“What to see in Beirut, the Paris of the Middle East” is actually the headline on a current travel blog! (ARWtravels.com). That’s so “1960s.” From 1975 to 1990 Lebanon went through a protracted civil/religious war which killed about 150,000 Lebanese. More upheavals occurred after that, including two wars with Israel. The result today is a state run by the Iranian-backed Shia Hezbollah terror group, which has totally run Lebanon into the ground and worse.
“The modern State of Lebanon existed within its current borders since 1920, when Greater Lebanon was created under French and British Mandates, resulting from the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War 1. During the 1960s, Lebanon enjoyed a period of relative calm, with Beirut-focused tourism and banking sector-driven prosperity. Lebanon reached the peak of its economic success in the mid-1960s—the country was seen as a bastion of economic strength by the oil-rich Persian Gulf Arab states, whose funds made Lebanon one of the world’s fastest growing economies. This period of economic stability and prosperity was brought to an abrupt halt with the collapse of the Intra Bank, the country’s largest bank and financial backbone, in 1966.
“Many Palestinian refugees had arrived in Lebanon after Israel’s victory over the Arabs in the 1948 War of Independence. Additional Palestinian Arabs came after a second Arab defeat in the Six Day War of 1967. Following their defeat in the 1970-71 Jordanian civil war, thousands of Palestinian militiamen regrouped in Lebanon, led by Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). [Summing up, Lebanon’s government, devised in 1920 by former colonizers Britain and France, included a mix of disparate religious groups with contesting Shia Muslims, Sunni Muslims, Maronite Christians, and others forming a dysfunctional government which has resulted in a failed state.] (See this link for additional info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Lebanon)
Lebanon has no functioning government. It is under the thumb of Hassan Nasrallah, Secretary-General of Hezbollah since 1992. Its latest and worst catastrophe (felt throughout several surrounding countries including Israel) happened in August 2020, when a large amount of explosive chemicals stored at the Beirut Port exploded. This caused more than 200 deaths, 7,000 injuries, and $15 billion in property damage, plus leaving an estimated 300,000 people (out of 430,000!) homeless. No entity was ever charged, let alone convicted, in this horrendous event. This is due to the untouchable power structure stymying all attempts to prosecute. Anecdotally, Hezbollah is responsible.
Lebanon’s economy was already ruined before 2020 and it’s a total basket case now. Lebanese currency has lost more than 90 percent of its value since late 2019, when the country’s economic and financial crisis erupted yet again. Nasrallah, who ensures that Hezbollah’s 150,000 rockets and missiles aimed at Israel are stored in and beneath civilian homes and other structures, isn’t concerned, just like the Hamas terror group in Gaza. The civilians in both places are just pawns in a game whose rules are set by the Iranian mullahs.
What Nasrallah is worried about, despite his bravado in ordering attacks against Israel from his hiding place underground (he is rarely if ever seen above ground), is Israel’s promise to totally destroy Lebanon’s infrastructure if attacks reach a certain but unspecified level. The last time that a major conflict erupted with Lebanon was in 2006, when Hezbollah, Iran’s most formidable ally in Tehran’s “Axis of Resistance,” ordered an attack on Israeli soldiers on the border, killing some and kidnapping others. Israel, under then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, surprised Nasrallah with the IDF’s extensive bombardments and a ground invasion, which even threatened a takeover of Beirut, Lebanon’s capital.
This “Second Lebanon War” ended after 34 days with the adoption of UN Resolution 1701, which ordered Hezbollah to retreat to north of the Litani River, a natural (but not legal) boundary between Lebanon and Israel. The Hezbollah retreat, supposedly under UN auspices, never happened. The UN’s “peacekeeping” force is a joke. It continually kowtows to the Hezbollah terrorists, who remain in control all the way to Israel’s border. In addition, the so-called Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), is more like an extension of Hezbollah than a national army.
(“Since 2006, U.S. investments of more than $3 billion to the LAF enabled the Lebanese military to be a stabilizing force against regional threats.” https://www.state.gov/u-s-security-cooperation-with-lebanon/) Stabilizing? No way, just more support for Nasrallah.
Hezbollah is at least 10 times more potent than Hamas. So far, it has failed to fully join Hamas in its full-out war against Israel. However, Hezbollah’s attacks are increasing daily and it is uncertain whether Nasrallah will decide to unleash his forces to join the war in full force. The questions are: 1) Does Iran want to let its foremost proxy army risk depleting its huge rocket arsenal before Iran declares its nuclear weapons capacity? 2) Does Nasrallah want to see Lebanon destroyed like Gaza? 3) Does Israel want to pre-empt Lebanon and prolong the fighting, knowing that all of Israel could suffer much damage from Lebanese long range missiles and rockets?
The Biden Administration and the EU strongly oppose an Israeli invasion of Lebanon. But Israel doesn’t want a repeat of the Hamas sneak attack. It’s likely that at some point the huge Hezbollah rocket arsenal will be utilized, at Nasrallah’s discretion. Should Israel let Hezbollah continue to threaten and harrass Israel with impunity? Let’s remember that Israel cannot and will not lose “even” one war because a loss would mean the annihilation of Israel and its Jewish citizens. It’s an unspoken fact that Israel has the means to foreclose that dire scenario!
On August 9 2023, addressing Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said: “You have made mistakes in the past, you have paid very heavy prices. If … an escalation or conflict develops here, we will return Lebanon to the Stone Age.”Speaking during a visit to the border area, Gallant went on to say that Israel would not hesitate to use its power to “erode every inch of Hezbollah and Lebanon if we have to.”
Nasrallah, who had meticulously planned the same sort of sneak attack against Israel that Hamas just perpetrated, is now in a bind. He has lost the element of surprise. Israel has a large part of its regular and reserve army stationed on Israel’s northern border facing Lebanon. Israel’s northern cities near the border have been evacuated, with tens of thousand of Israeli citizens sheltering in central Israel or elsewhere. (As if the world cares that Israel has internal refugees from the north and the south.) It’s doubtful whether most of the residents who evacuated their towns would return to their homes if there isn’t a very strong takedown of the threat from Hezbollah. The same applies to the southern border against Hamas. But there, Israel is already pursuing the Hamas’ destruction, which will remove the threat against the evacuated communities in the south.
The question: is it in Israel’s interest to preempt Hezbollah, or to continue the northern conflict at a relatively low pitch. Nasrallah may decide for us by ramping up Hezbollah strikes to a degree much greater than Hamas has achieved. Then there would be a real war on two fronts. Also, keep in mind that there are already constant but low level attacks against Israelis in Judea and Samaria, with Israel’s Border Guards, police, and army responding.
“Clashes between Israeli soldiers and settlers and Palestinians have already turned deadly. More than 80 Palestinians have been killed in West Bank [Judea and Samaria] violence since Oct. 7 and Israel has arrested more than 900 people. It conducted fresh overnight and dawn raids on Friday and detained more.” (https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/israel-palestinians-west-bank-1.7002736) In 2022, Israelis suffered from over 5,000 Palestinian terror attacks, including car-rammings, shootings, stabbings and bombings targeting innocent men, women and children on the streets of Israel. (theguardian.com)
A three front war is a distinct possibility. As my readers know, I believe in the maxim that acting now is better than acting later. “Later” is almost always worse than “now.” We certainly see that in Gaza and in Lebanon. So, Israelis and others around the world wait to see what will happen next among the volatile Levantine nations bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Hopefully, it will be the near-destruction, if not the annihilation, of both Hamas and Hezbollah. But, always lurking in the background and seemingly untouched by the West lies Iran….