Rumors of Armageddon
By Hollis Armstrong
The world now stands at the precipice of a global conflagration, waiting for the smallest trigger to set off the unstoppable momentum that will lead inevitably to World War III.
One of its most volatile centers is Lebanon, where the nexus of international terrorist activity is coming to a head so rapidly, that the leaders of mighty nations barely understand what is happening or how dramatically it will define their own futures. Under the banner of Hezbollah, Lebanon has turned into an armed camp, supplied largely by Iran and Syria. It is here that the next global war is most likely to begin.
This will be a battle between the most fundamental views of life. On one side, the modern Western view, based on the democratic principles of personal freedom and opportunity, and on the other, the archaic Islamist view, based on theocratic principles of cultural superiority and Islam’s rightful domination over every other world view.
This is not your grandmother’s Hezbollah. The systematic takeover of the Lebanese government through something considerably less than democratic process was designed and financed by the Iranian government. And while truck bombs and suicide bombers are not a thing of the past, they have been superseded by tens of thousands of sophisticated rockets and missiles, heavy weapons, WMD from Iran, and unmanned aircraft capable of deploying lethal payloads.
The recent acceleration of arms buildup in Lebanon was masterminded and fully supported by Iran, with the fawning complicity of Syria. Supply lines were developed under close Iranian supervision. Large trucks carrying tarp-covered missiles have been seen throughout southern Lebanon, delivered across the Syrian border to the heavily wooded valleys that dot the landscape. These valleys have been declared closed military zones by Hezbollah, who guard them with heavy weapons and stern warnings to any local residents who wander into their territory (see sidebar). The large Iranian Revolutionary Guard presence throughout Lebanon makes the source of these activities crystal clear.
Under the noses of UN “peace-keeping” teams, Hezbollah has hijacked Lebanon, from the national government to the smallest of villages. They have accelerated the acquisition of land holdings by offering property owners up to five times the real value of their homes – in cash. In this way, there is scarcely any part of south Lebanon in which Hezbollah is not now firmly embedded, and their ubiquitous presence makes them difficult to find. In addition to providing a foothold in their expanding network of neighborhoods, their newly acquired property can be freely used for safe houses and the storage of weapons and materiel.
Arming Hezbollah for War
The weapons come to Lebanon by land and sea, according to eye-witness accounts. What this means to the rest of the world has been largely ignored, but the time is fast approaching when the West will need to take notice, because a third world war, sparked in this tiny corner of the world, will have a dramatic impact on us all.
Iran: Master Manipulator
A great deal of international attention has been given to Iran’s nuclear program. Far less has followed the rogue nation’s strides in ballistic missile development. As with its emerging nuclear program, Iran’s goal in advancing its missile technology (often hinted at by Iran’s raving President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) is to develop the capability for delivering nuclear warheads well beyond its borders.
Iran’s development of the Ghadr-1 missile, for example, based on modifications of the North Korean No-dong missile, has resulted in the creation of a long range, two-stage, solid-fuel missile. According to the International Institute of Strategic Studies, Iran is also developing a new medium-range, solid propellant missile, the Sajjil-2, with a range of about 2,200 km and the potential capability of delivering a 750 kg warhead.
In Lebanon, Iran’s goals are apparently more modest, but no less dangerous to the global community: to arm to the teeth its local surrogate Hezbollah and create a military force that will incite a new war with Israel, and distract global attention from Iran’s own nuclear and military programs.
Toward that end, and working through its client-state Syria, Iran has, according to Israeli defense officials and other sources, delivered advanced M-600 rockets to Hezbollah. The M-600, a Syrian version of the Iranian Fateh-110, is a single-stage, solid-propellant, surface-to-surface missile with at 200 - 300 km range, and can carry a half-ton warhead. Fired from Lebanon, the M-600 is capable of hitting targets in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, both considerably less than 200 km from key points in south Lebanon, where the deployment and installation of large missile batteries has been recently accelerated.
The Unintended Consequences of a New War – A Scary Scenario
The recent flight of a Hezbollah drone over Israel may have been a shot across Israel’s bow and a warning of things to come. As Hezbollah continues to receive arms through its Syrian connection with Iran, it has been showing considerable restraint at the border, while engaging in other provocative activities, such as the drone flight. The question is whether the strategy of restraint is simply the imposed proverbial calm before the coming storm.
Hezbollah will strike – or cause Israel to strike – when it is ready (or, more to the point, when Iran decides it is time). This may be sooner than the experts think. The media have been predicting a war in July, but the best guess of this analyst is that it may well come sooner – a surprise to everyone but Iran and its clients who will make it happen.
Here is one possible scenario: The storm that brings Israel into a war with its northern neighbor will not limit itself to the two states this time. The conflict between Israel and Lebanon will be perceived by the Muslim world as a battle between good and evil, between Islam and the West, and it is likely to spread rapidly, first to Gaza and then to Muslim nations around the world. It will then likely spill into the streets of Western cities with significant Muslim populations, first in Europe, and then in the US, Australia, and the Pacific Rim. The response is likely to begin like the cartoon riots of 2006, which were carefully planned and orchestrated in cities around the world. If governments get involved, however, the conflict will escalate, with nations taking sides and engaging the world in a conflict of global proportions. Given the nuclear capabilities of the nations involved, there may be no way to stop a nuclear disaster of unimaginable proportions, once the first shot is fired.
Foreign Policy Needs to Change – and Time is Running Out
The misinformation currently circulating about events in Lebanon today is corrupting the diplomatic efforts of Western nations, turning good intentions into bad foreign policy. One cannot negotiate with any terrorists, because their motivations are diametrically opposed to our own, and because they ignore the ‘rules of war’ that govern our own engagement. They perceive our willingness to negotiate as weakness, when they are more than willing to send their sons and daughters to die in the name of their ideology.
When the terrorists are Islamist terrorists, however, the risks are higher, because the driving force is more than ideology alone. It is a religious fervor that welcomes death, with its practitioners truly believing that “Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope” (Muslim Brotherhood credo). This is far more dangerous, because the end game for them is the destruction of Western values. Fighting against people who are eager to die for their burning faith changes the rules of the game.
We must not ignore the growing military threat emanating out of Lebanon by assuming that the threat is limited to Israel. This is not about Israel, which is only Iran’s first target. It is about the future of the Western world, whose conquest in the name of Allah, and the dominance of Islam and shariah law over the world, is the ultimate target.
The time is long overdue for our leaders to wake up to the reality facing them today. How they meet this challenge will mark them as heroes if they succeed in defusing Lebanon and disarming Hezbollah. But history will brand them as consummate failures if they do not do all that is necessary to pre-empt the coming war.
Hollis Armstrong is an independent intelligence analyst working in the private sector from open and proprietary sources.