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ISRAEL TO LEBANON - STOP BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!

IDF soldiers on the border with Lebanon

In the space of several, short days - Israeli military and civilian leaders had fired salvos of dire warnings to Lebanon. They all targeted Iran's mounting military presence in Lebanon, Israel's northern neighbor. Tehran already has armed to the teeth its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah force that is actually more powerful than the official Lebanese Army. Remember that Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah triggered the Second Lebanese War with Israel in 2006 by conducting a cross-border raid that killed a number of IDF soldiers and kidnapped two more. Now after Iran and Hezbollah's extensive campaign in the Syrian civil war has kept President Bashar Assad in power, Iran and Hezbollah are now bent on building their military threat against Israel from inside Lebanon. Israeli intelligence has discovered that Iran plans on constructing an installation to assemble precision surface to surface missiles to bombard Israeli targets, probably including its crucial offshore natural gas project in the Mediterranean.

Israel's series of warnings to Lebanon began with the IDF military spokesman, who sent a message loud and clear in Arabic to the Lebanese media -the state of Lebanon would pay a very high price if the Iranians are permitted to carry out their new aggressive plan. The tone was particularly significant. Lebanon is a multinational state comprised of Sunni and Shiite Muslims, Christians and Druze in a power-sharing federation that at times deteriorated into civil wars. There is a considerable number of Palestinians refugees who are kept penned up in refugee camps and enjoy no civil rights and have been refused integration into Lebanese society.

Hezbollah has illegally amassed an enormous arsenal of over 120,000 rockets and missiles inside and under Lebanese villages in Southern Lebanon. When

Over the years, Iran has exploited this volatile situation by lending substantial support to their Shiite brethren by building up a powerful military force, which rules southern Lebanon that borders on Israel. In effect, under the noses of the UN peace monitors, Hezbollah has illegally amassed an enormous arsenal of over 120,000 rockets and missiles inside and under Lebanese villages in Southern Lebanon. When his bosses in Tehran decides, Nasrallah will issue the order to bring up the missiles up from their underground shelters and start bombarding the Jewish State. Although Israel discovered this danger years ago, the attitude was to grin-and-bear-it rather than knocking them out and being blamed for starting a war. 

However, while the Syrian civil war is now winding down, Tehran is cashing in its chips by expanding its stronghold in both Syria and Lebanon as new forward bases to threaten Israel. The IDF is now conducting an ongoing campaign against any Iranian attempts to move south in Syria to establish its military presence along the Israeli-Syrian border on the Golan Heights. Now it has emerged that the Iranians are even planning to build a 'precision missile facility' to produce more deadly weapons for bombarding Israel. This is really waving 'the red flag before the bull' so to speak. For example, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, never one for mincing his words, has just said: 'A lethal missile production plant next door in Lebanon, combined with the huge array of rockets that Hezbollah has already stored along the border would be tantamount to threatening Israel with an A-bomb!' While this may sound a mite exaggerated, it reflects the seriousness with which Israeli leaders view the Iranian moves in Lebanon. 

Avigdor Lieberman (Photo: Amit Shabi)

That's not all - Housing Minister Yoav Gallant, a former IDF general has warned Lebanon that if Israel is again threatened from Lebanese territory, the IDF will knock Lebanon back to the Stone Age! Naturally, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has also warned the Lebanese government to resist the new Iranian intervention saying the Lebanese people will pay the price. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman also commented: 'If the Israeli citizens in Tel Aviv are forced into the bomb shelters by more aggression from Lebanese territory, the Lebanese will not again be able to go and sunbathe on the seashore of Beirut (as was the case during the last Israeli-Lebanon war)'. This is particularly pertinent. 

'If the Israeli citizens in Tel Aviv are forced into the bomb shelters by more aggression from Lebanese territory, the Lebanese will not again be able to go and sunbathe on the seashore of Beirut.'

