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Friday, January 28, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Israeli intelligence: Hizbullah to control Lebanon but will avoid official role

TEL AVIV — Israel's intelligence community has assessed that Hizbullah does not plan to head the next government in Lebanon.


Officials said the intelligence community has concluded that Iran was restraining Hizbullah and ordering it to maintain a low profile in the next government. Still, they said, Hizbullah would quietly control the government of Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati.

"Hizbullah wants to influence the government but not be the official address," Israeli military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi said.

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In a briefing to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Kochavi said Hizbullah's role in the next Lebanese government remains unclear. The general said Hizbullah was successful in bringing down the government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri and finding a Sunni replacement.

But Iran was said to be restraining Hizbullah while seeking to transform the Shi'ite militia into a veritable military. Kochavi said Hizbullah's military role, which has eclipsed the Lebanese Army, would not allow it to play a leading role in the next government.

"It's unclear if Hizbullah will take power in Lebanon because it understands this goes against its own self interest, as the position has innate limitations," Kochavi said on Jan. 25. "Hizbullah has learned from Hamas that there are many limitations once you are in power."

Hizbullah has been rebuilding its armed forces throughout Lebanon. Officials said Hizbullah has amassed a missile and rocket arsenal of more than 50,000 and trained a force of about 20,000 fighters.

"The transport of weaponry from Syria to Hizbullah in Lebanon has become a true production line," Kochavi said.

The intelligence chief said Teheran has turned Hizbullah into the arm of the Iranian military along the border with Israel. Kochavi said Iran was advancing in its nuclear weapons program and could build a bomb within two years.

"This timetable doesn't refer to a nuclear explosive in the form of a missile; that will take longer," Kochavi said. "That is a matter of a few more years. But we must take it into consideration that a nuclear weapon does not have to come in the form of a missile."

Kochavi said Iran has acquired the expertise to make a nuclear weapon. So far, he said, the Iranian leadership has not decided to assemble atomic bombs.

"The question isn't when Iran is going to have a bomb, rather how long it'll take Iran's leader to decide to use the tools to make one and turn the centrifuges on to 90 percent production," Kochavi said.

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