July 23/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 10,38-42. As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary (who) sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me." The Lord said to her in reply, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her."

Hezbollah's Youth-. By: By: By Fatima el Issawi. Asharq Alawsat. July 23/07
Analysis: Reported accord between Iran and Syria raises questions-Ha'aretz. July 23/07
NYT op-ed: Israel should give Hezb'allah what it wants-American Thinker. July 23/07
Getting Hezbollah to Behave-
By: Nicholas Noe.New York Times July 23/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for July 23/07
Report: Iran Arming Syria in Return for No Peace With
US accuses Syria, Iran of playing negative role in Lebanon-Ynetnews
US hindering efforts to resolve Lebanon crisis:
Lebanese Army Shells Fighters at Refugee Camp-Voice of America
Hezbollah hides rockets from UN in S. Lebanon villages-Ha'aretz
Foreign Ministry worried about Iran- S.America ties-Ha'aretz
Iran: No secret arms deal with Syria-AP
Israel Cannot Meet Syria Demand on Golan-Forbes
Report: Iran to pay $1b for Syria to procure weapons-Ha'aretz

Cousseran in Beirut Monday
Lebanon's Independence is a French Priority
Beirut asked Sarkozy to Pressure Khadafy into Aborting Lebanon Destabilization Scheme
Syria Says France Must Recognize its Interests in Lebanon, March 14 Demands Definition of Interests
Troops Remove Booby-traps as They Advance into Militants' Last Pockets

Beirut asked Sarkozy to Pressure Khadafy into Aborting Lebanon Destabilization Scheme
Libya has provided a pro-Syrian Palestinian Guerrilla group with financial backing to destabilize Lebanon, and Beirut authorities responded by asking French President Nicolas Sarkozy to Pressure Moammar Khadafy into aborting the scheme. Sarkozy is to visit Libya in the next few days for talks with Khadafy.
According to credible information received by Naharnet, the Lebanese request was made through diplomatic channels following confirmed reports of recent meetings between Khadafy and leader of the pro-Syrian Palestinian guerrilla group which is active in Lebanon. The information said Khadafy provided the group, which was not named, with enough financial backing to recruit Sunni political factions in Lebanon. The majority of Lebanon's Sunni sect backs al-Moustaqbal movement which has been at loggerheads with Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime since the Feb. 14 2005 assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri. Al-Moustaqbal, headed by MP Saad Hariri, the slain premier's son and political heir, is part of the March 14 majority alliance that backs Premier Fouad Saniora's government and blames the serial crimes that have targeted anti-Syrian figures in Lebanon on the Assad regime.
Damascus denies the charges.
According to information received by Naharnet, Syria and Iran succeeded recently in convincing Khadafy of joining their allies in Lebanon, represented by the Hizbullah-led March 8 coalition. Libya was known to have backed certain Palestinian and Lebanese factions during the 15-year-old civil war which came to an end in Oct. 1990. Khadafy, according to the information, was convinced by Syria and Iran to revive his backing of such Palestinian and Sunni Lebanese factions in the northern city of Tripoli, the southern city of Sidon as well as the capital Beirut and the western sector of the Bekaa valley.
Libyan efforts were underway to reactivate "dormant" groups in an effort to destabilize the anti-Syrian Sunni sect after the perceived collapse of the so-called Fatah-al-Islam group in the northern refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared, according to the information.
The Syrian-Iranian plan to reinstall Libyan interference in Lebanon and penetrate the nation's Sunni sect aims at marshalling Arab backing after their allies, led by Hizbullah, failed to enjoy Arab support. Major Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council –with the exception of Qatar- back the Saniora government and the March 14 alliance.
The Syrian-Iranian effort to get Libya involved in Lebanon coincided with recently reported efforts by Damascus and Tehran with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri to settle the issue of Lebanese supreme Shiite Leader Moussa al-Sadre who went missing during a visit to Khadafy nearly three decades ago.
Berri, a ranking member of the Syrian-backed opposition, heads the Shiite AMAL movement which was founded by Sadre in the 1970s.
AMAL blamed Khadafy for Sadre's mysterious disappearance.
Reports published recently spoke of a deal proposed by Tehran to settle the Sadre case based on an agreement between Lebanon's Shiite leaders and Khadafy on a "compensation" for the lost Shiite spiritual leader similar to what had been paid to relatives of the Lockerby and la Belle Disco terror attacks blamed on Libyan intelligence. Berri also denied reports about an alleged meeting he had held recently with Seif al-Islam Khadafy, the Libyan Leader's son who had negotiated with relatives of Libyan Terror victims on compensations that were paid to normalize Libya's relations with the west.
