Crossfire War – Rapid Fire News=Tehran – Beirut – Damascus Watch – West Asia – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: Tehran – Riyadh – Tripoli – Khartoum – Ankara – El Arish – Ramallah – Gaza – Baghdad – Damascus – Beirut/Paris – Rome – Jerusalem – Cairo – Amman – London – Washington; Heavy Fighting Erupts Across Beirut After Nasrallah Speech – Army Refuses to Support Government State of Emergency – People Fleeing Capital – New Fighting in Sadr City
Night Watch: MAZRAA – A new civil war in Lebanon has begun. What set off the fighting this time revolves around the telecommunications network Tehran began to install for Hezbollah last year, communications which are crucial for Hezbollah’s next war with Israel but Lebanon’s government, under Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, saw the network as a threat to them and declared it illegal. Hezbollah immediately responded by stating the network was regarded as being as important as their weapons and would fight any attempt to dismantle it. Though some fighting began Wednesday the activity was mostly confined to Hezbollah alongside another Shia group Amal setting up roadblocks in and around Beirut International Airport and main roads in the capital. There were angry anti-Hezbollah statements from the Sunni Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Kabbani but everyone was waiting for the impact of the speech from Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah on Thursday. Speaking from a secret location in Beirut’s southern suburbs, via a video link, Haaretz/News Agencies report Nasrallah stated, “This decision is first of all a declaration of war and the launching of war by the government…against the resistance and its weapons for the benefit of America and Israel. The communication network is the significant part of the weapons of the resistance. I had said that we will cut off the hands that targets the weapons of the resistance…Today is the day to fulfill this decision.” [HAARETZ]
Ras el-Nabae – France24/AFP report heavy fighting then erupted in the districts of Mazraa and Ras el-Nabae between Hezbollah, supported by Amal against pro-government supporters. Fighting then spread to other parts of the capital and around the country with Hezbollah using assault rifles and rocket propelled grenades. They have been massively re-armed by Damascus-Tehran since Hezbollah’s war with Israel in 2006. The newspaper al-Akhbar wrote “Lebanon is in the mouth of the dragon.” Rafik Khouri, columnist for al-Anwar observed, “its double jeopardy: the cabinet can’t retreat or it is practically finished and can’t go through with it to the end because of the balance of power on the ground. And Hezbollah can’t step back from its position because it would be agreeing to getting its wings clipped and can’t go all the way because of the dangers of sectarian strife poses for everyone.” But from Hezbollah’s offensive action they and Damascus-Tehran believe Hezbollah can go all the way as a vanguard of removing not only what is left of the administration of Prime Minister Fouad Sinora, but of removing any effort by France and the West of maintaining their position in Lebanon through the 13,ooo European troops in Lebanon’s south. [FRANCE24]
Beqaa Valley – What is especially significant are the reports Lebanon’s army, headed by General Michel Suleiman, has refused to support Siniora’s call for a state of emergency and the imposing of a curfew. This should not be surprising. When Tehran had Hezbollah lead anti-government street demonstrations beginning in December 2006, the army said then it would not intervene if any fighting began and General Suleiman is known to have close relations with Damascus and therefore Tehran. As the fighting becomes worse I actually expect him to call on Syria to directly intervene and stabilize the country and that could be the result of the behind the scenes planning of Hezbollah-Damascus-Tehran. Debka reports Hezbollah fighters, wearing army and police uniforms, have infiltrated government strongholds in the capital. And in the western Beqaa Valley region of Kharoub government forces were mobilizing and heading toward Beirut. But I suspect these government forces are not Lebanon’s army but are instead private militias controlled by the Siniora administration. [DEBKA]
Siniora and his political-military allies are probably aware their units are no match for Hezbollah-Amal and the Christian nationalists under former General Michel Aoun, but they may have been told Paris and the West will support them and not only by using the European units in the south but also with air and naval power. Israel will probably not intervene unless the war on this front threatens them and Jerusalem will be concentrating on its own offensive into Gaza. Damascus-Tehran welcomes war in Lebanon because they realize this is a chance to remove more of the West’s influence in the region than any action against Israel. The West will do next to nothing in support of Israel but Paris and the West are extremely proud of their influence in Lebanon which was created by the French in 1920 and never officially recognized by Damascus. However when the Hezbollah/Israel war ended in 2006 Syria President Bashar al-Assad made an animated speech praising Hezbollah and its new position of strength. As reports then came in of Damascus-Tehran re-arming Hezbollah I first assumed Syria-Iran really were planning to join Hezbollah’s next war with Israel to re-claim the Golan Heights. But I finally realized, knowing how economically oriented Tehran is, that Iran had actually convinced Syria this is their chance to get Lebanon back. After all what do you get if you re-take the Golan, prestige and a real nice view, the heights are completely unimportant economically, but if you re-take Lebanon you then have control over another economy which is much more of a regional-international impact.
Beirut – Rula Amin of Al Jazeera reports, “Some people are leaving the capital to remote villages, others are walking to the airport by foot, hoping that any plane will take them. Tension is rising-today violence spread outside the capital…You can see more and more people on the street with guns.” [ALJAZEERA]
Sadr City – Al Jazeera reports new fighting has erupted in Sadr City between U. S. forces and Shia militias. This round of fighting began just before midnight and continued into Thursday morning. [ALJAZEERA