Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Part Two-Second Lebanon War: Moshe Yaalon

The New Islamist War

The root cause of the Second Lebanon War was neither the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 nor the Israeli "occupation" of the disputed territories of the West Bank and Gaza following Israel's defensive war in 1967. Rather, it can be traced to 1979 when Iranian revolutionaries began to inspire and later to actively direct and finance Islamic radicals through out the world. They galvanized the leaders of Hizbullah and Hamas, and inspired other Jihadis, including PLO leader Yasser Arafat, who was one of the first Arab leaders to visit the newly triumphant Ayatollah Khomeini soon after the 1979 Iranian takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

Today, despite the deployment of thousands of UNIFIL and Lebanese forces following Hizbullah's reluctant agreement to yield to UN Security Council Resolution 1701, southern Lebanon is still essentially a Hizbullah-ruled province of Iran. Hizbullah has maintained its weapons caches and continues to receive truckloads of short- and long-range missiles and anti-tank weaponry from Syria. IDF Intelligence Assessment Chief Brig. Gen. Yossi Baidatz noted in October 2006 that the army also has proof that the smuggling of weapons from Syria to Lebanon continues with the knowledge of Damascus. Hizbullah's underground networks of tunnels and bunkers are still operating despite the presence of UNIFIL and Lebanese armed forces south of the Litani River. Hizbullah is not hiding its postwar intentions. On October 12, 2006, Nabi Beri, Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, leader of the Shiite Amal party, and a Hizbullah interlocutor,said, "Hizbullah will remain armed and fully operational in southern Lebanon, despite the newly deployed UN forces. The UNIFIL presence will not hinder Hizbullah defensive operations. The resistance doesn't need to fly its flags high to operate. It's a guerrilla movement; it operates among the people.
For its part, Iran invested some one to two hundred million dollars per year in Hizbullah war preparations for a total of between one and two billion dollars as of July 2006. Iran also maintains a representative office in Lebanon for nearly every one of its major government ministries including intelligence, social welfare, housing, transportation, and infrastructure.

Iran's financial and operational assistance and training of Hizbullah terrorists peaked in recent years. That was evident during the summer 2006 war against Israel. Hizbullah was very well equipped with a wide variety of short, medium and long-range Syrian and Iranian rockets, and highly sophisticated weaponry including a generous supply of anti-tank ordinance. Up to 250 of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC) best trainers were on the ground in Lebanon assisting Hizbullah units. According to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the Iranian C802 radar-guided missile that hit an Israeli warship during the firstweekofthewarwas launched from Lebanon by members of the IRGC. Iran has also trained up to 3,000 Hizbullah fightersinTehransince2004,including nearly all mid- and senior-level Hizbullah officers.

Further south, Iran also offers financial and operational support to the Hamas-led government in Palestinian-controlled Gaza. Palestinian terrorists have received Iranian weapons, technological know-how, and money, as evidenced by the $50-100 million commitment Iran made at the end of a terror summit in Tehran on April 14-17, 2006.
Moreover, between August and October 2006, nearly twenty tons of weaponry including anti-tank and anti-aircraft rockets was smuggled from Egyptian Sinai, under the noses of the Egyptian authorities, into the Gaza Strip. Numerous reported meetings between Hamas political bureau leader Khaled Mashaal and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, both during and in advance of the recent Lebanon war and immediately following the January 2006 Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections, were previews of this dangerous alliance.

Concerns over the relationship between Iran and Hamas are well-founded. On December 11, 2006, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah, known as more moderate than Mashaal, said following a visit with President Ahmadinejad in Tehran that Iran had stepped up its commitment to the Hamas-led PA, pledging $250 million. Iran even committed to pay the salaries of 100,000 Palestinian Authority employees for six months. The Haniyah-Ahmadinejad meeting carries additional significance. Previously, Hamas' relationship with Iran had been brokered exclusively by the Damascus-based Mashaal. Israeli military intelligence expressed concern that the Haniyah-Ahmadinejad meeting reflected an upgraded strategic relationship between Iran and Hamas. Haniyah confirmed Israel's assessment when he said, immediately following his return from Tehran in December 2006, that "Iran has provided Palestinians strategic depth." Upon Haniyah's return, he was found to be carrying $35 million in cash in several suitcases.

Despite the longstanding and violent sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites that is being played out today in Iraq, Iranian-led radical Shiites and their Sunni adversaries share a common commitment to destroying the State of Israel on the way to defeating the West as a whole.
Syria, Iran's junior partner, continues to host Hamas and other Jihadi leaders, allowing them to order terrorist attacks against Israeli targets from the safety of Damascus. Syria may not be an Islamist state, but its leader, Bashar Assad, clings to power through the manipulation of anti-Western sentiment and pro-Iranian Shiite loyalty. The ruling Alawites were given the blessing of Iranian Shiite cleric Musa Sadr in 1973, a move that fomented enmity among Syria's Sunni majority and placed the Syrian regime squarely inside the Iranian Shiite camp.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Moshe Yaalon- Former IDF Chief of Staff

We are beginning a 7-part series by Moshe Yaalon, former IDF Chief of Staff. Having had a personal conversation with General Yaalon, he granted us permission to offer this series on our blog. We thank him and the Jerusalem Center for Public affairs for allowing us to re-post this crucial message.