Libya also dismantled its Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Program and renounced violence in return for normalizing relations with the west and ending its decades-long Isolation. Beirut, 22 Jul 07, 10:35

Lebanon's Independence is a French Priority
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has stressed to Lebanese Premier Fouad Saniora that Lebanon's independence is a priority in the Middle East, an-Nahar newspaper reported. The daily said Kouchner relayed the stand to Saniora in a telephone conversation Saturday. Lebanon's "interest and independence are part of the priorities in the region," it quoted Kouchner as telling Saniora. The Chief French diplomat also informed Saniora that his envoy Jean-Claude Cousseran will arrive in Beirut Monday to set the stage for Kouchner's visit to the Lebanese capital scheduled for July 28. He stressed on France's "support for Lebanon and its government," an-Nahar added. The daily had quoted French Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Pascale Andreani as saying that Cousseran's talks in Damascus do not imply "any change in France's policy" towards Syria. On Friday, sources close to the French Foreign Ministry told Naharnet that Cousseran's visit to the Syrian capital and Iran was aimed at restating France's well-known Mideast policy, and did not involve any shift toward the Lebanese government.
Andreani also said that Cousseran stressed to MP Saad Hariri during talks in the Saudi capital Riyadh Thursday on "Paris' full support to the government of Premier Fouad Saniora."Kouchner has said that his visit to Lebanon was aimed at making progress in the dialogue that had started in La Celle Saint-Cloud attended by 30 politicians from 14 factions. Beirut, 22 Jul 07, 11:49

March 14 Contests by-elections to 'Triumph over Criminals,' Opposition to 'Preserve Jurisdiction of Institutions'
Lebanon's pro-government March 14 forces and the opposition were gearing up for the August 5 by-elections in Beirut and Metn after the deadline for submitting candidacies expired at midnight Friday. Former president Amin Gemayel announced he will run in the disputed parliamentary by-elections to replace his son, Pierre Gemayel. "I am a candidate for the deputy's seat in the Metn (mountains northeast of Beirut). Isn't it strange that the father is succeeding his son?" a visibly moved Gemayel asked in a televised press conference Friday.
Pierre Gemayel, an anti-Syrian MP and supporter of the Western-backed government of Prime Minister Fouad Saniora, was gunned down on November 21 in the north Beirut suburb of New Jdeideh. Parliament's majority leader Saad Hariri called Gemayel to "congratulate him about his candidacy."
He told Gemayel he was confident that "the unity of the March 14 Forces in Metn and Beirut will demonstrate that the Lebanese people will triumph over criminals and hamper any attempts to exploit political murders and paralyze the constitutional, parliamentary and democratic life in Lebanon."
Free Patriotic Movement leader Gen. Michel Aoun, who is part of the opposition, announced Dr. Camille Khoury as his candidate for the Metn seat.
"This battle is aimed at preserving the jurisdiction of institutions," Aoun said. "We hear today people saying they want to regain the Metn. From whom they want to regain it? As if the Metn was occupied," he said. A third candidate, independent Joseph Mansour Asmar will compete for the seat vacated by Gemayel too.
Al Moustaqbal Movement announced that it has chosen businessman Mohammed al-Amin Itani candidate for the Beirut seat to replace slain legislator Walid Eido who was killed in a powerful car explosion June 13. The movement, headed by Hariri, urged voters to participate in the polls in favor of Itani, the former head of the federation of Beirut families. The statement described Itani as a "distinguished voice … in defending Beirut and its families."
An Nahar said on Saturday that Ibrahim Halabi backed by MP Najah Wakim will run as a Beirut candidate too. As deadline for submitting candidacies expired at midnight Friday, the interior ministry said 12 candidates were going to compete in the by-elections – three in the Metn and nine in Beirut. Beirut, 21 Jul 07, 08:18

Syria Says France Must Recognize its Interests in Lebanon, March 14 Demands Definition of Interests
Officials in Damascus had informed French envoy Jean-Claude Cousseran, during his last visit, of Syria's stance demanding France's "clear recognition of Syria's influence and interests in Lebanon." The Syrian officials, according to a Paris datelined report published by the daily As Safir on Saturday, stressed on what they described as the "natural and distinguished relations linking Lebanon with Syria." They said Damascus did not respond to Cousseran's quest to get clear answers on the need to hold timely presidential elections to prevent Lebanon from sinking into constitutional and institutional chaos.
They said Cousseran did not make "direct" French requests from Damascus since the Syrian-French talks were still at the beginning.
