Threat of civil war looms in Lebanon

The Guardian reports:

More than six months of menacing political rhetoric is likely to reach a potent day of reckoning in Lebanon soon when indictments are handed down after a five-year investigation to determine who killed the fragile state’s former leader Rafik Hariri.

The indictments are almost certain to implicate at least three members of the militia group and political powerhouse Hezbollah in the 2005 assassination of the elder statesman and patron to the country’s Sunni Muslims.

The potential implications of that have taken Lebanon to a point that veterans of the country’s civil war had vowed never to allow again.

Tensions are palpable on the streets of Beirut, which has cast itself as a city that rose from the ashes of the 15-year conflict as a cosmopolitan and tolerant capital. Now, a generation on, residents of the city and enclaves around the country are demonstrably falling in behind sectarian positions. Many fear that bloodshed cannot be avoided.

“You are not wrong,” said a former president, Amin Gemayel, when asked about a sense of foreboding. “This is the most dangerous period in Lebanon for many, many years.”

“Israel cannot defeat Hezbollah in a direct engagement and the Lebanese guerrilla group would inflict heavy damage on the Israeli home front if war broke out, a former Israeli national security adviser said Thursday,” Reuters reports.

“Israel does not know how to beat Hezbollah,” said Giora Eiland, an army ex-general who served as national security adviser to former prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert.

“Therefore a war waged only as Israel-versus-Hezbollah might yield better damage on Hezbollah, but Hezbollah would inflict far worse damage on the Israeli homefront than it did 4-1/2 years ago,” he told Israel Radio.
Echoing serving Israeli officials, Eiland said:

“Our only way of preventing the next war, and of winning if it happens anyway, is for it to be clear to everyone … that another war between us and Hezbollah will be a war between Israel and the state of Lebanon and will wreak destruction on the state of Lebanon.

Eiland went on to say: “Our only way of preventing the next war, and of winning if it happens anyway, is for it to be clear to everyone … that another war between us and Hezbollah will be a war between Israel and the state of Lebanon and will wreak destruction on the state of Lebanon.”

He calls this “effective deterrence,” but it can also be viewed as an effort to incite civil war by suggesting to Hezbollah’s enemies that if they don’t break Hezbollah’s power, then everyone in Lebanon will suffer the consequences.

The latest evidence of Israel’s efforts to interfere in Lebanese affairs was revealed yesterday.

Haaretz reports:

Lebanese television published Thursday photos of spy installations that the Lebanese Army had found in mountainous areas near Beirut, showing one of the devices bearing Hebrew writing.

The Lebanese Army said Wednesday it had uncovered two Israeli spy installations in mountainous areas near Beirut and the Bekaa Valley – one on Sannine mountain and another on Barouk mountain.

The photos released Thursday show a device bearing the words “mini cloud” in Hebrew, along with the name of the manufacturer – “Beam Systems Israel Ltd.” – in English.

According to reports, the installations included photographic equipment as well as laser and broadcast equipment.

Earlier Thursday, the Voice of Lebanon radio station reported that the explosion heard in Lebanon late Wednesday was an Israel Air Force operation aimed at destroying an espionage device it had installed off the coast of the city of Sidon.

Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff add:

Since the beginning of 2009, Lebanese intelligence, with the aid of Hezbollah and apparently Iran, have been trying to uncover what has been called an extensive spy network operating on Israel’s behalf.

More than 100 Lebanese civilians and soldiers have been arrested as part of this effort, including fairly senior Lebanese Army officers.

According to Hezbollah, eavesdropping equipment was planted in the cars of the senior Hezbollah leadership.

Israel has never responded to the reports from Lebanon.

Reports from Lebanon need to be understood in the context of rising political tensions as The Hague’s Special Tribunal for Lebanon prepares to announce an indictment against senior Hezbollah officials in connection with the death of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the father of the current premier, Saad Hariri.

The discovery of further supposed Israeli spy activity in Lebanon serves Hezbollah interests by reminding the Lebanese public that Israel, not Hezbollah, is the real enemy.

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