Crossfire War – Exchanges of Fire in Lebanon Between Rival Militias After Speech

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Crossfire War – Rapid Fire News=Tehran – Beirut – Damascus Watch – West Asia – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: Tehran – Riyadh – Tripoli – Khartoum – Baghdad – El Arish – Gaza – Nablus – Beirut/Paris – Rome – Cairo – Amman – Jerusalem – London – Washington; Fighting Breaks Out Between Rival Militias in Lebanon After Jumblatt Speech – Hezbollah Prepares Response – Israel Prepares Large Assault on Gaza

Night Watch: BEIRUT – The anarchy and chaos Lebanon Druze leader Walid Jumblatt warned about yesterday may have begun as soon as he ended his highly irresponsible, inflammatory speech. Al Jazeera reports right afterward a convoy of his political party-militia, the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) fired on, not Hezbollah the group Jumblatt challenged in his speech, but a group united with Hezbollah in the opposition coalition, the Lebanese Democratic Party (LDP).

Someone speaking for the LDP said they returned fire and warned the incident could cause more violence and they would hold Jumblatt responsible. The LDP claimed their headquarters were fired on in Aley by a PSP convoy as it drove past. Interestingly enough that was not the only armed incident.

There was another exchange of fire between supporters of Parliament Majority leader Saad al-Hariri and the security services of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri whose militia is a leading member of the March 8 opposition coalition. Saad al-Hariri is the son of former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri assassinated by Tehran three years ago this Thursday and a large rally is planned for the third anniversary which will undoubtedly inflame the situation even more. I actually expect the gathering to be attacked. [ALJAZEERA]

The political paralysis in Lebanon has been the greatest frozen conflict in West Asia since the fifteen year civil war ended in 1990 and even more so when Syrian forces withdrew in 2005 as Tehran began a campaign of assassination of leaders opposed to Hezbollah-Iran most importantly Rafiq al-Hariri. Then we witnessed Hezbollah’s successful performance in its 2006 war with Israel that strengthened the Shia militia and established them as the leading opposition unit in the fractured nation.

The situation became more extreme in December 2006 when Hezbollah withdrew from the cabinet and began demonstrations with the support of Christian nationalists led by former general Michel Aoun and now the Presidential impasse that has prevented the Parliamentary election of a new head of state since November. It is quite possible Walid Jumblatt may have been speaking for more than just himself when he said he and his militia are ready for the next war because chances are all of the groups realize a peaceful resolution is beyond them and there is no other choice but a new round of fighting to see which political-militia alliance can control the country. Such is the compulsive state of Lebanon.

But what makes the situation more volatile and devastating this time are the number of outside powers that will be drawn into the conflict and that is why I believe it will result in Lebanon being erased from the map of the world. History is full of wars which had a massive amount of fighting in small areas that resulted in changes of the map in that theatre and in West Asia that is definitely Lebanon.

It is not because the country has vital raw materials, it doesn’t, but a lot of major power-alliances believe their prestige is at stake, their perception of whether or not they are successful if they can control events there. Europe, led by France-Italy already have 12,ooo troops on the ground in the south with supporting ships right off the coast. Washington is prepared to send more equipment to what is left of the government, Israel is constantly on the alert and ready to invade again and Iran-Syria are also prepared to enter the war including using more suicidal units like Fatah al-Islam which fought Lebanon’s army for three months with only 400 fighters. Tehran would love to see the European units with UNIFIL encounter groups like that.

This is the chosen battleground of the leading regional/international powers as to who can determine their presence in the region’s future. Only Russia has wisely chosen to stay out of this war realizing nothing really important is at stake for them or for any outside international alliance but what the West, in its illusory analysis has convinced itself, is somehow a military presence in Lebanon is of enormous importance to them.

Lebanon has become the West Asia counterpart to NATO’s misguided sense of mission in Kosovo. In any war, especially major ones, delusion is always a crucial factor in decision making and it is amazing to see how prestigious-convincing that delusion is even fashionable, it is actually something the “powers that be” and those who identify with them brag about.

Hezbollah’s leadership has begun to respond (verbally) to Jumblatt’s speech. Mahmoud Qumati, Deputy Chairman of Hezbollah’s Political Council stated for the group, “Our patience has reached its maximum limit. But we have to warn you about the moment we get angry. We have to warn about the moment we made our decision. If we decide to go to the streets, we will not be deterred by snipers or traitors, or hired killers.” Hezbollah has characterized the pro-government forces as ants about to be crushed by a lion and with Hezbollah’s suicidal devotion I actually believe that will happen.

Gaza – The Jerusalem Post reports Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak has instructed Israel’s military commanders to prepare a large assault on Gaza to finally end the constant rocket-mortar barrages at Israel’s communities in the Western Negev and the oil terminal at Ashkelon. What has increased the state of alarm is not only the new influx of militants and terrorists on Israel’s Sinai border, as a result of the Rafah Terminal breach, but Palestinians have begun to use the more powerful and longer range Katuysha rocket being supplied by Tehran-Damascus.

Barak announced today, “Acting under my instruction, the IDF (Israel Defense Force) is preparing for a possible large scale operation in Gaza and the ensuing ramifications as well as the final consolidation of other action plans.” [JPOST]

The immediate ramifications are of course Iran-Syria entering the war in support of the Palestinian community and they will to some extent but I suspect Tehran-Damascus realize with the chaos developing in Lebanon this is Syria’s chance to retake the country which is more of an objective than trying to retake the economically useless Golan Heights. Retaking Lebanon, which has never been officially recognized by Damascus, a creation of the French in 1920, would provide Syria with more of a sense of accomplishment than enjoying the view from Golan and it would be a substantial blow to the West and its belief it can continue to control events in the region.

As I have mentioned repeatedly, there is no market for salt in the Dead Sea, Israel was never Iran’s main target. Tehran will have Palestinian militants keep Israel busy and Iran will commit some expendable units as a show of support, but Tehran’s primary objectives in this region are the West defeated in Iraq, Lebanon, bases in the Persian Gulf destroyed and Hosni Mubarak removed as President of Egypt.

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Willard Payne is an international affairs analyst who specializes in International Relations. A graduate of Western Illinois University with a concentration in East-West Trade and East-West Industrial Cooperation, he has been providing incisive analysis to NewsBlaze. He is the author of Imagery: The Day Before.