Israel warns Hizbollah over Iran

Any Hizbollah retaliation to an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would prompt Israel to launch a war in Lebanon so ferocious that it would take a decade to rebuild the villages it destroys, a senior Israeli military officer has warned.

By Adrian Blomfield, TELEGRAPH uk

Despite the inevitable international outcry, Israel would be left with no choice but to lay waste to swathes of southern Lebanon because Hizbollah has entrenched itself so deeply within the civilian population, he said.

The unusually stark warning comes after months of heightened speculation that the Israeli government is considering unilateral military action against Iran’s nuclear installations despite opposition from the United States.

Although the prospect of an attack in the next few months is unlikely until after Israelis vote in a September general election, Ehud Barak, the country’s defence minister, recently insisted that military strikes had not been ruled out.

Israel has always been aware of the heavy price it could incur from such an attack, with Iran able to retaliate through Hizbollah and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls Gaza. Both Islamist movements have long been funded and armed by Tehran and have built up vast stockpiles of rockets capable of reaching deep into Jewish territory.

But Israel has also sensed an unexpected opportunity as a result of the Arab Spring, which has significantly diminished Tehran’s regional clout.

Hamas has begun to reorient itself towards the resurgent Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and is seen as increasingly unlikely to join a regional war should Iran come under attack.

Unlike Sunni Hamas, Hizbollah remains far more dependant on its fellow Shia patrons in Iran but its popularity in the Arab world has suffered because of its support for the Assad regime in Syria, which has long backed the group.

Hoping to drive a wedge between Hizbollah and Lebanon’s Sunni and Christian communities, the officer urged the Lebanese people not to be drawn into a war for which they, rather than Iran, would bear the brunt of Israel’s anger.

“The situation in Lebanon after this war will be horrible,” the officer, a senior commander on Israel’s northern border with Syria and Lebanon, said.

“They will have to think about whether they want it or not. I hope that Iran will not push them into a war that Iran will not pay the price for but that Lebanon will.”

Israel drew international condemnation in 2006 when it last launched military action against Hizbollah in an offensive that is believed to have killed more than 1,000 people, many of them civilians.

But the officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity, suggested that Israel had taken too cautious an approach in the conflict, leading to the deaths of dozens of Israeli soldiers.

No such mistake would be made in the next conflict, he said, especially as Hizbollah had built military sites in the centre of many villages and towns in southern Lebanon. Pointing to a satellite map of the town of Khiam, he identified a series of buildings that the movement had allegedly taken over for military purposes.

“In these villages where Hizbollah has infrastructure I will guess that civilians will not have houses to come back to after the war,” he said.

“The Lebanese government has to take this into consideration. Many of the villages in southern Lebanon will be destroyed. Unfortunate, but we will have no other solution. The day after (we attack) the village will be something that it will take 10 years to rebuild.”

Since the war in 2006, Hizbollah has acquired a stockpile of 50,000 rockets of greater sophistication and range than it had before and is capable of striking at Tel Aviv, more than 70 miles away, according to Israeli intelligence assessments.

The conflict in Syria has also made it easier for Hizbollah to smuggle weapons into Lebanon, the officer said, and there is concern that some of the Assad regime’s stockpile of chemical weapons could end up in the group’s hands.

May 8, 2012 | 2 Comments »

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  1. I would add that the U.S. recently deployed F-22 Raptor fighters to the region. There have been deployments of these in the past, so it is not unprecedented.

    However, these are very expensive aircraft, production of which has just ended. The U.S. has only about 180 of these precious warplanes, reputedly the very best air-to-air fighters in the world, operationally, by far.

    The official line is that they’d be there for dealing with an Iranian contingency. Hmmm. I somehow don’t see where the U.S. would need to deploy such warplanes to deal with the sclerotic Iranian air force. All but thirty or so of their approx. 250 aircraft are 70s technology and hopelessly outclassed even by upgraded American F-15s and carrier-based F-18s. Those thirty that are better are barely modern MiG-29s, and with Iranian pilots, I don’t think they’d represent much of a threat.

    But those F-22s are well-positioned to interfere with an Israeli strike on Iran, aren’t they?

  2. AMMAN, Jordan — Some 10,000 troops from the U.S., Jordan and 15 other countries in the region are preparing to launch the first-ever live-fire drill involving air, land, marine and special forces operating as a joint task force.

    The three-week exercise — dubbed Eager Lion 2012 — will begin here May 9 under the command of U.S. Maj. Gen. Ken Tovo, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command Central Command and his Jordanian counterpart, Brig. Gen. Mohammed Jeridad, director of Jordan’s Training and Doctrine Command.

    Traditionally an annual bilateral exercise between the U.S. and Jordan, this year’s Eager Lion marks the first time forces throughout the region — with the exception of Syria — will train for irregular warfare, special operations and counterinsurgency under a coordinated joint task force.

    Forces will be deployed throughout the Hashemite Kingdom, including near the border with Syria and in the Gulf of Aqaba across from Israel|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

    Hmm… I can see why they would want to drill across from Syria, where those countries might well intervene; but why are they practicing an attack on Israel?