Category Archives: Hezbollah

Israel and Hezbollah: From the Swamp of Ramallah to the Fires of Beirut……….

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The Lebanese party/militia Hezbollah, the main bogeyman of Israel and American politicians and media, is in the news again this week. There are rumors and reports in some Arab media, mainly pro-Hezbollah media, that Israel has plans to assassinate Hassan Nasrallah, its leader. No doubt there are contingency plans of all kinds, which is normal, but there are claims that Israel has been leaking this report deliberately.
Israel has a long failed history of counterproductive assassinations of its Arab opponents. Don’t get me wrong: the assassinations often succeed, but they ended up having the opposite effect of what the Israeli Mossad expected.


Take the case of Hezbollah and its leader Hassan Nasrallah. He became leader of Hezbollah after the Mossad assassinated his predecessor Abbas al-Musawi with a bomb in 1992 (so, assassination by remote bombs is one thing the Israelis and Lebanese have in common). Israel thought that the beheading of Hezbollah would weaken it. They got the biggest surprise in their history, the biggest surprise since the time when their ragtag under-estimated Jewish forces in Palestine defeated all the combined Arab armies in the 1948 war.

Israel had been occupying Southern Lebanon, a Shi’a bastion, since 1982, and Hezbollah was partly formed (with Iranian help and money) to kick them out. The Israelis had forced the Palestinian forces out of Lebanon around 1982, which also opened the way for Hezbollah (and its older rival/ally Amal). Instead of beheading Hezbollah with the assassination of Musawi in 1992, the Israelis got a tougher more wily more determined opponent in the new Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah. 

Under Nasrallah, the Lebanese militia forced the Israelis to end their occupation and free Southern Lebanon in the year 2000. Hezbollah is now the strongest military and political force in Lebanon. It is also very likely the strongest Arab military force, having defeated IDF once and forced a stalemate in the 2006 war, and having helped Bashar Al Assad defeat the Jihadists in Syria. Moreover, with Iranian-supplied missiles and improvised local technology, Hezbollah now has achieved a what I called a few years ago a balance of terror with the mighty IDF. Both sides holding each other’s population centers hostage to guarantee good behavior. Korean Peninsula style. Hezbollah also won, along with its Christian and Sunni allies, the Lebanese parliamentary elections earlier this year.

Another example? In 2004 Israel assassinated the elderly Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the founder of the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas (initially an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood). Two years after that Hamas won a majority in the first Palestinian free elections. It won in both Gaza and the Occupied West Bank (a reflection of the bankruptcy and corruption of the PLO/PA under Abu Mazen and his old guard). Friction with the PLO (Fatah) increased and led to a military confrontation over Gaza. Hamas easily defeated the PLO forces lead by Mohammed Dahlan, another corrupt PLO functionary. There has been no Palestinian elections since then, perhaps the continued and incurable corruption and kleptocracy of the PA leaders in Ramallah insures that the fundamentalist Hamas will win again. Hence no elections. Meanwhile Dahlan is biding his time in Abu Dhabi (UAE) waiting to become the next Palestinian puppet of the Persian Gulf potentates if he ever succeeds in replacing Abu Mazen as Mayor of Ramallah.

The moral for the Israelis? Beware the enemy you don’t know, cherish the devil you know. Stay the hell out of Lebanon, just give up this moth-like attraction you have to the fires of Beirut.

(P.S.: FYI, rhetoric aside, in the end Hezbollah is highly unlikely to represent an existential or serious threat to Israel. No doubt its leaders realize that, as do the Israeli leaders. For decades Arabs have been threatening to destroy Israel in its current form, and they have failed. The final seal on that was done in June 1967. That was when the Arab World woke up to the reality of defeat. The 1973 war only confirmed that. But then there are the unpredictable results of the current Likud policies and their demographic impact on the future of Israel-Palestine, apparently a topic and a dilemma for another day).


Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

 

This Week: Ashoura and Hezbollah Missiles, Trump to Raid the UN, F Troop to Man a Fort Trump in Poland……

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“On Thursday, Nasrallah claimed Israeli strikes in Syria to prevent Hizbollah from acquiring precise missiles were ineffective.”I tell (Israel) no matter what it did to cut the route, it is over. It has already been achieved,” he said, adding that Hizbollah “now possesses precision missiles and non-precision and weapons capabilities.” Nasrallah was speaking during a traditional televised speech at the end of Ashoura, a top religious holy day for Shia Muslims that lasts for 10 days. He told supporters to be confident and Israelis to be concerned of Hizbollah’s capabilities. Nasrallah said the balance of power in the region has changed…..”
Normally Nasrallah, whatever you think of him, is not known as a boaster, not much anyway (unlike you know who). Even the Israelis especially know that and now seem to plan and act/react accordingly.

But I am not sure about his claim that “the balance of power in the region had changed“. I am not completely sold on this one. Although it is probably true that in the war of July 2006 Hezbollah had a few thousand limited-range missiles, and now they are reported to have close to 150,000 longer-range precision missiles. In spite of occasional bombing (and other) attempts to stop the flow. Besides, they are very likely to have developed their own domestic know-how over the years.

Jerusalem Post headlined what it called Breaking News! “Trump to hold meeting with Netanyahu, other leaders at UN General Assembly“…
To which I tweeted: Breaking! Shocker Indeed: Amazing development! Trump and Netanyahu! Trump to meet his chief cheerleader at UN General Assembly!

Poland‘s slick President Duda suggested in Washington a permanent American base in his country be named Fort Trump. To be manned by a force called F Troop. I almost expected him to turn to his host and call him “The Duke”.
I commented that this President Duda sure knows how to kiss it!

Middle East/Arab social media are making fun of the Russian reaction to the Ilyushin shootdown near Latakia, in which Israeli warplanes hid behind the Russian Ilyushin to bomb a Syrian airbase. Many Russian military personnel died. They recall that Arab governments always threatened the same “severe reaction” to Israeli violations, which usually meant: they won’t do nada. Although a few claimed that Netanyahu’s freedom to bomb wherever he wants in Syria in support of the Islamist groups may be nearing an end after this.

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

The Lebanese Gorilla in the West Wing: Trump and Hariri and Hezbollah Meet in DC………

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Today President Donald Trump held a private meeting followed by a brief joint news conference with his visitor du jour Saad Hariri, the Prime Minister of Lebanon.

It is impossible to discuss anything about Lebanon (except maybe the cuisine and fashion) without talking Hezbollah. During the news conference, Trump mentioned Lebanon’s main military and political party Hezbollah several times. He ominously hinted at new measures he will inflict on the Lebanese party in the next 24 hours. Hopefully that is something he has discussed with officials outside his West Wing cabal of delusional uninformed crazies and culture warriors.

At the news conference, Saad Hariri never mentioned Hezbollah, his major partner in the Lebanese government, and the major political and military player in Lebanon. Mr. Hariri battled politically with Hezbollah for several years, when he was firmly a leader of the March 14 movement, strongly allied to Saudi Arabia and financed by it. Hezbollah is a strong ally of Iran, which finances it, and has led the March 8 movement.

The reactions of the two men to questions about internal Lebanese (and Syrian) matters were in stark contrast. Trump, as usual, was belligerent about what he will do with Hezbollah. His Lebanese guest did not deal with his major partner in the current Lebanese government, not publicly in a foreign capital. (But what the two leaders discussed privately about the famous Iran-allied and dominant militia is another matter).
Tells you something about the realities on the ground in Lebanon. Realities inside Lebanon, not as understood by some in Washington, nor as told by outside Arab potentates…….

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

A Saudi Defeat in Lebanon? Hariri and Nasrallah’s Beard and the Shifting Alliances……….

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Former prime minister Saad Hariri returned recently to Lebanon carrying a visible mark of a major political shift. That visible mark is also on his face, in a physical sense.

Hariri, a Lebanese who also grew up in Saudi Arabia and also carries its citizenship, was telling a story. Until recently known as leader of the pro-Saudi faction in Lebanon, he had always sported the goatee (saksooka) that senior Saudi princes (and all kings) sport. It is a tell-tale Saudi symbol, almost as much as the red/white shmagh checkered ghutra (kafiyya) is.
Hariri now sports a full beard, somewhat neater than the one Hassan Nasrallah (Hezbollah chief) sports, but similar.

