“What’s cooking?” is probably the most common question people in Lebanon are asking since Israel Environment Minister Gideon Ezra’s speech few days ago and the recent news of the Russian-Syrian arms deal. Last week, Minister Ezra said that the Lebanese state will be considered a target if it legitimizes Hizbullah (which the Lebanese government did). On the other hand, Russia has announced that it is ready to sell new weapons to Syria. Of course such news is alarming to the region and particularly to Israel. Speculations are now flying around over the significance of these new developments.
Tony Bey at Across the Bay gives a brief flashback on an earlier attempt by Moscow to sell a certain kind of missiles to Syria back in 2005:
The Israelis interfered with Putin in 2005 to stop the sale of these systems in particular. While Russia did indeed refrain from selling the S-300 and the Iskander, they ended up selling the Syrians the Strelets missile system, which consisted of vehicle-mounted Iglas, but did not include the man-portable platform, over the protests of the US and Israel.
Bey continues by linking the arm deal to Hizbullah:
As such, the concerns that the Syrians would pass man-portable (or even vehicle-mounted) anti-aircraft systems, such as the shoulder-fired Igla, remain valid. That Syria is still seeking these systems only highlights the likely intent to pass them along to Hezbollah.
Antoun Issa’s analyses the Russian-Syrian arm deal focus on the current situations of both countries; the re-emerging Russian power and the Syrian speculation of an upcoming war in the region:
The Russians have long been hostile to US plans for missile bases in former Soviet satellite idle and permit itself to be encircled.
At a time when tensions between Russia and the US are at their highest level since the Cold War, Assad is hoping Moscow will tighten its alliance with Syria by rewarding Damascus with missile bases akin to the US’ planned bases in Poland.
Assad's keenness to expand his country's military involvement with Russia highlights the deep insecurity felt in Damascus in the event of a possible war with Israel, or between Israel and Iran.
Mustapha at Beirut Spring questions the arms deal's motive by presenting two questions that he finds linkable:
Question #1: If you were the Russian president and you want to find a way for punishing the US and Israel for training the Georgian army without stepping too much on Washington’s toes, what would you do?
Question #2: If you were the Syrian President negotiating with Israel from a position of weakness, what can you do to gain leverage?
If you find that two questions above point logically to each other, you’d understand why Israel and the US are nervous about a renewed proxy cold war in the Middle East…
Firas Maksad reacts to the Israeli statement that includes all Lebanese citizens are now targets of war by arguing that not all Lebanese are pro-Hizbullah nor its policies. He predicts that such actions by Israel can only leave this segment of Lebanese with no other choice by to back up Hizbullah if such threat are to be implied:
These are the more than 1 million Lebanese who in the 2005 Cedar Revolution peacefully took to the streets to directly challenge Hezbollah, Syria and Iran. They are the same people who supported the government earlier this year when it confronted Hezbollah by deciding to dismantle the organization’s countrywide communications infrastructure and remove the pro-Hezbollah security chief of Beirut’s airport…
…Israel will not defeat Hezbollah by adopting failed strategies that force Lebanese society into embracing the militant group as its only viable means of defense. By lumping all of Lebanese society into the same category with Hezbollah and threatening collective punishment, this is exactly what Israel’s latest Cabinet decision will do. It will leave the Lebanese with no choice but to grudgingly stand behind Hezbollah, just as they were forced to do last month when Israel repatriated Samir Kuntar and other Lebanese prisoners to the militant group instead of to the Lebanese state.
Now Lebanon quotes Ali Hassan Khalil's reaction to the news of the Israeli threat:
MP of the Development and Liberation bloc Ali Hassan Khalil said on Saturday that Lebanon has a “strong national unity cabinet facing a politically and militarily frustrated Israel.”
In a ceremony at Odeisseh Southern village, Khalil added, “Now that Lebanon has become strong in its resistance and victories it cannot be afraid of Israel.”