Lebanon invasion: preparation for Iran attack?


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Bush 'viewed war in Lebanon as a curtain-raiser for attack on Iran'
By Andrew Buncombe in Washington
Published: 14 August 2006

The Bush administration was informed in advance and gave the "green light" to 
Israel's military strikes against Hizbollah ‹ with plans drawn up months before 
two Israeli soldiers were seized ‹it has been claimed.

The US reportedly considered Israel's actions as a necessary prerequisite for a 
possible strike against Iran. A report by a leading investigative reporter says 
that earlier this summer Israeli officials visited Washington to brief the 
government on its plan to respond to any Hizbollah provocation and to "find out 
how much the US would bear".

The officials apparently started their inquiries with Vice-President Dick 
Cheney, knowing that if they secured his support, obtaining the backing of 
President Bush and Condoleezza Rice would be easier.

The report by Seymour Hersh quotes an unidentified US government consultant with
close ties to the Israelis who says: "The Israelis told us it would be a cheap 
war with many benefits. Why oppose it? We'll be able to hunt down and bomb 
missiles, tunnels, and bunkers from the air. It would be a demo for Iran."

A former intelligence officer, also quoted, says: "We told Israel,'Look, if you 
guys have to go, we're behind you all the way. But we think it should be sooner 
rather than later. The longer you wait, the less time we have to evaluate and 
plan for Iran before Bush gets out of office'."

Both Israeli and US officials say that the Israeli military operation against 
Hizbollah was triggered by the seizing of two Israeli soldiers, apparently to be
bargained with for a possible prisoner swap. But Hersh's report, published in 
today's issue of The New Yorker, adds to evidence that Israel had been 
anticipating a Hizbollah provocation for some time and planning its response ‹ a
response that was widely condemned for being disproportionate.

Last month the San Francisco Chronicle reported that "Israel's military response
by air, land and sea to what it considered a provocation last week by Hizbollah 
militants was unfolding according to a plan finalised more than a year ago". The
report said that a senior Israeli army officer had been briefing diplomats, 
journalists and think-tanks for more than a year about the plan and it quoted 
Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at [Israel's] Bar-Ilan 
University, who said: "Of all of Israel's wars since 1948, this was the one for 
which Israel was most prepared." Last week the New Statesman magazine reported 
that Britain had also been informed in advance of the military preparations and 
that the Prime Minister had chosen not to try to stop them "because he did not 
want to".

This latest report is the first to tie the Israeli operation to a broader 
framework that includes a possible US strike against Iran.

Unidentified officials said a strike could "ease Israel's security concerns and 
also serve as a prelude to a potential American pre-emptive attack". Shabtai 
Shavit, a national security adviser to the Knesset, said: "We do what we think 
is best for us, and if it happens to meet America's requirements, that's just 
part of a relationship between two friends. Hizbollah is armed to the teeth and 
trained in the most advanced technology of guerrilla warfare. It was just a 
matter of time."

An anonymous Middle East expert claimed that while the State Department 
supported the plan because it believed it would help the Lebanese government 
assert control over the south, the White House was focussed on stripping 
Hizbollah of its missiles.

The expert added: "If there was to be a military option against Iran's nuclear 
facilities, it had to get rid of the weapons that Hizbollah could use in a 
potential retaliation at Israel. Bush was going after Iran, as part of the 'axis
of evil', and its nuclear sites, and he was interested in going after Hizbollah 
as part of his interest in democratisation."

Last night the White House denied the allegations contained in Hersh's piece 
with a brief statement from the President describing it as "patently untrue". Mr
Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, added: " The suggestion that 
the US and Israel planned and co-ordinated an attack on Hizbollah ‹ and did so 
as a prelude to an attack on Iran ‹ is just flat wrong."

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