Crossfire War – Rapid Fire News=Tehran – Beirut – Damascus Watch – West Asia – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: Tehran – Riyadh – Tripoli – Khartoum – Baghdad – El Arish – Ramallah – Gaza – Damascus – Beirut/Jerusalem – Paris – Rome – Cairo – Amman – London – Washington; Lebanon Places its Military on Alert During Israel Civil Defense Exercises Beginning Sunday – NATO Circulates Secret Paper on Troop Withdrawal from Afghanistan at Bucharest Summit
Night Watch: BEIRUT – With all the serious discussion, planning in Israel’s Defense Ministry concerning threats from Hezbollah-Syria, Lebanon has responded by placing its military on alert during the week long Civil Defense Exercises Israel will conduct beginning Sunday. With Lebanon being the base of Hezbollah and with Beirut’s close military relations with Damascus, Lebanon will be caught up in the next war even more than it was in 2006. Then, the fighting was just between Hezbollah and Israel but since then not only has Hezbollah been more heavily re-supplied by Iran-Syria, Lebanon’s military leadership, under General Michel Suleiman, has openly stated its willingness to go to war with Israel.
Also leading the charge is Lebanon Prime Minister Fuad Siniora who Haaretz reports seems to actually believe Israel will violate Lebanon’s sovereignty during the maneuvers. Siniora has even contacted the European units in Lebanon’s south serving under UNIFIL. He warned UNIFIL “to be careful” in case Israel uses the exercises “to launch operations capable of increasing tensions.” [HAARETZ]
The Civil Defense exercises begin tomorrow with a briefing by the head of the maneuvers, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, with the actual operations beginning Monday. A number of war-emergency scenarios are to be rehearsed including a simulated missile attack on civilians with some of the missiles having a chemical warhead. General Suleiman, Lebanon’s real President, has said he raised the army’s alert and preparedness level and Hezbollah’s leader in the south, Nabil Kaouk, has stated they will also be closely watching Israel’s civil defense drills.
I suspect Hezbollah may attempt to discover ways they can counter some of Israel’s new measures to reduce civilian casualties. Kaouk said the drills is “not a testament of Israel’s strength, but rather evidence of its frustration and despair.” The drills are actually an indication of Israel being better and more seriously prepared and ready than in 2006 and I think Siniora realizes Jerusalem will be even more offensive than it was two years ago, especially when either Hezbollah-Syria uses chemical warheads. Siniora is probably praying it will be Syria that uses them which would direct more of Israel’s offense away from Lebanon. He would rather see Israeli armored columns approaching Damascus than Beirut.
Bucharest – Reality seems to be finally dawning on NATO’s leadership that its Afghanistan vision will not end up as glorious as they promoted and projected. Its current troop commitment is 47,000, yet that has had no impact on reducing Afghanistan’s leading cash crop opium, nor in ending attacks by Taliban or by other units supported by Tehran.
Spiegel Online has reported the German Defense Minister Franz-Josef Jung first seriously expressed his doubts about the NATO mission last autumn, at the alliance’s summit in the Netherlands. And with the summit in Bucharest just ending, it seems a paper was circulated secretly based on more details from the German Defense Ministry on a troop withdrawal. The details were not made public because, according to diplomats, it would be too controversial, especially in the face of Washington’s unrealistic, proud announcement of committing more troops there next year. But the paper seems to admit the projections for training a competent Afghan police force and army were unrealistic and to meet minimum requirements would mean NATO would have to commit units there until 2015. [SPIEGEL]
No specific timetable has been released but knowing how well informed German intelligence agencies are I suspect they have informed the Foreign and Defense Ministry that with a new war coming in Southeast Europe over Kosovo, NATO will have to commit more units to that theatre.