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IDF Pushes Deeper Into Hizballah Ground

While the fighting continues in Maroun ar-Ras, taken by the IDF over the weekend, Israeli ground operations have gradually branched out as expected. In a dawn operation Monday, Israeli troops are laying siege to Bint Jbail, a Hizballah stronghold of significant size that lies approximately 5 miles northwest of the Israeli border in the extreme southeastern area of Hizballah-controlled Lebanon.

Early television reports describe the fighting taking place around Maroun ar-Ras as intense, with IDF officers stating that the resistance is much greater than expected but that Hizballah fighters are dying “in droves.” While last week’s IDF claim that Hizballah capabilities had been diminished by 40-50% was clearly an exaggeration, Hizballah is likely taking heavy losses in their efforts to retake Maroun ar-Ras. The well-equipped IDF troops are the force with the advantage of a defensive position.

Hizballah clearly understands the psychological importance of Maroun ar-Ras and that its retaking would not be insignificant. But Hizballah is equipped and trained to a level far more than expected and are disciplined and organized. The counter-attack IDF forces in Maroun ar-Ras are seeing bears no resemblance to insurgent fighting in Iraq or operations mounted by Hamas, PRC and PIJ in Gaza. The Iranians have created a disciplined quasi-extension of the IRGC in Hizballah, and the extent and effectiveness of this extends far beyond simply the weapons systems in Hizballah’s Arsenal, such as the Silkworm anti-ship missiles and rocket capabilities. One capability that continues to remain curiously silent is Hizballah’s shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile assets, though it does claim to have taken down a helicopter earlier. The Israelis claim it was a mechanical malfunction.

But developments outside the theater of operations in Lebanon are of more significance. While Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s threats continue to amplify, they pale in comparison to reports that Hizballah sleeper cells around the world have been activated and put on alert. Shin Bet, Israel’s counter-intelligence and internal security agency, has put Israel’s embassies and consulates under heightened alert status, as Israeli and Jewish institutions are expected to be the targets of any international terror reach by Hizballah.

For his part, Ahmadinejad declared that Israel has “pushed the button of its own destruction” with its operations against Hizballah. He went on to say that Israel and the United States have set up their bases of operations in the Middle East, including Israel itself. Ahmadinejad went on to say, “But today, the occupier regime (Israel) - whose philosophy is based on threats, massacre and invasion - has reached its finishing line.”

Iranian partner in terror Syria is making gestures that it wants ‘talks with the US’ and, in order to barter their way into such talks, Syria says it is ready ‘to come clean’ on al-Qaeda cells operating out of Lebanon. Syria has reportedly said, “We know where they are and we can tell you.”

It has offered to be a mediator between its Israeli and western enemies and its terror partner Iran regarding the crisis in Lebanon. While this ‘offer’ is expected to be soundly rejected as disingenuous, it is another clear indicator that Iran is running the Hizballah side of operations.

That offer coincided with a Syrian warning that it would send troops if Israel ran a full-scale invasion of Lebanon. “If Israel makes a land entry into Lebanon, they can get to within 20 kilometers (12 miles) of Damascus. What will we do? Stand by with our arms folded? Absolutely not. Without any doubt Syria will intervene in the conflict.”

Feedback

That is an interesting observation:
"...Syria is making gestures that it wants ‘talks with the US’ and, in order to barter their way into such talks, Syria says it is ready ‘to come clean’ on al-Qaeda cells operating out of Lebanon. Syria has reportedly said, “We know where they are and we can tell you.”

Is this a sign of a rift with Iran? I can only see this in two ways:
1) Syria is lying its ass off.
2) They're either tired or afraid of an American/Israeli punch into Syria.

Syria has given so much support to al-qaeda in Iraq it's hard to believe they're willing to tank those terrorists. Unless Iran is tired of al-qaeda and wants Hezbollah to be the only military force in the mid-east.

Perhaps some of both but given Syria's history, I prefer 1) as a reason.

Syria has been providing tidbits of intel on al-Qaeda since after 9/11. This has been their way of buying influence with the CIA, which has possibly bought them some degree of protection from the U.S. I have long argued that this should stop - Syria has been leading us along, giving some info on this or that terrorist or Baathist commander just to keep Langely happy. At the same time, Syria has provided assistance to al-Qaeda on multiple fronts, not only Iraq but in Europe and Damascus provided a base for Zarqawi's 2002 attacks on Jordan. Indeed, the reason that Syria has so much intel to share on terrorist groups is that it is in the middle of the web.

So I would say that the offer from Syria probably contains a certain degree of veracity, but that is not a good reason to accept it. The U.S. needs to do whatever it takes to develop its own intelligence assets in the Arab world, just as Israel does.