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Saad Hariri's Party Sweeps Lebanese Ballot In Beirut

Israeli Officials: 'Hezbollah Will Not Give Up Its Power Easily; Sheik Nasrallah's Warning That It Has Deployed 12,000 Rockets Aimed At Israel Was Designed To Boast Its Prestige'

Ayatollah Rafsanjani, who has warned that one nuclear bomb could destroy Israel, is now frontrunner in Presidential Election Campaign in Iran

Saad Hariri

The victory of Saad Hariri's anti-Syria party in the Beirut election could usher in a new era in Lebanon. Hariri's list swept all 19 seats in the Lebanese capital while the rest of the country votes for the remainder of the 128 seats over the next three Sundays. Saad is the son of former Premier Rafik Hariri who was assassinated in February apparently by Syrian agents. Rafik Hariri opposed Syria's occupation of Lebanon and his murder sparked international pressure which forced Syria to end its 30 year domination of Lebanon. However, Israeli officials believe that Hezbollah, Iran's proxy forces in Lebanon, will not surrender its power easily. Meanwhile, the frontrunner in the Iranian election campaign turns out to be Ayatollah Rafsanjani who has spoken about destroying Israel with one nuclear bomb.

The Beirut election victory of Saad Hariri and Hezbollah’s 'saber rattling' illustrate the peace and war trends at work in Lebanon today. However, Israeli officials say the Lebanese people have yet to determine which way the country will go. Voters in Beirut signaled, that after 30 years of Syrian occupation, they want to take back their country from 'Big Brother' in Damascus. But will the Shiites in south Lebanon follow the example of the Christians in the Lebanese capital who want to build an independent and prosperous state not embroiled in Syria's confrontation with Israel?

Sheik Nasrallah

Hezbollah's power base is in the south where it has massed its considerable forces against Israel. Hezbollah chieftain Sheik Nasrallah warned the terror organization has deployed 12,000 rockets along the Israeli frontier to deter Israel. The implied threat was designed to boost the prestige of Hezbollah in the current election campaign and to remind Lebanese voters that its campaign drove the IDF out of the south. The disclosure came as no surprise to Israel; several years ago IDF intelligence revealed the huge rocket build-up. The rockets were supplied by Iran and Syria. As for Hezbollah, it is believed to be as strong as the Lebanese Army which has abdicated its control of south Lebanon. Hezbollah calls the shots in more ways than one.

Deterrent Balance: Despite the Hezbollah build-up along the Israeli border, the terrorists have not fired one Katyusha rocket into Galilee since the IDF withdrew in May 2000. Hezbollah does heat up the border from time by sporadic attacks mainly in the Shaba farms area of Mount Dov. Hezbollah claims this small region is part of Lebanese territory and so Israel has not totally evacuated Lebanon. However there is a problem, the U.N. has ruled that the Shaba farms are actually in Syria. In other words, the Lebanese Hezbollah has no case for launching attacks against Israel. Israel has made clear both in word and deed that it holds Syria and Lebanon responsible for Hezbollah actions and they will pay dearly for an escalation. Hezbollah in effect acts as an independent army in southern Lebanon with its leader threatening to bombard Israel with 12,000 rockets! Today both Lebanese and international pressure are being exerted to try and halt this absurd and dangerous situation.

Iranian Connection: Since the recent Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, Iran has stepped up its pressure on Israel to keep the border hot with Israel. Iranian Revolutionary Guards have been active in the south where they also act as controllers in funding and activating Palestinian terrorists in the territories. Hezbollah is not acting in the interest of Lebanon which has no quarrel with Israel. Hezbollah, armed and financed by Tehran is acting at the bidding of the Ayatollahs who have pronounced that Israel must be wiped off the face of the earth. Therefore, does it not follow that the rocket build-up so proudly announced by Sheik Nasrallah is as much Iran’s as it is Hezbollah's?

Ayatollah Rafsanjani

Iranian 'Bomb' & Election: Ayatollah Rafsanjani once talked publicly about how one nuclear bomb could annihilate Israel. Israeli intelligence sources believe the Iranians will acquire an independent capability to enrich weapons grade uranium by the end of 2005. This they call the 'nuclear point of no-return' because then it would only be a couple of years before the Iranians could produce enough for a nuclear weapon. (The Iranians already have a delivery system – Shihab missiles that are capable of reaching Israel as well as many targets in Europe. The Iranians are also planning on producing inter-continental ballistic missiles. It was once hoped that the moderates in Iran would gain the upper hand over the religious fanatics before the country goes nuclear – that apparently is not likely to happen. The word from Tehran is that Ayatollah Rafsanjani is frontrunner to be elected President.

David Essing

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