Damascus, in turn, refused to offer Cousseran any commitments and was very cautious in dealing with French questions regarding its position from the upcoming presidential elections. According to As Safir, French sources revealed that the Syrians had informed Cousseran that what is threatening Lebanon and its stability at this time was the spread of al-Qaida across Lebanese territories. A prominent March 14 official in Beirut assured that "everyone acknowledges Syria's capabilities of maintaining its influence in Lebanon," adding that the problem lies with the "nature and type" of this influence. He said Syria's influence did not need French recognition since the Lebanese unanimously agree on that matter, witness the spate of assassinations and bombings perpetrated by the Syrian regime as will be evidenced by the International investigations. The March 14 official wondered what was meant by "Syria's interests:"
"Are they assurances to ward off a Lebanon aggression on Syria, or to prevent Lebanese territory from being used as a launching pad for sabotage or hostile operations against it?" he asked. "If this is the case, then Lebanon would be the one to guarantee these interests," he added.
"But if the Syrian interests suggest giving up power to the Syrian allies in Lebanon and regain the upper hand in Lebanon's political and economic cycles, then this is a debatable issue," the March 14 official concluded. "It is the right of the Lebanese to preserve their own interests before the interests of others are looked after." Beirut, 21 Jul 07, 18:52

Troops Remove Booby-traps as They Advance into Militants' Last Pockets
Lebanese troops intensified their shelling Saturday of Fatah al-Islam militants fiercely defending their last patch of the northern Palestinian Nahr al-Bared refugee camp.
Elite troops had been deployed inside the remains of the besieged Nahr al-Bared camp and were "advancing, but at a very slow rate," an army told AFP.
"The army is still conducting demining operations inside the camp and removing booby-traps," the officer said. "The soldiers are advancing but at a very slow pace."
"Exchanges of automatic weapon fire are occurring with the members of the Fatah al-Islam, which still controls a square between 200 to 300 meters on one side" of the seaside camp, he added. So far, more than 200 people have died since the conflict at the northern camp with the al-Qaida-inspired militants erupted on May 20.
More than half of the victims were members of the Lebanese military forces engaged in the standoff. The army said its last soldier had fallen on Friday, taking its overall death toll to 113. The Fatah al-Islam fighters have refused repeated calls to surrender along with their wives and children from the tiny area they are said to control inside the camp. The military had blared messages to them with loudspeakers on Friday, urging the families of the Islamists to leave the camp, large parts of which have been reduced to rubble. But this call has remained unanswered, said the army spokesman, asserting that Fatah Al-Islam had "prohibited the families from leaving," without elaborating. Humanitarian organizations had failed in a bid on July 11 to evacuate 20 women and 45 children related to the Islamists.
The army has accused the Islamists of using their wives and children as human shields, but refugees who fled the camp said the spouses were refusing to leave their husbands behind and feared interrogation by security services. "During our last contacts with people inside the camp a few days ago, it appeared that the women wished to stay which would make an evacuation of only the children extremely difficult," a representative from a relief organization told AFP. Lebanese television also reported that the women, all veiled from head to toe, were refusing to be searched, prompting fears that some of the Islamists could use disguises to leave the camp undetected. The television said the army was considering bringing in female police officers to search any women leaving the camp. Almost all of the camp's estimated 30,000 residents have been evacuated, as well as Palestinian militants not involved in the showdown.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 21 Jul 07, 19:12

Cousseran in Beirut Monday
French envoy Jean-Claude Cousseran arrives in Beirut Monday ahead of a visit by Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner next weekend, An Nahar daily reported.
The daily quoted French Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Pascale Andreani as saying that Cousseran's talks in Damascus do not imply "any change in France's policy" towards Syria. On Friday, sources close to the French Foreign Ministry told Naharnet that Cousseran's visit to the Syrian capital and Iran was aimed at restating France's well-known Mideast policy, and did not involve any shift toward the Lebanese government. Andreani also said that Cousseran stressed to MP Saad Hariri during talks in the Saudi capital Riyadh Thursday "Paris' full support to the government of Premier Fouad Saniora." An Nahar said Kouchner will arrive for a two-day official visit on July 28. Kouchner has said that his visit to Lebanon was aimed at making progress in the dialogue that had started in La Celle Saint-Cloud, a Paris suburb where 30 politicians from 14 factions took part in the closed-door weekend talks. Beirut, 21 Jul 07, 10:20

Hezbollah's Youth
By: By Fatima el Issawi
Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat- In a small office which also doubles as a temporary Hezbollah media center in the southern fringes of Beirut, Ali, 23, tries to explain the complexities of his relationship with Hezbollah's weapons.
Ali has witnessed the Israeli occupation firsthand and has remained loyal to the resistance movement. He carried food to the soldiers in their trenches, and helped them move weapons from one hiding place to another.
Next to Ali sat some of his colleagues in what is known as Hezbollah's "educational mobilization" department. There, they talked about the dual nature of Hezbollah's youth, which is what renders them capable of adapting to so many different circumstances, unlike other youth.
