Hizballah’s Nasrallah: Mega-Manipulator at Three Mid-East Flashpoints

None other than Hassan Nasrallah, head of the Hizballah terrorist organization, which answers directly to Tehran, is emerging unopposed as the great go-getter at three Middle East flashpoints: Yemen, Syria and the war on ISIS.
DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources reveal that Hizballah’s intelligence officers, who are embedded in the various factions of the Yemen Houthi rebel movement which controls the capital Sanaa, managed to persuade their leaders to arrest their ally, former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. They drove a wedge in the insurgent movement by offering evidence that Saleh was secretly consorting with their enemy, Saudi intelligence, and negotiating his switchover to the Saudi-led coalition’s side in the Yemen war. Without the Saleh faction, the Houthi insurgency, though backed by Iran, would cave in.
But then, the same Hizballah agents, donned a second hat, and turned to Saleh with an offer to broker a deal between him and the Houthi leaders with a view to promoting unity in rebel ranks.
The motive behind Nasrallah’s double game in Yemen has vexed most watchers. It appears now to have been part of a ruse cooked up by Iranian intelligence to lure Riyadh into a trap.
This is borne out in a close examination of how this episode unfolded:
On the day, Monday, Aug. 28, that the rift between Houthi leaders and Ali Saleh came to light, Saudi forces, after months of preparation, embarked on a major offensive to capture the important Red Sea port of Hodeidah, Yemen’s fourth largest town with a population of half a million.
This offensive was under long consideration in Riyadh, because it was feared that it would bring Houthi forces down from the surrounding mountains to defend the town. The Saudi-led coalition army would then be lethally outnumbered and overwhelmed.
Word of Saleh’s arrest by the Houthis encouraged the Saudis to believe that the forces ranged against them were deeply divided and so their coalition had a good chance of success.
The stakes are high. A fiasco in the Hodeidah offensive will have disastrous consequences for the Saudi Crown Prince Muhammed Bin Salman and his Yemen expedition. He would be forced to withdraw Saudi forces from Yemen and admit to an abject flop.
But the final outcome of Nasrallah’s ploy is still in the future.
Then, on a major Syrian front, he struck lucky. The Russians were easily persuaded to manipulate the Americans into accepting deep amendments in the de-escalation deal which Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin reached in Hamburg on July 7.
Two large US concessions were agreed in talks that took place in Amman between Brett McGurk, the top US presidential envoy to the international anti-ISIS coalition, and his Russian counterpart. Alexander Lavrentiev: The zones sponsored by the US and Russia would be in the sole charge of Russian monitors – was one. And the Iranian and pro-Iranian forces, such as Hizballah, instead of being forced to withdraw to 50km from the zones, would now only have to retreat to a distance of 8km.
The US was ready to give way in the light of the substantial progress achieved in the secret Jordanian-Syrian negotiations for reopening the borders between Jordan, Iraq and Syria.
Israel’s objections to the revised deal were thrust aside.
The Russians lost not time in pushing through the American door and this week installed Iranian and Hizballah military officers at the Syrian Golan town of Quneitra, directly opposite Israel’s defense lines.
Bursting with confidence from his successful trick in Yemen and newfound advantage in Syria, Nasrallah ventured to broker a deal with the Islamic State for a truce in the fighting on the Syrian-Lebanese border and the evacuation on Tuesday, Aug. 29, of more than 300 jihadists with their families from the embattled region to Deir ez-Zour in eastern Syria.
Although this campaign was fought for three weeks by the Syrian and Lebanese armies, along with US and British special forces, Hizballah’s leader took it upon himself to negotiate the deal with ISIS without a by-your-leave from any of the combatant forces.
It is still not clear how Hassan Nasrallah was able to steal a march on US coalition officials, such as McGurk, and the CENTCOM chief LT. Gen. Stephen Townsend, and present them all with a fait accompli. Did US Defense Secretary James Mattis, who was present in the region, have any idea of what was afoot?
It was only a day later, on Wednesday, Aug. 30, that Iraqi, Saudi and Israeli protests kicked in and the White House ordered the US Air Force to impede the ISIS convoy movements by bombing a bridge and a road in their path. This put a tardy spoke in Nasrallah’s last dodge.
“Irreconcilable ISIS terrorists should be killed on the battlefield, not bused across Syria to the Iraqi border without Iraq’s consent,” McGurk thundered on Twitter. “Our coalition will help ensure that these terrorists can never enter Iraq or escape from what remains of their dwindling caliphate,” he said.
But was White House intervention after the event intended to curb Nasrallah’s reckless opportunism on behalf of his masters in Tehran? Or was it just a means of quelling the outcry from Baghdad, Riyadh and Jerusalem?
Nasrallah himself was feted as a hero by citizens in northern Lebanon after they saw the backs of the jihadists.

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