Category Archives: Hezbollah

Iran has won Lebanon

 Hezbollah fighters, holding up Lebanese flags and the yellow flag of the militant Shiite Muslim group, parade through the southern suburbs of Beirut in November 2009. (AFP)

Hezbollah’s chief Hassan Nasrallah declared his victory in Lebanon in his last speech and he’s right. Hezbollah won Lebanon and no one seems to care.
March 14 dissolved long before its leaders nominated March 8 figures for presidency. Political opponents to the Party of God and its hegemony over Lebanon lost the battle a long time ago, when they compromised values for political gains. The state is increasingly weakened by the void in its institutions, corruption of its spearheads, and petty individual interests.

Regional powers are busy in Syria and Yemen while the international community seems to have given up on Lebanon. As long as Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria is not challenged by the international community, it means only one thing for Lebanon; that Iran has been given a free hand to take over. The release of a criminal and terrorist of Michel Samaha’s caliber is nothing but a sign of who runs the show, and how weak we are to even protest it.

Iran won Lebanon! And Iran can do anything it wants in Lebanon without any political opposition or challenges. And now Iran can focus to win what it needs in Syria, while everyone is busy making business deals with the “new Iran.” Lebanon, on the other hand, is going to pay a very high price for all these deals and compromises, more so as Iran, Russia and the Assad regime are scoring more gains in Syria.

Iran’s plan for Lebanon

To protect Hezbollah’s arms, Iran will do anything; whatever it takes and no matter how many people and lives are sacrificed. The arms are above all. The sacredness of these arms was justified by fighting Israeli aggression and occupation, and is justified today by fighting terrorism and takfiris. However, the real purpose and ultimate goal of Hezbollah’s arms is their mere existence.

Hezbollah’s arms are a symbol of its power and authority over Lebanon and the Lebanese. So without them, Hezbollah has nothing, and Iran will lose influence in Lebanon and the region. Even if they’re not in use, arms are the backbone of this power. With the changing dynamics in the region, Iran’s deal with the West and the escalating Sunni-Shiite conflict in the region, Hezbollah wants to make sure nothing changes the status quo of its arsenal. Today, there is no one to challenge Hezbollah’s arms in Lebanon. To guarantee that for the longest time possible, Hezbollah will need more void and the disintegration of state institutions, which will intensify and become worse.

The Sunni community will have to remain headless. Former PM Saad Hariri has been out of the country for years, and there’s no one else to challenge his popularity yet. The Saudi money stopped coming to the Sunni community, through Hariri’s institutions, as it used to, which left them in urgent need of leadership and financial support.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah is taking advantage of the situation by recruitingmore Sunnis into the Resistance Brigade [Saraya al-Moqawama]. For a mere $400 a month, Sunnis are joining the Brigade – not to fight in Syria – but only to receive training and stay on hold until further notice.

This “further notice” is probably a local moment, similar to the May 7 events of 2008, or the Black Shirts of 2010. “What the Sunnis are used for, however, are reconnaissance missions in Syria, as they have access to rebel areas and make good informants,” a Sunni activist in the Bekaa told NOW a few months ago. “They offer some money, but more than that, they offer weapons, and, most of all, protection and the illusion that they are powerful.”

In any case, Hezbollah prefers this community to stay leaderless because it simply gives them more power and sway over Lebanon, its state, and its communities.

But the most significant part of this plan is the Shiites in Lebanon. They are the ones providing fighters for the war and protecting the party and its weapons. The supporters will die for Hezbollah and Iran, but they won’t die for Lebanon. This loyalty and dedication needs to endure. Without it, Hezbollah loses a lot, but it requires a lot as well; that is, money, for services, media, and compensations. The money is coming, despite the recent US sanctions. But the challenges are elsewhere.

Containing discontent

Hezbollah’s support-base is increasingly complaining. It started with the parents of the kids who died fighting in Syria, but it seems even the fighters themselves are complaining now.
Sources in the southern suburbs tell NOW that the increasing number of young men coming back in coffins – and sometimes not even coming back – without any benefit or victory felt, has intensified discontent. “When Hezbollah was resisting Israeli occupation, its victories were felt by the people. For example, they could go back to their occupied towns and villages in the South. Today, their victories have no practical repercussion on the community, but their losses do; it the death of our children, brothers and fathers,” she said.

On a different level, many businessmen in Lebanon are panicking after the US Treasury sanctions started targeting more people. Hezbollah’s economic support-base has never been targeted as it is today. Any businessman dealing with any of Hezbollah’s institutions is today reconsidering their deals – even if it is the selling of office supplies or catering services. This is not going to hurt Hezbollah significantly, but it will certainly increase the level of discontent by a community suffering more and more of isolation.