The Second Lebanon War: From Territory to Ideology

By Moshe Yaalon

Part One

If there remains doubt over the underlying reasons for the ongoing violence in the Middle East, the Second Lebanon War is one of the clearest illustrations in many years that "the Middle East conflict" does not stem from Israel's "occupation of Arab or Palestinian lands." This longstanding "root cause" argument has been popular in many international circles and even among some quarters in Israel. The strategic assumption has been that, since 1967, the Middle East's myriad problems can be traced to Israel's "occupation" of lands from which the Jewish state was attacked: the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and southern Lebanon.
But the summer 2006 wars – that included 4,228 Iranian- and Syrian-sponsored rocket assaults against Israel's home front and the kidnapping of one IDF soldier by Hamas and two IDF soldiers by Hizbullah – is perhaps the most recent evidence that this argument continues to be fundamentally flawed. The two-front war opened against Israel in 2006 – firstbyHamasfromGazaonJune26, 2006, and then by Hizbullah across Israel's northern border on July 12, 2006 – was launched from lands that are not under Israeli occupation. Israel had withdrawn unilaterally in both cases, from Gaza in September 2005 and previously from southern Lebanon in May 2000. Furthermore, the assessment that Hizbullah's assaults stemmed from unresolved border disputes over the Shaba Farms is unfounded. Lebanon's Hizbullah as well as Syrian claimants deny Israel's existence as a Jewish sovereign state within any borders.
In fact, the summer 2006 assaults against Israel are not remarkable in their lacking any clear territorial pretext. Since the 1920s there has been an unrelenting Arab Muslim rejection of any Jewish sovereign entity in the Middle East region, despite the international popularity of the notion in recent years that ending Israel's presence in the West Bank and Gaza and solving Palestinian refugee and border conflicts would spawn regional peace and stability. Quite remarkably, on September 19, 2006, only a month after the UN-brokered cease-fire ended Iran's two-front proxy assault against Israel via radical Islamic groups (Hamas and Hizbullah), UN Secretary General Kofi Annan told the General Assembly at the opening of its 61st session: "As long as the Security Council is unable to resolve the nearly 40-year (Israeli) occupation and confiscation of Arab land, so long will the UN's effort store solve other conflicts be resisted including those in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Notwithstanding Annan's fundamental misassessment, there are clearly different "root causes" that have been and currently are the main obstacles to Middle East peace and stability – namely, a regional Jihad led by Iran, enabled by Syria and the radical Islamists that both states sponsor. In fact, according to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khomeini and Iran's Syrian partners, the Second Lebanon War launched by Iran's Hizbullah proxy was a hostile probe of U.S. reflexes via the engagement of Israel, which for Iran and Syria is a direct extension of Washington's power and influence in the Middle East. To be sure, the Second Lebanon War was not launched against Israel for any specific national grievance.
In fact, Iran's goals in the Lebanon theatre go well beyond destroying Israel. Iran and Syria have for years used Hizbullah as a terrorist arm of their respective foreign policies against Western regional interests. Hizbullah's 1983 suicide attack that killed 241 U.S. Marines near Beirut is one example. Its 1985 hijacking in Beirut of TWA Flight 847 and murder of a U.S. Navy diver is another. The 1996 attack by Hizbullah's Saudi branch, Hizbullah al-Hejaz, on behalf of the Iranians that killed 19 U.S. Army personnel at Saudi Arabia's Khobar Towers is yet another case.
The Iran-Syrian-Hizbullah axis then is a partnership whose fundamental objective is to project Iranian power and influence across there going from Tehran, through Baghdad, via Damascus into Lebanon in order to achieve regional hegemony. Iran's offensive on two fronts, against both U.S. and Iraqi government forces in Iraq as well as against Israel, a key U.S. ally, reflects Tehran's strategic interest in neutering America's regional influence as a prelude to defeating the West. Syria, Iran's Arab ally and regional facilitator, has hitched its future to Ahmadinejad's strategy of becoming the region's hegemonic power under the protection of a nuclear umbrella as it marches toward a possible nuclear confrontation with the U.S. and the West.
The more the United States and it allies hesitate to confront Iran's current regional threat under a possible nuclear umbrella, the more emboldened Jihadi confidence becomes. The December 6, 2006, Iraq Study Group (Baker-Hamilton) Report proposal recommending a "softer" diplomatic approach via a U.S.-led diplomatic engagement of Iran and Syria, and Israel's reengagement of the Assad regime and the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, may paradoxically accelerate the process to military confrontation with Iran. Rather, full diplomatic and economic isolation, and, if necessary, military defeat of Iran and Syria, would pave a more secure road for the Middle East and the international state system.