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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

Mar 07th
Home arrow News Content arrow Blog arrow Blog Items arrow Revolutions / Extremism arrow Israel Caught Between Islamist Crossfire: Lebanon Pays Price
Israel Caught Between Islamist Crossfire: Lebanon Pays Price PDF Print E-mail
Written by CLAUDE SALHANI (Editor, Middle East Times)   
Friday, 10 October 2008

Once again Lebanon is caught between Israel's fight with another enemy. Before it was the PLO; today it's Iran. But Lebanon is also looking nervously over its shoulder at Syria. Photo shows Israeli tank fire in northern Israel. (Chameleons Eye via Newscom)
Once again Lebanon is caught between Israel's fight with another enemy. Before it was the PLO; today it's Iran. But Lebanon is also looking nervously over its shoulder at Syria. Photo shows Israeli tank fire in northern Israel. (Chameleons Eye via Newscom)

Both Israel and Hezbollah feel that another round of violence is inevitable, though for the moment neither side wants to initiate a fight, the consequences of which would be devastating for all sides.

It may only be rhetoric, but rhetoric in the Middle East has a nasty habit of transforming itself into anger, and when fueled by the urge for revenge, situations can easily escalate into open conflict. Conditions are now in the red zone of the rhetoric stage with the needle beginning to dip into the yellow part of the revenge zone. From here, it's a short step to the full cardinal red conflict quadrant.

Hezbollah is itching to avenge the killing of its operations chief, Imad Mughnieh, whom it accuses Israel of masterminding his assassination in Damascus a few months ago. Israel, for its part, is worried by Hezbollah's build-up of weaponry across its northern border.

Predicting the political future of the Middle East is one of the riskiest tasks for journalists covering the region given the unpredictability of the area. However, one point upon which many analysts seem to agree is that another showdown between Israel and the Lebanese Shiite organization Hezbollah appears inevitable. The last confrontation, the Second Lebanon War in 2006, which pitted Hezbollah against the full brunt of the Israeli armed forces left much business unfinished: for both sides.

Israel has repeatedly stated that it would have to return and "finish the job." Hezbollah, meanwhile, has not been idle, rearming and repositioning itself for the day, not if, but when the next confrontation comes.

Bear in mind that Hezbollah has obtained a number of medium range missiles capable of hitting Tel Aviv and possibly farther south. Together with Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement dominant in the Gaza Strip, Israel appears caught between the crosshairs of the two Islamist movements, both backed by Iran.

The distance from the Lebanese border to Tel Aviv is 77 miles or 126 kilometers, roughly the same as Baltimore, MD., to Fredericksburg, VA.; while the distance from northern Gaza to Tel Aviv is a mere 32 miles, or 57 kilometers, about the same from downtown San Diego to Oceanside, CA.

It is believed that most of Hezbollah's arsenal consists of relatively inaccurate Soviet era Katyushas. Those have a short range of only 25 kilometers, or 15.6 miles. But Hezbollah is also believed to have been supplied with Fajr-5 missiles, with a range of 75 kilometers, enough to hit the area around Hadera. The real threat to the security of Israel comes from the Zelzal-2 missile, with a range of 200 kilometers. Those can easily reach Tel Aviv, the most densely populated area of Israel.

In response to this growing threat brewing north of its border, underlined by rhetoric coming from Hezbollah's military commander in south Lebanon that Hezbollah might revert to armed action to liberate the Shebaa Farms, Israel's army planners have issued a stern warning, not only to Hezbollah, but to all of Lebanon.

Just days ago three senior Israeli military commanders threatened to "decimate Lebanon's infrastructure."

The Farms area is the last remaining parcels of Lebanese territory occupied by Israel. Israel claims it belongs to Syria. Syria has avoided stating its position on the controversy.

The Israeli officers have warned Lebanon of "disproportionate firepower," stating that Israel would be prepared to "wipe out villages in the south" believed to harbor Hezbollah missile launch sites.

This is what Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, in charge of Israel's Northern Command said was the "Dahiyeh Doctrine." Under this plan – and Eisenkot made it clear that this was a plan, not just a suggestion – all of Lebanon would be treated as the enemy.

Dahiyeh, meaning "suburb" in Arabic, refers to Hezbollah's stronghold in Beirut's southern suburbs.

"We will wield disproportionate power against every village from which shots are fired on Israel, and cause immense damage and destruction. From our perspective, these are military bases," said Eisenkot.

Once again Lebanon is caught between Israel's fight with another enemy. Before it was the Palestine Liberation Organization that brought the wrath of Israel's military might on Lebanon; today it's Iran.

But Lebanon's trans-border problems are not reserved exclusively to its southern neighbor. Lebanon is also looking nervously over its shoulder at its other neighbor, Syria.

In recent weeks Syria has been amassing troops along its border with Lebanon. Damascus says this is in order to fight smugglers. Nevertheless, this prompted French President Nicolas Sarkozy to warn Damascus not to cross into Lebanon, the London-based Al-Hayat has reported.

According to the newspaper, France told the Syrians not to turn "Lebanon into another Georgia."

In Washington, meanwhile, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Hale said in a television interview that Washington still supports Lebanon's independence and sovereignty.

Is that enough to deter Israel's threats to "decimate" Lebanon? I wouldn't take that to the bank. That statement and $85 billion should buy you peace of mind.



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