Hezbolla

This blog follows my prior blog on terrorism.   Hezbollah has been considered a terrorist group by some countries, and a political  group by others.  In no way should it be lumped together with Al-Qaeda and ISIS.

It was  unnecessary to explain why  Al-Qaeda and ISIS are classified as  terrorists organizations as their actions make this abundantly clear.     Same goes for Boko Haram. and Al-Shabaab,  equally evil and destructive.  No country supports any of these groups.  Individuals within some countries find ways to support terrorist activities.   ISIS found many ways to support its organization,  from taking over oil fields and selling oil, to looting antiquities and selling them.   Boko Haram and ISIS sold captured women as “brides.”    These groups are truly defiling the religion of Islam.

Now, Hezbollah is different in its origin.  It originated in defense of Lebanon, at least from the Muslim’s perspective.   From the Israel’s perspective, this invasion was the only alternative to ending the attacks  by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).     The PLO originated as a group to liberate the country of Palestine from Israel through armed struggle.  It was founded in 1964.  After being attacked in Jordan,   the PLO sought refuge in south Lebanon.  The PLO  continued to attack Israel which retaliated with air strikes into southern Lebanon.  The Israel and the US in 1982 considered the PLO a terrorist organization.  The  PLO as Yasser Arafat as its leader relocated in 1982  to  Tripoli,  located in the more  northern area of Lebanon.

I watched an Israeli commentator on television explain, “Hezbollah is something we created.”  I would never go this far,  but Hezbollah certainly arose as a resistance militant group , after Israel occupied southern Lebanon. After the Israel invasion of Lebanon,  Iran saw an opportunity to strengthen its hand in Lebanon, by consolidating the Shi’a militants into united party.

40 Years of Peace gone in four months

There is no question that Israel through it’s military force, was determined to join with the Christian (Maronite)  militants  in south Lebanon (“Lebanon Free State”),  and create an “Israeli friendly” country to its north.  From the Muslim perspective, they installed a puppet government controlling Beirut. According to Wikipedia:

By expelling the PLO, removing Syrian influence over Lebanon, and installing a pro-Israeli Christian government led by President Bachir Gemayel, Israel hoped to sign a treaty which Menachem Begin promised would give Israel “forty years of peace.”

The Maronites Christian population has been estimated to be nearly 22% of the Lebanon’s population.   Begin’s plan began to fail with the assassination of Gemayel in September 1982 and begun the Lebanese civil war.

Lebanon Civil War (1982 to 1990) and Hezbolla emerges to an organization to defend Shi’a Muslims against Occupation by Israel

The civil war starting in 1982 in  Lebanon was a proxy fight on a large scale, very similar to the conflict today in Syria.  Iran funded Hezbollah, to fight on behalf of Shi’a Muslims.  Israel supported the Lebanon Free Army formed by the Maronite Christians.  Outside countries were picking their proxies to fight in the Lebanon war.

According to Wikipedia:

Hezbollah was founded in the early 1980s as part of an Iranian effort to aggregate a variety of militant Lebanese Shi’a groups under one roof…

Hezbollah was conceived by Muslim clerics and funded by Iran primarily to harass the Israeli occupation. Its leaders were followers of Ayatollah Khomeini, and its forces were trained and organized by a contingent of 1,500 Revolutionary Guards that arrived from Iran with permission from the Syrian government,[30] which was in occupation of Lebanon at the time. Hezbollah’s 1985 manifesto listed its objectives as the expulsion of “the Americans, the French and their allies definitely from Lebanon, putting an end to any colonialist entity on our land”, submission of the Phalangists to “just power” and bringing them to justice “for the crimes they have perpetrated against Muslims and Christians”, and permitting “all the sons of our people” to choose the form of government they want, while calling on them to “pick the option of Islamic government”.[31]  Hezbollah waged a guerrilla campaign in South Lebanon and as a result, Israel withdrew from Lebanon on 24 May 2000, and SLA collapsed and surrendered.

