LEBANON VILLAGE OCCUPIED AS NEGOTIATED END TO WAR DRAWS CLOSER
SHIA POWER SPREADS ACROSS THE MIDDLE EAST
Israel launching one of its biggest military strikes in history may have come as a surprise to millions of people in the Middle East, but for a select group of US media, congressmen and the elite of the most influential think tanks, the smashing of Lebanon was old news before it even began two weeks ago.
Israel made firm plans to strike at Hizballah and to step back into Lebanon more than twelve months ago, and under a strict secrecy agreenment, began briefing those they deemed most important of what they were going to do, and the basics of how they were going to do it.
They told these journalists, politicians and opinion makers what they had in mind, which boiled down to a three week, three stage plan to try and diasrm and disable Hizballah.
This news is interesting and controversial for any number of reasons.
It means that Israel probably would have moved vi9lently on Hizballah and Hamas regardless of whether or not any IDF soldiers were kidnapped.
That IDF soldiers were kidnapped was supposed to be the key to the start of this current bloody confrontation, according to the governments of the US, the UK, Israel and Australia.
In fact, the kidnapping of the soldiers "started it" according to President Bush, Australian Prime Ministe John Howard and UK PM Tony Blair.
They had obviously been fed the script well in advance.
Briefing Israel-sympathetic media, politicians and think tankers also meant that a steady build up to a two front war began in the world's media long before it became a reality.
Reports in the New York Times, the Washington Post and the London Times, for example, are some of the most widely syndicated stories in the world's media. Israel only needed to let a few journos know what it was going to do and they then could see the lights on the horizon for themselves and talk up the "inevitability" of the future actions by Israel.
Such mastery of propaganda also meant that Israel had planted the knowledge in the minds of some very influential people that Hizballah and Hamas would never be seen as legitimate, even if they won elections, which they did, and even if they recieved tacit support from the Bush White House, which they did as well.
It also explains why the US never really pushed Israel to acknowlege the legitimacy of Hamas and Hizballah members being a part of the democratically elected governments of Palestine and Lebanon.
It didn't matter whether or not Hizballah or Hamas stuck to their unofficial truces or not, the script was set in place, and the timeline was counting down.
Whether Hamas or Hizballah laid off Israel through the first of this year, whether they kept up the bombings and the rocket attacks, or if they chose to pull right back and recognise the rights of Israel, they were labelled as terrorists and were therefore doomed to destruction by Israel.
This brings up the essential issue : Hizballah and Hamas were probably going to get smashed by Israel regardless of what they did or didn't do.
So the kidnapping of the IDF soldiers was not the start of Israel's major attempt to crush the two groups but merely the catalyst, the headline-grabber that made it easier for Israel to do what it intended to do and had, in fact, been planning to do for more than twelve months.
From the San Francisco Chronicle :
Israel's military response by air, land and sea to what it considered a provocation last week by Hezbollah militants is unfolding according to a plan finalized more than a year ago.
"Of all of Israel's wars since 1948, this was the one for which Israel was most prepared," said Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University.
More than a year ago, a senior Israeli army officer began giving PowerPoint presentations, on an off-the-record basis, to U.S. and other diplomats, journalists and think tanks, setting out the plan for the current operation in revealing detail. Under the ground rules of the briefings, the officer could not be identified.
In his talks, the officer described a three-week campaign: The first week concentrated on destroying Hezbollah's heavier long-range missiles, bombing its command-and-control centers, and disrupting transportation and communication arteries.
In the second week, the focus shifted to attacks on individual sites of rocket launchers or weapons stores. In the third week, ground forces in large numbers would be introduced, but only in order to knock out targets discovered during reconnaissance missions as the campaign unfolded.
The plan unfolds now much as Israel designed it last year.
At least 3000 IDF troops are inside Lebanon and some 5000 more reserves are said to be now gearing up and fast-training for deployment.
Israel has seized what they term to be a "strategic town" inside Lebanese territory.
UK journalist Jason Burke is widely regarded as one of the best writers on Al Qaeda and the 'War On Terror'. Here he writes on the spreading power of the Islmaic Shia and the possibility of a Shia Resurgence across the Middle East.
After Maroun al-Ras was taken, Israeli soldiers in armored personal carriers traveled to and from the village, but there was no large-scale movement.
The raid was part of Israel's wider strategy of running a "limited" ground operation aimed at destroying Hezbollah's tunnels, hideouts and weapons stashes.
Israeli warplanes also blasted communications and television transmission towers in central and northern Lebanese mountains Saturday, police said.
Fighter bombers fired missiles at the transmission station at Fatqa in the Keserwan mountains, knocking out transmission antennas.
Another airstrike crippled a transmission tower at Terbol in northern Lebanon, police said.
On Friday, Israel knocked out a key bridge on the road to Syria and pummeled Hezbollah positions in the south as long lines of tanks and armored personnel carriers lined up at the border in some places close enough to see Lebanese homes on the other side.
Ten or 15 per cent of the world's 1.4bn Muslims are Shia. The differences with the majority Sunnis are doctrinal, cultural and often political, and date back to a schism over who would succeed the Prophet Muhammad 1,400 years ago.
For much of that time Shias were a persecuted minority, creating a powerful culture of martyrdom. However, there have been several episodes when the Shia, despite their smaller numbers, have been more dominant - most recently in 1979 when the Iranian revolution and the regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini inspired hundreds of millions of Muslims of all denominations worldwide, promoting a re-energised political Islam.
For a short period, all eyes turned to the Shia. In the intervening years their star waned. Now, it is shining bright again.
Five major elements underpin the new Shia revival. The first is the sudden militancy of Iran, which has been led aggressively onto the world stage by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This new Iranian confidence is itself based on internal developments but also three main external factors: the removal of the Taliban from its eastern border in 2001; the removal of Saddam (a chauvinist Sunni) from its border; and vastly increased oil revenues.
The second major element of 'the Shia comeback' is the new power of Iraq's Shia who, though 65 per cent of the population, had been ruled by the Sunni minority for at least 400 years. Now the 'National Unity government' of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad is dominated by Shia friends of Iran.
Iran has profited enormously from chaos in Iraq. A recent report for the American Institute of Peace, a Washington think-tank, pointed out that Iran's leaders meet with Iraq's most influential personality, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who will not meet Americans.
The report continued: 'Iraq's leaders visit to Tehran to negotiate on substantive issues such as border security and joint energy projects. Iranian businessmen are investing heavily in Iraq's overwhelmingly Shia southern regions, and Iran's intelligence operatives are embedded throughout Iraq's nascent security forces and within the Shia militias that have tremendous street power in the south, especially in the city of Basra.'
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