The Israeli military has warned that the Shia powerhouse of Iran is turning Lebanon into a "missile factory". Attempting to directly communicate with Lebanese citizens, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said in an op-ed run by multiple news outlets that Lebanon's future will be in jeopardy if the Shia-inclined extremist group, Hezbollah, continues to hijack the political system in the country.
It is rare for the Israeli military to release such articles, particularly outside the country in the Arabic-language media. The article was attributed to the forces' spokesman, Brigadier General Ronen Manelis.
"Lebanon is becoming, by default and by the failure of the Lebanese authorities, one big missile factory," the IDF's article claims. "It is no longer the just transfer of weapons, money and advice. Iran has de facto opened a new branch – 'the Lebanon Branch.' Iran is here."
In the past six months, several Israeli leaders including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have accused Iran of setting up military installations and missile units in Lebanon so as to boost its weapons arsenal. Israeli officials have even threated to attack these Iran-backed facilities.
According to the IDF, Hezbollah is establishing a "terrorist infrastructure and plants to make arms under the nose of the Lebanese government", with the help of the theocratic regime in Iran.
"In every place where instability prevails we discovered Iran's fingerprint, and in every place, we discovered Hezbollah's involvement," wrote Manelis. Hezbollah had sent its fighters to Syria, an ally of Iran, in support of President Bashar al-Assad's forces.
Manelis' article appears to be aimed at not just addressing the Lebanese but also sending a strong message to the governments of Syria and Iran in the volatile region, and their supporters elsewhere.
In his concluding remarks, Manelis says: "The battle depends on two parameters. Whether Lebanon and the international community will permit Iran and Hezbollah to exploit the naiveté of the Lebanese leaders and set up a precision missile plant, as they are currently trying to do; and whether Hezbollah, under the auspices of the new election system, will manage to elbow out the Sunni camp in the upcoming May 2018 elections and officially turn the country into an Iranian client state."
He said Israel was prepared to handle both the scenarios.