Robert Fisk: Hizbollah's silence over Scuds speaks volumes to Israel

Fears of conflict escalate as group refuses to discuss its arsenal with Jerusalem – or the Lebanese government

Share
Related Topics

If Lebanon had a US-style colour-coded "war-fear" alert ranging from white to purple, we are now – courtesy of Israeli president Shimon Peres, the White House spokesman and the head of the Lebanese Hizbollah militia, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah – hovering somewhere between pink and red.

Has Syria given the Hizbollah a set of Scud ground-to-ground missiles to fire at Israel? Can Israeli aircraft attack them if the Hizbollah also possess anti-aircraft missiles? Can the Lebanese army take these weapons from the Hizbollah before the balloon goes up?

It is a long-standing saga, of course, and Israel has been itching to get its own back on the world's most disciplined guerrilla movement. You can forget al-Qa'ida when it comes to Hizbollah's effectiveness – after the Israeli army's lamentable performance in 2006, when it promised to destroy the Hizbollah and ended up, after the usual 1000-plus civilian dead, pleading for a ceasefire. Over the past few months, Mr Nasrallah has been taunting the Israelis to have another go, promising that an Israeli missile attack on Beirut airport will be followed by a Hizbollah rocket attack on Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport.

But over the past week, a warning by Mr Peres that the Hizbollah has received Scud missiles from Damascus – or via Syria from Iran – and a refusal by the Hizbollah to even discuss its own disarmament within a Lebanese "national dialogue" chaired by the Lebanese President, Michel Suleiman, has darkened the spring skies over both Lebanon and Israel. The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said this week that the United States has expressed its concern to both the Syrian and Lebanese governments over "the sophisticated weaponry that ... is allegedly being transferred". Mr Peres started the whole thing off a day earlier when he declared that "Syria claims it wants peace while at the same time it delivers Scuds to Hizbollah, whose only goal is to threaten the state of Israel."

These hootings and trumpetings have always had a strong element of hypocrisy about them. The Scuds – even if Hizbollah has them – are as out-of-date as they are notoriously inaccurate. In the 1991 Gulf war, Saddam Hussein's Scuds caused fewer than a hundred deaths. The more Peres thunders about the danger they represent, the more Hizbollah's allies in Iran – supposedly trying to build a nuclear weapon – take pride of place in public imagination over the continued and illegal Israeli colonisation of Palestinian land.

As for Mr Nasrallah, he promised only a year ago that Hizbollah's disarmament could not be discussed by the Lebanese government – only during the so-called "national dialogue". And now the "national dialogue" has begun, the organisation has made it clear that it has no intention of discussing disarmament with other Lebanese political parties.

The problems are legion. Hizbollah is itself represented in the Lebanese parliament, and under the Doha agreement which followed Hizbollah's one-day military takeover of west Beirut in May of 2008, it also has an effective veto over majority decisions taken by the Lebanese cabinet. And even if the Shia Muslim Hizbollah's opponents in the Cabinet – they are largely Sunni Muslim with a prominent Christian contingent – ordered the Lebanese army to take weapons from the militia, they would be unable to do so for one simple reason. At least half the army – possibly two-thirds – are themselves Shia Muslims, and would obviously object to attacking the homes of brothers, sons and fathers in the Hizbollah.

A clue to the seriousness with which everyone now takes the possibility of war is contained in a remark made by an anonymous US spokesman who warned that the transfer of Scud missiles to Hizbollah would represent a "serious risk" to Lebanon. Not to Israel, mark you – but to Lebanon. There is no doubt that this is an allusion to frequent threats from the Israelis themselves that in another war with Hizbollah, the Lebanese government would be held responsible and as a result Lebanon's infrastructure would be destroyed.

This does not sound so bad in Lebanon as it does elsewhere. For in its last Lebanese war – the fifth since 1978 – the Israelis blamed the Lebanese government for Hizbollah's existence and smashed up the country's roads, bridges, viaducts, electricity grid and civilian factories, as well as killing well over 1,000 civilians. Israel's casualties were in the hundreds, most of them soldiers. What worse can Israel do now against the ruthlessness of the Hizbollah, even after the accusations of war crimes levelled against its equally ruthless rabble of an army?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have previous experience...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently  

Shia LaBeouf to Luis Suárez: Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Ellen E Jones
Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay's Chris Martin “consciously uncoupled” in March  

My best and worst stories of 2014

Simmy Richman
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015