Crossfire War – RAPID FIRE NEWS=TEHRAN – BEIRUT – DAMASCUS WATCH – West Asia – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: Lebanese Armed Forces Accuse Israel of Another Violation of its Airspace – Volatile Calm Prevails in Baghdad – Serbia FM in Moscow Receives Support – Kosovo Pres. – PM in Washington for Meeting of False Assumptions
Night Watch: JOUNIEH – There are more indications the Israel Defense Force (IDF) is planning a pre-emptive attack on Hezbollah and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) with the intention of disrupting their constant preparations for the wider regional war this year. Debka reports the LAF are accusing Israel of another violation of its airspace. The Israel Air Force (IAF) have consistently conducted aerial reconnaissance over Lebanon since the 2006 to monitor the massive re-armament by Hezbollah which now has nearly 40,000 rockets-missiles, triple its number two years ago. But today the surveillance seemed to have been more than just monitoring and with the area covered it sounds more like target selection. Not only was Beirut monitored but also specific areas in the south, Jounieh and Dohr al-Baidar. At the same time Israel has positioned warships off Lebanon’s south coast near Israel’s border off the cities of Tyre and Naqoura. Naqoura is just a few miles from Israel’s border while Tyre is just south of the Litani river, twenty miles inside Lebanon and if the IDF can control this area it would take the Katyusha rocket out of its range from Israeli communities. [DEBKA]
Also of interest are the 1,000 anti-ship cruise missiles Iran has enabled Hezbollah to mount along Lebanon’s coast. The missile is the Iranian manufactured C-802 with a range of 72 miles (120 km) and one was used in 2006 to damage an Israeli warship. The thousands of Hezbollah militiamen manning the missiles have been trained in Iran-Syria. In support of those positions there are light reconnaissance aircraft, helicopters and new radar sites and that could be largely the contribution of the LAF which will fight alongside Hezbollah.
Pre-emptive attacks to disrupt an enemy are an officially declared part of Israel’s Security Doctrine and there was a small indication last September when the IAF destroyed a nuclear installation inside Syria. But in addition to the pre-emptive doctrine Israel also approves starting a preventive war as in 1967. A major offensive against an enemy which was done that year and was Israel’s most impressive victory since 1948. The IDF were able to take control of the strategic Golan Heights which greatly improved Israel’s security.
Preventive offensive is one step beyond pre-emptive strikes because you then know a war will result and Jerusalem seems quite willing to start one on its Northern Front against its greatest threats Lebanon-Hezbollah-Syria and is prepared to meet any contribution from Tehran which will be limited to Iran’s brigade size Rapid Deployment Force, an expendable unit.
There being no market for salt in the Dead Sea is the reason Tehran will not make a major military effort against Israel. Iran’s entry is mostly designed to generate spectacular publicity to generate more Islamic extremism directed at Egypt President Hosni Mubarak, the last Islamic head of state with close military relations with the West.
Gaza – To defuse the situation in Gaza, Xinhua reports, Jerusalem has decided to increase the shipments of diesel, cooking gas and industrial diesel Friday. This may encourage Hamas and Palestinian militants to concentrate on again forcing open the Rafah Terminal on the Egypt/Gaza border as they did in January. They will do so with the direct support of Tehran knowing it will lead to an explosion of support in Egypt for the popular opposition to Mubarak. [XINHUA]
Baghdad – Serious, heavily armed tensions lie beneath the surface calm in Baghdad and Iraq. Xinhua quoted 54 year old government worker Mahir Abbas’ description of the current situation, “It is not my Baghdad that I used to know. The city is now divided with thousands of barrier walls into smaller and smaller areas to protect people from bombings, sniper fire and kidnappings. I agree the walls are effective in protecting the neighborhoods but my district seems more like a prison or a military camp, because we can leave or enter the neighborhood only through one entrance where soldiers and local Awakening Councils search the cars and everything that gets in or out of the district.” The Awakening Council are armed Sunni groups which, for the moment, are willing to work with Washington but their allegiance can shift with the wind or the next sandstorm. [XINHUA]
Though the Pentagon just completed turning the tenth Iraq province over to the Iraq Army what has enabled those provinces to have some degree of stability is they are Kurdish or Shi’ite areas almost exclusively. But in areas where there is a volatile mixture of religious-ethnic groups like Baghdad, Nineveh and Diyala serious fighting can erupt any moment and controlled by Tehran to force U. S. units to intervene. Almost any structure or building of significance, schools, mosques and markets are protected by concrete barricades. Checkpoints are all over Baghdad and even inside neighborhoods and markets. U. S. forces patrol the streets constantly and I suspect very quickly.
Housewife Maha Hussein observed, “I admit things are much better, but you have to know that the calm unfortunately is not like everywhere in the world, because those who make trouble still exist and may appear at any time. Though these soldiers will fight them back, my family and I are at risk because both sides will not care for our blood.”
Moscow – Serbia Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic has just completed a successful meeting with Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov which confirmed Russia’s support in any future crisis over Kosovo’s combative declaration of independence in February. To counter the new Albanian government in Pristina, Belgrade has established Serbian institutions in Kosovo’s north which is still populated by a Serbian majority. Moscow-Belgrade are perfectly aware these institutions will be attacked by Albanian groups supported by Pristina with Belgrade sending military support to the Serbian communities. [SOFIAECHO]
Therefore this meeting was probably used to coordinate the positions of both Belgrade-Moscow in the United Nations which will be the main international forum when the shooting starts. And that is why at the meeting was Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin. The Sofia Echo mentioned the Serbian news agencies Beta-Tanjug quoted Jeremic saying Serbia and Russia had the strongest “bilateral relations and greatly appreciated Russia’s unreserved and unselfish support.” He added he hoped the support would continue to which Lavrov replied “You can count on it.”
Moscow has led the re-arming of Serbia which was heavily attacked during NATO’s 78 day air campaign in 1999 in the name of supporting Albanian people in Kosovo. Belgrade is no longer alone. The air campaign ended Russia’s involvement with NATO’s operation in the Balkans and in 2006 Serbia signed defense agreements with Iran and Greece.
Washington – In a parallel development the two leaders of Kosovo, President Fatmir Sejdiu and Prime Minister Hashim Thaci arrived in Washington in an attempt to increase their sense of legitimacy since Washington helped lead the recognition of Kosovo’s independence. Serbianna reports President Sejdiu stated the visit will be used to present their “vision of the future” and I suspect he is under the illusion the future will be stable. But Albanians in Kosovo are eager to attack the Serbian institutions Belgrade has created in the north and Sedjiu and Prime Minister Thaci may have arrived in Washington under the false assumption they can count on military support from the NATO units in the immediate area serving with KFOR. But Brussels, headquarters to both the European Union and NATO will see the resumed fighting as an embarrassment, at least as a blow to the alliance’s prestige and may blame the Albanians for starting it. [SERBIANNA]
But when the fighting breaks out Pristina will remind Brussels most EU-NATO countries have recognized Kosovo therefore they are obliged to confront any military support Belgrade is sending to not only protect Serbian communities but perhaps also to re-take Kosovo. In 1998, as NATO was first planning its military show of force in this area, the then U. S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen warned if NATO puts troops into Kosovo they could be attacked by both sides. That is exactly what is going to happen.