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Middle East

Trapping Iran
Israel knows that Iran is trapped because it has to support Hezbollah



H. Saftar
July 17, 2006

I am somewhat surprised by the number of people who without any hesitation accept the media reports that Iran and Syria are behind all of this. I suppose to find an answer to this you really have to see who will benefit? Yes there is no denying that Iran founded, funds and backs Hezbollah. However Iran’s track record since the revolution shows that far from taking risks they have always took calculated actions.

But what would Iran gain from this? The nuclear file is under the shadow of the UNSC and Iran knows that the more its image becomes hostile in the West, the less it can bargain when it comes to negotiating. It cannot push the Chinese and the Russians given that they are the only things standing between Iran and full force of the UNCS. The current climate is totally bad for Iran because it will make it more likely for Iran to get slapped with sanctions. This would have been fairly obvious to see and now Iran has already suffered from this, whether in fact it was behind this or not.

Iran also knows that it cannot do anything to Israel now. Not directly and not indirectly. The best Hezbollah can do is to send a few unguided rockets and see where it goes, most of which either end up at sea or somewhere totally irrelevant. Perhaps in the process they might kill the odd people here and there, but it wouldn’t even dent the IDF. And directly Iran would not even dream of picking a fight with Israel, because the USA will sure as hell thrash Iran.

There was also no risk of Israel attacking Iran. Despite all the rhetoric, there was an “observed” rule that when it came to Iran, Israel would not take the initiative and any attack would certainly come from US. In fact during the early parts of last year when there was a heated debate on a pre-emptive strike on Iran (the period immediately before and after Seymour Hersh’s article) Israel went to lengths to indirectly say that they would not attack Iran.

In fact there was an ironic twist when in response to a reporter asking an Israeli commander if he was worried about Iran giving an A-bomb to Hezbollah, he said “we said they are dangerous, but we never said they are irresponsible”. So it was safe to say that Iran was pretty safe from an Israeli pre-emptive strike.

There is also an argument going around that Iran has done this to increase its influence. I think even a retarded mule could foresee that this would not work. Iran knew that just when the oil money is overflowing their pockets, the Arabs are more worried about shipping their Ferrari’s for the weekend ride in Hyde Park than get involved with something like this. All indications were that the Arabs were finally ready to just “accept” Israel existed and move on.

On the other hand, if Israel could deal with Hezbollah, then they would deal with them back in the 80 and 90 when they had a much more alert and combat trained army. In fact the experience of the US in Iraq and Afghanistan has also proved this. That a big army doesn’t necessary mean being able to win a fight with a guerrilla group. Israel withdrew from Lebanon after 20 years because it found out it could do anything to Hezbollah. This hasn’t changed which is why Israel is now hitting airports and highways which have nothing to do with Hezbollah.

Israel knows that short of a land invasion (which didn’t work in the past anyway) they really can’t touch the Hezbollah so they are pounding Beirut hoping to turn the public opinion against Hezbollah. There are report that the Israelis are also dropping propaganda leaflets on Beirut. And it is working.

People in Lebanon now see themselves as victims of Hezbollah’s unprovoked adventurism and support has gone down and not up. I think that the Iranian command knew that this would happen and I really don’t think they would unleash Hezbollah on Israel knowing that it was obvious there would be a regional backlash. Iran has had a much better track record than to come out with a blunder like this.

So thus far Iran will have gained nothing by this, and in fact a lot to loose. There is only one final possibly as to why ‘Iran’ could have initiated this. Lets suppose they initially needed the time to respond to the nuclear package because they were close to finishing off the bomb. Then when it looked that G8 was hell bent on getting a response by July 15th, Iran let Hezbollah loose on Israel to buy off the time to finish the bomb.

Well, I think this is more fiction that fact. The shortest intelligence on Iran’s timeline to the bomb is two year and this was before they found out the UF6 enriched at Natanz was probably stuff bought from China some years ago. Also there are many indications that Iran actually doesn’t want to have the bomb yet, it just wants to have the capability. There is a fine line and Iran doesn’t want to cross it on purpose.

There have been reports during the recent years that also in both aviation and missile industries, Iran has actually “restrained” its efforts instead of going full throttle. This is again not to provoke the Americans. Moreover, a bomb is not going to do anything for Iran. It will take years for the warhead delivery system of the bomb to be reliable and accurate enough for it to be a “threat” to anyone.

