Iran’s Long Finger Stirs up Lebanese-Israeli Border

Two senior Israeli cabinet ministers responded instantly to the out-of-the-blue Hizballah mortar and missile barrage Wednesday evening against Israeli frontier positions on the Shaaba Farms sector, after three quiet months. Foreign Minister Shimon Peres held Iran responsible for provoking the Hizballah attack, while defense minister Binyamin ben Eliezer declared angrily that Israel would not stand for its northern border becoming a second front.
In recent months, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards contingents were generally reported to have quit Lebanon, after receiving orders from Tehran to break off contact with the Hizballah. Syria moreover was said to have stopped the flow of arms from Iran to the Shiite extremists via Damascus.
debkafile‘s military sources shed new light on both reports. Iranian troops are very much present in Lebanon and indeed have charge of the 300 long-range missiles pointed at the north Israeli towns of Kiryat Shmoneh, Safed, Tiberias, Nahariya, Acre and Haifa’s environs and industry, including the oil refineries.
As for Syria, it did slow the passage of Iranian arms through its airfields, but only after Turkish warplanes penetrated Syrian and north Iraqi airspace and flew dangerously close to the planes bearing Iranian arms.
An attempt to bring the weapons shipments in by sea ran into a US-Turkish-Israel naval blockade of East Mediterranean waters, clamped down to keep arms ships and fighters from reaching Lebanon and Palestinian-ruled Gaza Strip.
These waters are made murky by an additional element: debkafile‘s military sources report word reaching US and Israeli intelligence of the arrival in south Lebanon of al Qaeda escapees from Afghanistan. They have gone to ground in Palestinian refugee camps and the coastal town of Tyre. One report claims that the expeditionary force of Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hizballah operatives are keeping the fugitives well supplied with all their needs, including weapons.
Developing along Israel’s Lebanese frontier, therefore, is a highly incendiary mix of Palestinian, Hizballah, Iranian and al Qaeda militants, all trained in combat against superior and larger military forces. Iranian intentions are unmistakable since the Karine-A was discovered on January 3 and prevented from discharging its smuggled weapons cargo for the Palestinians.
The decision on whether to ignite a second front against Israel is in the hands of four men: Yasser Arafat, Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah, Iranian president Muhammad Khatami and Syrian president Bashar Assad – that is unless a decision to pre-empt them is reached in Washington and Jerusalem.

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