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Hezbollah calls bluff on embassy attacks

Nasrallah has denied his organization’s involvement in the embassy attacks. Though the denial was expected in any case, his reasoning is entirely logical: reprisals are always designed to result in mass casualties, not directed against insignificant individuals.

More things are permissible to Hezbollah than to Israel

Nasrallah rejected the UN Sec-Gen’s call to disarm his organization. Officially, Hezbollah has to disarm for two reasons: because of the UNSC ceasefire terms of 2006, and because it has transformed from a paramilitary organization into a political party. The second reason carries little weight in Lebanon, where every major political group is armed to the teeth because, hey, they are all Arab brothers. But the UNSC resolution is binding.

Israel strives to conform to UN demands to the letter, even when they are clearly detrimental to our national interests, but Lebanese terrorists-cum-politicians have the good sense and courage to dismiss the UN as irrelevant outside New York.

Hassan Nasrallah

Hezbollah is unlikely to start an all-out war

There has been much analysis of Nasrallah’s speech to his commanders a week ago detailing his plan to launch 10,000 rockets at Israel and capture enclaves in Galilee. That is not realistic.

How many rocket-launching sites and weapons stores might Hezbollah have that we do not know of? A few dozen, perhaps. Add a hundred locations inside villages that we might find it difficult to bomb. We’re talking a few hundred rockets that could be launched before they were destroyed. And those are low-yield rockets, which can damage buildings but not flatten blocks.

But Hezbollah understands that Israel would use massive attacks as a pretext to retaliate against Lebanon and try to oust Hezbollah from its hard-won political position. So it makes little sense to risk such losses to help the ayatollahs.

Lebanon: what will the West do?

Nasrallah and HaririBy unwittingly pursuing the Hariri tribunal, Western powers have caused themselves a serious problem which they should have predicted.

Hariri Jr.’s relatively pro-Western government has been dissolved, and he won’t be able to form a new one without Hezbollah. Syria and Saudi Arabia stopped whatever small cooperation they had been providing on Lebanon. Lebanese Druze were forced to choose between Syria and the West, and they chose a reliable partner—Syria.

But the biggest problem will come when Hezbollah bosses are indicted for Hariri Sr.’s assassination. The verdict will effectively label Hezbollah a terrorist organization when to all purposes it has transformed itself into a political party. Instead of continuing to drag Hezbollah into the mainstream—the only way to disengage Lebanese Shiites from Iran—the West will be forced to ostracize the terrorist group. The problem will become completely unsolvable if Hezbollah refuses to deliver its people for prosecution, and the Lebanese government will be slapped with international sanctions.

The US already threatened to withhold its aid to Lebanon if Hezbollah forms a new government. An empty threat that is. The US aid to Lebanon is small compared to Iranian donations to Hezbollah. The US provides aid even to Hamas government in Gaza, albeit with some weasel wording.

The best solution would be to suspend the trial without canceling it.

The West Bank scenario unfolds in Lebanon

Hezbollah pulled out of the government in expectation of indictment by the Hariri tribunal. The move only confirms that Hezbollah has transformed itself from a terrorist group into a political party. For a militant group, it would have made sense to remain in the government and disregard the tribunal’s verdict. A political group, on the other hand, cares about its image more than power or money, so Hezbollah prevented PR fallout from the verdict by staging a PR coup of its own. And so Hezbollah the political party brought down Hariri’s government to deflect the upcoming indictment.

We reiterate our view that a Hezbollah coup is unlikely. Nasrallah knows that Israel would be only too happy to use that as a pretext to bomb his arsenal of 60,000 rockets.

More likely, the Lebanese government will follow the path of Fatah: a technically illegitimate government continues to operate as long as a new government cannot be formed.

You know that I know that you know

Hassan NasrallahIDF conducted large-scale exercises. The army simulated an invasion of Lebanon in response to a Hezbollah terrorist attack, which indeed Hezbollah has promised if Israel attacks Iran in response to Iran’s nuclear program.

Frightening Hezbollah out of attacking Israel would be a stupid reason for the exercises: maneuvers or no maneuvers, Hezbollah knows that Israel can easily defeat it. The terrorist group is transforming itself into a political force, and would not be eager to provoke Israeli reprisals against Lebanese voters.

