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Bob Baer's expert opinion on Hezbollah and the Middle East

Reported by Chrish - July 20, 2006 -

John Gibson had Bob Baer as a guest on The Big Story today 7/19/06. Baer is author of current top-selling novel "Blow the House Down" and of "Sleeping with the Devil' and "See No Evil", his memoirs on which the movie "Syriana" is looselybased. Baer spent twenty years with the CIA in the Middle East.

Baer thinks that it is unlikely that Israel will be able to crush Hezbollah in this latest action, as they've been trying for 18 years and have so far failed. South Lebanon is filled with Hezbollah ambushes, and Israel does not want to engage them there. Baer says he has "a lot of respect" - I take it he means that professionally - for Hezbollah, as they've killed two of his bosses and carried out major terrorist attacks on the US - they are the major leagues when it comes to terrorism and can hit anywhere in the world, including in the US.

Baer made sure to say that he is not advocating war with Iran and doesn't want to be put in that category, but he thinks Iran had to be behind the attack and kidnapping that precipitated this latest chapter. The goal is to unify Islam, and the president and spiritual leaders of Iran would like to see Israel destroyed.

Asked by Gibson if he thinks that Israel can bring Hezbollah down in two weeks with airstrikes, Baer replied no, airstrikes are not effective. Hezbollah members wear no uniforms, have no stand alone military targets, and function within the civilian population. Families live in the same crowded buildings with their military headquarters and they are impossible to distnguish. Israel is targeting the airport, ports, and other infrastructure because they can't find Hezbollah. Baer believes Israel has no choice; they can't just sit back and continue to be attacked, but it is a very dangerous situation that he fears may spin further out of control - for example, if Tel Aviv is attacked Israel may attck Demascus and bring yet another country into it. He said the Syrian army is very weak and demoralized, and either Americans or Israelis could take them out in a week, but that would still leave Hezbollah and the attacks would continue.

Gibson then asked a question (and Baer answered) that could be construed as making public national security secrets. Given the rhetoric that has been generated by the New York Times article about the financial records tracking, the case could be made that this was a dangerous airing of intel.

Gibson said "Bob, you were a spy in Lebanon for the CIA. Do the Americans now, and do the Israelis, have spies like you were, on the ground there, telling them what's really going on?"

Baer replied "uh, no. The problem is, Hezbollah has an incredible counterintelligence capability. If the Israelis could, they would assassinate the head of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, and the military commanders. They can't find them because they don't have spies. They're not on the telephone. And it's this kind of intelligence problem the Israelis are facing. And they obviously don't know where the rockets are because they'd just take 'em out if they did."

Baer says he wouldn't dare to try to go into Beirut today as an American and try to operate against Hezbollah, because they have a lot of popular support and he would be turned in, and then kidnapped or killed.

It's just an impossible no-win situation.