Crossfire War – RAPID FIRE NEWS=TEHRAN – GAZA – BEIRUT WATCH – West Asia – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: Tehran – Riyadh – Tripoli – Khartoum – Baghdad – El Arish – Nablus – Damascus – Gaza – Beirut/Jerusalem – Paris – Rome – Cairo – Amman – London – Washington; Lebanon States Israel Air Force Violated Airspace Over Beirut – Israel On High Alert After Attack in Jerusalem – Police Concentrate on Possible Violence in Jerusalem’s Old City – Iran – Sudan Sign Defense Agreement
Night Watch: YARZE – “Two Israeli warplanes violated Lebanese airspace and flew over Beirut briefly before leaving the area.” That is a quote from a senior Lebanese security official speaking on condition of anonymity. The Jerusalem Post/AP report he said the planes flew at “medium altitude”. Also Friday Lebanon’s army stated three Israel Air Force (IAF) aircraft violated the airspace over south Lebanon Thursday. The IAF has routinely conducted reconnaissance flights over all of Lebanon since the August 2006 ceasefire in order to monitor the re-arming of Hezbollah and the location of its missile sites but what has made today’s flights so important is that they took place over the capital just one day after two Lebanese television stations reported Israeli units entering one mile into Lebanon. It is quite possible today’s flights over Beirut could have been to detect any unusual activity at Lebanon’s army headquarters at Yarze, a suburb east of Beirut, where General Michel Suleiman is based. Last week he ordered army units to achieve a high level of combat readiness to prepare for war with Israel. [JPOST]
Beirut – As tension between Lebanon/Israel increases Tehran has displayed its usual sense of strategic timing by having its Ambassador to Beirut, Mohammad Reza Sheybani, conduct a meeting today with Lebanon Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. I suspect His Excellency will offer Iran’s assistance to Lebanon through another crisis which Iran is now causing as they did in having Hezbollah attack Israel two years ago. In 2006 Tehran noticed the temporary unity the war created among Lebanon’s people and political leadership as they all condemned Israel’s offensives, especially the air strikes. Prime Minister Siniora was prominent with his criticism of Israel but when the war ended, with Hezbollah emerging more powerful than ever, disputes within Lebanon’s ruling circles resurfaced and nearly deteriorated into another civil war. [IRNA]
Tehran of course knew the unity of 2006 would be experienced again in 2008 and on a greater scale due to a larger regional war with one of its major fronts the Lebanon/Israel border. And this is probably what has caught international analysts by surprise because they all expected heavy fighting on the Syria/Israel border over the Golan Heights. But as I have been writing for nearly two years Tehran may have convinced Damascus to forget the Golan, after all you only get a wonderful view, Iran has probably told them this is instead Syria’s chance of getting Lebanon back and not as an enemy but in working with a Lebanese military with close relations to Syria and that is what is exactly represented by General Michel Suleiman. Instead of trying to remove Israel what will be removed is the last of the French and the West’s influence in Lebanon and with Siniora still as Prime Minister. It is quite possible Sheybani may have informed Siniora Tehran expects most of Hezbollah, including its leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah to be martyred, and more established politicians will be supported by Tehran provided they sever contacts with France and the West. And whatever they lose from the West financially can easily be replaced by Tehran-Riyadh-Dubai-Qatar, not to mention the removal of Lebanon’s massive debt the French claim Lebanon’s owes them dating back to the 1975-90 civil war the French helped start.
War with Israel is as popular in Lebanon as in any other Muslim country and Tehran wants that popular unity not only in demonstrations but also in highly publicized military cooperation in the field including Iran’s expendable (sacrificial) Rapid Deployment Force Brigade. And on this front it will trap the 13,000 European troops serving with UNIFIL in south Lebanon as they have constantly ignored Hezbollah’s rearming. Now I guess they are trying to ignore Lebanon’s army and its preparations to cooperate with Hezbollah-Syria. Tehran does not care who leads the country as long as the war and destruction continue on Iran’s timetable with the jihad running its offensive course this year in this theatre and others. Officially Ambassador Sheybani is meeting Siniora today to re-affirm Tehran’s ongoing commitment to rebuild Lebanon after the 2006 war but in the behind the scenes reality he is confirming Iran will do that after 2008 as both he and Siniora expect to enjoy a new Lebanon with virtually no influence from the West and a weaker Israel on the Lebanese border and the extremist martyrs at one with Allah. They would have served their destructive purpose.
Jerusalem-Old City – Israel has declared a state of high alert for the entire nation after a lone gunman killed eight students and wounded 35 people at the Meraz Harav Yeshiva seminary in Jerusalem he was a driver for. He was not a member of any new group as Hezbollah claimed but it is quite possible, as a war crisis atmosphere pervades the entire region, individual terrorist acts could increase as an expression of extreme religious beliefs. That has been the concern in Israel ever since Tehran had Hamas explode open the Rafah Terminal in late January which enabled thousands of Palestinian militants to enter Sinai and from there attempt to infiltrate into Israel. Tehran can play religious extremism like an instrument, of war, its foreign policy. [XINHUA]
Xinhua reports Israel is concentrating thousands of extra police in Jerusalem especially in the Old City to prevent demonstrations at the Al-Aqsa Mosque from getting out of control and spilling over to the Western Wall of the Jewish Temple that the mosque overshadows. In such a charged atmosphere religious rioting could be another cover-veil for terrorist attacks. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has ordered the IDF (Israel Defense Force) to shut down the West Bank which had become more demonstrative and violent ever since Israel increased its attacks on Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip in February. I would not be surprised if some of those demonstrations are directed at Fatah Chairman Mahmoud Abbas who is attempting to work with Israel, even perhaps attempts to assassinate him. This is the type of hellish atmosphere Tehran can use to sweep away any moderate influence. Jerusalem Police Chief Aharon Franco stated, “We’ve deployed forces in every street in Jerusalem, with an emphasis on public places.”
Khartoum – Tehran continues its policy of circumventing Egypt and the government of President Hosni Mubarak by signing a defense cooperation agreement with one of its oldest supporters in Northeast Africa-Khartoum. It was signed by Iran Defense Minister General Mostafa Mohammad Najjar and Sudan Defense Minister General Abdul Rahim Mohammad Hussein during their second round of negotiations. This is not an overnight development, Sudan established close relations with Tehran not long after Iran’s 1979 revolution led by the Ayatollah Khomeini. Khartoum-Tehran have a mutual enemy, President Mubarak which they view as an obstacle to serious Islamic unity, Mubarak only being comfortable with ceremonial unity, a ceremony largely controlled by the West. But with a government in Cairo that reflects the view from Khartoum-Tehran then Islamic investors would have economic control over the regional economic axis of the Eastern Mediterranean-Suez Canal-Red Sea. And this is why Israel was never the main target. [IRNA]
General Mohammad Najjar stated, “Expansion of ties with African countries, especially brotherly and friendly country of Sudan, is on top of Iran’s foreign policy agenda.” As another example of Iran, in pursuit of that policy, Tehran has just increased relations with another country on the strategic Red Sea-Eritrea.