Hezbollah is trying to fight this discontent by increasing the funding for propaganda and services. For example, Iran is trying to take advantage of the severe financial crisis in Lebanon’s media sector – mainly due to the ceasing of Saudi funding for Lebanon’s media – to increase its support to its own media. For instance, recent reports show that Iran is spending millions of US dollars on media institutions, mostly located around the Iranian embassy in Beirut. Houthis, Iraqis and Hezbollah share a lot of these spaces and editorial operations. While Lebanese media – newspapers and TV channels – are closing or downsizing, Iranian-funded media outlets are prospering, expanding and hiring more than ever.

The whole point is to expand the propaganda rhetoric in order to contain the increasing discontent. Despite the challenges, the Party of God is steadily moving to take whatever is left of Lebanon. If no one stops it, Lebanon will be a state-within-Hezbollah’s-state, not the other way around. And we are not far from it.

Hanin Ghaddar is the managing editor of NOW and a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council. She tweets @haningdr.

Saudi Arabia to lead 34 Islamic state coalition against terrorism

REUTERS  DUBAI – Saudi Arabia on Tuesday announced the formation of a 34-state Islamic military coalition to combat terrorism, according to a joint statement published on state news agency SPA.

“The countries here mentioned have decided on the formation of a military alliance led by Saudi Arabia to fight terrorism, with a joint operations center based in Riyadh to coordinate and support military operations,” the statement said.

The announcement cited “a duty to protect the Islamic nation from the evils of all terrorist groups and organizations whatever their sect and name which wreak death and corruption on earth and aim to terrorize the innocent.”

the campaign would “coordinate” efforts to fight terrorism in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan

Shi’ite Muslim Iran, Sunni Saudi Arabia’s arch rival for influence in the Arab world, was absent from the states named as participants, as proxy conflicts between the two regional powers rage from Syria to Yemen.

The United States has been increasingly outspoken about its view that Gulf Arab states should do more to aid the military campaign against the Islamic State militant group based in Iraq and Syria.

In a rare press conference, 30-year-old crown prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman told reporters on Tuesday that the campaign would “coordinate” efforts to fight terrorism in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan, but offered few concrete indications of how military efforts might proceed.

“There will be international coordination with major powers and international organizations…in terms of operations in Syria and Iraq. We can’t undertake these operations without coordinating with legitimacy in this place and the international community,” bin Salman said without elaborating.

Asked if the new alliance would focus just on Islamic State, bin Salman said it would confront not only that group but “any terrorist organization that appears in front of us.”

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab neighbors have been locked in nine months of warfare with Iran-allied rebels in neighboring Yemen, launching hundreds of air strikes there.

Especially after a rash of attacks on Western targets claimed by Islamic State in recent months, the United States has increasingly said it thinks that firepower would better be used against IS.

As a ceasefire is set to take hold in Yemen on Tuesday alongside United Nations-backed peace talks, Riyadh’s announcement may signal a desire to shift its attention back toward the conflicts north of its borders.

Islamic State has pledged to overthrow the monarchies of the Gulf and have mounted a series of attacks on Shi’ite Muslim mosques and security forces in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia

The 34 countries participating in the alliance along with Saudi Arabia are: Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Turkey, Chad, Togo, Tunisia, Djibouti, Senegal, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Gabon, Guinea, Palestine, Comoros, Qatar, Cote d’Ivoire, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Maldives, Mali, Malaysia, Egypt, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Yemen.

How ISIS terror benefits Hezbollah

Members of Lebanon

   At the tail end of November, the Saudi Interior Ministry announced sanctions against 12 Hezbollah members and institutions that engage in business with the party and finance its activities across the Middle East. “The kingdom will continue to combat Hezbollah’s terror activities with all the available means, and will continue to work with the partners across the world [in this regard],”the statement said.

 

Riyadh’s decision came a week after the US Senate passed a bill to block Hezbollah’s financing activities by imposing sanctions on all international financial institutions that knowingly engage with Hezbollah and its enablers. The bill also aims at identifying Hezbollah’s satellite and Internet providers, which support its television network, Al-Manar. US government agencies have been trying to curb Hezbollah’s finances for years by blacklisting businessmen who funded the party. Gulf countries have also been deporting Shiite businessmen and confiscating their assets for years. But analysis say that the Syrian war and the emergence of the Islamic State, as well as the recent attacks in Paris and Beirut, might have increased Hezbollah’s popularity as well as the donations reaching its pockets.

 

Analysts say that while the war in Syria seemed to have overstretched Hezbollah and made recruitment a struggle, the war effort was counterbalanced by enthusiasm raised by the framing it as a holy war. The enthusiasm was not just seen in Lebanon, but also among the youth in the Shiite Lebanese diaspora. Many young men have returned to Lebanon to join Hezbollah’s troops in Syria — some allegedly using their Westrern passports in planned attacks against Israeli targets on foreign soil while others continue to donate and finance the Party of God.

