July 10/07

Bible Reading of the day-Daily Star
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 9,18-26. While he was saying these things to them, an official came forward, knelt down before him, and said, "My daughter has just died. But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live."Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples. A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. She said to herself, "If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured." Jesus turned around and saw her, and said, "Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you." And from that hour the woman was cured. When Jesus arrived at the official's house and saw the flute players and the crowd who were making a commotion, he said, "Go away! The girl is not dead but sleeping." And they ridiculed him. When the crowd was put out, he came and took her by the hand, and the little girl arose. And news of this spread throughout all that land.

Analysts: Israeli Offensive on Lebanon Shredded U.S. Clout in Mideast-Naharnet- July10/07
Christians face uncertain future in anarchic Iraq-AFP-Juky 10/07
Boycotting Israel: the pros and cons-
By Ian Black-July 10/07

France Switches Gears in Lebanon-Gary C. Gambill -July 9/07
The Rise of Fatah al-Islam-Gary C. Gambill -July 9/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for July 10/07
Nahr al-Bared's Battle Rages for a 50th Day-Naharnet
UNIFIL: A Peacemaking or Peacekeeping Force?
Fears of a New War with Hizbullah Brewing in Israel
Spain Blames Peacekeepers' Killing on Three Sunni Groups
Geagea Assures Christians Lebanon is Not Being Islamized
Aoun's Bloc to Contest By-Elections-Naharnet
Promised aid slow to arrive in war-torn southern Lebanon-International Herald Tribune
Shiites of south Lebanon seek fair share of reconstruction aid-ReliefWeb (press release)

Syria Hands Over Stolen Car in Gemayel's Assassination to Lebanon-Naharnet
Berri: War is Dead-Naharnet
Sfeir: Bishops' Statement was Politically Manipulated-Naharnet
Lebanon 'to erupt in 1 week'-Ynetnews
Crossfire War - Islamic Militants From W. Europe in Lebanon-NewsBlaze
Saudi role in Lebanon camp fight overblown-consul-Reuters

Presidential selection looms as next hurdle for deadlocked politicians-Daily Star
LAU holds commencement ceremony for Class of 2007-Daily Star

New league push for Lebanon truce-Gulf Daily News
Moussa winds up Lebanon talks in Riyadh, heads for Daamscus-Daily Star
Arab League envoys to make landmark visit to Israel-Daily Star
Sfeir blasts 'exploitation' of bishops' statement
-Daily Star
Jumblatt bids fond farewell as French ambassador prepares to leave post
-Daily Star
Hizbullah refuses to accept president from 'one political group'
-Daily Star
Presidential selection looms as next hurdle for deadlocked politicians
-Daily Star
Al-Mustaqbal among Web sites blocked by Syria
-Daily Star
Ahmadinejad shows gratitude to Nasrallah's mother
-Daily Star
UNIFIL 'will help' families of victims after deadly crash
-Daily Star
Fighting rages on at Nahr al-Bared as army urges militants to surrender
-Daily Star
Lebanon will 'plunge into darkness' if more EDL workers join strike-Daily Star
Syria urges Syrians to leave Lebanon-United Press International

Fear of Muslims Forced Elderly Assyrian Couple to Stay Home, Die
GMT 7-8-2007 21:39:9
Assyrian International News Agency
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Hours after his wife Laila Yacoub Hermis, 68, passed away, an acute psychological trauma killed George Yousif Jajjo aged 74. The Assyrian couple were living alone besieged in their home due to the imposed blockade on Christians by terrorist groups. The Assyrian couple lived in al-Hadar district between al-Mechanic and al-Sahha areas in Dora. They had consumed what food, water and medicine they had. George risked his life and left home seeking help when his wife fell unconscious; arriving at his sister in law's place they called the police, but by the time help arrived George's wife was already dead. This tragic incident took place June 26, 2007 and it's part of the calamities befalling the Assyrian Christians with their different denominations due to terrorist acts, jizya (AINA, 3-18-2007), demands and forced conversion to Islam. George and Laila's story is part of the vicious campaign by terrorist groups against the citizens in the area but in particular the Assyrian Christians, while both the government and occupation forces have failed to protect them. Copyright (C) 2007, Assyrian International News Agency. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use.

Arabic league push for Lebanon truce
JEDDAH: Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa met the Custodian of Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud yesterday for talks on the first leg of a tour that will also take him to Syria to discuss the crisis in Lebanon. Their meeting in the Red Sea port of Jeddah focused on the entire situation and developments on the Arab scene. Mussa then flew to Damascus where he will meet President Bashar Al Assad and other Syrian leaders for talks on Lebanon.
The Arab League chief and the Saudi monarch discussed renewed Arab mediation in the Lebanese political crisis that has paralysed the country for more than seven months, Arab diplmatic sources said. Reviving the mediating mission "depends on the results of Mussa's talks in Damascus," an Arab diplomat said.
The number of Saudis in the Al Qaeda inspired Fatah Al Islam group battling the Lebanese army has been exaggerated by some Lebanese.
Lebanese officials have said dozens of Fatah Al Islam's members are from the kingdom, after hundreds of Saudis are thought to have gone to Iraq to fight with Al Qaeda militants against US forces and the US-backed government there. But Riyadh's consul in Beruit, Abdel Hadi Al Shafei, said few of the dead fighters had been identified as Saudi and there was no evidence that many more were fighting at the camp.

Arab League envoys to make landmark visit to Israel
Compiled by Daily Star staff
Monday, July 09, 2007
The Arab League will send envoys on a historic first mission to Israel this week to discuss an Arab peace initiative, Israeli officials said Sunday as the Israeli Cabinet approved the release of 250 Palestinian prisoners allied with Fatah. Palestinians welcomed the move as a "good start" but criticized its unilateral nature.
Both developments are part of Arab and Western efforts to bolster Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in his power struggle with Hamas.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Sunday the foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan would lead an Arab League mission to Israel "within a few days" to discuss the peace plan. "This is the first time the Arab League is coming to Israel," Regev said. "From its inception the Arab League has been hostile to Israel. It will be the first time we'll be flying the Arab League flag." In April, the Arab League gave Egypt and Jordan a mandate "to start efforts to put
the Arab peace initiative into effect [and] facilitate a start to direct negotiations."
The visit comes as Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert and Abbas prepare for bilateral talks as early as next Monday.
Government spokesman David Baker said no date had been set for the talks. But Israel's Maariv daily said Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdel-Ilah al-Khatib and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu al-Gheit were expected in Occupied Jerusalem Thursday for talks with Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. There was no immediate reaction from the Arab League. The land-for-peace initiative offers Israel normal ties with all Arab states in return for a full withdrawal from the lands it seized in the 1967 Middle East war, the creation of a Palestinian state and a "just solution" for Palestinian refugees.
Livni met with the two men in Cairo in May for the first official, public meeting between the two sides, and the Arab peace initiative was the focus of their talks.
Regev said renewed relations with the new Palestinian government, set up in the occupied West Bank, and the linkage to a broader Middle East settlement would be at the heart of discussions with the Arab League envoys.
"They will be talking about how the Arab peace proposal can help energize the rapprochement between Israel and the Palestinians," he said.
Last month, Egypt hosted a summit of the Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian leaders to show support for Abbas and to discuss the resumption of peace talks.
At that meeting Olmert promised to free 250 Palestinians in Israeli jails in a goodwill gesture meant to bolster Abbas.
The Cabinet formally approved the prisoner release Sunday, but the timing remained unclear, reflecting a dispute between security officials who want to free only prisoners whose terms are almost up, and Olmert, who wants a more significant gesture. Over the weekend, Olmert rejected a list drawn up by security officials that was dominated by prisoners scheduled to be released soon, Israeli media reported. "We want to use every means that can strengthen the moderates within the Palestinian Authority, to encourage them to take the path we believe can create conditions for the start of meaningful discussions," Olmert said in a televised statement at the opening of the Cabinet meeting Sunday. The premier has ordered a new list drawn up including prisoners with at least a third of their sentence left to serve. The revised list is expected to be ready within a week and will not contain those with "blood on their hands," meaning involvement in attacks that have killed Israelis.
Once approved, the final list will be made public and the release will occur at least 48 hours later to allow for any appeals to the high court.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat criticized the fact the decision was not taken in coordination with the Palestinian side. "A solution of the question of ... Palestinian prisoners will not be found by unilateral measures and gestures here and there," he said. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was due to meet senior Israeli officials on Sunday to discuss the list, as well as to ask the Jewish state to remove hundreds of its checkpoints in the occupied West Bank and to open all crossing points into Hamas-controlled Gaza. - Agencies

Sfeir: Bishops' Statement was Politically Manipulated
Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir said Sunday a statement released by the Church's Bishops last week has been "manipulated."
Sfeir in his sermon said the statement issued by Maronite Bishops last Wednesday was "manipulated for political purposes. We stress that such a manipulation has nothing to do with us."The Patriarch stressed that the Maronite church is "neutral" as far as the split between Christian leaders regarding the ongoing political crisis.
The church, he added, "seeks only the welfare of the homeland as a whole." Beirut, 08 Jul 07, 18:46

Syria Hands Over Stolen Car in Gemayel's Assassination to Lebanon

Syria on Monday had reportedly handed over to Lebanon the stolen car used in the Nov. 2006 assassination of Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel.
The daily As Safir, citing a well-informed security source, said the broken down Honda VRC was found abandoned on the international highway linking Syria with Turkey. The source said that after Syrian customs suspected the car had been registered in Lebanon, they informed Lebanon Interpol about it.
After exchanging information about the car, it had been confirmed that the Honda originated from Lebanon and that its owner had been compensated for his stolen vehicle, As Safir said. It said an insurance company officer was dispatched to the Syrian customs department where he took delivery of the car.
The paper said the insurance company, in turn, handed over the Honda VCR to the Internal Security Forces' intelligence bureau and that after thorough examination, it was confirmed that the vehicle was used in Gemayel's murder. As Safir said that investigation with Lebanese suspect Mohammed Merhi uncovered that Fatah al-Islam had a hand in the murder of Gemayel, scion of Lebanon's most prominent Christian family and a leading opponent of Syria, who was gunned down near Beirut Nov. 22, 2006. An Nahar on Saturday, based on interrogation with Fatah al-Islam detainees, said that the "executor" of the Gemayel crime was the al-Qaida-inspired terrorist group led by Shaker Abssi.
As Safir's report came a few days after reliable sources informed of the investigation told Naharnet that Ahmed Jibril's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command played a role in the crime. The sources told Naharnet that the Honda VCR was stolen from the mountain resort of Brummana in October 2006 and taken to an area in the northern sector of the eastern Bekaa valley where car bandits operate.
Shortly after that, a member of Jibril's Syrian-backed PFLP-GC approached the gang and bartered the car for a quantity of weapons, the sources added.
The car was used in the assassination of Gemayel in suburban Jdaideh, almost a month after it was stolen from Brummana, the sources told Naharnet.
They said that the Honda was later driven to Syria, which turned it back to Lebanon in Dec. 2006 in line with a warrant issued by the Interpol.
As Safir said that initial inspection of the car showed that the Honda's roof had been hit by a bullet. Several Lebanese license plates were also found in the trunk, while two license plates belonging to an unidentified Gulf nation were mounted in the front and rear of the Honda, it said. Judicial sources told As Safir that the international committee investigating the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes had requested to examine the fingerprints of two Fatah al-Islam militants killed during raids in north Lebanon last month, including that of Abu Yazan. It said examination results matched the fingerprints found on bullet shells used in the Gemayel murder. Beirut, 09 Jul 07, 07:02

Berri: War is Dead
Speaker Nabih Berri said Sunday that Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war has ended with no return, stressing that he will not allow the country to reach the brink of collapse."We won't let Lebanon reach a breaking point," as we are convinced that "the war in Lebanon has ended with no return," Berri said at UNESCO palace during a commemoration of the first anniversary of the death of Former President Elias Hrawi. "We have prevented tension … from reaching the point of (civil) unrest," he said. Berri's presence at the ceremony was surprising, according to An Nahar daily Monday, which said that the Speaker has been rarely seen at official occasions in the past few months. He urged the Lebanese to unite and said that "begging on the pavement of nations" and taking the country's problems abroad lead to a lack of trust among the people. This would destroy the possibilities of the nation's resurrection, he said. Premier Fouad Saniora, who addressed the crowd through a screen, shied away from directly commenting on the political crisis, An Nahar said. "We have overcome fifteen years of internal discord and Israeli invasions," he said, adding that Lebanon quickly recovered from the wars. "After all we've been through, I started to believe that everything is possible. The most important thing is for us to know how to do it," Saniora said. Beirut, 09 Jul 07, 09:32

Analysts: Israeli Offensive on Lebanon Shredded U.S. Clout in Mideast
Washington's unconditional and unflinching support for Israel during its 34-day offensive on Lebanon last summer dealt a key blow to U.S. influence in the Middle East, analysts say. "I do not think the U.S. credibility in the Arab world had held much weight before the (Lebanon) war anyway. So the damage had already been done," said Middle East expert Hesham Sallam from the United States Institute for Peace. "But what the war did was reinforce a growing perception in the region that the U.S. will stand by Israel no matter what." The war began on July 12, 2006 when Hizbullah fighters kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in a deadly cross border raid.
As the casualties mounted on both sides, France and Arab allies of the United States pleaded for a ceasefire.
But for weeks Washington turned a deaf ear to international pleas to exert its influence on Israel and bring about an end to hostilities.
By the end of the war 1,200 Lebanese and 162 Israelis had been killed. Thousands had fled Lebanon in a mass exodus, and Hizbullah strongholds in the south and Beirut lay in ruins. When U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice finally flew to the region at the end of July she was loudly condemned for describing the devastation as the "birth pangs of a new Middle East." Many Arabs took her remarks as an insult and further proof of the US administration's general contempt for the Arab world.
But Rice has defended her comments, saying recently at a Paris news conference that the Lebanese "gained a great deal" from the war.
Since the end of the war on August 14, the Lebanese army has been deployed in southern Lebanon, a Hizbullah stronghold, and for the first time in decades it has also taken on groups of extremists holed up in Palestinian refuge camps, she says.
Rice has also seen the war as a turning point in Middle East politics, allowing moderate Arab states to align themselves with the U.S. against the regimes in Tehran and Damascus which support Hizbullah and Hamas militants in the Palestinian territories. It is true that Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia all condemned the initial Hizbullah attack which unleashed Israel's military wrath. But their condemnations went against the tide of opinion in their countries, and as the conflict progressed they were forced to make more measured public statements, Sallam said. After Israel's deadly bombing of a U.N. peacekeepers' post in southern Lebanon in late July, Rice was forced to cancel a second planned trip to Beirut as Prime Minister Fouad Saniora made it clear she was not welcome.
For Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former national security adviser to ex-president Jimmy Carter, the influence of the United States in the Middle East has waned since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. "We are the only superpower. But our leadership is being tested in the Middle East, and some of the things that we have done in the Middle East are contributing to a potential explosion region-wide," he said.
"And if that explosion gets out of hand, we may end up being bogged down for many years to come in a conflict that will be profoundly damaging to our capacity to exercise our power." But Rice fiercely rejects accusations that U.S. interference is destabilizing the fragile region. "What stability? The stability in which Saddam Hussein put 300,000 people in mass graves? That was stability? The stability in which Syrian forces were embedded in Lebanon? That was stability?" she asked in Paris. "The stability that produced al-Qaida to, on one September day, cause 3,000 American deaths?"(AFP-Naharnet) (AFP photo shows U.N. peacekeepers surveying an area in the southern Lebanese village of Kafar Kila) Beirut, 09 Jul 07, 08:50

