Hizballah Tightens Its Grip on Lebanon as U.S. Policy Remains Confused

As part of its recently announced strategy for confronting Iran, the White House declared its commitment to “supporting legitimate state institutions in Lebanon” and to exposing the “nefarious behavior” of the Iranian proxy Hizballah in order to help bring about its loss of “political legitimacy” and its popular support. In practice, however, this means the U.S. will continue its aid for the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), despite the fact that it has been thoroughly infiltrated by, if not subordinated to, the terrorist organization it is supposed to restrain. Tony Badran sees in this statement only official confusion:

[A]s the administration sees it, supporting the LAF is part of a strategic messaging or narrative campaign of sorts, which presumably will contrast Hizballah’s illegitimate armed status with the legitimate forces of the state—even as Hizballah and its allies dominate the state. Somehow, and over an undetermined period of time, after it’s been thoroughly exposed and with its political legitimacy—whatever that means—in tatters, then presumably Hizballah will disarm. . . .

Rather remarkably, since [the current policy toward the LAF] was devised a decade ago, [it] has never had a clear, concrete, or consistent objective. . . . If you build up the Lebanese state, [the reasoning went], it can act as a “counterweight” to Hizballah or “reduce” its power. A strong LAF will “eclipse” Hizballah. Better still, building up the LAF would “strip Hizballah of its argument” to maintain its armed status, as though this were a high-school debate competition. . . .

In the meantime, the LAF’s relationship with Hizballah has only grown closer, and Hizballah’s control of the state and its institutions has tightened.

Badran suggests some concrete demands the U.S. can start making of Lebanon, among them:

The LAF needs to begin intercepting Hizballah weapons shipments. . . . Now that the LAF is deployed on the northern and eastern Lebanese borders—the land routes through which Iran transfers weapons to Hizballah [via Syria]—it needs to demonstrate willingness and capability to intercept these arms shipments. . . . Doubtless, such an effort cannot be a one-off show for the cameras. It must be credible, verifiable, and sustained.

There’s a caveat here: the Lebanese government and the LAF are sure to use the deployment on the eastern border, and the U.S. investment in it, to get Washington to pressure Israel to refrain from striking Hizballah convoys in this sensitive area. The U.S. should be aware of this trap and should reject any such potential appeals from the Lebanese government.

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More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

To Israel’s Leading Strategist, Strength, Not Concessions, Has Brought a Measure of Calm

Aug. 14 2018

Following a long and distinguished career in the IDF, Yaakov Amidror served as Israel’s national-security adviser from 2011 to 2013. He speaks with Armin Rosen about the threats from Gaza, Hizballah, and Iran:

For Israel’s entire existence, would-be peacemakers have argued that the key to regional harmony is the reduction of the Jewish state’s hard power through territorial withdrawals and/or the legitimization of the country’s non-state enemies. In Amidror’s view, reality has thoroughly debunked this line of reasoning.

Amidror believes peace—or calm, at least—came as a result of Israeli muscle. Israel proved to its former enemies in the Sunni Arab world that it’s powerful enough to fill the vacuum left by America’s exit from the region and to stand up to Iran on the rest of the Middle East’s behalf. “The stronger Israel is, the more the ability of Arab countries to cooperate [with it] grows,” Amidror explained. On the whole, Amidror said he’s “very optimistic. I remember the threat that we faced when we were young. We fought the Six-Day War and I remember the Yom Kippur War, and I see what we are facing today. We have only one-and-a-half problems. One problem is Iran, and the half-problem is Hizballah.” . . .

In all likelihood the next Israeli-Iranian confrontation will be a clash with Amidror’s half-threat: the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hizballah, Iran’s most effective proxy in the Middle East and perhaps the best armed non-state military force on earth. . . . “We should neutralize the military capability of Hizballah,” [in the event of war], he said. “We should not destroy the organization as a political tool. If the Shiites want these people to represent them, it’s their problem.” . . .

“It will be a very nasty war,” Amidror said. “A very, very nasty war.” Hizballah will fire “thousands and thousands” of long-range missiles of improved precision, speed, and range at Israeli population centers, a bombardment larger than Israel’s various layers of missile defense will be able to neutralize in full. . . . This will, [however], be a blow Israel can withstand. “Israelis will be killed, no question,” Amidror said. “But it’s not going to be catastrophic.”

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Lebanon