Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia yesterday confirmed their warplanes took part in US-led air raids on Islamic State (IS) targets in Syria. Qatar and Bahrain, which host major US bases, have been reluctant to define their roles, and Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has welcomed the strikes.
While the declared target is IS, there could be an undeclared strategy to "bleed Hizbullah, Syria and Iran", according to Jordanian analyst Tareq Tell. "The Gulf has the intelligence and the money" to carry out such a campaign, which would impact on embattled Syria and Iraq and fragile Lebanon.
Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised broadcast, "We are against any foreign intervention under cover of any coalition or under any pretext . . . Such a coalition is a pretext for foreign intervention in our region. We do not accept that Lebanon be part of the US-led coalition as this would endanger Lebanon."
A source close to Hizbullah told
The Irish Times
that the movement’s “view is simple – what is happening in Syria is terrorism although others say revolution. Now everyone is coming from miles away to fight terrorism.”
He pointed out that "some countries [in the coalition] have supported terrorism and are now fighting terrorism . . . The big question mark . . . is Turkey where strict controls" are needed on money and extremists flowing from Turkey into Syria and Iraq.
Lebanese prime minister Tammam Salam said his country's role will be defensive. "Extremists are not only targeting our army, they are targeting Lebanon by creating internal divisions."
However, the Lebanese army needs weapons to fight IS and al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al Nusra, which outgun Lebanese troops, have murdered three Lebanese soldiers and are holding 21 troops and policemen who could be executed in retaliation for coalition action.
Arab coalition partners which are not directly threatened by IS have aircraft and arms to engage in the struggle against it, but Lebanon does not. Analyst Marie Nassif- Debs said Saudi Arabia had promised to pay for French arms for the Lebanese military and has not delivered.
Lebanon's interior minister Nuhad Mashnouk went to Russia to buy arms but "the US will not allow" a deal with Russia. A security vacuum could prompt IS fighters to seize strategic areas along Lebanon's mountainous border with Syria.
Pollster Abdo Saad said US-military action could boost IS recruitment as many angry Sunnis across the region could flock to its defence.