Though not anticipating war, Israel has placed troops along the Lebanon border on alert in the wake of the Beirut government’s collapse as indictments for Rafik Hariri's assassination seemed imminent.
The higher alert for Israel’s northern command was standard procedure, analysts said, and was not accompanied by any call-up of reserves or reinforcements. “None of the players has an interest in another round of war,” said Ilan Mizrahi, a former deputy director of Mossad who chaired Israel’s National Security council until 2008. “Not Israelis, not the Syrians, not the Iranians, and not Hezbollah.”
While Hezbollah and its Iranian and Syrian backers could ultimately decide to launch an attack on Israel, Mizrahi doubted they would do so. “But I always remember that in the Middle East, a minor event turns out to develop into a war. A tactical event turns out to be a strategic one that no one can foresee.” Hezbollah ministers resigned on Wednesday just as Prime Minister Saad Hariri was meeting with President Obama in Washington, seeking U.S. support in his ongoing standoff with Hezbollah.
The Hezbollah pullout came in anticipation of a decision by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to hand down indictments against senior Hezbollah officials for their involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri in February 2005.
Sources close to the tribunal told Newsmax that they had new information directly implicating the supreme leader of Iran, the leader of the Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, as well as top Hezbollah leaders in the Hariri murder plot, reinforcing an earlier report.
Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah had been attempting to get Prime Minister Saad Hariri — the son of the slain Lebanese leader — to announce his rejection of the tribunal even before it announced its results, and finally made good on his threat to bring down the government when Hariri refused.
“Hezbollah’s decision to leave the government was a result of the failure of the attempt by Syria and Saudi Arabia to impose a deal,” a well-informed Lebanon-watcher told Newsmax from Jerusalem.
“While it’s true that the parties are not interested in an armed confrontation, none of them can so far accept a compromise. Hariri cannot betray his father and Hezbollah cannot accept that their crime will be enshrined in the history of Lebanon,” the analyst said.
“The immediate military danger to Israel is limited, and there is a reasonable chance that even internal violence can be avoided,” he added.
Officially, the Israeli government is treating the current Lebanese crisis as an internal Lebanese affair. But Uzi Landau, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet, told Israel radio on Thursday that Israel is prepared to hit Hezbollah hard if the Iranian-backed groups strikes Israeli interests.
“What Israel needs to do now is tell the Lebanese a simple thing: that Israel is prepared, the minute it is attacked, to not only react but seek a complete victory,” he said, according to the Voice of America. “Israel will exact a proportional price from any terrorist activity that harms Israelis,” Landau added.
Mizrahi, the former deputy intelligence chief, forecast that the current crisis would dissipate as the Saudis put pressure on their protégé, Hariri, to compromise and the Syrians reined in Hezbollah.
But even a temporary lull would not fundamentally change the situation, he acknowledged.
Lebanon will remain “on the brink of another showdown, in three months, in six months, or in nine months,” Mizrahi said. “Lebanon will be on the brink of civil war for a long time, because of Hezbollah’s interest to dominate Lebanon.”
During the 2006 war, Hezbollah claimed to have 10,000 rockets and launched more than 4,000 of them into northern Israel.
As I reported in Newsmax
, Hezbollah rockets were aimed primarily at densely populated areas with the intention of maximizing civilian casualties.
Today, Hezbollah claims to have amassed more than 60,000 rockets, including long-range Scud-B missiles capable of hitting targets throughout Israel, including Tel Aviv.
In a ceremony last week marking the end of his eight-year stint at the head of Mossad, Meir Dagan said that only 10 countries in the world have as much firepower as Hezbollah.
Prime Minister Hariri flew to Paris to meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday evening, after his meeting with President Obama in Washington.
The French have sent warships to the Lebanese coast in an effort to deter Hezbollah from any military moves.
Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan, told reporters on Thursday that the United States was not currently considering a drawdown of security assistance to the Lebanese army, even though some units armed with U.S. weaponry and communications gear might fall under Hezbollah control.
The United States "has a valuable relationship with Lebanese armed forces and we're committed to do what we can to strengthen the sovereignty of the institutions as well as of the government of Lebanon,” he said.
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