This is the historical context of Hezbollah. Hezbollah can claim they liberated south Lebanon from Israeli control.   As ironic as it might seem to non-Arab countries,  it is Israel which is portrayed as the terrorist state, and not Hezbollah.    Iran, according to Wikipedia, was responsible for creating unity among groups resisting the South Lebanon Army. Much of this support was for weapons and trained military forces.

The civil war in Lebanon  was brutal and left the capital devastated.  There were approximately 120,000 fatalities.   I have seen it first hand, as one of the bullet ridden buildings was left standing in Beirut after the reconstruction.  There are Shi’a and Sunni Muslims in Lebanon, in addition to the Christian population.   The list of belligerent groups is listed in Wikipedia.

It was easy for Syria’s military to enter the war  given the chaos and violence in Beirut.   They certainly had an interest of not having a flood of refugees come into their country and have country aligned with the Christians and Israel on their border.   They could claim they were simply helping Lebanon defend itself from Israeli aggression.   An peace agreement was finally reached in 1990, which mandated the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon.   Since the Taif agreement, Lebanon has several more conflicts, but nothing in comparison to the civil war.  See links on Lebanon and the civil war for more information.   At present, there is a delicate balance between the various secular groups.   The government is basically a power sharing arrangement with a Muslim  Prime Minister (Hariri) and a Christian President (Aoun).

Hezbollah Today 

You do not hear of Hezbollah  being accused of or claiming responsibility for terror attacks in the US, Europe,  Africa and the Middle East.    Yet, right wing groups have vehemently attacked Hezbollah as a highly dangerous terrorist organization, controlled by Iran.   This is politics.  Conservative Republicans routinely criticized the Obama administration for the Nuclear Deal which they considered would greatly increase Iran’s support of terrorist activities, primarily Hezbollah.

Hezbollah is considered a terrorist organization by the governments of the United States, Israel, Canada, the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, along with its military/security wing by the United Kingdom, Australia and the European Union (Wikipedia).

Israel is the most vocal on their hate of Hezbollah.   They correctly state the Hezbollah is responsible for the deaths of many Israel citizens.  However,  Israel has been responsible for many civilian deaths.  In the conflicts between Israel and southern Lebanon,  it is sometimes difficult to say who is most responsible,  but civilian deaths result on both sides.

Hezbollah’s allies according to Wikipedia are Iran, Syria, Iraq, Russia, Cuba, North Korea, and Venezuela.   Not a particularly nice group of friends!  The only country willing to support Hezbollah is Iran.  The headquarters of Hezbollah are in Beirut, Lebanon.

Any armed group outside government control would be considered a threat to an established government.  There is no question that Hezbollah has weapons, and is organized as a Shi’a militia.    Thus, the “military wing” of Hezbollah is condemned by many countries.   However,  the origins and intent of Hezbollah is very different from the terrorist organizations which we are currently battling.   Those who feel that Hezbollah is not a terrorist organization,  would label it a “resistance force”  against Israel aggression.

Hezbollah is an anti-Zionism organization, but denies they are anti-Semitic.     The anti-Zionism ideology typically begins with the idea that Israel was created by the United Nations in 1948, and resulted in the displacement of many Palestinians from their homeland.   Muslims and Jews have lived in peace for centuries.  The anti-Zionist ideology blames the arrival of European Jews after World War II as the origins between the conflicts.  They consider Zionism an expansionary philosophy, giving the country of Israel the control of the West Bank and the Gaza strip based on biblical references.    As stated in the 2011 BBC article (see links below)

Hezbollah is committed to the destruction of Israel but it has also made statements indicating it would accept a two-state solution if the Palestinians agreed to it.

This is an obvious contradiction.   But, having lived in the Middle East, I’m pretty used to this being acceptable.

