By Shoshana Bryen
WASHINGTON, D.C–When Congress withheld U.S. military assistance to the Beirut government after Lebanese Army Forces (LAF) fired into Israel, Iran announced that it would pick up the slack. Tehran already supplies Hezbollah through Syria – a process improved, according to European sources, by a new Iranian agreement with Turkey not to block Hezbollah-bound shipments through its territory. Iran would thus become a supplier to both the Lebanese government and the Lebanese government-approved Hezbollah militia. One of those is considered by the U.S. government to be a terrorist organization.
But such is the fear of Iran in the Obama Administration that State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters never mind what Congress says. “I think that the statements by Iran are expressly the reason why we believe that continuing support to the Lebanese government and the Lebanese military is in our interest…Hezbollah is a fact within Lebanese society and much of our effort in supporting the Lebanese military is in fact the very professionalization that we think helps mitigate that risk.”
Crowley appears to be saying U.S. aid to the LAF will enable Lebanon to work against Hezbollah and Iran, and withholding aid would “force” Lebanon to turn to its “enemy” Iran. Evidence, please, because we find Lebanon to be acting out of weakness or affinity as an ally of Iran right now – in spite of our aid or because of it. There is no Lebanese effort to close the Syria-Lebanon border by which Iran provides increasingly sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah. There is increasing evidence that the LAF warns Hezbollah of UNIFIL activity and shares intelligence and weapons. There was even a report by a generally reliable source that Iranian intelligence and commando operatives visited southern Lebanon in August in the company of the LAF.
It is simply an American illusion that when Lebanon (or the Palestinian Authority, for that matter) takes American aid, it accepts American conditions. Crowley said, “We place conditions…and there are similar conditions in terms of how Israel is able to use the assistance we provide them… Nothing that we do is condition-free.” Really?
Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr announced that Lebanon would accept no conditions on U.S. military aid that precluded its use against Israel, adding gratuitously or honestly that the LAF soldier who opened fire on the IDF was acting on orders. The Palestinians have similarly asserted that they will use their American military training as they wish, and we believe them.
Our greatest concern is that it appears to take only the threat of Tehran to make American officials jump to prop up what it hopes/wishes was a friend, throwing rational assessment to the wind.
The government in Beirut is not a single entity and not an independent one. Hezbollah sits in the Cabinet as well as in the south with its private army. Syria, once ousted by Lebanese democrats who believed in the Bush freedom revolution, is back now – and Syria is being courted assiduously by the Obama Administration even as it solidifies its ties to Tehran and an increasingly Islamist Ankara. We’re sorry for the Lebanese, but we have little hope that its future will be independent, multicultural and/or pro-Western.
The Obama Administration would do well not to supply it – or the Palestinians – with the ability to hurt our real friend and ally, Israel, just because Tehran blusters.
Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member.
TEHERAN (WJC)–Iran has said it was prepared to sell weapons to the Lebanon should the government in Beirut seek help to equip its military. On Tuesday, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah had proposed to the unity government of Prime Minister Hariri to formally seek military assistance from Tehran, the Iranian news agency IRNA reported.
In Teheran, Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi said that Lebanon “is our friend, and its army is also our friend” and if there was a demand [for arms], “we are ready to help that country and conduct weapons transactions with it.” Nasrallah, whose movement is backed by Iran and Syria, vowed in a televised speech Hezbollah could help secure the aid for the Lebanon’s army, which is still seen as under-equipped compared to the Shiite paramilitary group.
“I vow that Hezbollah will work fervently and capitalize on its friendship with Iran to ensure it helps arm the Lebanese military in any way it can,” Nasrallah said. His call came following a US freeze in military aid to Lebanon in the wake of deadly border clashes between Lebanese and Israeli troops four weeks ago.
A US$ 100 million aid package for the Lebanon’s military was put on hold earlier this month by two leading members of the House of Representatives over concerns the weapons could be used to attack Israel, and that Hezbollah might have influence over the Lebanese army. Nasrallah’s movement is part of Hariri’s governing coalition.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the possibility of Iran selling arms to the Lebanon underscored “the importance both to our national security and the security of the region to continue with our security assistance to the Lebanese army”. He added that a review of the aid program to the Lebanon was under way and that “we hope to conclude that soon, and renew assistance.”
Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress
By Bruce S. Ticker
PHILADELPHIA — Heartwarming words from Sarah Shiha, a student at Ain Shams University in Cairo: “Apart from the political issues, we are humans. I respect your religion, you respect mine.”
Her next comment, on Israel, sounded more robotic than humane: “What we see is that we had a land, and that people came and took this land. Now they want to stay here, and every day they are killing more and more of our siblings.”
Shiha is among 20 students from Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon who participated in a five-week program sponsored by the U.S. State Department to learn how religious pluralism is among America’s great strengths, according to an article in The Jewish Exponent of Philadelphia.
It seems that Shiha and her associates could have been a tad more diplomatic, especially since her inflammatory comment might be read by thousands of American Jews. She could have easily sidestepped the question by insisting she needed to learn more about the Israeli/Arabic conflict, couldn’t she? She might have faced more than verbal disdain back home. She might be murdered by her own people.
In the Middle East, free speech can carry a fatal price. Arabs have murdered their own who were suspected of collaborating with Israel, and Arab leaders who suggested or acted upon peaceful existence with Israel. Remember Anwar el-Sadat?
Yasser Arafat indicated that he feared a comparable fate if he assented to the peace plan offered during the Camp David summit 10 years ago. In his book “The Missing Peace,” Dennis Ross (then President Clinton’s Middle East envoy) relates a conversation in which Arafat asked then secretary of state Madeleine Albright if she wanted to attend his funeral. This comment came out of left field, but why else would he say this?
Arafat’s comment could invite some sarcastic responses – such as, his funeral was long overdue. I think his top motive for rejecting the plan was fear that other Arabs would kill him because they refused to accept any peace settlement.
It is clear that many Arabs keep silent because they fear retaliation. Of course, it is impossible to determine how many Arabs really loathe Israel and those who follow the script to protect themselves and their families.
Examples do abound. Before returning to his current prime minister post, Benjamin Netanyahu was asked by a television interviewer to identify Arab businesspeople with whom he communicates; he refused because, he said, it would jeopardize their lives. I recently read a report of an Arab man who saved Jews during World War II and told them to say nothing about his help. Israeli leaders claim that Arabs who sold land to Jews denied doing so because they could be harmed.
Some months ago, a native Iranian on a German sports team refused to play against an Israeli team. He did not offer this as a reason, but he still had family in Iran who could be endangered by his participation in that game.
The Arab and Muslim world is tightly controlled in parts. Putting Israel aside, ordinary Arabs and Muslims must worry about violent feuds between families and tribes, honor killings of women and conflicts with the ruling class. On Aug. 8, an Iranian attorney fled to Norway after he defended a woman who faced being stoned to death because she allegedly committed adultery. An Afghan couple were stoned to death, on Taliban orders, because they allegedly cheated on his wife and her family-chosen fiance.
Those familiar with the Middle East attest that roughly half of Turkish and Iranian citizens are sensible people who yearn for more moderate leaders. Egyptian businesspersons worked well with their Israeli counterparts, and Turks in the military oppose their ultra-religious regime.
Tom Friedman of The New York Times reported on a Gazan woman whose son’s life was saved by a Jewish physician at an Israeli hospital. Now she wants her son to blow up…er, grow up…to become a suicide bomber. Consider that she must return home to face not only her neighbors but also Hamas, which has the power to make life miserable for her.
It is most annoying that American Muslims readily complain of bigotry, yet are less consistent in condemning Islamic-related violence – especially when Israelis are victimized. Muslim society in America appears to be closeted and hard to figure out.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the driving force behind the proposed mosque near Ground Zero, dodged a radio reporter’s question as to whether he concurred with the State Department’s designation of Hamas as a terrorist group, The New York Jewish Week reported.
Said Rauf: “I’m not a politician. I try to avoid the issues. The issue of terrorism is a very complex question…I’m a bridge builder. I define my work as a bridge builder…I will not allow anybody to put me in a position where I am seen by any party in the world as an adversary or as an enemy.”
Far from an exercise in clarity.
It is strange that free speech exists on two levels in our own country – one standard for most of us and a self-imposed standard for a stifled and bewildering minority.
Ticker is the Philadelphia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World
He may be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org