Tag Archives: Hezbollah

On Hezbollah, Israel, and Arab Hopes for War………

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Some Arab media on the Gulf and their ‘attached analysts’ often taunt Hezbollah when Israel attacks in Syria or Lebanon and does not get a response. The same controlled media and the same ‘attached analysts‘ are also quick to blame Hezbollah for recklessness when it responds to Israeli attacks, as they did this week. But that is politics.

Some of them are no doubt disappointed and dismayed that none of the skirmishes and little wars between Hezbollah and the IDF ever lead to a larger war. Their hope is that it might somehow lead to the eradication of the Lebanese Party which is close to the mullahs in Iran. I have seen some of them salivate ‘audibly’ at the prospect of an israeli all-out war in Lebanon, and that includes oligarchs as well as Salafi Islamists. Perhaps they think of how the 1982 Israeli invasion led to the expulsion of Arafat and the PLO from Lebanon. There have been sporadic unconfirmed but credible reports that some of them have lobbied for direct American action in Lebanon as well. Of that I also have no doubt.

But we know, most of us, that wars often turn out different from the expected. The Israeli invasion and occupation of 1982 lead to the rise of Hezbollah, a much fiercer foe than the PLO groups ever were. They prefer to forget that the invasion of Iraq led to the rise of AQI and ISIS, and that the Arab Wahhabi interference in the Syrian uprising led to the rise of the murderous Caliphate. That earlier the interference during the 1980s in Afghanistan led to the rise of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban
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Will the Balance of Terror Between Israel and Hezbollah Hold?……..

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“Missiles fired by the Lebanese Hezbollah group struck an Israeli military convoy on Wednesday, killing two soldiers in an apparent retaliation for a deadly airstrike attributed to Israel that killed six Hezbollah fighters in Syria earlier this month. The violence was the deadliest Hezbollah attack against Israeli forces since a 2006 war between the two sides. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would respond “forcefully” to the attack, and the military launched aerial and ground assault on Hezbollah positions………….”

Israel has been taking a lot of liberties in recent months over Lebanon and Syria. Its air force has been flying at will over Lebanon, violating its airspace, bombing at will into Syria, and its artillery active along the Golan lines. The Golan is a particular worry for them these days, given the proximity of one theatre of the Syrian war. They have tried to increasingly play the regional “policeman”, by stealth, of the Eastern Mediterranean. With apparent American acquiescence, so long as the targets were Hamas or Hezbollah or Syria.

The Israeli attack last week that killed several Hezbollah members was bound to lead to a response from Hezbollah, given the implications for future Israeli incursions. Given the missile-based balance of terror that has existed along the border with Lebanon. Given the understanding in Lebanon of the role of the upcoming Israeli elections in Mr. Netanyahu flexing his military muscles at this time. Perhaps also given the symbolism of the fact that one of the victims was a son of Imad Mughniyeh, a leading Hezbollah strategist who was killed by the Mossad-planted bombs in Damascus in 2008.
(FYI: foreign bombings in Arab and Muslim cities are not considered terrorism in the West, although the UN has not voted on it yes).
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Hezbollah’s Mysterious Eager Talkative Whistleblower Commanders………

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“Around a kitchen table in Beirut’s southern suburbs, a midlevel Hezbollah commander moved empty coffee cups and a plastic water bottle around a cell phone, demonstrating how his men repelled an assault by what he said were Islamic State fighters along Lebanon’s border with Syria……..Sporting a neatly trimmed beard, weathered face, and thick khaki cargo pants, this commander, now in his 40s, first fought for Hezbollah during the group’s operations against Israel, when small teams of fighters carried out clandestine cross-border raids. The current war he’s fighting, against rebels trying to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, is much different………. But just as Hezbollah has changed the Syrian war, the conflict has also changed Hezbollah. The organization has become much larger, and its fighters have received the training that only involvement in a long conflict can provide. But at the same time, in some ways, the party is becoming unwieldy and more vulnerable to corruption and infiltration………..”

