Considering that hundreds of thousands of Indians were converted to Shi'ite Islam and that Ciudad Del Este in Paraguay is a known Hezbollah base this article is a bit late in coming. Iran is not a potential threat, but an actual one. From Janes in 2001(!):
THERE has been a long-standing belief that the southern Lebanese Islamic militant group, Hezbollah, has established training camps located in or around the Isla de Margarita island off the northern coast of Venezuela, northwest Brazil, and in the Paraguayan-Brazilian-Argentine tri-border region in South America. While it has never been firmly established that these training camps exist, Hezbollah cell activity in Isla de Margarita and the town of Ciudad del Este in the tri-border region in Paraguay has been documented. More recently, the focus has been on Ciudad del Este, as Venezuela has been able to significantly reduce the activities of Hezbollah cells within its borders
Of course, since then, things have happened in Venezuela too. It is not really likely that President Chavez reduced the influence of Hezbollah
there. That is not why he was elected.
It is late in coming, but better late than never - if only someone is listening.
By Juan Castro Olivera
MIAMI (AFP) — Iran's growing influence in Latin America is a "potential risk" to the region, the newly-appointed head of the US Southern Command, General Douglas Fraser has warned.
Fraser, who on Thursday takes charge of US military operations in 31 countries across Latin America and the Caribbean, expressed "real concern" about the Islamic Republic's links with "extremist organizations" in the region.
"The real concern is not a nation-to-nation interaction, it is the connection that Iran has with extremist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah and the potential risk that that could bring to this region," Fraser told journalists ahead of taking up the post.
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has forged close ties with several leftist Latin American leaders in recent years, most notably Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Cuban leader Raul Castro.
Commenting on Iran's ties to extremist groups in the region, Fraser said: "it is a concern, and it is an issue we will continue to monitor for any increasing activity."
He cited Lebanon-based Hezbollah, which has links to Iran and is accused of being behind a suicide bombing that killed 200 US marines in Beirut in 1983 and the 1996 bombing of the Khobar towers in Saudi Arabia, which killed more than 20 people.
The group has denied playing a role in those attacks and the bombing of Israeli and Jewish targets in Buenos Aires.
Fraser, who was Deputy Commander at US Pacific Command, said the illicit trade in arms drugs and people was worrying, and indicated it would be the focus of his work.
"The major concern is the illicit trafficking and the impact that that is having in the security and the stability especially through the northern part of South America through Central America and the Caribbean and through Mexico and the United States."
He added the US needed to ensure links between narco-terrorism and illicit trafficking do not become more pronounced.
Fraser played down talk of a conventional threat in the hemisphere, but said Venezuela's military stance was concerning.
"I'm concern with the military build-up in Venezuela because I don't understand the threat that they see," he said.
"I don't see a conventional military threat in the region. So I don't see why they see a need to build their military to the point that they are pursuing."
Fraser, who lived in Colombia for three years as a teenager, said Southern Command would continue to help that country combat leftist guerillas like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia -- the FARC -- and nacro-terrorist groups.
"The FARC is not defeated and we need to continue that effort. That's been a focus for a very specific reason," he said.
"But Southern Command has been engaged with all the militaries within the region, with the exception of Cuba," he said.
"My intent is not to focus on one nation or the other because it is together that we build that capacity."
Fraser is the first US Air Force officer to take the helm of the Southern Command.
He replaces Admiral James Stavridis, who has been tapped to become the NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.
Labels: Hezbollah, Iran, Terror
Continued (Permanent Link)
Is any comment really needed here? It speaks for itself.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday congratulated the family of notorious Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar , who was freed on Wednesday with four Hezbollah guerillas as part of a prisoner exchange with Israel.
Abbas welcomed the swap between Israel and the Lebanon-based militant group, and in a statement congratulated the families of the "liberated prisoners," issued during a visit to Malta.
Kuntar has been imprisoned in Israel since 1979. He was convicted of one of the grisliest attacks in Israeli history - killing three people including, a man in front of his 4-year-old daughter, and then killing the girl herself by crushing her skull.
In Gaza, meanwhile, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Wednesday hailed Kuntar as "a great hero" and said Israel's decision to release him and four Hezbollah fighters had undermined Israel's policy of not freeing "prisoners with blood on their hands."
