Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri Monday, July 26, consigned another 1,500 troops to the country's southern border with Israel to beef up the two brigades posted there. French ambassador Denis Pietton, after an urgent meeting with the Lebanese prime mister said the Lebanese reinforcement would be there to defend French UNIFIL peacemakers who have been under Hizballah attack.
However, debkafile's military sources report that Hariri acted to fend off Hizballah's threats of a military provocation for disrupting Saudi King Abdullah's grand new venture. It will be ushered in by the visit to Beirut Friday, July 30 of a group of four Arab rulers: Saudi King Abdullah, Syrian president Bashar Assad, Emir Khaled bin Khlaif al-Thani of Qatar and Sheikh Hamad bin Issa al Khalifa of Bahrain. This is the most distinguished a group of Arab leaders ever to visit the Lebanese capital.
It will be presented formally as a gesture of support for the Lebanese national unity government in which Hizballah is a member, but its real purpose is to tempt Syrian president Bashar Assad to phase out his support for Hizballah in return for Saudi and Gulf recognition of his dominant role in Beirut.
Nasrallah knows what is at stake and is determined to sabotage the move by igniting the border, holding Israel responsible, and applying all his resources in the region to hitting out at Saudi interests. He was quoted as confiding to his aides in the last few hours that he will never lie down for any Saudi plot to weaken Damascus' ties with his movement, calling Abdullah's bid an American-Israeli conspiracy which must be nipped sharply in the bud.
And indeed, Monday, a suicide car bomber demolished the Saudi-financed Al Arabiya television network's Baghdad offices, killing four people. debkafile's counter-terror sources credit an Iraqi Shiite terrorist group linked to the Lebanese Hizballah, acting out Nasrallah's ultimatum to the Saudi monarch that he can look forward to more mayhem to his interests in the region if he goes through with the landmark visit to Beirut Friday.
Aware of the Hizballah leader's plans and the danger to Israel, defense minister Ehud Barak, now in Washington, issued one of the sternest warnings ever heard from Israel Sunday, July 25: "If Hizballah fires a rocket into Tel Aviv, we will not run after each Hizballah terrorist or launcher… We will see it as legitimate to hit any target that belongs to the Lebanese state, not just Hizballah."
It was in the hope of averting this threatened face-off that Hariri urgently beefed up Lebanese military strength on the border with Israel.