I weep: Syrian rebels attack Hizbullah camps

**Posted by Phineas

Okay, maybe not so much weeping as wishing for popcorn.

Syrian rebels have reportedly bombed two compounds operated by the Lebanese terror organization Hezbollah, the main Syrian opposition group announced Thursday.

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) claims its forces bombed Hezbollah facilities in Lebanon and Syria, a cross-border raid that indicates the rebels’ desire to increase their attacks on allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“The development may mark a critical turn in Syria’s two-year war, bearing out fears that the increasingly sectarian conflict would spill over across Syria’s borders,” according to the Israel Project (TIP), which first reported on the operation.

Love it! Hot jihadi on jihadi action.

In case you’re wondering why the FSA should attack Hizbullah, who are based in Lebanon, keep in mind that the rebellion against Boy Assad (1) and his murderous clan largely comprises groups belonging to the Sunni side of Islam, while the Assads and their key supporters in Syria are mostly Alawite Muslim, an offshoot of Shia Islam (bad enough in Sunni eyes) that is regarded as borderline heretical by orthodox Muslims. In the decades since the Assads seized power, the Alawis have held the real reins of power in Syria and have not been shy about using overwhelming force to keep them, adding to the religious dislike.

Hizbullah is also a Shiite organization, a creation of Shiite Iran, which is the Assad regime’s major patron. (An important Iranian general was reported killed recently in Syria, probably by rebels.) Syria is crucial to Iran’s struggle against Israel and to be a dominant player in the western Fertile Crescent, allowing Iran to funnel weapons and money to Hizbullah, its frequent proxy against Israel. (If Israel ever attacks Iran, expect Hizbullah to try to rain hell on northern Israel.) Iran needs a friendly regime in Damascus, or its influence in the area will be severely curtailed. Hence it has sent troops, including snipers, to Syria to support the Assads.

Hizbullah itself realizes the fall of the Assads would weaken its position, perhaps fatally. It is the dominant player in the Lebanese government and functions as a state within the hollow husk of the Lebanese state. It has been heavily armed by Iran via Syria for its jihad against Israel, and Syria has provided a convenient fall-back zone on the occasions the Israelis have struck back.

But all this is in danger if Assad loses: the safe haven will be gone in a fragmented or dominated-by-Sunnis Syria; there will be no easy route for Iranian weapons to reach them, and they will have enemies to their south (Israel) and east, not just the south. The prospect is scary enough that Hizbullah is willing to do damage to its reputation for fighting for the average Muslim by sending forces to aid Assad against the rebels.

Thus you can see why the Sunni rebels in Syria would have no love for Hizbullah: they are Shiites; allies of the hated regime; tools of the Iranians who prop up Assad and kill Syrians… A conflict was almost inevitable.

But this doesn’t mean the “enemy of our enemy” is also our friend. The FSA is tightly allied with (and perhaps dominated by) the al-Nusrah front, an al-Qaeda aligned organization, many of whose members got their experience fighting us in Iraq. In other words, they are not our BFFs. Whatever “liberal” possibly pro-Western elements there may be in the anti-Assad alliance are, in my estimation, small and weak.

So, what should America do? This may get my “neocon card” revoked, but I don’t think there is much that can be done, particularly after the dithering of the Obama administration over the last couple of years. It’s in our interest to see Iran’s influence in the area damaged and Hizbullah weakened, if only because that would improve the security of our client and ally, Israel. So, the fall of the Assads would be a good thing.

But, not wholly so, if replaced by a Sunni jihadist regime that sees its duty as fighting the Jews, too. And no one sane wants any group affiliated with al Qaeda to have any safe haven. Granted the situation is hell for those trapped in Syria, perhaps the best from an American and Israeli point of view is a continuing war that drains all sides, while trying to cultivate whatever real moderates there are to be ready to exercise influence when the dust settles, and in the meantime doing what we can to make sure the fighting doesn’t spill over into Israel.

Beyond that… Enjoy watching one group of bad guys go after another, and pass the popcorn. smiley popcorn

Footnote:
(1) Let us not forget that, just a few years ago, powerful Democrats, including our current Secretary of State, and their media allies were all Assad’s useful idiots, praising him as a reformer. That’s the Hundred Acre Wood style of diplomacy, for you.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Israel blasts Syrian convoy in Lebanon: was it carrying chemical weapons?

