HEZBOLLAH UP NEXT?
The prospect of the United States attacking Hezbollah bases in southern Lebanon is no idle threat, the editor of Jane’s Intelligence Digest said Friday.
On Friday the digest released a report saying the Bush administration is considering such strikes in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, where the bulk of Syria’s forces are deployed, as way to pressure Damascus. Jane’s attributed this to its regional correspondent reporting from Beirut.
In a phone interview from London, Alex Standish, editor of Jane’s Intelligence Digest, confirmed that his sources were American and that they were communicating the views of people close to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Asked if his sources were in the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, he replied that he could not identify them further.
“Our sources are pretty damn good,” Standish told United Press International. “We’ve never had a libel action since we were founded in 1938. … If you look at the track record of people who have given us this sort of information … these are tried and tested sources that we have confidence in.”
Standish dismissed the possibility that the information could have been planted by an American who wanted to derail any such attack.
“I think this is a U.S. administration that does what it says it will do,” said Standish, stressing that this is a plan under consideration, not a decided course of action. “Clearly, this is about ratcheting up the pressure on Damascus. … I think this is also part of the wider Realpolitik, which is to start the process of isolating Hezbollah much further. …
“What we’re looking at in this context are air strikes and the use of special forces snatch squads — that kind of activity. We’re not talking about a peacekeeping deployment or an invasion of southern Lebanon.”
Standish said if this were another administration, there would be more room for skepticism. But the Bush administration is willing to go in a new direction after Sept. 11, 2001.