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Who Could Envy Siniora?

The Lebanese Prime Minister is a man between a rock and a hard place. Truly.

On one hand, he heads a government that is powerless to control the span of its own borders with an inherited military that is both weak and segregated along religious lines, thanks to years of Syrian occupation and control. Hizballah has more firepower, training and motivated fighters than the whole of the Lebanese Army.

Yet, his country now hosts not only the Iranian proxy Hizballah, but also a revisiting Israeli military in pursuit of the Islamist cancer that plagues the south and east of Lebanon. The Lebanese people he leads, who surely would be happy to see the exit of Hizballah, have little love for the Israelis who once occupied a large part of Lebanon themselves.

Perhaps one hand applauds the work Israel is doing, knocking Hizballah down several notches. But, considering the cost, the other hand surely claps for anyone resisting another potential Israeli occupation, even if from a Hizballah source.

It is within this context that Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora’s seemingly schizophrenic comments today should be considered.

In New York, Arab envoys and U.N. Security Council members tried to hammer out a compromise.

Lebanon put its offers on the table: pledging up to 15,000 troops to a possible peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon and saying Hezbollah's days of running a state within a state would end. The military plan had added significance since it was backed by the two Hezbollah members on Lebanon's Cabinet apparently showing a willingness for a lasting pact by the Islamic militants and their main sponsors, Iran and Syria.

Saniora on Tuesday praised Hizballah's resistance, but said it was time for Lebanon to "impose its full control, authority and presence" over the war-weary country.

"There will be no authority, no one in command, no weapons other than those of the Lebanese state," he said on Al-Arabiya television.

Especially considering the segregation of his army, this is a tall, tall order he has summoned. To put the Shi’a units in the south (and east, remember…the Bekaa Valley is a Hizballah fortress) is to likely assure Hizballah collaboration or a blind eye to their redeployment in the south. To put Sunni or Christian dominated units in key areas is likely to spark civil conflict.

Regardless of where international troops may come from, including Lebanon itself, the most capable and motivated force to assure that one day Lebanon can "impose its full control, authority and presence" is already deployed and the vast majority of it still on the Israeli side of the border.