Michael Totten warns of rumblings in Lebanon again. "Just a few nights ago I said to some out of town friends that I thought another war, between Hezbollah and whichever adversary first decides to pick up the sword, is all but inevitable in Lebanon. I wish it weren't so, but it probably is. If the Israelis don't do it, someone in Lebanon will unless the Syrian and Iranian regimes are first brought to heel."
Beirut to the Beltway quotes Walid Jumblatt, who declares his March 14 movement is being forced into a showdown with Hezbollah and the pro-Syrian forces in Lebanon, as evidence that hostilities may be afoot.
"Our existence, dignity and Lebanon are more important than anything else. You want disorder, so be it.", he said, addressing Hizbullah and the forces he said are trying to bring back Syrian hegemony. "You want war, so be it. We have no problem with weapons, no problem with missiles. We will take your ready-to-use missiles. We have no problem with martyrdom and suicide."
Jumblatt's words were of course uttered in the context of Lebanese politics. The Saudis and Jumblatt apparently fear the momentum generated by Hariri assassination is fading and they are being ground down by Damascus. So these blood-curdling warnings may simply be posturing.
However, if the threatened matches are bluffs the powder lying around Lebanon is real enough. The IDF says that Hezbollah has rearmed itself with enormous quantities of rockets right under the noses of the UN Peacekeeping force.
Hezbollah has managed to deploy large numbers of Katyusha rockets and anti-tank missiles in southern Lebanon, senior Israel Defense Forces officials have told Haaretz. These weapons in Shi'ite villages have been undetected by UN observers, the officials say.
They say the weapons have been smuggled south of the Litani River despite the increased presence of the United Nations Forces Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) since the end of the Second Lebanon War. The sources add that Hezbollah's reluctance to use the weapons since the war ended a year and a half ago reflects the strong blow the IDF dealt the militant group and that Israel's deterrence has not been diminished.
But deterrence is fundamentally comprised of perception. If Hezbollah's perception of Israeli determination changes or they alter their calculations, nothing physically prevents the rockets from being fired again. It's worth noting that the 2006 war with Hezbollah started when they miscalculated the Israeli reaction to the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier. And oddly enough, that kidnapping may set the new baseline for what it takes to start Israel on the warpath. Even though the IDF's operations in that war were not notably impressive, the fact alone that it went to the mat over the kidnapping may have been responsible for the peace that has prevailed so far. But the situation has inherent risks.