Posted by Joshua on Thursday, May 8th, 2008
Will the latest US and March 14 provocation break Hizbullah or Lebanon? March 14 is targeting Hizbullah's communications system while Washington escalates pressure on Syria.
Here are some headlines:
(Time: Butters) Is This the Start of the Next Lebanese Civil War?
Nick Blanford "Cell Phone Civil War"
BBC: The leader of Hezbollah has said the Lebanese government's decision to close down its private telecommunications network was a "declaration of war".
(Bloomberg: Derhally) Hezbollah and opposition supporters took to the streets a day after the Lebanese government said it was launching a judicial probe into a telecommunication network which the Shiite movement had set up across the country with the alleged help of Iran. "It's completely illegal — it covers the whole country in fiber optics,'' Hamadeh said. “They have created an Iran telecom all over the country. We discovered they were making ducts and trenches and told them to remove it from sensitive areas where people don't agree to be spied on. They answered that if you touch this we will consider it an act of aggression and threatened four ministers and the prime minister.''
(AP) The clashes followed a defiant speech by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who said his Iranian-backed militant organization would respond with force to any attacks. "Those who try to arrest us, we will arrest them," he said. "Those who shoot at us, we will shoot at them. The hand raised against us, we will cut it off." It was the second day of fighting that has turned some city neighborhoods into battlegrounds and spilled over to other parts of the country.
[Comment by Landis] It became clear to to the Eliott Abrams crowd in Washington that the Bush administration's Lebanon policy was failing some months ago. This began to became clear when the Lebanese opposition stood firm on blocking the appointment of a president by the March 14th coalition. It became indisputable when the US and March 14th could not pressure the opposition to accept the Michel Suleiman presidential compromise. The opposition felt confident enough to demand a blocking third in any future cabinet and a say in forming governments. Ambassador Feltmen warned of this weakness at Brookings when he returned from his ambassadorship in Lebanon.
David Schenker, a fellow with WINEP, summed up this assessment in his Sept. 2007 assessment of the situation: losing traction against Syria, shortly after the Israeli bombing of Syria's alleged nuclear reactor.
As information begins to emerge about the extent of North Korean-Syrian ties, Washington will have another opportunity to focus the international community on the continuing dangers posed by the Asad regime. The UN’s Hariri tribunal will add to the pressure on the regime, but that alone will not suffice. To stem Syria’s reacceptance into the international community, Washington needs to convince its European and Arab — particularly Gulf — allies to freeze their engagement with Damascus. It should also exclude Syria from the Arab-Israeli peace conference scheduled to take place this November.
With Israeli-Syrian tensions rising and the pro-Western Lebanese government on a precipice, renewed political and economic pressure on Damascus is vital. In the absence of effective measures, the Asad regime will continue to undermine Washington’s hopes for the region.
Renewed political and economic pressure on Damascus was forthcoming with added sanctions against a number of Syrians linked to President Asad, the position of US war ships off the coast of Lebanon, the congressional hearing on the North Korean – Syria Connection, the pressuring of international firms not to do business in Syria, and Israeli war exercises along the Lebanon and Syria boarders. When Syria leaked that Israel was sounding it out on the terms of Golan deal, Secretary Rice was quick to dash any hopes a deal, declaring that this was not the time to engage Syria. Yesterday, President Bush renewed economic sanctions on Syria.
Two days ago Ambassador Imad Moustapha flew off to Damascus after meeting with Jeffery Feltman
Laura Rosen, at MoJo has this to say about it from "a Washington hand:"
… The Feltman-Mustapha discussion had nothing to do with a potential deal and everything to do with the US government communicating to the Syrian one the elements it has about the alleged Syrian nuclear reactor. […] Any opening to or quid pro quo with Syria for the current administration will be conditioned on tangible positive steps on Lebanon. I suspect that the next administration, even a Democratic one, will have essentially the same policy, but with arguably a lower priority.The substance of the US position toward talks is simple: you want to do it, do it. But we are not sitting at the table unless we have something tangible on Lebanon. We are not risking our multilateral policy, consensus with Europeans and Arabs, credibility, alliances, geopolitical interests to test the improbable proposition that talking to Syria will lure it from Iran, which is Israel’s primary goal….
