In an era of mass-produced AK-47s and ICBMs, one such flashpoint was the Lebanon.
It is axiomatic that the recent history of the levant is linked to the creation of the state of Israel in may 1948, incontestably so. the new state emerged from a series of conflicts that have continued intermittently ever since, fuelled as much by arab–Israeli enmity, national pride and territorial aspirations of hostile neighbours. syria, Jordan, lebanon and egypt – and in the latter phases, Iran – were all part of it. there were rich pickings in the region for the two great powers of the cold War as they aligned with one side or the other, the soviets in full support of arab interests and Israel enjoying the support of Washington. that combination not only led to several middle eastern wars, the knock-on effect of which continues in lebanon, Jordan, egypt, Iraq and especially syria. for much of the period under review it was lebanon that bore the brunt of it, with resident christian, sunni, shi’ite as well as Israeli interests deploying multiple levels of force – much of it clandestine – to jockey for predominance.
Al Venter has been to war with both arab and Jew (he was with ariel sharon’s Idf strike force that entered Beirut in 1982), spent time in syria (visited that country’s southern front adjacent to the Golan heights), been on combat missions with the Israeli-backed south lebanese army in the druze homeland adjacent to mount heron, and was embedded with the lebanese force command along Beirut’s Green line. Venter also spent time in south lebanon with UnIfIl, the United nations Interim force in lebanon, and was able to observe from up close the growing influence of the Pasdaran, tehran’s surrogate force in the region that spawned hezbollah. his last visit, in 1997, included contacts – while hosted by lebanese President General Émile lahoud – with senior Iranian-supported hezbollah elements in Beirut, one of few Western correspondents to have achieved this distinction.