Monday, September 24, 2007

The New Islamist War

The root cause of the Second Lebanon War was neither the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 nor the Israeli "occupation" of the disputed territories of the West Bank and Gaza following Israel's defensive war in 1967. Rather, it can be traced to 1979 when Iranian revolutionaries began to inspire and later to actively direct and finance Islamic radicals through out the world. They galvanized the leaders of Hizbullah and Hamas, and inspired other Jihadis, including PLO leader Yasser Arafat, who was one of the first Arab leaders to visit the newly triumphant Ayatollah Khomeini soon after the 1979 Iranian takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
Today, despite the deployment of thousands of UNIFIL and Lebanese forces following Hizbullah's reluctant agreement to yield to UN Security Council Resolution 1701, southern Lebanon is still essentially a Hizbullah-ruled province of Iran. Hizbullah has maintained its weapons caches and continues to receive truckloads of short- and long-range missiles and anti-tank weaponry from Syria. IDF Intelligence Assessment Chief Brig. Gen. Yossi Baidatz noted in October 2006 that the army also has proof that the smuggling of weapons from Syria to Lebanon continues with the knowledge of Damascus. Hizbullah's underground networks of tunnels and bunkers are still operating despite the presence of UNIFIL and Lebanese armed forces south of the Litani River. Hizbullah is not hiding its postwar intentions. On October 12, 2006, Nabi Beri, Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, leader of the Shiite Amal party, and a Hizbullah interlocutor,
said, "Hizbullah will remain armed and fully operational in southern Lebanon, despite the newly deployed UN forces. The UNIFIL presence will not hinder Hizbullah defensive operations. The resistance doesn't need to fly its flags high to operate. It's a guerrilla movement; it operates among the people.
For its part, Iran invested some one to two hundred million dollars per year in Hizbullah war preparations for a total of between one and two billion dollars as of July 2006. Iran also maintains a representative office in Lebanon for nearly every one of its major government ministries including intelligence, social welfare, housing, transportation, and infrastructure.
Iran's financial and operational assistance and training of Hizbullah terrorists peaked in recent years. That was evident during the summer 2006 war against Israel. Hizbullah was very well equipped with a wide variety of short, medium and long-range Syrian and Iranian rockets, and highly sophisticated weaponry including a generous supply of anti-tank ordinance. Up to 250 of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC) best trainers were on the ground in Lebanon assisting Hizbullah units. According to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the Iranian C802 radar-guided missile that hit an Israeli warship during the firstweekofthewarwas launched from Lebanon by members of the IRGC. Iran has also trained up to 3,000 Hizbullah fightersinTehransince2004,including nearly all mid- and senior-level Hizbullah officers.
Further south, Iran also offers financial and operational support to the Hamas-led government in Palestinian-controlled Gaza. Palestinian terrorists have received Iranian weapons, technological know-how, and money, as evidenced by the $50-100 million commitment Iran made at the end of a terror summit in Tehran on April 14-17, 2006.
Moreover, between August and October 2006, nearly twenty tons of weaponry including anti-tank and anti-aircraft rockets was smuggled from Egyptian Sinai, under the noses of the Egyptian authorities, into the Gaza Strip. Numerous reported meetings between Hamas political bureau leader Khaled Mashaal and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, both during and in advance of the recent Lebanon war and immediately following the January 2006 Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections, were previews of this dangerous alliance.
Concerns over the relationship between Iran and Hamas are well-founded. On December 11, 2006, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah, known as more moderate than Mashaal, said following a visit with President Ahmadinejad in Tehran that Iran had stepped up its commitment to the Hamas-led PA, pledging $250 million. Iran even committed to pay the salaries of 100,000 Palestinian Authority employees for six months. The Haniyah-Ahmadinejad meeting carries additional significance. Previously, Hamas' relationship with Iran had been brokered exclusively by the Damascus-based Mashaal. Israeli military intelligence expressed concern that the Haniyah-Ahmadinejad meeting reflected an upgraded strategic relationship between Iran and Hamas. Haniyah confirmed Israel's assessment when he said, immediately following his return from Tehran in December 2006, that "Iran has provided Palestinians strategic depth." Upon Haniyah's return, he was found to be carrying $35 million in cash in several suitcases.
Despite the longstanding and violent sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites that is being played out today in Iraq, Iranian-led radical Shiites and their Sunni adversaries share a common commitment to destroying the State of Israel on the way to defeating the West as a whole.
Syria, Iran's junior partner, continues to host Hamas and other Jihadi leaders, allowing them to order terrorist attacks against Israeli targets from the safety of Damascus. Syria may not be an Islamist state, but its leader, Bashar Assad, clings to power through the manipulation of anti-Western sentiment and pro-Iranian Shiite loyalty. The ruling Alawites were given the blessing of Iranian Shiite cleric Musa Sadr in 1973, a move that fomented enmity among Syria's Sunni majority and placed the Syrian regime squarely inside the Iranian Shiite camp.

No comments: