'Viewed War In Lebanon As A Curtain-Raiser For Attack On Iran'
By Andrew Buncombe
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
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
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
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
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."
© 2006 Independent News
and Media Limited