**Posted by Phineas

If PJM’s Barry Rubin is right, it’s the development many have feared: a desperate, vengeful Bashar Assad giving WMDs to the genocidal jihadists of Hizbullah:

It has been reported that a number of Israeli planes flew over Lebanon and attacked a convoy near the Syrian-Lebanese border. The fact that this comes shortly after Hizballah and Syrian forces had moved in growing numbers toward known chemical-weapons storage areas implies that the Syrian regime was in the act of shipping chemical weapons to the Lebanese Shia Islamist group (which also happens to dominate the Lebanese government and to be involved in a lot of anti-Israel terrorism) Hizballah. This story has not yet been confirmed by Israel.

During the 2006 Israel-Hizballah war, Israel frequently hit convoys delivering weapons to Lebanon the moment they crossed the Syria-Lebanon border, showing a very strong intelligence capacity on such events.

The Israeli position has been that it will not allow any transfer of advanced weapons by the Syrian regime to either Hizballah or radical Lebanese Sunni groups. Israel had previously made this point clear through public statements to the Syrian government. It has not been explicitly reported whether the weapons on the convoy were chemical ones.

While Israel isn’t commenting officially, a retired general gave what may be an oblique confirmation:

But Brigadier General Amnon Sofrin, a retired army intelligence officer and former head of intelligence for the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, gave a press conference in which he made the following points.

 “I think that if we have solid evidence shared by our own partners all over the world, that chemical warheads are being transferred from Syria to Lebanon, to Hezbollah, I think that no one will condemn Israel for trying to prevent it.”

This should be read as explaining that Israel notified the United States and others of its intelligence information prior to the attack.

Given relations between the Obama administration and the Israeli government, you can bet Jerusalem was not asking for permission, either.

Rubin speculates that these may also have been Russian surface-to-air missiles, meant to shoot down Israeli recon drones so they couldn’t spot later transfers of chemical weapons.  Regardless, this is ominous news. The common wisdom has been that the Assad regime is either doomed or will soon be reduced to a small rump state in the mountains. The question, then, is what becomes of the chemical weapons they’re known to have? (Including those that may have been smuggled from Saddam’s Iraq as it fell?)

The danger is not just that these would be given to Hizbullah in some last act of revenge, though that would be a potential nightmare for Israel. There is also the grave risk that these weapons could fall into the hands of al Qaeda-aligned Syrian rebels, who might then pass them along al Qaeda Central.

And you just know whom Zawahiri would love to unleash these on, if he could get his mitts on them.

This is a good moment to remember that we are still at war, that there are still very determined people on a religious mission to see us dead or subjugated.  They take this very seriously, and so should we.

And I hope, behind the empty brags of having al Qaeda “on the run,” so does President Obama.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

A strategic game-changer in the Near East? A recipe for war? Or both?

**Posted by Phineas

I wrote last June about major oil and natural gas finds in the Eastern Mediterranean that would be a boon to Israel if they played out.

Today at (the renamed) PJMedia, Jonathan Spyer interviews Israeli journalist Amiram Barkat regarding other major natural gas (and maybe oil) finds under the nearby Mediterranean seabed — an area claimed by Israel and its new friend Cyprus, on the one hand, and increasingly Islamic-fascist Turkey and Lebanon (1) on the other. While discussing the enormous economic and strategic implications for Israel, Barkat talks reviews the geopolitical dangers:

PJM: What are the latest developments regarding the dispute between Turkey and Cyprus over exploratory drilling for offshore gas deposits off the coast of Cyprus? Are Turkish Navy ships still in the area?

In late September this year, Noble Energy, a Houston-based company, started drilling the Aphrodite prospect within a maritime area known as Block 12. Noble, the company that has made all the significant gas discoveries in Israel, received the drilling license in Block 12 from the Cypriot government in 2008.

Turkey had threatened to use military force should drilling commence, but refrained from action. Turkey has two major claims regarding Cyprus exploration plans: first, as the protector of the rights of the Turkish minority in Cyprus, it aims to guarantee that the Turkish Cypriots gain a share in the future revenues from any discovery. Second, Turkey doesn’t recognize the Cypriot EEZ and claims that parts of it are actually in Turkish waters.

PJM: Is there a realistic possibility that this could lead to conflict between Israel and Turkey? Or has Turkey, as a NATO member, been warned against escalating the situation?