The condemnation by the Gulf Cooperative Council  of Hezbollah occurred in March 2016, even though Hezbollah had existed since 1984.  This likely had more to do with Saudi Arabia’s conflicts with Iran, which also has strong  secular basis (Saudi Arabia is mainly Sunni, Iran is mainly Shi’a).   Interestingly,  Iraq’s foreign minister came to the defense of Hezbollah in 2016, as follows:

Hezbollah “have preserved Arab dignity” and those who accuse them of being terrorists are terrorists themselves.

The Arab Spring uprisings have ended terribly in so many countries.  Hezbollah’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood (remember this is a Sunni organization) is another reason the GCC member states, like Saudi Arabia and Egypt condemn Hezbollah.

Hezbollah has been accused of being involved in many violent attacks including the assassination of  PM Rafic Hariri.   See link on Hezbollah from Wikipedia.

Hezbollah’s Social Services

As per Wikipedia:

Hezbollah organizes an extensive social development program and runs hospitals, news services, educational facilities, and encouragement of Nikah mut‘ah.[126][141] One of its established institutions, Jihad Al Binna’s Reconstruction Campaign, is responsible for numerous economic and infrastructure development projects in Lebanon.[142] Hezbollah has set up a Martyr’s Institute (Al-Shahid Social Association), which guarantees to provide living and education expenses “for the families of fighters who die” in battle.[128] An IRIN news report of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs noted:

Hezbollah not only has armed and political wings – it also boasts an extensive social development program. Hezbollah currently operates at least four hospitals, twelve clinics, twelve schools and two agricultural centres that provide farmers with technical assistance and training. It also has an environmental department and an extensive social assistance program. Medical care is also cheaper than in most of the country’s private hospitals and free for Hezbollah members.[126]

According to CNN, “Hezbollah did everything that a government should do, from collecting the garbage to running hospitals and repairing schools.”[143] In July 2006, during the war with Israel, when there was no running water in Beirut, Hezbollah was arranging supplies around the city. Lebanese Shiites “see Hezbollah as a political movement and a social service provider as much as it is a militia.”[143] Hezbollah also rewards its guerilla members who have been wounded in battle by taking them to Hezbollah-run amusement parks.[144]

Hezbollah is, therefore, deeply embedded in the Lebanese society.[30]

Recent Events –  Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salam and Trump’s actions

The ascent of Mohamed bin Salam as Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, has greatly increase the rift between the Sunni gulf coast countries and Iran, which is predominately Shi’a.   Hezbollah and Hamas will be lumped together with all well known terrorist groups, including ISIS and Al-Qaeda in their united fight against terrorism.   President Donald Trump was played by the Saudi hosts in his trip to Saudi Arabia, bu a secular attack on Iran.

The most bizarre event recently was the resignation of Lebanon PM Hariri in Saudi Arabia,  then his “unresignation”  a few weeks later.  Technically, he’s putting his resignation on hold.  He is not denouncing Hezbollah.

It is my prediction that Iraq will in the future, distance themselves from Saudi Arabia’s efforts,  and seek improving relations with Lebanon, including Hezbollah.

Whether Hezbollah militias can someday be abandoned,  and a political party based on social services, is anyone’s guess.   Trump’s recent action to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, was a major setback to finding a peace agreement between Palestine and Israel,  It  may further  push Hezbollah to continue to be a militant force of resistance to  what they perceive as  Zionism and Israel expansionary policies.

Just as I was ready to post this,  Saudi Arabia claim they shot down a missile fired by Houthi militants aimed at  Riyadh, capital of Saudi Arabia.  There have been other recent missile launches against Saudi Arabia.  The air strikes on Houthi rebels by Saudi Arabia have resulted in many civilian fatalities, so this is why they are retaliating.

The increased violence  is extremely unfortunate, as there is a severe humanitarian crisis in Yemen with famine and disease, despite efforts by international aid agencies.   Numerous obstacles including the Saudi Arabia’s blockade has limited assistance.    Saudi’s contend they are not just at war with the Houthi rebels, but with Hezbollah and their number one supporter, Iran, as part of an overall campaign against terrorism.