This is because Hezbollah's youth, according to these young men, are university students, employees, and professionals at the same time. All the while they are also Mujahideen [fighters for the cause of Islam] who are ever-ready to exchange their civilian clothes for a military uniform serving a greater military cause, the dimensions of which are not understood fully by everyone.
Hezbollah's youth are men who are capable of adapting to two lives, that of the military man and that of the civilian. The educational mobilization department is just one of Hezbollah’s organizations. It is a military organization that emerged in the 1980's during the Israeli incursion into Lebanon [summer of 1982] under the name "Islamic Amal," [it seceded from the Amal Movement and was led by Nabih Berri].
As the organization evolved, it expanded to resemble a basic military nucleus that offers a number of social and political services. It also assumes dual tasks in that it repairs the social fabric so that it complements Hezbollah's ideology and offers a myriad of social services, as well as assuming its military role.
However, the organization's military role is far less important than that played by those at the top of the pyramid, i.e. the veteran frontline fighters, or Hezbollah's Elite Fighters, as they are known. The Elite Fighters, according to consistent estimates, form a group that ranges from 2,000 to 2,500 members of highly-trained village dwellers who have no other job. These soldiers have accumulated much expertise in the field of fighting that goes back to the 1980's, (the average age of the members is 40 years old). It is most likely that these fighters played a key role in the most recent war's frontline, and hence made up the bulk of casualties.
Alongside the Elite Fighters, there are the men of the reserve apparatus, who are no longer active in the role of fighting. This is either due to old age or their occupation of other posts. Their previous experiences coupled with the intensified training courses that had taken part in allow these men to carryout sideline tasks in times of war. Such tasks include sending messages, weapons, and food to different units, as well as observation and communication tasks. These are significant duties that do not require physical fitness and military readiness, both of which are imperative for professional fighting.
The military dimension of Hezbollah is ever-apparent on all three levels, [the social, the military, and the Elite Fighters]. It manifests itself, however, according to the situation and how much military preparation is required.
In the small office where we met, the young men of Hezbollah's Educational Mobilization department, who introduced themselves as Ali, Husayn, Rida, and Bashar, avoided referring to the military dimensions of their posts. Whenever one of them slipped up and began to discuss security issues, for example, the female media official interrupted to kindly remind us of our agreement, namely to restrict this interview to personal experiences and nothing more.
When asked whether they participated in the most recent war, the young men decided to answer, “When it is time for studies, we study. But we are all trained and ready to confront our enemies if and when the need arises.”
The young men continued to dodge military questions so much that it would seem that they were living by the Arabic proverb, "Every situation hath its statement, and every incident its dialogue," which Husayn happened to repeat ardently. Instead, the young men decide to laughingly tell the story of an instance when they took their uniforms off and replaced them with that a janitors uniform. In those clothes, they say, they helped remove the rubble from the streets after the war ended. They believed that, when required, there would be no shame in carrying a broom. Still, they contended, carrying a rifle remains the "highest honor."
After I persisted to ask them military-related questions, the young men gave me a simple explanation: Hezbollah in its entirety is a society of resistance. Hezbollah's youth have the ability to adjust to many different circumstances. No one can match Hezbollah in this regard, they say.
"No one knows the full military structure of Hezbollah," explained the boys, "because no one knows absolutely everything about the other. For instance, one of our colleagues was martyred during the war while we did not even know he was fighting. Each one of us has a private side that no one else knows about, even though we are very close to one another."
The social backgrounds of these young men vary, despite the fact that share similar ages. Husayn comes from a family with close ties to the Shia political spectrum; he joined Hezbollah when he was 13-years old. His family was opposed to this and had even beaten him for his decision.
Bashar, on the other hand, did not perform his five daily prayers [Salat] until he reached the age of 17. He also claims to have been influenced, at one point in his life, by Marxist dialectics.
Rida, who despite having been brought up in Hezbollah's Imam al Mahdi Scouts [a youth wing of Hezbollah], claims that he only recently joined Hezbollah, after becoming more religious.
Lastly, Ali, who was born in the south, grew up in a home of resistance. His parents and neighbors have all fought in the war, some of whom he has had to say goodbye to throughout the years. In his own words, Ali claims he "defied and rebelled" when he was younger, until, as years went by, this rebelliousness turned him to religion.
Bashar, who holds a senior position in the educational mobilization department and is responsible for youth activities, describes belonging to Hezbollah as, "A bare necessity to survive, like eating and drinking. Hezbollah and I are inseparable."
This quiet young man, who barely speaks but whose colleagues never interrupt him when he does, says of his commitment to Hezbollah's ideology that he was inspired to join it upon hearing a story that one member wrote ‘Be free, O men of Hussein,’ in his own blood, before dying on the battlefield.
