Deterrent Strategy of Hezbollah in Beirut Conflicts

Monday, May 19, 2008

Ali Montazeri 

Many scenarios have been presented with regard to the root causes of recent conflicts in Beirut. Some maintain that different parties, including Hezbollah, were dragged into the war quite unwillingly, but others maintain that what happened in Beirut was quite calculated. However, there is a common denominator among all those scenarios: they wanted to make Hezbollah engage in the conflicts in order to totally erase the resistance.

According to verified reports, in one of those scenarios, Hezbollah command was to be surrounded in south Beirut, before being totally annihilated.

On the threshold of 60th anniversary of the establishment of Israel and to revenge Israel’s fiasco in the 33-day war in Lebanon, two scenarios against Hezbollah were to be enacted after assassination of Imad Mughniyah. According to the first scenario, Seyed Hassan Nasrollah was to be assassinated on May 25. This scenario had been hatched by Israel in cooperation with a Lebanese group. The plan was foiled only a few days before it was implemented.

Israeli sources announced that it was canceled just five days before its implementation. As Hezbollah was following Lebanese accomplices of Israel in the first scenario, they came across the second scenario. Hezbollah shared the information with its allies and they got ready to thwart it. Now Hezbollah knew that Lebanon was on the verge of a full-fledged war.

Subsequently, the Lebanese government announced telecommunication network of Hezbollah as illegal and decided to remove Brigadier General Wafiq Shaqir from his post as Beirut airport security chief because he was trusted by Hezbollah. According to government approvals, all people who have been involved in setting up Hezbollah’s telecommunication network one way or another would have been prosecuted on charges of acting against public expediencies. The government also aimed to prosecute Hezbollah for alleged intervention in the affairs of Rafiq Hariri International Airport. Thus, Hezbollah would have to attend the court to face the above charges.

Therefore, it was clear beforehand that the approvals would elicit a reaction from Hezbollah because it would have lost one of the main three pillars of the Islamic resistance in Lebanon.

Walid Junblat, a prominent member of anti-Hezbollah coalition, was the beginner of the propaganda war against Hezbollah’s telecommunication network and Beirut airport. The propaganda was launched when Lebanon was on the brink of a general strike. When strikes began, government’s ratifications were announced by government spokesman, Ghazi Arizi.

The same day, some paramilitary forces affiliated with March 14 Alliance (who are controlled by Saad Hariri) fired at demonstrators injuring some of them. At the same time, Hezbollah issued a communiqué announcing that its leader, Hassan Nasrollah will take part in a press conference.

On the evening of the same day, Nasrollah declared positions taken by Hezbollah in the face of government’s decisions announcing that any damage to Hezbollah’s telecommunication network would be tantamount to declaration of war on Hezbollah and threatened that Hezbollah will confront such measures.

Less than half an hour after his remarks, armed conflicts began in several neighborhoods of Beirut and the main scenario, which was the second scenario explained above, automatically started.

The scenario was as follows: Clashes would begin between Hezbollah and armed forces affiliated with al-Mustaqbal alliance. This would be the main component of a war between Sunnis and Shiites and could fan the flames of a serious sectarian strife in that country. As a result two developments would happen in Tripoli. Firstly, Sunni militants affiliated to Hariri would take control of the city; and secondly, the Sunni-dominated Lebanese army would join them and march toward Beirut. Then the main war would start in Jabal region which is inhabited by Druze people. Subsequently, all areas where Druze people live would be controlled by forces affiliated with Walid Junblat.

Then Christian villages in Jabal region like Ein al-Seyyedeh, Ein al-Rummana, and Souq al-Gharb will be controlled by militia of Walid Junblat’s Socialist Party. Keifoun village, which is a Hezbollah stronghold, was to be conquered by Junblat forces that would then use artillery to pound Beirut – Damascus and Beirut – Sidon roads, thus putting Hezbollah command under siege in south Lebanon. The siege would have been made complete after arrival of Sunni militia and Lebanese army from the north.

In this way, a 20,000-strong force would have been waging war on Hezbollah while anti-Hezbollah media would aggrandize conflicts between Sunnis and Shiites so as to mobilize more Sunnis against Hezbollah.

Then, since military power of Hezbollah is concentrated in the western part of Beirut, the Lebanese government would have entreated on Western governments and international community to help it. Therefore, the United States would have deployed its warships along Beirut coast and after coordination at United Nations Security Council, would barrage the positions of Hezbollah in west Beirut, thus doing away with Hezbollah command in the city. In this way, the Islamic resistance would have been divided into two parts, with one part in Beirut and another part in south Lebanon and would not have been able to regain its past strength.

The scenario would have ended in total disarmament of Hezbollah and its annihilation. Hezbollah would have been attacked as a tribal faction and, at the same time, al-Qali’at airport in the north would have been made ready for planes, especially logistic plans of US army, to land there and help anti-Hezbollah groups.

This airport is located 2 km away from where a new American military base was to be established. In 1982, Ariel Sharon had called on the then Lebanese president to build an airport there. Al-Qali’at is located near a Sunni neighborhood and was considered advantageous by the Americans. According to the second scenario, Christian forces opposing Hezbollah, who were positioned in east Beirut, were not considered in the military equation, but Christian forces in coalition with Walid Junblat and Saad Hariri, were considered their support.

This scenario, however, was foiled because the proponents and opponents of Hezbollah rapidly took up positions in Beirut. All military bases controlled by Saad Hariri forces collapsed and, most importantly, Walid Junblat and Saad Hariri were surrounded at their homes. Junblat, who was supposed to take position in al-Mukhtara region to command the operations, was put under siege in Beirut. However, the coalition of anti-Hezbollah forces rapidly took up position in Jabal region. However, they lost initiative in early hours of the conflicts.

As the Lebanese army ordered its troops to stay away from the clashes, plans to divide Sunni officers from Shiites and to use the army to suppress Hezbollah in Beirut were thwarted.

As clashes began and the office of al-Mustaqbal newspaper was shut down followed by Iza’at al-Sharq radio and al-Mustaqbal television which are affiliated to Saad Hariri, the media arm of anti-Hezbollah coalition was paralyzed and the plots to divide Sunnis from Shiites were thwarted. At the same time, opposition forces took control of Beirut streets, but rapidly handed their control over to the Lebanese army in order to prevent a civil war from being kindled. This was a calculated move to prevent further conflicts between the army and the opposition.

The government of Siniora has accepted, under pressures from the opposition, to rescind two ratifications on telecommunication network of Hezbollah and changes in security system of Beirut airport.

On the other hand, redeployment of USS Cole along Lebanese coasts has raised new hopes in Siniora’s government. The Lebanese army has accepted to deal with the issue of Hezbollah’s telecommunication network in such a way as to prevent any harm to the Islamic resistance and has ordered Brigadier General Wafiq Shafiq to return as head of airport security. At the same time, army units have taken up positions across the city to prevent further clashes between militias.

However, despite the failure of above scenarios, there are signs that a third scenario is on the way. Perhaps, closure of Saudi Arabian embassy in Beirut which was followed by Saudi ambassador leaving Lebanon through Cyprus and deployment of USS Cole are early signs of the third scenario.


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