During his joint press conference with Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Tuesday, President Trump gave expression to the inherent paradox in America’s Lebanon policy. On the one hand, the president voiced appreciation and support for Lebanon and its Armed Forces (LAF) for their supposed “impressive” role in the fight against ISIS and Al-Qaeda. On the other hand, he had strong words for Hezbollah, calling it a menace to the Lebanese state and the entire region and noting its role in fueling the catastrophe in Syria. Specifically, the president added, the group threatens to start a conflict with Israel, as it continues to increase its arsenal in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
At the same time Hariri is visiting Washington, however, the LAF is taking part in a joint military operation with Hezbollah in northeastern Lebanon, targeting a pocket of Syrian armed groups—including the group formerly known as the Nusra Front—on the Syrian border. Hezbollah, of course, controls the Lebanese government and dictates the operations of its armed forces. Indeed, it was Hezbollah that laid out the battle plans for the current operation in northeastern Lebanon, including what role the LAF would play in it. And it was Hezbollah’s chief, Hassan Nasrallah, who announced the impending start of the joint operation with the LAF during a televised appearance a couple of weeks ago.
The Lebanese state, in other words, is worse than a joke. It’s a front. Which is what made Hariri’s comments during the presser about his government’s commitment to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, calling for an end to hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel, all the more absurd. After all, it was the LAF that chaperoned Hezbollah and its media tour of the border with Israel — where Hezbollah’s “environmental NGOs” have set up observation posts under UNIFIL’s nose — and which then sent 150 of its officer cadets on a guided tour of Hezbollah’s museum of war with Israel.
One would think, then, that talking up Lebanon’s commitment to UNSCR 1701 may not be the smartest approach when discussing aid to the LAF. The reason why it continues to be done shamelessly is that for the past four years, the Obama administration redefined UNSCR 1701, which was passed in 2006, to fit its regional pro-Iran policy.
Famously, Trump’s predecessor publicly recognized the need to “respect” what he called Iran’s “equities” in Syria. That was a euphemism for Iran’s ability to maintain its bridge to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Obama further signaled his commitment to Iran’s regional interests by sharing intelligence, via the LAF and other Hezbollah-aligned Lebanese security agencies, with Hezbollah, to help it and Iran fend off blowback from its war on the Syrian people in support of Bashar Assad. However, since it is rather impossible to directly partner with a US-designated terrorist group that has American blood on its hands, the Obama administration did the next best thing: strengthen the partnership with Hezbollah’s auxiliary force, the LAF. The LAF was thus promoted to partner in the war on ISIS, despite the fact it sits on the extreme margin of that fight. Moreover, its synergy with Hezbollah and its role in securing Hezbollah’s rear and logistical lines into Syria, was conveniently swept aside altogether, even as its deployment to the eastern Lebanese border was praised.
And here’s where the sleight of hand on UNSCR 1701 happened. As far back as 2014, support to the LAF and its deployment to the eastern border were sold as enabling the Lebanese government to implement the resolution. Only here’s the thing: the resolution had intended for the Lebanese government to exercise its sovereignty on border control so that it may cut off Hezbollah’s illegal smuggling of weapons from Iran and Syria and, eventually disarm it. Such sovereignty, it was hoped, would also assert Lebanon’s independence from the Assad regime, whose troops were pushed out of the country only a year earlier. Instead, the Obama administration made the mandate of UNSCR 1701 about combating “Syria-origin Sunni extremists.” This became the standard language in the State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism since 2014. And so, when the Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced the sale of a new arms package to the LAF in 2015, including light attack aircraft and laser-guided rockets, it explained that the sale serves US interests by enabling the Lebanese government to “enforce United Nation’s security council resolutions 1559 and 1701.”
However, insofar as the LAF was working hand in hand with Hezbollah — Iran’s “equity” — US support was for its mission against “Sunni terrorism” exclusively. The Obama administration effectively wrote out Hezbollah of UNSCR 1701.
Regrettably, the recently released State Department Country Terrorism report repeats this Obama-era language verbatim. In contrast, it’s clear President Trump was trying to reintroduce the Hezbollah and Iran emphasis. Hence, he underscored that terrorism now means all terrorism, which means Hezbollah. But attempting to fit this anti-Hezbollah and anti-Iran language into the policy of support to the LAF is an attempt to square the circle. You could see it also in the president’s revival of the old line about how American assistance can help ensure the LAF “is the only defender” of Lebanon — meaningless folkloric language US policy has been repeating since 2006, and which has now become not only obsolete, but also counterproductive.