 

 

The holy war against takfiris

 

Hezbollah does not have an obvious strategy to recruit youth from the Shiite Lebanese diaspora in order to fill its ranks of troops in Syria. However, analysts say there are young men who do come back to Lebanon to join the fight against thetakfiris. The reason is that Hezbollah, just like ISIS, its Sunni enemy on the ground, has been framing its involvement in Syria as the holy war of the end of days.

 

“Logically, I believe that, just like there are people born in France or America or Europe who are attracted by the idea of fighting alongside ISIS, there are definitely other people who belong to the Shiite community who are attracted by the idea of fighting alongside Hezbollah,” Lebanese analyst Ali al-Amin told NOW. “The idea of sectarian struggle creates this environment and attracts people who do not currently live in the Middle East, where the direct fight occurs. But they respond to the call to the sacred war — Hezbollah and ISIS base their propaganda on religious slogans to justify their involvement in the war in Syria. The sacred war attracts many people who are relatively far away, but feel that they are concerned by the fight,” he said.

 

Al-Amin says that in European communities, specifically, Muslims have not been able to feel integrated and have continued living in closed groups, which has made them more vulnerable to radical discourse and to cling to group identities, he said.

 

According to Mohamad Haidar, an analyst whose name has been changed for security reasons, Hezbollah has used the term “jihadist duty” in the past to justify youth joining the fight in Syria. “But later the war became holy. They were defending the shrine of Sayyidah Zaynab,” said Haidar. “This line of propaganda also helped raise enthusiasm among the youth. Hezbollah is counting on the importance of the holy sites and religious shrines related to the Shiites. The party started to organize trips to the holy places in Iraq: the southern town of Nabatiyeh was empty last week because all its inhabitants were on a Hezbollah-organized pilgrimage to Karbala.”

 

Haidar added that this enthusiasm within the Shiite supporters of Hezbollah in Lebanon is matched by the enthusiasm among the supporters in the diaspora. “I know a Lebanese family from Australia that arrived in Karbala a few days ago to commemorate the 40 days since Imam Hussein’s death.”

 

 

The alleged plots

 

Expatriates are never full members of Hezbollah, according to Haidar. But he says the diaspora is very valuable to Hezbollah in terms of business and finances, as well as freedom of movement. “They are official members of the party only when they’re foreign agents. But their number is very small and they are under very tight surveillance from the party,” Haidar said. “The freedom of movement for the members of Hezbollah is limited. They cannot travel wherever they want; they need prior authorization by the leadership of the party and they always travel with a mission.”

 

A man with a mission was Hussein Bassam Abdallah, sentenced to six years in prison for plotting a terrorist attack in Cyprus after being caught with 8.2 tons of fertilizer in Larnaca. Abdallah had a Canadian passport and admitted in front of the court that he was part of Hezbollah’s military wing. The 26-year-old pleaded guilty to terrorism charges and said he repented and cooperated with the investigation, according to AFP reports. His defense was based on the argument that the man was only in charge of keeping the bomb-making fertilizer safe, and not to carrying out the attacks. Abdallah was arrested in May 2015, but according to the Cypriot investigators he had been stockpiling ammonium nitrate since 2012. Coincidentally, 2012 was the year that Cypriot authorities arrested another Lebanese young man with a Swedish passport who was gathering intelligence on the Israeli tourist charters landing in Larnaca. Housam Taleb Yaacoub also admitted to having been recruited by Hezbollah as a courier and was sentenced to four years in prison in Limassol.

 

 

Donations and fundraising

 

Hezbollah is not the only Lebanese party that receives donations from supporters in the diaspora. “Whoever is ready to participate in a fight and maybe get killed supporting a political party is definitely ready to transfer money to people who are fighting these sacred wars. Therefore, financial donations are always sent to Lebanon, but it’s really difficult to quantify these remittances,” Al-Amin said. He also said that such donations increased after the Syrian conflict because of the religious aspect of it. While the fight against Israel was a political struggle, the war against the Sunni radicals in Syria and Iraq is sectarian — it has a stronger religious echo.

 

“After the Syrian war, Hezbollah became a representative of the sectarian Shiite nerve. The party is now attracting people because of the war between Shiites and other sects. Lately, Hezbollah abandoned the idea of Muslim unity and started fighting as a Shiite party. This is very similar to ISIS or Al-Qaeda’s strategy and this definitely draws more support.”

 

Ana Maria Luca tweets @aml1609

The Supreme Council of Cyberspace

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