US cohabitation with Hezbollah's Terrorism
Dr. Abdulaziz Sager*
(June 19, 2013)
In mid-December 2012, President Obama in an interview with ABC's Barbara Walters tried to explain US policy toward the Syrian revolution, saying "Not everybody who's participating on the ground in fighting Assad are people who we are comfortable with." This comment was a direct reference to the US government's decision to designate the Syrian rebel group "al-Nusrah Front" as a terrorist organization. It was amazing how fast and efficient the US and European counter-terrorism authorities were in discovering that the al-Nusrah Front is a terrorist group affiliated to al-Qaeda that deserves swift punishment. Most Arab governments, and even the general public, raised no objection to the US Administration's decision. Yet many thought that, considering the criminal behavior of the Assad regime, evidence of al-Nusrah practicing terrorism was not sufficient or convincing. It would appear that as a Sunni Jihadi militia organization al-Nusrah was predestined to be bran ded as a terrorist group by western governments.
The debate over whether al-Nusrah can be considered as a terrorist group and a branch of al-Qaeda was over quickly after it was promptly included on both the US and EU terrorist groups list, as well as on the UN Security Council blacklist. Yet, deliberation is still continuing among the EU states on listing Hezbollah as a terrorist group, with considerable and evident hesitation. The fact is that both al-Nusrah and Hezbollah have been equally accused of interfering in the Syrian internal conflict.
All terrorist groups must be faced with immediate and severe punitive action, and the crime of terrorism must be fought regardless of sectarian, religious, and nationalist pretexts. Yet, one has the right to wonder about the double standards adopted by the US and its European allies toward categorizing who deserves to be called a terrorist and who does not. Recently, many thousands of Hezbollah militias with their heavy arms crossed the Syrian international border to partic! ipate in the Assad's regime bloodbath against the Syrian people, on the Syrian land. Does this not amount to a terrorist act?
"Before al-Qaida's attack on the U.S. on September 11, 2001, Hezbollah was responsible for killing more Americans in terrorist attacks than any other terrorist group." These were precisely the words of the US Under-Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen on August 10, 2012. He told his audience that Hezbollah has "a long history of terrorist attacks against American citizens and officials, including the bombing of the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Lebanon during the 1980s." He further added that Hezbollah "quickly expanded its violent campaign on to a global stage, carrying out and supporting terrorist attacks in South America, Southeast Asia, Europe, and various countries in the Middle East. More recently one has seen the group's plotting disrupted in Azerbaijan, Egypt, Thailand, and Cyprus," and that "Hezbollah's members have engaged in criminal behavior, including profiting from the narcotics and money-laundering schemes."
Yet the top counter-terrorism official in the Obama Administration focused on Hezbollah's crimes against the US, overlooking the fact that the group has practiced terrorism and intimidation against the people of Lebanon for many years. Hezbollah's responsibility for the brutal assassination of the Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and possibly a dozen more similar crimes, has been proven by a UN investigation team. In this context, most Arabs are concerned about US double standards, with the US government officially describing Hezbollah as a dangerous terrorist group on the one hand, yet declining to treat it like other "terrorist groups." Indeed, if one removes the word "Hezbollah" from the US Under-Secretary's statement we will be mistaken that the top US official was referring to al-Qaida.
Does such strong US language bring any punitive conse quences on the Hezbollah group which has been on the US terrorist lis! t since 1995? Does it actually increase the pressure on Hezbollah in any practical way? While the US has fully mobilized its military might and its intelligence apparatus, along with thousands of US drones, determinedly chasing and hunting down al-Qaeda's operatives from the jungles of Africa to the mountains of Pakistan, and the deserts of Yemen, many thousands of Hezbollah's militia members are crossing the Syrian international borders with their most sophisticated and heavy weapons, in daylight, and even under the scrutiny of the TV cameras.
This is happening while the US and its western allies are turning a blind eye to Hezbollah which has been developed to operate as an effective terrorist arm for the Iranian regime. The US's official classification of Hezbollah as a "dangerous terrorist group" is no more than lip-service, mere words unsupported by real conviction and lacking any real enforcement action on the ground. Such hypocrisy and insincerity is deeply worr ying. Soon after the start of the Syrian revolt, Hezbollah successfully 'tested the waters' and moved rapidly from providing logistical and operational support for the Assad regime and its repression to actual participation in the bloodbath. The Iranian and Hezbollah leadership rightly assumed that the US and its allies are either unwilling or unable to stop or hinder Hezbollah's direct involvement in the Syrian internal conflict. The US lack of resolve and interest, which remains very evident, is seen in Tehran as a green light to further pursue its agenda.
Today, the US and its western allies are shedding crocodile tears about the atrocities committed against the civilian population in Syria, apparently with the intention to deceive Arab and international public opinion. President Obama rightly feels uncomfortable to share the ground with al-Nusrah terrorist group. Yet, he seems comfortable to share it with the Hezbollah terrorist group.
Dr. Abdulaziz Sager is the Chairman and founder of the Gulf Research Center (GRC)