Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Axis of Terrorism

The next series of posts will be an attempt to outline situation in the mid-east. Israeli ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman has described an Axis of Terrorism consisting of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas. In this post, let’s meet Hesbollah.

Hezbollah was founded in 1982 by Iran to fight the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon. The European Union and the United States government consider Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization. In 1983, Hezbollah was responsible for bombing the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, killing 63, and for a truck bomb which killed 241 U.S. Marines in their barracks, also in Beirut. After this, the United States pulled her forces from Lebanon.

In 1990, the Lebanese Civil war ended with the implementation of the Taif Agreement which called for the disbanding of all militias, including Hezbollah. Though the other militias did disband, Hezbollah refused to do so, claiming that continued Israeli presence in Southern Lebanon justified its defiance.

On May 24, 2000, Israel completed the withdrawal of its forces from southern Lebanon in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 425. On June 16th 2001, the Security Council, endorsed the Secretary-General’s conclusion that, as of that date, Israel had fully complied with Security Council resolution 425. Unfortunately, throughout the Arab world, this was viewed as a victory for Hezbollah.

UN Security Council Resolution 1559, adopted on September 2nd 2004 re-iterated the Taif Agreement, and called “upon all remaining foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon” and "for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias.” Syria withdrew, but Hezbollah refused to comply.

It would be a mistake to under-estimate the support that Hezbollah has among the Lebanese. Hezbollah provides social services in Lebanon, and 23 members of Hezbollah serve in the 128-member Lebanese parliament. As mentioned above, Hezbollah gets credit for forcing Israel out of southern Lebanon. On the other hand, Syria has withdrawn from Lebanon, and many, if not most, Lebanese resent the presence of a proxy for Syrian and Iran in their country.

Hezbollah has frequently launched cross-border operations against Israel, often to divert attention from criticism of its state sponsors, Iran and Syria. The present provocation – the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers on July 12th – certainly has overshadowed the G8’s condemnation of Iran’s nuclear program, and the decision to go to the Security Counsel to seek sanctions. Also, Hezbollah acknowledges its support for Hamas, another terrorist organization that is based in the Gaza. Hizbollah’s aggressive acts serve to draw attention away from Hamas’s kidnapping of an IDF soldier earlier this month.

There is fear in Israel that the captured soldiers will be transferred to Iran. To protect against this, a blockade has been imposed, and the airport in Beirut has been bombed and rendered inoperative.

Naturally, the government of Lebanon objects most strenuously. It has issued a statement that it had no pre-knowledge of the Hezbollah aggression, and that it does not condone it.

Meanwhile, scores of Ketusha rockets, manufactured in Iran, have rained down upon Israel, launched from Lebanese territory. For this reason, Israel holds Lebanon responsible, though her reaction has been targeted at Hezbollah targets.

Future posts will examine the role of Hamas in precipitating the current crisis.

No comments: