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.

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

How Israel Can Best Benefit from Its Newfound Friendship with Brazil

Jan. 21 2019

Earlier this month, Benjamin Netanyahu was in Brazil—the first Israeli prime minister to visit the country—for the inauguration of its controversial new president Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro has made clear his eagerness to break with his predecessors’ hostility toward the Jewish state, and Netanyahu has responded positively. To Emanuele Ottolenghi, the improved relations offer an opportunity for joint cooperation against Hizballah, which gets much of its revenue through cooperation with Brazilian drug cartels. In this cooperative effort, Ottolenghi cautions against repeating mistakes made in an earlier outreach to Paraguay:

Hizballah relies heavily on the proceeds of transnational crime networks, especially in the Tri-Border Area [where] Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay [meet], but until recently, Brazilian officials were loath to acknowledge its presence in their country or its involvement in organized crime. [But] Bolsonaro’s top priority is fighting organized crime. Combating Hizballah’s terror finance is a vital Israeli interest. Making the case that Israel’s and Brazil’s interests dovetail perfectly should be easy. . . .

But Israel should be careful not to prioritize symbols over substance, a mistake already made once in Latin America. During 2013-2018, Netanyahu invested heavily in his relationship with Horacio Cartes, then president of Paraguay. Cartes, . . . too, had a genuine warmth for Israel, which culminated in his decision in May 2018 to move Paraguay’s embassy to Jerusalem. Most importantly, from Israel’s point of view, Paraguay began voting with Israel against the Arab bloc at the UN.

However, the Paraguayan side of the Tri-Border Area remained ground zero for Hizballah’s money laundering in Latin America. The Cartes administration hardly lifted a finger to act against the terror funding networks. . . . Worse—when critics raised Hizballah’s [local] terror-financing activities, Paraguayan ministers confronted their Israeli counterparts, threatening to change Paraguay’s friendly international posture toward Israel. [And] as soon as Cartes left office, his successor, Mario Abdo Benítez, moved Paraguay’s embassy back to Tel Aviv. . . . Israel’s five-year investment ultimately yielded no embassy move and no progress on combating Hizballah’s terror network. . . .

Israel should make the battle against Hizballah’s terror-finance networks in Latin America its top regional priority.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Brazil, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Latin America