Having failed to unseat Bashar al-Assad in Syria, the United States has switched its focus to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
In an act of blatant hypocrisy, the US House has passed “Sanctioning Hezbollah’s Illicit use of Civilians as Defenseless Shields Act,” a bill that sanctions Hezbollah for alleged war crimes while ignoring its own checkered past brimming with war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Congress didn’t need to do much in the way of homework prior to introducing this bill. Israel did that for them when its Intelligence and Terrorism Center at the Center for Special Studies, a research group that collaborates closely with the Israel Defense Forces and the American Jewish Congress, released report on Hezbollah’s purported use of human shields during the 2006 war in Lebanon.
This is a remarkable allegation considering Israel specifically and indiscriminately targeted Lebanon’s civilian population. “Israel’s indiscriminate airstrikes, not Hezbollah’s shielding as claimed by Israeli officials, caused most of the approximately 900 civilian deaths in Lebanon during the July-August 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah,” Human Rights Watch reported in September, 2007.
HRW found that “Hezbollah stored its rockets in bunkers and facilities located in uninhabited fields and valleys; ordered its fighters and civilian officials away from populated civilian areas as soon as the fighting started; and fired its rockets from pre-prepared positions outside villages. In the vast majority of airstrikes resulting in civilian deaths investigated by Human Rights Watch, there was no Hezbollah military presence or activity to justify the attack.”
The IDF saw no difference between Hezbollah fighters and the civilian population. It targeted Hezbollah political and social institutions not involved in hostilities. Both are direct violations of international law.
In addition, it bombed infrastructure, including the Rafik Hariri International Airport, ports, a lighthouse, grain silos, bridges, roads, factories, ambulances and relief trucks, mobile telephone and television stations, fuel containers and service stations, and Lebanon’s largest dairy farm Liban Lait.
The Israeli report claims the IDF was “faced with the problem of inflicting serious damage on Hezbollah’s military infrastructure to protect the security of Israel’s citizens, while maintaining its moral and ideological commitment to avoid harming civilians,” a statement clearly at odds with the truth.
Remarkably, the report also states the “IDF’s air strikes and ground attacks against Hezbollah targets located in population centers were carried out in accordance with international law, which does not grant immunity to a terrorist organization deliberately hiding behind civilians supporting it, using them as human shields.”
The Fourth Geneva Convention (with respect to protected civilians) and Additional Protocols do not specifically mention human shields. However, under the Statute of the International Criminal Court, “utilizing the presence of a civilian or other protected person to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations” constitutes a war crime.
Again, the HRW and the United Nations Humans Right Council found little evidence Hezbollah was involved in using human shields. The IDF reported during the operation it did not encounter Hezbollah fighters intermingled with civilians.
Despite a paucity of evidence, a tidal wave of propaganda swept the Israel-friendly establishment media. It made a prima facie case using the biased Israeli report while either ignoring or underplaying Israel’s wanton attack on innocent civilians.
Arguing before his colleagues on the House floor, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) placed the blame squarely on Hezbollah.
“The key reason that civilian areas were destroyed was the cynical strategy of Hezbollah guerrillas to stage their attacks from the middle of towns and residential areas,” Ackerman said, adding that “the loss of civilian life in Lebanon was due solely to Hezbollah’s cruel and uncivilized use of civilian areas as military bases.”
The spate of new legislation aimed at Hezbollah-including missile-related sanctions and new sanctions on entities found to support the group-will further embolden Israel to start another war against Hezbollah.
First, however, it will play the diplomatic game. Israel’s foreign ministry sent out a directive to its ambassadors worldwide calling on them to sway the international community to prevent Hezbollah’s inclusion in the next Lebanese government.
Never mind that Shia Muslims comprise over 40 percent of the population-by far the largest religious group-and support for Hezbollah within the community is uniformly strong. Moreover, two-thirds of Lebanon’s Christians believe Hezbollah is protecting Lebanon from the threat posed by Wahhabi terror groups.
Israel is calling for millions of Lebanese to be politically disenfranchised. It argues support for Hezbollah by Lebanese citizens is tantamount to promoting “the interests of a foreign power.”
If this fails-and it seems most certain it will-the next move will be an invasion of Lebanon.
