External aid may trigger a war in West Asia

While UN troops strive to keep the peace along Lebanon’s southern border with Israel, external powers could destabilise the situation by providing aid to the region’s warring tribes. On one hand, Russia has signed deals to provide Syria, Lebanon’s ally, with fighter planes, anti-tank weapons, and surface-to-air missiles. On the other, the US administration is seeking Congressional approval for $200 million to upgrade and expand Israel’s ‘Iron Dome’ anti-missile defence system.

Because the US provides Israel with arms and support to give it the ‘edge’ over any combination of Arab armies. Russia’s arms sales are unlikely to have an impact on the military situation. However, a strengthened ‘Iron Dome’ could prompt Israel to launch another war on Lebanon because Israel would feel safe from Hizbollah’s rockets and mortars. Israel remains determined to wreak vengeance on Lebanon for the  defeats Israel’s regular army suffered at the hands of Hizbollah irregulars in 2000 and 2006.

Smuggling of Scuds

Meanwhile, Israel and the US are stirring tension in Lebanon by accusing Syria of smuggling North Korean-made Scud missiles to Hizbollah. This would constitute a violation of UN Security Council resolution 1701, which ended Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon, stated spokesman of the UN peacekeeping force Neeraj Singh. According to the resolution, only states are entitled to hold weapons. He said there are no Scuds in the UN area of operations and that the allegations concern smuggling in the north of Lebanon where the UN has no presence.

Former force spokesman Timor Goksel dismissed the allegations: “Scuds are mounted on large platforms, take 45 minutes to launch and are easy targets for Israeli drones and planes. Hizbollah has more suitable weapons. Hizbollah buys only weapons it intends to use.”

Westerners, he said, are unnerved by the idea of Scuds, Russian cold war weapons, while Israelis found themselves targeted by Baghdad’s Scuds during the 1991 US war on Iraq.  The so-called ‘ghost Scuds’ are being compared to Iraq’s non-existent ‘weapons of mass destruction’ used by the Bush administration as justification for war on that country.

Hizbollah spokesman Ibrahim Mousawi said the allegations were designed to “deflect attention from Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories. If Israel attacks Lebanon it knows it will have to pay a heavy price”.

While some Lebanese politicians argue that Hizbollah must be compelled to disarm, President Michel Suleiman said the government cannot ask the movement to surrender its weapons before the country integrates its men and arms into the regular armed forces.

Suleiman’s comment also reflected the thinking of Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Walid Jumblatt, a former adversary of Hizbollah who has reconciled with the movement.
Hizbollah legislator Ali Fayyad said the convergence of the views of these three figures meant that the political balance in Lebanon had shifted in favour of Hizbollah so that Israel and the US will not be able to compel the government to put pressure on the movement to disarm and disband its military wing.

“This is the golden age of the Resistance,” he asserted. Fayyad, a professor of sociology who headed Hizbollah’s think tank from 1995-2009, observed, “Hizbollah never comments on its weapons. We want to confuse the Israelis. I think the Israelis are shouting about Scuds because they know they are not going to have a war”.

“We consider there will be no war for many reasons. Israel  had a bad experience during the 2006 war. This was a hybrid war — between a classical war and a resistance war. All the players in this region have studied the 2006 war. Any new war will be based on the experience of this war.”

“The 2006 war was a historical step between two eras. The Israelis admitted they lost the 2006 war. The invincible image of Israel was broken, Israel was seen as the bad guy. The world’s political elite continues to support Israel, but public opinion has changed. Israeli leaders are regarded as war criminals and are threatened with arrest when they travel.”

“Israel is strong because the Arabs are weak and the US is with Israel, not because Israel is strong by itself. Even the US is now questioning the costs of supporting Israel. This support is threatening the lives of US soldiers in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.”

Furthermore, he stated, “Israel is facing a new strategic situation following the meeting in Damascus” of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Hizbollah secretary general Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.  “Israel does not know what to expect if it attacks Syria, Lebanon or Iran. Israel does not know if it will face one front or a regional war.”

He warned, “If there is war, the whole region will explode.”

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