As mentioned, when Hezbollah provoked the Second Lebanon war in 2006 - the Lebanese government immediately appealed to the US government declaring that it was not involved in attacking Israel and requested that Washington pressure Jerusalem to desist from hitting Lebanese targets. US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice quickly got on the blower to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warning/advising Israel to restrict its attacks solely to Hezbollah - the other Lebanese targets were off limits. This flies in the face of international law that stipulates that sovereign states are responsible for hostile actions emanating from their territory. Whatever - Olmert ordered the IDF to limit its operations to Hezbollah. And so, Israeli civilians were forced into their bomb shelters in Tel Aviv and elsewhere, whereas the Lebanese could go to the beach!

However, this time, if Israel is again attacked or directly threatened by Iran's proxy Hezbollah, the rest of Lebanon will not get off scot-free again, nor is the Trump administration likely to exert pressure. There is only one problem, one that Lebanese Premier Sa'ad Hariri clarified during his recent sojourn in Saudi Arabia. The official Lebanese Army is now outgunned by Hezbollah. Sheik Nasrallah is a Lebanese Muslim, as are the thousands of his fellow villagers under whose homes he has stored the huge rocket arsenal destined for Israel. Consider this: several years ago an article in the Washington Post disclosed where all these missiles were located. If the Washing Post knows, you can safely bet that Israeli intelligence does as well. In effect, Hezbollah is using the Lebanese civilians as human shields as does Hamas in Gaza.

Hassan Nasrallah

Nasrallah, who still hides in an underground bunker after he launched the attack in 2006, knows the Israeli Air Force will have no option but to seek out and destroy the missile launchers if they are ever brought out and this will put his fellow Shiites in grave danger. You can also bet that if they fear a new Hezbollah attack on Israel again they will high tail it out of southern Lebanon. Moreover, Nasrallah will also bear responsibility for subsequent damage to Lebanon after he has repeatedly threatened to rocket the port of Haifa and its chemical processing plants. After he triggered the previous cross-border assault which led to the last war, Nasrallah disclosed that he would never have launched the attack if he had known in advance how hard the IDF would retaliate. 

Israel is actually trying to prevent a new and very violent escalation with Lebanon, precipitated by an Iranian projection of its military and terror threat to the Jewish state.

At present, Iran continues from time to time to smuggle convoys of sophisticated missiles and other weaponry through Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Whenever the IDF gets wind of it, they are interdicted. How many of these convoys actually get through is unknown. Incidentally, at their most recent meeting, Bibi made clear to President Putin that an attempted Iranian expansion in Lebanon or in southern Syria is a red line. So is Israel rattling the saber and beating the war drums? Things may not be what they appear at first glance. What it all boils down to is that Israel is actually trying to prevent a new and very violent escalation with Lebanon, precipitated by an Iranian projection of its military and terror threat to the Jewish state. Israeli leaders are now on record. 

On a side note, apparently, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Izenkot perceived that following the Syrian civil war, Iran would try and exploit its military presence in Syria to expand in the direction of the Israeli border from both Syria and Lebanon. Therefore he conducted a massive military maneuver in Galilee that could be also be expanded - into Lebanon and Syria. 'If you want peace - prepare for war' is apter than ever these days in this part of the world. But all is not gloom and doom- Israel and Egypt are closer than ever in collaborating to take on DAESH in Egyptian-controlled Sinai. The New York Times has just reported that Israel and Jordan have just patched up a dispute that resulted when an Israeli embassy guard shot dead two Jordanians in a commercial argument. The guard said his life was in danger and he had no choice - the Jordanians argued that the guard was trigger happy. In any case, Israel paid compensation to the Jordanian government for the families. Jerusalem and Amman maintain close security co-operation in fighting terrorism and Israel even supplies vital water supplies to Jordan from its desalination plants. Every day I enjoy watching Jordanian airliners flying over my house on their way to Europe. Even hush-hush relations with Saudi Arabia are on the upswing. That comes as no surprise - with that country being number 2, or maybe even number 1 on Tehran s hit list.

 

Political Analyst David Essing

 

 

David Essing

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