Wednesday, February 28, 2018

'War Is Coming To Southern Lebanon', U.S. Aircraft Carrier To Dock In Vietnam For First Time Since 1975 Amid Tension Over China's Rising Sea Power

Along the Israeli-Lebanon border, it's about to get 2006 all over again.
At least that's what Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters late Tuesday at a press conference with Democratic Sen. Chris Coons - with whom he sponsored a bipartisan immigration bill that ultimately failed to garner enough support from their fellow lawmakers. The press conference was called to share details about a bipartisan trip last week to the Middle East.

Graham of South Carolina told reporters that Israeli officials made it clear to visiting lawmakers last week that the IDF will need to launch a military action in Southern Lebanon if Hezbollah continues work on a guided-rocket factory being built in the region - a factory that's purportedly being funded by Iran, according to Bloomberg.

"They’ve told us in no uncertain terms that if this threat continues - they keep making rockets that can hit the airport and do a lot of damage to the state of Israel - they are going to have to go in," Graham said.
Iran's decision to help fund the factory is a direct result of the US's lack of a strategy for countering Iranian influence in the region. President Trump and US military commanders in charge of the battle against ISIS have said repeatedly that battling Iranian agents isn't part of the coalition agenda.
Because of this, "they are testing Trump," Graham said.

Graham said the major request from Israel in a meeting with that country’s leaders was “ammunition, ammunition, ammunition” and for diplomatic support if Israel strikes civilian targets in Lebanon where it believes Hezbollah is located.
The Israeli threat shouldn't be taken likely. Over the past year, reporting from the region has exposed an Israeli shadow campaign - conducted in partnership with former foe Saudi Arabia - to push back against Iranian influence in the region, including the implicit threat of military violence.
Saudi Arabia famously forced the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri late last year, only to see him return to Beirut and put his resignation on hold.
Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to visit the White House next week, even though his administration is once again mired in scandal and his country's police force has recommended that he be indicted. 
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In response to Graham's comments, Lebanon President Michel Aoun condemned the Israeli regime’s repeated violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty, saying Beirut is prepared to counter any potential Israeli threat or violation.
"Lebanon is keen on maintaining stability and calm in South Lebanon, but it is also ready to defend itself shall Israel carry out an assault," Aoun said in a meeting with UN Under-Secretary General Jean-Pierre Lacroix in Beirut on Monday.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah, which helped the Lebanese army defend the nation against two bloody Israeli wars in 2000 and 2006, has promised to defend the rights of its homeland in oil and gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean region against any new Israeli aggression.

The US navy is to dock in the Vietnamese coastal city of Danang in March, in the first visit of an American aircraft carrier to the country since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.
The USS Carl Vinson will arrive in Vietnam during the navy’s multinational disaster response exercises in the Indo-Pacific region, but its presence is also being widely perceived as an attempt to counter China’s military influence in Asian waters, where the East and South China Seas are the scenes of escalating territorial disputes.

Vietnam, which borders China, has long resisted its power and influence, but Beijing’s insistence that it controls almost all of the South China Sea has threatened competing territorial claims, including from Hanoi.
China’s assertion has also challenged US naval supremacy in the western Pacific, prompting Washington to attempt to woo Asian allies with the idea of closer military ties.
The news comes as the Japanese government is reportedly considering the deployment of surface-to-ship missile units across southern Okinawa to counter China’s rising maritime powers.
Officials are exploring plans to deploy a unit on the main Okinawa island in addition to other smaller islands in the region, with a view to bolstering its defences against Chinese vessels, government sources told Japanese media.
The deployment plans, which are expected to be detailed in the new National Defence Guidelines to be drafted by the end of the year, reportedly focus on advanced Type 12 surface-to-ship missiles with a range of more than 62 miles.
Territorial confrontation in the South China Sea
There are reportedly plans to install missile units on both Okinawa island and the smaller island Miyakojima, which would ensure that they can cover the strategically-located Miyako Strait which runs between them.
An administrative command centre was also likely to be set up on Okinawa’s main island to manage surface-to-missile units deployed across the region, according to Kyodo news agency.
The Miyako Strait in the East China Sea has emerged as a regional hotspot of tension, with Chinese naval vessels regularly fuelling tensions by passing through its waters every year over the past decade.
Miyako island also lies to the southeast of a disputed group of islands in the East China Sea known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, which emerged as a growing source of bilateral tension between the two nations.

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