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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Hezbollah’s accomplices deserve terrorist branding

by Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor

Any armed group holding a country hostage on behalf of a foreign state is a traitorous terrorist militia not a resistance and certainly not a legitimate political party as Hezbollah has always claimed. Its tentacles stretching from Tehran has rendered Lebanon a failed state posing a threat to the region.

With diminishing hope the honourable Lebanese would reclaim their country, this sad truth has been acknowledged by GCC member states with an official declaration branding Hezbollah a terrorist organisation together with “its leaders factions and affiliated organisations” for “hostile acts” in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, inciting sedition, smuggling weapons and recruiting terrorists.

The majority of Arab states were supportive of the move but it was no surprise to learn that Syria and Iraq were disapproving when they, like Lebanon, are under the Iranian boot. The Tunisian President’s rejection was, however, mystifying as was Algeria’s distancing stance. Saudi has rightly declared that it will no longer engage in the myth of Arab solidarity on the grounds it does not exist.

The move comes on the heels of Saudi Arabia’s decision to freeze $4bn in military/security aid to the Lebanese government and advice from GCC governments warning their nationals not to travel to Lebanon for their own security. At the same time, Gulf States are cracking down on known Hezbollah sympathisers and funders within their borders. These actions could not come soon enough!

Ironically, while Lebanon’s Minister of Interior Nohad El Machnouk was quick to reject the GCC’s labelling during a recent Arab Interior Ministers Conference held in Tunisia, last month he declared on the Lebanese channel LBC that terrorist cells were trained in Lebanon under the supervision of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

In reality members of those cells were trained by Iranians jointly with Hezbollah as we know from intelligence gleaned from the group’s spies and agitators arrested in the UAE and Saudi. To imagine the Interior Minister does not know this is preposterous; either his intelligence gathering capabilities are sorely lacking or more likely he is afraid to say what every Lebanese politician knows.

They are all fearful of being added to Hezbollah’s list of assassination targets. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon formed to investigate and try the killers of the former Lebanese President Rafiq Hariri is still waiting for Hezbollah to hand over four of its accused members for trial.

El Machnouk also revealed that as of 2015 there were sleeping and active Revolutionary Guard cells in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Kenya, Nigeria, Cyprus and Bulgaria.

Now that Hezbollah’s terrorist status is etched in stone, GCC leaderships would be wise to focus on its collaborators and appeasers within Lebanon’s political arena. For instance, pro-Syrian Lebanese hopeful Suleiman Franjieh has strongly denounced Hezbollah’s terrorist blacklisting. Moreover, he tweeted “Hezbollah as a resistance movement makes Lebanon and the Arabs proud”.

The only proud Arabs are those which share Iran’s ideology and others which have betrayed their Arab roots by selling their souls to Persian mullahs. In this case, shouldn’t Franjieh be classed as a terrorist supporter?

And shouldn’t Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri, who heads the Amal Movement allied with Hezbollah, be treated as a collaborator? Amal’s political bureau rushed to Hezbollah’s defence with a statement blasting the GCC announcement and emphasising Hezbollah’s ‘credentials’ as a resistance movement when the only thing its currently resisting is the dislodging of the barbaric Syrian regime under direct orders from Tehran. In my view, Amal deserves the same fate as Hezbollah – a place on the GCC’s terrorist listing.

Likewise, the Free Patriotic Movement and its founder General Michel Aoun, who is Hezbollah’s pick to fill a presidential vacuum that has endured for almost two years, has strange loyalties. Ten years ago, Aoun, a Maronite, signed a political Memorandum of Understanding with Iran’s proxy in Lebanon following 15 years in exile.

At the same he described the new partnership was cemented to build a consensual Lebanese democracy on the basis of transparency, justice and equality knowing that Hezbollah’s manifesto calls for Lebanon to become a Wilayat al-Faqih – following the Iranian example. He has since blinded his eyes to Hezbollah’s crimes.

Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who characterised Hezbollah as part of an Iranian system in Lebanon just weeks ago, has also rejected Hezbollah’s terrorist tagging. Jumblatt is a fierce critic of Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria and has warned its Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah that his anti-Saudi statements could negatively impact Lebanese expatriates in the Gulf. Yet when push comes to shove, he has declined to back the GCC’s decision.

The real disappointment is the figurehead of the March 14th bloc and the leader of the Future Party Saad Hariri who until recently was considered the GCC’s most trusted Lebanese politician. We believed he was a lion capable of taking back his homeland. Throughout his self-imposed exile, his anti-Iranian, anti-Hezbollah rhetoric rarely faltered.

On February 14 marking the anniversary of his father’s death, he told his followers that under no circumstance would Lebanon become a province of Iran. His recent behaviour, however, belies that pledge. Just weeks prior he made the shocking announcement that he was prepared to share power with Hezbollah before throwing his weight behind Suleiman Franjieh for President. When asked why he would cooperate with a group deemed responsible for his father’s assassination, he replied he was committed to the principle “innocent until proven guilty”.

Unlike most other politicians, Hariri did admonish Lebanon for not standing with Saudi Arabia in the Arab League over the torching of the Kingdom’s diplomatic missions in Iran. Asked why he was now supporting Franjieh for president, he said he is backing a candidate from the March 8th bloc to fill a void.

“For me, better to have a president that I will maybe have some problems with better than a total void in the presidency,” he said. In other words he has gift-wrapped Lebanon to be awarded to the other side. It is not better to have a president hand-in-glove with Hezbollah/Iran/Syria than no president at all! The question is whether he will continue negotiations with Hezbollah or withdraw based on its terrorist designation?

If the Lebanese government does not give its green light to the GCC’s ruling and proceed to issue arrest warrants for its commanders and funders, then it should be classed as a terrorist abetter. I understand that it is not within their power to make arrests but at the very least its position would be clarified. Gulf heads of state and their allies should consider governments and individuals standing against Hezbollah’s branding as partners within the same terrorist framework.

There is no room for playing both sides or holding to a middle ground.

The same demand should be made to the Lebanese Army. Either it is against the terrorist organisation, in which case it should make a public announcement to that effect or it must declare its alliance with Hezbollah when the Lebanese military should share the same stamp.

Chief of the Lebanese Armed Forces Brigadier-General Jean Kahwaji and his top generals should affirm their allegiance to the state over the militia and for once rise to the task of protecting the country from falling. If not, then we are forced to assume that the suspicions that the military is serving Hezbollah’s goals are correct, in which case, commanders must be considered as terrorist colluders. Any army proven to be hand-in-glove with servants of a foreign entity deserves to be at the very least dismantled.

It is crunch-time for Lebanon’s political and military decision-makers who have reached a fork in the road. Are you with us or against us? Do you stand with Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies or with Hezbollah and Iran? Those are questions the GCC should ask and demand answers to before reacting accordingly. Which path Lebanon takes will decide its destiny not only for the foreseeable future but for generations to come.

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