Sunday, April 2, 2017

Growing Threats To Israel: The Syrian Concern, International Community Ignoring Hezbollah Threat, 'Hezbollah Is Lebanon Is Hezbollah

The Syrian concern: Israel sends clear signals following border escalation

Israel wants Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria to be more conscious of its vital security interests and what it defines as its "red lines," and has recently been trying to convey the message more explicitly to the Syrian regime via Russia. 

Israeli decision-makers from both the military and the political echelons know very well that Syria will soon be reshaped by a new era fast approaching. However, they're also clear on the fact that Syria is not likely to return to being the state it was six years ago when the civil war broke out.

And while the situation in Syria continues to remain as volatile as it has so far been, Israel fears that if and when Assad consolidates his grip on parts of Syria, it could potentially lead to the deployment of Iranian, Hezbollah or other Shi'ite militiamen along the Israeli border in the Golan Heights. 

Nowadays, this possibility is the most serious concern preoccupying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisnekot when it comes to Syria. 
So much so that they are even more concerned about this than they are about the transfer of long-range and precise missiles from Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon via Syria, which has occasionally triggered Israeli air strikes on Syria, according to foreign reports. 

This concern has led Israel to try and advance its Syrian agenda and influence the various processes facilitated by the international community to reach a post-war deal or agreement to regulate the situation in Syria. 
The main actors participating in the efforts to reach such an agreement are Russia, the US, Turkey and even Arab nations such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Israel is currently trying to reach out to each of them to discuss its concerns and red lines. 

It's worth noting in this context that according to the Disengagement Agreement reached after the Yom Kippur war in 1974, Syria's army has the right to erect posts alongside the border. However, most of its positions were taken over by rebel forces during the war and now most of the border is controlled by al-Qaida, ISIS and moderate rebels. Only in the north near Mount Hermon can remnants of Assad's army still be seen.

Knowing that the keys are in Moscow explains why Netanyahu has met with Russian president Vladimir Putting five times in the last a year and half and talked to him over the phone at least two dozen times.

Former British commander with Friends of Israel Initiative says UK should consider preventing return of citizens who joined Islamic State.

Countries that maintain relations with Iran and Lebanon need to focus on the threat of Tehran-directed Hezbollah attacking Israel, rather than wait for war to come and then point fingers, Col. (ret.) Richard Kemp, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, says.

“The purpose really [of my visit to Israel last year was] to determine what the current threat is and see how Israel can counter that threat,” he says. “We want to highlight to the international community that unless something is done to prevent Hezbollah under direction of Iran from attacking Israel – and Israel will respond, and there will be civilian casualties and Israel will be condemned by the international community – [this could happen, and we need] to give notice to the international community that this could happen, and that when it does happen the casualties are not Israel’s fault but Hezbollah’s.”

Now back in England, he wants to emphasize how important it is that the world keep an eye on Hezbollah’s threats and Islamist terrorism.

Pressure should be put on Lebanon to end Hezbollah’s arms buildup.

“No one seems to be even paying attention to the 100,000 missiles pointing at Israel’s civilian population.” He also argues that the international community should pressure Tehran, which supports Hezbollah, and points to the Iran nuclear deal that has resulted in billions of dollars being released to the Islamic Republic that empowers it and Hezbollah.

Kemp thinks the decision to leave the EU will make the UK more secure. This is especially true in light of the recent London terrorist attack, the first since 2013 and the most serious since the July 2005 bombings.

“The current estimate is that there are 3,000 active jihadists considered to be a threat by MI5 [Britain’s domestic counter-intelligence and security agency]; that same threat extends across the whole of Europe in France, Belgium and elsewhere, and the thing is complicated, one of the reasons the threat is there is because Islamic State has been allowed to continue to exist – its existence and defiance have inspired terrorists to act,” says the colonel.

The threat of lone-wolf terrorism, such as that carried out by London attacker Khalid Masood outside Parliament on March 22, will be minimized once the UK reestablishes its borders with the EU. “Currently we can’t control jihadists coming in from other EU countries; we have border controls, but if we know someone is an active jihadist then we can’t stop him coming here, so it gives our security services a problem monitoring those who travel.”

In July 2006 mortars and rockets were fired from Lebanon at Israel’s cities and infrastructure. At the same time, Lebanese militants crossed the border and attacked Israeli soldiers – killing three and abducting the bodies of two others to the Lebanese town of Ayta a-Shab. More Israelis were killed as they chased the attackers into Lebanese territory. Despite this, Israel did not retaliate against Lebanon.

Following a request by the US, Israel distinguished between Sovereign Lebanon and Hezbollah. As a result, I – and thousands of other Israeli soldiers – found myself trying to stop an Iranian paramilitary organization using only tweezers. After weeks behind enemy lines, I can tell you: it is impossible to fight like that.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s recent comments on Egyptian television make it clear he sees no distinction between Hezbollah and the Lebanese government. Hezbollah’s weapons “are essential, in that they complement the actions of the army and do not contradict them,” he said, and noted: “They are a major part of Lebanon’s defense.”

Now that Lebanon has made it clear it is Hezbollah and Hezbollah is Lebanon, it is time for Israel and the world to let the Lebanese public know: if a rocket or mortar is fired from Lebanon at Israel it will be considered an act of war conducted by the Lebanese government; if Lebanon allows and enables terrorists to stage attacks from its sovereign territory, Israel will hold it accountable.

Unlike last time, if we defend ourselves against a future Lebanese attack we will not use tweezers to search for a needle in a haystack: we will neutralize the haystack.

In the decade since 2006 Iran strengthened Hezbollah as its well-trained and well-equipped proxy. Its arsenal now contains more than one-hundred-thousand rockets, and many of its members have gained combat experience fighting for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad in the civil war. Moreover, even as it lost hundreds of fighters helping Assad butcher other Syrians, Hezbollah readied itself for a potential war with Israel, stocking itself with advanced weaponry and fortifying its positions and command centers throughout Lebanon.

But Hezbollah is not only an Iranian-trained army stationed in Lebanon. It is part and parcel of the Lebanese government, boasting 12 seats in Parliament and two ministers in Cabinet. In fact, Aoun made it clear he no longer views the group as an alternative but as part of his government and strategy: “It is no longer an urgent matter to discuss the need to strip Hezbollah of its weapons,” he said in Cairo, hinting that Hezbollah is part of his army’s strategic planning.

This leads to a simple conclusion: if Hezbollah attacks Israel, it is tantamount to a Lebanese declaration of war against Israel.

If we are forced to fight – and to be clear, we have no desire to go to war – we will view all Lebanese governmental institutions as potential targets: any place used as a launch site for rockets at Israel a military post; any village hosting munition storages or command centers a military base; any Lebanese building or infrastructure used to attack Israel would become a valid military target for us to strike.

The results would be tragic for the Lebanese people.
However, the Lebanese people are the only ones who can make sure this scenario never becomes reality.
By removing Hezbollah’s rocket launchers from their backyards, hundreds of Lebanese families can save their homes. By stopping Hezbollah from using their schools as command centers, principles can protect their pupils. So long as Hezbollah is a welcome guest, the hosts are responsible for its actions.
Hezbollah’s power stems from its being embedded in Lebanon, and from Lebanon not being held accountable for Hezbollah’s acts of terror. Aoun made it clear this separation was artificial and irrelevant. As a result, Israel must let the world, and especially the Lebanese people, know Hezbollah is Lebanon.

No comments: