The recent fighting in South Ossetia and Russia’s support for the separatists as well as those in Georgia’s province of Abkhazia has significant overtones beyond the current fighting. The implications down the road in terms of territorial integrity are enormous — not just for the Georgians but for everyone else as well. Hizbullah has already used this methodology in it’s terror campaign against Israel. After Israel withdrew from Southern Lebanon to the Internationally recognized border and was certified as having done so by the United Nations, Hizbullah concocted a new objective — the return of Shebaa Farms. It turns out the Shebaa Farms area is in a soft of limbo state. Syria sometimes claims that the Shebaa Farms is its territory and sometimes claims that it belongs to Lebanon. The Lebanese government is equally ambiguous in terms of its maps.

The United Nations, however, has certified that Israel, after withdrawing from Southern Lebanon in 2000 has met its obligations with regards to United Nations Security Council Resolution 425.

“On 15 May 2000, the United Nations received a map, dated 1966, from the Government of Lebanon which reflected the Government’s position that these farmlands were located in Lebanon. However, the United Nations is in possession of 10 other maps issued after 1966 by various Lebanese government institutions, including the Ministry of Defense and the army, all of which place the farmlands inside the Syrian Arab Republic. The United Nations has also examined six maps issued by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic, including three maps since 1966, which place the farmlands inside the Syrian Arab Republic.”

In a June 18, 2000 statement, the Security Council noted that Israel and Lebanon had confirmed to the Secretary General, that identification of the withdrawal line was solely the responsibility of the UN and that both sides would respect the line as identified.

(“Shebaa Farms“, Wikipedia, August 2, 2008 )

Nevertheless this has not stopped Hizbullah from continuing to demand the return of the Shebaa Farms to Lebanon. If the world presses Israel to cede the Shebaa Farms territory it will send a dangerous signal to men like Hassan Nasrallah, Vladimir Putin and Dimitry Medvedev. Like their Middle East counterpart Nasrallah, Putin and Medvedev see a Russia flush with petrodollars and able to exert its influence once more. And they’re using their new found muscles on Georgia. By distributing Russian passports to the citizens of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as well as appointing Russians to those territories governments Mr. Putin has south to “redraw” the border between Russia and Georgia. It’s a stepwise process — first extend your citizenship into areas you want to take then start a war to make the world pay attention and force the other side to give you what you want. And the world seems quite willing to do so.

The writing is on the wall in Israel. In June of 2008 Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice visited Lebanon and declared that there must be a solution to the disputed Shebaa Farms area (“Lebanon: Visit by U.S. Secretary of State“, Keesing’s World News Archive, June 23, 2008 ). What dispute? Both Lebanon and Israel have agreed that the United Nations is the sole body which could determine the withdrawl line between Israel and Lebanon and both Israel and Lebanon agreed that they would abide by the UN’s decision. But here we have the Secretary of State for the U.S. saying that the area must be negotiated over and possibly the international border redrawn.

It is extermely destructive. If the precedent is set that no border, even if it is unanimously certified by the UN Security Council, is final — that is if each “certified” border is merely the starting point for a new border dispute then any peace — whether it is between Israel and Lebanon, Israel and Syria, Russia and Georgia or Russia and any of the former Soviet republics — between neighboring states is impossible. And this is exactly what Putin is hoping for. If the world were to turn to Georgia and pressure it to cede Abkhazia and South Ossetia to the Russians and redraw the border in the Russian’s favor then Putin would set his sights on other border regions similarly until he has slowly cut up and swallowed his neighbors one piece at a time.

The U.S. and the rest of the world must stand up to men like Hassan Nasrallah and Valdimir Putin and tell them in no uncertain terms that this behavior is simply unacceptable. To do so Russia should be denied membership in the World Trade Organization, she should be ousted from the G8, and Georgia and Ukraine should be included in NATO at the earliest opportunity. It doesn’t matter if the man behind the plan is the Prime Minister of Russia or the leader of a terrorist organization — the world must stand up to these villians and tell them that such behavior is unacceptable and will have consequences.

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