On November 10, David Rosenberg, writing for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, warned the coming war will be expensive in human life and treasure. He writes that “against an onslaught of thousands of missiles, no Domes, Slings or Arrows will be able to provide the kind of defense Israelis have grown used to. Israel’s infrastructure and economic activity are vulnerable to even a limited missile attack from Hezbollah,” which has reportedly amassed around 100,000 missiles and rockets since the 2006 war.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said on October 10 Riyadh is inciting Israel to strike Lebanon. “It is clear that Saudi Arabia and Saudi officials have declared war on Lebanon and on Hezbollah in Lebanon,” Nasrallah said.
Nasrallah also accused the Saudis of offering to pay the bill for an Israeli invasion of Lebanon. He said the Saudis have offered Israel billions of dollars to launch a war. “I speak here about facts not analysis. Saudi Arabia is ready to pay tens of billions of dollars to Israel for that,” he said.
Israel has planned for war since its humiliating retreat from Lebanon in 2006. It will pursue a scorched earth policy this time around.
During the annual Herzliya security conference near Tel Aviv in June, Major-General Amir Eshel, commander of the Israeli Air Force, said Israel can now inflict within two or three days the devastation it took 34 days to accomplish in 2006. Eshel warned Lebanese civilians will bear the brunt.
On November 7, George W. Bush’s Under Secretary of Defense, Dov Zakheim, wrote an article for Foreign Policy speculating that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Jared Kushner, and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu are plotting something.
“And if so, how far will Washington, or more precisely, the White House, go to back up the Saudis if their confrontation with Iran gets hot?” Zakheim writes. “Or will Israel serve as Trump’s proxy? With this president, this crown prince, and the current prime minister of Israel, anything is possible.”
Saudi and US collusion was underscored in late October when Kushner-who holds the portfolio on Middle East policy-visited Saudi Arabia where he engaged in late night discussions with Mohammed bin Salman.
US participation in a war between Israel and Hezbollah will overshadow its participation in the 2006 war. The Bush administration rebuffed calls for a ceasefire in order to help Israel accomplish its goal of destroying Hezbollah, which turned out to be a dramatic failure. The US also gave substantial rhetorical support to Israel as it engaged in war crimes against the people of Lebanon.
Trump-who has difficulty distinguishing between Hamas and Hezbollah and erroneously stated Hezbollah is at war with the Lebanese government-has characterized Hezbollah as a “global threat” that must be addressed. His secretary of defense, James Mattis, mirrors the Israeli view on Iran and has said he believes Iran and the Islamic State are on friendly terms, an absurd assertion at odds with reality.
National Counterterrorism Center Director Nicholas Rasmussen added a domestic element to the supposed threat to America. “While I’m not here today to speak publicly about any specific, or credible, or imminent threat to the homeland,” Rasmussen told reporters on October 11, “we in the intelligence community do in fact see continued activity on behalf of Hezbollah here inside the homeland.”
In order to push the US into direct military involvement on Israel’s side-and gain public support-a sensational and outrageous terror event will be engineered.
Stephen Zunes, a professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco teaching courses on the politics of Middle East, told Vice he believes a false flag may be used to get the United States directly involved in a war. He speculated “an attack by some unknown Salafi group-an al Qaeda, ISIS type” may be used to set things in motion. “Trump could blame [the act of terror] on an Iranian-backed group, and use that as an excuse to attack Iran” and also assist Israel in its war with Hezbollah, depicted as a slavish Iranian proxy.
The alleged shoot-down of a Houthi missile outside of Riyadh on November 4 appears to be a false flag event staged to heighten tension and make the case Shia Houthis are collaborating with Iran.
In July, the Saudis claimed they shot down a missile targeting the Holy City of Mecca. According to Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, who oversees the Air Force’s Central Command in Qatar, the November missile has “Iranian markings.”
It isn’t clear if Israel’s looming war with Hezbollah will result in direct US military involvement. However, considering the political influence of Israel over Congress and Trump’s divisive rhetoric-and his desire to use the military, as he did on the morning of April 7 when he bombed Syria’s Shayrat airbase-the possibility of US direct involvement against Hezbollah and the growing likelihood of an attack on Iran proper cannot be discounted.