Hizbullah and the Lebanese Armed Forces
… Why would we want to fight to defend American interests? …
OE Watch Commentary: Is Lebanon part of the anti-Islamic State (IS) coalition? A 26 September piece in the Al-Arabi al-Jadid newspaper, excerpted alongside this commentary, argues that the answer is both yes and no. This is because Lebanon is following “the Turkish model,” under which domestic conditions make overtly joining the coalition impossible and regional alliances make rebuffing it untenable. In a 23 September televised speech, Hizbullah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah laid out the case against the coalition. He listed several reasons why he believes the US is not a credible leader of a military intervention to fight terrorism in the Middle East. The second accompanying excerpt lists the top five reasons he mentioned.
Tensions are high between Hizbullah and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), on the one hand, and jihadis affiliated with the IS and Nusra Front (NF), on the other. The jihadis are ensconced in the barren mountains between Lebanon and Syria, near the flashpoint town of Arsal (Ersal) and bordering Hizbullah strongholds. They have held more than twenty Lebanese military and security personnel hostage for several weeks and have already executed three of them (two were beheaded by IS, one shot by NF). Negotiations have failed, and pressure on the state to find a solution will likely continue growing.
The approach of cold weather and snow conspires against the jihadis. Many believe that this consideration was largely behind a 5 October NF incursion into Hizbullah territory not far from the town of Baalbek, in the Bekaa Valley. NF fighters briefly held Hizbullah checkpoints and killed a handful of the party’s fighters. The attack, some believe, aimed at drawing both Hizbullah and the LAF into battle with the jihadis before the bitter cold sets in.
For several years Lebanon’s jihadis have claimed that Hizbullah has co-opted the LAF. On 16 October the NF’s media network released a video featuring a defected Lebanese soldier by the name of Abdullah Shehada. In the nearly 25-minute video, Shehada repeatedly claims that Hizbullah has co-opted the LAF and encourages other soldiers to defect for this reason. He also expressed his eagerness to go to war with Hizbullah.
Jihadis are not the only ones worried about the convergence of Hizbullah and LAF interests. The third accompanying article, from the Jerusalem Post, notes that some in Israel are concerned about a joint LAF-Hizbullah operation against Israel. On 30 September the struggle for sway within the LAF went international, when Ali Shamkhani, Iran’s Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, publicly offered Iranian military assistance to Lebanon’s military while on a visit to Lebanon. According to the fourth accompanying article, from Lebanon’s al-Akhbar, American authorities have threatened to cut aid to the LAF if the Iranian offer is accepted. In response, Iranian authorities have presented the Lebanese with a list of the equipment that would be included in their offer, which is excerpted alongside this commentary. The Iranian move comes at a time when the LAF have yet to receive the $3 billion worth of French equipment that the Saudi royal family promised to buy for them in December 2013. End OE Watch Commentary (Winter)
Source: Thair Ghandour. “London Fears Lebanon Turning into a Transit Route for al-Qaeda’s Explosives,” 26 September 2014. http://www.alaraby.co.uk/politics/58eb5495-d26d-4da6-bda9-a74cf0577bb0
Has Lebanon joined the coalition against the Islamic State or not? It is impossible to get an official response on this from Lebanese authorities. Their behavior says no. According to an official Lebanese source that spoke to al-Arabi al-Jadid, Lebanese authorities told their American and European counterparts that “we cannot join this alliance overtly due to the domestic situation and the fact that the IS and Jabhat al-Nusra hold tens of Lebanese hostage.” He also insisted that Lebanon cannot oppose the coalition, especially since Saudi Arabia is a part of it and also given the Gulf consensus about it and the international cover. Consequently, “the relationship with the alliance follows the Turkish model.”
Source: “Speech by Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah on al-Manar TV, 9/23/2014,” 23 September 2014. http://www.mediarelations-lb.org/article.php?id=13244&cid=94
First, because from our perspective America is the mother of terrorism… if you find terrorism in this world look for the American administration; of course we are not speaking of the American people… Second, because America unconditionally supports the Zionist terrorist state… Third, America created or helped create this takfiri terrorist movement… Fourth, America is not morally fit to lead a coalition to fight terrorism… Fifth, this coalition, as Obama has repeatedly said, is to defend American interests. Why would we want to fight to defend American interests? Especially since most if not all of these interests come at the expense of the people and governments of the region.
Source: “Report: Concerns Mount that Hezbollah, Lebanese Army Could Cooperate against Israel,” 6 October 2014. Jerusalem Post. http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Report-Concerns-mount-that-Hezbollah-Lebanese-army-could-cooperate-against-Israel-378138
… concerns are mounting among the defense establishment over the possibility of the Lebanese army and Hezbollah operatives cooperating against Israel, Channel 10 reported Monday.
Source: “Washington Warns: Iranian Weapons are Forbidden,” 10 October 2014. http://www.al-akhbar.com/node/217330
Al-Akbhar learned that in response to the “American Red Lines” on arming the Lebanese military, Iran sent a letter about its weapons grant to the foreign ministry, which was then forwarded to the presidency and the defense ministry. The letter said that Iran was ready to provide several TOW missiles and launchers, night-vision goggles, 60- and 120-mm mortars, rounds for T-55 and T-62 tanks, 155-mm ammunition, and Dushka heavy machine-guns. This offer is based on the information Iran has on the needs of the Lebanese Army in its fight against terrorist in Arsal.