Amid a Saudi crackdown on terror, will Hezbollah’s threat be confronted?
The Lebanese state needs an Arab and international incentive to perform its role and extend its sovereignty
The Saudi king issued a royal decree earlier this month stipulating between 3 to 20 years imprisonment for any persons who participate in jihadist fighting outside the Saudi kingdom.
The order also specified jailing anyone who belongs or supports any religious group or extremist movement.
The decision came after a long struggle against terrorism - a fight that lasted for over ten years and that came as a result of exploiting Saudi youths in foreign battles aimed at serving suspicious parties. The kingdom has therefore launched a new era of war against terror, and this comes within the context of similar battles launched by Egypt and the UAE against sleeper “Muslim Brotherhood cells” and their armed allies.
This new awakening in fighting terrorism must not exclude Hezbollah in Lebanon. The party accused of assassinating former premier Rafiq Hariri has refused to hand over its accused members to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) under the excuse that the tribunal is politicized.
The extent of Hezbollah’s terror
This is not the only accusation Hezbollah is confronting. In July 2012, there was a failed suicide attempt against lawmaker Boutros Harb. Lebanese security forces were suspicious that a Hezbollah member was involved in the assassination attempt.
However, the party refused to hand him over to the police and the judiciary, and will never do so.
In August 2011, a bomb exploded in the Lebanese town of Antelias, north of Beirut, killing two people and injuring another. The case was quickly closed because the suicide bombers were Hezbollah members. Luckily, the bomb went off prior to the set time due a technical error. If this hadn’t happened, there would’ve been more victims.
In August 2008, Hezbollah conveyed a bloody message to the Lebanese army after it opened fire on an army jet, killing 26-year-old Lieutenant Samer Hanna. Hezbollah justified its move by saying that it repeatedly informed the army that it rejects any military jets fly over the Iklim al-Tofah area where the incident took place.
On May 7, 2008, the Lebanese cabinet performed its sovereign role and issued a decision dismissing the airport’s security chief due to setting a Hezbollah-linked camera that monitors prominent visitors upon their arrival (this perhaps explains some assassination attempts carried out after the Hariri killing, like the assassination of Gebran Tueni and Wissam al-Hassan.) The cabinet also issued a decision to dismantle Hezbollah’s telecommunications network.
After the decisions were issued, Hezbollah declared war on the state, occupied Beirut and terrified people at Mount Lebanon. Hezbollah’s terrorism killed around 100 Lebanese citizens. In April 2007, 25-year-old Ziad Qablan and 11-year-old Ziad Ghandour suffered cruel deaths.
Their murder almost sparked a civil war, as they were kidnapped by five people who belong to a family that supports Hezbollah. Four others participated in the crime. Judge Said Mirza studied the case and directed kidnapping and pre-mediated murder accusations against the defendants. Such crimes are punished by the death penalty but until now the Lebanese authorities had failed to arrest the accused because they enjoy Hezbollah’s protection.
Terrorism outside of its borders
If we are to list the crimes Hezbollah committed in Lebanon, then we’d need to write a book. If we are to list the crimes it’s committed outside Lebanon, we would never finish as well. But here’s an example of these crimes.
A money laundering network linked to Hezbollah was arrested in Australia in Jan. 2014. During the first quarter of 2013, Kuwaiti authorities detained an espionage network linked to Hezbollah. After that, Saudi authorities arrested espionage cells linked to Hezbollah and Iran.
In October 2008, Columbian authorities arrested a Hezbollah-linked network that works in money laundering and drug dealing. Hezbollah’s military leader Imad Mughaniyah, who was assassinated in 2008, had been wanted in dozens of countries because he carried out terrorist crimes including the hijacking of a Kuwaiti airplane.
Hezbollah has had no deterrent to prevent it from carrying out its crimes, joining Bashar al-Assad’s regime in fighting the Syrian civil war. The Lebanese state is threatened with collapse as a result of the party’s never-ending violations and obstructions. Therefore, the reigning atmosphere in the region must be analyzed for the sake of ending Hezbollah’s terrorism, which primarily targets Lebanese and Arabs.
