"Trumped" up charges to get at Iran won't work
Western-backed militants are in retreat, Bashar al-Assad remains president, Hezbollah has stretched its wings regionally, "Israeli" power is in decline, and Iran is on the rise. Not a pretty result for Washington's multi-billion dollar investment in the Syrian conflict, especially if it was intended to change the map of the region to favor US interests.
The Trump administration is therefore moving to hit its regional adversaries on alternative, non-military fronts-mainly, employing the sanctions tool that can cripple economies, besiege communities, and stir up public discontent.
The first step was to decertify the nuclear agreement struck between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1), which would open up a pathway to further US sanctions against Iran.
The second step is to resuscitate the Hezbollah "threat" and isolate the organization using legal maneuvers and financial sanctions-what one pro-US Lebanese Central Bank official calls "the new tools of imperialism."
The US listed Hezbollah as a "terrorist organization" 20 years ago this month. Most other states, as well as the United Nations Security Council, have not.
Two weeks ago, at a State Department briefing on the Hezbollah "threat," National Counterterrorism Center Director Nicholas J. Rasmussen tried to paint a picture of an organization that was directing "terrorism acts worldwide" and posing a threat "to US interests" including "here in the homeland."
"Prior to September 11," Rasmussen claimed, "I think everybody knows Hezbollah was responsible for the terrorism-related deaths of more US citizens than any other foreign terrorist organization."
This was news indeed...
No Threat to Americans
"Hezbollah is not plotting against us," former US Secretary of State John Kerry told a small group of anti-government Syrians on the sidelines of the UN's General Assembly plenary session a year ago.
Kerry's comments were caught on an audio tape acquired by the New York Times. Asked why the US fights extremist Sunni groups and not Shia ones, he replied:
"The reason for [airstrikes against the Sunni Extremists] is because they have basically declared war on us, and are plotting against us, and Hezbollah is not plotting against us- Hezbollah is exclusively focused on ‘Israel', who they're not attacking now, and on Syria, where they are attacking in support of Assad."
Now, a mere year later, [National Counterterrorism Center Director Nicholas J.] Rasmussen wants us to believe: "We in the Intelligence Community do, in fact, see continued activity on behalf of Hezbollah here inside the homeland."
So which is it? Is Hezbollah targeting Americans or not? The evidence of this is extremely slim and is peppered with more use of qualifying terms--"allegedly," "reportedly," "assessments," "linkages"-than any objective journalist can comfortably swallow. So too are US reports of Hezbollah's "international terrorist activities."
American investigative reporter Gareth Porter has done deep dives on various allegations of Hezbollah-linked "terrorism" in Argentina, Bulgaria, Washington, DC, India, Saudi Arabia and other places. The State Department lists many of these incidents as evidence of the "global threat" Hezbollah poses, but always, upon further scrutiny, the accusations ring hollow.
If there was compelling evidence of the Lebanese resistance group's involvement in all these attacks, then why have so few nations clamored onto the Hezbollah-is-a-terrorist-organization bandwagon? Until the conflict in Syria kicked off, it was restricted to a smattering of western states and "Israel". But relentless US pressure, and the seismic battle currently underway in the Middle East between pro-US states and pro-Iran states vying for hegemony, have produced a few recent additions.
In early 2016, the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) designated Hezbollah a terrorist group, followed a few days later by the 21-member Arab League, with Lebanon and Iraq voting against the measure.
Both organizations are heavily dominated by the immensely wealthy and sectarian (read: anti-Shia) Saudis, financial patrons to many Sunni leaders in the region, and a country entrenched in existential proxy battles in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Bahrain (against Hezbollah ally and US foe, Iran).
What stands out, instead, is the European Union's fuzzy position on Hezbollah. Despite US insistence that the group in its entirely is a terrorist organization, the EU lists only Hezbollah's "military wing" as such-and that designation was made only in 2013, when the Syrian conflict exploded and nations started taking hard sides in the Middle East. The "military wing" caveat is a critical distinction that reveals there are more layers to this onion than we see in State Department sound bites.
For Lebanon, Hezbollah is more than just the first Arab force to militarily expel the Israeli Forces from its territory permanently. In Lebanon, Hezbollah is a political party too, with members of parliament and seats in the cabinet. The group runs a remarkable array of social services across the country, from subsidized schools, hospitals and clinics, to agricultural centers and environmental programs.
Furthermore, Hezbollah's appeal is not limited to Lebanon's Shia community. Since 2006, Hezbollah has been in a political alliance with the country's largest Christian-based political party, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), whose leader, General Michel Aoun, is currently president of Lebanon.
Aoun's close association with Hezbollah is an irritant to Washington, and so the Trump administration is pushing to tighten the sanctions noose on Lebanon, too. In September, the US House of Representatives voted to strengthen the 2015 Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act. Congressmen claim the new measures won't harm regular Lebanese civilians, but there is a dangerous trend underway to punish anyone who supports Hezbollah's civic, social, and religious initiatives.
The Lebanese resistance was formed in reaction to "Israel's" illegal invasion and occupation of Lebanon. As Kerry says, that's where Hezbollah's real fight is-with "Israel".
Washington should leave it to the two to duke it out. This is not America's fight. Hezbollah has saved Lebanon-and much of the Levant-not once, but twice, from bloody aggressions. In fact, maybe I'll take them out to lunch in Beirut and pay the bill. I daresay that could be regarded as a financial contribution to Hezbollah, and that would make me a "terrorist," too.
Source: The American Conbservative, Edited by website team