Unfortunately,  these conflicts  just seem to get bigger and more polarized. And the civilian fatalities continue to rise.

It is very difficult to write a short blog on Hezbollah.   My next blog will be shorter, just on the aid agencies which help the victims of conflict around the world.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

NYT: Lebanon’s Vanishing Prime Minister Is Back at Work. Now What?

Wikipedia: Hezbollah  

Wikipedia: Lebanon Civil War

Wikipedia:  Palestine Liberation Organization

Wikipedia: Lebanon

Wikipedia:  Oslo 1 Accord

Wikipedia: Mohammed bin Salman

Very good commentary from the NYT, but you have to understand the players,  secular nature of these conflicts, and their history.

NYT:  The enemy of my enemy is still my enemy

Note:  I’ve made extensive use of Wikipedia.   I find their information concise and factual.

There are many other sources of information, and it would be impossible to list all of them.

 

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Mr. Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari

Three released Americans boarded a Swiss flight out of Iran.  They are Jason Regaian, Amir Hekmati and Sadeed Abedini.  It is great to see them released and returning to their families.

But we were told that four  Americans had been released as a result of the prisoner swaps.

Mr. Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari is one of the Americans released by Iranian officials.  The news media is going nuts because they don’t know anything about him. I mean nothing!  Most likely the US State Department knows  a lot, but unless Mr. Khosravi-Roodsari wants his bio to  be shared with the public, there is no need to provide any information.  Good- because everyone has a right to privacy.  And good because it shows that sometimes, private information known by government officials can remain secret.

All we know is that he is a business man, according to one source.  He is being called the ghost prisoner.  He is easily identified when they show photos, his square is blank.   His arrest came to light as a result of Iranian officials, and not his family. So Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari will remain a mystery man.  Another “What in the world moment.”

A fifth released prisoner is Mathew Trevithick.  His release was reported to be not part of the swap.  He is leaving Iran,  but not on the Swiss air flight, which I guess is just for the swapees (is there a word?).

Stay  tuned,

Dave

Syrian Crisis – Part 1 (Jihadists, ISIL, the good guys, Mohamed Bouazizi and others)

I thought instead of describing how the Syria crisis began, I would only talk about when.  I have been to Damascus in 1999, and I considered it a far safer place than Miami, Florida where I live.  I did not see Syria as a hotbed of Islamic extremism.  I still don’t.

When did the mess in Syria begin?  It began on December 17, 2010.  Could you be more precise, possibly?  Yes,  11:30 am. There are a couple of events prior to this, so we can say 8:00 am when Mohamed Bouazizi began his day to 11:30, when the incident occurred.

There are so many groups, subgroups, super-groups (coalitions), it is difficult to keep track of them.  Wikipedia has done a fantastic job, as usual:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_armed_groups_in_the_Syrian_Civil_War

I believe rebuilding a transmission is easier than solving the Syrian crisis- because there are fewer moving parts!

In the category of Jihadists on Wikipedia, are the Al-Qaeda affiliated groups (Al-Nusra and others), whose origins date back to 1986- 1989,  as Osama bin Laden was fighting against the Russians in Afghanistan with the military assistance of the  CIA (thank you President Reagan).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Qaeda

In the category of the most vile and dangerous group of terrorists, namely ISIL or ISIS,  they are relatively new kids on the block, with their roots dating back to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 (thank you President Bush),  and the repression of the Sunni’s in Iraq.  Former President of Iraq, Maliki, bears responsibility for much of this repression.  The idea that ISIL and Al Qaeda moved in when Obama pulled the US troops out of Iraq is really overly simplistic.  Our presence also encourages terrorist recruitment. I will not attempt to enter in the debate of who contributed  to the growth of ISIL, Bush or Obama,  as I believe neither could fully anticipate what was emerging from the end of the Iraqi conflict.  It is a bit like sailing in turbulent winds, very difficult to steer.

