Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah accused Israel of plotting to murder all of Lebanon's political and military leaders in a speech he delivered Monday night, Aug. 9, thus going one better than his anticipated bid to pin the 2005 Hariri murder on the Jewish state. Although he produced no evidence, his Iranian backers were at his side. And so enough fuel was poured on the already incendiary Israel-Lebanese, Israel-Syrian borders to prompt a large-scale Israeli military exercise to start the following morning, Tuesday, Aug. 10.
Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki is meanwhile on his way to Damascus to hold Bashar Assad back from his promise to Saudi King Abdullah to break away from Hizballah. The Iranian ambassador called on the Lebanese chief of staff Gen. Jean Qahwaji Monday and advised him to invoke the new Iranian-Lebanese military accord for replacing the US with Iran as the Lebanese army's main arms supplier.
In an attempt to hold the line in Beirut, Washington sent its top Syrian-Lebanese expert Fredric Hof to Beirut to warn Gen. Qahwaji against falling for the Iranian line or again embarking on cross-border aggression against Israel.
In an earlier item on Aug. 9, debkafile's sources outlined the pressures on Iranian-Syrian relations and the strains which have prompted all these comings and goings, placed four armies on a high alert and made the Hizballah leader desperate enough to threaten his country with civil war and provoke a showdown with Israel.
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Israel is to move large tank, armored infantry and artillery up north as an extra warning to Tehran, Damascus and Beirut not to let their crises spill over to Israel's borders or generate a repeat of the Aug. 3 military clash in which Lt. Col. Dov Harari was killed by a Lebanese sniper.
Monday night, the Israeli military unusually warned citizens and motorists they would have to put up with heavy military traffic on the northern highways leading from the center of the country to the shores of the Sea of Galilee, Upper Galilee and the Golan – in particular Route 71 linking Afulah and Bet Shean, and Routes 90 and 92 which circle the lake and reach the Galilee Panhandle. They were advised to avoid the roads leading up to the Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Lebanese borders.
Nasrallah started out with an account of schemes he claimed Israeli agents had hatched against Lebanon in the 1990s and moved on to accusing Israel of plotting to murder Lebanese president Michel Suleiman, Chief of staff Gen. Jen Qahwaji, leader of the Shite Amal movement Nabih Berri, who is Speaker of Parliament, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and leader of the Christian Phalange movement, Samir Geagea.
And what motivates Israel to make a clean sweep of all Lebanon's pro-Western as well as pro-Iranian leaders? Nasrallah asked rhetorically and answered: "To implicate Syria and Hizballah in the crimes, exactly as in the case of the Hariri murder" – which he claimed was committed by Israeli intelligence.
Nasrallah's effort to drum up a case for a common Syrian-Lebanese war against Israel was entirely transparent and predicted. All the same, it added a new level to the current military strains.