On the fifth anniversary of Israel's second Lebanon war this week, as former IDF generals and military experts hailed its outcome as the winning deterrent keeping the Shiite terrorist Hizballah at bay every since, Hassan Nasrallah quietly completed the organization's takeover of Lebanon's security and intelligence agencies and took delivery of advanced ballistic missiles from Syria.
debkafile's counter-terror sources report that the Lebanese cabinet will Monday, July 18, go through the motions of endorsing the key appointment dictated by Hizballah promoting Brig. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim's from Deputy Director of Lebanese Military Intelligence to General Security Director.
This a sensitive all-powerful post never before been held by a member of the Shiite community. It puts him – and Hizballah – in charge domestic surveillance, espionage, counterintelligence and all of Lebanon's clandestine branches.
The post was formerly held by a Maronite Christian and passed to a Sunni Muslim in 1998.
The Christian president Michel Suleiman tried hard to prevent this appointment because it jeopardizes the delicate inter-communal power-sharing balance which has guarded Lebanon against civil strife in recent years. He even asked rivals in the opposition – former prime minister and Sunni leader Saad Hariri and the head of the Christian Phalangist Samir Geagea to back him up.
But they turned him down, reminding him how as president he helped Hizballah install the puppet government headed by Najib Miqati. Now, they said, Suleiman must bear responsibility for the Shiite organization's expanding control of the country's military and security agencies.
After that rebuff, President Suleiman went back to Hizballah and extracted for his relative Brig. Gen. Walid Suleiman the job of Army Chief of Staff, a position comparable to Head of Operations in most Middle East armies.
debkafile's Middle East sources note that this step opened the door for Hizballah to take a hand for the first time in making top military appointments. Its oversight of domestic security will now spill over to the armed forces and military control of Lebanon's borders with Israel and Syria.
Also on the agenda of the Lebanese cabinet meeting Monday, barring last-minute changes, are the extension of Said Mirza's term as Prosecutor General as well as the appointments of Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi as Internal Security Forces chief; and Col. Wissam Hassan, as head of the Intelligence Bureau.
All three are pro-Syrian and pro-Hizballah figures from northern Lebanon and personal loyalists of Prime Minister Miqati.
They have been put in place as a roadblock against the warrants the International Lebanese Tribunal is due to issue this month for the arrest and extradition of four Hizballah leaders on suspicion of complicity in the assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005.
Saturday, July 16, The Times of London confirmed from intelligence sources that Syria had accelerated its deliveries to Hizballah of high-tech weapons, including M600 – the Syrian version of the Scud D ballistic missile – whose 700-kilometer range puts much of Israel, Jordan and parts of Turkey within Hizballah's reach.
An Israeli intelligence official also told the paper that Syria “was engaged in a serious arms build-up since the protests began,” adding that the shipments began after the uprising in Egypt and land, air and sea routes are all being used.
These developments show how far from reality were the self-congratulatory comments broadcast this week by Israeli generals and pundits and their view that the uprising besetting Syrian President Bashar Assad had weakened his ally Hizballah. Just the reverse: Even with his back to the wall, the Syrian ruler has clearly assigned top priority to continuing to upgrade Hizballah's war arsenal.
And in Beirut, its leader Hassan Nasrallah, though still sheltering in his bunker, has never had it so good.