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Saudi Arabia Isn’t Destabilizing Lebanon, It’s Trying to Rescue It

Nov. 20 2017

On November 4, in the midst of a major internal shakeup in Riyadh, Saad Hariri gave a press conference there announcing his resignation as prime minister of Lebanon, citing the terrorist group Hizballah’s control of his country as the cause. There is little doubt that the Saudis encouraged the decision. While some commentators have accused the kingdom of fomenting chaos in already fragile Lebanon, Elliott Abrams argues that it is responding rationally to reality:

The Saudis are no longer willing to prop up Lebanon while it serves as the base for Hizballah’s military and terrorist activities in league with Iran. . . . It is not [the Saudi crown prince] Mohammed bin Salman . . . who is bringing danger to Lebanon; it is not the Saudis who are bringing Lebanon into the region’s wars; it is not Saudi policy that threatens to collapse Lebanon’s coalition politics. It is the actions of Hizballah, abandoning any [supposed] national role in order to act as Iran’s enforcer and foreign legion.

What the Saudis are doing is saying: enough—let’s start describing Lebanese reality instead of burying it. Let’s stop financing a situation that allows Hizballah to feed off the Lebanese state, dominate that state, and use it as a launching pad for terror and aggression in the Middle East, all on Iran’s behalf.

There is of course no guarantee that this approach will succeed: the Lebanese may be too terrified of Hizballah. And success will require action by the United States and its allies, particularly France. If all of Lebanon’s friends took the same approach, demanding that Hizballah’s grip on the country and the state be limited, we might embolden Lebanon’s citizens and its politicians to protest Hizballah’s chokehold. Economic assistance to Lebanon and military assistance to its army should be made dependent on their pushing back against Hizballah and regaining Lebanese independence. The price Lebanon pays for Hizballah should be made far clearer, and the advantages Hizballah gains from its control of Lebanon should be reduced—and made far more controversial.

Are these outrageous demands? On the contrary, they are in fact required by UN Security Council resolution 1701, adopted in August 2006 to end the war between Hizballah and Israel.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Politics & Current Affairs, Saudi Arabia, Second Lebanon War, U.S. Foreign policy

Why a Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza Is Unlikely

Feb. 16 2018

High-ranking figures in the IDF, along with some Israeli and foreign officials, have been warning that economic troubles combined with severely deficient public works could lead to an outbreak of starvation or epidemic in the Gaza Strip; their warnings have been taken up and amplified in sensationalist stories in Western media. Hillel Frisch is skeptical:

The most important factor behind real humanitarian crises—mass hunger and contagious disease—is first and foremost the breakdown of law and order, and violence between warring militias and gangs. This is what occurred in Darfur, Somalia, and the Central African Republic. In such situations, the first to leave are the relief agencies. Then local medical staffs evacuate, along with local government officials and anyone professional who can make it out of the bedlam. The destitute are left to fend for themselves. Hospitals, dispensaries, schools, and local government offices are soon abandoned or become scenes of grisly shootouts and reprisals.

Nothing could be farther from such a reality than Gaza. Hamas, which is the main source of [misleading reports] of an imminent humanitarian crisis, rules Gaza with an iron fist. Few developed democracies in the world can boast the low homicide rates prevailing in the Strip. Nor have there been reports of any closings of hospitals, municipal governments, schools, universities, colleges, or dispensaries. . . .

Nor have there been news items announcing the departure of any foreign relief agencies or the closure of any human-rights organizations in the area. Nor is there any evidence that the World Health Organization (WHO), which rigorously monitors the world to prevent the outbreak of contagious disease, is seriously looking at Gaza. And that is for good reason. The WHO knows, as do hundreds of medical personnel in Israeli hospitals who liaise with their colleagues in Gaza, that the hospital system in Gaza is of a high caliber, certainly by the standards of the developing world. . . .

Hamas, [of course], wants more trucks entering Gaza to increase tax revenues to pay for its 30,000-strong militia and public security force, and to increase the prospects of smuggling arms for the benefit of its missile stockpiles and tunnel-building efforts. How Israel should react is equally obvious. You want more humanitarian aid? . . . Free the two mentally disabled Israelis who found their way into Gaza and are imprisoned by Hamas.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian economy