Hizballah Rearming and Rebuilding
As the senior UN envoy to Lebanon, Terje Roed-Larsen, informs the Security Council that members the Lebanese government have recently “stated publicly and also in conversations with us that there has been arms coming across the border into Lebanon,” the United States is voicing familiar concern that Syria and Iran are trying to destabilize Lebanon. US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton said after a closed-door Security Council briefing that Lebanese members of government were providing some information, “But the government was afraid to be specific about these arms coming across the Syrian-Lebanese border because of fear of retaliation.”
The threat perceived by members of the Lebanese government is real and present. Following the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a UN commission that has since stalled and faltered has only investigated Syria. In the time that lapsed after the Hariri murder, there were numerous assassinations and assassination attempts against anti-Syrian Lebanese figures in government and media. Lebanese citizens openly accused Syria of attempts to silence Lebanese opposition to Syrian control. (See: ThreatsWatch.Org Multimedia Presentation: Who is Next?)
Along the Lebanon-Israel border, few towns saw as much action and destruction during the Israel-Hizballah conflict this summer than Bint Jbail and the nearby Marjayoun Corridor. London’s Telegraph quoted a Bint Jbail resident who said that Hizballah has been rebuilding under the guise of civilian reconstruction. Like the Lebanese government figures, the individual chose to remain anonymous for safety concerns, but offered that “They are working extremely fast. Militants in Shia strongholds have interconnected tunnels and bunkers under their houses. These are being rebuilt under cover of the reconstruction work.”
Following the ceasefire, Iran was at the forefront offering massive amounts of reconstruction money. The likely principal purpose of that money was not to rebuild the Lebanese civilian infrastructure but, as the Bint Jbail resident indicates, to rebuild Hizballah’s damaged and destroyed positions in and under southern Lebanon.
The resident went on in the Telegraph article to describe the existing security net that Hizballah has deployed to stand watch over the efforts to retake and rebuild its southern Lebanon positions by peppering the areas of operation with watchful eyes with walkie-talkies and motorcycles.
After the ceasefire agreement, the Lebanese government agreed to allow Hizballah to keep their arms so long as they did not carry or display them publicly. The influx of additional UNIFIL forces that came into southern Lebanon to stand as a buffer between Hizballah and the IDF saw its leadership demonstrate no will to disarm Hizballah as called for by the UN Security Council resolution that served as the mandate that brought them to the region.
As a show of force and a likely reminder that IDF and IAF power lies just over the horizon, Israeli jets executed mock raids over Hizballah-dominated areas of south Beirut and the southern Lebanon Hizballah strongholds of Nabatiyeh and Tyre. The Lebanese army said that it had fired anti-aircraft artillery at the four-jet flight, though none were reported damaged. Israeli military officials refused comment.
These developments take place as Hizballah has said that it will now apply ‘all democratic and legitimate means’ to bring down the Siniora-led Lebanese government which enjoys Western support. In a move seen to be aimed at further alienating Lebanese Shi’a from the national government, Hizballah’s ultimate objective in Lebanon is to impose the rule of an Islamic state similar to that which governs its principle supporter, Iran. The Qods Force unit of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps founded the Lebanese Hizballah terrorist organization in the early 1980’s.