The Veto, Fajers and the Road to ...
Three major developments in the war in the Middle East have taken place in the last several hours. The first is that the US has vetoed a UN Security Council Resolution condemning Israel's incursions into Gaza. Note: Gaza, not Lebanon, which is suggestive. Second, Ynet reports that "Israeli aircraft struck the main highway linking Beirut to the Syrian capital Damascus early on Friday, a Lebanese security source said." Third, but not last, is the official speculation that the missiles which landed in Haifa were Iranian-manufactured Fajers, with a range of 70 km. According to the Times of London:
HAIFA, Israel’s third-largest city, was hit for the first time by rockets fired from Lebanon last night as the crisis over two captured Israeli soldiers erupted into open warfare. ... Daniel Ayalon, the Israeli Ambassador to the US, called the rocket attack on Haifa a “major, major escalation” and said that Israel was now at war. “The objective is to win this war,” he said. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, likewise gave warning of a new regional war. ...
Schools closed and hospitals moved patients to basements. Residents of towns such as Nahariya, Kiryat Shmona, Safed and Karmiel fled out of rocket range and lines of cars headed south piled high with bags. An estimated 500,000 Israelis were within range of the missiles Israeli military officials told The Times that whereas Hezbollah’s Katyushas or Grads had a range of only 20km its Iranian-manufactured Fajer could strike a target 70km away and the later Fajer 5 model 100km, enough to reach far south even of Haifa. They estimated recently that Hezbollah had 10,000 rockets of various types, but said that it had never before used the longer-range Fajer .
There are now suggestions -- unconfirmed at this point -- that Iranian personnel may be involved in the fighting. Here's a link to an old Lebanon wire story (www.lebanonwire.com/0503/05030602HZ.asp) now available only in Google's cache. I've highlighted certain key passages, otherwise it is verbatim.
Haaretz, March 6, 2005
Israel: Iranian Guard must withdraw from Lebanon along with Syrian troops By Ze'ev Schiff, Haaretz Correspondent
Israel has informed a number of countries, including the United States and France, that the demand for the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon, in keeping with the UN Security Council decision, will not be complete if it doesn't also lead to the departure of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps members, who have been in Lebanon for a long time and are providing assistance to Hezbollah's military wing.
Israel's official position is that the Syrian forces deployed in Lebanon are not the only foreign army in that country. Despite the fact that the Syrian force is a large one, and includes numerous units and an extensive intelligence set-up, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards play a significant and negative military role in Lebanon - a role that undermines Lebanese sovereignty.
The individuals in question make up a group of Iranian military officers and experts numbering at least dozens.
Unlike the overt Syrian military presence, the members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard keep a low profile. Iranians questioned on this presence have said the group consists only of medical personnel who are there to provide medical logistics assistance and the like. This claim is refuted.
Reports determine that the Iranian officers and experts have provided operational assistance to Hezbollah, and have even patrolled along the Israeli border with Hezbollah operatives.
Furthermore, an Iranian-made drone, which, according to Hezbollah sources, was sent on a reconnaissance mission over Israeli territory, took photographs above Israeli territory before crashing on its way back to Lebanon.
The Iranian explanation after the incident was that, if they wanted to, they could send a UAV armed with explosives into Israel.
In addition, it is well known that the Iranian experts are involved in the array in southern Lebanon of long-range Fajr rockets that threaten Israel. These are Iranian-made rockets that were given to Hezbollah together with numerous other ordnance. Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard were involved in setting up Hezbollah's rocket formation.
Israeli officials have also informed Egypt of the government's position.
While the withdrawal of the Syrian forces from Lebanon depends first and foremost on a decision by Damascus if and when to respond to the Security Council's demand, the demand for the withdrawal of the Revolutionary Guards must come initially from the Lebanese government and must be directed at the government in Tehran.
According to assessments, the withdrawal of the Syrian forces from Lebanon will boost Hezbollah's weight as a military organization, leading in turn to a broader role for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in that country. The Lebanese army has no direct link to the Iranian activities in Lebanon, just as it has no control over arms shipments from Iran to Hezbollah.
It doesn't take a genius to connect the dots. The conflict in Lebanon is still escalating. Where the escalator ends will be known presently.
BTW, Reuters is reporting that "Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday an Israeli strike on Syria would be considered an attack on the whole Islamic world that would bring a 'fierce response'".