Read the End Game in Beirut? by Col. Lang. He ties Cheney's latest Middle East visit to this escalation.
"The decisions (of the government) are tantamount to a declaration of war and the start of a war … on behalf of the United States and Israel," a defiant Nasrallah said at a rare press conference via video link.
On Tuesday, the government launched a probe into a communications network Hezbollah has set up in Lebanon and reassigned the head of airport security over his alleged links to Hezbollah." AFP
Dr. Shuaibeh, sent out this email from Damascus, claiming that the Siniora government had dispatched detailed plans of Hizbullah's communications network to the UN, from where it was immediately handed to the Israelis. He claims that Israeli military assessments agree that in order to defeat Hizbullah in a second round, Israel needs to knock out Hizbullah's secret communications network, which it failed to damage in 2006.
من سلم خرائط شبكة إتصالات المقاومة إلى أسرائيل السنيورة أرسلها للأمم المتحدة وإسرائيل حصلت على نسخة منها على الفور
شبكة الإتصالات التابعة لحزب الله أصبحت خريطة إنتشارها بتفاصيلها كافة في يد الإسرائيليين لأن السيد مروان حمادة وبموافقة السنيورة أرسل نسخا عنها للأمم المتحدة
مروان حمادة وبموافقة السنيورة أرسل نسخا عنها للأمم المتحدة
مركز المعطيات والدراسات الاستراتيجية بدمشق
نشرت وكالة أخبار مونتريال نقلا عن الزميل خضر عواركة الكاتب اللبناني واسع الإطلاع المقيم في كندا تقريرا خطيرا عن دراسة إسرائيلية موثقة نشرت الوكالة صورة عنها ورابطا لموقع مركز الدراسات الإسرائيلي الذي حررها وفي التقرير كلام خطير جدا عن دور الحكومة اللبنانية في خدمة إسرائيل بعلمها أم بعدمه. إذ يقول الزميل عواركة نقلا عن الدراسة بأن واحدا من أسباب نصر تموز الرئيسية هو وجود شبكة إتصالات أرضية لدى حزب الله مكنت قيادته من السيطرة على المعارك في كل مراحل الحرب دون تعريضها للتنصت.
الدراسة الإسرائيلية كما ظهرت فقرات منها تقول بأن أي حرب جديدة بين حزب الله وإسرائيل لا يجب أن تشن قبل تدمير شبكة إتصالات حزب الله ويمكن القيام بذلك بحسب الدراسة عبر الضغوط الأميركية على أصدقائها اللبنانيين في حكومة السنيورة وما بناه حزب الله بسنوات يمكن تدميره عبر السنيورة بأسابيع.
الزميل عواركة نقل عن أحد أعضاء مجلس النواب في بلد غربي ممن يطلعون على تقارير سرية ديبلوماسية بأن شبكة الإتصالات التابعة لحزب الله أصبحت خريطة إنتشارها بتفاصيلها كافة في يد الإسرائيليين لأن السيد مروان حمادة وبموافقة السنيورة أرسل نسخا عنها للأمم المتحدة لكي يصدر مجلس الأمن قرارا جديدا يدين خرق المقاومة بالشبكة تلك للقرار 1701 و 1559 وفي الواقع يقول المصدر الكندي أن الشبكة وخرائطها صارت في يد إسرائيل.
Conclusion: Is this a show down? Probably not. It is an escalation. By taking on Hizbullah at the Beirut airport, Washington and Siniora undoubtedly beleived they were attacking it at its weakest point. The airport is a national institution. But Hizbullah has considerable resources at its disposal and will chose provocations of its own. Nasrallah has declared dismantling its assets at the airport as a "red Line
Israel's Golan talks with Syria, may have been designed to pry Syria away from Hizbullah while Washington tries to weaken the Lebanese opposition. My hunch is that Syria will not fall for this. It is keenly aware that if it allows Washington to successfully divide and rule, Damascus will be next. Without a strong Hizbullah, Syria will lose the Golan Heights. The only reason Israel is willing to discuss giving back the Golan with Syria is in order to get Syria to cut weapon supplies to Hizbullah and to pry it away from Iran. Hizbullah will take a ding on this one, but Lebanon will be no closer to having a president or finding political compromise. Only dialogue and dealing can do that. By looking for a take down move, Washington will deepen Lebanon's agony