- Head of Lebanon's army Joseph Aoun has called on troops to be ready to confront Israel
- Some have claimed it could relate to Saudi Arabia's recent escalation in rhetoric towards Lebanon's Hezbollah
- Suggestions have recently been raised of Israeli-Saudi cooperation against Iran and its Lebanese ally
- Over the last few months, Israel has also hinted at possible renewed conflict with Hezbollah and the Lebanese army itself
The chief of the Lebanese army has called on troops to be “fully prepared on the southern border to confront the Israeli enemy’s threats and violations.”
قائد الجيش للعسكريين: أدعوكم إلى الجهوزية التامة على الحدود الجنوبية لمواجهة تهديدات العدو الإسرائيلي وخروقاته، وما يبيّته من نيّات عدوانية ضد لبنان وشعبه وجيشه، كما إلى السهر الدائم على حسن تنفيذ القرار 1701 بالتنسيق والتعاون مع قوات الأمم المتحدة في لبنان، حفاظاً على الاستقرار.— الجيش اللبناني (@LebarmyOfficial) November 21, 2017
It is not clear what Joseph Aoun’s comments on Tuesday could mean for regional politics, following a turbulent few weeks.
Some have pointed to recent developments in Saudi Arabia to explain the move.
I think it's a way of telling the Israelis that the Saudi play to increase tensions among the different factions in Lebanon backfired and that the Lebanese army will not stay neutral like it did in 2006.— Dosadian (@Dosadian) November 21, 2017
On Nov. 4, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned from Riyadh, accusing Iran and its ally Hezbollah of sowing discord in the region. Senior Lebanese politicians alleged Saudi Arabia forced his resignation, which was not accepted by the president, and was detaining Hariri.
Since then, Saudi Arabia has continued to rail against Hezbollah. Its Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir called on the group to disarm Thursday before leading the Arab League condemnation of the “terrorist group” on Sunday.
Saudi academic and journalist Dr. Hamdan Sehri tweeted asking of Aoun’s announcement, “why now when the land of Lebanon has not been delivered of all its violations?”
“Why don’t you call on Hezbollah to resist, aren’t they the resistance as you say? The lid has been lifted on your accusations to us of holding Hariri and another game will begin.”
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In recent weeks, suggestions have emerged that Israel could partner with Riyadh to fight Hezbollah in Lebanon.
In the latest such remarks, Israel’s energy minister on Sunday publicly claimed that cooperation “with the moderate Arab world, including Saudi Arabia, is helping us curb Iran.”
Despite the two having no official diplomatic ties, he also said that Israel was prepared to share intelligence with Saudi Arabia to counter Iran.
Meanwhile, Aoun warned Tuesday that Israel has “hostile intentions against Lebanon, its people, and army.” A senior Israeli official dismissed his words as “nonsense” according to Reuters.
Israel has strengthened its rhetoric against Lebanon in recent times. In September, Israel carried out its largest military drills in two decades on the northern border, apparently in preparation for renewed conflict.
“If Lebanon has Hezbollah as part of its government, and it’s harboring thousands and thousands of missiles in its homes, then Lebanon is game,” Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett said last month.
“Its infrastructure, international airport and government facilities – it’s all game.”
Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil did not attend Sunday's emergency Arab League meeting which condemned actions by Iran and its Lebanese ally.
Some suggested that the military announcement Tuesday indicates the Lebanese army’s intention to stand by Hezbollah.
هذا أكبر دليل على أن الجيش في لبنان هو مجرد احد أفرع حزب الله الإيراني— Khalil Delly (@F88hw) November 21, 2017
This is the strongest indication that the army in Lebanon is merely one of the branches of the Iranian Hezbollah.
Still, in his statement, Aoun called for Lebanese forces to cooperate with United Nations troops according to the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, which was adopted to end the 2006 war. Included in that resolution was a call for the disarmament of armed groups in Lebanon.
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