Haniyeh also branded the exchange of prisoners as "a victory" for Hezbollah and armed resistance against Israel.
"The Israelis should pay the price for the release of Gilad Shalit," Haniya said in a statement in central Gaza, referring to the Israel Defense Forces soldier kidnapped by Gaza militants in June, 2006 cross-border raid.
"It is hard to see thousands of prisoners still held in Israeli jails," He added.
People celebrated in the streets of the Hamas-controlled coastal territory, and handed out sweets in support of Hezbollah.
"Today is a great victory for the resistance movements and to Hezbollah, said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. "It shows that the only successful way to free the prisoners is by kidnapping soldiers."
Labels: Hezbollah, Israel-2, Lebanon, Palestinians, Terror
Continued (Permanent Link)
This account of the Hezbollah victory in Lebanon, Armed and Dangerous, like many others, attempts to be optimistic about the final outcome: Hezbollah will be exposed as a group that is not really interested in fighting Israel so much as in taking over Lebanon. By using their arms against other Arabs, they forfeited their legitimacy and will eventually fail.
David Kenner writes in the New Republic article:
But by turning their weapons on their fellow countrymen earlier this month, Hezbollah has violated the "grand bargain" with the Lebanese public that has allowed them to remain militarized. And by targeting Sunni areas of Beirut and Druze villages in the Chouf, Hezbollah has revealed itself to be, at its heart, a sectarian militia after all, provoking new hostility among non-Shia Lebanese. "The street is very angry about what has happened," says Yehya Jaber, a journalist for The Future, a newspaper owned by Sunni leader Saad al-Hariri whose offices were ransacked and set aflame during the clashes. "No matter what the politicians do, this is a temporary peace."
If Hassan Nasrallah had kept his weapons aimed solely at Israel instead of involving them in Lebanon's sectarian struggle, he may still have won Rabih's grudging respect. But local threats weigh heavier on his mind than geopolitical concerns. "It's two different worlds," Rabih explains, gesturing towards Barbour, no more than a minute's stroll away. "There is a deep hatred between these neighborhoods now."
The resentment is even deeper among the few Sunnis who live in Barbour. "The army tried to come in [during the first day of clashes], but Amal humiliated them and told them to leave," says Sana, a Sunni shopkeeper whose son had to change his identifiably Sunni name to something more generic. "I used to have a picture of [assassinated former prime minister and Sunni leader] Rafik Hariri in my home," she continues, lamenting the need to adjust to life under Shia domination. "But I took it down when the fighting began, because I live next to one of the bodyguards of [Amal leader] Nabih Berri."
As the terror of last month's attacks subsides, the fear of Hezbollah among Lebanon's Sunni, Christian, and other minority communities is quickly turning to anger. By alienating the other sects, Hezbollah's short-term military victory seems to be turning into a long-term threat to its weapons and its autonomy. Their violation of the unspoken bargain of their militarization last month is a significant turning point in Lebanon's precarious sectarian balance--a move that has already started to undermine Hezbollah's special status among the Lebanese population.
Losing their weapons would be a major--and possibly fatal--blow to the group. Without its weapons, Hezbollah would probably lose the support of its Iranian sponsors (whose primary goal is to use the group as a front against Israel), making it difficult for the organization to maintain its patronage networks, and thus allowing space for new Shia leaders to emerge.
"It is difficult for me to imagine Hezbollah [surviving very long] as a toothless organization," Safa says. In light of this month's violence, that day may now be closer than ever before.
It might happen. The flaws in the above logic are legion however. Hassan Nasrallah and the Hezbollah are not stupid and they understood exactly how far they could go. They have engineered the takeover in such a way that from now on they no longer need force. They have veto power over any government decision according to the terms of the agreement. Therefore, it is almost inconceivable that they will be induced to lay down their arms. Moreover, while their might be a lot of dissatisfaction with the Hezbollah in Lebanon, this is meaningless unless it can be translated into armed force. How many divisions has Future TV? None. It was shut down in fact by Hezbollah thugs. In the showdown, the army sided with Hezbollah, working out a near-bloodless capitulation to Hezbollah demands, that only required that they remove their troops from the streets. Saad Hariri had no say in the matter. He was a prisoner in his own house, and his Future TV was put off the air. As Hezbollah had won all their demands, there was no reason for them to keep their troops in the streets. The Qatar agreement simply put the seal of approval on the Hezbollah victory. Moreover, Kenner ignores the huge capacity of Lebanese and their politicians to delude themselves. One has only to read the Beirut Daily Star to understand that a significant element of Sunni Arabs and Christians are willing to make believe that the Hezbollah are really working for the unity of Lebanon and that the Qatar agreement is a "good thing." This is no doubt preferable to opposing the Hezbollah, which has often proven to be very bad for the health of journalists and politicians.
