Lebanon-based Hizballah began calling off its dogs in some sectors of Beirut on Saturday. It had been nearly four days since the Shiia terrorist organization — trained and financed by Iran and operationally supported by Syria — launched a series of deadly attacks against the pro-Western government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
The attacks were in response to a government crackdown on Hizballah’s surveillance of civilian airport operations (discovered, according to my sources, by German intelligence), as well as an attempt by the government to shut down the terrorist organization’s vast telecommunications network in Lebanon.
By Friday, Hizballah had seized much of west Beirut, shutting down the air and seaports, and nearly plunging the Mediterranean nation into a full-blown civil war.
Over the weekend, I was in frequent contact with several sources in Beirut and elsewhere, among them Hizballah’s former chief of security, Al Sayyed Mohammad Ali El Husseini, a high-ranking Shiia cleric who some in Lebanon say was being groomed to replace Hizballah’s secretary general Hassan Nasrallah before the two split over ideological differences.
Speaking Friday evening by telephone from his home in Dahiyeh — Hizballah’s multi-block stronghold near Beirut International Airport — Husseini described the events of the past several days. “It’s quiet here now, and I hear no shooting in the distance,” he told HUMAN EVENTS. “Much of Beirut has fallen to Hizballah. They have surrounded the government buildings, and they have full control of the airport and the seaport at this time.”
Hizballah has long-been well-armed and strongly positioned in Dahiyeh. But according to Husseini, the weapons (AK-47 assault rifles, light machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades) used by the terrorist group in the latest series of clashes were staged at various storage depots throughout Beirut: primarily warehouses. Other sources have reported weapons being prepositioned in mosques and private homes.
“The fighters left Dahiyeh in cars and on motorcycles, and picked up their weapons near their planned positions,” Husseini said.
The manner in which Hizballah’s militiamen took to the streets was “very well-executed,” Nadim Koteich, a television news anchor and talk-show host with Lebanon’s Future News, tells HUMAN EVENTS. “We had been hearing rumors of it for months, but we thought it was only a rumor.”
Koteich, a Shiia, was vacationing with his wife in Washington, D.C. when fighting erupted in Lebanon on Wednesday. When we spoke to him Saturday, he was stranded in the U.S., unable to reenter his country.
“I should be back home with my colleagues,” he says, adding that his colleagues have been threatened with death by Hizballah.
“This is not fighting,” Koteich says, “Fighting requires two opposing sides. This is nothing more than a series of terrorist attacks against the country, and that is something the international media needs to correct in its reporting. The [Lebanese] army has done virtually nothing to stop them, nor has the police.”
Problem is, a sizeable percentage of the Lebanese armed forces is Shiia: So there is a potentially substantial number of the rank-and-file who are either Hizballah or at least Hizballah sympathizers. And many members of the pro-democracy Cedars Revolution have said there are far too many pro-Syrian generals currently serving in the army. Consequently, a strident move by Lebanese forces against Hizballah could risk fracturing the army.
Then there is the media problem: Ibrahim Gemayel, a pro-democracy activist living in Christian east Beirut, tells HUMAN EVENTS, not all the reports coming out of Lebanon have been accurate. “Hizballah controls more than half of the media here” he says. “And all the official media may well be influenced by Hizballah.”
Koteich adds, “Hizballah has infiltrated and manipulated much of the international media in Lebanon. That’s what they do, and they have the money to do it.”
Husseini says Hizballah’s four primary objectives at this point are to make a grand show of military force, determine what the U.S. response will be, ultimately achieve a complete collapse of the Lebanese government (parliament has been unable to elect a president in multiple attempts), and eventually establish a Hizballah-controlled Lebanon.
“Hizballah is ready for Western intervention, especially the United States,” Husseini says. “President Bush always says he is standing behind President Siniora, so where are the Americans now? Hizballah wants to know.”
If the U.S. or the international community were to intervene militarily “that would be a gift to Hizballah,” Husseini says. “An intervention would make this like Iraq, luring other Jihadists to come here.
Husseini adds, the recent fighting in Lebanon serves as a message from Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei telling the West not to pressure Iran to abandon its ongoing nuclear programs, and to abandon any hope of establishing democracy in the Middle East. “Lebanon is a post office for this message,” Husseini says. “And if the West doesn’t comply, Iran will do the same thing in Bahrain, Kuwait, and any other country where there is an American presence in the region.”
Iran my try, many members of the Lebanon’s pro-democracy movement tell me. But that, they say, should never be a reason for the U.S. to abandon the quest for democracy in Lebanon. Nor should the West ever stop short of the goal of disarming all militias including Hizballah in Lebanon (already called for under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701).
“Lebanon is the center of gravity for democracy in the Middle East,” says Tom Harb, secretary general of the International Committee for UN Security Council Resolution 1559. “Hizballah in Lebanon is rapidly becoming like the Taliban in Afghanistan, and if the West does not intervene now and put a stop to this, it will become too costly to do so in the future.”
As of this writing, Saturday evening (Sunday morning in Lebanon), isolated clashes have been reported east of the Lebanese capital and in the northern part of the country. And Hizballah, still heavily armed, vows to continue “civil disobedience” in the wake of the Beirut withdrawals.
Asked if the elusive Nasrallah is himself in Lebanon at the moment, Husseini says, “yes.” Where exactly? “I don’t know,” he adds.