Let’s move on.

— Good guys

The so-called “good guys” or the opposition groups (moderate, non-sectarian, groups)  seeking the ouster of Bashir Assad did not exist until 2011 after the tragic death of Mohamed Bouazizi of Tunisia.    It used to be called the Free Syrian Army (FSA),  but with merger of other groups, now it is the Syrian Revolutionary Command Council (SRCC) of which incudes FSA.  We can just call them good guys. But our good guys are at conflict with Jihadists, ISIL and the  Syrian military and associated supporting groups.

But our enemies, ISIL and Jihadists are also at war with the Syrian government.  So the enemy of our enemy is also our enemy.  ISIL holds a large portion of central Syria, which is sparsely populated, so it isn’t as bad as it looks.    Our friends, the Iraq government supports the Assad.  The  friend of our enemy is our friend.   I mean Americans have died, and billions of dollars spent for our friend, Iraq,  Thank you very much.

Of course, Syria and associated allies, see things completely opposite.  The SRCC or good guys are called “terrorists” by the Syrian government.   Hezbollah, which we consider as a dangerous group with a long history of threatening the security of Israel, is allied with Syria. So,  they are the “good guys” to the Syrians.   It can be argued that the establishment of  Hezbollah was a response to the Israel’s invasion of South Lebanon.

This makes the conflict in Syria unbelievably complicated. It is why Netanyahu visited Putin very recently.  Israel is very worried about Russia weapons going to Hezbollah for attacks on Israel.   Israel can certainly retaliate against Hezbollah if the attacks are launched from southern Lebanon.  But they are worried if Hezbollah launches missiles from Syria, would that draw Russia into a Syria-Israel conflict?   Putin has no interest in widening the Syria conflict- only doing what is needed to keep Assad in power.    But diversion of military equipment is always possible.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hezbollah

— Mohamed Bouazizi

Let’s get back to WHEN the sh*t hit the fan.  Dec 17, 2010 11:30 am and the very sad protest and death of Mohamad Bouazizi.

Mohamed who?

On December 17, 2010 all was calm throughout Syria.

In the small country of Tunisia,  the simple protest of a  street vendor was about to ignite the Arab Spring.  It is an incredible story.  Mohamed sold fruit and vegetables in the plaza from a cart. He was harassed by the police who confiscated his scale.  He unsuccessfully tried to get his scale back from authorities. Following this, he lit himself on fire and died on Jan 4, 2011.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohamed_Bouazizi

The origins of the SRCC or “good guys”  occurred in April 2011, after civil wars had begun in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt.

—  Long wars in small countries

Wars are a bit like forest fires, sooner or later they should run out of fuel.  But,  ISIL has been very resourceful in finding funding through the capturing of oilfields, and demanding ransom for captured civilians.  Plus, they recruit others on the basis this is a fight for the survival of Sunni Muslims around the world.  The other groups involved, such as the SRCC have backers, namely the US and European allies.

It is a horrible, horrible situation.  Fareed Zacharia got it right, that Russia has a much more straight forward strategy than ours:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/in-syria-whose-side-is-the-united-states-on/2015/10/01/27163ec4-6875-11e5-9ef3-fde182507eac_story.html

It is one colossal proxy war,  5 countries supplying weapons to Syria,  and 8 countries conducting air strikes against ISIL, mixed in with terrorist organizations (ISIL and Nusra against Assad, Hezbollah for Assad).

All of a sudden,  Bashir Assad is not looking that bad.  Of course, in extreme relative terms.  In the US, he would qualify as a mass murderer.  But so would about a dozen leaders around the globe.

This is just part 1, and I’ve got a lot to add.  But, this has gotten pretty long so far.