"I felt that this gave new meaning to concepts such as 'life' and 'freedom'. These people gave me new meaning even as they were dying," he explained. "It was a turning point in my life; I felt that I wanted to find God."
Ali, on the other hand, says that he experienced the suffering of occupation firsthand. His elder brothers were members of the resistance. His cousins were martyred in a battle. He passionately went on to explain that even his own mother was a mother to all members of the resistance. Ali soon became consumed by the ideology of resistance. As a young boy, he helped young soldiers move their weapons from one place to another. He waved goodbye to the soldiers as he watched them brave the battlefields, knowing that some if not many of them would never return.
Ali says that he joined the ‘Imam al Mahdi scouts’ when he was a child and grew up as part of it. "However, I reached a stage in life where I asked myself: Do I really want to join Hezbollah?" he explained. "I kept asking myself questions that challenge Hezbollah's ideology, in order to test my faith and identity. Instead of being mired with doubt, I found that my faith was only being reaffirmed." "Now, I thank God for an upbringing like mine, despite the fact that I was deprived of the delight of discovering Hezbollah, for the first time, like my friends,” Ali added.
“Unlike my colleagues, my relationship with the resistance is not merely that of a shared ideology. It is also a relationship of spirituality. I have experienced the suffering firsthand, and thus as a Lebanese from the south, I understand our need for resistance,” concluded Ali, a student of political science at Beirut's Universite Libanaise.
Still I had to ask, does the phrase "Lebanese resistance" still carry the same connotation now that the south has been liberated for over 7 years, and now that we hear talk of Arab states negotiating with Israel?
"This question irritates me!" snapped Husayn bitterly. "You say that Arab states do not care about the resistance. In that case, I shall be a role model for the Arabs. As a young Arab man, I do not accept to see our mothers being humiliated and the Israelis rape and humiliate them on a daily basis. My own aunts were raped and killed by the Israelis."
"My blood is boiling!" he continues. "I won't take this lying down. I will fight if I have to?" At this point, Husayn's colleagues try to calm him down, but their efforts soon prove futile.
"My problem with Israel," says Bashar, "is not only that it marched into Lebanon uninvited and stole parts of our land but is that we cannot survive as long as Israel exists. It is a foul entity that is consistently ever-ready to attack. I believe it to be the cause of all conflict in the Middle East."
"In fact it is because of Israel that a civil war erupted in Lebanon, and it is because of it that dictatorial regimes dominate the region. Shia-Sunni tensions are also a result of Israeli tactics. The weakness of the Arab world can thus be blamed on Israel," he concludes.
I couldn't help but ask, "Do you want to annihilate Israel in that case?"
Bashar quickly contains himself and says, "I may aspire to wipe Israel off the map, but I realize that this is not our responsibility. My responsibility as a young Lebanese is to liberate my land, and bring our prisoners of war back home."
Husayn, who was keen to express his gratification for the "educated environment" within the organization, tells us that since his early years he has dreamt of dying a martyr. This is only underpinned by the fact that he is the son of a martyr from the Amal movement.
Husayn, who is a teacher by day and a salesman by night, says: "When the war broke out, my mother told me and my brothers off saying that we should be fighting. She said, 'What are you doing at home? Go and fight, you are men!' She kicked us out of the house."
Rida, a law student who usually takes part in Hezbollah's educational processes, says that he was brought up in Hezbollah schools and as such was much more familiar with Jihad rhetoric than his colleagues. "This, however, does not mean that they tell us to go kill ourselves," he clarifies. "They only guide us to the right path."
"Martyrdom is not the end, it only opens the gates to immortality," he contends. "Martyrdom is but a means through which one guarantees two lives; one for himself and another for the people. This is because a martyr declares victory for the people, and salvation for himself on the Day of Judgment," explained Rida.
Ali, on the other hand, expresses that he very much misses a friend of his who was martyred during last year's war. "I have never before felt that I was this close to him. The experience has made me discover feelings I never knew I had. Sometimes, I feel that he is with me, and I can talk to him." "I felt sad at first. But now I believe he should be congratulated," Ali said.
Bashar decides to explain to me what a "loving life" should entail according to Hezbollah doctrine. "The muezzin [a person who leads the call to prayer] calls 'Come to prayer,' and we believe that when he does this he is calling us to live through prayers."
With regards to other aspects of life, Bashar suggests: "Every place has its own set of circumstances. While we are at our university, we are students. While we are in jihad, we are Mujahideen." He continued, “A brother from the Mujahideen tells us that while he was preparing ammunition once, he heard a shepherd playing his flute. Can you imagine that while he was fighting, the sound of the flute was still playing in his head?”