It says: Around a kitchen table in Beirut’s southern suburbs“: a cute American touch. Around a kitchen table in the suburbs where Hezbollah is alleged to be entrenched. There have  been several of these anonymous Hezbollah blabbermouths in recent months, all eager to let it all pour out for some Western reporter who often can’t understand Arabic and can’t tell a Lebanese accent from a proverbial hole in the ground.

This Abu Ali: a cute local ethnic touch picking that name, no doubt a ‘nickname’ suggested by some amenable ‘locals’. Somehow it reminds me of Tom Friedman’s favorite Arab cab driver. Abdo in Cairo, Abed in Beirut, Abul Abed in humorless Amman (and maybe Abboudi in Baghdad and Abu Dong in Beijing).

I wonder if he was truly a forties-something Hezbollah ‘commander’ or just a pretender. I can’t imagine the Party allowing its commanders to talk openly to Western media about sensitive issues. Not even seasoned commanders. They probably suspect that some Western correspondents are Mossad agents. This ‘commander’ could be a March 14 minion, he could be Mossad, he could be a cross-dressing actress for that matter. He could be some clever Lebanese scammer doing it for the money. I am not sure, but there have been so many of these improbable blabbing ‘commanders’ of Hezbollah in Western newspapers that I take each and every one with a grain of salt. To be polite. Unless Hezbollah sent to them to implant certain ideas.

And these whistleblowers seem to only talk to Western media correspondents, mainly those hostile to Hezbollah.
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Hassan Nasrallah: Je Suis Charlie Hebdo?………

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“The leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah group says Islamic extremists have insulted Islam and the Prophet Muhammad more than those who published satirical cartoons mocking the religion. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah did not directly mention the Paris attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo that left 12 people dead, but he said Islamic extremists who behead and slaughter people – a reference to the IS group’s rampages in Iraq and Syria – have done more harm to Islam than anyone else in history…………..”

Translation? Je suis Charlie Nasrallah Hebdo…………..
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Lebanon’s Shi’as and Hezbollah: Back to the Feudal Past?……….

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“However, this political dynamic may be starting to change. In recent years other Shiite organizations that resent the dominance of Hezbollah and Amal have emerged to question the direction of their leadership. This defection began almost immediately after the 2006 war. While hard-liners hailed Hezbollah’s resilience in the face of the Israeli onslaught as a “divine victory,” others questioned the human and material cost of the group’s intransigent stance. Skepticism continued to grow in the following years – after a 2008 invasion of Sunni areas in Beirut intended to consolidate Hezbollah’s political power, after a 2009 corruption scandal that brought into question the altruism of the group’s leaders, and most especially, after 2011 when it became apparent that Hezbollah was intervening in the Syrian civil war on behalf of the repressive Assad regime. One new Shiite voice is a group called the Lebanese Option Party, founded in 2007. The head of the organization is Ahmad al-Asaad, whose father, Kamel al-Asaad…………” 

This piece is rehashing old wishful thinking, extremely wishful thinking about Lebanon. It is trying to recycle an old failed approach. It is old stuff of the kind that Thomas Friedman, for example, would hang his hopes on. The old semi-feudal Al As’ad family? The outlier Ali Al Amin who has hardly any following and is a permanent fixture on the vast Wahhabi sectarian media of the Saudi princes (Alarabiya, Asharq Alawsat, etc)?

The Al As’ad family were the semi-feudal political overlords of much of South Lebanon, during the days when the Shi’a were marginalized and kept impoverished and uneducated in Lebanon. They are as representative of Lebanese Shi’as as, say, the Romanovs were representative of the Russian people. The pro-Saudi March 14 camp keeps going back to them as a possible way to weaken Hezbollah. So far to no avail.
The petroleum princes need to think outside the box: they can’t go to the past and present it as the future. The people will never buy it. Saudi media have in the past promoted other pliable Shi’a stooges, including one or two crackpot clerics, to no avail. You can only buy so many votes, and you can never buy true love although you can lose it.

