Pompeo Should Treat Lebanon Like the State Sponsor of Terrorism It Has Become

March 23, 2019 Updated: March 24, 2019

Commentary

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Beirut on March 22 to press the Trump administration’s demand that the Lebanese government “ensure [its] resources and services … do not provide support to Hezbollah,” the Iranian-backed Shiite Islamist movement designated a terrorist organization under U.S. law since 1997.

Unfortunately, that ship has sailed. Hezbollah didn’t spend the past decade fighting—often violently—to bend Lebanon to its will for nothing. Nearly every branch of government provides support to Hezbollah in some significant way.

I’m not talking about turning a blind eye to its activities as Lebanese governments have always done, which is bad enough with the Middle East in turmoil. Hezbollah has been allowed in recent years to stockpile an estimated 130,000 rockets capable of striking Israel (nearly nine times the number it had during its last major war with Israel in 2006), construct tunnels underneath the Israeli-Lebanese border, and conduct an expeditionary military campaign in neighboring Syria.

But it goes beyond that. The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) operates as an auxiliary of Hezbollah, providing it with artillery support during cross-border operations against Syrian insurgents. LAF doctrine formally recognizes the so-called “resistance” as vital to the defense of Lebanon, and the LAF officer corps is steeped in pro-Hezbollah culture. The LAF even has a system of kangaroo military tribunals used to suppress criticism of its pro-Hezbollah orientation.

Lebanese troops have frequently blocked the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) from posting observers in areas where Hezbollah military activity is detected. “It is as if those decisions did not come from them,” a former UNIFIL liaison officer told the French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche in an interview last month.

Internal security forces are also in Hezbollah’s pocket. The head of the General Security Directorate, Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, praised Lebanon’s “resistance” last November in a speech on counterterrorism before foreign diplomats, saying “terrorism that terrorizes your enemy … is not only your right but your duty.” You can bet that he considers it his duty to protect and serve those who terrorize Lebanon’s “enemy.”

The Lebanese Foreign Ministry also does its part for Hezbollah. In addition to routinely lobbying the world not to impose sanctions on Hezbollah, Lebanese diplomats have pressured foreign governments not to extradite Hezbollah-linked suspects, such as Nader Mohamad Farhat and Ali Taan Fayad. Lebanese officials fiercely objected to Morocco’s March 2017 extradition of Lebanese-Belgian businessman Kassim Tajideen, whom the U.S. Treasury Department had long designated “an important financial contributor” to Hezbollah. Morocco’s subsequent relocation of its embassy from predominantly Shiite south Beirut to Christian east Beirut was rumored to have been forced by Lebanese officials in retaliation.

The Education Ministry’s licensing of Hezbollah’s Hitler-Youth-like Imam Mahdi Scouts alongside legitimate scouting organizations, censorship-on-demand of Western textbooks that portray Hezbollah in an unflattering light, and other concessions form an essential backdrop for Hezbollah’s indoctrination of the youth.

Iran has reportedly begun shipping sensitive missile components to Hezbollah on commercial aircraft landing at Beirut International Airport, so add Lebanon’s Civil Aviation Authority to the list of state institutions collaborating with the terrorist organization.

The next addition to the list will surely be the Ministry of Public Health, which was awarded to Hezbollah over U.S. objections in the new cabinet formed in late January 2019. Health Ministers have always used their office to provide free or cut-rate care to supporters of whoever put them there, and Jamil Jabak—once Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s personal physician—will do the same. Only in this case, the minister will be aiding and abetting a terrorist organization.

Pompeo’s determination to see an end to all this is admirable. But it’s not going to happen by asking nicely.

Ziad Abdelnour is CEO of the New York-based private equity firm Blackhawk Partners, chairman of the Financial Policy Council, and author of “Economic Warfare: Secrets of Wealth Creation in the Age of Welfare Politics” (2011). Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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