Israeli diplomats have filed a quiet demarche with Washington over the participation of US special forces in a joint operation with the Syrian, Hizballah and Lebanese armies to clear the Lebanese-Syrian border region of Al Qaeda’s Syrian arm the rebel Nusra Front, which is fighting with ISIS elements. This is reported by DEBKAfile. The operation against the rebel group fighting under the command of Abu Mohammad al-Jawlani, has been divided into three parts.
The third part soon to be launched is designed to take this “coalition” up to the Israeli border.
The first part consisted of a Hizballah assault on Nusra forces holding the Arsal region on both sides of the border at its northern tip. Hizballah was claimed to have fought the enemy singlehanded. But like all the statements from Washington and Moscow about events in Syria, this one too needed a closer look at the “facts.” It so transpired that Hizballah was backed up by Syrian artillery, while the Lebanese army had the role of cutting off the rebels’ escape routes from the battle ground.
The rebel fighters seeing they were hemmed in on all sides surrendered and agreed to pull out. Over the weekend, therefore, 7,000 rebel fighters, most of them belonging to Nusra and their families, were evacuated from the border region to the northern Syrian province of Idlib on the Turkish border.
It also turned out that the trilateral Arsal operation had a US dimension. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri visited Washington last week and held talks with President Donald Trump at the White House. Straight after that meeting, the US President had harsh words for Hizballah, which he called a threat to world peace. But in his closed-doors interview with Hariri, Trump was persuaded that the Lebanese army could not defend its borders without help and had no option but to work with Hizballah and the Syrian army.
Hariri also convinced the US president to declare the Nusra Front and all its branches a terrorist organization to be fought in the same way as the Islamic State.
At that point, Israel put forward no argument, although this first instance of a joint operation between Bashar Assad’s forces, the Iranian-backed Hizballah and the Lebanese army, was red-flagged in Jerusalem as a green card for Hizballah’s extended reach beyond the Lebanese border.
Neither did Israel, whose prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu is beset with his own troubles at home, demur when the Americans declared the Nusra network the target of America’s war on terror, even though this distanced the Trump administration from Jerusalem’s position. READ MORE