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23 October 2008

Is Hizballah worming its way into the Lebanese army, or is the army now a part of Hizballah?

October 23, 2008

Former CIA Ops Officer on Hizballah

Maj. W. Thomas Smith Jr. is director of the Counterterrorism Research Center of the Family Security Foundation. A former U.S. Marine infantry leader and shipboard counterterrorism instructor, Smith writes about military/defense issues and has covered conflict in the Balkans, on the West Bank, in Iraq and Lebanon. He is the author of six books, and his articles have appeared in USA Today, George, U.S. News & World Report, BusinessWeek, National Review Online, CBS News, Townhall.com, The Washington Times, and others.

Among my sources for a recent piece, “Are We Funding the Lebanese Army or Hizballah?” (Human Events, Oct. 20, 2008), was my friend and colleague, Clare M. Lopez, who – when I mentioned to her my concerns regarding Hizballah’s having wormed its way into the legitimate Lebanese Defense apparatus as an official component of the army – said to me, “It’s actually the other way around. The army now appears to be part of Hizballah.”

Lopez – a former operations officer with the Central Intelligence Agency who is today a widely sought expert in the interconnected realms of strategic policy, counterintelligence, and counterterrorism – clearly understands the dynamics of Lebanon, its strategic importance in the war on terror, and its increasingly dominant kingdom within the state, Hizballah.

While pulling together information for the piece from additional sources, I spoke with Lopez a couple of times by phone and email. And her analysis for me was so informationally rich that – though I was unable to include all of it in our Human Events piece – I am including it here now.

I’m doing so on the 25th anniversary of the terrorist bombing of the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut. The suicide attack – carried out by fledgling Hizballah on Oct. 23, 1983 – killed 241 American Marines, sailors, and soldiers.

Following is Lopez’s unedited, exclusive analysis regarding Hizballah:

“Tom, yes, since May 2008, when Hizballah swiftly and brutally demonstrated its ability to impose military control throughout Lebanon, literally at will, and then with the July formation of the government of national unity (wherein Hizballah wields cabinet veto power), it is clear that Hizballah – and by extension, Iran – owns Lebanon. This means that a radical, revolutionary, and expansionist Shi'a jihad force occupies a foothold on the southeastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

“The Lebanese Army stood aside when Hizballah made its move in May: no big surprise to anyone who understands what has been happening demographically in Lebanon these last years: as a Shi'a majority force, the Army's sympathies are obviously with Hizballah. Other militias and political groups within Lebanon – from Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement, to Druze leader Walid Jumblatt's Progressive Socialist Party, to Amal leader Nabi Berri, and now even a clutch of Sunni parties – are lining up to ally themselves with Hizballah.

“Some say that even Saad Hariri's revered father, Rafiq, may have been killed with Saudi involvement because of his close relationship with [Hizballah Secretary General Hassan] Nasrallah – who can be seen on YouTube, by the way, waxing eloquent about Rafiq in front of millions of cheering Lebanese. The lead UN investigator has also spoken publicly about Saudi involvement in the assassination.

“U.S. Middle East policy is woefully misguided, in my opinion. How could it be otherwise? Thirty-five years of graduates from Saudi-Wahhabi-Salafi-funded Ivy League Middle East Studies programs now occupy top positions throughout our Dept. of State, Intelligence Community, think tanks, media, and academia itself.

“There seems to be little to no comprehension or willingness on the part of the Bush administration to recognize current hard realities in the Levant, primary of which is the massive and nefarious influence of Iran. I don't know exactly why there is such fear and reluctance to confront Iran, but my own personal suspicions lie with the status of its nuclear warhead development program – and where those warheads may now already be deployed. Iran's threats, and Hizballah's ability, to field scores, if not hundreds of suicide bombers to Iraq, Israel, and our own cities in the West may also be a reason why our national leadership seems paralyzed with fear about Iran.

