, Iran, come to its aid and launch attacks on Israel, thereby possibly drawing in the United States and Russia?
All questions that the world is waiting to be answered after these attacks inside Israel.
Let‘s go now to the scene of the attacks in northern Israel with NBC‘s Martin Fletcher.
MARTIN FLETCHER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, the situation right now is it‘s quiet, but there have been Katyushas falling behind me every so often. And the real issue is that, of course, it had to happen that earlier today a rocket killed here eight Israelis today.
People were shocked and they were even more shocked that it happened here in Haifa, 20 miles from Lebanon. That scared them even more.
(voice-over): It was 9:10 in the morning. The siren wailed, but before workers at this Haifa train depot could reach cover, a tremendous roar, then a smashing sound as the rocket crashed into the roof and tore straight through.
No time to run or hide. It was the greatest loss of life in any attack in Israel since the fighting began five days ago. But the army promised it would have no effect on its campaign against Hezbollah.
MIRI EISEN, ISRAELI GOVERNMENT SPOKESPERSON: Israel will not tolerate and we will not stop until Hezbollah is disarmed, until Hezbollah is ended on our northern border and is not the one defining the rules of the game here.
FLETCHER: It was another nervous day in Israel, with a million people now within rocket range of Hezbollah. Dozens of rockets fell during the day, including nine more in and around Haifa.
While we were at the train depot, another siren. There is panic here. There is panic here right now. There‘s Katyusha rockets falling right now here in the port. The sirens are going. People are running away.
Two more rockets landed. Little damage. But the beautiful Haifa Bay area nearby is a disaster waiting to happen. Fuel storage tanks, petrochemical industries, oil refineries, and half a million people living there, sitting ducks for Hezbollah gunners only 20 miles away and armed with accurate Iranian rockets, putting them all within easy rocket range.
The army continued to pound south Lebanon with artillery and also issued a warning to residents there.
GENERAL UDI ADAM, ISARELI BRIGADIER: We recommend them to leave their villages and homes to the north of the country.
FLETCHER: One of the army‘s goals is to destroy the long-range rockets, but they admit Hezbollah still has plenty left.
(on-camera): Israel says Hezbollah also has rockets with a range of 100 miles. Now, that would put Israel‘s biggest town, Tel Aviv, at risk and today the army did warn Tel Aviv residents to be on alert.
SCARBOROUGH: That was NBC‘s Martin Fletcher in Haifa.
Hisham Melhem is a Lebanese journalist, who is a Washington bureau chief of “An-Nahar” newspaper, and Pat Buchanan is MSNBC political analyst, and he joins us by phone.
Let me begin with you, Hisham. You know, it wasn‘t so long ago that we saw such stirring images coming from the streets of Beirut, where hundreds of thousands of people were pouring into the streets demanding democracy and self-determination.
In fact, it was used as an example by the Bush administration of how democracy could work in the Middle East.
What has done so terribly wrong over the past several weeks?
HISHAM MELHEM, JOURNALIST, “AN-NAHAR” NEWSPAPER: Well,
unfortunately, that movement was hijacked, in part, by Hezbollah and
other Lebanese leaders who belonged to the old class and old think by
So that‘s why you have a prime minister who is very well meaning, a decent man, who is trying, through peaceful means, to convince the Hezbollah and their supporters in Lebanon, through a national dialogue over the last few months, to disarm, to allow the army to be deployed in the south. And he wanted to do that without plunging the country into civil war.
Every Lebanese still remembers or they still have fresh memories of the civil war. He did not want the army to be divided along sectarian lines. So he was really dealing with a very fragile, brittle political system.
And now you have this crisis and the future of the whole country now is in doubt in many ways, unless the international community and security council intervenes quickly and stops this attempt at dismantling the Lebanese state.
Suddenly, dismantling Hezbollah and Lebanon, which is, admittedly, another state within the state, but what‘s happening now is a collective punishment of a whole society.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, Hisham, in fact, I‘m glad you brought that up about the civil war. Obviously, memories of the civil war that tore Beirut and the entire country apart just a few decades ago.
So many people ask the question, “Why doesn‘t the Lebanese government deploy troops to the southern part of its territory,” and I guess the answer is if they did that without Hezbollah‘s approval, then that would, in fact, cause a civil war inside of Lebanon, is that correct?
MEHLEM: I mean, there is that fear. If you remember, Joe, in the year 2000, the army should have been deployed after the Israelis withdrew. At that time, the Syrians were in control of the country and that was impossible, giving cities military presence, its allies, Hezbollah and others.
