Hizbullah takeover in Lebanon likely, Ashkenazi warns
By YAAKOV KATZ AND JPOST.COM STAFF
During Canada visit, IDF chief of staff says publication of Hariri tribunal's findings will likely lead to coup d'etat in Beirut.
Publication of the findings of a United Nations tribunal investigating the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri could lead Hizbullah to violently take over Lebanon, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi warned on Monday.
Earlier this month, Hizbullah boycotted a round of talks regarding the tensions surrounding the UN's investigation of the 2005 assassination of Hariri.
Ashkenazi told his Canadian counterpart Gen. Walt Natynczyk during talks in Ottawa on Monday that violence could erupt in Lebanon following the publication of the report which is expected to point to top Hizbullah operatives as behind Hariri’s assassination.
“The radicals are gaining strength in Lebanon,” Ashkenazi told Natynczyk according to an officer accompanying him on his trip to North America. “The publication of the report could destabilize Lebanon and be used as an excuse by Hizbullah to complete its takeover of the entire country.”
Ashkenazi claimed that UNIFIL was effective in disrupting Hizbullah’s activities in southern Lebanon but was failing at stopping the group from building up its military capabilities.
On Tuesday, Ashkenazi is expected to head to Washington DC for talks with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen and top officials in the Pentagon. During those talks, Ashkenazi is slated to share Military Intelligence’s assessment that tough sanctions on Iran could be effective in getting the regime to suspend its enrichment of uranium.
“The regime is radical but not suicidal,” Ashkenazi told Natynczyk on Monday.
Last week, with indictments for Hizbullah members already expected, party spiritual leader Hassan Nasrallah ominously said that the Shi'ite group would "cut the hand" of anyone who tried to arrest any member of the party.
"Those who imagine that we will allow the arrest or detention of any of our fighters are mistaken," he told thousands of supporters in South Beirut through video link. "We will cut the hand that reaches out for any one of them."
Denying outright any involvement in the assassination, he said that the group would not accept any accusation against any of its fighters or leaders.
"Those who think that the resistance will not defend itself and its dignity against any accusation are mistaken," he added.