It doesn’t work, and it only reinforces a pro-Iranian configuration, partly because the previous administration reconfigured its Lebanon policy to be part of its broader regional policy of realignment with Iran, and partly because Hezbollah controls Lebanon, its strategic orientation, and its security policy and apparatuses. In fact, Hezbollah controls the government of which Hariri is prime minister. The last time he visited Washington as prime minister, in January 2011, Hezbollah and its allies—which include the current president and foreign minister—collapsed his government, and forced him out of the country. He was allowed back in only after he completely capitulated to Hezbollah’s demands.
It was hardly surprising, then, that Hariri had not once mentioned Hezbollah in his remarks. He knows who wields the real power in Beirut. And his function since Hezbollah allowed him back into Lebanon has been to lobby for backing and continued support for the current Hezbollah-dominated political status quo, and to mop up after Hezbollah. So, when asked today about the Lebanese government’s response to new Congressional sanctions targeting Hezbollah, Hariri replied that he’ll be making the rounds on the Hill “in order to reach an understanding with regard to the [sanctions] resolutions coming from Congress.” Reaching an “understanding” is a euphemism for taking it easy on Lebanon. It’s what all of the Lebanese delegations to Washington, headed by Hezbollah allies, have been focused on since news of Congress’s efforts to tighten sanctions came out: we’re in compliance with existing sanctions. Don’t add new sanctions. Do you want to break Lebanon?!?
Hariri played that refrain a little as well, as he underscored his government’s “efforts to safeguard our political and economic stability while combating terrorism” (which, of course, does not refer to Hezbollah). In other words, Lebanon is a partner in the fight against ISIS, so don’t do anything to threaten its fragile political and economic stability.
With that Hariri gave a perfect example of how Lebanon is brandished as a human shield of sorts for Hezbollah in support of the status quo favorable to the party — and to everyone who partakes in it, Hariri included. The same applies to the LAF policy. For what role will the LAF play if not that of a human shield for Hezbollah when the next conflict with Israel erupts? What will the Lebanese government do but rush to the US urging it to preserve its investment in that extraordinary partner in the war against terrorism, and to intervene to stop Israel from destroying the Lebanese state. After all, who but Hezbollah would benefit from that? Cui bono, America?
Of course, all that makes sense for Hariri and the Lebanese political class and for their political careers, and perhaps for Hariri’s ambition to get in on any prospective “reconstruction” action in Syria — that is, if Iran’s and Hezbollah’s Construction Jihad let him have a cut. But none of that makes any sense for the US. Rather, it all becomes a vehicle for the perpetuation and consolidation of Obama’s deliberately pro-Iran policy.
“America is proud to support those who have the courage to stand up to terrorism,” president Trump said on Tuesday. But if terrorism includes Hezbollah, which the president made clear it does, then by definition the Lebanese state and the LAF should be excluded from that list.
This post was published in Tablet Magazine
Linda Sarsour (right). Photo: Screenshot.
Anti-Defamation League National Director CEO Jonathan Greenblatt slammed The New School on Monday over the Manhattan-based institution’s upcoming hosting of a panel discussion on antisemitism that will feature several prominent anti-Israel activists.
Participants in the Nov. 28 event — titled “Antisemitism and the Struggle for Justice” — will include Women’s March co-chair Linda Sarsour and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson.
“Having Linda Sarsour & head of JVP leading a panel on #antisemitism is like Oscar Meyer leading a panel on vegetarianism,” Greenblatt tweeted on Monday. “These panelists know the issue, but unfortunately, from perspective of fomenting it rather than fighting it.”
Mexico’s Sec. of Foreign Affairs, Luis Videgaray Caso, thanked the IDF team for their work to help the people of Mexico during the earthquakes. (IDF Spokesperson)
Mexico has reportedly announced that it will change its voting strategy at the United Nations and other international bodies by stopping to vote in favor of the Palestinians.
According to Yedioth Ahronoth, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Figari contacted Israeli Ambassador to Mexico Yoni Pelad and told him of the shift in strategy for all upcoming voting procedures related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Perpetuating the romance of the Bolshevik regime, whose ‘good intentions’ cannot mask the horrors imposed in its name
This was written not in the Soviet Union or one of its satellites, but in New York in 1947 by Robert Warshow in Commentary magazine about the American culture of the previous decade. While slightly hyperbolic (the Southern Agrarians, the American Scholar, etc.?) it faithfully describes American Jewish culture of the time, emphatically including its Yiddish branch. At the extreme of this movement were people like Julius Rosenberg, George Koval, and Mark Zborowski, who actively spied for the Soviet Union. At the same time, editors of Communist publications, Hollywood and union activists, party writers and institutional leaders were all directed by Moscow and were joined by rank-and-file members in promoting the virtues of Stalinism over the evils of American constitutional democracy.