The young men suddenly began to contend over who gets to explain the concept of martyrdom to me, but I was interested in other issues such as the losses that this concept bears and the husbands, brothers and relatives it takes away. What about human emotions such as love, longing, and melancholy?
One of the young men offers the following: "Have you not heard the Arabic proverb: "To be the widow of a hero is better than to be the wife of a coward?" The rest nod in agreement.
The image that the people of Lebanon's South present of Hezbollah's youth is identical to that presented by the young men of Hezbollah's educational mobilization department. They describe their flexibility with particular amazement, and of course, their matchless ability to adjust to all kinds of different situations, from situations of peace to that of war.
With regards to the identity of Hezbollah's members, they all agree that their most general characteristic would be that they were born and raised in one of the villages of the region. They do not, however, take part in social gatherings and the like. In fact, their families and neighbors do not know much about their lives. In most cases they do not ask questions about it either, despite their long and questionable absences.
In many Shia villages, which in most cases are incubators of resistance movements, the people of the village say that they know that so-and-so would belong to Hezbollah, but that they do not know the exact post that they would fill. They did not know, for example, that many of their neighbors were trained soldiers until the most recent war, in which they participated.
While the people of the Shia villages talk about them with some familiarity, as they refer to them as "our young men," Hezbollah's youth is not granted the same ease among Christian and Sunni villages, where they almost seem more like ghosts than humans in their description.
In response to my questions about the members of Hezbollah, the people of Christian and Sunni villages say that they have seen some of them on motorcycles. They have not seen anyone carrying weapons. They also talk about chance encounters they have had with them.
One woman says that she once, during a night of shelling, heard the sound of footsteps in her garden. When she looked through the window, she saw shadows. Others say that in the few times they dared to look through their windows during shelling, they saw individuals crossing the road, or that they found remnants of food when they returned to their houses after the end of the battles.
Secrecy is a big part of Hezbollah's identity, which at its inception was but a humble cell of fighters from an array of political parties, including individuals who seceded from the Amal Movement, members of the Palestinian Fatah Movement, individuals influenced by the Islamic revolution in Iran, and remnants of the Al Daawa Party.
At the time, Husayn al Musawi, a splinter who was the deputy leader of Amal Movement just before, played a key role in founding this cell. Al Musawi had close ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Another notable figure was Sayyid Ibrahim Amin al Sayyid, who did not carry the title of Hezbollah's secretary general, but who was instead given the title of "official spokesperson". In February 1985, al Sayyid read the foundation statement of Hezbollah, which was entitled "An Open Message to the People of Lebanon."
This foundational cell is the cell that was linked to the attacks on the US Marine Corps headquarters as well as the attacks on the French forces in 1983, despite the fact that it never officially confirmed this.
The first major suicide attack claimed by the movement was the attack on an Israeli military post in Tyre in 1983. Preparations to launch the very first military cell of Hezbollah began in Lebanon's al Biqa, particularly in Baalbak, which was a Hezbollah stronghold and was the largest source of soldiers. This was partly due to Amal's declining influence in the region, which was once considered competition; unlike south Lebanon, where Amal held sway.
Hezbollah's influence slowly trickled down to the southern fringes of Beirut, which was then transformed from a predominantly Christian area of multiple faiths to a shelter for the displaced people of the south. Hezbollah settled the battle against Amal and diminished its presence in the southern fringes completely by the end of 1986.
Organizations of social welfare geared to look after soldiers' families ensued after the growth of Hezbollah's military units. Hezbollah built new schools, as well as Husayniyas, and took control of the existing ones.
Hezbollah's organizations started to expand and its roles grew when it publicly declared itself official in 1985. Most of these organizations are tributaries from the mother organization in Iran. One such tributary is the Jihad al-Bina foundation which is concerned with the reconstruction of towns hit by Israel. Another is the Imam Al-Mahdi School, which is considered one of the biggest educational institutes in the predominantly Shia region. Lastly, the Al Shahid Institution, which plays the most significant role among Hezbollah's organizations, as it provides comprehensive care for the families of martyrs. Some of its services include: housing, education, health care, and monthly salaries.
The growth in Hezbollah's social welfare organizations was followed by trade union participation, and the development of media departments. These media departments played a key role in spreading Hezbollah's message. Some examples include: al Manar TV, the al Ahd Bulletin, and the al Nur radio station. In 1992 and 1996 Hezbollah decided to partake in the parliamentary elections, which revealed just how influential this group had become.
Perhaps the main factor that has kept this massive organization together is the special tie that binds its members, which have proven able to even transform the region's social fabric. The region has now become, thanks to Hezbollah's influence, a full fledged militant incubator. It has even paid the price for this: being a target of Israeli attacks.
