By Yona Schnitzer/TPS
IDF Spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis warned Lebanon against increasing Iranian activity in the country and urged the country’s citizens to stand up to Tehran and Hezbollah’s meddling in the country and prevent the outbreak of war.
“Through the actions and inaction of the Lebanese authorities, Lebanon is turning into one big missile factory while much of the international community looks the other way,” Manelis wrote in an Arabic-language op-ed titled ‘The Lebanese Choice’ published on Lebanese opposition websites.
Manelis said that Tehran had taken over Lebanon. “It’s no longer about transfers of arms, money or advice. De facto, Iran has opened a new branch, the Lebanon branch,” he wrote.
Manelis added that if he had to choose a “picture of the year,” it would be one of the commander of Hezbollah’s Southern Front giving a tour of the border with Israel to Qais al-Khazali – who heads an Iranian-backed Shi’ite militia operating in Iraq.
“The picture expresses, better than anything else, Iranian involvement in Lebanon and lifts the curtain over the increasing reality of closer Iranian control in Lebanon. It’s clear that ‘terrorist tourism’ is the tangible expression of the danger to the future of Lebanon and of the entire region – the danger of a takeover by those doing Tehran’s bidding.”
Manelis praised the relative quiet which has existed between the two countries for the 11 years since the end of the Second Lebanon War, saying that it has served the people on both sides, “The fact that northern Israel and southern Lebanon both have children in the sixth grade who never heard a warning siren is the most significant achievement of the Second Lebanon War and the best proof of the stability of Israeli deterrence, and of the memory etched into Lebanese minds of the magnitude of the mistake made last time by [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah,” he wrote, alluding to the cross-border abduction attack carried out by Hezbollah, which set off the war in 2006.
“Wherever there has been instability, we have discovered Iran’s fingerprints, and we have discovered Hezbollah’s involvement everywhere,” Manelis wrote, urging the people of Lebanon to reject Iranian meddling, as well as to stand up to the ever-growing influence of Hezbollah.
“One of every three or four homes in southern Lebanon is a command post, position, weapons warehouse or hiding place for Hezbollah. We know these assets and will know how to attack them accurately if necessary,” Manelis warned.
He added that if the country’s leadership does not change its ways, “the future of the people of Lebanon lays in the hands of the dictator from Tehran. Those same heads of villages, towns, cities and government institutions who see what is going on and say nothing are also to blame.”
Manelis concluded his op-ed by warning the people of Lebanon that they must choose between becoming a Middle-Eastern economic powerhouse, referring to the country’s development of offshore natural gas fields in the Mediterranean, or a branch of Iranian meddling and terrorism – a choice that he said would be catastrophic for Lebanon.
“The Israeli army is ready and prepared for any scenario and will be improving its readiness this year,” he wrote, “As we have proved in recent years, and as those who need to know do know, our red lines regarding our security are clear, and we prove it every week.”