Does it pay for me to do these posts? PJM‘s updating furiously, as are lots of other folks. Let me know in the comments or by e-mail if you’ve already read/heard most of this stuff elsewhere. If so, it’s not worth the effort.
The Times has a vivid account of the scene in Haifa after a Hezbollah rocket hit the train station, killing eight people. Nasrallah tells Israelis to consider themselves lucky that the city’s chemical plants haven’t been targeted — yet. According to JPost, the IAF is dropping bunker busters to try to kill him. JPost also says Syria has mobilized some of its reserves, perhaps in anticipation of an Israeli invasion of south Lebanon. Chief of Staff Dan Halutz says there are no plans right now … but there is a report of IDF reserves being called up and heading north. Nasrallah says he can’t wait. No doubt the Times already has its people in place.
The IDF says the rockets that hit Haifa were Iranian Fajr models made in Syria. The question now is, what else does Hezbollah have and how far can they reach? Tel Aviv has already been put on “rocket alert.” Stratfor explains why:
Hezbollah already demonstrated its capability to strike Haifa with what were likely Iranian-made Fajr-3 rockets that have a range of 28 miles. “Beyond, beyond” Haifa, however, lies Tel Aviv, Israel’s most densely populated and industrialized city. Sources in Lebanon whose reliability is unconfirmed reveal that Tel Aviv may very well become Hezbollah’s next big target, and Hezbollah is believed to possess the capabilities to carry out such an attack from southern Lebanon. According to Israeli intelligence, Hezbollah has as many as 30 Zelzal-2 rockets, a 610 mm heavy artillery rocket that can deliver a warhead of more than 1,000 pounds to a range of approximately 130 miles, giving it the ability to hit the northern outskirts of Tel Aviv from the Israeli-Lebanese border. The Zelzal-2 is a solid fueled rocket, which means it can be launched with very little preparation.
The IDF says Hezbollah has more than 10,000 rockets. In fact, says a senior Iranian military official interviewed by al-Sharq al-Awsat, it’s more like 11,000. The same official tells the paper there are 200 Iranian “personnel” currently advising Hezbollah in Lebanon. Khamenei himself entered the fray this morning with the kind of subtle, measured rhetoric Iranian politicians are famous for:
In a speech carried on state television Sunday, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei branded “Zionists” as “an evil and cancerous being and an infected tumour”…
Quoted by the ISNA news agency, former president Mohammad Khatami also praised Hezbollah as “a shining sun that illuminates and warms the body of all Muslims and supporters of freedom in the world”.
The same article quotes anti-Syrian Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt as suggesting the Israeli-Lebanese conflict is a proxy war — on both sides:
“The war is no longer Lebanon’s … it is an Iranian war,” Jumblatt told the Arabic news channel Al-Arabiya.
“Iran is telling the United States: You want to fight me in the Gulf and destroy my nuclear programme? I will hit you at home, in Israel,” said Jumblatt, an outspoken critic of Iran’s key regional ally Syria.
Debka interprets Khamenei’s comment that Hezbollah “won’t be disarmed” as a guarantee that the mullahs will supply them with weapons and reinforcements if it comes to that. Nasrallah insists that he doesn’t need help — then panders to pan-Arab nationalism by asking where the hell is it? Under the gun for leading the charge against Hezbollah at yesterday’s emergency Arab summit, the Saudis promptly pony up $50 million for Lebanon.
Speaking of the summit, Hosni Mubarak reveals that Iran wanted in so that it could get Hezbollah and Hamas involved in the negotiations. No dice, says Mubarak, who used surprisingly blunt language in dismissing the ploy as “a trap.” Too bad he’s not advising Europe on the Iranian nuke program.
Bits and pieces: According to Halutz, the IAF attack on the road between Beirut and Damascus has prevented at least one new weapons shipment from reaching Hezbollah. Lebanon’s Syrian-puppet president Emile Lahoud has accused Israel of using illegal phosphorus bombs. And the G8 has issued a statement blaming Hamas and Hezbollah for the crisis. Here’s the interesting part:
We extend to the Government of Lebanon our full support in asserting its sovereign authority over all its territory in fulfillment of UNSCR 1559. This includes the deployment of Lebanese Armed Forces to all parts of the country, in particular the South, and the disarming of militias. We would welcome an examination by the U.N. Security Council of the possibility of an international security/monitoring presence.
Update: In case it wasn’t obvious, Israel’s casus belli has moved way beyond the return of the three kidnapped soldiers. Olmert’s office just issued its demand: deployment of the Lebanese national army in the southern part of the country to rein in — and disarm? — Hezbollah, in accordance with UN Resolution 1559.
Query: can Lebanon’s government do it without triggering a civil war?