He has also taken a political step that clearly signifies a break with Saudi Arabia. He now supports the same candidate as Iranian ally Hezbollah for president of Lebanon, former General Michel Aoun.
Some neutral Arab media speculate that the Saudi break has been in the making for months. Since Hariri-controlled Saudi Oger LTD faced financial trouble and the Saudi princes refused to help. Instead there have been reports of some prince seeking to take over the company.

So, now Harriri has surprised some allies of his right-wing traditionally pro-Saudi Al-Mustaqbal (Future) Movement by announcing his support for Hezbollah’s ally General Aoun (Maronite Catholic). This may open the door for Hariri ro return as prime minister of Lebanon. The Saudi support and money may now shift to other former Hariri sycophants, like former prime minister Saniora and some others. Not very strong allies.

Lebanese claim (credibly) that the Saudis traditionally send a large personal check ($10-20 million) to every new Lebanese prime minister and president, as personal pocket money. Just to break the ice and insure loyalty. Mr. Hariri, reportedly having lost a few billions recently from his Saudi ties, is not likely to even get that much now.

Saad Hariri may be returning to his Lebanese roots, and the heavy-handed Saudis may try to make up for this big Lebanese defeat by nurturing other (mainly Sunni) politicians. But it is a big gap to fill.

(Some Lebanese media have reportedly quoted the latest/newest American ambassador in Beirut as saying that one of her tasks is ‘to weaken the hold of Hezbollah on Lebanon‘. A tough task. This recent development is not a mark of her success. Not yet.)

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

 

Conflicting Plans for Syria: Hezbollah Plan A, Saudi Plan B, and American Plan C…..

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Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah gave a public speech today. That was in the aftermath of the death of yet another senior Hezbollah military leader in Syria: Mustafa Badreddine who was suspected of anti-American violence in Beirut bombings and also convicted of terrorism in Kuwait in the early 1980s (before Hezbollah was established).

Nasrallah asserted that his group will remain in Syria until the Jihadi “Takfiri” terrorists are defeated. He added that there is no evidence of an Israeli involvement in the assassination. He also noted that even the Israelis know that he always says what he means and does what he says. Oddly hinting that the Israeli “enemy” knows the truth and tells it publicly, unlike some “Arabs”, meaning the Saudis & Qataris. (I have to agree with him on that point).


Nasrallah also said that the Saudis are leading and arming and financing the Jihadist campaign in Syria from Jordan, with some cooperation from Qatar and Turkey. That the Saudis are sabotaging a political solution.

It is still not clear to me how the general Shi’a population of Lebanon now feel about the Syrian involvement. Clearly if there is any opposition it is limited and muted, although some Arab and Western media tend to magnify it. The Jihadi terrorists themselves may have helped solidify support for Syrian involvement by destroying historical shrines and monuments of all faiths, a favorite Wahhabi pastime. Many Shi’a would be willing to fight and die for the Shrine of Zainab in Damascus (as they would for Karbala). That is Plan A of one side.


For his part, Saudi foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir repeated that “it is time for Plan B” in Syria. Nothing new there, just the same mantra. Someone once called him the Saudi version of Baghdad Bob.


My guess for this Saudi Plan B?
The Saudis and Qataris and Turks are waiting for a hawkish American president to take over next year. Maybe even someone who will allow supplying the Jihadists with anti-aircraft missiles (as in Afghanistan in the 1980s). That is not likely to happen: the Syrian regime and its Russian and other allies are creating facts on the ground.

Besides, there is also a well-known popular American plan, I call it Plan C. Plan C has been devised by the American people. The American public largely does not care who rules in Syria, as long as it is not a Wahhabi-type regime like ISIS or Al Nusra or Jaish Al Fath or………. never mind, I should quit typing now while I am ahead.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Lebanon Faces an Economic Blockade: the Other Saudi Quagmire………

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The Saudis brought enough pressure, and presumably wrote enough checks, to get most Arab Ministers of Interior at a meeting this week to vote on calling Hezbollah a “terrorist” group. Europeans only consider the military wing of it a sponsor of “terrorism”. Americans are more in line with the Saudis: everything that has anything to do with Hezbollah is terrorist, including its TV network.

