by Ari Lieberman
Lebanon transforms into a vassal state of the Mullahs.
Not many people have ever heard of Souk El Gharb, a sleepy Lebanese village perched on a mountain top overlooking Beirut but in 1983, this village was the scene of ferocious fighting between the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and an assortment of Syrian-backed leftist and Muslim anti-government militias. For a while, the LAF, backed by the United States, was holding its own against the militias, beating back several coordinated attacks and even mounting offensives of their own.
But the LAF was doing more than just winning; it was unifying the nation splintered after many years of civil war and Palestinian occupation. The bulk of the Palestine Liberation Organization – a foreign entity that had occupied nearly half of Lebanon for 10 years – had just been expelled by the Israel Defense Forces and a multi-national force (MLF) composed of U.S. Marines, French and Italian troops took up positions in and around Beirut to promote stability in the nation’s capital. Israel’s 1982 invasion and the presence of the MLF gave Lebanon a chance to re-assert its sovereignty.
But the LAF’s good fortune was short-lived. On October 23, 1983 Hezbollah suicide bombers slammed their explosive laden trucks into the U.S. Marine and French army barracks killing 241 U.S. military personnel and 58 French servicemen. In early 1984, the MLF withdrew and the LAF quickly unraveled in the face of overwhelming firepower. Lebanon once again fell under the malign influence of Syria and later Iran, through its Shia proxy force, Hezbollah.
In May 2008 the Lebanese government made one last effort to re-assert sovereignty over the nation, which was by now almost fully under the control of Hezbollah, and by extension Iran. The government declared Hezbollah’s parallel militarized telecommunication network to be illegal. It also sought removal of Beirut Airport's security chief Wafic Shkeir, who was a Hezbollah operative and was actively assisting Hezbollah with the movement of clandestine arms shipments and other contraband.
Hezbollah responded ruthlessly and swiftly moved to the offensive, taking over government controlled buildings and neighborhoods while the LAF watched helplessly. Lebanon’s last gasp at freedom failed and the country was now firmly under the control of Hezbollah and the mullahs of the Islamic Republic.
Hezbollah terrorists openly operate in every part of the country and often times coordinate their activities with the LAF, which has been reduced to nothing more than a Hezbollah auxiliary force.
Lebanon’s president, Michel Aoun, a Hezbollah stooge who is almost certainly on the terror group’s payroll, recently praised Hezbollah and stated that the LAF would fight alongside the terror group in any confrontation with the IDF. Aoun was only confirming what all of us already knew; that the LAF is a marginal entity that assumes a subordinate role in Lebanese affairs but conveniently serves as the nation’s fig leaf of sovereignty, giving Hezbollah the political cover it needs to pursue its nefarious agenda.
More troubling however, is a report that recently surfaced in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida, alleging that Iran had constructed arms factories in Lebanon and transferred them over to Hezbollah. The paper, citing a high-level Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) source, noted that the factories are capable of producing a wide variety of sophisticated weapons including anti-tank guided missiles, surface-to-surface missiles and missile-carrying aerial drones. The factories have reportedly been built at depths of some 50 meters below ground. It is virtually impossible for these factories to have been constructed without the knowledge of the Lebanese government and the LAF.
The report if true, confirms Iranian Defense Minister Hussein Dehqan’s declaration that Hezbollah “now possesses the capabilities to build and produce any projectile or missile.” It also constitutes a blatant violation of UNSCR 1701 which calls for the “disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that…there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese state.”
The notion of an independent Lebanese state capable of exercising its sovereignty is however, under the present circumstances, laughable. The current government headed by Aoun serves the interests of the Islamic Republic and is wholly subservient to its wishes.
Israel has had past success in thwarting Iranian arms shipments to Hezbollah by striking weapons convoys and arms workshops in Syria and Sudan but the construction of Hezbollah-run arms factories capable of producing sophisticated weaponry in Lebanon represents a brazen escalation of the status quo. The unspoken rules of the shadow war between Israel and Hezbollah allow Israel the freedom of action to strike at Hezbollah targets outside of Lebanon but an attack against Hezbollah in Lebanon would almost certainly invite Hezbollah retaliation and possibly ignite a wider conflict. This is something both sides wish to avoid but given Iran’s belligerency and aggressive posturing since Barack Obama’s disastrous JCPOA, full scale conflict might be inevitable sooner rather than later.
Ari Lieberman is an attorney and former prosecutor who has authored numerous articles and publications on matters concerning the Middle East and is considered an authority on geo-political and military developments affecting the region.
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