This is a government in transition. This is the first time in 30 years Lebanon had a chance to form a government on its own without Syrian hegemony and that‘s why the prime minister and his allies were trying to incorporate Hezbollah, to bring them in politically, to try to give them position in the government so they would be responsible for governance and not only behave as a group outside government.
And apparently that approach has failed and here we have a tragedy unfolding that is not only going to touch the future of the Hezbollah‘s leadership, but the future of the whole country. And the Shiite community is a very major, important community in Lebanon.
It cannot be ignored. It should not be ignored. And that‘s why you have this major challenge of trying to incorporate the people who represent the Shiite community, mainly Hezbollah and Emil (ph) movement, in government so that they will be responsible for decisions.
And what Hezbollah did, essentially, is plunged the country into this incredible adventure. This is the domain of sovereign states to take decisions concerning war and peace and Hezbollah did not respect that, and here we are facing an Israeli military machine that has visited an incredible amount of suffering on the Lebanese people.
The problem with the Israelis, Joe, is that what they are doing today, they‘ve tried it over the last 25 years to no avail, they are radicalizing people. They are driving the moderates off the wall, I mean, making them look ineffective.
And we will all pay eventually for this.
SCARBOROUGH: Let me bring in Pat Buchanan right now. Pat, you remember those scenes in the streets of Beirut of the hundreds of thousands of people pouring out there, demanding self-governance, telling Syria basically to back off.
And yet, now, it looks like—my gosh, those images look like they could have come from the early 1980s. Obviously, it‘s not that extreme, nowhere close, but it could deteriorate that rapidly.
What does the United States leadership have to do tonight to make sure this doesn‘t escalate any further and that Beirut can continue down the path that it was on just two, three months ago?
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Joe, I‘ve got to tell you I‘m very disappointed in the president of the United States. Mr. Olmert, when he captured these Israeli soldiers and took them back into Lebanon, that was business of Hezbollah. Hezbollah did it.
The Lebanese government and Lebanese people did not approve of that. Indeed, the Lebanese government condemned it. But Olmert said that Lebanon and its government have declared war or are making war on Israel and they proceeded to attack power plants and roads and bridges and airports and fuel depots and gasoline stations and blockade the whole country.
SCARBOROUGH: But, Pat, let me ask you this question, though, Pat. Let‘s say, for instance, there is an element within the Mexican government which launched rockets into Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and the Mexican government allowed them to continue to govern and did nothing about it.
Would the United States not be down in Mexico in about 15 minutes?
BUCHANAN: Well, sure, and as a matter of fact, I don‘t disagree with the right of the Israelis to retaliate against Hezbollah, to send troops in against Hezbollah, to clean out these positions that Hezbollah is using to fire on Israel. They‘ve got a right to do that. They‘ve got a right to move into these areas.
What I object to is what my friend I just heard say, which is what they are doing here is collective punishment. It is immoral, it is un-Christian, it is un-American to punish an entire people for sins they didn‘t commit and to destroy a civilian economy and a country to try to force these people to do what they cannot do, Joe, which is disarm Hezbollah.
The Israelis were in south Lebanon for 18 years. They could not disarm Hezbollah. Hezbollah eventually drove them out.
How in heaven‘s name can the democratic people, the poor people of Lebanon, the peaceful people of Lebanon disarm Hezbollah if the Israeli army couldn‘t? And why is it just then to punish the Lebanese people?
I think what the president should have done was say, “Look, Hezbollah made this attack and Israel should confine its attacks there and not attack this friendly, pro-Western government or this people who have always been friends with the United States.”
SCARBOROUGH: Well, there is no doubt, Pat, that again, Beirut, Lebanon, a great number of people in that area have been pro-Western and, obviously, as Hisham said, these attacks from Israel are only going to radicalize moderate forces there.
SCARBOROUGH: But at the same time, if you‘re an Israeli citizen living in northern Israel and you‘re being attacked by a faction of the Lebanese government, you are going to demand that your government in Israel take some sort of action.
That, of course, is the stalemate that we find ourselves in.
Pat, stay with us. Hisham, thank you so much for being with us. We greatly appreciate your insights.
And coming up, our breaking coverage of the crisis in the Middle East will continue on MNNBC.
SCARBOROUGH: Tonight, rocket attacks rip through northern Israel, killing eight and placing over a million within range of Hezbollah rockets.
At the same time, north, Beirut continues to come under fierce fire as Beirut and all of Lebanon is crippled by an Israeli military onslaught directed at the terror group, Hezbollah.
