Along the Israeli-Lebanon border, it’s about to get 2006 all over again.
At least that’s what Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters late Tuesday at a press conference with Democratic Sen. Chris Coons – with whom he sponsored a bipartisan immigration bill that ultimately failed to garner enough support from their fellow lawmakers. The press conference was called to share details about a bipartisan trip last week to the Middle East.
Graham of South Carolina told reporters that Israeli officials made it clear to visiting lawmakers last week that the IDF will need to launch a military action in Southern Lebanon if Hezbollah continues work on a guided-rocket factory being built in the region – a factory that’s purportedly being funded by Iran, according to Bloomberg.
“They’ve told us in no uncertain terms that if this threat continues – they keep making rockets that can hit the airport and do a lot of damage to the state of Israel – they are going to have to go in,” Graham said.
Iran’s decision to help fund the factory is a direct result of the US’s lack of a strategy for countering Iranian influence in the region. President Trump and US military commanders in charge of the battle against ISIS have said repeatedly that battling Iranian agents isn’t part of the coalition agenda.
Because of this, “they are testing Trump,” Graham said.
Graham said the major request from Israel in a meeting with that country’s leaders was “ammunition, ammunition, ammunition” and for diplomatic support if Israel strikes civilian targets in Lebanon where it believes Hezbollah is located.
The Israeli threat shouldn’t be taken likely. Over the past year, reporting from the region has exposed an Israeli shadow campaign – conducted in partnership with former foe Saudi Arabia – to push back against Iranian influence in the region, including the implicit threat of military violence.
Saudi Arabia famously forced the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri late last year, only to see him return to Beirut and put his resignation on hold.
Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to visit the White House next week, even though his administration is once again mired in scandal and his country’s police force has recommended that he be indicted.
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In response to Graham’s comments, Lebanon President Michel Aoun condemned the Israeli regime’s repeated violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty, saying Beirut is prepared to counter any potential Israeli threat or violation.
“Lebanon is keen on maintaining stability and calm in South Lebanon, but it is also ready to defend itself shall Israel carry out an assault,” Aoun said in a meeting with UN Under-Secretary General Jean-Pierre Lacroix in Beirut on Monday.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah, which helped the Lebanese army defend the nation against two bloody Israeli wars in 2000 and 2006, has promised to defend the rights of its homeland in oil and gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean region against any new Israeli aggression.