Sfeir blasts 'exploitation' of bishops' statement
By Maroun Khoury and Nafez Qawas -Daily Star correspondent
Monday, July 09, 2007
BKIRKI/BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir said Sunday that the monthly statement of the Council of Maronite Bishops was misinterpreted and given meanings it never meant to convey. "The statement was intended to work as a curtain raiser to shed light on some of the topics of concern to the Lebanese, and nothing more," Sfeir said during Sunday Mass at the Notre Dame Church in Bkirki. "We could have tackled more daring issues but we refrained from doing so, for we want to preserve the reputation of the country and its leaders." In their monthly statement issued Wednesday, the bishops criticized the government, saying it has taken a number of measures aimed at the "Islamization" of Lebanon.
During an extraordinary session held Saturday, the government snapped back at the of council, saying the acquisition of land by foreigners has not surpassed the top limit set by the law. "The Lebanese government has absolutely not sidestepped the law," Information Minister Ghazi Aridi said while reading the Cabinet's minutes.
The bishops' statement criticized the acquisition by foreigners of more than 7 million square meters of land in Lebanon. They said the Lebanese will one day feel they are outsiders in their own country.
"The overall acquisition [of land by foreigners] is 0.1 percent percent and is much less than the ceiling set by the law, which is 3 percent," Aridi said.
The minister also said the percentage of Christians serving with the Internal Security Forces has increased during the current government's term.
He said 33.04 percent of ISF personnel were Christians, an increase from the 28.85percent during previous governments.
The bishops have expressed fears that canceling the "contest" for recruiting new staff for the ISF "put the performance of the institution at risk."
Concerning a draft law submitted to Parliament which allows Lebanon to join the "Children's Rights in Islam" accord, Aridi said: "The government expresses its willingness to take into consideration concerns and reservations."
The bishops had also referred to the issue in their monthly statement and Jbeil Maronite Archbishop Bishara Raii said in remarks published Friday in As-Safir newspaper that the accord ignores the Christian presence in the country and makes Lebanon an "Islamic state and an Islamic society."
Raii also accused Premier Fouad Siniora's government of wanting to "Islamize" Lebanon.
"Accusing the government of working toward Islamizing Lebanon is fabrication and has no basis," Aridi said.
Also commenting on the bishops' statement, Lebanese Forces (LF) MP Georges Adwan said the bishops concerns were "totally justified."
"The Maronite Bishops have always raised the alarm whenever they felt Lebanon was in danger," Adwan said following a meeting with Sfeir on Sunday.
LF leader Samir Geagea said in an interview Friday that Christian ministers, including LF Tourism Minister Joe Sarkis, "opposed a number of other laws that might weaken the role of Christians in Lebanon."
Also on Friday, Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun had visited Sfeir and accused the government for weakening the role of Christians in the country.
Sfeir on Sunday said that the bishops' statement was exploited by many to "achieve political interests," adding that such behavior "unfortunately indicates that some politicians have become self-centered and only care about their own interests.""It has by now become clear that a neutral and independent group will not find proper grounds to grow and voice its opinions since it will be immediately attacked by prevailing forces," Sfeir said.
The patriarch warned that the "rhetoric of defiance" currently prevailing on the Lebanese political scene, "draws a pessimistic picture for the future and works as a precursor for a civil war." During the Cabinet meeting on Saturday, Defense Minister Elias Murr left for Ain al-Tineh, where he met with Speaker Nabih Berri.
After the meeting with Berri, Murr said he was much relieved. "Berri is determined to hold the presidential elections on September 25," he added.

Analysts: Israeli Offensive on Lebanon Shredded U.S. Clout in Mideast
Washington's unconditional and unflinching support for Israel during its 34-day offensive on Lebanon last summer dealt a key blow to U.S. influence in the Middle East, analysts say. "I do not think the U.S. credibility in the Arab world had held much weight before the (Lebanon) war anyway. So the damage had already been done," said Middle East expert Hesham Sallam from the United States Institute for Peace.
"But what the war did was reinforce a growing perception in the region that the U.S. will stand by Israel no matter what." The war began on July 12, 2006 when Hizbullah fighters kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in a deadly cross border raid. As the casualties mounted on both sides, France and Arab allies of the United States pleaded for a ceasefire. But for weeks Washington turned a deaf ear to international pleas to exert its influence on Israel and bring about an end to hostilities.
By the end of the war 1,200 Lebanese and 162 Israelis had been killed. Thousands had fled Lebanon in a mass exodus, and Hizbullah strongholds in the south and Beirut lay in ruins.
When U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice finally flew to the region at the end of July she was loudly condemned for describing the devastation as the "birth pangs of a new Middle East."Many Arabs took her remarks as an insult and further proof of the US administration's general contempt for the Arab world.
But Rice has defended her comments, saying recently at a Paris news conference that the Lebanese "gained a great deal" from the war.
Since the end of the war on August 14, the Lebanese army has been deployed in southern Lebanon, a Hizbullah stronghold, and for the first time in decades it has also taken on groups of extremists holed up in Palestinian refuge camps, she says.
Rice has also seen the war as a turning point in Middle East politics, allowing moderate Arab states to align themselves with the U.S. against the regimes in Tehran and Damascus which support Hizbullah and Hamas militants in the Palestinian territories. It is true that Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia all condemned the initial Hizbullah attack which unleashed Israel's military wrath. But their condemnations went against the tide of opinion in their countries, and as the conflict progressed they were forced to make more measured public statements, Sallam said.
After Israel's deadly bombing of a U.N. peacekeepers' post in southern Lebanon in late July, Rice was forced to cancel a second planned trip to Beirut as Prime Minister Fouad Saniora made it clear she was not welcome.For Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former national security adviser to ex-president Jimmy Carter, the influence of the United States in the Middle East has waned since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. "We are the only superpower. But our leadership is being tested in the Middle East, and some of the things that we have done in the Middle East are contributing to a potential explosion region-wide," he said.
"And if that explosion gets out of hand, we may end up being bogged down for many years to come in a conflict that will be profoundly damaging to our capacity to exercise our power." But Rice fiercely rejects accusations that U.S. interference is destabilizing the fragile region. "What stability? The stability in which Saddam Hussein put 300,000 people in mass graves? That was stability? The stability in which Syrian forces were embedded in Lebanon? That was stability?" she asked in Paris.
"The stability that produced al-Qaida to, on one September day, cause 3,000 American deaths?"(AFP-Naharnet) (AFP photo shows U.N. peacekeepers surveying an area in the southern Lebanese village of Kafar Kila) Beirut, 09 Jul 07, 08:50

Jumblatt bids fond farewell as French ambassador prepares to leave post
By Maher Zeineddine -Daily Star correspondent
Monday, July 09, 2007
CHOUF, Lebanon: Druze leader Walid Jumblatt lashed out at the Syrian regime and its Lebanese allies, describing them as a "criminal and hegemonic." "Their weapons, rockets, and threats will not discourage us; for our desire to live is much stronger than the philosophy of death and darkness adopted by our foes," he said during a ceremony to honor departing French Ambassador Bernard Emie at his residence in Mukhtara.
Jumblatt thanked Emie, "who himself was targeted by the forces of darkness," for the "positive role" he played during "a very critical and sensitive period in the history of Lebanon.""France, through its ambassador, Bernard Emie, has supported Lebanon's sovereignty, independence and fight against terrorism," he added. "France has also played a key role and paved the way for the establishment of the international tribunal to try suspects into the February 2005 assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri."Chouf residents described the ceremony as a "historic" one due to the arrangements and security measures undertaken, but mostly due to the presence of an array of high-ranking officials and ambassadors at the event. Lebanese and French flags decorated the streets and alleys of Mukhtara, while French and Lebanese hymns played by a professional orchestra straight from Jumblatt's residence could be heard across the village. Emie, who visited Mukhtara along with his wife and two children, thanked Jumblatt for his hospitality. Emie said France's support for Lebanon would not have materialized if it hadn't been for Premier Fouad Siniora's government, "which is the only, and I stress the word only, democratic, legitimate, and constitutional government."
Emie said France supported the "courageous" March 14 Forces, "which were never discouraged by threats and terrorism." "France [and] the international community are determined to pursue their support of Le-banon's independence and sovereignty despite difficulties and obstacles we might face." Emie said the Saint Cloud meeting in France, scheduled for mid-July, is expected to give representatives of the participants in dialogue sessions "a chance to find solutions to the impasse." Emie added that French policy concerning Lebanon "will not change under President Nicholas Sarkozy." "The Sarkozy administration's policy and obligations concerning Lebanon will not change and will be a continuation of President Jaques Chirac's policy," he predicted.

