The validity of the term ‘Lebanese sovereignty’ has been debated on this site as well as elsewhere without many conclusions reached. Consensus seems to be that the non-state actors inside Lebanon are so strong they usurp the power of the central government. Yesterday, not too long after two Hamas members were killed in an explosion in the Hezbollah controlled suburbs of Beirut, a grenade exploded in Fatah offices in the Palestinian Rashdiyeh refugee camp in Southern Lebanon. The explosion occurred after Sultan Abul Aynain, Fatah’s commander in Lebanon, declared that Fatah would keep Al Qaeda out of the Lebanese Palestinian camps. Today, UNIFIL, the UN monitoring team in Lebanon, found Syrian made explosives on Lebanon’s southern border – explosives that were supposedly planted by Hezbollah to prevent an Israeli incursion on Lebanese soil. Haaretz reports that the explosives were sophisticated and either Syrian or Iranian in origin, once again demonstrating not only the growing tension on the Israeli-Lebanese border, but also the influence of foreign and domestic powers in Lebanon.
The inability for the Lebanese central government to control the internal and external powerful actors – Hezbollah refused to let Lebanese official enter the suburb of the bombing immediately after – shows that despite improvements in democracy ratings, there is still more than one head in Lebanese leadership. With Israel to the south, Hamas and Hezbollah (who both refuse to acknowledge Israel and are backed by Syria and Iran) and Fatah operating in Lebanese territory, the democratically elected PM Saad Hariri might have little ability to avoid another war.
With that worry, we turn to Michel Hayek, often called Lebanon’s Nostradamus, who predicted attacks on Lebanon in 2010 (video part 1, part 2 and part 3 [عربي]). Hayek appears on TV every December 31st to give his predictions for the upcoming year. Hayek is watched by a very large number of Lebanese who put a lot of faith in his psychic abilities. His predictions for 2009 included critical moments for Jordan’s government (goodbye Parliament), Abu Mazen will face critical moments (he’s out, no he’s in!), Ariel Sharon’s name will be in the media again (he’s in a coma and still wrong) and there will be a dangerous event in Syria, but the Syrian government will only give some details to the press (“the bus exploded because of a flat tire”). Of course, he was wrong on a number of issues as well, but is he right about attacks in Lebanon? And will the attacks be small or large?
[tweetmeme] There are certainly worries that there will be war in Lebanon – a war that could easily evolve into a regional affair. Since the elections early in 2009, Israel has said that it will attack all of Lebanon if Hezbollah attacks. Meanwhile, Syria has said it will back Hezbollah if Israel attacks and there are no guarantees that Hamas will not get involved, particularly after it said it would back Iran if Israel attacks. Despite the talks of the peace talks, general stability is hanging by a thread here. What would have happened if an Israeli soldier was killed by the explosives found by UNIFIL or what if an Israeli plane was shot down by Hezbollah on one of the continuous breeches of Lebanese airspace?
Hypothetically, Israel would retaliate and bomb some Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon. Maybe Hezbollah reacts by firing some missiles into Israel causing a more serious conflict with Israel similar to 2006. Consequently, Syria gets involved and backs Hezbollah with more overt provision of more powerful arms – or worse, attacks Israel. Peace talks between Israel and Palestine break down as Hamas also fires missiles into Israel. The dangerous result of a minor catalyst would be the death of thousands of people in Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Israel as well as the complete breakdown of peace talks and the increase of racist and aggressive rhetoric world-wide. Of course, I would expect hope to see governments to show a little more restraint, but you never know.
While the preceding situation is a possibility if a situation occurs between Israel and Hezbollah, the same consequences can be expected from an attack on Iran. Unfortunately, some while some hypothesize about such an attack, others declare its inevitability. Perhaps the ‘inevitable’ attack on Iran has been put on the back burner due to the unrest there, but I’ll leave Timothy Geraghty, a commander of the US marines who were attacked in Beirut in ’83, to speculate on the horrors of such an attack:
On Nov. 4, 2009, Israeli commandos intercepted an Antiguan-flagged ship 100 miles off the Israeli coast. It was carrying hundreds of tons of weapons from Iran and bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon. Since the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah war, Iran has rearmed Hezbollah with 40,000 rockets and missiles that will likely rain on Israeli cities—and even European cities and U.S. military bases in the Middle East—if Iran is attacked. Our 200,000 troops in 33 bases are vulnerable. Shortly before this weapons seizure, Hamas test-fired a missile capable of striking Israel’s largest city, Tel Aviv.
Iran is capable of disrupting Persian Gulf shipping lanes, which could cause the price of oil to surge above $300 a barrel. Iran could also create mayhem in oil markets by attacking Saudi oil refineries. Moreover, Iran possesses Soviet made SS-N-22 “Sunburn” supersonic antiship missiles that it could use to contest a naval blockade.
Iran could unleash suicide bombers in Iraq and Afghanistan or, more ominously, activate Hezbollah sleeper cells in the U.S. to carry out coordinated attacks nationwide. FBI, CIA and other U.S. officials have acknowledged in congressional testimony that Hezbollah has a working partnership with Mexican drug cartels and has been using cartel smuggling routes to get personnel and contraband into the U.S.
Yikes. For now, be glad that UNIFIL soldiers found the Syrian/Iranian explosives and not an Israeli soldier and hope that for 2010 Nostradamus is wrong. Hope that 2010 lets the relative peace continue.