|Lebanon’s pro-democracy leadership shocked by comments of UN commander|
|Written by W. THOMAS SMITH JR.|
|Saturday, 16 August 2008|
Leaders of Lebanon’s pro-democracy movement are incensed over – what they contend are – ill-informed comments made this week by Italian Army Major General Claudio Graziano, senior commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), regarding Hezbollah’s weapons in the southernmost region of the Lebanese state where most UNIFIL troops are positioned.
In south Lebanon – as in other regions of the country where the Iranian-backed Shiia terrorist army holds ground and conducts paramilitary exercises – Hezbollah has defiantly refused to disarm.
According to UN Security Council resolutions 1559 and 1701, all “militias” in Lebanon are to be disbanded. And 1701 specifically says, “all armed groups in Lebanon” are “required” to disarm, and “there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese State.”
Hezbollah’s refusal to disarm is officially based on its argument that it is a “resistance” force, therefore it should maintain its arms. That’s what Hezbollah, its supporters, and apologists say. Those of us who have been deeply involved in the development of analysis on Hezbollah understand the group’s “clinging to its guns” actually stems from more sinister motives.
And fresh on everyone’s minds is Hezbollah’s deadly armed-offensive launched against the Lebanese government and its citizens in May of this year when the government made decisions Hezbollah didn’t approve of. The result: The government caved, granted Hezbollah all sorts of concessions – including veto power on Lebanese government decisions (meaning Iran and Syria, Hezbollah’s big-money benefactors, now have covert veto power in Lebanon), and now Hezbollah has wormed its way into the Defense Ministry as a sort of “official” element of the legitimate Lebanese military.
All of this makes one wonder what is in the drinking-water there that is causing every legitimate military leader in Lebanon – including multinational commanders – to cozy up to one of the most brutal terrorist organizations on earth.
Let’s not forget the words of U.S. Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff who warned in May:
Nevertheless, according to the Jerusalem Post on Friday, Graziano said “excellent cooperation” existed between UNIFIL forces and Hezbollah militiamen, and “apart from UN troops, Lebanese soldiers and [local] hunters, no one is armed south of the Litani River.”
This is absolutely untrue, says retired Lebanese Army Col. Charbel Barakat, a former infantry brigade commander who today directs the office of counterterrorism for the pro-democracy World Council of the Cedars Revolution. “UNIFIL is getting intelligence from the Lebanese Army, and Lebanese Army intelligence officers are collaborators with Hezbollah,” so UNIFIL’s intelligence is distorted.
Barakat adds, “Hezbollah is not arming openly” and “UNIFIL is not allowed to check everywhere.”
Tom Harb, secretary general of The International Lebanese Committee for UN Security Council Resolution 1559, says he both “astonished” and “disturbed” by Graziano’s comments.
In a letter (which we just obtained) drafted and sent this morning to the Italian mission at the UN, all UN Security Council members, and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Harb writes:
Harb adds, according to the Committee’s intelligence sources, that the leadership of Lebanon’s Army Intelligence in the south is coordinating with UNIFIL, and that the Army is also sharing intelligence with Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah.
“Let us not forget that Nasrallah has openly stated that Hezbollah maintains its weapons – no matter whether they are located south or north of the Litani River – and will use them ‘anytime we [Hezbollah] wish,’” says Harb. ”Therefore, there is no indication that Hezbollah has been disarmed.”
On the contrary, according to the letter, “intelligence indicates” Hezbollah has been conducting a massive rearming and a re-strengthening of its forces south of the Litani River since the end of the Israeli-Hezbollah war in 2006.
“Hezbollah is also terrorizing Lebanese civilians in south Lebanon often within eyesight and earshot of UNIFIL troops, and UNIFIL never initiates any investigation whatsoever,” says Harb. “For instance, when Hezbollah attacked across the country in May 2008, the organization’s fighters ransacked the offices of the mufti of Tyre and Jabal Amel. UNIFIL did absolutely nothing to either prevent this act or investigate it after the fact.”
According to UN mandate, UNIFIL is responsible for assisting the Lebanese armed forces in establishing an area between the Israeli border and the Litani River which is “free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons” other than those of the Lebanese government and UNIFIL.
Graziano says this mandate is being followed. But such a statement seems every bit as hollow as the so-called UN peacekeeping force under the general’s command.
— Visit W. Thomas Smith Jr. online at uswriter.com.
NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not represent the opinions of World Defense Review and its affiliates. WDR accepts no responsibility whatsoever for the accuracy or inaccuracy of the content of this or any other story published on this website. Copyright and all rights for this story (and all other stories by the author) are held by the author.
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