Over the past year, this blog frequently reported on the flagrant arms smuggling that took place under the noses of the Lebanese army and the emasculated March 14 government and its parliament majority. One devastating war later, the Lebanese media is reporting that the Lebanese army is deploying along the border with Syria in the Bekaa and the north, in an attempt to monitor arms smuggling. The Lebanese defense minister, Elias Murr, meanwhile, declared that any rocket fired onto Israel from Lebanese territory would be considered “collaboration with Israel to provide a pretext (for Israel) to strike.”
Apparently, Lebanese officials are confident that Hizbullah has given its word that it will not fire at Israel. Murr’s warning, it seems, was mainly directed at the Palestinian militias who in the past clashed with the Lebanese army and fired rockets at northern Israel (which often ended up either in the sea or on Lebanese territory). Those Assad-backed militias only succeeded in killing Lebanese soldiers in the name of defending the cause, and were nowhere to be seen when their professed enemy actually attacked the country.
Murr, who on Saturday emptily threatened to halt the deployment of the Lebanese army if Israel continued its raids, is now making these statements as part of the Lebanese efforts to send assurances and “guarantees” to the world that Lebanon is serious about implementing UNSC 1701. According to An-Nahar, the Lebanese army is implementing a deployment plan to prevent arms smuggling through the border with Syria and all the Lebanese ports. The Lebanese army will be supported by the Internal security forces, Lebanon’s police.
These efforts are not only hampered by Israeli distrust and Hizbullah defiance, but also Lebanese ambiguity. Lebanese authorities (i.e. Murr and Siniora) avoid any kind of public questioning of Hizbullah’s weapons smuggling (Jumblatt and Geagea excluded) and its attempts to re-arm. They never give us the satisfaction of specifically mentioning shipments to Hizbullah, treating us instead to general assertions and talk of national unity.
Just today, Hizbullah’s representative in Tehran told Al-Sharq newspaper that his party will not disarm and will continue to import weapons, claiming the Lebanese army is incapable of defending the country (source: LBC news). And Haaretz today reported that Turkish authorities have prevented five Iranian airplanes and a Syrian aircraft from flying into Lebanon, suspecting them of transporting arms to Hizbullah.
According to Hurriyet and other reports in Turkish media, the aircraft was not allowed leave Diyarbakir for Lebanon, after American intelligence reports indicated the plane carried three missile launchers and containers with Chinese C-802 land-to-sea missiles, identical to the missile that hit an Israel Navy battleship in July.
Are we to understand that Murr and the Lebanese army are acting to prevent shipments of weapons to Hizbullah? And if they do so, will Nasrallah's men deemed traitors and tried as "Israeli collaborators"? Or do they have to fire a rocket first? Things are never clear with this government. Last week, the head of the Lebanese army, Michel Suleiman, told his soldiers that they were deploying “among your people and your resistance.” Suleiman’s statement caused concerns among Europeans and the UN, who are still trying to figure out the mandate of the international forces. Lebanese officials had to tell Larsen and other diplomats that Suleiman meant to assert to his troops that their mission was to protect the people and not confront anyone (meaning Hizbullah).
Israel is not giving anybody the benefit of the doubt and is showing no signs it will stop its violations of Lebanese airspace until the international forces are on the ground. Apparently, Israel has now switched to monitoring shipments, intervening when deemed necessary. Reuters reported that the Israelis are requiring all Lebanon-bound planes go via Jordan for security checks.
Very few Lebanese believe that Lebanese airports were/are used to smuggle weapons to Hizbullah. Were they fooled? If the Turkish reports are true, where were those planes supposed to land? I think the Lebanese people deserve some openness from its government. It’s not enough to cry over the ruins and call the destruction "crimes against humanity" as Siniora did yesterday during his visit to the southern suburb (source: Future TV news). We need to know whether our airports and other civilian infrastructure were (and going to be) used for these purposes. And if so, people need to be held accountable. This government cannot be taken seriously if it does not come out clean. These matters cannot be swept under the burning rug of national unity.