By Mike Whitney
“Wikileaks confirmed yet another suspected, but never confirmed, relationship between Lebanon and Israel. American diplomatic reports from 2008 detail discussions between the Lebanese defense minister and American officials. The Lebanese minister discussed how Israel could hit key Hezbollah targets, and cripple the Iranian-backed Shia force. The minister also believed that Israel could take out Hezbollah without enraging the rest of Lebanon if the fighting was confined to Hezbollah held areas. It was also important that targets in Christian Lebanese areas not be bombed.”
–“Lebanon Faces The Hidden Enemy”, strategypage.com
“The aim of America and Israel is to spread chaos in Lebanon and to find excuses for foreign intervention.”
— Hezbollah’s Secretary General, Hassan Nasrallah
When Israeli troops and armored units swept into Lebanon on July 12, 2006, not one soldier from the Lebanese Army was deployed to the South to defend the country. The army stayed safely tucked away in the North while Hezbollah militiamen engaged the IDF in ferocious combat for more than a month. 1,200 civilians were killed in the fighting and vast parts of the country’s vital infrastructure were destroyed before Hezbollah prevailed and sent the IDF fleeing back into Israel. Lebanon managed to avoid Israeli occupation because of the heroic efforts of Hezbollah.
During the latter part of the conflict, Hezbollah’s Secretary General, Hassan Nasrallah, issued a statement which said:
“Over the past few days, the Israelis did the maximum they can do, from the air and sea. There is no target—old, new, assumed, expected, based on information and analysis—they did not hit… (But) Hezbullah is still managing the battle slowly, quietly, and without any emotional reaction. You can see this. There are no unnecessary threats and no random rhetoric…We are not a classic army extending from the sea to Mt. Hermon. We are a popular and serious resistance movement that is present in many areas and axes….Our equation and principles are the following: When the Israelis enter, they must pay dearly in terms of their tanks, officers, and soldiers. This is what we pledge to do and we will honor our pledge, God willing.”
Nassrallah kept his word, his men fought bravely and Israel was routed.
Israel was deeply traumatized by the defeat. 118 IDF soldiers were killed and Israel’s celebrated power of deterrence was obliterated. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert hastily called off the invasion after 34 days when he could no longer bear the rising death toll. He left office two years later in disgrace. In contrast, Nasrallah’s popularity has grown to mythic proportions. He is now more highly revered than any leader in the Arab world. He’s the man who defeated Israel twice.
Here’s how Kenneth Besig summarized the mood of Israeli public at the time. This is from the Jerusalem Post:
“Fewer than 5,000 poorly-armed Hezbollah terrorists stood off the mighty IDF for over a month. An Islamic terrorist gang with no tanks, no artillery, no fighter jets, no attack helicopters, and just a few RPG’s and rifles held to a standstill nearly 30,000 crack IDF troops with the finest tanks, the best artillery, the fastest and most advanced fighter-jets and attack helicopters in the world. And they can still empty our northern communities with their rockets whenever they want. If that is not a victory, then the word has no meaning.”
Thanks to Wikileaks, we now know why Lebanese troops were not deployed to the south to defend their country. This is from the World Socialist Web Site:
“A classified cable from the US embassy in Beirut has revealed how Lebanon’s ruling March 14 alliance discussed with the US its preparations for a military attack by Israel against its rival Hezbollah. This and other secret cables released by WikiLeaks are destabilizing already tense political relations in Lebanon.
“According to the dispatch in March 2008, Elias Murr, Lebanon’s defense minister….told US diplomats how in the event of a military attack by Israel on Lebanon, Israel should avoid damaging Lebanese infrastructure in order to stop public opinion turning against the March 14 Alliance, as had happened when Israel invaded Lebanon in the 2006 war…
“If Israel were to bomb areas under Hezbollah control, Murr made clear that the Lebanese armed forces would not intervene. He said in the course of a two and a half hour meeting over lunch, ‘If Israel has to bomb all of these places in the Shiite areas as a matter of operational concern, that is Hezbollah’s problem.’
Murr is reported to have said that the Lebanese army would not get involved in the next war and that the army’s objective was to survive a three week war ‘completely intact’ so as to be able to ‘take over once Hezbollah’s militia has been destroyed’. He said, “I do not want thousands of our soldiers to die for no reason.”