IDF’s goal in the exercises was probably to force Hezbollah to expose its bunkers, which it actually did with the help of Iranian engineers who came immediately after the maneuvers to inspect Hezbollah’s defenses, as Debka reported.

The Iranians were guarded by Lebanese Army units. Such close cooperation between the US-funded Lebanese army and Iran is to be expected since Hariri surrendered to the ayatollahs.

Hezbollah aims higher

Debka reported that Hezbollah representatives were spotted in London fishing for an international criminal lawyer to defend their operatives before the Hariri tribunal.

That seems to confirm our analysis that Hezbollah aims to take over Lebanon by acting as a political force rather than as a terrorist organization. Otherwise, it would make no sense for Nasrallah to betray his operatives to a show of international justice.

Hezbollah has to take over Lebanon

Nasrallah and AhmadinejadAccording to Israeli intelligence reports, Iran has cut its payments to Hezbollah by about 40%, possibly due to economic sanctions.

The terrorist group will have to take over the state in order to survive economically.

Iran: Why the expenses?

Those who believe that sanctions might force Khamenei to change his mind on nuclear issues fail to see the effect of Iran’s massive rearmament program. The Islamic state has just tested yet another new and reasonably advanced cruise missile, a surface-to-sea Nasr-1. Once it has been installed on Iranian Naval vessels, the missile could very well end US-Israeli plans to land commando troops from the Persian Gulf.

Weapons development has cost Iran more than any potential sanctions. Iran does not have any enemies, and the impoverished country has no reason to spend its last rials for missiles unless it intends to put them to profitable use very soon, before they become obsolete.

Iran cannot carry out a war against Saudi Arabia or Egypt, both of which are supported by the United States. But Syria would find Iranian missiles handy against Israel. After losing Egypt as an anti-Israeli ally, Syria replaced it with Iran, and is now ready to restart hostilities.

08 March 2010 Posted in Iran

Both sides are right

Jewish heritage sitesNasrallah has condemned foreign Arabs for remaining silent while the Palestinians fight for Jewish heritage sites. This is not exactly true; the Arab media are in an uproar.

Muslims consider the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron to be their holy site. Until 1967, Jews were banned from the building, and could only ascend the first seven steps toward it. In 1967, Moshe Dayan gave the keys back to the Arabs.

There is no room for compromise for the Jews either: Orthodox Jews believe in the site’s sanctity, and secular nationalists object to being humiliated by Arabs.

In matters of national pride, there is no room for holy sites to be treated like condominiums.

Iran: If not now, then when?

Iran surprised everyone by moving its entire stock of low-enriched uranium from underground to a 20% enrichment facility. Unless, that is, Iran fooled IAEA inspectors with half-empty containers.

It is possible that Iran’s brazen defiance is rooted in its certainty that Israel won’t attack even under the best imaginable circumstances. Absent an attack now, Iran would reasonably feel safe in proceeding to enrich its uranium stocks to 80% and weaponize them.

But there is yet another possibility. As we suggested yesterday, Iran and Syria may be planning a preemptive strike on Israel; not a devastating strike, but sufficient to deter Israel from attacking Iran. In that case, Iran would expose its uranium stocks to provoke an Israeli attack against the compound—thickly defended with SAM batteries—and then counterstrike.

Assad meets Ahmadinajed, Nasrallah

Not long after Obama returned the US ambassador to Damascus, Iran came up with a better offer—that country sent its president.

Obama’s error is his hallmark confidence-building approach, which calls for incremental steps. But in order to embrace Washington, Assad has to abandon Iran and Lebanon. Certainly, he would require much stronger incentives for that than ambassadorial relations. Obama can woo Assad away from Iran with really big money, but no money has been promised yet, while Iran continues to finance Syrian military expenditures.

Young Assad won’t give up his emotional ties to Nasrallah or his political designs on Lebanon for peanuts, or even for the Golan Heights, which are of little importance to him.

After the meeting, Assad proclaimed that Israel might attack at any time. Just the words he needs to say if Syria is looking to preempt.

Syria knows that it cannot defeat Israel, but it does not need to. Following Sadat’s 1973 example, Assad may be planning a surprise attack on Israel with mid-range missiles to deflect Israel from attacking Iran and force meaningful talks on the return of the Golan Heights.

Al Qaeda, why?