We will continue with our breaking news coverage of the crisis in the Middle East. And up next, what the United States can do to broker peace in the Middle East.
We‘ll be back with terror analyst Walid Pharis and former depty under secretary of defense, Jed Babbin.
Our breaking news coverage continues after this.
NATALIE ALLEN, MSNBC ANCHOR: Hello. I‘m Natalie Allen. Back to Joe Scarborough in just a moment. But, first, right now in Oregon, a plane which was part of an air show crashed into three houses near the Hillsborough Airport. Two of the homes burst into flames.
Witnesses say the old model British fighter plane lost power and exploded on impact. One said it appeared the pilot could not pull out of a loop.
So far, there are no reports of anyone on the ground being injured.
We‘ll keep watching it for you. News headlines every hour. Now, back to Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: You‘re watching MSNBC‘s ongoing coverage of the crisis in the Middle East.
Let me bring in MSNBC terror expert Walid Pharis and joining us on the phone, former under secretary of defense, Jed Babbin. Also with us by phone still, MSNBC political analyst, Pat Buchanan.
Let me begin with you, Walid. Israel obviously is determined to break Hezbollah‘s back now that these rockets, that the range of the rockets are putting at least a million Israelis within their range.
How difficult is it going to be to counteract Hezbollah‘s ability to launch those rockets into Israel?
WALID PHARIS, MSNBC TERROR ANALYST: Well, Joe, it‘s going to be very difficult. This is a battle.
If you want to answer the question of why did it happen, which has basically been prepared by both by Israelis since they withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000 and also by Hezbollah, they were watching each other. They were analyzing each other‘s ability.
And two major reasons that the conflagration, one is regional, Joe, because Iran decided to deflect the attention from the nuclear, Syria wanted to deflect the attention Harira assassination.
And an important element here that we are not discussing enough, Hezbollah was under tremendous pressure in Lebanon, under this government, to discuss its disarmament. Disarming Hezbollah, meaning the end of Hezbollah as we know it.
So for all these reasons, Iranian, Syrian, and local in Lebanon, Hezbollah analyzed the situation, thought that by attacking Israel they will get some reactions. It was a poor analysis because Israel was waiting for the five years or six years to basically try to dismantle Hezbollah.
It‘s not going to be easy and it‘s not going to be done in a short period of time.
SCARBOROUGH: And, Jed Babbin, it‘s just an absolutely fascinating insight from Walid, saying that Iran wanted this to happen, wanted these images to be across the screen, because it would unite the Middle East at a time they are trying to get nuclear capabilities.
Pat Buchanan said earlier that Israeli attacks on the Lebanese people were immoral. Do you agree?
JED BABBIN, FMR. UNDER SECRETARY FOR DEFENSE: Not at all. I very strongly disagree with Pat. He sounds a lot like a Lebanese legislator I debated a few nights ago and who said that they invited the Hezbollah into their government to make some sort of an accommodation.
I‘m sorry. If you have terrorists as part of your government, if you accept them, you have to accept the responsibility for what they do. And when you accept Hezbollah, you accept all of Hezbollah.
It‘s unfortunate that there are people in Lebanon who don‘t support Hezbollah, but their government is responsible and their government, by supporting Hezbollah, has invited the kind of strikes that will disable Hezbollah. They also disable Lebanon. That‘s too bad.
SCARBOROUGH: But, Jed, if the Lebanese government had not invited Hezbollah in, then would that not have created at least the beginning elements of a continuing civil war in that country?
BABBIN: It might very well have, Joe, but so what? Any civilized nation, any civilized government cannot claim to be so if they have terrorists among them. It is just a simple fact that we have, before 9/11, allowed governments to exist partnering with terrorist organizations.
Syria has been one since 1979. Iran has been one since roughly that same time. And they have suffered nothing for it. The Israelis are now suffering because they did not interfere sooner and they allowed Hezbollah, cooperating with the Lebanese government and cooperating with Syria, Hezbollah to essentially dominate the border between Lebanon and Israel for years.
Now they‘re simply cleaning up the mess they left behind.
SCARBOROUGH: Pat Buchanan, earlier today, Newt Gingrich said that we‘re in World War III. How do you respond to that assessment?
BUCHANAN: I think that‘s chilling. World War III was the war against the Soviet empire, which included 100,000 American dead in Korea and Vietnam, a Cuban missile crisis, billions of dollars, a mighty Soviet empire.
I think it‘s ridiculous. But let me respond to what Jed said. Look, the United States dealt with a terrorist, Kaddafi, who has killed more Americans than the Syrians or Iranians have ever have done.