This new vote does not create many problem for most Arab states. Most of them take the Saudi or Emirati money and go home. They make the occasional right noises about Hezbollah, but it is too far away and they know its focus is on the periphery of Lebanon, unlike the Wahhabi groups which are global.

But this does create an interesting dilemma for two Arab states: Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia’s man in Lebanon, former PM Saad Hariri, has said that negotiations with Hezbollah continue. Other politicians of the March 14 (Saudi-financed) movement disavowed that their foe, Hezbollah, is a terrorist group. Otherwise, how can they be seen to negotiate and form a cabinet with Hezbollah (which is also the largest political party in Lebanon)?
Complications for the Lebanese, no?
But complications for the Saudis as well. They have been embroiled in a war against Yemen for a year now. It is war without end, as I could have told them last year, actually I did. I had thought Vietnam proved that the most expensive weapons can’t win a foreign civil war. Apparently that period of history bypassed the princes. The deposed former ‘president’ of Yemen General Hadi Bin Zombie occasionally claims from his Riyadh hotel that Hezbollah agents were arrested in Yemen, he did so again last week. Yet he and his foreign bosses have failed to produce any such arrested Lebanese agents.
The Yemen war is easy to get out of, at some cost of losing face. They can always declare victory in Yemen and pull out. The USA did it in Vietnam, with no lasting negative effect.

Getting out of Lebanon is harder, more complex. Unlike the Houthis of Yemen, Hezbollah is a true ally and beneficiary of Iran. Unlike the Houthis and Iraqis and many Hezbollah members, its chief Hassan Nasrallah himself believes in the theocracy. It is not clear if he means that he believes in it in Iran only or even outside that country. His close Lebanese Christian allies don’t seem to take it seriously, nor do his Lebanese Sunni allies.
Still, giving the Iranian mullahs a black eye in Lebanon is an irresistible goal for the Saudis. It is a goal that seems to be moving farther and farther way from them. The Israelis have failed to do it militarily for them so far, and seem to have given up unless seriously provoked. The Americans, under both George W Bush and Obama, have declined to be drawn into the morass of the warlord-dominated shifting politics of Lebanon.
The Saudis have now persuaded their Persian Gulf allies to impose an economic blockade on Lebanon. It is not original (the Saudis are never original): they probably mean to ratchet it up, like the now-defunct Western blockade of Iran…..

And that is where it stands now………
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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Is It Brotherly Blackmail? Lebanon in Arab Financial Crosshairs………

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The Saudi move to cancel the $4 billion promised aid to Lebanon (and indirectly to France) is apparently a ‘first step‘ in something bigger.  At least that is what Saudi proxies and allies in Beirut are gleefully threatening.

The Saudis are frustrated with their failure to weaken Hezbollah and pull Lebanon out of what they claim is an Iranian orbit. It is hard for them to believe that all the inducements they have offered Lebanon could fail, that their top proxies in Beirut, occasional billionaire Saad Hariri and his sidekick Fouad Saniora, could not bring the small country along. One Lebanese minister, a Mr. Mashnuq (the Hanged Man) who is part of the Saudi-financed March 14 (Hariri) camp has warned of more pain to come. Clearly a not subtle Saudi threat-by-proxy.
The threat of “more pain to come” could include a renewal and expansion of previous expulsion measures against the expatriate Lebanese citizens in some GCC states of the Persian Gulf.  The UAE has recently been reported to have resumed its old policy of summarily expelling Lebanese expats who are Shi’as. The secretary general of the GCC, a Bahraini close to the ruling autocrats, has ominously warned Lebanon for going against what he called erroneously “Arab consensus on Iran“. The GCC secretary was of course lying, to put it politely: in fact there is no Arab consensus on Iran or on anything else whatsoever.
An expulsion of the Lebanese expats would not be in the interest of the Gulf states. They are not normally involved in politics. Many businesses and institutions benefit from the Lebanese experience and skills in various economic sectors. It would effectively lower the efficiency of business and the quality of life in the host countries.