France Switches Gears in Lebanon
Gary C. Gambill - 7/9/2007
After three years of virtually seamless Franco-American concord in dealing with Lebanon, newly elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy has launched a major policy shift that has Bush administration officials fuming.
Sarkozy's election in May was greeted with enthusiasm in Washington, as the former interior minister was known to be staunchly pro-American (even privately supportive of the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq) and sympathetic to Israel. It was widely assumed that Sarkozy would, at the very least, maintain outgoing President Jacques Chirac's unconditional support for Lebanon's ruling March 14 coalition and unswerving commitment to isolating Syria. Indeed, more than a few neoconservatives were hopeful that Sarkozy would go even further and help Washington press the European Union (EU) to officially designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
In fact, there was never much prospect that any of the French presidential candidates would follow in Chirac's footsteps in Lebanon. Chirac's policy toward Lebanon was driven less by French national interests or ideological commitments than by his strong personal and financial ties to the late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. An impassioned defender of the Syrian occupation so long as Hariri was happily at the helm (he refused to so much as meet with Lebanese nationalist leader Michel Aoun during his long exile in Paris), Chirac led the charge to dismantle it once Hariri's relations with Damascus soured. After the Lebanese premier's assassination, the French president effectively transferred his loyalty to Hariri's son and political successor, Saad. In both cases, his special relationship with the Hariri family led him to abandon France's centuries-old guardianship of the Lebanese Christian community.
As the Sunni-dominated March 14 coalition faltered following the resignation of Shiite cabinet ministers and mass demonstrations by Hezbollah and Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) last winter, Chirac's handling of Lebanon's political crisis grew more and more idiosyncratic. In early 2007, as Hariri and the Saudis were sweet-talking the Iranians in hopes of getting Hezbollah to end the Shiite cabinet boycott, Chirac mortified the French foreign policy establishment by stating in an interview that one or two Iranian nuclear bombs would be "not very dangerous" (he quickly retracted) and ordering Foreign Minister Douste-Blazy to fly to Tehran (he backed down after Douste-Blazy all but refused to go). Chirac's own aides complained to The New York Times about his "obsession" with bolstering the March 14 coalition.[1]
Not surprisingly, Sarkozy said during his electoral campaign that French relations with Lebanon should be "deepened and freed from a personal outlook on things."[2] The first clear indication of his plan for deepening ties to Lebanon came in late May with Aoun's arrival in Paris for talks with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and other senior diplomats. Kouchner proposed that Lebanese political factions be invited to Paris for an informal gathering to resolve differences, an initiative that the ex-general heartily endorsed. Bush administration officials were adamantly opposed to the idea, fearing that it would legitimize the Lebanese opposition's demand for a national unity government. They pushed instead for a March 14-only conference to work out internal differences within the ruling coalition.
The French weren't interested - forging a more balanced relationship with Lebanon's political factions and facilitating the formation of a national unity government was exactly what they were hoping to achieve. After Aoun's return to Lebanon, as fighting raged between the Lebanese army and Sunni Islamist terrorists, French officials abruptly ended the Chirac administration's practice of calling on the Lebanese people to stand behind the "Siniora government" and began urging support for "the authorities" (in sharp contrast to American statements).
Kouchner's choice of Jean-Claude Cousseran, a former ambassador to Syria and ex-chief of the General Directorate of External Security (the French equivalent of the CIA), as his special envoy to Lebanon also spoke volumes about the new direction of French policy. Chirac fired Cousseran in 2002 after press leaks revealed that the GDES was investigating allegations that the French president received illicit campaign contributions from the late Hariri.[3]
On June 8, a spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry formally announced an initiative to "invite to France representatives of all the Lebanese political forces and civil society to take part in an informal meeting to promote the re-establishment of dialogue between all the communities in Lebanon." Asked by a reporter if he would like US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to participate, the spokesman replied curtly, "we don't wish other countries to take part."[4]
In order to smooth the way for a French-brokered political compromise in Lebanon, Sarkozy has re-opened diplomatic channels to Syria. France was already moving in this direction, as was evident from the visit of European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Javier Solana to Damascus in March (Chirac had previously vetoed official high-level EU contact to the Syrians). The chief of Syrian Military Intelligence (and brother-in-law of President Bashar Assad) Assaf Shawkat is rumored to have made a secret visit to Paris in mid-June,[5] and there are even reports that Sarkozy is willing to visit Damascus if Syria allows his initiative to succeed.[6] In contrast, the Bush administration has never explicitly promised Syria anything in exchange for cooperation in Lebanon.
The greatest resistance to the French initiative has come from smaller factions within the March 14 coalition that would lose clout in a broad-based government. Although Hariri welcomed the invitation to Paris, the American-backed leader of the Lebanese Forces (LF), Samir Geagea, reacted with palpable disdain. [7] American officials have persuaded the French to postpone the conference from late June until at least mid-July. Whether the French will resist mounting US pressure to scrap the project all together remains to be seen.

[1] "French Visit to Tehran, Seen as Diplomatic Faux Pas, Is Aborted," The New York Times, 17 January 2007. "Chirac Unfazed By Nuclear Iran, Then Backtracks," The New York Times, 1 February 2007.
[2] "French Presidential Hopeful Says Lebanon 'Surrounded by Enemies'," The Daily Star (Beirut), 2 March 2006.
[3] Le Monde, 22 June 2002; Le Monde, 11 July 2002; "French intelligence investigated Chirac for shady business deals: report," Agence France Presse, 22 June 2002; "Chirac sends message with shakeup of intelligence organs," Agence France Presse, 25 July 2002.
[4] Remarks by the French Foreign Affairs Spokesman, Discussing Events in the Middle East, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 8 June 2007. Translation by Federal News Service.
[5] Patrick Seale, "A summer of war or peace?" Gulf News 15 June 2007.
[6] "French envoy touts progress in bid to ease Lebanese tensions," The Daily Star, 13 June 2007. The report cited anonymous "diplomatic sources."
[7] "It is more appropriate to hold our conferences in Lebanon," the ex-warlord snapped. "Will it succeed in France, Switzerland, or anywhere else if it doesn't succeed in our country?" Lebanese National News Agency, 9 June 2007. Translation by BBC Worldwide Monitoring.
**Gary C. Gambill is a country analyst for Freedom House and the editor of the Mideast Monitor. Formerly editor of Middle East Intelligence Bulletin from 1999 to 2004, Gambill publishes widely on Lebanese and Syrian politics, terrorism, and democratization in the Middle East. He can be reached by email at, or by phone at 646-242-1101.