I‘m not saying those are good governments, but the Israelis withdrew from south Lebanon. They were driven out by Hezbollah. The president called for elections. Hezbollah participated and won part of the power.
The president called for elections on the West Bank. Hamas won and got part of the power or a good deal of the power. And the Israelis told the president, “Look, you cannot recognize them or aid them,” and George W. Bush simply follows the Israeli line.
He‘s not acting like the leader of a great power. He is acting like a city councilman from Brooklyn, Joe. And in the earlier times, people like Eisenhower and Reagan would have stepped in. They would have had people in Damascus and people in Beirut. We would have been communicating with everyone like the first power on earth.
And the president is paying the price of outsourcing his foreign policy to Sharon and Olmert. I think it‘s terrible what‘s happening to the Israelis in the north of that country, but it is partly the fault of the president of the United States and he has not done a thing for five years.
SCARBOROUGH: Walid Pharis, is the view that we just heard from Pat Buchanan most likely the view of many Middle Eastern governments across that region tonight?
PHARIS: What‘s important at this point in time are the views of the Lebanese people, because last year, 2005, and you were hinting at that, Joe, Hezbollah was politically defeated by the majority of the Lebanese people during the famous Cedar revolution.
Hezbollah mustered about 300,000 people on the streets, with all its might and support by Iran, 1.5 million people, Lebanese people took the streets and said, “We want Syria out. We want Hezbollah and all other militias, by the way, to be disarmed.”
There is a United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559 which is waiting for Hezbollah to be disarmed. And I think, on this point, if you look at the microanalysis of the Lebanese politics, I think this government made some error, the Lebanese government, which is basically the ally of the United States and the ally of the international community.
You cannot include a militia in government and assume that it‘s going to act as a political party before either you disarm it or you have an agreement with it on disarming it. And they didn‘t do any of these two. They invited Hezbollah, which is pro-Syrian, which has not rejected the alliance with Syria into the government, giving it a veto power.
And for about six months, Joe, if we all remember, there were assassinations against not just Prime Minister Hariri, of course, but a number of MPs. So definitely now the political establishment in Lebanon, including this cabinet, is scared to death. They will not give orders to a Lebanese army to deploy even in areas outside the Hezbollah zones, because they are afraid.
SCARBOROUGH: They are afraid. And, Walid, just as Jed said, it sounds like you two agree with each other that if you‘re going to invite a terror organization into your government, then you‘re going to pay the consequences.
Walid, Jed, thank you so much for being with us. Pat Buchanan, stay around, because when we come back, President Bush and other world leaders call for a cease-fire.
But can that happen in this environment any time soon? We‘ll talk about that when our live coverage continues on MSNBC.
SCARBOROUGH: Welcome back to our continuing breaking news coverage.
Now, let‘s bring in Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona. He‘s an MSNBC military analyst.
You know, Rick, a lot of people are focusing on the nine deaths in Haifa, Israel earlier today, but it seems to me of greater import is the fact that we‘ve now found out that Hezbollah has rockets that go far deeper into Israel than we suspected before. In fact, a million people now within range of Hezbollah‘s rockets.
What is the military impact of that?
LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST: This is huge, Joe. This really complicates Israel‘s defense posture in the northern part of the country.
Whereas before they believed that Hezbollah had the Fajer-3 rocket, now they know Hezbollah has that rocket. In fact, they believe that they‘ve got the Fajer-5, which is even more capable than what we saw in Haifa.
These last two attacks, one in Nazareth and one in Afula, are a little bit outside the range of what we believe the Fajer-3 will go. So this puts a great percentage of the Israeli population under this missile threat.
So when the Israelis decide that they need to have a security buffer zone in southern Lebanon, it‘s not just going to be up to the Litani River. They‘re going to have to push the Hezbollah all the way up to the Zaharani, up to the Sidon area, and that‘s going to be a huge chunk of southern Lebanon that the Lebanese army is now going to have to own.
SCARBOROUGH: So if missile attacks continue, you‘re talking about the possibility of Israel having to deploy found forces north into the Bekaa Valley and pushing them up into Lebanon far enough away from their own people, so you don‘t have a million Israelis who could be killed at any time by these rockets.
FRANCONA: That‘s exactly right and that‘s, I think, what Israel wants to avoid.
Up until now, you‘ve seen the Israeli air force fully engaged, the Israeli navy is out doing the naval blockade. You‘ve got the Israeli army down on the border conducting these artillery raids.
