ArDO: Yes we want Lebanon to be the Switzerland of the East and Beirut the Paris of the East

 

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Hezbollah "five-times" stronger than it was during Israeli war

 

 

 

W. Thomas Smith Jr.

Published 15 Aug 08
In terms of weaponry, strategic and political positioning, and its ever-expanding international reach; Hezbollah is "five times more capable today," than it was at the beginning of the July 2006 war with Israel: A fact, according to experts, that prompted Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak to tell his troops during a Tuesday morning tour of positions along the Golan Heights, "It's not for nothing that we're training here."

Not for nothing indeed. Poised just over the border in south Lebanon is Hezbollah; a Lebanon-based Shiia terrorist army, organized somewhat on the Taliban model, heavily funded and equipped by Iran and operationally supported by both Iran and Syria.

Hezbollah has strengthened its strategic positions across Lebanon in recent months. And in recent weeks, its military training and posturing has increased in regions of the country far beyond its traditionally recognized southern defenses (below the Litani River) and Al Dahiyeh (Hezbollah's south Beirut stronghold near the airport).

Worse, Hezbollah's newfound political power - literally forced on the government at the point of a gun after Hezbollah turned its weapons on the Lebanese citizenry in May 2008 - has enabled the terrorist group to both maintain its private militia status (including its possession of military grade weapons and a massive private telecommunications system) and position itself as a "legitimate" arm of the Lebanese Defense apparatus. And the West - including the virtually impotent United Nations forces in Lebanon - has done absolutely nothing to prevent any of it.

All of this accomplished despite the will of the pro-democracy majority in Lebanon - has emboldened Hezbollah, and created an environment wherein the terrorist group now feels comfortable openly-flexing its muscle in areas of Lebanon that suggest ominous plans for that country's future.

Since the attacks in May, eye-witnesses and open-sources from Arab-language newspapers have reported an increasing number of Hezbollah paramilitary exercises - scouting, navigating, night operations - many of those exercises being conducted provocatively close to Christian areas of Lebanon, and along-or-near strategically vital roads that pass through the mountains between the coast and the Bekaa Valley to the Syrian border.

For instance, in the months before and weeks since the May attacks, Hezbollah and Pasdaran (Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) fighters - according to more than one independent source - have conducted small military exercises in the area around the town of Jezzine, east of Sidon.

"Reports about this have been limited because journalists either don't fully recognize the strategic significance or they are afraid of Hezbollah," says Col. Charbel Barakat (Lebanese Army, ret.), a former infantry brigade commander who today directs the office of counterterrorism for the pro-democracy World Council of the Cedars Revolution. "Almost no Western journalists have reported this, and only a few Lebanese have."

Further north in the Sannine mountains west of Zahle, Hezbollah has reportedly set up guided-missile batteries and early-warning radar. Civilian hikers unfortunate enough to venture into this area reportedly have been detained, held, and interrogated for several hours by Hezbollah militiamen.

Also in recent weeks, Hezbollah and Pasdaran reportedly have been observed training and setting up temporary outposts in the Aqura area on the road between Aqura and Baalbeck - and the security teams surrounding the exercise zone in one instance were reportedly wearing Lebanon Internal Security Forces (ISF) uniforms, though the ISF according to our sources denied they had policemen in the area at that time.

Aqura is key, because it is along the east-to-west road from Aqura to the coast that in a future war, Hezbollah plans to cut the country's largest Christian area in half. In such an attack - similar to what Hezbollah has previously done in Druze areas of the western Bekaa - Hezbollah fighters would knife through the Christian area, accessing pre-staged weapons and ammunition from the Shiia villages of Lasa, Almat, Ras Osta, and Kafr Salah which are located along (or fairly close to) the Aqura-to-Jbail trek.

"Hezbollah is establishing layered-defenses north of the Litani, in the southern and central Bekaa, and they have reinforced their presence in southern Beirut." says Dr. Walid Phares, director of the Future of Terrorism Project for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. "They also have created new positions in Mount Lebanon and in the far north near the highest peak of the Cedars mountains. Which means technically, Hezbollah - which means Iran controls the highest ground in the region south of Turkey."

Strategic positioning is behind Hezbollah's activity: Controlling as much of the commanding high-ground as possible and being positioned to cut roads and divide-and-isolate Sunni, Druze, and Christian areas in the event of war.

"Hezbollah knows that he who controls the mountains - consequently the mountain passes - controls all of Lebanon," says Barakat. "Hezbollah is also telling itself, 'I am afraid the Israelis will attack me north of the Litani (so I will strengthen those positions above the Litani) and I am not allowed to have my weapons and missiles south of the Litani, so I will move them north.'"

Like the Israelis, Hezbollah is not simply training for "nothing." Unlike the Israelis - who train solely to defend their state - the ultimate goals of Hezbollah are to control as much of Lebanon as possible, further the aims of the Iranian Revolution, and generally export terror.

What makes Hezbollah particularly scary today is the organization's increasing political clout, the attempt in some circles to whitewash who-and-what they are, and as Phares says, "Hezbollah today is five-times more capable militarily than it was during the July 2006 war."


W. Thomas Smith Jr. - a former U.S. Marine rifle-squad leader and counterterrorism instructor - is a journalist, author, and military analyst whose work has appeared in the New York Post, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, BusinessWeek, CBS News, and many others. Smith has covered conflict in the Balkans, on the West Bank, in Iraq and Lebanon, and has provided analysis for the U.S. Department of Defense. Visit him online at uswriter.com.

W. Thomas Smith Jr. can be reached at wthomassmithjr@yahoo.com.


2008 W. Thomas Smith Jr.

http://worlddefensereview.com/wts081508.shtml

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