One week after the first round of the Israeli-Hizballah war was terminated by the August 14 UN ceasefire, an interim report was laid before the supreme ruler, Ayatolah Ali Khamenei, evaluating its results in relation to Iran’s nuclear program and the prospects of another military-diplomatic-religious clash in the Middle East.
The report was put together by a team led by the head of Iran’s Institute of Strategic Research Hassan Abbassi, secretary of the Supreme Council for National Security, Mohsen Rezai, and Khamenei’s adviser on international affairs Ali-Akbar Velayati, a former foreign minister.
The team’s foremost conclusion is that Hizballah came out on top of the first part of the Lebanon war and met all expectations. Hizballah’s fighting prowess is viewed as a complete contrast to the performance of the Arab armies fighting Israel in previous wars. Very few combatants surrendered or let themselves be taken prisoner. By and large, they fought to the last bullet to stop Israeli troops conquering their strongholds, such as Bin Jubeil, Debel and Maroun a Ras.
Hizballah fighters managed to score with minimal weaponry – no heavyweight artillery, air or naval support. They are commended in the report for obeying a dictum of Islamic Republic’s founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei. When Iran’s president complained at the outset of the Iraq-Iran war of the ‘eighties that the army lacked the weapons for fending off the Iraqi invader because of the American arms embargo, Khomeini replied: “The weapon of faith is mightier than any military weapon.”
The writers stress that victory belonged largely to Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers who taught Hizballah how to fight like guerrillas, combining religious instruction with maximum reliance on the anti-tank missile and the RPG-rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
Israel may have paved new roads in South Lebanon for their columns to use and avoid the deadly booby-traps, mines and roadside bombs Hizballah had planted in their path, but they nonetheless sustained painful casualties.
Tehran will trumpet further progress in uranium enrichment
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Iranian sources disclose that, impressed with these findings, the ruling clique resolved to ride the surge of success with four immediate initiatives:
1. Next Tuesday, Aug. 22, Tehran will reveal to the world that it has made important progress in uranium enrichment development following a breakthrough in the activation of P-2 centrifuges.
A loud international outcry is expected to ensue, together with another urgent demand from Washington to impose punitive sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
However, foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki predicts that the Lebanon war’s impact will mute Western protests and persuade the Europeans more easily to oppose sanctions for long enough to give Iran more breathing space.
The Russians and Chinese and their vetoes are in the bag.
He is sure Europe will now shrink back from any military showdown with Iran and even the United States will reconsider any planned assaults. They will not forget Tehran’s threat to “set the world on fire,” if attacked, which came close in Lebanon. In Iraq, the Shiite zealots of Moqtada Sadr‘s Mehdi Army were unleashed against American troops in Iraq to show the Bush administration what the Islamic Republic had in store in the battle over its nuclear program.
Hassan Nasrallah is held up as a hero by the masses in Arab and Islamic countries, including the hundreds of millions of Sunni Muslims who traditionally treated Shiites as objects of contempt. His 33-day stand against Israeli might is being held up against the six days in 1967 which were all it took for Israel to defeat the three strongest Arab powers.
Iran’s Islamic path is vindicated, the report finds, and adherence to Islam has proved to be the winning weapon.
2. Iran will proclaim the creation of a new Islamic Army, built on the lines of the French Foreign Legion. Nasrallah’s image will be used to draw volunteers, including young Sunni Muslims, from around the world, to wage war against the “unbelievers and Zionists. Ignoring the presence of Lebanese army and UN units, Hizballah was told to prepare training camps in the East Lebanese region of northern Baalbek for an intake of volunteers.
Tehran is dumping Syria as its main partner
As soon as Israel’s naval and air blockade is lifted, outstanding trainees will be selected at these camps and sent to Iran for advanced training as future commanders.
3. A dramatic policy shift is also afoot in Tehran: Iran is withdrawing from its close strategic and military relations with Syria.
The interim report on the Lebanon war awards Syrian president Bashar Assad low marks for his performance during the emergency. He made the wrong decisions, some of them incomprehensible. Should Iran and Hizballah plan to go a second round of warfare in Lebanon, they will set up alternative routes of supply that are not dependent on Syria.
The top-level discussion in Tehran on Syria’s wartime performance was highly critical of the speech Assad delivered on Tuesday, Aug. 15 to the press association in Damascus. He presented the Tehran-Damascus-Hizballah bloc as the winning camp in the Arab world. But after sifting through his often muddled sentences, Iranian strategists concluded that he had an ulterior motive in dangling this victory. They interpreted the Syrian leader’s subtext as a signal to Israel that he was ready for peace talks and cooperation. Iran’s leaders therefore judged him too unreliable to remain an ally of Iran.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources in Lebanon report that the next day, Aug. 16, directives reached Nasrallah from Tehran to fall in line behind the new Iranian posture and downgrade his ties with Damascus.
4. Nasrallah has also been instructed to re-invent Hizballah’s face and erase its image as an Iranian military arm operating in Lebanon under Tehran’s thumb. The Shiite group has begun posing as a patriotic national Lebanese movement, with something to offer all segments of the Lebanese people.
This shift in tactics was evident in Nasrallah’s last speeches, in which “resistance” was replaced with the words “Lebanese motherland.”
Hizballah has redesigned its famous yellow flag. It now resembles the national Cedar of Lebanon flag except for a small yellow Hizballah insignia in the upper right corner.