Nasrallah Is Already Carving out Lebanon’s Future
President George W. Bush and prime minister Ehud Olmert in speeches on Aug. 13 laid down the law on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701. Bush said the motion marked a pivotal moment in the Middle East and would end Hizballah’s state within a state.
This term was borrowed from an earlier Lebanon reality: The stranglehold Yasser Arafat’s PLO held on South Lebanon and Beirut in the 1970s.
Tuesday morning, an Israeli spokesman emphasized that Hassan Narallah “must” obey the Security Council resolution. If he failed to do so, Israel “would have to do the job.”
debkafile‘s exclusive sources in Beirut report that Nasrallah’s machinations represent a reality which is a world away from this kind of rhetoric:
1. He has notified Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora that the only concession he is willing to make with regard to the Hizballah presence in South Lebanon is to avoid exhibiting his fighters’ weapons in a demonstrative fashion.
2. Hizballah forces in the South will not oppose the deployment of Lebanese troops and a strengthened UNIFIL force, so long as they understand who their hosts are, namely Hizballah. The inference here is that foreign peacekeepers’ steps will be dogged by Hizballah fighters. This action nullifies the injunction to the Beirut government to assert Lebanese sovereignty in every part of the country, which was stressed by the US president in his speech.
3. Siniora must stop referring to Hizballah’s disarmament else Hizballah ministers and MPs will topple his government by withdrawing their parliamentary support.
Nasrallah is not standing aside for anyone – certainly not the US-backed Siniora government – to carve out a new future for Lebanon. His men are already out consolidating his “state within a state.” Rather than wait for government or international assistance to repair destroyed villages in the south, Hizballah volunteers are on the spot helping the returning refugees to start reconstruction work. Just as Olmert talks about rebuilding northern Israel after it was pummeled by 4,000 Hizballah rockets, so too does Nasrallah use the language of a national leader in reference to the ravaged South.
Monday, Aug. 14, in his 10th televised speech of the war, the Hizballah leader made no bones about being short of funds, but said his men would be on hand to help with repairs.
This device is a neat way of opening the door for Hizballah fighters and cadres to reach their former bases, fortifications and bunkers facing the Israeli border, in their capacity as volunteers and aid workers donating their services to the national reconstruction effort.
To rebuild his depleted South Lebanon army, Nasrallah also quietly ordered all Hizballah fighters in the north, the Beqaa Valley and Baalbek, to pack their bags and head south with their families.
debkafile‘s sources add: Scrutiny of the refugees flooding back to the south since the ceasefire declared Monday morning by Israel shows that this traffic was kicked off by the massive transfer of Hizballah’s cohorts to the south in the guise of distressed refugees. International television cameras recorded the first families in cars, all showing the V sign, displaying placards of Nasrallah and honking loudly, as they headed back to their flattened homes in the south.
Hizballah thus regrouped in the south by a smooth, rapid maneuver, which pulled in its wake a wave of genuine refugees. Israeli troops left to secure the south were helpless to halt this tide. The jammed roads also block off Israel’s lines for supplies and reinforcements.
The IDF spokesperson had little choice Tuesday but to announce troop withdrawal within days.
So, whether or not Hizballah was defeated as the US president claimed matters little: Nasrallah has had the last word in the current round of the war.
How will this affect the deployment of the Lebanese army and Unifil?
debkafile‘s sources report US ambassador in Beirut Jeff Feldman as pressing the Lebanese premier hard to do something about the situation. But Fouad Siniora finds himself in dire straits. When he broached a plan to confine Lebanese troops to the nine Lebanese-Syrian border passes, instead of a complete deployment in the south, he was greeted with a blunt threat from Damascus. Assad, conversing with a visiting delegation of Egyptian Nasserites, remarked Hizballah’s battle had taught him there are other options beside peace. Then, turning to Beirut, the Syrian ruler added that it was time for the Siniora government to go.
In any case, Hizballah has managed to clog the roads and the destroyed bridges to the south with swarms of refugees, so blocking the region off to access by the Lebanese units.
The Americans have proposed organizing with French help an amphibious landing by sea at Tyre. Our military sources add that this idea appears to be a non-starter because no Lebanese army units have ever trained in commando beach assaults. But even if they manage to reach the shore, they will walk into the arms of their Hizballah “hosts.”