NEAR EAST REPORT AIPAC'S BIWEEKLY ON AMERICAN MIDDLE EAST POLICY

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With Iran and Syria’s help, Hizballah has amassed an estimated 45,000 rockets and missiles in its arsenal—more than three times what it had before the war in 2006.
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Whether from Hizballah in the north or Hamas in the south, all of Israel is vulnerable to rocket attacks from the Iranian- and Syrian-backed groups.

Hizballah Readies for Next War

More than four years have passed since July 12, 2006. That was the day that the Lebanon-based, Iranian- and Syrian-backed terrorist army Hizballah triggered what is now known as the Second Lebanon War. That morning, Hizballah launched a rocket attack on northern Israel, then crossed the border and attacked two Israel Defense Forces (IDF) vehicles.

Three Israelis were killed in that initial Hizballah attack. Two more IDF soldiers—Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser—were wounded, captured and taken to Lebanon. A short while later, five more Israeli soldiers were killed in a failed rescue attempt.

The war soon escalated dramatically. Israel targeted Hizballah’s long-range missile stockpiles and mounted a ground offensive against Hizballah targets. Nothing, though, could stop Hizballah’s barrages of Katyushas and other short-range rockets. By the end of the 34-day war, Hizballah had fired more than 4,000 rockets into northern Israel—including the major port city of Haifa—killing 119 IDF soldiers and 44 Israeli civilians and forcing more than one million Israelis into bomb shelters or to safer locations.

In an effort to end the hostilities, the U.N. Security Council on August 11, 2006, unanimously approved Resolution 1701. The resolution called for “the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that, pursuant to the Lebanese cabinet decision of July 27, 2006, there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese state.” In short, said the Security Council, Hizballah must be disarmed.

In addition, Resolution 1701 called for “the unconditional release of the abducted Israeli soldiers”; it was not known at the time that they were no longer alive.

The Security Council declared that UNIFIL, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, would work with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) to ensure that southern Lebanon is “an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL deployed in this area.”

The Lebanese government and Hizballah accepted Res. 1701 on Aug. 12 and Israel on Aug. 13. On August 14, the war was over. BACK TO TOP

Four Years Later

Now, four years later, one can look back and assess the degree to which Res. 1701 achieved its major objectives, namely, the disarmament of Hizballah and the removal of all non-UNIFIL and non-LAF forces from southern Lebanon. (As for the requirement that Israel’s abducted soldiers be returned unconditionally, Hizballah delivered them in coffins in exchange for the terrorist Samir Kuntar, other Lebanese prisoners and the bodies of about 200 other Lebanese and Palestinian militants killed during terrorist operations in Israel.)

Today, with Iran and Syria’s help, Hizballah has amassed an estimated 45,000 rockets and missiles in its arsenal—more than three times what the terrorist army had before it started the war in 2006.

According to Israeli military intelligence, this arsenal includes hundreds of M-600 guided rockets. With a range of 155 miles and an accuracy of within 330 feet, the M-600 enables Hizballah to strike Tel Aviv from north of the Litani River, which is beyond the area where UNIFIL operates.

In addition, Syria has transferred Scud missiles to Hizballah, according to top U.S. and Israeli officials. Scuds are believed to have a range of more than 435 miles, placing all of Israel within range. During the war in 2006, Hizballah rockets had a range of only 20 to 60 miles.

The evidence is clear: Not only have the Lebanese government and UNIFIL failed to disarm Hizballah as required by Res. 1701, but they have acquiesced in its massive rearmament and return to southern Lebanon. Instead of implementing the resolution, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman has stated that he personally guarantees that Hizballah can maintain its weapons.

The Israeli military recently published a series of photographs showing Hizballah’s weapons build-up in the villages in southern Lebanon not far from UNIFIL bases and patrols. The IDF believes that Hizballah has prepositioned three-quarters of its weapons arsenal in more than 100 villages near schools, hospitals, and mosques.

In any event, the U.N. force has emphasized that it poses no threat to the terrorist organization. Spokesman Neeraj Singh said that disarming Hizballah is outside of UNIFIL’s mandate.

Top U.S. officials are worried about the situation in Lebanon. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently said that Tehran and Damascus are transferring weapons of “ever-increasing capability” to Hizballah, which he said has “far more rockets and missiles than most governments.”
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Tension Ahead

The Lebanese political situation doesn’t offer much hope of a Lebanon without a heavily armed Hizballah. After Hizballah turned its weapons on Lebanese civilians in May 2008, it became clear that Hizballah would never peaceably disarm.

While the pro-Western faction, known as March 14, won a majority in the parliamentary elections in June 2009, it has since granted the Hizballah-led opposition a “blocking third” in the cabinet and has nearly dissolved as a political movement. Saad Hariri, the prime minister and son of the slain Rafik Hariri, now regularly travels to Syria and embraces the man widely suspected of orchestrating his father’s death.

The situation between Israel and Lebanon remains tense. Earlier this week, the Lebanese army fired on Israeli soldiers maintaining a security fence in Israeli territory, killing an IDF officer and injuring another.

Later that day, Hizballah chief Hassan delivered a speech to mark the fourth anniversary of the end of the 2006 war. He addressed the clashes at the border.

“We notified the Lebanese military: We are prepared, we are with you, and we will help you with everything, if needed,” Nasrallah said. “Our people and our equipment stand at your disposal.”

He added: “We will not sit with arms crossed, and the Israeli hand outstretched to strike the Lebanese military will be cut off by the opposition.” BACK TO TOP