Gareth Porter: Balance of forces in Middle East has changed with Hezbollah able to “cover entire territory of Israel” with rockets
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. Now joining us again to discuss the WikiLeaks leak is Gareth Porter. He’s an investigative journalist and often-contributor to The Real News Network. Thanks for joining us again. So one of the cables that jumped out at you was about Lebanon. Tell us what you found.
GARETH PORTER, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST AND HISTORIAN: Well, this was one of the meetings, a high-level–or mid-level, I guess, is more accurate–meeting between US officials from the State Department and the Israeli Foreign Ministry, and Ministry of Defense as well, and also Mossad. These are the various agencies that were involved on the Israeli side. And what happened in this is that the Ministry of Defense director of political military affairs, a man named Amos Gilad, brought up an issue with the Americans that shows just how seriously the situation in Lebanon and in the entire Middle East, in terms of the balance of power between Israel and its adversaries–Iran, the Hezbollah, and Syria–has changed in the last two or three years. And what he said–and I’ll read from the cable what he said–he said: “Gilad addressed threats posed by” what he called “’Hizballahstan’ and ‘Hamastan’. . . . He noted that rockets from Lebanon can now cover the entire territory of Israel”. And this is something that’s very new. This was never the case in the past, of course, that Hezbollah rockets could actually cover the entire territory of Israel. They were really shorter-range rockets that could only reach a very small portion of the populated area of Israel.
JAY: Yeah, [Hassan] Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, said last spring publicly on Lebanese television that we now have the capability that if you target a building in Beirut, we can now target a building in Tel Aviv. If you take out one of our bridges, we can take out one of your bridges.
PORTER: And he was not exaggerating at all. And the Israelis are very concerned about this; they’re very upset about this. And I think what this reflects is a totally new balance of power, really, militarily, in the Middle East which had not existed prior to this buildup of rockets within Lebanon, held by the Hezbollah. And I think that one can say with a fair degree of confidence that this actually stabilizes the situation, relatively speaking, compared with what existed before. The Israelis are no longer able to contemplate another war in Lebanon without considering very seriously the consequences of that, which could be, you know, another war involving Iran as well, because of the tit-for-tat retaliation.
JAY: And people have flipped it the other way, that if there actually is an attack on Iran, which a lot of the WikiLeaks has been about, the Israel pushing United States to attack Iran, that there can’t be that attack on Iran without some kind of attack on Hezbollah, because people think Hezbollah will fire back in defense of Iran. Whether that’s true or not I don’t know.
PORTER: Well, that is certainly a serious possibility, that the two issues will, obviously, merge, that the two conflicts will merge, and that Hezbollah-Israel war would then be a result.
JAY: I mean, one of the questions, I guess, is: is the real issue a nuclear bomb in Iran, when US intelligence agencies seem to keep saying to Israel–although so far that’s not part of the WikiLeaks material that I’ve seen–but they keep saying that any real bomb threat is three years off, five years off, if there even is a weapons program, which is still–there seems no, you know, definitive evidence that such a thing even exists? Is the real issue Hezbollah and Hamas?
PORTER: I think it’s absolutely primarily Hezbollah and Hamas and the broader balance of power that exists between Israel and all of these adversaries. And what the Israelis cannot abide is precisely the loss of their clear-cut military supremacy, which is now what has been lost with this new balance of power, conventional balance of power, involving the rockets in Lebanon versus the Israeli military, obviously, ability to retaliate or to take the offensive. And this is in fact what it amounts to is a loss of the ability of the Israelis to easily contemplate an aggressive attack on any other neighbor in the region, and this is what the Israelis really are concerned about and what I think, you know, deserves to be much more widely known and understood at this point.
JAY: Well, that seems to go to the core of the whole question of why is everyone so worried about a nuclear bomb in Iran in the first place, in the sense that even if they had a few bombs, that doesn’t give any offensive capacity. It only gives–frankly, even as a defensive capacity, it’s hard to understand what it does other than make you a target. But perhaps–.
PORTER: Well, I mean, nuclear weapons are a matter of perception, I guess, is the bottom line, and perceptions are obviously highly subject to subjectivity, and that’s really the problem.
JAY: Thanks for joining us. And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
End of Transcript
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