W. Thomas Smith, Jr

“Hezbollah has said it would take action if the Lebanese Parliament elects a new free president,” Dr. Walid Phares, director of the director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told me over the weekend. “The group would seize ministries, cut off main highways and paralyze the country. The question would be what would the Lebanese Army do and what would the international community do? Hezbollah has thousands of missiles and rockets. But would it really use them in a domestic conflict? It also has suicide bombers, but would it use them against neighbors and joint economic interests?”

What would stop them? The army? Doubtful. The military leadership under armed-forces commander-in-chief Gen. Michel Sleiman has so-far given Hezbollah a free pass despite the fact that United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559 calls for the disarming of all militias in Lebanon.

“Hezbollah is a resistance,” Sleiman told me in his office at the Ministry of Defense in Beirut (not far from a Hezbollah-controlled district and virtual weapons depot where the legitimate army and police do not enter). Practically all of the Lebanese generals I spoke with while I was in Lebanon in September and October told me the same thing. They say that, because they know by labeling Hezbollah a “resistance movement,” the terrorist organization avoids the label “militia.” Hezbollah and its parent companies Syria and Iran have deep roots in the army leadership. And a huge percentage of the rank-and-file are pro-Hezbollah Shiia.

Sleiman continued straight out of the Ahmadinejad playbook, “The resistance [Hezbollah] was formed before the unification of the army. They were here first. They fight Israel, and if any group fights Israel we should respect it.”

Hezbollah also blew up 220 U.S. Marines, 18 sailors, and three soldiers during the organization’s formative years nearly a quarter century ago. Today Hezbollah has global reach (cells in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere), lots of money, men, and arms (more so in fact than what they had prior to the Israeli-Hezbollah war in 2006). The centerpiece of this Syro-Iranian supported terrorist army is positioned in Lebanon (one of their largest strongholds, Al Dahiyeh, is located within minutes of the Lebanese parliament and government buildings in Beirut). Hezbollah is actively training in Lebanon, conducting exercises that sometimes aren’t reported, and transporting militiamen, which is rarely reported. They are manipulating the press. The army won’t do anything to stop them. Many of the parliamentarians are hiding behind layers of security in Beirut’s Phoenicia Hotel. They never venture outside without heavy military or paramilitary protection. They never open the curtains to their rooms for fear of snipers. And, again, the country is without a president.

Frankly, what’s next is anybody’s guess.

W. Thomas Smith, Jr

W. Thomas Smith Jr. is a former U.S. Marine rifle-squad leader and counterterrorism instructor. He is the author of six books, and he has covered war and conflict in the Balkans, on the West Bank, in Iraq, and Lebanon. Visit him online at http://www.uswriter.com.
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