In his book ‘The Nation of Hezbollah’ [Dawlat Hezbollah] the author, Wazzah Shararah argues that in order for Hezbollah to have achieved what it has against Israel, the soldiers, on the one hand, must have freely dispersed and taken shelter among civilians. On the other hand, they must have also moved without restraint among them as well, until they locked themselves up in hideouts and shelters.
"The soldiers must have had to rely on the people to store weapons, communication equipment, supplies and first aid materials," says Wazzah. "They cannot spread among the people without at first appealing to them, guaranteeing their cooperation, and cementing their place there by recruiting some of them, especially the youth."
Wazzah Shararah, a Lebanese Shia writer, and one of Hezbollah's harshest critics, believes that Hezbollah has two inseparable faces. "In times of peace, it blends in with the people, and shares their rights. In time of war, however, it is a military force in its own right, whose members are capable of defending themselves, moving and coordinating with one another."
For his part, Ali Fayyad, president of Hezbollah's Consultative Center for Studies and Documentation [CCSD], believes that Hezbollah's uniqueness "stems from the nature of the challenges witnessed by the region during the 22 years of Israeli occupation, along with the threats that came from them after that."
"When a Lebanese man is both a soldier and a civilian at once," explains Fayyad, "this is due to the special circumstances of his region coupled with the human need to socialize. He is a civilian by nature, but a soldier if the need for that arises."
Fayyad says that Hezbollah's organizations will go back to their previous ways of assuming public activities. The military organizations, however, have never gone public, as they have always been kept a secret. According to Fayyad, military organizations might even, in fact, become "more cautious" than they have been in the past.
"The nature of our organizations will not change, but we will benefit from the lessons learned from the previous war, chief among these lessons is that defeating the enemy is the easy part. What is tough is the extent to which the enemy is willing to uncontrollably destroy [us]," he explained.
Hezbollah has not made any official estimates with regards to the number of its soldiers who were killed in last summer's war. In response to questions about this, the answer given by Hezbollah's media official was, "There is no justification for this. We just do not give any figures. These martyrs were seen off to their final havens and that is that."
Ibrahim Bayram, a journalist and researcher, offers an approximate number ranging from170 to 200 soldiers. This journalist, who has close ties with Hezbollah, says that the reason Hezbollah did not reveal any official figures is that it did not want to confuse those of the elite with other Hezbollah members or even mere supporters on the streets who were killed during the war.
Bayram believes that the professional rank was heavily affected due to the fact that fighting on the frontlines was restricted to these soldiers. He also contends that this great loss was also due to what he called "the independence" of the resistance body from Hezbollah's other organizational bodies so that no one actually knows what happened to the fighting units other than these units themselves.
"In the beginning, Hezbollah announced the names of its martyrs," says Bayram. "However, later on, it no longer had all the information required to do that, because of the independence of every group, each determining its own tactics accordingly."
On the other hand, Wazzah Shararah rejects these figures, and believes Israeli figures to be more accurate [Israeli sources announced a figure that is close to 600 dead]. According to Shararah this is but a "minimum number" of Hezbollah's dead; as this is based on the news circulated by the people about the death of their sons, without funerals or even proper places of burial.
Shararah also believes that the sole funeral that was held for Hezbollah's dead gave evidence to what he believed was "Hezbollah's great losses from the ranks of the professional soldiers," as the funeral that was held was for seven soldiers with "great honors."
This soon became a widely discussed media topic among news agencies. Even the Israeli officials called them "the generals" out of respect.

Iran: No secret arms deal with Syria
By NASSER KARIMI, Associated Press Reporter
TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's foreign ministry spokesman on Sunday dismissed as a "media game" recent reports of a secret arms deal with Syria allegedly made in return for an agreement that Damascus would not hold peace talks with Israel.
Mohammad Ali Hosseini refused to provide confirmation of the deal and questioned how the media would know about it if it was confidential.
"This is a media game," said Hosseini during his weekly news briefing. "It is not confirmed."
The Arabic newspaper Asharq al-Awsat reported Saturday that Iran would provide $1 billion to Syria for advanced weapons procurement and would assist the country with nuclear research and the development of chemical weapons, with the understanding that Damascus would not negotiate peace with Israel.
The deal was allegedly signed Thursday when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Syria, said the newspaper. Israeli media later rebroadcast the report.
Both Syrian President Bashar Assad and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have publicly called for renewed peace talks recently, but have clashed over the specifics.
Assad has demanded a guarantee that Israel would pull out of all of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau captured from Syria in the 1967 war. He has also demanded a mediator or "honest broker" for the talks. Olmert has refused to commit in advance to a full withdrawal and has indicated a preference for direct talks.
Syria is Iran's closest Arab ally. The two countries have had close relations since 1980 when Syria sided with Persian Iran against Iraq in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.