The US embassy concluded that Murr “seems intent on ensuring the army stays out of the way so what Hezbollah bears the full weight of an Israeli offensive.” (“Lebanon government gave covert support for Israeli attack on Hezbollah”, Jean Shaoul, WSWS)
So, the Lebanese government collaborated with US officials in a way that ensured that Lebanese civilians would be killed. This means they are either guilty of murder or treason. Imagine if Barack Obama gave Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper the green-light to bomb the Irish Catholic sections of Chicago. It’s exactly the same thing. The Lebanese ruling coalition intentionally slaughtered their own people. Perhaps, this is why Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri (Rafik Hariri’s son) has suddenly decided to call off the investigation of his father’s murder. According to the Jerusalem Post:
“Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri will ask the UN tribunal probing the assassination of his father Rafik Hariri to stop its investigation and leave the country, Lebanese newspaper Al-Diyar reported on Wednesday. Hariri added that he would resist any indictments handed down by the tribunal, saying “I have sacrificed a lot and cannot sacrifice more.” (Lebanese PM will tell UN to stop Hariri tribunal’, Jerusalem Post)
The so-called Special Tribunal for Lebanon (S.T.L.), is a UN-backed invention (supported by the US and Israel) that’s designed to politically discredit Hezbollah. If members of Hezbollah are indicted by the STL–as many expect–then the resistance organization’s reputation will be tarnished and they’ll be branded as “political assassins”. This could lead to a break up of the fragile unity government and eventually to civil war. Israel could then use the indictments to legitimize future attacks on Hezbollah strongholds in the south or in Beirut. So, there’s a great deal at stake.
Nasrallah has pushed for an alternative to the STL by suggesting that the case be sent to Lebanon’s Higher Judicial Council which handles state security crimes. That way, the matter could be dealt with internally and Hezbollah would have more reason to trust the outcome. But Hariri, who is very much under the influence of Washington and Tel Aviv, has rejected the idea outright.
According to the Associated Press, “Hezbollah and its allies refuse to attend any Cabinet meeting that does not vote on the issue, while Hariri has reportedly vowed to walk out of any meeting that decides to hold a vote. As a result, the Cabinet has met only once since Nov. 10, and that single meeting lasted only a few minutes. State institutions have been deadlocked.”
The STL is a way the for US and Israel to meddle in Lebanon’s internal affairs so they can reshape the Middle East to suit their strategic objectives. It’s a continuation of the Bush policy of incitement and war-making that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called “birth pangs”. The question now is whether the indictments will be used as the pretext for another war. No one knows for sure, but there are signs that trouble is brewing. This is from Lebanon’s The Daily Star on Wednesday:
“Israel renewed its military exercises Tuesday by firing ammunition into Lebanon in a continuation of several weeks of muscle-flexing maneuvers. The National News Agency (N.N.A.) reported that Israeli patrols had fired on Lebanese territory for several hours until eventually ceasing Tuesday morning.
“’[The] Israeli Army fired Monday night and Tuesday dawn random shots from its location on occupied Shebaa Farms for more than half an hour,’ the N.N.A. said. It added that Israeli reconnaissance jets had violated Lebanese airspace at 8:30 a.m Tuesday, following a similar set of maneuvers Monday.
“At 7:20 a.m. Monday, an Israeli reconnaissance war plane violated Lebanese airspace over Aalma al-Chaib and executed circular maneuvers over the southern regions, then left the air space at 10:00 p.m. over Rmeish Village toward the Occupied Territories,” said a communiqué from Lebanese Army Command.
“The latest Israeli operation close to the Blue Line follows intense military maneuvers at the end of 2010 that were designed to mimic a ‘worst case scenario’ in any future clash with Hizbullah, Israeli media reported.” (“Israel continues military drills, fires into south Lebanon” The Daily Star)
So, Israel has resumed its saber rattling on the border just as the temperature in Beirut is rising. This is more than a mere coincidence. Here’s more from Wikileaks via the World Socialist Web Site:
“US diplomatic cables quoted by the Norwegian daily newspaper Aftenposten expose discussions between US legislators and Israeli officials on preparations for the next Middle East war. These documents make clear both Israel’s preparations for another major war in the region and the full support of visiting members of the US Congress…….The cables, the Norwegian paper reported, send a ‘clear message’ that ‘The Israeli military preparations for a new war in the Middle East are in full swing.’
“General Ashkenazi is quoted in the November 2009 cable as saying that the Israeli military is preparing to wage the next war ‘in the same areas where the previous wars took place, namely in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.’…
“The Israeli chief of staff confided to the US delegation that the Israeli military is continuously flying unmanned drone aircraft over Lebanon, in open contempt for the country’s sovereignty, to identify targets for attack. He also expressed his gratitude to the US National Security Agency (NSA) for its aid in spying on Israel’s enemies.”
(“Cables expose US-Israeli war talks”, Bill van Auken, World Socialist Web Site)
It’s only a matter of time before Israel resumes hostilities. Congress and the White House have already been briefed and US clients in Beirut have beefed up their security forces to fend off possible retaliation from Hezbollah. All that’s needed now is a provocation; a kidnapping, a random shooting, a rogue rocket fired into Israel or, maybe, the STL indictments. Anything will do. After all, Israel wants to repair its battered image, restore its power of deterrence, and get revenge for the beating it took in 2006. Hezbollah had better be prepared.