Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler
Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Wednesday, February 6.
1) Implicating Hezbollah
The New York Times reports Bulgaria Implicates Hezbollah in July Attack on Israelis. (more via memeorandum)
The announcement could force the European Union to reconsider
designating the Lebanon-based group as a terrorist organization and
cracking down on its fund-raising. That would upend Europe’s policy of
quiet tolerance of the group, which, in addition to operating schools
and social services, is an influential force in Middle East politics,
considers Israel an enemy and has extensive links with Iran.
The United States, too, urged the European Union to condemn Hezbollah.
John O. Brennan, President Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser and
his nominee to run the C.I.A., responded in a statement Tuesday: “We
call on our European partners as well as other members of the
international community to take proactive action to uncover Hezbollah’s
infrastructure and disrupt the group’s financing schemes and operational
networks in order to prevent future attacks.”
But countries including France and Germany have been wary of taking that
step, which could force confrontations with large numbers of Hezbollah
supporters living within their borders.
Last August the New York Times reported Despite Alarm by U.S., Europe Lets Hezbollah Operate Openly:
While the group is believed to operate all over the Continent,
Germany is a center of activity, with 950 members and supporters last
year, up from 900 in 2010, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency said
in its annual threat report. On Saturday, Hezbollah supporters and
others will march here for the annual Jerusalem Day event, a protest
against Israeli control of that city. Organizers told the Berlin police
that the event would attract 1,000 marchers, and that two
counterdemonstrations were also likely.
Hezbollah has maintained a low profile in Europe since the attacks of
Sept. 11, 2001, quietly holding meetings and raising money that goes to
Lebanon, where officials use it for an array of activities — building
schools and clinics, delivering social services and, Western
intelligence agencies say, carrying out terrorist attacks.
European security services keep tabs on the group’s political
supporters, but experts say they are ineffective when it comes to
tracking the sleeper cells that pose the most danger. “They have real,
trained operatives in Europe that have not been used in a long time, but
if they wanted them to become active, they could,” said Alexander
Ritzmann, a policy adviser at the European Foundation for Democracy in
Brussels, who has testified before Congress on Hezbollah.
Benjamin Weinthal reports in the Jerusalem Post, Bulgaria: Hezbollah behind Burgas attack:
Hezbollah’s number 2 leader Naim Qassem rejected the British
separation of his organization into political and military wings. He
told the LA Times in 2009, “The same leadership that directs the
parliamentary and government work also leads jihad actions in the
struggle against Israel.”
This is an important admission because a lot of commentary will attempt
to differentiate between Hezbollah's "military" and "political" wings.
The Washington Post calls for the European Union to respond to Hezbollah’s attack in Bulgaria:
Since then the Quds Force has, among other things, plotted to kill
the Saudi ambassador to the United States in Washington and the U.S.
ambassador to Azerbaijan, and it has attacked an Israeli diplomat’s wife
in India. Hezbollah has attempted attacks on Israeli tourists in
Cyprus, Greece and Thailand as well as in Bulgaria. Mr. Levitt says that
more than 20 terror attacks by Hezbollah or the Iranian force were
detected between May 2011 and July 2012; fortunately, almost all failed
or were disrupted.
Unfortunately, the editorial implies that Israel has been killing Iranian scientists, a supposition that's disputed by Michael Ledeen. On the positive side, the editorial cites Matthew Levitt's HIZBALLAH and the QODS FORCE
in IRAN’S SHADOW WAR with the WEST. (.pdf)
The United States, which long ago designated Hezbollah as a terrorist
organization, has been pressing European leaders to do the same so that
the group’s funds in European banks and other financial assets can be
targeted. Several governments, led by France, have resisted; they worry
that sanctions could further destabilize Lebanon or subject European
peacekeepers in the south of that country to reprisals. Bulgaria’s
findings should end the debate. Inaction would mean accepting that
Europe can be a free-fire zone for Iran and its proxies.
IN JANUARY 2010, the Qods Force—the elite unit of Iran’s Islamic
Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)— decided that it and Hizballah, its
primary terrorist proxy, would embark on a new campaign of violence
targeting not only Israel but U.S. and other Western targets as well.