Stay tuned,

David Lord

 

 

 

Iran Deal- Sen. Schumer vs Fareed Zakaria

The following will happen in September:  (1) A bill will pass both the House and Senate, making certain President Obama can not lift sanctions against Iran and (2) President Obama will veto this bill.    Then, all eyes will be on the over-ride of the veto. I am hoping this vote fails and  the Democrats in the Senate stand by the deal.

Defector #1 is Senator Schumer.  He will vote against the deal.  If he pulls enough Democrats along with him, the deal fails.

Sen Schumer’s position

Fareed Zakaria,  host of CNN’s GPS program, and Washington Post Opinion writer, provides a good point by point rebuttal:

Fareed Zakaria’s Position

I am sure few people have read and understood the deal better than either Senator Schumer or Fareed Zakaria.    A lot of people think we give Iran billions of dollars, just so we can have inspections of their facilities.  As Zakaria points out,  this is just not true.  The first step is a massive de-activation by Iran at two sites:  Fordow nuclear facility and the Akar  reactor.

If this is true, wouldn’t Israel be overjoyed, at seeing these initial steps?  Part of Netanyahu’s lobbying efforts with Republicans  is strictly political.  Anything that appears to reduce the threat of Iran to Israel, is a threat to military aid to Israel.   See the most recent news story:

Is Iran a threat to Israel? New signs military is at odds with Netanyahu. 

The Democrats need 34 votes to block the over-ride, and it looks like they are now up to only 20 committed votes right now.   All eyes are on Harry Reid.

Stay tuned.

David Lord

 

Death to America

Not a nice thing to chant in the public square.   But does Iran really hate us?   The website, Irpedia.com, states, “Iran, the land of civilized and friendly people.”   Chants of “Death to America”  certainly doesn’t sound friendly.

Iran Travel

I have traveled extensive through the Middle East (Lebanon, Kuwait, Algeria, Libya, Syria, to name a few places) and I have been amazed at how outgoing the people have been to me.  This image of crazy Moslems ready to string up Americans, might play out in Representative Ted Poe’s district in Texas, but the reality is just the opposite.

So, what’s all this death talk about?  I think the New Yorker did a great job of talking to Iranians, particularly Dr. Nasser Hadian, a US educated Professor of Political Science, who says the slogan dates backs decades and is generally meaningless.  See quote below:

He went on, “For others, it’s part of a religious ritual. But the élite who use it exploit the term for political reasons. Poll after poll shows that Iranians are greater supporters of America than any other Muslim country in the region. “So whom does America want to rely on to judge public opinion?” Hadian asked. “The twenty per cent who do shout ‘Death to America!’ or the eighty per cent who don’t?”

New Yorker

In an interview, the Foreign Minister, Mohammad Zarif,   was asked why Iranians still repeat the chant.  He replied that Iranians do not hate Americans but they don’t like the way the US seems to meddle in the affairs of other countries.   So, why not change the chant to, “Stop US meddling, Please.”   I added the “please” because Iran is a country of civilized and friendly people.  I know this chant won’t be replacing the death one anytime soon.

There is some anti-American sentiment in any country.  You can’t avoid it.  Actually, you can.  It never hurts to brush up on you Canadian, remembering to end each sentence in “eh.”    Or tell people your from Malta- nobody speaks Maltese.

Lonely Planet is one guide book which really gets the inside scoop, of what to see in countries not on the well beaten path of tourists. Their secret is to recruit well seasoned travelers who know the particular country.

Their latest headline is:

If travel is most rewarding when it surprises, then Iran might just be the most rewarding destination on Earth.

Exactly why is pretty well explained in www.lonelyplanet.com/iran

I’m hopeful that Ted Poe is a dying breed of dinosaur.  His interrogation of Sec’y Kerry was shameful:

Rep Poe’s questions to Secy Kerry

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ted_Poe

And hopefully,  the lawmakers can separate rhetoric from substance, and the nuclear deal gets signed.

And some Americans spend time in the ski resorts outside of Tehran.

David Lord

August 11, 2015