The Rise of Fatah al-Islam
Gary C. Gambill - 7/10/2007

The sudden outbreak of fighting between the Lebanese Army and Fatah al-Islam in late May has touched off a flurry of conspiracy theories about the meteoric rise of this shadowy terrorist group. Supporters of Lebanon's ruling March 14 coalition typically allege that the militant fundamentalist organization is an "imitation al-Qaeda" secretly controlled by the secular Baathist regime of neighboring Syria,[1] while those on the other side of the political divide allege that Fatah al-Islam is a creation of Lebanon's ruling coalition.
While both narratives (like all good conspiracy theories) draw upon tantalizing grains of truth, the emergence of Fatah al-Islam is largely what it appears to be - the combined outgrowth of a Sunni Islamist revival sweeping Lebanon and the region, a politically fragile central government, and a perilous security vacuum.
Origins and Composition
In late November 2006, dozens of masked gunmen in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp near Tripoli stormed three compounds belonging to the secular pro-Syrian Fatah al-Intifada movement and proclaimed the establishment of Fatah al-Islam. Calling themselves "sons of the Palestinian National Liberation Movement" in a statement distributed throughout the camp, the militants denounced the "corruption and deviation" of the Damascus-based Fatah al-Intifada and the "intelligence agencies" it serves, vowing to "return to Almighty God" and wage a holy war to liberate Palestine.[2]
At first glance, this stunning turn of events appeared to be a revolt within Fatah al-Intifada. The leader of the putsch, Shaker al-Absi, was a member of Fatah al-Intifada, who had been dispatched into Lebanon by the organization's deputy chief, Abu Khaled al-Umla (presumably with permission from the Syrian government). However, while Absi presented Fatah al-Islam as an all-Palestinian movement,[3] it was soon evident (and later confirmed definitively by the identification of militants captured and killed in the recent violence) that the majority of Absi's operatives were Lebanese[4] and a substantial minority (15-20%) were Saudis,[5] with citizens of Syria and various other Arab and Islamic countries comprising most of the rest. Indeed, on the fourth day of Fatah al-Islam's May 2007 uprising, Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr said that there had not been any Palestinians found among the corpses of militants recovered by the Army.[6]
Fatah al-Intifada and the Syrian government immediately denounced Absi, while Umla was arrested by secret police in Damascus and subsequently expelled from the organization. However, Saudi and pro-government Lebanese media outlets quickly began reporting that both Absi's revolt and his denunciation of Syrian intelligence were clever ruses intended to disguise the fact that Fatah al-Islam was itself a tool of Syrian intelligence. Until recently, the Saudi media disputed the overwhelmingly Lebanese and Saudi composition of Fatah al-Islam. The daily Al-Hayat published a lengthy report claiming that most of Absi's men spoke Arabic with Syrian accents and that a handful of non-Syrian Arabs had been "pushed" into the group so as to maintain an illusion of multinational composition.[7]
Initially, Al-Hayat maintained that the group is really led by a Syrian intelligence officer known as "Abu Madyan." [8] Al-Hayat's "investigative reporter" did, in fact, encounter a Syrian named Abu Madyan in Nahr al-Bared, but his corpse turned up in one of the advance positions outside of the camp seized by Fatah al-Islam on May 20 (suggesting that he was at most an operational commander, not the brains behind the outfit).[9] The next day, Al-Hayat reported that a Syrian known as Abu Layth, "who recently married Absi's daughter," was among the key leaders of the group, [10] apparently unaware that Abu Layth (who was, in fact, Absi's son-in-law) had been reportedly killed by Syrian forces while trying to infiltrate Iraq in early May.[11]
The claim that Fatah al-Islam is a tool of Syrian intelligence has been revamped and updated to ensure a better "fit" with readily observable facts (e.g. the claim is now that there are indeed many Saudi and other foreign operatives in Fatah al-Islam, but they were diverted from Iraq to Lebanon by Syrian intelligence) and therefore cannot be definitively disproven. Even if the conspiracy theory is true, however, it does not account for the movement's meteoric "rags to militia" rise in the span of less than a year.
Land of Opportunity
Lebanon is the only country in the world where it would have been possible for Fatah al-Islam to establish a fixed base of operations, stockpile weapons, and recruit a steadily growing paramilitary force of several hundred men, while playing host to journalists from The New York Times. It is also the only country in the world where Absi, having been convicted in absentia for helping organize the 2002 assassination of US diplomat Lawrence Foley, could openly reside without risk of being extradited to the United States. Lebanon offers multiple layers of protection.
The first layer of protection is a decades-old agreement whereby the Lebanese government grants Palestinians the right to maintain security in the country's twelve refugee camps. This arrangement kept the peace following the end of the Lebanese civil war, as most of the camps were controlled by Palestinian factions subservient to occupying Syrian forces. However, during the 1990s, the largest camp - Ain al-Hilweh, on the outskirts of Sidon - fell into chaos after Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement lost control of it. Rather than helping its own Palestinian proxies seize control, the Syrians allowed it to remain an "island of insecurity." A number of radical Sunni Islamist groups, such as Usbat al-Ansar, stepped in to fill the void, their ranks swelled by Lebanese Islamists and other fugitives seeking refuge from the government.
After the Syrian withdrawal in 2005, radical Sunni Islamist groups steadily grew stronger in Ain al-Hilweh and began infiltrating previously peaceful camps, such as Baddawi and Nahr al-Bared, as Syrian-backed groups lost influence. The new government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has been unable to do anything about it. While the head of Lebanon's Internal Security Forces (ISF), Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi, told The New York Times in March that he would need the approval of "other Arab countries" to enter Nahr al-Bared,[12] this statement was patently false, both legally (the Arab League has no authority to restrict Lebanon's sovereignty) and practically (had the Lebanese government been willing to stamp out Fatah al-Islam and arrest Absi, no other Arab states would have publicly objected).
As The New York Times noted (without elaboration) two months before the outbreak of Absi's revolt, it is "because of Lebanese politics" that he was "largely shielded from the government." [13] The Lebanese Sunni community is the primary base of political support for Lebanon's ruling March 14 coalition, led by Saad Hariri's Future Movement. In the 2005 parliamentary elections, Lebanese Christians and Shiites (two thirds of the population) voted overwhelmingly for Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and Hezbollah/Amal, respectively. Hariri and his allies managed to win a slim parliamentary majority by sweeping mixed Sunni/Christian districts in the fourth round of the elections, which they managed only by persuading traditional and radical Islamist clerics alike to call upon their followers to vote for Hariri's list.
In return for this support, Lebanon's new parliament passed an amnesty law freeing over two dozen suspected Sunni Islamist terrorists (seven had been detained for plotting to bomb the Ukrainian and Italian embassies in September 2004; twenty-six were captured in the winter of 1999/2000 during a brief, but bloody, Sunni Islamist uprising).[14] At least one of those amnestied (Bilal al-Mahmoud, aka Abu Jandal) was killed by the authorities during the recent violence.
Because its base of political support hinges on the Lebanese Sunni community (which sympathizes strongly with overwhelmingly Sunni Palestinians), the March 14 coalition was not only loathe to violate the extraterritoriality of Lebanon's refugee camps, but reluctant to enter into a confrontation with any predominantly Sunni group. Thus, while the Siniora government's "Sunnification" of the internal security forces (ISF)[15] may have bolstered its ability to contend with the Shiite Hezbollah movement, it has proven to be ineffective in combating Sunni Islamists. When a Sunni mob set fire to the building housing the Danish embassy in February 2006 (to protest the publication of offensive cartoons), hundreds of ISF riot police stood by and watched.
In the neighborhood of Taamir adjacent to Ain al-Hilweh, the Siniora government did nothing for over a year and a half to remove the radical Islamist Jund al-Sham militia or prevent it from terrorizing the inhabitants. When the army finally deployed there several months ago, Jund al-Sham militants promptly seized control of a preschool and demanded financial compensation. Bahiya Hariri (Saad's aunt) paid off the militants (many of whom promptly relocated to Nahr al-Bared and joined Fatah al-Islam). [16]
It is this reluctance to confront Sunni Islamist groups that accounts for the relative ease with which Absi infiltrated several hundred men into Nahr al-Bared from all corners of the Islamic world. There is little evidence that large numbers of foreign jihadis have infiltrated into Lebanon through Syria (though some undoubtedly did). Since citizens of Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf states don't need visas to enter Lebanon, it's likely that most entered the country legally.
More puzzling is their infiltration into Nahr al-Bared, along with large supplies of mortars, rockets, and other heavy weaponry. Even after Lebanese troops imposed a tight blockade of the camp in March, eyewitnesses in the camp said that a large shipment of weapons arrived in early May.[17] Officials of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) expressed astonishment that such a large influx of men and material went undetected by either the Lebanese government's surveillance of the camp or the mainstream Palestinian militias inside that liaison with the authorities. "Somebody hasn't been doing their job," UNWRA Commissioner-General Karen Koning AbuZayd told The Washington Times.[18]
For Hariri, political necessity dictates more than non-interference with Sunni radicals. With Shiites overwhelmingly backing Hezbollah's opposition to the government, he has little choice but to try and replicate Shiite assabiyya (group solidarity) among Sunnis. Thus, Hariri lavishly donated money to mainstream, nonviolent Sunni Islamist groups in Lebanon, such as Al-Jamaa al-Islamiyya (the Lebanese branch of the Muslim Brotherhood), and turned a blind eye to the violent ones.

