On a trip to Lebanon, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had some harsh words for Hezbollah, the terror organization that Lebanon’s prime minister is reported to have said is so powerful that it can’t be controlled or confronted by the government. This prime minister certainly would know; the last prime minister to attempt to control Hezbollah was Rafik Hariri, the father of the current prime minister, who was murdered by Hezbollah for his efforts.
The Secretary noted that, “Hezbollah is not just a concern for the United States. The people of Lebanon should also be concerned about how Hezbollah’s actions and its growing arsenal bring unwanted and unhelpful scrutiny on Lebanon. Hezbollah’s entanglement in regional conflicts threatens the security of Lebanon.”
Yet, also in his speech, Tillerson referred to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) as the only legitimate defender of the Lebanese state, and vowed to continue to provide U.S. military support for them. In 2018, the U.S. will provide $120 million in aid to LAF to boost border security and counter-terrorism work, including six MD 530G light attack helicopters, six Scan Eagle drones, and communication and night vision equipment. In total, the United States has given the LAF more than $1.5 billion in assistance over the past ten years.
The problem is, as mentioned before, Hezbollah essentially controls Lebanon. It is known that Hezbollah and the LAF have coordinated their actions for years, usually for the benefit of Hezbollah. Israel believes that cooperation between the LAF and Hezbollah has reached a level whereby the two forces patrol together on the Israel-Lebanon border and Hezbollah directs the LAF on where to build its new observation posts and shares in the intelligence collected. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has also expressed its own suspicions of coordination. The LAF also may have shared U.S. APCs with the terror group, or refused to bar older APCs controlled by Hezbollah from coming into Lebanon. Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, has stated plainly that “the LAF is actively aiding Hezbollah in its war effort in Syria.”
Now, Tillerson was certainly correct in his criticism of Hezbollah’s increasing aggression throughout the region. The group had deployed, at one time, about 10,000 of its forces into Syria, to prop up the bloody Assad regime, at the behest of its Iranian masters. Among the war crimes in Syria Hezbollah is participating in is ethnic cleansing. It has been sent to Yemen, where it has trained and may have fought alongside the Houthi militia against the legitimate government. In Yemen, Hezbollah forces may have fired Iranian missiles at neighboring nations and international shipping, including U.S. ships. Hezbollah has also been active in other countries, such as Iraq, helping to set up and train radical Shia militias, many of which have American blood on their hands.
But overall, Tillerson dramatically downplayed the dangers of Hezbollah.
For example, in his speech, Tillerson didn’t refer to Hezbollah’s continuing activities throughout the Americas, where it operates as a deadly criminal gang. Only recently it was revealed that Hezbollah “has leveraged relationships with corrupt foreign government officials and transnational criminal actors … creating a network that can be utilized to move metric ton quantities of cocaine, launder drug proceeds on a global scale, and procure weapons and precursors for explosives.”
The Secretary also failed to mention that besides al-Qaeda, Hezbollah has the distinction of killing and maiming more Americans than any other terror organization in the Middle East. And unlike al-Qaeda, which murdered 3,000 Americans during just one attack, Hezbollah has conducted many more attacks, all over the world, including the spectacular bombings in Lebanon in the 1980s. Among the American casualties was hostage Colonel William R. Higgins, who was captured by Hezbollah, and tortured for months until murdered. Another was Robert Stethem, a Navy diver, who was a passenger on a flight hijacked by Hezbollah terrorists, and was beaten and kicked and hit with hard objects until he died. His body was then unceremoniously dumped on the runway.
Tillerson also failed to mention that Hezbollah has fought one bloody war with Israel already, in 2006, and has about 150,000 missiles primed and ready to shower down on the U.S.’s strongest Middle East ally.
The biggest thing that Secretary Tillerson overlooked are the views of his boss, President Trump. Recently, at CPAC, Trump said “we have to treat — people (or nations) that treat us well, we treat them well. People that treat us badly, we treat them much worse than they can ever imagine. That’s the way it has to be.”
The facts above indicate that Hezbollah is not treating the U.S. or our interests well. The facts also indicate that Hezbollah controls or heavily influences Lebanon.
Hence, according to the Trump doctrine, should the U.S. really be supplying the LAF with aid and equipment?
I don’t think so. More importantly, I don’t think the President of the United States thinks so.
Adam Turner is the General Counsel and Legislative Affairs Director for the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET). To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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