They need to try a new method, these princes: how about offering Lebanon membership in the Gulf GCC if they ditch Hezbollah? Hell at that price, even Hassan Nasrallah might become excited enough to jump on the Wahhabi bandwagon, right next to Hariri.
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From Yemen to Somalia: Failed Arab States and the Sectarian Tribal Narrative…….

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“The capital of Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest and perhaps most chronically unstable nation, has new masters. Anti-American Shiite rebels man checkpoints and roam the streets in pickups mounted with anti-aircraft guns. The fighters control almost all state buildings, from the airport and the central bank to the Defense Ministry. Only a few police officers and soldiers are left on the streets……….”

This title of “Arab world’s poorest and perhaps most chronically unstable nation” is debatable. The Arab world includes other candidates for this honor that are also members of the Arab League: Somalia, Mauretania, Sudan, Djibouti, the Comoros. So, there are several candidates for this honorary title. And if the unrest and war and mayhem continue to spread, several more Arab states may also join the competition. Libya, liberated by NATO and Bernard-Henri Levy and John McCain in 2011, may be well on its own merry way toward that list.
This piece looks like it could have been edited by Saudi and UAE censors before its final version was approved. I like the part about “Anti-American Shiite rebels“: a cute but useful touchThey tend to use the “sectarian” angle whenever they can, these Persian Gulf princes and potentates. I am not sure the Houthis actually think of imitating Hezbollah, they have their own very complex Yemeni issues to deal with. The sectarian narrative is not as powerful or clear-cut in Yemen as it is in Lebanon and Iraq and Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, for example. It is complicated by tribal and regional issues. And they don’t have the Israeli military on their border as a further distraction.
But I can see the temptation, at least from a Western point of view, to simply declare them the “new Hezbollah”. One size fits all: it is simpler that way.

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Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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Holy Royal Blackmail! French American War in Lebanon Over Saudi Money……

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“On a visit to Paris, the Saudi crown prince is said to have ironed out most obstacles to a multi-billion-euro plan to equip the Lebanese army with French weapons in the face of regional instability, but one final signature is still missing. Sources with knowledge of the talks told FRANCE 24 on Wednesday that the absence of the finance minister among the group of Saudi officials accompanying Defence Minister and Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud to Paris was the official reason for the delay…………”

“According to a March 8 source, the closure of the Ersal-Qalamoun front “will reflect positively on the operations the Syrian army and its allies are carrying out in the Damascus countryside against armed extremist groups, which is something that Saudi Arabia and other countries supporting the Syrian opposition groups will never allow to happen.” Other sources added that “Saudi Arabia has put the $3 billion donation to the army on hold because of the presidential vacuum and also because of Washington’s opposition to this donation for many reasons including Riyadh’s intention to sign a $25 billion arms deal with Paris………..”

The Saudis have been trying for years to find a formula to weaken the grip of Hezbollah over Lebanese politics. Ever since Hezbollah defeated the occupying Israeli IDF in a long guerrilla war and forced it to withdraw from southern Lebanon in the year 2000. The Saudi campaign escalated after Hezbollah again defeated the IDF and forced it to abort its incursion into Lebanon in the summer of 2006. The only times an Arab army or armed group has ever defeated the IDF.

The Saudis’ best Lebanese man, the late Rafiq Hariri, was assassinated in 2005 by parties still unknown (and I mean truly unknown). Their second best man Saad Hariri decamped quickly for Paris after a short stint as prime minister (the job is part of the Sunni share of power). He is now reported by the media to have flown back to Paris after a short visit to Beirut. The rest, the Druze and the Falangist rightist warlords, represent smaller balancing factions within their own ethnic/confessional communities.

Money has not worked, mainly because money, even holy petroleum money, cannot overcome confessional and sectarian passions. Not even in Lebanon. Then the princes resorted to an explosive weapon: they have worked to escalate sectarian tensions in Lebanon. And they have succeeded spectacularly in that. They lit some fires in Beirut and especially in Tripoli and a few other places. Thanks to their efforts, Tripoli and regions near the Syrian border are now a hotbed of Salafi Jihadi activity. There are now also pockets of such activity in parts of Beirut and in some southern townships. That explains the increase in periodic attacks on army posts by armed Salafi groups.