Some Arab media speculate that the Saudis are canceling the promised aid partly because of their own dire financial situation. A situation largely created by their own short-sighted oil policies of recent years.

Another possible factor that Saudi and Gulf media ignore is that the Lebanese authorities are holding a high-ranking young Saudi prince who had tried to smuggle large quantities of illegal drugs on his private jet through Beirut airport.

Will all this economic pressure against Lebanon work? Will the small country where pro-Wahhabi sentiment is restricted to a small fraction of the population yield to Saudi pressure?  It looks highly unlikely now, given the political realities and the demographics of Lebanon.

The Israelis are watching this game next door with great interest.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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Saudi Arabia Concedes Defeat in Lebanon, Cuts All Aid……

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Developments in Lebanon are taking an interesting turn. A turn that was perhaps predictable in the past year or two. Saudi Arabia has announced a cessation of all its aid to Lebanon, effectively conceding defeat in its attempt to pry that country towards it. For the time being.

That includes all sorts of aid: especially military and security. This doesn’t mean aid to Saad Hariri or Fouad Saniora or to its other proxies in Lebanon will stop. But  aid to official Lebanese institutions has been stopped. The Saudis said that cut was because of Lebanese behavior which does not help the brotherly (or sisterly) between the two countries. Silly naive me, I had thought all that money for Lebanon was for its just being a brotherly (or maybe sisterly) Arab country.
This has been brewing for weeks, since it became clear that a candidate with the approval of Hezbollah (an ally of Iran and Syria) will become president of Lebanon. This should have been clear for a long time, given that Hezbollah, an Iranian ally, is the largest political party in Lebanon (as well as the most powerful and most effective military force in the country).

Apparently the intervention of Hezbollah (along with Iranian personnel) in the Syrian civil war has not affected its popularity inside Lebanon. That has been a disappointment to the Saudis and their Arab and Western allies, although I could have told them that, but they never asked me.

This may also mean the billions of dollars in agreed Saudi purchases of exclusively French weapons for the Lebanese army are canceled. Someone in Paris should be pissed about this, but perhaps the new export deals with Iran will ease that French pain.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
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Libya Massacre: Hezbollah Blasts ISIS and Others…….

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“Hezbollah denounced the new crime that was committed by the terrorist group of ISIL in Libya and that claimed dozens of innocent Ethiopian citizens, offering condolences to the families of the victims and those who experienced the agonies of that horrible massacre. In a statement, Hezbollah considered that the crime complements the series of tarnishing the image of Islam and the Muslims and persists on seeking the religious and the sectarian wars in order to serve the malicious plots of the intelligence services in a number of Arab and Western countries………….”

This is a common and now-increasing allegation among various Arab groups that Western powers are behind the growth of ISIS/ISIL. Many Arab opinionators, from a rainbow of ideologies, easily claim that ISIS was a creation of Western powers, or Israel, or even Iran. Some paranoid types on the Persian Gulf even claim the group was created by all of the above.
They overlook the simple fact that this murderous Caliphate emerged and was nurtured by Wahhabi ideology, Wahhabi volunteers, and Wahhabi oil money. And we all know where those three factors meet.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
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Hezbollah: Lebanese Shepherd Dog Beats Back IDF, LOL…….

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“The Israeli occupation army violated the Lebanese border eastern Kfar Shuba and attempted to capture a shepherd, according to Al-Manar reporter. The Zionist trial failed as the shepherd’s dog attacked the occupation soldiers…………”

This is the story according to Hezbollah network. It is also not the first time there have been reports of Israeli soldiers attempting to kidnap Lebanese shepherds along the border. It is not clear why they would want to kidnap a shepherd: maybe a built-in suspicion from the days before they were forced (by Hezbollah) to withdraw from South Lebanon. This is an annual event according to Lebanese media. Almost a tradition now.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
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