In February 2007, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh published a report claiming that the ruling coalition has funded Fatah al-Islam and other armed Islamist groups as a counterweight to Hezbollah.[19] Although March 14 leaders vehemently denied this claim, Siniora's office raised suspicions by acknowledging "some organizations in the North and South have received aid from parties which have identified themselves as representatives of the Lebanese government or the Internal Security Forces."[20] Apart from the Hariri family's payoffs to Jund al-Sham, however, there is little direct evidence of explicit funding of armed Sunni Islamist groups (which appear to receive most of their funding from wealthy donors in Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf States).[21]
On May 19, a band of Fatah al-Islam gunmen robbed a bank near Tripoli (their third) and were tracked to an apartment in a wealthy neighborhood in the city. For reasons that are not entirely clear (but probably owe much to the visit of US Assistant Secretary of State David Welch three days earlier), this time Siniora sent the ISF into action (with a camera crew from Hariri's Future TV station in tow to record the momentous event). The pre-dawn raid was a disaster - not only was it easily repulsed, but Siniora's failure to inform the Army beforehand left Lebanese soldiers stationed outside Nahr al-Bared vulnerable to a withering reprisal hours later while most were asleep in their barracks (nine were found with their throats slit). While the deaths of 22 soldiers that day (the ISF aborted its raid before anyone got killed) united the Lebanese people behind the Army's campaign to eliminate Fatah al-Islam, the political parameters that impede the government from addressing the threat posed by militant Sunni Islamists have not changed.
As fighting continued off and on for the next month, media outlets sympathetic to the Siniora government continued to advance the claim that Fatah al-Islam is a proxy of Syrian intelligence, frequently citing security sources on alleged "confessions" by captured militants. However, in an interview published June 21, Defense Minister Elias Murr put the speculation to rest: "Does the government so far have an official confession about the links of these [Fatah al-Islam militants] or some of them to Syria? So far, there is no answer."[22]
Allegations in the same media outlets that the Syrians have been caught red-handed smuggling weapons into Lebanon also turned out to be unsubstantiated. UN specialists who spent most of June investigating border security in Lebanon reported to the Security Council that "not a single on-border or near-border seizure of smuggled arms has been documented to the team."[23] While there are undoubtedly arms pouring across Lebanon's borders, corruption and incompetence within the Lebanese security services appear largely to blame.
[1] "This is imitation al-Qaeda, a 'Made in Syria' one," the commander of the ISF, Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi, told the Associated Press on the first day of the fighting. "Fatah Islam: Obscure group emerges as Lebanon's newest security threat," The Associated Press, 20 May 2007.
[2] Al-Safir (Beirut), 28 November 2006.
[3] Al-Diyar (Beirut), 20 February 2007.
[4] Of 20 Fatah al-Islam members who appeared before a military court on May 30, 19 were Lebanese. National News Agency, 30 May 2007.
[5] Of 25 militants whose bodies had been recovered by the Lebanese authorities as of May 26, four were identified as Saudis, according to the Saudi ambassador in Lebanon. Al-Hayat (London), 27 May 2007.
[6] Al-Arabiya TV, 23 May 2007.
[7] Al-Hayat (London), 23 March 2007.
[8] Al-Hayat (London), 23 March 2007.
[9] "Lebanese Army resumes battle against Fatah al-Islam," The Daily Star (Beirut), 24 May 2007.
[10] Al-Hayat (London), 21 May 2007.
[11] "4 Islamists killed near Syria-Iraq border," Agence France Presse, 11 May 2007. The aforementioned Al-Hayat article did not say reports of Abu Layth's death were false - the paper was simply unaware that the man their "sources" had been claiming was in charge had been reported dead.
[12] "A New Face of Jihad Vows Attacks on U.S.," The New York Times, 16 March 2007.
[13] Ibid.
[14] For more details, see Lebanon: Managing the Gathering Storm, International Crisis Group, 5 December 2005.
[15] Shiites comprise less than 10% of new recruits. The ISF is "seen as a sectarian Sunni force," said former United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) spokesman Timur Goksel (now a professor of public administration at the American University in Beirut). "Not just the Shiites say it, but the Christians too: that it's to make up for the lack of a Sunni militia." "Lebanon builds up security forces; The move is seen as a bid to counter Iran and Shiite ally Hezbollah," The Los Angeles Times, 1 December 2006. See also "West helps Lebanon build militia to fight Hezbollah," The Globe and Mail (Canada), 1 December 2006.
[16] "Jund al-Sham militants take over preschool near Ain al-Hilweh," The Daily Star (Beirut), 5 February 2007. Michael Young, "Destruction and deceit in North Lebanon," The Daily Star (Beirut), 24 May 2007.
[17] Al-Hayat (London), 27 May 2007.
[18] "UN Agency Knew of Armed Foreigners in Lebanon Camp," The Washington Times, 24 May 2007.
[19] Seymour M. Hersh, "The Redirection: Does the new policy benefit the real enemy?" The New Yorker, 5 March 2007.
[20] "Siniora denies arming Sunni extremist groups," The Daily Star (Beirut), 27 February 2007.
[21] "Gulf Arabs boost aid to Sunni militants," Reuters, 20 March 2007.
[22] Al-Nahar al-Shabab (the weekly supplement of Al-Nahar, Beirut), 21 June 2007, quoted in "Lebanon: Fatah al-Islam defeated, military operation is over," The Associated Press, 21 June 2007.
[23] "UN: Security on Lebanon-Syria Border Lax," The Associated Press, 26 June 2007.
***Gary C. Gambill is a country analyst for Freedom House and the editor of the Mideast Monitor. Formerly editor of Middle East Intelligence Bulletin from 1999 to 2004, Gambill publishes widely on Lebanese and Syrian politics, terrorism, and democratization in the Middle East. He can be reached by email at, or by phone at 646-242-1101.

Hezbollah's Terrorist Threat to the European Union
by James Phillips

Testimony before the House Committee
on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Europe
Delivered June 20, 2007
Hezbollah ("Party of God"), the radical Lebanon-based Shiite revolutionary movement, poses a clear terrorist threat to international security. Hezbollah terrorists have murdered Americans, Israelis, Lebanese, Europeans, and the citizens of many other nations. Originally founded in 1982, this Lebanese group has evolved from a local menace into a global terrorist network strongly backed by radical regimes in Iran and Syria and funded by a web of charitable organizations, criminal activities, and front companies.
Hezbollah regards terrorism not only as a useful tool for advancing its revolutionary agenda but also as a religious duty as part of a "global jihad." It helped to introduce and popularize the horrific tactic of suicide bombings in Lebanon in the 1980s, developed a strong guerrilla force and a political apparatus in the 1990s, and became a major destabilizing influence in the Arab-Israeli conflict in the last decade.
Hezbollah murdered more Americans than any other terrorist group before September 11, 2001. Despite al-Qaeda's increased visibility since then, Hezbollah remains a bigger, better equipped, better organized, and potentially more dangerous terrorist organization, in part because it enjoys the unstinting support of the two chief state sponsors of terrorism in the world today: Iran and Syria. Hezbollah's threat potential led former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to dub it "the A-Team of terrorism."
Hezbollah is a cancer that has metastasized, expanding its operations from Lebanon to regional targets in the Middle East and then far beyond. It now is truly a global terrorist threat that draws financial and logistical support from the Lebanese Shiite diaspora in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, North America, and South America. Hezbollah fundraising and equipment procurement cells have been detected and broken up in the United States and Canada. Europe is believed to contain many more of these cells.
Hezbollah has been implicated in numerous terrorist attacks against Americans, including:
The April 18, 1983, bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, which killed 63 people, including 17 Americans;
The October 23, 1983, suicide truck bombing of the Marine barracks at Beirut Airport, which killed 241 Marines deployed as part of the multinational peacekeeping force in Lebanon;
The September 20, 1984, bombing of the U.S. embassy annex in Lebanon; and
The 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, which killed 19 American servicemen stationed in Saudi Arabia.
Hezbollah also was involved in the kidnapping of several dozen Westerners, including 14 Americans, who were held as hostages in Lebanon in the 1980s. The American hostages eventually became pawns that Iran used as leverage in the secret negotiations that led to the Iran-Contra affair in the mid-1980s.
Hezbollah has launched numerous attacks at far-flung targets outside the Middle East. It perpetrated the two deadliest terrorist attacks in the history of South America: the March 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which killed 29 people, and the July 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 96 people. The trial of those implicated in the 1994 bombing revealed an extensive Hezbollah presence in Argentina and other countries in South America. Hezbollah also was involved in aborted attempts to bomb the Israeli Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, in 1994 and in a failed plot in Singapore.
Hezbollah's Terrorist Threat in Europe
Hezbollah poses a direct threat to EU citizens at home and those traveling abroad, especially in the Middle East. Hezbollah established a presence inside European countries in the 1980s amid the influx of Lebanese citizens seeking to escape Lebanon's brutal civil war and the recurring clashes between Israel and Palestinian terrorists based in Lebanese refugee camps. Hezbollah took root among Lebanese Shiite immigrant communities throughout Europe. German intelligence officials estimate that roughly 900 Hezbollah members live in Germany alone. Hezbollah also has developed an extensive web of fundraising and logistical support cells spread throughout Europe.
France and Britain have been the principal European targets of Hezbollah terrorism, in part because both countries opposed Hezbollah's agenda in Lebanon and were perceived to be enemies of Iran, Hezbollah's chief patron. Hezbollah has been involved in many terrorist attacks against Europeans, including:
The October 1983 bombing of the French contingent of the multinational peacekeeping force in Lebanon (on the same day as the U.S. Marine barracks bombing), which killed 58 French soldiers;
The December 1983 bombing of the French Embassy in Kuwait;
The April 1985 bombing of a restaurant near a U.S. base in Madrid, Spain, which killed 18 Spanish citizens;
A campaign of 13 bombings in France in 1986 that targeted shopping centers and railroad facilities, killing 13 people and wounding more than 250; and
A March 1989 attempt to assassinate British novelist Salman Rushdie that failed when a bomb exploded prematurely, killing a terrorist in London.
Hezbollah attacks in Europe trailed off in the 1990s, after Hezbollah's Iranian sponsors accepted a truce in their bloody 1980–1988 war with Iraq and no longer needed a surrogate to punish states that Tehran perceived to be supporting Iraq. But this lull could quickly come to an end if the situation changes in Lebanon or Iran is embroiled in another conflict. Significantly, the participation of European troops in Lebanese peacekeeping operations, which became a lightning rod for Hezbollah terrorist attacks in the 1980s, again could become an issue today, as Hezbollah attempts to revive its aggressive operations in southern Lebanon. Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden have contributed troops to the UNIFIL peacekeeping force. Troops from EU member states may then find themselves attacked by Hezbollah with weapons financed by Hezbollah supporters in their home countries.
According to intelligence officials, Hezbollah operatives are deployed throughout Europe, including Belgium, Bosnia, Britain, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the Ukraine.
Hezbollah's Radicalizing Influence on European Muslims
Europe's vacation from Hezbollah terrorist attacks could come to a swift end if Hezbollah succeeds in its attempts to convert European Muslims to its harsh ideology. Young Muslim militants in Berlin, asked in a television interview to explain their hatred of the United States and Jews, cited Hezbollah's al-Manar TV as one of their main sources of information. Ideas have consequences. In July 2006, four months after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, in an interview broadcast on al-Manar TV, called for Muslims to take a decisive stand against the Danish cartoons featuring the prophet Mohammed, two Lebanese students sought to bomb two trains in Germany as a reprisal for the cartoons, but the bombs failed to detonate.
Clearly, Europeans are exposing themselves to increased risks of terrorism as long as they allow Hezbollah's political and propaganda apparatus to spew a witch's brew of hatred, incitement, and calls for vengeance.
Hezbollah's Role as a Proxy for Iran
Hezbollah is a close ally, frequent surrogate, and terrorist subcontractor for Iran's revolutionary Islamic regime. Iran played a crucial role in creating Hezbollah in 1982 as a vehicle for exporting its revolution, mobilizing Lebanese Shia and developing a terrorist surrogate for attacks on Iran's enemies. Tehran provides the bulk of Hezbollah's foreign support: arms, training, logistical support, and money. Iran provides at least $100 million (probably closer to $200 million) of annual support for Hezbollah and has lavishly stocked Hezbollah's expensive and extensive arsenal of Katyusha rockets, sophisticated mines, small arms, ammunition, explosives, anti-ship missiles, anti-aircraft missiles, and even unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that Hezbollah can use for aerial surveillance or remotely-piloted terrorist attacks. Iranian Revolutionary Guards have trained Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley and in Iran.
Iran has used Hezbollah as a club to hit not only Israel and its Western enemies, but also many Arab countries. Iran's revolutionary ideology has fed its hostility to other Muslim governments, which it seeks to overthrow and replace with radical allies. During the Iran-Iraq war, Iran used Hezbollah to launch terrorist attacks against Iraqi targets and against Arab states that sided with Iraq. Hezbollah launched numerous terrorist attacks against Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which extended strong financial support to Iraq's war effort, and participated in several other terrorist operations in Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Iranian officials conspired with the Saudi branch of Hezbollah to conduct the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia. Today, Hezbollah continues to cooperate with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to destabilize Iraq, where both help train and equip the Mahdi Army, the radical anti-Western Shiite militia led by the militant cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
By refusing to use its economic leverage over Iran to dissuade Tehran from continuing its troubling nuclear weapons program, the EU is making a military clash between the United States and Iran much more likely. In that event, Hezbollah cells throughout Europe are likely to be activated to strike at American and perhaps NATO targets. Even if Hezbollah elects to restrict its focus to American embassies, businesses, and tourists, many Europeans are likely to perish in such attacks.
Hezbollah's Ties with Other Terrorist Groups
In addition to the direct threat Hezbollah poses to Europeans, it also poses an indirect threat by virtue of its collaboration with other terrorist groups that have targeted Europeans. Many of these groups already have been placed on the EU terrorism list.
Hezbollah has developed a cooperative relationship, on an ad hoc basis, with the al-Qaeda terrorist network and several radical Palestinian groups. In June 2002, U.S. and European intelligence officials noted that Hezbollah was "increasingly teaming up with al-Qaeda on logistics and training for terrorist operations." Both al-Qaeda and Hezbollah established training bases in Sudan after the 1989 coup that brought the radical National Islamic Front to power. Iran's Revolutionary Guards, which also established a strong presence in Sudan to support the Sudanese regime, ran several training camps for Arab radical Islamic groups there and may have facilitated cooperative efforts between the two terrorist groups.
Another worrisome web of cooperation between Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, and Hamas support networks is flourishing in the tri-border region at the juncture of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. This lawless and corrupt region has provided lucrative opportunities for Hezbollah supporters to raise funds, launder money, obtain fraudulent documents, pass counterfeit currency, and smuggle drugs, arms, and people.
Modern terrorist networks often are comprised of loosely organized transnational webs of autonomous cells, which help them to defeat the efforts of various law enforcement, intelligence, and internal security agencies to dismantle them. This decentralized structure also helps to conceal the hand of state sponsors that seek to use terrorist groups for their own ends while minimizing the risk of retaliation from states targeted by the terrorists.

