August 23, 2012
by Avi Melamed
Arab source reports that last week Hezbollah conducted the largest military ground maneuver exercise in its history. The operation, held in the Beqa’a (the Lebanese valley) included 10,000 members of Hezbollah’s elite force – many of the militants are 16 – 20 years old.
Nasrallah personally attended and monitored part of the exercise together with officers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
The maneuver simulated Hezbollah’s takeover of the Upper Galilee area in Israel.
Hezbollah’s tactics resembled the ones they practiced during the 2006 war with one main difference – the new advanced weapon systems supplied to Hezbollah by Iran. Their new arsenal includes advanced anti-tank missiles and drones that can be used for both intelligence and surveillance purposes, as well as high precision assault weapons that can be activated by remote control. (End of report)
This report should be viewed cautiously – the timing of its publishing is not coincidental. It is released at a time when Hezbollah is experiencing inner turmoil stemming from a series of recent events including: the kidnapping of Hezbollah senior officials in Syria; the arrest of a previous Lebanese government Minister associated with Hezbollah and the Assad regime who was in charge of a terror plot in Lebanon; the escalating anti-Hezbollah rhetoric of Salafi preacher Ahmad Al Asir in the area of Sidon (the largest city in Southern Lebanon and is predominantly Sunni); the kidnapping of Syrians in Lebanon that most people, including the Syrian National Council, hold Hezbollah responsible for; and the recent escalating violence between Sunnis and Alawites in Tripoli (the largest city in Northern Lebanon also Sunni) – according to recent report, Sunnis Sheiks in Tripoli announced the establishment of “The Sunni Military Defense Council.”
In my opinion, the report about the operation and other details mentioned in the report should be scrutinized carefully. It is very uncharacteristic of Hezbollah to disclose information about its military deployment, tactics and operational plans.
Therefore, I think that the report is actually a message from Hezbollah. The intended recipient of that message is not Israel. The real address are the Sunnis in Lebanon and in Syria that present a growing strategic threat to Hezbollah.
It is clear that Hezbollah is making preparations to meet the challenge. Recent reports indicate that Hezbollah is building a fortified line of bunkers, tunnels, communication networks and heavy armament including missiles which are deployed along along the eastern part of Lebanon on the Syrian-Lebanese “border” (there is no formal delineated border) and particularly in the area of Al Harmal which dominates the Beqa’a area.
Hezbollah is under growing pressure. The downfall of the Assad regime is likely to happen sooner or later. That will be a massive blow to Hezbollah and its patrons the Iranians. Hezbollah could find itself cut off from its major life line and confronting an enraged Syrian and Lebanese Sunni armed front.
This development of a Sunni cresecent which would pose an increasing threat and significant challenge to Hezbollah is was what I was referring to in my February 2012 article entitled Is War in the Middle East Inevitable?
Lebanon is held hostage by Hezbollah, and is subjected to increasing Iranian domination. Lebanon’s political and strategic destiny will be determined to a large extent by the developments and aftermath of the war in Syria and developments in the Iranian military nuclear project.