US delays Syria envoy over Hezbollah arms deal

The [US] postponed “until further notice” the appointment of an ambassador to Damascus, Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai Al-Aam said over the weekend… [Hezbollah] is building up its stock of advanced Syrian and Iranian weaponry; Israel has voiced particular concern that the organization might acquire anti-aircraft weaponry that would make it difficult for the Israeli Air Force to fly over Lebanon. [The] arsenal is estimated to contain tens of thousands of rockets capable of reaching nearly any target in Israel. There was a dramatic improvement in the rockets’ range, precision…

IOA Editor: If true, this might reflect an Iranian effort to deter an Israeli attack, with Bashar Assad — repeatedly spurned by Israel — trying a new, and highly risky, approach. Israel, despite the risk of casualties and the lack of apparent domestic or international support, might choose to strike Hezbollah before its recently-delivered advanced weapons become the new reality on the Lebanese front. And, if Israel plans to attack Iran, it will not tolerate a strong Hezbollah, now equipped to do serious, pinpointed-damage to its military and urban centers. Thus, a Third Lebanon War may not be as far off as suggested. Ominous prospects for all, or maybe just a disinformation campaign designed to trick, or to deter someone from doing something.

Naharnet.com: ‘Scud Crisis’ Threatens War between Israel, Hizbullah
Jerusalem Post: Syria snubbed request for talks


By Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel, Haaretz – 13 April 2010
www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1162658.html

The American administration postponed “until further notice” the appointment of an ambassador to Damascus, Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai Al-Aam said over the weekend.

Robert Ford was supposed to have been confirmed by the Senate for the post, making him the first American ambassador in Syria since 2005.

According to the daily, the decision to postpone the appointment was prompted by information about trucks bearing advance weaponry that passed from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon, with the Syrian regime’s blessing. The report is based on quotes from American sources who spoke with Al-Rai Al-Aam’s Washington reporter.

The report says that Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, passed the Syrian leadership a message from the U.S. administration when he visited Damascus earlier this month. Kerry asked for explanations about the relationship between Syria and Hezbollah, and voiced reservations over Syrian support for the Shi’ite organization.

The American source told the reporter the kind of weapons transported to Hezbollah could start a new war with Israel, but did not specify what kind of weapons were involved.

Tensions between Syria, Israel and Lebanon came to the fore most recently in late January, when Israel and Syria traded verbal blows and American and Israeli officials voiced concerns about Hezbollah rearming with the help of Syria and Iran. At the peak of the tension, the Israel Defense Forces held a prescheduled military drill.

However, Israel clarified to the Assad regime that it had no intention of attacking Syria, and even went as far as excluding reserves mobilization from the drill, so as not to alarm the Syrians even further. The steps appear to have had some effect, as tensions eased the following month and comments from all parties became more restrained.

Nevertheless, one of the central issues in the northern arena remains Hezbollah’s plans to avenge the 2008 assassination of its senior operative Imad Mughniyeh, which it blames on Israel.

The organization is also building up its stock of advanced Syrian and Iranian weaponry; Israel has voiced particular concern that the organization might acquire anti-aircraft weaponry that would make it difficult for the Israeli Air Force to fly over Lebanon.

Moreover, Hezbollah’s arsenal is estimated to contain tens of thousands of rockets capable of reaching nearly any target in Israel. There was a dramatic improvement in the rockets’ range, precision and strength despite UN Resolution 1701, which stabilized the northern front but has failed to prevent weapon smuggling.

Israel is closely following the weapon smuggling, and continues to issue warnings. However, Netanyahu’s government will find it hard to justify to the international community and even to the public at home a military move to keep the enemies from rearming, which could trigger a Third Lebanon War.

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