Lebanon rejects Israel’s Defense Minister’s claim Hezbollah controls Lebanese army

After Israel’s DM Lieberman alleged how Lebanon’s army is an “integral part of Hezbollah,” and now both would be legitimate strategic targets in the next war with Hezbollah, a Lebanese military official impugned Lieberman’s allegation, asserting that country’s army is totally independent, subordinate to the government alone.

By Lilach Shoval, News Agencies & Israel Hayom Staff

 

A day after Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman accused the Lebanese militia Hezbollah of controlling the Lebanese army, warning that both would be in Israel’s crosshairs in any future war, a Lebanese military official rejected the allegation Wednesday, saying that the Lebanese army is “fully independent and subject only to the authority of the political government.”

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Speaking to Lebanese daily Al Joumhouria, the official said further that the military’s policy was decided solely by its commanders.

“The U.S. and Britain provide generous military aid to the Lebanese army and habitually express continuous faith in it. Is Lieberman suggesting that Washington and London are arming Hezbollah? Does Lieberman know something that these countries don’t know?” the official wondered.

“The Lebanese army has proven its willingness to defend the eastern border against terrorism, and it is ready to defend the southern border as well, should Israel decide to launch a war on Lebanon,” the official said. “Our fundamental mission is to defend all parts of Lebanon, and the Lebanese army has no interest in fighting on multiple fronts or beyond our borders.”

Speaking at a forum in the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv Tuesday, Lieberman told soldiers from the Armored, Artillery and Air Defense corps that “the Lebanese army has become an integral part of Hezbollah under Hezbollah command.”

Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Shiite terrorist group that controls southern Lebanon, is a member of Lebanon’s coalition government, and its armed wing has long been seen as more powerful than the country’s security forces.

The United States has given the Lebanese military more than $1 billion in aid over the past decade, viewing it as a counterbalance to Hezbollah and a partner in fighting extremist groups like al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.

Israel has expressed mounting concern about the growing presence of Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed forces in the adjacent Syria.

Outlining potential threats in Lebanon, where Israel last fought a war against Hezbollah in 2006, Lieberman said: “We are no longer talking about Hezbollah alone.”

“We are talking about Hezbollah and the Lebanese army, and sadly, this is the reality,” Lieberman said. “The Lebanese army has turned into an integral part of Hezbollah’s command structure. The Lebanese army has lost its independence and become an inseparable part of the Hezbollah apparatus.”

He said Israel sought to avoid going to war again on its northern front, which, he predicted, would include Syria.

“In anything that transpires it will be one theater, Syria and Lebanon together, Hezbollah, the Assad regime and all of its collaborators,” he said.

“All of our efforts are to prevent the next war, but in the ‘new’ Middle East our previous assessments, such as there being low-probability [for war], are simply not relevant. Reality is fragile; [war] can happen from one moment to the next and from today to tomorrow. Everything relies on our need to prepare for a serious maneuver, and there is no maneuver without massive firepower, and the Armored Corps and Artillery corps are supposed to provide that massive firepower; precisely as the Air Defense [Corps] is supposed to prevent a significant portion of the damage to the State of Israel.

“Anyone who wants peace must prepare for war,” the defense minister concluded. “I hope our enemies on the other side think long and hard before any step they take against Israel.”

Meanwhile, the United States on Tuesday offered multimillion-dollar rewards for two Hezbollah terrorists as the Trump administration prepared to unveil a strategy to counter Tehran’s growing regional influence.

Wanted poster for Talal Haniyah and Fu’ad Shukr – US St Dept:i24NEWS

Washington will pay up to $7 million for information leading to the arrest of Talal Hamiyah, head of Hezbollah’s foreign operations, and up to $5 million for Fuad Shukr, a top Hezbollah military operative, the State Department said.

The rewards are the first offered by the United States for Hezbollah terrorists in a decade, U.S. Counterterrorism Coordinator Nathan Sales, told reporters.

“Today’s rewards are another step to increase the pressure on them and their organization,” he said.

Hamiyah has been on the State Department’s foreign terrorist list since 2015 and Shukr was added in 2013. The United States named Hezbollah as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997.

Nicholas Rasmussen, the head of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, blamed the group for a litany of attacks around the world, and said it maintains a presence in “nearly every corner of the globe.”

Pointing to the arrests of two men in the United States in June for alleged activities on Hezbollah’s behalf, Rasmussen said that U.S. intelligence agencies assess that the group is seeking an ability to strike inside “the homeland.”

Sales signaled that as part of U.S. President Donald Trump’s soon-to-be-unveiled Iran strategy, Washington would press countries that have yet to designate Hezbollah as an international terrorist group to do so.

“Additionally, some countries have chosen to designate only Hezbollah’s military wing, leaving its so-called political wing untouched,” he said, apparently referring to the 28-member European Union. “But that is a false distinction. Make no mistake. Hezbollah has no political wing. It is a single organization, a terrorist organization, and it is rotten to its core.”

Designating the group as a terrorist organization is “not merely symbolic,” he continued.

By not doing so, he said, countries “limit other governments’ ability to freeze Hezbollah’s assets, to shut down its front companies, to eliminate its fund-raising and recruiting capabilities and to prosecute Hezbollah associated networks. The United States will need allies in this fight.”

Other extremists for whom the United States is offering rewards include Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of Islamic State, and Mohammad Jolani, the commander of al-Qaida’s Syrian branch.

 

View original Israel Hayom publication at:
http://www.israelhayom.com/2017/10/11/lebanon-rejects-israeli-claim-hezbollah-controls-lebanese-army/

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