Lebanon Needs Air Defence System: Multiple Attacks on Syria During the Arab Summit in Beirut

Israeli jets carried out several waves of attacks, launching a total of 45 missiles first in daylight on Sunday and then again for 55 minutes after midnight. The Israeli attack on multiple Syrian targets coincided with the one day Arab Economic and Social Development Summit which began on Sunday in Beirut. Israel is known for its hidden and double messages–it was no coincidence that its violation of the Lebanese airspace and bombing of Syria came during the Arab Summit. The weakness of the Lebanese political system, hostage to Arab and international moods and threats, prevents the country from having its own air defence system to protect and preserve its sovereignty: it also makes it harder for Israel to bomb Syria.

Sources on the ground claim that “Syria has responded by firing five precision missiles against several Israeli military targets but only one was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome. This may explain the first of its kind Israeli intensive attack against random multiple targets”.

Even as the Arab envoys were having lunch in Beirut, Israel flew over Lebanon and bombarded targets around Damascus airport and in other parts of the country under the pretext of “aiming at Iranian targets in Syria”. The Israeli message was clear, and the Arabs did not condemn or show even the slightest reaction to the aggression against Lebanon (the violation of its air space) nor to the bombing of Syria, an Arab country that is currently being prevented from returning to the Arab League and playing its fundamental role in the Middle East. 

One more message could be extracted from the attacks on Syria during the Arab Summit: Israel is not the enemy of many of those Arab officials present in Lebanon. Indeed, Israel enjoys both overt and covert relationships with many of the Middle Eastern countries who are unwilling to stand against Tel Aviv, who see any resistance against Israel as futile and who in practice consider the “Axis of the Resistance” as their primary enemy.

Lebanon plays its part in the situation: many of its political leaders refuse to equip the army with sophisticated weapons, especially an anti-air defence system to stand up to Israel’s almost daily violation of its air, land and sea sovereignty. Both Russia and Iran have offered to supply the Lebanese Army with suitable missile batteries but nothing has come of it. The US and the UK generously offer various trainings to Lebanon’s internal security, army, National Security officers, and Special Forces, and supply Lebanon with “non-lethal” equipment- and with enough weapons to be used in domestic urban warfare. The US & the UK exert pressure on its political leaders to refuse any Russian or Iranian gifts or low-cost procurement of weapons- anything which could present a threat to Israel military supremacy and dominance.

Lebanon is divided over this issue but can do little about it. The Lebanese political elite have intricate connections with the west and with Arab countries. Its leaders are politically subservient and prefer not to anger their friends, first the US establishment and then Saudi Arabia, a close and compliant US ally. Both countries consider the local Lebanese resistance, i.e. Hezbollah, a terrorist organisation for the danger it represents to Israel’s expansionist plans in Palestine and Lebanon, and its regionally effective role in spoiling the West’s “regime change” objectives in Syria, the partition of Iraq and Saudi control over Yemen.

The US establishment justifies its failure to deliver sophisticated weapons to Lebanon by its fear lest they fall into the hands of Hezbollah. Hezbollah, unlike the Lebanese Army, is made of a motivated and ideologically organised but irregular army highly trained in all combat warfare, equipped with the most sophisticated weapons, including surface-to-surface solid fuel and surface-to-air missiles meeting its requirement of mobility and fast deployment in case of war against Israel. In the past it occupied Beirut in a matter of hours and has taken back geography much larger than Lebanon during its war in Syria. There is no point in comparing the two armies because of the large difference in equipment, skills and ideology. Thus, the US claims seems unfounded: the main concern of the US is the protection of Israel and facilitating the Israeli army’s encroachment on its neighbour’s territory.

The condescending US behaviour towards the Lebanese officials was manifested by the visit this month of US under-secretary for political affairs David Hale to Lebanon, in the place of Secretary Mike Pompeo who visited several Arab countries in the Middle East. Hale falsely boasted of the US’s achievement in dismantling ISIS, when it was mainly Hezbollah who defeated the terrorist group and al-Qaeda in Lebanon and on its borders with Syria (with a symbolic presence and contribution of the Lebanese Army). Hale did not hesitate to attack Hezbollah as a “militia unanswerable to all the people of Lebanon”, disregarding the fact that the group is made up of a large part of the same people he is talking about, and is supported by more than half of the Lebanese population distributed among Shia, Sunni, Christian and Druse.

Hale did not hesitate to interfere in the choice of the Lebanese government, threatening a further economic burden if Hezbollah – present with dozens of members and supported by two thirds of the parliament – is to be included in the future government. The group asked the health ministry and did not hide its intention to reduce the price of medicine to lower the heavy bill, and construct local production to reduce the corruption that devastates the Lebanese scene. The US doesn’t want to see Hezbollah successfully installed in any ministry, fearing that it could boost its local image and increase its support among Lebanese society. The US seems to be unaware that Hezbollah is not a separate body from the Shia Lebanese population but in fact is merged with it.

Hale set an unattainable ceiling by claiming the capability of the US to “expel every last Iranian boot from Syria”. Iran was invited into Syria by the government of Damascus to stop regime change and roll back the overwhelming jihadist presence in Syria. It was also invited by the government of Baghdad – and still is present in a joint operational room in the Iraqi capital along with Russia – to support the fight against ISIS. The US cannot dictate the withdrawal of Iranian advisors from Iraq. On the contrary, both Iranian and US officials work within hundreds of meters of one another and both offer intelligence information to combat ISIS. 

In Syria, the situation between the US and Iran is different. The Levant has a joint border with Israel, elevating “sky-high” the US priority to support Tel Aviv’s ambition in the occupied Golan Heights and its fear of the “Axis of the Resistance” so close to its border-even though neither President al-Assad (neither father nor son) fired a single bullet across that frontier in the 30 years before 2011. The US, unlike Iran, was not invited into Syria and is not willing to leave the al Tanaf crossing between Syria and Iraq, regardless of the absence of ISIS. Moreover, Trump expressed his will to withdraw only at the cost of bringing another occupier, Turkey, into the al-Hasaka and Raqqa provinces where the US forces are deployed.

The US establishment is exerting pressure on the Arab League countries to slow down their enthusiasm for bringing back Syria into their nest and engaging in reconstruction. It is organising a Turkish occupation of the northeast Syria. It is imposing itself on Lebanon, threatening further sanctions in an attempt to counter Hezbollah, but to no avail. It is preventing Lebanon from acquiring a defensive missile system to stop Israel from bombing Syria. Clearly the intention is to keep the Levant boiling and unstable: this is meant to benefit Israel, whose officials have clearly stated their preferenct to have ISIS rather than Syria on its borders!

By Elijah J. Magnier
Source: Elijah J. Magnier

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