Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hezbollah fortifies the whole of Lebanon

From the Washington Post Foreign Service, Saturday, January 23, 2010, by by Howard Schneider:

BEIRUT -- Hezbollah has dispersed its long-range-rocket sites deep into northern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley, a move that analysts say threatens to broaden any future conflict between the Islamist movement and Israel into a war between the two countries.



More than 10,000 U.N. troops now patrol traditional Hezbollah territory in southern Lebanon along the Israeli border, and several thousand Lebanese armed forces personnel also have moved into the area. ...but analysts in Lebanon and Israel say the U.N. mission is almost beside the point.

Hezbollah's redeployment and rearmament indicate that its next clash with Israel is unlikely to focus on the border, instead moving farther into Lebanon and challenging both the military and the government. The situation is important for U.S. efforts in the region, whether aimed at curbing the influence of Hezbollah's patrons in Iran or at persuading Syria to moderate its stance toward Israel and its neighbors.

...Brig. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the IDF head of operations, said some Hezbollah rockets now have a range of more than 150 miles -- making Tel Aviv reachable from as far away as Beirut. The Islamist group has talked openly of its efforts to rebuild, and Israel estimates that Hezbollah has about 40,000 projectiles, most of them shorter-range rockets and mortar shells.

The group "has been fortifying lots of different areas," said Judith Palmer Harik, a Hezbollah scholar in Beirut. With U.N. and Lebanese forces "packed along the border," she said, "we are looking at a much more expanded battle in all senses of the word." ...

A wider struggle
... many assume that the IDF will not allow the [Hezbollah] to rearm, recruit and train much longer before striking.

In Israel, Hezbollah is seen as part of a wider struggle for regional influence between Iran and U.S.-allied moderate Arab states, given the group's ties to Iran and Syria and arms supplies assumed to run through both countries.

There is no reason the current calm cannot continue, said retired Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national security adviser who is now a senior researcher at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies. But if a conflict does break out, "Israel will not contain that war against Hezbollah," Eiland said. "We cannot."

Given Hezbollah's capabilities, he said, "the only way to deter the other side and prevent the next round -- or if it happens, to win -- is to have a military confrontation with the state of Lebanon."
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