Hebollah has managed to take power by assassinating its most important enemies and then using just enough armed force to make clear who is boss. It is far more likely that if Hezbollah ever "surrenders its arms" it will be because its own troops have been absorbed in, and have come to dominate the Lebanese army. At that point, there will be nothing left of Lebanese sovereignty. The issue of popular support doesn't matter. Islamic Republics like Iran are not dependent on the support of a democratic electorate. They maintain their rule at gun point. The AK-47 and the explosive device, rather than the ballot and the public opinion polls, will decide the future of Lebanon, just as they have now decided the Qatar "agreement."
Labels: Hezbollah, Iran, Islam, Islamism, Lebanon
Continued (Permanent Link)
According to the headline: Lebanese Leaders Reach Agreement Ending Crisis
That remains to be seen. Here is the story from Naharnet:
Lebanese leaders reached an agreement in Doha early Wednesday to end a long-running political crisis that nearly drove the country to a new civil war.
"An agreement has been reached," between the pro-government majority and the Hizbullah-led opposition, MP Ali Hasan Khalil told reporters.
The agreement calls for electing a president immediately, formation of a government based on a 16-11-3 formula (16 for the majority, 11 for the opposition and 3 to be chosen by the president), adoption of the Qada-based 1960 electoral law such as Beirut is divided into three constituencies ( 5 -4 - 10) for one time only.
"We expect a (parliamentary) vote to elect a president on Thursday or Friday," Khalil said ahead of a Wednesday deadline for the Doha talks to wrap up.
Another opposition delegate who requested not to be named had said earlier that a joint committee formed to iron out differences over a decisive electoral law for parliamentary polls due next year had been "making final touches to a deal."
Lebanese rivals agreed last year on electing army chief Gen. Michel Suleiman as a successor to Damascus protégé Emile Lahoud, who stepped down at the end of his term in November.
But they have differed over shares in a proposed unity government and the electoral law.
The talks hung in the balance Tuesday after Qatari hosts announced a Wednesday deadline to receive responses to two proposals put forward by an Arab ministerial committee led by Qatar.
Qatar had put forward a compromise proposal calling for an immediate parliamentary vote to elect Suleiman as president and the formation of a unity government while postponing talks on a new electoral law, a government delegate said earlier.
The Syria- and Iran-backed opposition refused to put off discussion of the disputed electoral law, and insisted on getting a "blocking minority" in a proposed unity government.
According to the government delegate, a second proposal suggested a return to an electoral law adopted in 1960, which is no longer in force. That would require amendments to disputed constituency boundaries in the capital Beirut -- the bedrock of support for Sunni parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri.
Rival parties aim to secure as many as possible of the capital's 19 seats in the 128-member parliament.
Both proposals also offered the opposition the long-demanded blocking minority, the same delegate said.
The 18-month-old political deadlock erupted into bitter sectarian fighting earlier this month that saw 65 people killed and during which Hizbullah and its Shiite allies briefly seized Sunni areas of mainly Muslim west Beirut.(AFP-Naharnet)
Beirut, 21 May 08, 07:05
Labels: Hezbollah, Lebanon
Continued (Permanent Link)
According to a recent survey, Hassan Nasrallah is the most popular figure in the Arab world, and with good reason. Hezbollah's great victory in the summer of 2006 has borne many fruit. Lebanese have buried over a thousand dead, though most were Hezbollah so that was not all bad news. Lebanese have not finished repairing billions of dollars worth of damage from the war. But the best fruit of victory is the gift that keeps on giving - the war scared the tourists away. Lebanese are very grateful to Hezbollah because, as the Daily Star headline tells us :
BEIRUT: The occupancy rate in Beirut hotels was 35 percent in 2007, down from 50 percent in 2006, said the benchmark annual survey of the Middle East hotel sector by Ernst & Young, as reported by Byblos Bank's Lebanon This Week. The occupancy rate in Beirut was the lowest among 19 markets in the region in 2007, as it was in the previous year, and Beirut posted the steepest annual drop in the region, the report said.