The amorphous non-hierarchical nature of the networks, and their linkages with cooperative criminal networks, leads to a situation in which some nodes of the web function as part of more than one terrorist group. This cross-pollination of terrorist networks makes it difficult to determine where one terrorist group ends and another one begins. Therefore, giving Hezbollah a free pass to operate inside the European Union also aids other groups who are plugged into the same web of criminal gangs, family enterprises, or clan networks.

In 2002, Germany closed down a charitable fundraising organization, the al-Aqsa Fund, which reportedly was a Hamas front that also raised money for Hezbollah. Hezbollah also has colluded with al-Qaeda affiliates in Asia. Abdul Nasser Nooh assisted both Hezbollah and al-Qaeda activities, and Muhammad Amed al-Khalifa, a Hezbollah member, was involved in sending a shipment of explosives to the Philippines through an al-Qaeda front company.

According to U.S. intelligence officials, Hezbollah has cooperated with the terrorist network led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in Iraq in 2006. This network officially became part of al-Qaeda in 2004. Despite Zarqawi's militantly anti-Shia views, the two groups have reportedly coordinated terrorist efforts against Israel on an ad hoc basis. Zarqawi's network, comprised of Sunni extremists from the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and other countries, has a strong fundraising and support infrastructure in Europe that poses a significant threat to Europeans as well as citizens of a wide range of other countries.

In the Middle East, Hezbollah has cooperated with Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades to launch terrorist attacks against Israelis. After the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada in 2000, Hezbollah's notorious terrorism coordinator, Imad Mugniyah, was selected by Iran to assist Palestinian terrorist operations against Israel. Mugniyah reportedly played a role in facilitating the shipment of 50 tons of Iranian arms and military supplies to Palestinian militants on board the freighter Karine A, which was intercepted by Israeli naval forces in the Red Sea in January 2002 before its cargo could be delivered. Hezbollah has also provided Hamas and other Palestinian extremist groups with technical expertise for suicide bombing.

Hezbollah's Destabilizing Influence in the Middle East

Hezbollah threatens the security and stability of the Middle East, and European interests in the Middle East, on a number of fronts. In addition to its murderous campaign against Israel, Hezbollah seeks to violently impose its totalitarian agenda and subvert democracy in Lebanon. Although some experts believed that Hezbollah's participation in the 1992 Lebanese elections and subsequent inclusion in Lebanon's parliament and coalition governments would moderate its behavior, its political inclusion brought only cosmetic changes.

After Israel's May 2000 withdrawal from southern Lebanon and the September 2000 outbreak of fighting between Israelis and Palestinians, Hezbollah stepped up its support for Palestinian extremist groups such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. It also expanded its own operations in the West Bank and Gaza and provided funding for specific attacks launched by other groups.

In July 2006, Hezbollah forces crossed the internationally recognized border to kidnap Israeli soldiers inside Israel, igniting a military clash that claimed hundreds of lives and severely damaged the economies on both sides of the border. Hezbollah is rebuilding its depleted arsenal with financial support from its European fundraising networks. This poses a threat to European soldiers in the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon. To be consistent, the E.U. should ban such fundraising.

Hezbollah uses Europe as a staging area and recruiting ground for infiltrating terrorists into Israel. Hezbollah has dispatched operatives to Israel from Europe to gather intelligence and execute terrorist attacks. Examples of Hezbollah operatives who have traveled to Israel from Europe include: Lebanese national Hussein Makdad, who used a forged British passport to enter Israel from Switzerland in 1996 and injured himself in a premature bomb explosion in his Jerusalem hotel room; Stefan Smirnak, a German convert to Islam who was trained by Hezbollah in Lebanon, was arrested at Ben Gurion airport after flying to Israel in 1997; Fawzi Ayoub, a Canadian citizen of Lebanese descent, was arrested in 2000 after traveling to Israel on a boat from Europe; and Gerard Shuman, a dual Lebanese-British citizen, who was arrested in Israel in 2001.

Hezbollah Drug Smuggling

Long before al-Qaeda and the Taliban began to finance their operations using profits from drug smuggling from Afghanistan, Hezbollah was a major supplier of illicit drugs to Europe and other regions. The organization tapped into longstanding smuggling networks operated by Shiite clans in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, a Hezbollah stronghold. Hezbollah raises money from smuggling Lebanese opium, hashish, and heroin. It also traffics in illicit drugs in the tri-border region of South America. Hezbollah cells also engage in other forms of criminal activity, such as credit card fraud and trafficking in
"conflict diamonds" in Sierra Leone, Congo, and Liberia to finance their activities.

