Sen. Graham stated that the Israeli government was requesting “ammunition, ammunition, ammunition” from the U.S., as well as U.S. diplomatic support for when Israel strikes civilian targets — such as apartment buildings, hospitals, and schools — because Hezbollah has become “integrated” into these structures.
BEIRUT — Just a few weeks ago, it seemed that Israel was on the brink of starting a war with Syria. However, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), known for his neo-conservative tendencies, is now warning that it is Israel’s other northern neighbor, Lebanon, that is in the crosshairs. At a press conference on Tuesday, Graham – who visited the Middle East with Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) – told reporters that “Southern Lebanon is where the next war is coming.”
Even though he has regularly supported Israeli military aggression and has long championed tearing up the Iran nuclear accord (JCPOA), Graham struck a grim tone, calling the trip “unnerving” and warning that the war for which the Israelis are planning is “going to be really bloody.”
According to Graham, who has received more than $380,000 from the Israel lobby over the past two election cycles, the Israeli government is preparing for war owing to the alleged presence of a rocket factory in Lebanon. The factory is said to be connected to Hezbollah, a Lebanese political party originally formed to counter Israel’s illegal occupation of Lebanon in the 1980s. It is also a major military power in the country and has helped the Lebanese Army – a beneficiary of U.S. military aid – defend the country in past wars with Israel in 2000 and 2006. It has also spent the last several years successfully fighting terrorist groups like Daesh (ISIS) in Syria.
In addition, Marwa Osman, a political analyst and commentator living in Beirut, asserts that Israel’s claim that Hezbollah has a rocket factory in South Lebanon would be “laughable” if the threats built around this assertion didn’t threaten so many civilian lives. In an interview with MintPress News, Osman noted that Hezbollah’s armaments come from abroad, making the Israeli government’s claims unreasonable:
Why would the Islamic resistance Hezbollah need a ‘factory’ when all the missiles and weapons they need are delivered as needed by the Islamic Republic of Iran? … Any sane person with just a map of Lebanon can see that it is practically impossible to have any sort of ammunition or weapons factory in the areas that Israel has as targets, namely the suburbs of Beirut known as Dahye.”
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Despite no concrete evidence showing the existence of the rocket factory, Israeli officials told the U.S. senators that, if the factory continues to operate, “they are going to have to go in,” as Graham put it. Stated differently, Israel is planning to invade Lebanon because Hezbollah – a major player in the Lebanese government – is allegedly making armaments that could be used against Israel at some point in the future. In other words, Israel is planning for a “preventative” war based on scant evidence.
To Osman, Israel’s lack of evidence did not come as a surprise:
Israel has never needed an excuse to invade or bomb any place. It has always situated itself at an offensive position with the same old excuse that it is defending its existence. What defense strategy are they talking about when they own the war planes and they invade the Lebanese and Syrian airspaces?”
Looking for ammo and diplomatic cover
According to other recent reports, Israel has no intention of losing against Hezbollah, as it did in 2006, and is instead aiming for a “decisive victory.” When asked what constituted a “decisive victory,” Maj. Gen. Yaakov Barak of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) responded, “If we manage to kill [Hezbollah leader] Nasrallah in the next war, I would see that as reaching a decisive victory.”
Lebanese President Michel Aoun, a Christian and a supporter of Hezbollah, condemned the threats of war — stating, during a meeting with the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, that “Lebanon is keen on maintaining stability and calm in South Lebanon, but it is also ready to defend itself [should] Israel carry out an assault.”
However, Graham’s own statements cast doubt on the official narrative for the impending war. Graham stated that the Israeli government was requesting “ammunition, ammunition, ammunition” from the U.S. government, as well as diplomatic support for when Israel strikes civilian targets — such as “civilian apartment buildings, hospitals, and schools”– because Hezbollah has become “integrated” into these structures.
This request from the Israeli government builds on past statements from Israeli officials, such as those made by Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett. Bennett told Israeli newspaper Haaretz last year that civilians “must” be targeted the next time Israel and Lebanon go to war:
The Lebanese institutions, its infrastructure, airport, power stations, traffic junctions, Lebanese Army bases – they should all be legitimate targets if a war breaks out. … This will mean sending Lebanon back to the Middle Ages.”