Desperate times provoke desperate measures. They are now targeting the Lebanese army as the last Achilles Heel of Lebanese politics. Or, to continue with Greek mythology/history, as a possible Trojan Horse. They have settled on the Lebanese Army as a possible way to outflank Hezbollah. Except that the Lebanese army represents the demographic mix of Lebanon, its various religions and sects. At best that army can stay out of politics and remain united, at worst it can meddle in politics and break up into its ethnic and sectarian components. Back to the drawing board.

Targeting the army has started another external war. An apparent battle for weapons deals, and the conditions attached to them, between France and the United States. The original Saudi deal, announced months ago through Saad Hariri, was to pay for only a specific deal of French weapons to Lebanon (somewhere between $ 3-4 billion). Yet that deal, like all Saudi offers of foreign aid, has stalled as Riyadh tries to use it as leverage and to blackmail all parties with it. It is like a case of double or multiple  blackmail. The Saudis often try to pressure several foreign parties with one deal. They are now using this potential arms deal to influence the following: (1) French Middle East policy, (2) Lebanese internal politics, and (3) American Middle East policy.

Stay tuned for more on this battle for Saudi weapons deals.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Wall Street Journal Continues its Own Middle East Wars……

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“Well, this is a little scary. U.S. intelligence intercepted messages from Iran to militants in Iraq ordering attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad if America strikes Syria. U.S officials say they’re preparing for Iran’s fast boats in the Persian Gulf, and military resources, including Marines, have been moved to the area. The message came from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard leader Qasem Soleimani and instructed Shiite groups to respond with force if the U.S. strikes Syria………..”

I didn’t know a U.S. attack ‘on Syria’ was in the cards these days. Unless the Wall Street Journal writer knows something no one else does.

Could he mean extending the current bombing attack against the Wahhabi Caliphate of ISIS into Syria? But then why would Iran retaliate in the Persian Gulf and why would Hezbollah retaliate in Beirut for any attack on the ISIS den of terrorists? Especially if the target of the Syrian campaign is NOT to alter the military balance in the Syrian civil war and tilt it toward the strategic goals of the Wahhabi oil princes. Provided Syria approves of any operations over its territory.

An attack on the U.S. embassy in Beirut by Hezbollah? That would be a stupid thing for them to do these days, and they know it. Only some media types and propagandists would think of it as probable. No doubt Hezbollah planners are more intelligent than many Wall Street Journal opinion-ators who write this kind of nonsense. They read as if written by some Likud or AIPAC functionaries.

More likely any attack on the U.S. embassy anywhere and not just in Beirut, if it ever happens, would come from Wahhabi terrorists nurtured for years by allied oil princes and by money from elements of Lebanon’s right-wing blocs.

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Mohammed Haider Ghulou
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Saudi Mission Impossible in Lebanon: Hariri Returns to Confront his Former Wahhabi Allies and Hezbollah………

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“Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri did not return to Lebanon empty-handed the way he left it three years and four months ago. After having spent his time roaming between the hotels of Europe and castles of Saudi Arabia, he crowned his return to Lebanon with a Saudi grant to the Lebanese army and security forces. Backed by the decision of King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz, Hariri is here to spend $1 billion in support of the Lebanese Army in its fight against terrorism. He is also set to “lead the Sunni moderate movement,” as he said at a March 14 meeting yesterday, and as Future Movement officials constantly reiterate. Many questions surround the circumstances of Hariri’s return, while the answers may start in Mosul but not end in Ersal. “Hariri is back and this is final. He may travel abroad to visit someone, but he is back in Lebanon,” a source close to Hariri told Al-Akhbar, while Future Movement officials insist that he returned to lead “Sunni moderation” and [oversee] the spending of the Saudi grant……………”

A tough task entrusted by the Al Saud princes to their man in Beirut. Reset the “Sunni” movement by re-configuring relations with the Wahhabi takfiri terrorist groups that the Hariri alliance had encouraged and aided only a couple of years ago in both Lebanon and Syria. The one billion dollars in Saudi aid is read by some as a reduction of an earlier Saudi commitment which promised $3 billion of arms to be bought specifically from France. (But perhaps that French weapons deal was offered by the Saudis when they were trying to get France to help their side in the Syrian war). Others have added this new billion to that earlier three billion and talked about $4 billion total Saudi military aid. Apparently so far none of it has materialized, as far as I know.

