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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Why the Siniora government should have no complaints

Over the last month, and especially over the last several days, we have seen Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora whine and cry to anyone who will listen about his poor devastated country, and how even though Hezbullah is part of his government, Lebanon did nothing to deserve what has happened to them at the hands of the mean, cruel Israelis. Nothing, eh? Take a look at this story from The Australian and tell me Lebanon isn't complicit with Hezbullah. And so is Goofy Annan's United Nations.

Hat Tip: Kranky (in the civilized world)

TWELVE trucks crossed the Syrian border into Lebanon and rumbled south. When they were stopped at a checkpoint a few days later, the Lebanese Armed Forces found the trucks were brimming with ammunition and weapons, including Katyusha rockets that have been raining down on Israel since July 12.

What happened next, in this little-reported incident in late January, goes to the heart of the conflict between Israel and Lebanon. The convoy was waved on and travelled unhindered to its final destination: Hezbollah terrorists in southern Lebanon.

The Lebanese army said the transportation and storage of ammunition belonged to the "resistance". Once inside Lebanon it was subject to a ministerial policy statement of the Lebanese Government, which considers the "resistance" to be legitimate.

"As the Government of Lebanon has confirmed, the Lebanese Armed Forces has thus not been authorised to prevent further movement of the ammunitions, which had been a common practice for more than 15 years," UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a letter to the Security Council in April. "Hezbollah publicly confirmed that the arms were destined for the group."

It's this uninterrupted flow of weapons, mostly made in Iran, under the nose of the Lebanese Government, that has allowed Hezbollah to stockpile some 12,000 Katyusha rockets. Over the past 29 days of conflict, Hezbollah has fired more than 3000 rockets into Israel.


Until the Syrian pull-out of Lebanon last year this supply of arms to Hezbollah was relatively easy. Schenker says the route to Hezbollah was traditionally Iranian cargo planes flying into Damascus, Syria, and overland from there. The direct air route to Damascus is over Iraq but Schenker says the US occupation made any airlifts through Iraqi airspace perilous, meaning a more common route became either overland through Turkey and northern Iraq (Kurdistan) and into Syria, or through Turkish airspace.


Just two days into the war, an Israeli Sa'ar 5 class missile corvette, enforcing the naval blockade off Lebanon, was struck by a C-802 radar-guided anti-ship cruise missile, an Iranian-made version of a missile known as the Chinese silkworm. The explosion claimed the lives of four soldiers and the ship had to return to port.

It was the first time the missile had been used in the war with Israel and military officials reported that the Israeli ship's radar system was not calibrated to detect the missile, which is equipped with an advanced anti-tracking system.

Iran denied any involvement and US and Israeli officials say there was no evidence that Iranian operatives working in Lebanon launched the missile themselves. That made the incident even more curious, observes Schenker.

"It was assumed broadly that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard corp personnel stationed in Lebanon would assist Hezbollah in the technical operation of this equipment," says Schenker. "That would not have been a surprise. What was a surprise is that according to Israelis, a Lebanese Armed Forces naval radar station was used and it was used to lock on the ship."

It meant the land-based radar post communicated with the missile, which allowed the incoming missile to avoid detection.

"This enhanced capability is why the IDF (Israeli Defence Force) destroyed the Lebanese Armed Forces radar station," says Schenker, referring to an IDF strike north of Beirut a few days later.

The incident points to the many sympathies within the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Government to Hezbollah and why the present conflict is so precarious and raising concerns of another civil war in Lebanon.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has played a delicate act in avoiding the use of the word "militia", which is the definition in UN resolution 1559 that calls for the disarmament of Hezbollah. In fact just as news of that intercepted convoy of arms was breaking in Lebanon, Siniora told Beirut parliament on February 6: "We have never called, and will never call, the resistance by any name other than resistance."


There is also concern the present conflict is a proxy battle in which Iran is observing Israel's military tactics.

"Iran is bringing in to Lebanon sophisticated weaponry," says Lebanon's Druze leader, Walid Jumblatt. "The Iranians are actually experimenting with different kinds of missiles in Lebanon by shooting them at the Israelis. Iran is using this violence to test certain of Israel's abilities," he adds. Jumblatt heads Lebanon's Progressive Socialist Party and is regarded as the most prominent anti-Syrian Lebanese politician.

And he adds of Syria's role: "Syria will likely try to tell the world, 'Look, see, since we left Lebanon, the Cedar Revolution and the forces in Lebanon that got our military out through popular support, those forces are not able to control Lebanon. While we were in control, Lebanon was a safe place. Now it's not. We need to come back in," he predicts.

"I would not be surprised if they even try to wiggle their way into a deal by convincing the Americans that Syrian influence in Lebanon will stabilise the region."

So the next time you see Fouad Siniora crying, don't feel sorry for him. Give him a good swift kick somewhere.

Read the whole thing.


At 11:01 AM, Blogger Gyan said...

I dont get it that the Iranian convoys
can travel thru Turkey (a NATO member)
and Iraqi Kurdistan (under US occupation).
Shows lack of seriousness on US's part.

At 11:38 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

Good point. Especially since the Kurds are supposed to be allies of Israel. I don't understand why they looked the other way.

Most of the Iranian weapons were probably brought in between 2000 and 2003 - before the US ever got to Iraq. And I wouldn't put it past the Iranians to ship weapons on commercial flights from Teheran to Damascus, which the US would let pass unless it had reason to suspect what they were carrying.

At 7:21 AM, Blogger Gyan said...

The Kurds and Turks fear Iran more than they fear US.


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