Since then, the two organizations have been cooperating but also
competing to launch attacks across the globe. What is particularly
striking is how amateurish the actions of both organizations have been:
targets were poorly chosen and assaults carried out with gross
incompetence. But as the groups brush off the cobwebs and
professionalize their operations, this sloppy tradecraft could quickly
be replaced by operational success. Indeed, one particularly odd effort
might have succeeded were it not for the fortuitous placement of an
undercover U.S. government informant: the case of an Iranian-American
used-car salesman who pleaded guilty in October 2012 to conspiring with
Iranian agents to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States.
Related commentary and details from Honest Reporting, This Ongoing War, Israel Matzav, Elder of Ziyon, Eugene Kontorovich and The Lid.
2) Not liking Hagel
Time Magazine features an ugly article Just who do they representAt Hagel Hearing, Concern for Israel Tops U.S. Troops in Combat by Brandon Friedman (via memeorandum):
It’s difficult to interpret this message any other way: the Senate
Armed Services Committee—particularly its Republican membership—is more
concerned with the apparent American defense secretary’s relationship
with Israel than with the future of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the fate
of U.S. troops engaged in both locations.
We are approaching a host of critical and delicate decisions on how many
— and how fast — U.S. troops should be pulled out of Afghanistan. Yet,
after more than a decade at war there — and nearly 2,100 U.S. lives lost
— the people charged with overseeing the operation seem no longer
While Israel is a strategic ally in a precarious situation (the
committee also frequently brought up Iran), at best, this sends a
disheartening message to the American men and women serving down range,
under hostile fire. After 11 years of fighting, committee members seem
to have little concern for what the likely incoming defense secretary
thinks of the situation.
If Hagel had acquitted himself well, maybe there'd be an argument here.
And surely how Hagel would deal with Iran is important to know too.
Barry Rubin recounts how the question about containing Iran went:
Here’s the primary example — Hagel said: “I support the president’s
strong position on containment.” Now, the truth is that there’s nothing
wrong with that. He did not say the president’s position advocating
containment of Iran. Contrary to the way that many writers are
portraying it, what he said wasn’t incorrect, just ambiguous. He could
easily have recovered. Then, some of his handlers asked him to clarify.
What did he do?
Dorothy Rabinowitz made similar observations about Senator Hagel in the Wall Street Journal.
I was just handed a note that I misspoke … that I said I supported
the president’s position on containment. If I said that, I meant to say
that we don’t have a position on containment.
Now this management alone is enough to bar him from handling one of
the most important and complex jobs in the world. Let’s count the ways:
– Never admit that you’ve just been told you were wrong! He should
have pocketed the note without mentioning it and simply added to his
statement (see below). What he did instead is on the level of stupidity
of a television host being shown a cue card reading: “Wrap up the show,
moron!”, and then reading that aloud to the live audience. — He should
have said something like this: “I do not want any ambiguity in my clear
statements of support for the president and for a tough policy on Iran. I
support the president’s position of asserting that containment is
insufficient and that our goal is to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear
weapons, leaving all options open for doing so.”
He doesn’t just not know the facts, he doesn’t know how to be a
high-level official. He doesn’t just not know the details of
international affairs, his thought is simply not coherent. And unlike
Obama and Kerry, he doesn’t know how to hide his radicalism behind
While the critics of Hagel's critics claim that the campaign against
Hagel is primarily about Israel and often go as far as Friedman in
suggesting that there is an unseemly aspect to Hagel's critics on this
count. On the other hand Hagel's critics seem to like largely because of
his past statements about Israel! It certainly isn't due to his savvy.
But are Hagel's (pre-confirmation coversion) views on Israel correct?
Did his views on Israel show that he put American interests first?
Michael Doran writes in Hagel’s misreading of how to treat an ally that the answer to both questions is "no."
Realists in the Hagel mold find this episode exhilarating.
Eisenhower, they say, pursued the national interest without concern for
“sentimental” attachments, to say nothing of domestic lobbies. When
applied to the present, the analogy calls for dealing sharply with
Israel. The United States, the implication goes, must not allow its
client to drag it into conflict with Iran. Instead, Obama must treat
Benjamin Netanyahu with the same grit that Ike flashed at Eden.
But this analogy omits a key fact: Ike came to regret those policies.
“Years later,” Richard Nixon wrote in the 1980s, “I talked to Eisenhower
about Suez; he told me it was his major foreign policy mistake.” By
1958, Ike himself had realized his error and reversed course.
Labels: anti-Semitism, Bulgaria, Chuck Hagel, designated terror organization, Dwight Eisenhower, European Union, Hezbullah, Middle East Media Sampler, Soccer Dad