“Thing is, this is not going to improve with time if we don't do something to confront it....we'll simply be forced into a position of total submission – dhimmitude–vis-a-vis Iran and the forces of jihad. What this means in the first instance is abandonment of Israel, our foremost ally in the Middle East and the only reliable outpost of liberal democracy in the region. Obama already has promised his support to Muslims and Palestinians, and has indicated he will end the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel – in truth, not a big change from the policies of the Condi Rice State Dept., but now it will be official policy, if he wins the presidency.

“It is Iran that guided and funded and armed the formation of Hizballah in 1982 – and continues to do so. It is Iran that advises, arms, funds, and guides the Palestinian terror organizations sworn to the destruction of the State of Israel: Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Fatah militias (Tanzim, Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade). It is Iran that reportedly has provided Hizballah with something on the order of $3 billion for reconstruction in Lebanon since the summer 2006 war. Not the Lebanese government, not the French or Americans or Europeans or the international community: Iran – which means Nasrallah gets to take credit among [many of] the Lebanese people, who obviously adore the guy. Nasrallah is known as the ‘man who never lies,’ because the promises he makes, he keeps.

“Most dangerous for Israel, it is Iran that has rearmed Hizballah in the aftermath of that war with Fajr 3 and Fajr 5 surface-to-surface missiles, Chinese-made shore-to-sea C-802 missiles, Zelzal-2 and Zelzal-3 missiles (which are capable of delivering CBW munitions a distance of 250 km.), wire-guided TOW missiles, and AT-3 Sagger antitank missiles, antiaircraft cannons, SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles, shoulder-fired Strela-7 and mobile Rapier 2 ground-to-air missiles, Katyusha artillery rockets, sophisticated explosive charges, and small arms.

“Hizballah's command-and-control system is fully integrated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iran. Its military telecommunications system -- the one the Fuad Siniora government made a weak (and ultimately futile) move to bring under central Lebanese government control in May, is world-class and now demonstrably untouchable by the Lebanese government. Its broadcast network – TV, radio, Internet – is modern, sophisticated, and very large.

“Since taking control of Lebanon in May, Hizballah forces have occupied all the key high ground and established layered defenses north of the Litani River, in the southern and central Bekaa Valley, and reinforced their presence in southern Beirut.

“UNIFIL's 15,000 ground forces in Lebanon have failed utterly to enforce UN Resolution 1701 and instead of preventing Hizballah's massive rearmament following the summer 2006 war, they have engaged in liaison and pay-off operations with Hizballah for the purpose of force protection.

“So, the U.S. government decision to grant the Lebanese Army millions of dollars worth of military assistance, in full knowledge that those weapons will never be used to confront Hizballah, and more than likely will only add to their arsenal, is foolish in the extreme, in my opinion. After the events of May and July, there can simply be no doubt in any sane person's mind about who controls Lebanon: it is not the Fuad Siniora government! Hassan Nasrallah controls Lebanon.

“I am not one who believes Hassan Nasrallah dances on a puppeteer's strings manipulated out of Tehran – I think he uses Iranian and Syrian assistance for his own ends in Lebanon (although he may be more willing to do their bidding abroad) – but their common purpose surely is the destruction of the State of Israel.

“All I can think is that our national security policy is in the hands of those who do not really believe in the defense of liberal democracy – and most especially if that liberal democracy is embodied in a Jewish State of Israel. There is a terrible strain of anti-Semitism that has taken root and grown in the ranks of our State Dept. and CIA in particular – again, perhaps the result of all those years of Saudi-Wahhabi indoctrination in our top universities. But the result is clear: Condi's readiness to throw Israel under a bus at Annapolis last November [2007]; the Bush administration's refusal to deal with Iran, despite a lot of soaring rhetoric, and now, a real and perceptible diminishment in the bilateral commitment.

“The naiveté of our government’s dealings with Syria, as well as this military deal with the Lebanese Army, seems incomprehensible to me. The ability to distinguish between friend and foe in the Middle East seems lost and will have disastrous consequences for our own national security objectives in the region and ultimately, at home.” — Visit W. Thomas Smith Jr. at

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