The EU's Ostrich-Like Policy Regarding Hezbollah

The United States long has designated Hezbollah as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands have followed suit. The United Kingdom has placed the "Hezbollah External Security Organization" on its terrorist list. But the European Union has dragged its feet on taking serious action against Hezbollah.

In May 2002, the EU added 11 organizations and 7 individuals to its financial sanctions list for terrorism. This was the first time that the EU froze the assets of non-European terrorist groups. But it did not sanction Hezbollah as an organization—only several individual leaders, such as Imad Mugniyah.

By taking these half-measures, the EU mistakenly has embraced the fallacy that terrorist operations can be separated from the other activities of a radical organization. Attempts to compartmentalize the perceived threat by accepting the fiction that a "political wing" is qualitatively different from a "military wing" are self-defeating. This is a distinction without a difference.

Hezbollah's raison d'etre is to violently impose its totalitarian ideology on Muslims and forge a radical Islamic state determined to destroy Israel and drive out western and other non-Islamic influences from the Muslim world. No genuine "political party" would finance suicide bombings and accumulate an arsenal of over 10,000 rockets to be indiscriminately launched at civilians in a neighboring country.

Agreeing to accept a false distinction between political and terrorist wings is also dangerous. It allows Hezbollah to continue raising money for violent purposes. Money is fungible. Funds raised in Europe, ostensibly to finance charitable and political causes, can free up money to finance terrorist attacks or can be diverted to criminal activities. The recent violent convulsion in Gaza and last summer's war in Lebanon underscore the great dangers inherent in treating radical Islamic movements as normal political parties.

Hezbollah leaders themselves see little distinction between political and terrorist activity (which they consider to be "military" or "resistance" actions). Mohammed Raad, one of Hezbollah's representatives in the Lebanese parliament, proclaimed in 2001: "Hezbollah is a military resistance party, and it is our task to fight the occupation of our land…There is no separation between politics and resistance." In 2002, Mohammed Fannish, a Hezbollah political leader and former Lebanese Minister of Energy, declared: "I can state that there is no separating between Hezbollah military and political aims."

The E.U. also excluded the fundraising network of Hamas from the terrorism list in 2002. But in August 2003, the EU reversed itself and classified all of Hamas as a terrorist organization. It is high time to do the same with Hezbollah.

Some Europeans may hope that by passively accepting Hezbollah's fundraising activities, the EU can escape its terror. But this ostrich-like policy ignores the fact that fundraising cells easily can transform themselves into operational terror cells, if called on to do so. Hezbollah cells are like stem cells that can morph into other forms and take on new duties. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has warned that Hezbollah support cells inside the United States could also undertake terrorist attacks. The same is true in Europe.

Individual EU member states, such as France and Germany, have previously taken legal action against Hezbollah. Germany has deported Hezbollah operatives and France banned Hezbollah's al-Manar television network in 2004. But such actions were undertaken in an ad hoc manner on a country by country basis, not in a systematic manner by the EU as a whole. Given that protecting citizens is the highest duty of the state, such half-hearted piecemeal policies are irresponsible.
Putting Hezbollah on the EU terrorism list would require the consent of all 27 EU member states. Such action would oblige each member to prohibit the channeling of money from European entities and individuals to Hezbollah, and to seize Hezbollah assets in the EU.On March 10, 2005, the EU Parliament voted overwhelmingly to adopt a resolution that affirmed Hezbollah's involvement in terrorist activities and ordered the EU Council to "take all necessary steps to curtail" Hezbollah.
But France, Spain, and Belgium have blocked action in recent years. French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier in February 2005 justified French opposition to declaring Hezbollah to be a terrorist group by saying: "Hezbollah has a parliamentary and political dimension in Lebanon. They have members of parliament who are participating in parliamentary life. As you know, political life in Lebanon is difficult and fragile." But one major reason that life is so "difficult and fragile" in Lebanon is that Hezbollah, backed by Iran and Syria, seeks to intimidate democratic forces in Lebanon through the use of terrorism. Taking a stand against Hezbollah not only would undermine its ability to finance terrorism against its Lebanese opponents, but would also make life much less difficult in Lebanon in the long run.
Classifying Hezbollah as a terrorist organization would significantly constrain its ability to operate in Europe and severely erode its ability to raise funds there and use European banks to transfer funds around the globe. All EU member states would be required to freeze Hezbollah assets and prohibit Hezbollah-related financial transactions. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah recognized the damage that this would do to his organization in a March 2005 interview aired on Hezbollah's al-Manar television network: "The sources of [our] funding will dry up and the sources of moral, political, and material support will be destroyed."
But France in particular has blocked action on taking the logical next step with Hezbollah. The recent election of Nicolas Sarkozy as France's new president offers hope for a major shift in the French position. Sarkozy hopefully will replace Jacques Chirac's "See No Evil" wishful thinking with a principled stand against permitting a lethal killing machine from infecting alienated European Muslims with its violent ideology, milking them of money to finance mass murder, and brainwashing them to become suicide bombers against a wide array of targets.
How Can EU Leaders Be Persuaded To Take Concerted and Systematic Action Against Hezbollah?
First and foremost, they must understand that in the long run, this is the best way to protect their own people, the highest duty of government. Wishful thinking about inducing Hezbollah to stray from the fundamental tenets of its own ideology will compromise the security of EU citizens. Turning a blind eye to Hezbollah's activities will only allow it to metastasize into a more deadly threat. Cracking down on Hezbollah activities would not only reduce the potential terrorist threat, but would reduce the threat of its ancillary activities, such as drug smuggling, criminal enterprises, and efforts to radicalize European Muslim communities.
Second, EU leaders can be criticized for the strained logic behind their current position. It makes little sense to designate individual Hezbollah leaders as terrorists, but continue to permit the organization to raise money for their deadly work. It is a mistake to exempt Hezbollah's "political wing" from responsibility for the crimes perpetrated by the "military wing" that executes its orders. Running a hospital or an orphanage does not absolve an organization for the murder of innocents. The EU must be proactive and uproot Hezbollah's support infrastructure in Europe in order to curtail the activities of its terrorist thugs around the world.
Third, EU leaders should be asked to join the multilateral efforts of their democratic allies to protect all of their citizens from the attacks of totalitarian Islamic extremists. There is an ideological dimension to this conflict, as well as a terrorist dimension. It would be irresponsible for the EU to stay neutral in this global ideological struggle, given the presence of a growing Muslim population inside Europe that could fall prey to radical Islamic ideologies.
Banning Hezbollah also would be a step that would help stabilize the volatile Middle East and support Arab-Israeli peace efforts. Even the Palestinian Authority requested that the EU ban Hezbollah in 2005, complaining that Hezbollah was recruiting Palestinian suicide bombers to sabotage the tenuous truce with Israel.
Putting Hezbollah on the EU terrorism list also would help stabilize Lebanon. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, jointly sponsored by France and the United States, calls for the disarming of all militias in Lebanon. Yet EU toleration of Hezbollah fundraising operations inside its own borders enables efforts to finance the purchase of arms and ammunition for the biggest and most dangerous militia in Lebanon. Adding Hezbollah to the EU terrorism list would be an important step toward disarming its militia and restoring the rule of law in Lebanon.
Banning Hezbollah also would contribute to the containment of Iran's rising power. Tehran has used its Lebanese surrogate to advance its own radical foreign policy agenda in the past and is sure to do so again.
Congress has played a role in appealing for greater cooperation from the EU in curtailing Hezbollah's activities. The House of Representatives in March 2005 passed H.Res. 101, which urged the EU to add Hezbollah to its terrorist list. The Senate followed suit the next month. Congress should continue to press the EU to do the right thing regarding Hezbollah by passing further resolutions and holding hearings such as this one to educate EU leaders and their constituencies about the potential challenges posed by Hezbollah.
The EU can no longer afford to ignore Hezbollah's festering threat or hope to deflect its attacks on to other countries. The longer the EU balks at effective action, the stronger the potential threat grows, funded by the free flow of donations, diverted charitable funds, and criminal booty out of the EU and the payments for drugs smuggled into the EU. As Winston Churchill observed: "An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last." The Hezbollah crocodile has eaten half of Lebanon and has laid dangerous eggs around the world. The EU must take proactive action, not wait for these eggs to hatch.
***James Phillips is Research Fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.