An accomplice in Hezbollah’s crimes?
The right approach to confront this problem begins with the Arab anti-terrorism agreement. One of its clauses say that countries which sign this agreement “pledge not to organize, finance, commit or participate in any terrorist operations in anyway whatsoever.”
Hezbollah’s participation in the Lebanese parliament and government makes the Lebanese state an accomplice in Hezbollah’s crimes even if it’s against them and as long as it doesn’t commit to the agreement’s clauses and seek to implement them.
The agreement stipulates that countries which sign it are obliged to work towards “preventing the use of its territories as an arena to plan, organize, implement or participate in terrorist crimes. This includes preventing terrorists from entering the country, from residing, as both individuals and groups, and from being hosted, recruited, armed, funded or aided.”
Hezbollah’s cells which were arrested in Gulf countries and in Egypt and the party’s declared participation in Syria puts the Lebanese state in front of responsibilities it must bear.
All Arab countries are harmed and targeted by Hezbollah’s terrorism just like Lebanon is. But it’s the Lebanese state’s major duty to confront Hezbollah as the latter is operating from inside Lebanon and most of its members are Lebanese.
The agreement also stipulates that defendants and convicts who are wanted for terrorist crimes in countries that have also signed this agreement must be handed over. This article makes Hezbollah military leader Mustafa Badreddine - who is a major defendant in the Rafiq Hariri case - wanted by the Lebanese state ever since his escape from prison in Kuwait in 1990. Badreddine was jailed after being convicted of attempting to assassinate the country’s emir in 1983, and he escaped following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. And to add to that, he must be handed over to the STL.
There’s also Sami Chehab who was judicially convicted in Egypt in 2009 “for planning and carrying out terrorist operations.” He escaped from Egypt during the Jan. 25 revolution and has been seen in a popular festival in Beirut later. The Lebanese state is certainly obliged to arrest him and hand him over to Egyptian authorities which consider him a “fugitive.”
The agreement does not only stipulate duties that only Lebanon must carry out. It obliges Arab countries to support the Lebanese state in fighting terrorism as the agreement points out that there must be cooperation and coordination among apparatuses tasked with taking measures that combat terrorism.
What’s required is that the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council issue a decision that frankly considers Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Such a decision would mean that Arab and Gulf countries will boycott any cabinet or public institution or parliament in which Hezbollah members participate. I think such a brave decision can be consolidated via the U.N. Security Council. This decision would not be directed against the Lebanese state. On the contrary, it serves it and strengthens it.
Hezbollah will be weakened once it’s militarily or politically ousted from its territories (Beirut’s southern suburbs, South Lebanon and the Bekaa). Hezbollah’s strength lies in its participation in the Lebanese cabinet and its apparatuses. Its politicians’ membership in the parliament covers its crimes. Therefore, this cover must be lifted off.
In need of an incentive
More than half of the Lebanese people are against Hezbollah’s military and terrorist activity. But the Lebanese state needs an Arab and international incentive to perform its role and extend its sovereignty by monopolizing the decisions of peace and war. I think isolating Hezbollah is the sharpest of weapons, especially that we have currently seen an effective experience of isolating the Brotherhood. Separating Hezbollah from the Lebanese state grants it half of the former’s power.
Prior to the 2008 conflict in Lebanon, I published an article in the Lebanese media demanding that the issue of Hezbollah be resolved via a law in which the state seals a contract with Hezbollah to perform the role of resistance. The law would thus control the party’s behavior and dedicate its strength and capabilities to serve Lebanon’s interest under the absolute authority of the state. But Hezbollah has completely separated from its past of resistance - ever since the Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon in 2000 - and it has dedicated its time and effort to practice its role as a terrorist and an outlaw. The chance to heal is no more, and it’s time to amputate it.
This article was first published in al-Hayat on Feb. 10, 2014.
Ahmad Adnan is a Saudi writer and journalist. Adnan can be found on Twitter: @wddahaladab
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