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
An antisemitic flyer found on the University of Houston campus on Tuesday. Photo: Michael Leone / Facebook
Dozens of flyers and stickers promoting neo-Nazi propaganda were found at the University of Houston (UH) this week, the latest incident associated with an increase in white supremacist activity on campuses nationwide.
The flyers, found on bulletin boards, walls, trash bins, and lamp posts at the university’s main campus on Tuesday, included phrases such as, “Beware the International Jew” and “Imagine a Muslim-Free America,” according to a statement shared online by UH’s chapter of the Young Communist League (YCL).
IDF soldiers make a blessing on the traditional Jewish custom of apple and honey to welcome Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. (ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com)
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship) and Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) said they will provide $1.5 million in annual Rosh Hashanah “Fellowship Gift Cards” to 12,000 IDF soldiers marking the upcoming Jewish New Year.
The initiative, coordinated in collaboration with the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers and the LIBI Fund, will provide more than 10,000 lone soldiers and soldiers $140 gift cards. Another 2,200 soldiers will receive gift cards worth $100.
The cards “will allow the soldiers to celebrate the New Year without the burden of financial stress,” the organizations said in a statement Wednesday.
Gaza-based terror group says it will agree to Palestinian Authority conditions on forming joint government and holding elections
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, center, and spokesman Fawzi Barhoum attend a protest in Gaza City on July 22, 2017, against new Israeli security measures implemented at the holy site, which include metal detectors and cameras, following an attack that killed two Israeli policemen the previous week. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)
For the past week or so, Iranian official media and social networks have been abuzz with anecdotes woven around a football match in Tehran between Iran and Syria and the light it might shed on a complicated relationship.
According to most accounts, a group of Syrians flown in by special charter to cheer their national squad in its bid for a place in the World Cup in Moscow staged an anti-Iran demonstration in the stadium. The Syrian contingent included young ladies who refused to wear the Iranian-style hijab.
Their presence in the stadium highlighted the fact that no Iranian woman is allowed to attend a football match after a fatwa by the “Supreme Guide” that women watching young men running around with bare legs might cause “undue excitement”
An Orthodox man passes a British guard in London, UK. (drserg / Shutterstock.com)
A new in-depth survey conducted by the U.K.-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) found that around 30 percent of the British public hold at least one anti-Semitic viewpoint.
The report noted, however, that most of the 30 percent polled also held some positive views about Jews.
Further, around 15 percent of the British public indicated they agreed with two or more anti-Semitic views presented to them, while two percent of British adults polled were found to be “hard-core” anti-Semites.
The survey was conducted by JPR senior research fellow Dr. Daniel Staetsky using face-to-face interviews and online polls.
That’s followed by the sounds of the terrorists assaulting a passenger.
“Please don’t hurt me,” he pleads. “Oh God.”
As the passengers rush the cabin, a Muslim terrorist proclaims, “In the name of Allah.”
As New York firefighters struggle up the South Tower with 100 pounds of equipment on their backs trying to save lives until the very last moment, the Flight 93 passengers push toward the cockpit. The Islamic hijackers call out, “Allahu Akbar.”.
The autumn of 2015 was unusual in almost every way on the north Aegean Greek island of Lesbos from which I am writing. There were tens of thousands of illegal migrants on the island, the native population of which was scarcely 100,000. New refugees arrived every day by the thousands.
One evening, the blue-gray sky grumbled shortly after sunset. The thick clouds blackened and rain poured down over the city with a roar. As I ran across the slippery pavement into a friend’s bar, I heard a group of five poor souls speaking Persian with a Turkic accent and running amok, seeking shelter under the eaves of a building.
Back in May, a New Orleans statue of Joan of Arc was tagged with “Tear it Down” graffiti.
Why Joan of Arc? Any famous historical figure is by definition controversial. Joan is a French national
symbol, but Shakespeare depicted her as a malicious witch. The French Quarter where the statue stands is a mostly white neighborhood. France was dealing with a controversial election.
This is what happens when you open a can of historical, religious and nationalistic worms.
Regarding the question that forms the title of this article, I truly believe that the answer is “yes.” It is my belief that Christian Zionism is as obvious a sign of the beginning of the redemption of Israel as are the ingathering of millions of Jews to the land of Israel and the existence of the State of Israel itself. But there are many people who don’t share this perspective.
In the Jewish community, there are still many who are wary of Christian friendship and support. Many Jews are suspicious of an ulterior motive to convert Jews to Christianity that they fear underlies this political partnership.
Last weekend, the world experienced a petrifying “wake up call” when Pyongyang test launched a hydrogen bomb. According to Yukiya Amano, director of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA), Sunday’s test represents “a new dimension to the threat.” Added Amano, “I think the North Korean threat is a global one now.
In the past, people thought it was a regional one, but that is no longer the case.”
Since 1994, when North Korea decided to pull out of the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), there has been a huge history of attempts to chain the North Korean nuclear beast, including efforts for military cooperation, sanctions and, of course, negotiations.