As Osman noted, Israel has frequently targeted civilian targets in its military incursions into Lebanon:
Isn’t bombing hospitals and schools and apartment buildings the same exact strategy that Israel uses each time it bombards Lebanese targets?”
Given these requests, Israel is not planning to just bomb the rocket factory it claims to be existentially threatened by. Instead, it is actively preparing to bomb “civilian” targets because the supporters and members of a Lebanese political party live there. Making preparations for a war that will intentionally target civilians can hardly be called a war of “self-defense,” especially given that Israel receives over $10 million in military aid from the United States every single day. Instead, this has all the markings of a war of aggression targeting innocent people.
Self-defense or another resource war?
While Israel is framing this impending war as defensive, recent evidence suggests that defeating Hezbollah is likely a war intended to claim critical resources and secure geopolitical dominance in the Middle East. For example, Israel and Lebanon have recently taken part in heated exchanges regarding control over the natural gas fields in the Levant basin, which, in total, are estimated to contain 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 122 trillion cubic feet of gas.
Two of the blocks assigned to Lebanon soon after the discovery of gas in the area in 2009 were recently auctioned off in late January to a consortium of European and Russian energy companies. However, one of those blocks is disputed by Israel, leading Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to call the move “very, very challenging and provocative conduct,” fueling speculation that Israeli military action is not far behind.
In addition, Israel – currently in the midst of a historic drought – has a renewed interest in the rich freshwater resources in Southern Lebanon. Even prior to Israel’s official founding, Zionist strategic planners had originally sought to incorporate the Litani river, Lebanon’s largest, as its northern border, but met resistance from the French who, at the time, were the colonial power in control of Lebanese territory. However, Israel never gave up on its ambitions.
For instance, several experts have asserted that Israel’s occupations of Lebanese territory in 1978 and 1982 were a direct result of Israel’s desire to obtain the water resources of southern Lebanon. In 1982, Israeli plans to siphon off as much as 60 percent of the Litani’s flow into Israel were made public. Since Hezbollah expelled Israel from South Lebanon in 2000, water has also been a major factor in subsequent conflicts.
While resources are a contributing factor, Osman asserts that the main factor driving Israel’s aggression is “the readiness and power of the resistance [Hezbollah].”
The Lebanese Resistance Hezbollah has gained a lot of new experiences and enhanced its missile capabilities to a point where they might even have their hands on an air-defense system. This means that now Israel is at risk of even flying into Lebanese airspace.”
These “new experiences” have come courtesy of Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria — where it has successfully assisted the Syrian government in the fight against terrorist groups supported by Western governments, the Gulf monarchies, and Israel — which has strengthened Hezbollah’s military component.
According to Osman, Hezbollah’s increased capabilities resulting from its involvement in Syria have caused great concern within the Israeli government:
The fact that for the past three years the joint and coordinated efforts between the SAA [Syrian Arab Army] and Hezbollah have resulted in the liberation of approximately 70 percent of the Syrian territory from Western backed takfiris (keeping in mind that the amount of land liberated equals three to four times the size of Palestinian occupied territories) puts Israel in a very paranoid position.”
Israel had supported the Syrian opposition forces with the hopes of not only toppling the Syrian government but also weakening Hezbollah. Having failed to weaken Hezbollah through a proxy conflict in Syria, Israel is now making a desperate bid to do so by funding seven different rebel factions in southern Syria while also threatening the civilian population in southern Lebanon. Not wanting to be outmatched by its resilient and resourceful enemy again, the threat of war that Israeli officials are making appears to be a plan to go straight at the source — i.e., Hezbollah’s civilian supporters — in a desperate bid to counter Hezbollah.
Top Photo | Israeli girls write messages on bombs at a heavy artillery position near Kiryat Shmona, in northern Israel, next to the Lebanese border. (AP/Sebastian Scheiner)
Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News who has written for several news organizations in both English and Spanish; her stories have been featured on ZeroHedge, the Anti-Media, and 21st Century Wire among others. She currently lives in Southern Chile.