Both countries face U.S. accusations of fueling violence in Iraq and supporting Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrilla group, which Washington labels a terrorist organization. They are also accused of supporting militant anti-Israeli Palestinian groups, like Hamas.

Getting Hezbollah to Behave
Nicholas Noe
New York Times
Beirut, Lebanon
ONE year after Israel’s devastating 34-day war with Hezbollah, it seems as though both sides are readying themselves for another round. Recent statements by American and Israeli officials, as well as the United Nations, assert that Hezbollah has largely re-equipped and refortified, compliments of Syria and Iran. On the other side of the border, the news media report that the Israeli Defense Force has done the same, with, of course, the help of American military aid.
Given what may be a regional movement toward conflict, the United States and Israel would do well to pause and take stock of the nonviolent alternatives that Hezbollah itself says would lead it to shun military action. Indeed, the best way to contain Hezbollah may be to give it some of what it says it wants.
Since its official founding in 1985, Hezbollah has seen its argument, not to mention its capacity, for violence repeatedly buoyed by what the group calls the “open wars” waged by Israel against it (and invariably against the rest of Lebanon, too) in 1993, 1996 and again in 2006.
In contrast, when the confrontational approach has receded — most notably after Israel ended its 22-year occupation of Lebanon in 2000 — Hezbollah’s ability and desire to use violence receded as well.
And therein lies an alternative strategy available to Israel and the United States: gradually and peacefully containing Hezbollah violence by undermining public support for resistance operations.
For without widespread public support from Lebanese of all religious persuasions, Muslim and Christian alike — especially now that the Syrian enforcers have ostensibly left Lebanon — violent operations would not only be extremely difficult, Hezbollah leaders acknowledge, but also domestically hazardous for their Shiite base.
This is precisely the reason that Hezbollah, since the 2000 Israeli withdrawal, has reduced its overt military presence and taken part in Lebanese politics in ways that it once would have avoided as corrupting or unnecessary, including a cabinet portfolio in 2005 and a surprisingly sturdy alliance in 2006 with the main Christian leader, Gen. Michel Aoun. This may be also why Hezbollah has been so uncharacteristically quiet in the confrontation between the Lebanese Army, which is enjoying a surge of public support at the moment, and Qaeda-inspired militants at the Palestinian refugee camp Nahr al Bared in northern Lebanon.
Undermine the rationale for violence directed at Israel — a rationale which, like it or not, is accepted by a great many Lebanese — and you have gone a long way toward reducing Hezbollah’s ability to act violently both along the border and even farther afield (that is if the American assertions of Hezbollah involvement in Iraq are to be believed).
In the meantime, you will have also pushed Hezbollah further into the muck of “normal” Lebanese politicking — an unflattering arena in which the Party of God is already uncharacteristically flip-flopping a- round, hurling accusations of “collaboration” at one moment while at the next suggesting the formation of a “national unity” government with some of those same “collaborators.”
For this oblique form of containment to work, however, the United States must first address what Hezbollah’s leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, has long termed the “four bleeding wounds” that engender public support for his party’s use of violence against Israel.
These are the handing over of maps of the land mines the Israelis left in South Lebanon during the occupation; the return of all Lebanese prisoners; an end to Israeli overflights of Lebanon (which are arguably unnecessary in any case); and, finally, Israel’s relinquishing of the disputed Shebaa Farms area, which, according to a report last week in the Israeli daily Haaretz, the United Nations may declare as Lebanese by the end of the month.
As Mr. Nasrallah put it shortly after the last successful prisoner exchange with Israel in 2004, “These fools do not learn from their past mistakes: when they withdrew from Lebanon, they continued to occupy the Shebaa Farms and kept our brothers in custody.” By doing that, Mr. Nasrallah said of the Israelis, “they opened the door for us.”
Of course, one could argue that even if these “bleeding wounds” were removed, Hezbollah would simply invent other excuses to justify attacks. That’s certainly plausible, given that the Party of God views “resistance” as a fundamental principle, but the point is that these new excuses would undoubtedly be viewed as such: as false choices presented by one party bent on accomplishing its own narrow, even non-Lebanese interests.
And that possibility is one that would only further restrict Hezbollah’s actions, just as it finds itself already restricted by its ever-expanding web of political alliances.
By heeding Mr. Nasrallah’s advice and removing the “bleeding wounds,” the United States and its allies in Europe could then help to unleash exactly the kind of broad-based political, economic and military reform that would further convince Hezbollah and its supporters that the use of violence has become both unnecessary and, ultimately, counterproductive.
In the process, Israel and the United States too might also finally begin to learn some of the lessons of their past and present mistakes in Lebanon.
***Nicholas Noe, a founder and the editor in chief of, is the editor of the forthcoming “Voice of Hezbollah: The Statements of Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.”