The strengthening ties between Israel and Cyprus underpinned by mutual interests in the export of natural gas could make the possibility of regional conflict involving Turkey a realistic one, though not in the near future. Israel is aware of this and an internal debate has been going on regarding Cyprus.

Looking from Nicosia, the choices seem simpler. Recent developments in the area have clearly weakened Cyprus’s geopolitical position vis-à-vis Turkey. Greece, Cyprus’ patron, is practically bankrupt. Egypt and Libya, traditional allies within the Arab world, are both undergoing a revolutionary process.

Against this backdrop Cypriot government officials openly invited the Israeli military to play an active role defending Cypriot interests. In private talks Cypriot officials are supportive of letting the Israeli Air Force use Cypriot bases.

As you can imagine, the simultaneous occurrence of new valuable resources and political upheaval in the region is as recipe for military conflict at some point — and, in the Middle East, that could come at any time. While one naturally hopes that the parties involved would come to an amicable arrangement, factors besides those mentioned above line up against it:

  • Turkey is under an increasingly Islamist government, and their prime minister may well be an antisemitic nut.
  • Hizbullah-dominated Lebanon cut a deal with the hated Jews? Barack Obama will sooner embrace Thomas Sowell.
  • The natural broker for such a dispute is the United States, due to our history of alliance with both Israel and Turkey, but, thanks to incompetent diplomacy Smart Power, we’ve increasingly alienated Israel and played the fool for Turkey, which is actively working to advance the Islamist cause. Now one doesn’t trust us and the other thinks (rightly) it can use us.

This is not a recipe for the lion to lie with the lamb any time soon.

Footnote:
(1) And letting Hizbullah (and, by extension, its Iranian patrons) get any share of the revenues from these new fields is a Bad Idea(tm).

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Hizbullah takes over Lebanon

**Posted by Phineas

Or maybe that should read “Iran takes over Lebanon,” since the Shiite terror organization is a creation of and cats-paw for Tehran. Regardless, that possible war I wrote about a few days ago just took a big step closer to reality:

Saad Hariri, whose government was toppled after the Shiite movement Hezbollah and its allies withdrew this month, declared the appointment of a new prime minister chosen by Hezbollah a “coup d’etat” on Tuesday, as angry protesters took to the streets, burning tires and attacking the office of one of Mr. Hariri’s foes.

The escalating demonstrations deepened one of the worst crises in years in Lebanon, a small Mediterranean country where confrontations often serve as an arena for regional and international disputes. It has pitted Hezbollah and its allies, backed by Iran and Syria, against Mr. Hariri and his supporters, backed by the United States and France.

After days of political wrangling, the candidate supported by Hezbollah and its allies, Najib Miqati, a billionaire and former prime minister, won 68 seats in Lebanon’s 128-member parliament, enough to name the next government in a country as divided as it is diverse. His elevation was a clear victory for Hezbollah, which has ruled out Mr. Hariri’s return to power, and marked the culmination of what was already accepted as a fact of life here: that Hezbollah is the country’s pre-eminent military and political force.

So far, the crisis has played out according to the rules of Lebanon’s parliamentary system, and both Mr. Miqati and Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, went to great lengths to offer a conciliatory message and portray Mr. Miqati as a consensus choice.

“My hand is extended to all Lebanese, Muslims and Christians, to build, not to destroy, to talk, not to quarrel,” Mr. Miqati said Tuesday after President Michel Suleiman named him as the prime minister-designate. “Let’s learn from the lessons of the past.”

Mr. Nasrallah promised that the government “is not led by Hezbollah.”

Bear in mind that Hariri’s father, then-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was murdered by a car bomb a bomb his car drove over. A sealed indictment filed by UN investigators is expected, when unveiled, to name Hizbullah as the assassins. That was the motive for this move, regardless of what they say publicly. With Hariri’s son tossed out and control of the government in Nasrallah’s hands (If you believe Miqati and Nasrallah’s protestations otherwise, I have a bridge for sale, cheap.), what slim chance existed for an accounting just died.

And, now that Hizbullah controls the Lebanese state and its resources*, any actions they take against Israel will mean the entire country is fair game when Israel strikes back. Israel was actually quite restrained in their war with Hizbullah in 2006, generally avoiding areas not controlled by the organization in order not to harm the existing government, with whom they could work. There will be no such need for restraint next time, and, given that Hizbullah is dedicated to Israel’s destruction, I guarantee there will be a next time.

