The most radical Middle East elements, Iran, Syria, Hizballah and Hamas, have marked Ramadan’s end and, the Eid festival on Oct. 24, as the day for launching their scheme to topple Fouad Siniora in Beirut and the rule of Palestinian Authority headed by Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas in the Gaza Strip.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Middle East sources, revealing this plot, recall that Syria has been pumping arms into Lebanon not only for Hizballah but also for other pro-Syrian Lebanese factions willing to join the campaign to overthrow the Siniora government (See HOT POINTS below). Iran for its part has trebled the volume of its smuggled arms to the Gaza Strip through Egyptian Sinai.
The quantities pouring into Lebanon and Gaza have never been seen before: thousands of automatic submachine guns, millions of bullets, Grad rockets with a range of 22 km, the latest anti-tank missiles of Iranian and Russian manufacture with ranges of 3-5 km, shoulder-carried ground-to-air missiles and many tons of explosives.
Iran and Syria are coordinating their operations in Lebanon and Gaza to unfold in three stages adjusted to local conditions:
1. A last try will be made in the next 10 to 14 days to bring about changes in the Lebanese and Palestinian governments by persuasion. Siniora will be asked to reshuffle his government by adding pro-Syrian ministers, followers of the pro-Syrian Maronite leader Michel Aoun and other factions. If Siniora bows to the demand, the anti-Syrian coalition will lose its majority. In Gaza, the Hamas prime minister will ask Abbas to accept a new Palestinian government of experts, retaining for Hamas the senior portfolios of interior and foreign affairs.
2. Since both Siniora and Abbas are expected to drag their feet to buy time, mass demonstrations, strikes and violent riots are being organized to disrupt day-to-day life in the main towns of Lebanon and Gaza.
3. Should this unrest fail to persuade the Lebanese and Palestinian leaders to see the light, Hizballah and Hamas will use force to violently oust them. Neither Hizballah nor Hamas will be put off by civil strife erupting as a result of their actions.
This week, the Saudis interceded in the Lebanese crisis. They invited for a visit to Riyadh the Shiite parliament speaker Nabih Berri, who has been walking hand in hand with his erstwhile rival, Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah, since the Lebanon war.
Berri was treated to the rare honor of a personal audience with King Abdullah.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly reports exclusively that the king delivered a stiff warning to his visitor. He told him that as long as Berri continued to mediate between Siniora and the 14-member coalition backing Nasrallah, the Saudis would not interfere in Lebanese affairs. But if Berri takes Nasrallah’s side and represents his interests, then Saudi Arabia will take action against him.
Nabih Berri knows that the threat is very real. Born in Sierra Leone, the Shiite leader is one of the wealthiest and most astute businessmen in the region. He knows exactly how damaging Saudi enmity can be to his interests.