Friday, June 24, 2011

Hezbollah Preparing For War Against Israel

Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group is preparing for a possible war with Israel to relieve perceived Western pressure to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad, its guardian ally, sources close to the movement say.

The radical Shi'ite group, which has a powerful militia armed by Damascus and Iran, is watching the unrest in neighboring Syria with alarm and is determined to prevent the West from exploiting popular protests to bring down Assad.

Hezbollah supported pro-democracy movements that toppled Western-backed leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, but officials say it will not stand idly by as international pressure mounts on Assad to yield to protesters.

It is committed to do whatever it takes politically to help deflect what it sees as a foreign campaign against Damascus, but it is also readying for a possible war with Israel if Assad is weakened.

"Hezbollah will never intervene in Syria. This is an internal issue for President Bashar to tackle. But when it sees the West gearing up to bring him down, it will not just watch," a Lebanese official close to the group's thinking told Reuters.

"This is a battle for existence for the group and it is time to return the favor (of Syria's support). It will do that by fending off some of the international pressure," he added.

The militant group, established nearly 30 years ago to confront Israel's occupation of south Lebanon, fought an inconclusive 34-day war with Israel in 2006.

Hezbollah and Syria have both denied that the group has sent fighters to support a military crackdown on the wave of protests against Assad's rule.

Hezbollah believes the West is working to reshape the Middle East by replacing Assad with a ruler friendly to Israel and hostile to itself.
"The region now is at war, a war between what is good and what is backed by Washington... Syria is the good," said a Lebanon-based Arab official close to Syria.

He said the United States, which lost an ally when Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in February, "wants to shift the crisis" by supporting protests against its adversary.

"For us this will be confronted in the best possible way," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Analysts rule out the possibility of a full-scale regional war involving Syria, Iran and Lebanon on one side against Israel backed by the U.S. A war pitting Hezbollah against Israel was more likely, they said.

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