*Think about it. Iranian Revolutionary Guard operatives traveling under Lebanese passports with diplomatic immunity and avoiding sanctions. What could go wrong?

via Legal Insurrection

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

The next war in Lebanon will be a big one

**Posted by Phineas

The Lebanese government collapsed last week when the ministers belonging to Hizbullah, the Shiite terrorist organization founded by Iran and patronized by Syria (itself an Iranian client), withdrew from the Cabinet of Prime Minister Saad Hariri in what amounts to a soft coup. Regardless of the publicly stated reasons given by Hizbullah, the real reason is to create a crisis to distract from looming indictments that will, when unsealed, likely accuse the organization of assassinating PM Hariri’s father, then-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Michael Totten reports today that the government crisis in Lebanon has taken a turn for the worse, as Druze leader Walid Jumblatt has endorsed Hizbullah and the Syrian regime, likely to protect himself and his people. This renders a Hizbullah takeover all but inevitable, which, Totten believes, makes a war that will devastate Lebanon much more likely:

Everybody in Lebanon needs to understand something: Israel is more likely than ever to target the entire country during the next round of conflict. Not since 1948 has Israel fought a war against the Lebanese government; its wars in Lebanon have always been waged against terrorist organizations that were beyond the control of the state.

But if Hezbollah leads the government, the government will be a legitimate target. That’s how it works. Regime-change in Lebanon would have been an insane policy with Hariri’s March 14 coalition in charge, but it won’t be if Hezbollah is calling the shots.

The next war will almost certainly be bloodier than the last.

And why is that war inevitable, in my estimation? Because Hizbullah has never, ever been just about “justice” for the Shiites of Lebanon, who were traditionally among the country’s lower classes. Since its foundation by Iran, Hizbullah has been dedicated fanatically to jihad and the destruction of Israel. If they showed almost no restraint before, what makes anyone think they will in the future, once they control the levers of government and the country becomes an Iranian satrapy in all but name? The entire Lebanese state will be bent towards jihad against Israel — and against us. (See also)

If I lived in Lebanon, I would seriously consider taking the next plane out and never coming back.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

The return of the Axis of Evil

**Posted by Phineas

Michael Ledeen looks at events around the world and sees a coordinated message being sent to the US: we’re going to take you down:

Obama’s getting kicked around from Lebanon to China, but nobody seems to notice the pattern. Why shouldn’t we think that the near-simultaneous attacks — China’s humiliation of Defense Secretary Bob Gates, and Hezbollah’s (that is to say, Iran’s) takedown of the Lebanese government — were coordinated? Or do you believe that the remarkable simultaneity of the events is sheer happenstance?

The two key bad actors — Iran and the People’s Republic of China — are known to be in cahoots. And Syria is one of Iran’s closest allies (some might say it’s a virtual Iranian colony). All three have strong reasons to demonstrate that the United States has opted out of the geopolitical game, or has been effectively stymied by the three. That message is a lot stronger when it’s sent in two separate theaters at the same time than if it has to be inferred from events spread out over weeks and months. It’s like the terrorist strategy of blowing up two targets in separate countries at the same hour, as they did to American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 or on occasion during the fighting in Iraq.

There is every reason to believe that we’re looking at the return of the axis of evil. These are not random events; they’re part of a global pattern aimed at our domination and ultimate destruction. If you read the articles linked above, you’ll find the same “message to the world” in both cases.

But a more recent event, the revolution in Tunisia that’s scaring the pants off dictators across the region, points a way forward against this challenge — standing up again for the American idea, something President Obama seems incapable of doing:

On the other hand, we are the only truly revolutionary country in the world, and — as Obama once unfortunately put it — whether we like it or not, our very existence inspires a lot of the desire for democratic revolution. Many, perhaps even most, of the people in the streets of those countries, are our greatest weapon against the jihadis.

So we should support the revolutionaries. Obama has praised the bravery of the Tunisians, and although he has cravenly refused to do the same for the Iranian people (who, after all, have been fighting tyranny longer, and have paid a far greater price in blood and torture than the Tunisians), logic demands that he now do so. There is no convenient way for him to praise freedom fighters in one Middle East dictatorship and waffle in baffling generalizations elsewhere. Democratic revolution is ours, and we had best embrace it.

