Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, it ain’t. More on this story. “Hezbollah says it’s ready for fresh war with Israel – and stronger now,” by Nicholas Blanford for the Christian Science Monitor, May 7 (thanks to Larry):
Mashghara, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon – Nearly four years after Hezbollah fought invading Israeli troops to a standstill in south Lebanon, the militant Shiite group says it’s prepared for a fresh conflict and confident of victory.
“We are ready for another war and we eagerly await it,” says veteran Hezbollah fighter Abu Hadi on a drive through the Bekaa Valley. “We expect the next war to be short. The Israelis will not be able to endure what we will do to them.”
Hezbollah’s leadership insists it does not seek a war and that its military preparations are a defense against potential Israeli aggression. Yet, the inconclusive outcome of the 2006 war has stoked a feeling here that another war is inevitable.
War drums have been beating faster in recent weeks amid allegations that Syria has supplied Hezbollah with Scud ballistic missiles – a development that has enraged Israel, forced Lebanese leaders to seek international support, and complicated a gradual US-Syria rapprochement. On May 3, President Obama renewed sanctions on Syria for a year because of its “continuing support for terrorist organizations and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and missile programs.”
Hezbollah’s strongholds in the Bekaa Valley are likely to be one of several front lines during another war with Israel – a war that threatens to be far more destructive than the one in July 2006. Hezbollah says lessons learned from that conflict have been implemented, including new battlefield tactics and the acquisition of improved weapons systems, surface-to-surface rockets, and possibly advanced antiaircraft missiles.
‘Too much at stake’
Many analysts believe that the next war will not be confined to Hezbollah and Israel but will also draw in Syria and possibly Iran in a regional conflagration. Hezbollah’s leaders say that it would be of sufficient scale and intensity to change the geopolitical balance in the region. “That kind of war would change every parameter in the Middle East,” Hezbollah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said recently.
The stakes for both sides are so great that the military preparations of Israel and Hezbollah to some extent serve as a mutual deterrent against rash action.
“I don’t believe there will be [war]. I think there is too much at stake to lose for all the parties,” says Michael Williams, the top United Nations official in Lebanon, after an April 28 meeting with Prime Minister Saad Hariri. “I think tensions have been high the past few days. But I hope these will lower now.”
Tensions flared when Israel accused Hezbollah of having Scuds and US officials voiced alarm at the increasingly sophisticated weaponry allegedly crossing the border from Syria to Lebanon. In late April, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Hezbollah had “far more rockets and missiles than most governments in the world…. This is obviously destabilizing for the whole region,” he said following talks with his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak. […]
Some military analysts question the claims, too, asking why Hezbollah would need Scuds, which are liquid-fueled (lengthening launch preparation time) and usually require firing from large-wheeled launchers, which would also need to be smuggled into Lebanon. Hezbollah is believed to already have Iranian-designed and Syrian-built M-600 rockets that are more concealable and quicker to fire.
“The M-600 is more accurate than the Scuds, is easier to use as it has a solid propellant motor, and is smaller and lighter,” says Duncan Lennox, editor of Jane’s Strategic Weapon Systems in Britain. […]
‘Jihad places us in a pleasant state of mind’
Most Lebanese dread another devastating war with Israel, especially as Lebanon’s economy improves amid a boom in construction and tourism. Such concerns garner little sympathy from Hezbollah combatants, who say they are fulfilling a religious obligation in confronting Israel. “The atmosphere [among Hezbollah cadres] is very spiritual,” says Hassan, a burly university student. “In our belief, we are waging jihad and that places us in a very pleasant state of mind.”