Reconsider American Support for the Lebanese Army

Jan. 26 2018

Last week, a Lebanese military tribunal sentenced a journalist named Hanin Ghaddar—currently a fellow at a U.S. think tank—to six months in prison for the crime of “defaming the army.” The trial was held in absentia and closed to the public. Although a Lebanese national, Ghaddar (along with her son) is now effectively unable to return to Lebanon to see her family. Elliott Abrams explains why this case should be a cause of concern for the U.S.:

Americans should realize something about [the Lebanese army’s] kangaroo court: we are paying for it! [The U.S.] has given the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) over a billion dollars in military aid, including $123 million in 2017, and Lebanon is the fifth largest recipient of foreign military financing. Our ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard, said publicly on October 31 that support for the LAF from State Department and Defense Department accounts totaled $160 million over the previous year.

Whatever we think we are supporting with that aid, surely we do not wish to help pay for a system of military courts that suppress freedom of speech and seek to punish someone for speaking in Washington. It’s worth adding that what Ghaddar said that elicited these attacks on her was the simple truth . . . “that the Lebanese military targets Sunni [terrorist] groups while showing preference to Shiite groups, such as Hizballah.”

When Congress next takes up military aid for Lebanon, this effort to suppress free speech—and to make telling the truth about Hizballah’s role in Lebanon illegal—should be item number one.

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Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

Yasir Arafat’s Decades-Long Alliance with Iran and Its Consequences for Both Palestinians and Iranians

Jan. 18 2019

In 2002—at the height of the second intifada—the Israeli navy intercepted the Karina A, a Lebanese vessel carrying 50 tons of Iranian arms to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). But Yasir Arafat’s relationship with the Islamic Republic goes much farther back, to before its founding in 1979. The terrorist leader had forged ties with followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that grew especially strong in the years when Lebanon became a base of operations both for Iranian opponents of the shah and for the PLO itself. Tony Badran writes:

The relationship between the Iranian revolutionary factions and the Palestinians began in the late 1960s, in parallel with Arafat’s own rise in preeminence within the PLO. . . . [D]uring the 1970s, Lebanon became the site where the major part of the Iranian revolutionaries’ encounter with the Palestinians played out. . . .

The number of guerrillas that trained in Lebanon with the Palestinians was not particularly large. But the Iranian cadres in Lebanon learned useful skills and procured weapons and equipment, which they smuggled back into Iran. . . . The PLO established close working ties with the Khomeinist faction. . . . [W]orking [especially] closely with the PLO [was] Mohammad Montazeri, son of the senior cleric Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri and a militant who had a leading role in developing the idea of establishing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) once the revolution was won.

The Lebanese terrorist and PLO operative Anis Naccache, who coordinated with [the] Iranian revolutionaries, . . . takes personal credit for the idea. Naccache claims that Jalaleddin Farsi, [a leading Iranian revolutionary]. approached him specifically and asked him directly to draft the plan to form the main pillar of the Khomeinist regime. The formation of the IRGC may well be the greatest single contribution that the PLO made to the Iranian revolution. . . .

Arafat’s fantasy of pulling the strings and balancing the Iranians and the Arabs in a grand anti-Israel camp of regional states never stood much of a chance. However, his wish to see Iran back the Palestinian armed struggle is now a fact, as Tehran has effectively become the principal, if not the only, sponsor of the Palestinian military option though its direct sponsorship of Islamic Jihad and its sustaining strategic and organizational ties with Hamas. By forging ties with the Khomeinists, Arafat unwittingly helped to achieve the very opposite of his dream. Iran has turned [two] Palestinian factions into its proxies, and the PLO has been relegated to the regional sidelines.

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More about: Hamas, History & Ideas, Iran, Lebanon, PLO, Yasir Arafat