This support doesn’t require military action, which might in fact be counterproductive. But, as the last stages of the Cold War showed under Reagan, America as an ideal can be an inspiration to those fighting oppression, simply by being openly, unashamedly, and loudly in their corner at every opportunity and in every forum. As Natan Sharansky related in his The Case for Democracy, Reagan’s “evil empire” speech about the Soviet Union echoed through the gulags, inspiring political prisoners to persevere, emboldened by the knowledge they weren’t abandoned. In Poland, the moral support the United States provided was so instrumental to Solidarity’s survival and the fall of Communism there, that statues have been raised to President Reagan and public squares named for him.

The point, of course, is not that Obama should do this for the honors he might get, but that American moral leadership in the cause of human liberty truly has an effect and is a genuine weapon to be wielded against the tyrants in Beijing and Tehran who work against us. It’s about time he started.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Hezbollah Helen: Jews need to “go back to Poland and Germany” (UPDATE: THOMAS “APOLOGIZES”)

What I have to say about this really isn’t for public consumption (via @Rhetorican and other Twitter friends):

Surprised? Don’t be.

And this woman is still a member of the official WH Press Corps because …?

Update – 7:32 PM: Thomas posted this on her website (via @snarkandboobs):

Helen Thomas issued the following statement today: “I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon.”

Not.buying it.

Anti-Syria Christian cabinet minister assassinated in Lebanon

I wonder who did it? Well, not really, as it’s easy to guess, but here’s the story nevertheless:

BEIRUT, Lebanon – Prominent anti-Syrian Christian politician Pierre Gemayel was assassinated in a suburb of Beirut on Tuesday, his Phalange Party radio station and Lebanon’s official news agency reported.

The shooting will certainly heighten the political tension in Lebanon, where the leading Muslim Shiite party Hezbollah has threatened to topple the government if it does not get a bigger say in Cabinet decision-making.

Witnesses said Gemayel was shot in his car in Jdeideh, a Christian neighborhood, his constituency on the northern edge of Beirut. The witnesses said a car rammed his car from behind and then an assassin stepped out and shot him at point blank range.

Gemayel was rushed to a nearby hospital, according to the Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. and the Voice of Lebanon, the Phalange Party mouthpiece. The party radio later said he was dead, as did the National News Agency.

Gemayel is the third prominent figure in Lebanese politics to be assassinated in the past two years. Former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was killed in a massive car bombing in February 2005 and lawmaker and newspaper manager Gibran Tueni was killed in a car bombing in December

Allah’s on top of the story, as usual, and has the latest developments.

A summary of the Fauxtography scandal and why conservatives don’t trust the MSM

Good morning, ya’ll :)

This month has been a bad month for the embattled MSM in terms of their ‘trustworthiness’ (what little bit they had left). Mary Katharine Ham explains why, with links galore to the various fake/staged/doctored photo scandals that have been uncovered by conservative bloggers this month. She sums up why conservatives so distrust the MSM by pointing out E&P editor Greg Mitchell’s less than impressive defense of photojournalists in light of the fake/staged/doctored photo discoveries, and closes with links to fellow NC blogger Bob Owens aka The Confederate Yankee‘s exposure of Mitchell’s subtle changing of a 2003 piece he wrote that contained an admission that he faked news as a young reporter – an edit Mitchell made without notation.

Media defenders who continue to wonder why conservatives have such a strong distrust of the MSM shouldn’t have to wonder anymore after they read her column.

Speaking of MKH and Bob Owens, both will be at Carolina FreedomNet 2006 on October 7th in Greensboro, NC along with yours truly. Hope to see you there.

How terrorists use our own media against us – part II

Malkin’s all over the latest in fake photography coming out of the war between Israel and Hezbollah. Post snips won’t do it justice, so just click here to read all about it.

Here’s the key link from her post: The Red Cross Ambulance Incident: How the Media Legitimized an Anti-Israel Hoax and Changed the Course of a War. It’s a devastating and detailed analysis of how Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon have utilized the super-power of the media in an effort to help their ’cause.’

PM Update: Bob Owens slaps around the Greg Mitchell, the editor for Editor and Publisher. Mitchell has written a couple of pieces recently advocating that media should actively work to undermine President Bush, and defending war photographers against widespread blogosphere criticism.

Sidenote: Owens will be on the same blogging panel as yours truly (along with Wizbang‘s Lorie Byrd and Sam from Sam’s Notes) at the Carolina Freedomnet 2006 conference on October 7th in Greensboro, NC.

Fri AM Update I: *SIGH*:

Inquiry Opened Into Israeli Use of U.S. Bombs

Prior/Related: