Tags: iran | israel

Iran Behind Beirut Takeover, Eyes Israel

Wednesday, 14 May 2008 10:53 AM

By Kenneth R. Timmerman

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Senior Iranian officials were directly involved in planning and carrying out Hezbollah’s successful takeover of Beirut last week, and believe that their victory is the first step in a new war on Israel and stepped up attacks in Iraq, sources in Tehran tell Newsmax.

The coordination between the Iranian regime and Hezbollah was so close that Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah dispatched a personal envoy to brief Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran last week, just as his fighters were encircling the prime minister’s residence in downtown Beirut late Thursday night.

The envoy, Seyed Hussein Ghanon, arrived in Tehran on the morning of Friday, May 9, to personally brief Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, following a telephone call between the Iranian Supreme Leader and Nasrallah, in which Khamenei pledged full Iranian government support for the Hezbollah takeover of Beirut.

Just hours before the Hezbollah push into downtown Beirut, the chief of the Revolutionary Guards liaison mission in Beirut, Col. Ahmad Mashayekhi, was ordered to evacuate family members of Rev. Guards personnel and some Iranian embassy staff from Beirut, in the event the Hezbollah assault met with stiff resistance.

Those precautionary measures appeared to have been unnecessary, as Hezbollah took over the city in a single push during the night and by Friday morning had routed the Lebanese army, many of whose units in Beirut simply laid down their arms rather than fight against fellow Shiite Muslims.

Iran ordered its Revolutionary Guards garrison in the Bekaa Valley to move military hardware from that region into Beirut on Wednesday evening, sources in Tehran said. By Thursday evening, at least 58 Guards officers were directing combat operations in Beirut, side-by-side with their Hezbollah allies.

Hezbollah declared war on the U.S.-backed government of Prime Minister Fuad Seniora last week after the government fired the pro-Hezbollah security chief at Beirut International Airport for installing security cameras to monitor the movement of anti-Syrian and anti-Iranian politicians and others on Hezbollah’s behalf.

More than a dozen top politicians, including former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, have been assassinated in Lebanon over the past three years, reportedly by terrorist networks working on behalf of Hezbollah backers, Syria, and Iran.

Hezbollah also cited as a pretext for the takeover the government demand that it close a parallel network of buried fiber optics telephone cables it had been using to communicate with fighters in the south, the Bekaa valley, and even in Christian areas.

The parallel communications system allowed Hezbollah to maintain a secure command and control system during the summer 2006 war with Israel, both Israeli and Lebanese officials told Newsmax.

The United States strongly condemned Iran and Syria’s involvement in the recent fighting in Lebanon.

Speaking on the eve of his latest trip to the Middle East, President Bush on Monday condemned Hezbollah and “their foreign sponsors in Tehran and Damascus” for launching the attack, which he called an “effort to undermine the hard-fought gains in sovereignty and independence the Lebanese people have made in recent years.”

The president pledged continued assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces, even though the army failed to defend government offices in downtown Beirut during the fighting.

National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley told reporters the Lebanon fighting was “a big deal,” and said the U.S. would take Syria and Iran’s involvement to the United Nations Security Council in New York, although he doubted that U.N. members had much appetite for additional sanctions.

He called the fighting in Lebanon and Iraq “a struggle between the forces of freedom, democracy, and a positive future on the one hand, and the forces of terror, backed largely by Syria and by Iran.”

Advisers to Ahmadinejad have been arguing since Friday that the Hezbollah victory should be the first step in a two-pronged attack on Israel in the coming months, Newsmax sources in Tehran say.

Hezbollah fighters will attack Israel from the north, while Iranian-backed Hamas fighters will step up pressure on Israel from Gaza and the south, the sources said.

They will use thousands of surface-to-surface missiles that have been assembled under the supervision of Iranian Revolutionary Guards specialists at small factories in Lebanon itself, sources in Tehran said.

Iran’s network of small missile component factories in Lebanon has become so efficient that they bring few fully-assembled missiles into Lebanon from Syria, the sources said.

Only the most sensitive components, such as explosive warheads, are still imported from Iran. The rest of the components are purchased or manufactured locally, then assembled at small factories often no bigger than an ordinary house.

“The situation in Beirut has boosted the morale of the regime and in particular of the Revolutionary Guards officers in charge of Iraq,” the sources added. “The victory in Beirut has emboldened them to step up their offensive in Iraq as well.”

On Wednesday, a former top aid to Gen. David Petraeus told a forum at the American Enterprise Institute that reporters and others should stop using the qualifier “allegedly” when talking about Iran’s support for insurgents in Iraq.

“In the case of what Iran is doing in Iraq, it is so damned obvious to anybody who wants to look into it,” Army Col. H.R. McMaster told AEI. Iran’s intention is to destabilize the Iraqi government, he said.

The recent battle of Basra was a case in point, McMaster added.

The “bold, very quick action” by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to put down the Iranian-backed attempt to takeover the southern Iraq city, “foiled what was to be, perhaps, a much larger and coordinated effort — maybe even coordinated with efforts in other places in the region, like what’s been happening right now in Lebanon,” McMaster said.

During a recent reporting mission to Iraq, a senior Iraqi official from Basra, a Shiite, said he was “thrilled” by the government’s success in the battle of Basra, and called it a “turning point” in the government’s war against Iranian-backed militias.

“The very next day after the government victory, oil revenues in Basra jumped by $6 mlllion,” he said. “That was the amount of oil the Iranian-backed militias had been stealing every day before this.”

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