Debka has suggested that the Ethiopian airliner’s crash near Lebanon was a terrorist attack. This is possible, yes, but the plane could have exploded for more innocuous reasons.

But we see no basis for the conclusion that Al Qaeda was involved. Al Qaeda had no good reason to bomb a plane carrying Nasrallah and other Hezbollah leaders. They changed their tickets at the last minute.

It is also unlikely that Al Qaeda tipped Hezbollah’s people to change planes. They would rather call off the bombing than risk leaking their plans. Hezbollah would have informed the Ethiopians about the plan, since the terrorist group depends on Ethiopia for arms trafficking. Al Qaeda had no incentive at all to blow up an Ethiopian jet.

The bombing plot against Nasrallah might suggest Israeli involvement, but it is our long-standing policy to avoid huge collateral damage.

Second Israeli Arab MK indicted for treason

After Azmi Bishara was indicted for visiting the enemy state of Syria and associating with Nasrallah there, Saif Nafa of the Balad party was stripped of his parliamentary immunity for the same offense.

This behavior is normal for Arab MKs. Ahmed Tibi met with Arafat several times. After the Oslo negotiations started, he continued to meet with Arafat and Abu Mazen on behalf of Peres.

When the Israeli government openly negotiates with Syria over surrendering the Golan Heights—a high crime under Israeli law—it is somewhat hypocritical to prosecute Arab MKs for a lesser offense.

Nasrallah is right

Said the Hezbollah leader, “In the past, Israel used to do more than it speaks; however today Israel speaks more it acts because it is unable to do anything.”

Saudi peace initiative – peace with whom?

Nasrallah reiterated his refusal ever to recognize Israel, and called on other Arab countries to do the same. Despite Nasrallah’s personal estrangement from Iran as he vies for Hezbollah’s independent leadership, his terrorist group is still an Iranian proxy. If anything, Iran has recently increased its hold on Hezbollah, with scores of Iranian military officers heading Hezbollah units.

Iran and Lebanon won’t sign peace with Israel, regardless of any concessions she makes on the Saudi peace plan. With enemies like those, Israel’s peaceful relations with Saudi Arabia or Qatar are irrelevant.

Hezbollah’s moderation is less than believed

As Hezbollah became embroiled in the Lebanese political process, the group became substantially more moderate. The 2006 abduction of Israeli soldiers—which led to the war—was pushed through by Iran over Nasrallah’s strenuous objections.

Dissatisfied with Hezbollah’s moderation, some of its members are developing their own plans of attack. They will eventually split the way Hezbollah split from Amal.

Certainly it was one of these splinter groups, rather than Hezbollah’s central command, which attempted the assassination of Israel’s Chief of Staff. A centrist Israeli government went to war over two soldiers, and a right-wing government would have no choice but to attack Lebanon over the death of the Israeli Chief of Staff. If Hezbollah had wanted such a major confrontation, it would have carried out a much more professional operation than just inciting a few hapless Israeli Arabs.

The Arab Israeli Balad party, from whose illegal camp Hezbollah recruited the would-be assassins, vowed to continue its anti-Israeli incitement.

Hezbollah confirmed arms shipments to Hamas

Nasrallah rejected Egyptian claims of weapons-smuggling into Gaza as a matter of principle: Hezbollah, he said, does not smuggle, but delivers weapons to Palestinians—and has done so for a long time.

Britain decided to establish political contacts with Hezbollah.

Hamas claims fake laurels

Hamas leader Mashaal threatened to kidnap more IDF soldiers to force the release of Hamas members, just as two years ago his group kidnapped Shalit to force Israel to open Gaza’s borders.

The only problem with this threat is that Hamas didn’t kidnap Shalit. The operation was carried out by Dughmush clan criminals and some loose terrorists.

Mashaal confirmed a long-disputed quote by Nasrallah, who allegedly remarked that he would not have kidnapped two IDF soldiers in 2006 had he known the extent to which Israel would retaliate against Lebanon. Here an enemy has testified to the great effectiveness of Olmert’s war, which most Israelis criticize.

Lebanon renounced Arab peace initiative

Nasrallah, the head of Lebanon’s strongest government faction, flatly rejected the idea that Hezbollah—and by implication, Lebanon—can ever recognize Israel, and threatened to make us “disappear.”

Britain engaged Hezbollah in talks.

14 March 2009 Posted in work