The survey said average rate per room at Beirut hotels was $140 last year, ranking the capital's hotels as the 12th-most expensive in the region ahead of Al-Ain in the United Arab Emirates, Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, Amman in Jordan and all markets in Egypt.
The average rate per room at Beirut hotels declined by 19 percent year-on-year and posted the second-steepest drop among all markets in the region after Amman, which declined by 28 percent year-on-year.
The average rate per room in Beirut came below the regional average of $196.5, which jumped by 17 percent from $168 in 2006.
Occupancy rates at Beirut hotels were 26.4 percent in January 2007 and 27.8 percent in February, and then rose to 41 percent in March and 56.2 percent in April before dropping to 47 percent in May and 21 percent in June. It increased to 41 percent in July and 47 percent in August, but remained below the normal rates during the peak summer months of June to August.
Occupancy dropped further to 37 percent in September and rose slightly to 40 percent in October before declining to 34 percent in November. But occupancy increased to 47 percent in December due to the peak holiday season, but still came below traditional rates for the time of the year.
Further, revenues per available room were $49 in Beirut in 2007, down from $87 in the previous year, ranking it in 17th place in the region, ahead of only Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt. Beirut's revenues were down 43.8 percent from the previous year, posting the sharpest decline among the 19 regional markets, compared to a rise of 16.8 percent across the region.
Beirut, Amman, Doha and Medina were the only markets to report revenue-per-room declines last year. Dubai posted the highest occupancy rate in the Middle East at 88 percent in 2007, while Kuwait posted the region's highest average room rate at $535. - The Daily Star
Hezbollah is also responsible for the permanent deadlock in Lebanese politics, which has left Lebanon without a president. No wonder everyone in the Arab world loves Hassan Nasrallah!
Labels: Hezbollah, Lebanon, Terror
Continued (Permanent Link)
Iranian Website: Hizbullah Planning To Assassinate "Senior Israeli Security Figure"
The Iranian website Rajanews, which is identified with supporters of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said that according to knowledgeable sources, Hizbullah is planning an assassination operation against "a senior Israeli security figure."
The website added that according to the operation's planners, if Hizbullah does not respond appropriately to the assassination of senior Hizbullah commander Imad Mughniya, "Israel will have the insolence to carry out further assassinations."
Source: Rajanews, Iran, February 17, 2008MEMRI
Posted at: 2008-02-17
Continued (Permanent Link)
This is my take on the Winograd report at ZioNation Web log.
The long awaited Winograd report on the Second Lebanon War (see text of press conference on Winograd findings) has finally arrived. The suspense, if there was any, has ended, not with a bang, but a whimper. The public part of the report noted strategic failures at the military and political levels, but the report is so vaguely worded that everyone can make any claim they wish.
We should put the failure of the Second Lebanon war in context and understand its significance. Failures of individual operations are nothing new and plague every army. IDF has never been immune from such failures, from the Israel War of Independence and throughout each campaign, successful or otherwise.The political decisions made after every war have always likewise not been uniformly optimal, and the decision to go to war has sometimes been questionable. However, never before has Israel seen such a combination of failures at every level, inflated expectations, incompetent military strategy, failure to protect civilians, low morale, failure of national purpose, decisions that disregarded the value of the lives of soldiers and diplomatic and public relations bungling. The Israel government tried to match the most powerful army in the Middle East against an enemy whose main weapon is his mouth, and the mouth won.
The report itself is a continuation of the failures of the Lebanon war and the political reaction to the report is a further continuation of those failures. The report was obviously tailored to serve political interests and protect those in power, at least in the public version. The politicians are each interpreting the report in terms of their own interests. Hassan Nasrallah of the Hezbollah joined forces with Likud and other Israeli opposition leaders in claiming that the report indicates Olmert is a failure and has lost all credibility. Kadima party members insist that the report exonerates Ehud Olmert.
Labels: Hezbollah, IDF, Israel, Israel-2, Lebanon, Politics, Security, Terror
Continued (Permanent Link)
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