While Netanyahu declares “Israel is not seeking war,” top Israeli analysts say that the conflict over a secret Iranian missile plant in Lebanon makes an Israeli strike almost inevitable.
By: Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News
Analysts looking at Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Sunday briefing to the Cabinet on the subject of his recent talks with Russian President Putin pointed at the particular significance of a remark he made after usual comments about Israeli readiness in the face of military threats. Netanyahu told the ministers that he and Putin, discussed “Lebanon, which is becoming a factory for precision-guided missiles that threaten Israel. These missiles pose a grave threat to Israel, and we will not accept this threat.”
Netanyahu went on to say that the weapons factories are currently “in the process of being built” by Iran and Israel is “determined to do whatever is necessary to prevent those two developments.”
Indeed top Israeli analysts say that the Iranian “missile factory” being built in Lebanon is a game changer that has placed Israel and Hezbollah on a collision course that could lead to a third Lebanon war. The analysts also say that the coming conflict in Lebanon could spill over into Syria. As Netanyahu said to reporters, “The question is: Does Iran entrench itself in Syria, or will this process be stopped. If it doesn’t stop by itself, we will stop it.”
Lebanese officials have not issued any comment concerning the alleged Iranian plan According to Smadar Perry from Ynet, “Either Lebanon is not in on the secret or they’re choosing to keep quiet.” According to Perry, the Revolutionary Guards are building the factory in Lebanon without asking Iranian leadership for permission.”
Meir Javadanfan who teaches Iranian Studies at the IDC told World Israel News (WIN), “The story could be true, but the Iranians have never confirmed the existence of a Lebanese missile plant.”
Asked about the possibility of another war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, Professor Ephraim Inbar, Director of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies told WIN, “This is entirely possible. The Iranians are building a plant in Lebanon to produce long range missiles. They are doing so because they have difficulties transporting those missiles from Iran to Lebanon because Israel strikes and destroys their convoys time and time again. Iran is advancing on two fronts…the Syrian border and Lebanon. I don’t think Hezbollah wants a conflict now, but they want the missiles and this is unacceptable to Israel.”
According to Inbar, Israel is now considering its options. “We must decide if we will preempt to prevent this plant from becoming operational. Already Hezbollah has 100 thousand missiles aimed at Israel. No army in the world has more missiles. There is growing support for a preemptive strike because if we allow this plant to be built on Lebanese soil without an Israeli reaction, it will be a clear sign of weakness. Israel knows where the missiles plant is located and the air force is capable of destroying it. “This cannot be hidden from our intelligence and a preemptive attack is an option. ” Inbar said.
Israel’s problem in the war in 2006 was in identifying the short range missile launchers, and that is still a problem today because the short range missiles are hidden among the civilian population and can be moved. “The way to shorten the war is to occupy south Lebanon. Capture the territory and then hunt for the missile launchers,” Inbar said. Beyond 40 kilometers is less of a problem because that’s where long range missiles are deployed and they are easier to find and destroy. It took only one day to destroy Hezbollah’s long-range missile arsenal in the second Lebanon war in 2006. “The other problem is the quantity of missiles. They have over 100 thousand missiles loaded with warheads. We now have the capacity to intercept missiles. But it will difficult to intercept all the missiles fired in large salvos.
Is the world watching Hezbollah?
French Intelligence Online reported that the “Hezbollah terrorist group is constructing at least two underground facilities in Lebanon for manufacturing missiles and other weaponry.” The French magazine quoted sources saying that one of the factories is being built in northern Lebanon, near the town of Hermel in the eastern Bekaa Valley. The second facility is reportedly being constructed along the southern coast, between the towns of Sidon and Tyre. They also report that the Hermel facility is being used to produce the Fateh 110, a medium-range missile and the southern facility will be used to make smaller munitions.
Dr. Martin Sherman, Director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies believes that the inevitable conflict would have come sooner if not for the civil war in Syria.
“I think the conflict was only delayed because of the civil war. Otherwise Hezbollah would have attacked Israel during the Gaza war in 2014 with Hamas. Things are worse now because the Iranians feel empowered. The mistake was to leave Hezbollah intact in the second Lebanon war in 2006. These are the bitter fruits of President Obama’s policy including the ill-conceived Iran deal strengthening Iran financially,” Sherman said.
According to Sherman, “There needs to be a credible military response inflicting major damage. Hezbollah is not deterred by war. They have increased their missile stockpile by tenfold. They were distracted by the war in Syria but now they are back, and they can make the 2006 war look like a picnic. The only option is preemption. Israel has been led into a grave situation. Trying to avoid the inevitable confrontation can result in even heavier loses.”
“At this time Hezbollah is not ready to coordinate a two front conflict along with Hamas in Gaza. But the tensions are escalating and the thing that ties it all together is the support both receive from Iran. If they launch a two front war in a coordinated assault, it could be a real problem for Israel. Preemption is the answer,” Sherman said.
One of the few press reports on the Iranian missile plant in Syria came from the London-based daily Asharq al-Awsat. They reported, “Russia has prevented an inevitable Israeli attack” on what the daily characterizes as “Iran’s missile factories in Lebanon and Syria.” Israel and Russia have not reacted to Asharq al-Awsat’s report.