How the grandparents of today’s Christian victims of ISIS were also butchered by Muslims.
Editor’s Note: The following review was written by Raymond Ibrahim, a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. The book reviewed is Year of the Sword: The Assyrian Christian Genocide, a History (published by the Oxford University Press, 2016), by Joseph Yacoub, an Honorary Professor of Political Science at Catholic University of Lyon. A significantly shorter version of this review first appeared in the Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2017.
This important contribution to genocide studies documents how the world’s oldest Christian communities—variously referred to as Chaldeans, Syriacs, and Arameans, but best known as Assyrians—were, along with the Armenians, “victims of the [Ottoman] plan for exterminating Christianity, root and branch,” to quote Lord Bryce, circa. 1920. In fact, as half of the Assyrian population was massacred—going from 600,000 to 300,000 in 1915-18—relative to their numbers, no other Christian group, including the Armenians, suffered as much under the Ottomans.
Three non-Jewish men and one non-Jewish woman went up to the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, on Thursday morning, and took part in a ceremony in which they received upon themselves the responsibility of adhering to the seven Noahide laws and were officially accepted by a rabbinic tribunal.
The seven Noahides went up to the Temple Mount accompanied by a group of rabbis. One rabbi explained to them the significance of the place and how the Temple was intended as a House of Prayer for all Nations, that benefits the entire world. The rabbis then discussed the laws pertinent to a non-Jewish resident of Israel, righteous gentiles, and the commandments incumbent upon them.
Allahu Akbar. You hear it everywhere these days.
Special agent Scott Wickland said that he heard cries of “Allahu Akbar” before the Benghazi attack. And then the guards ran for their guns.
In Nice, France, the Islamic terrorist who killed 86 people and wounded over 400 by running them over with a truck, shouted, “Allahu Akbar”. In New York, the Islamic terrorist who was trying to imitate him, also shouted, “Allahu Akbar.” The 9/11 hijackers had the same message, “Allahu Akbar”.
With so many investigations and promised indictments, why is the prime minister’s popularity still so high? Part of it is certainly the convoluted nature of the allegations. The more closely one examines them, the more unbelievable they become.For all the differences between Israeli and American Jews, one thing is uncannily similar: the daily headlines lambasting their current political leader.
Normally, we’re allowed to discuss everything, even the salaries of senior judges and police officers. And if we want, we can even demand a pay raise for the prime minister.
There’s no taboo. Everything can and should be on the table. Even a law granting the prime minister immunity from police investigations, in a slightly more reasonable version, is an appropriate subject for a public debate.
But these are not normal times. We are in the midst of a dangerous campaign against the heads of the law enforcement system. They are not immune to criticism. But in the past few months, something completely different has been happening. of the campaign.
There has always been a debate about the “loyalty” of Israeli Arabs. Meaning, of course, Palestinians who are citizens of Israel, apart from those living in the West Bank/Judea-Samaria.
Now, a new poll bolsters the argument that these Palestinians are a sort of Fifth Column within the Jewish state.
Not loyal at all.
According to a report in the Times of Israel:
“Two-thirds of Arab Israelis believe Israel has ‘no right’ to define itself as the Jewish nation state, while a majority of Jewish Israelis (58 percent) say those who reject that definition of Israel should have their citizenship revoked, according to a new poll underlining deep divisions between the two communities.
A report on Channel 10—a known stronghold of Bibi-animosity—claims that
senior law enforcement officials have concluded there is sufficient evidence to file an indictment against [Prime Minister Netanyahu] on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust…. The report quoted an unofficial police opinion according to which the evidence that has accumulated against Netanyahu is robust…. The State Attorney’s Office, Channel 10 reported, was also coming to the opinion that there are grounds to file an indictment on bribery, but was not as sure as the police.
Most of the latest purported information—once again leaked by the police, guardians of virtue in the Bibi-hunt who have leaked ruthlessly and systematically throughout this affair—concerns Case 1000, in which Netanyahu is alleged to have done favors for his longtime friend, businessman and movie mogul Arnon Milchan, in return for gifts of cigars and champagne.