So if Iran launched a crude-untested warhead it would be suicide because if would be levelled to the ground by the US submarines in the Persian gulf before they even found out if the missile went anywhere or just ran out of puff mid air. What people forget is that one single bomb, doesn’t make you a threat to anyone, to be a nuclear threat, you need to have many bombs and a reliable means of delivering them to where you want, else you just might end up doing the enemy a favour and taking out yourself.

Where am I going with this? I think that no matter how adventurous, the Iranian leadership must have known that this would be a mess and it would backfire on them. It just doesn’t have anything for Iran. There would have been no scenario that Iran would come out the winner, especially because the Hezbollah capture was a week after the Hamas one and so Iran already knew by that stage that Olmert wasn’t in the mood for talking. I just find it hard to believe Iran set this up.

So what could have happened? Well it looks like it was a trap.

There are many things which when you put together it sort of begins to make sense. First is that Israel has been worried by Hezbollah ever since it left south Lebanon. It was unhappy that not only they hadn’t disarmed, but seemed to be pilling up the missiles. UN resolution 1559 had called for them to disarm, they hadn’t and Israel was not happy. (Compliance to UN resolutions and Israel don’t go well in the same sentence, but nevermind). So something like this was to be a perfect excuse to trigger a huge onslaught on Hezbollah.

They know that the only way Hezbollah will disarm is if support for them seizes in Lebanon and something like this is perfect to achieve this. Because it seems that Hezbollah is going to let Lebanon get destroyed and the Lebanese are not going to forget this. After all, Lebanon is not occupied anymore and many might question what is the purpose of Hezbollah now. So Israel is very happy now, It is getting revenge on Hezbollah.

Then there are the soldiers themselves. Many people find it very odd that a jeep of Israeli soldiers would just be wondering around the border with Hezbollah with no support, no back up and no other units near by. If any body knows the IDF they know that these guys never go in alone. The IDF would not in their right mind deploy a single unit next to the border with Hezbollah where you can even see the Hezbollah flags from Israel. So it is open to question as to exactly what happened there? How did Hezbollah just simply capture two soldiers and killed 8 of them? The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) is suppose to be one of the best in the world. By the IDF standards, this wouldn’t be a mistake, it would be a huge f**k up.

Then there are the reports that came out yesterday (naturally denied by Israel) that very similar operations like this were planned by the IDF “months” ago. The IDF say that they were doing “war games” for different scenarios, but many question that because no one expected that Hezbollah would infiltrate into Israel. It all point down to the IDF at least knowing some thin was going to come up. Experts find it questionable that within hours of the capture, the IDF had a full blown campaign going on in Lebanon and they were hitting targets will laser locked weapons. You need time to identify and prepare the target and feed in the coordinates to all the weaponry systems. But it almost seemed like they already had a target list and it was “all systems go”. It just looked like they were ready for this. 

So what happened? I don’t know. I am not fond of conspiracy theories. But I have to look at the evidence. This is working out very well for Israel. First they are punishing the Lebanese government for not disarming Hezbollah and letting them have a free reign in south Lebanon. Incidentally (or not, depending on what’s your take) given that the Syrians have pulled out, they can flatten Lebanon, without directly involving the Syria and so its fairly easy to contain the situation in Lebanon. Then, they are making sure that they are turning the Arab public opinion against Hezbollah.

You can be sure that when this is over, some people are going to be asking serious questions in Lebanon about Hezbollah and what are they doing. The same also with Iran. Israel knows that Iran is trapped because it has to support Hezbollah. This is working very well for the Americans and the Israelis to isolate Iran in the region. Then it is sending out a message to Iran and Syria that the US is behind Israel no matter what it does.

The Americans know that what the Israelis are hitting in Lebanon has nothing to do with Hezbollah and that they are just simply thrashing Lebanon. Yet they keep insisting that Israel is in the right. This removed any doubts for Iran that if anything happens, the US will be there to help out the little brother.

Finally Israel is making sure that the “fear” in the Arab world against the clout of Israel remains intact and that the Arabs are reminded they are nothing (i.e. 1 Israeli life = 100 other lives). This is to make sure that when they come to unilaterally draw the borders later on (as Likud said they would do), the Arabs-in-fear don’t make much noise and go with it, even if it means cutting into Palestinian territories or having a stupid wall which means a farmer cannot get to his land. 

I think this was trap and Iran knows it and you can see this from the way they are responding. Minus the usual Ahmadinejad chatter, there has on the whole been a very cautions response. In this week’s Friday prayers there was no fiery rant and Iran is working really hard to avoid getting involved in this militarily. They have even on multiple times officially denied giving Hezbollah either money or arms, which is unusual and not consistent with an enthusiastic pursuit of all out war with Israel. It may well be that some of the missiles the Hezbollah has are from Iran, but this would only be natural because of the historic links.