The other task entrusted to Hariri, a task that is the main Saudi obsession, is even tougher, nay hopeless. Recent years have not been kind to the pro-Saudi March 14 bloc, and Mr. Hariri is now tasked with resuming the “fight” against Hezbollah in its own territory. The Saudis have been trying for years to stem the power of Hezbollah in Lebanon through the use of the only weapons at their disposal: oil money and Western sanctions. But facts on the ground, Lebanese political alliances, and population demographic trends have been moving against them. Apparently petro-money is not enough to get a majority of Lebanese to discover the joys of an alliance with Wahhabism.

Even the last elections of 2009, when the infusion of a lot of money managed to get a temporary majority in parliament for the Saudi-allied March 14 Movement (Hariri, Falange, etc), did not turn out as expected. The voters still awarded March 8 (Hezbollah and its Christian allies) a majority of the popular vote (about 54%). Given that political reality, it did not take long for Mr. Hariri to be forced out of power.

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Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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Birth Pangs of a New Middle East? American Delusions about Gaza as a Turkey Shoot…….


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This new Israeli war against the people of Gaza is reminiscent of an earlier Israeli war and of the delusions of the US political classes regarding its outcome.

In July 2006, two Israeli soldiers were captured near the Lebanese border. The Israeli military waged a fierce war on selective parts of Lebanon. It became a major incursion back into a land that the IDF had been forced by Hezbollah to leave six years earlier. The Litani River was crossed and parts of Beirut were bombed, including with Cluster Bombs. Many Arab regimes, from Egypt through to the Saudi princes, not-so-secretly supported the Israeli case against the Lebanese Arabs. Not only that, there have been indications that some Arab regimes shared intelligence with the Mossad and the Israeli military. In fact some Lebanese factions and militias of the pro-Saudi March 14 bloc also sided with the Israelis: public figures among them even gave some advice on how to defeat Hezbollah.

As the attack on Lebanon continued for days and weeks, there were calls for a ceasefire. George W Bush’s Secretary of State Condi Rice responded to those calls with her famous statement that the sounds of bombs and exploding Lebanese buildings were “the birth pangs of the new Middle East”. Rice did not want to “return Lebanon and Israel to the status quo ante“. Well, it did not: that war created what I called ‘a balance of terror’ with both Israel and Hezbollah militarily stronger. We all know what happened: that war was stopped, the IDF withdrew after another failed mission unaccomplished. Hezbollah became politically and militarily even stronger than before. Most Lebanese, if not all of them, looked on that war as their second victory over invading Israelis.

Now this new Gaza assault has similar roots, although it is questionable who was responsible for the three killings near Hebron, an area controlled by the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority. Otherwise it resembles the attack on Lebanon, but with its own set of goals. A similar attack on Lebanon nowadays would be prohibitively costly for the Israeli population centers and with doubtful military and political results, but apparently the assessment is that Gaza is “do-able” and at a much lower cost. Early reports of the casualty ratio seem to support this for now: too many Palestinian deaths and casualties and destroyed buildings but hardly any on the Israeli side. Regardless of some propaganda statements from Hamas and others.

So far it is shaping as what Americans would call “a turkey shoot”. There are again some reports that the Obama administration hesitates to push forcefully for a cease-fire before certain political and/or military goals are achieved. That can only be done with a ground invasion, a new quagmire. Even if the Al Sisi regime in Cairo and the Saudi princes cooperate more closely, and perhaps more openly, with the invaders of Gaza, the results would still be in doubt.

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com