But you‘re not seeing any ground incursion into southern Lebanon.
That‘s something the Israelis would like to avoid.
That‘s why we saw this kind of feeler via the Italians today, is if you can get the Lebanese army into this buffer zone, move Hezbollah out of that area and give us back the two kidnapped soldiers, we might be interested in a cease-fire.
I think they‘re trying to avoid that ground incursion, which would be very bloody up in there.
I mean, Hezbollah, which is a low tech military organization, with some medium tech weapons, these are committed, hard, tough fighters and it will be a bloody, bloody battle up there.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, Colonel, for those that don‘t remember what happened back in 1981, 1982, talk about what happened the last time Israel went into Lebanon and what an absolutely terrible, terrible mess it was for that country.
FRANCONA: And I think they had an easier time then than they would have now. In ‘82, they launched the “Peace for Galilee” campaign, which was to force the PLO out of that same area in southern Lebanon that was threatening the same towns. We‘re seeing a repeat of that same thing.
The Israelis are doing this a little bit differently. Whereas they launched a ground invasion and pushed them up that coastal road all the way to Beirut and then the international community stepped in and that‘s how we got involved in Lebanon in 1982, led to the introduction of the Marines and we saw how that played out.
This time, the Israelis are trying to do this without having to go in there on the ground, so they don‘t have to take that kind of bloody house-to-house fighting.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, thank you so much, Col. Francona. We greatly appreciate you being with us.
Coming up, what, if anything, can President Bush do to stop the violence? Well we‘ll talk about that when MSNBC‘s continuing coverage of the Middle East crisis continues.
SCARBOROUGH: Welcome back to this continuing coverage of breaking news out of the Middle East.
The meeting of the group of eight, the so called G8, are the eight most powerful nations in the world, and it‘s centered on the Middle East crisis right now. But what can George Bush and the other Western leaders do to end the latest round of Mid-East violence.
Let‘s bring back in MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and former under secretary of defense, Jed Babbin.
Pat, I‘ll start with you. If you‘re advising the president tonight, what advice do you give him to help stop this crisis from escalating?
BUCHANAN: The first thing I‘d do would be to tell him to show a little more balance, call on the Israelis for restraint in attacking civilian infrastructure in Lebanon and not hold the Lebanese accountable, but Hezbollah, and express the same kind of concern he‘s expressing for the folks in Haifa and northern Israel.
Secondly, I agree with the colonel. This is going to be a hellish problem, Joe. Who can move into south Lebanon and neutralize Hezbollah? I don‘t think the Lebanese army and government can do it. I don‘t think the Israelis want to do it.
They would have to go almost up to Beirut. And so I think what you got to do is you got to get international force somehow to get them in there and to maybe put some kind of force in there in southern Lebanon to bring an end to this thing.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, let me ask Jed Babbin the same thing. What advice do you give President Bush tonight?
BABIN: Well, basically, to tell the Israelis to take it all the way to Damascus. The problem we‘ve got, Joe, is that we and the Israelis have been fighting this war for 20 years without going to the center of gravity of the enemy.
I agree with Pat, but only insofar as to say that we can go in or the Israelis can go in to southern Lebanon and it‘s going to be bloody fighting and it‘s not going to be conclusive.
If you want to break this cycle of violence, you have to deal with the nations that are sponsoring, supplying, funding and manning the terrorist organizations. That means Syria and Iran.
And until we deal with them, this war will never be over.
BUCHANAN: I think that will expand the war to Damascus and we will have four or five wars going instead of the two we‘ve got going now. I think that‘s the same advice that took us up to Baghdad.
BABBIN: Well, it‘s not, Pat, because Baghdad never was the center of gravity. Tehran always has been and always will be.
BUCHANAN: But why go to Damascus, Jed? What are we doing? Is there any hard evidence that the Syrians had any advance knowledge that Hezbollah would pull this stunt in solidarity with Hamas?
BABBIN: Well, first off, they have Khaled Mashaal, the head of Hamas, operating from there.
We have hard evidence that the Syrians have been funding these guys and using them as border troops for 20 years on the Lebanese-Iranian.
BUCHANAN: Well, why, then, Jed.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, guys, we‘re going to have to leave it there. Pat Buchanan and Jed Babbin, I want to get you guys on my show tomorrow night to continue this conversation.
MSNBC‘S coverage of the crisis in the Middle East will continue for as long as the fighting does.
Make sure to watch “Scarborough Country” weeknights at 9:00 p.m. here on MSNBC and we‘ll bring you the very latest.
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