Saturday, March 05, 2005

Israel demands withdrawal of Iranian Guard

Ze'ev Schiff, Haaretz:
Israel has informed a number of countries, including the United States and France, that the demand for the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon, in keeping with the UN Security Council decision, will not be complete if it doesn't also lead to the departure of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps members, who have been in Lebanon for a long time and are providing assistance to Hezbollah's military wing. read more

Israel's official position is that the Syrian forces deployed in Lebanon are not the only foreign army in that country. Despite the fact that the Syrian force is a large one, and includes numerous units and an extensive intelligence set-up, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards play a significant and negative military role in Lebanon - a role that undermines Lebanese sovereignty.

The individuals in question are a group of dozens, perhaps more, of Iranian military officers and experts.

Unlike the overt Syrian military presence, the members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard keep a low profile. Iranians questioned on this presence have said the group consists only of medical personnel who are there to provide medical logistics assistance and the like. This claim is refuted.

Reports determine that the Iranian officers and experts have provided operational assistance to Hezbollah, and have even patrolled along the Israeli border with Hezbollah operatives.

Furthermore, an Iranian-made drone, which, according to Hezbollah sources, was sent on a reconnaissance mission over Israeli territory, took photographs above Israeli territory before crashing on its way back to Lebanon.

The Iranian explanation after the incident was that, if they wanted to, they could send a UAV armed with explosives into Israel.

In addition, it is well known that the Iranian experts are involved in the array in southern Lebanon of long-range Fajr rockets that threaten Israel. These are Iranian-made rockets that were given to Hezbollah together with numerous other ordnance. Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard were involved in setting up Hezbollah's rocket formation.

Israeli officials have also informed Egypt of the government's position.

While the withdrawal of the Syrian forces from Lebanon depends first and foremost on a decision by Damascus if and when to respond to the Security Council's demand, the demand for the withdrawal of the Revolutionary Guards must come initially from the Lebanese government and must be directed at the government in Tehran.

According to assessments, the withdrawal of the Syrian forces from Lebanon will boost Hezbollah's weight as a military organization, leading in turn to a broader role for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in that country. The Lebanese army has no direct link to the Iranian activities in Lebanon, just as it has no control over arms shipments from Iran to Hezbollah.