But if Iran was itching or even ready for this, it would have given Hezbollah much better equipment. Iran has far more advanced stuff than the Katuysha or Zelzal or whatever it is they are firing. But why the public support for Hezbollah then? Well that is easy, regardless of how this started, Iran knows full well that it cannot -- in public- be seen as shying away from Hezbollah.

In the “negotiations” that will follow this on the Iranian nuclear file, one of Iran’s bargaining chips has always been Hezbollah and to make sure that the West believe that Hezbollah will -- for example -- lash out at Israel if Iran was attacked, then it is imperative that it doesn’t undermine it now by criticizing its actions. In the letter which was sent by Kharrazi’s brother to the Swiss 4 years ago, one of the main things Iran was prepared to “offer” was to dismantle Hezbollah.

So now Iran must back it, if only to make sure that the West will continue to see Hezbollah as a threat which will come to the help of Iran if its nuclear file goes the military way, and that for Iran, it remains an issue on which it can get major concessions. Hence it was a case of that for whatever reason Hezbollah got themselves involved in this mess, Iran HAD to back it -- at least in public, until its “grand” bargain with the West over it nuclear file was done.

Once Iran has the security guarantees it is after and some major concessions, I think we will all be surprised by the shift of policy in Tehran. Many observers say that despite the rhetoric, Iran has been ready for some time to go “passive” over Israel and accept a position similar to for example Qatar’s (of course far from Egypt or the Saudi’s). It was Iran who 3 years ago intervened to quiet down the northern Israeli border and in the same letter I mentioned above, they explicitly mentioned that recognizing Israelis right to exists could be on the table for Iran. But it wont do that unless it get some major concessions.

But would Hezbollah do something like this on its own? Yes its possible. Ever since the occupation of Lebanon has ended Hezbollah has grown and strengthened itself. It practically runs everything it south Lebanon including hospitals and schools. In response to speculations that Iran might be attacked, in a speech which received little coverage, Nasrallah said that “Hezbollah would not be fighting Iran’s wars”.

With this in mind it is very easy to see how this mess could have happened. Israel sets a trap, Hezbollah who are full of confidence take the bait and now Iran is left to pick the pieces. Iran will not back off from supporting Hezbollah because that would be international suicide, and Hezbollah cannot back off because that would be the end of them in Lebanon. If they don’t get at least something from Israel, they would have destroyed Lebanon for nothing.

And meanwhile Israel is finding a convenient excuse to destroy Lebanon, hit hard at Hezbollah and send a very clear message to Iran and Syria that if for two soldiers who are still alive, they will destroy a whole country and kill women and children regardless, then for a ballistic missile threat from Iran, they might even go for a tactical nuclear pre-emptive strike on Iran.

As for why Hezbollah took the bait? As far as they are concerned they have unfinished business with Israel. Israel has not still released prisoners from 20-25 years ago, and since they are “supposed” to have pulled out from Lebanon, they have had multiple incursions into Lebanon where they killed and captured dozens of Lebanese which is in addition to the almost daily Mosad assassinations. They were also supposed to release mine-maps of southern Lebanon which of course hasn’t happened. All this is doesn’t even include the Apartheid that they have made in Palestine.

So despite Israel’s best efforts to portray this as an “unprovoked” action, Hezbollah probably saw this as a legitimate “response” against the IDF (and not even a civilian target), especially as it looked like an easy target. Hezbollah tried to play by the rules and hit the army, and they probably didn’t expect for Israel to go mad and lash out in the way they have. Given that they had captured and traded prisoners with Israel before many times, and full of confidence, they most likely didn’t think too much of this and didn’t expect such a response, to want to get clearance from Tehran. What of course they probably didn’t know was that it was easy because it was supposed to be easy and the response is vicious because it was also supposed to be.

And once again Israel has shown that it also has world media by the balls. They successfully ensure that to criticize Israel, you will be seen as either anti-Semitic or pro-terrorist. So you either have to remain silent, or be in support of the barbaric IDF attacks. When you put 2 and 2 together, it add up to Iran starting all this. This is bad for Iran, and it would have been bad no matter how it unwrapped. At the same time, it is working wonders for Israel. They are getting away with murder and telling the world that the “old Israel” is back. So who started it? I am not sure, but I am sure who will come out the winner. Comment

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