'Lebanon turmoil unlikely to descend into clash'

Former deputy head of Mossad tells 'Post' that Hizbullah's resignation from Lebanese gov't not likely to develop into full-scale civil war.

January 13, 2011 07:12
4 minute read.
HIZBULLAH LEADER Hassan Nasrallah, seen speaking o

Nasrallah on Screen 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)


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The political crisis in Lebanon, sparked by Wednesday’s resignation of Hizbullah from the government, is unlikely to develop into a full-scale civil war, or into a military clash between Hizbullah and Israel for the time being, according to the evaluation of a former senior Mossad official.

Ilan Mizrahi, former deputy head of the Mossad, and former head of the National Security Council, held a conference call with journalists from around the world on Wednesday, organized by The Israel Project, an organization that describes itself as providing factual information about the Middle East.

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Asked by The Jerusalem Post whether civil war in Lebanon was imminent, Mizrahi said, “Like always in Lebanon, I believe there will be a deal between the Saudis and the Syrians,” referring to two of the main state sponsors of the rival Lebanese factions – the Hizbullah-led March 8 coalition and the pro-Western March 14 alliance, led by Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

Mizrahi predicted that Hizbullah would in effect extort its rivals in Lebanon and outside of it, by refraining from violence in exchange for an improvement in its political and strategic position in the country.

“At the end, there will be some kind of solution that will bring some kind of peace in Lebanon. But it will not fundamentally change the strategic situation, in which Lebanon will be on the brink of civil war, because... in my point of view... Hizbullah’s interest is to really be the dominating [side] in Lebanon,” Mizrahi said.

“Hizbullah will get something at the end,” he added.

“All parties will do their best to avoid civil war, and I think they will succeed in avoiding it by paying a certain price to Hizbullah.

“Which price, I don’t know, but it will not change the fundamental [situation of being on the] brink of another showdown in three, four or six months,” Mizrahi said.

“More and more, Hizbullah is the owner and real ruler of Lebanon. As one journalist said, this is an organization which has a state,” Mizrahi added.

Although Hizbullah continues to add to its rocket stockpiles and military power, Israel’s deterrence remains in effect, Mizrahi said.

“Since the 2006 war... until today, there have been five years of complete silence on the border in the North. We never had it in the past... Five years that Hassan Nasrallah is still making declarations from a bunker,” Mizrahi said.

“At the present time, all parties have an interest in not starting a war,” he said. But that could easily change, Mizrahi warned.

Flareups could erupt if “Hizbullah makes a calculation that a provocation in the North will serve its interests in Lebanon... or in case Iran miscalculates that it will serve its interest for Hizbullah to start a war.”

Asked by the Post what he made of recent Iranian reports that a Mossad ring tasked with assassinating two nuclear scientists last year had been apprehended, Mizrahi said, “It might be true. So what? Or it might not be true.”

Mizrahi said that “the Iranians several times declared Israeli or American rings of spies, but never put evidence on the table... We don’t know if it really happened, and if it did, so they caught one spy. So what? But I cannot rule out a situation in which it is not true, [and in which it is used as an] issue to divert attention, to say we have a common enemy and we have to fight it and not [have] conflict within ourselves.”

Asked to address comments attributed to outgoing Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who was quoted as saying recently that Iran would not obtain a nuclear weapon until 2015, Mizrahi said, “It will be better not to fix a date... I think the issue is that there is a process... The Iranians are going full steam ahead to trying to have the bomb and long-range missiles... but I’m not sure they themselves know when they will be ready with missiles or bombs. It might be sooner or later. It depends now on a political decision by [Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei.”

Mizrahi called on the international community to continue efforts to stem Iran’s nuclear ambitions on the “diplomatic, economic [and] operational” fronts, while “keeping the military option on the table.

“I’m not saying we have to use it, but I’m saying it should be on the table,” he said.

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