Cheat-Seeking Missles

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Lebanon Arming Hezbollah?

This Q&A series occurred at today's UN press briefing:
Question: Does the Secretary-General have any position on Lebanese army’s transfer of weapons to Hezbollah?

: We have been following these reports -- these statements about these arms shipments, including those by the Lebanese army. I think if these violations were to be confirmed, this would be an alarming development in relation to resolution 1559. Mr. Roed-Larsen, who, as you know, is the SG’s envoy on 1559, has been having discussions with Lebanese officials over the last couple of days to look further into these reports.

: Just to follow up: if the Lebanese army -- as it says it has done -- has helped transfer weapons to Hezbollah, is the Lebanese army in contravention, in your opinion, of resolution 1559?

: I think, the first ... 1559 calls for the disarmament of Lebanese militias. The first and obvious step in the disarmament process would be to stop the flow of arms. Again, I don’t want to go too much into hypotheticals, but if these shipments are confirmed, this would be a violation of 1559.
Thanks to Nexis, I found more details from Deutsche Presse-Agentur, from today:
The United Nations is seeking answers about reports of arms shipments crossing the Syrian border destined for the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah, a Lebanese government source said Wednesday.

"Terje Roed-Larsen, UN spokesman who reports on compliance with resolution 1559, asked the Lebanese government for an explanation on the reported arms shipment," a Lebanese government source told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, an opponent of Syria, said last week that truckloads of arms and missiles crossed the border intended for "armed groups" inside Lebanon.

He claimed the Lebanese army intercepted the shipment, but allowed delivery to Hezbollah and also possibly Palestinian groups in Lebanon.

Lebanese army sources called Jumblatt's information "incorrect" and said that the weapons had been stocked inside Lebanon and shipped south to the "Lebanese resistance" meaning Hezbollah.

"We have followed the statements about the recent armed shipments, including the statements of the Lebanese army," said a UN spokesman for Roed-Larsen.

"If this information is confirmed it would be an alarming development in clear violation of UN resolution 1559," added the spokesman.

Security Council Resolution 1559, adopted in September 2004, called on Syria to withdraw troops and intelligence agents from Lebanon and for the disarmament of militias, including Palestinian groups and Hezbollah which dominates southern Lebanon.

Jumblatt has said that the main reason for Hezbollah to have arms was to attack Israel's occupation of the Shebaa Farms in the false belief they were Lebanese territory. He claimed that maps from 1962, which the UN has shown, puts the Shebaa Farms area inside Syria.

He accused former pro-Syrian security officials in Lebanon of forging maps "to keep Shebaa a battlefield against Israel."

Hezbollah has vowed to continue fighting Israel until it liberates Shebaa farms, captured during the 1976 Middle East War. Israel has said the area's fate should be discussed in future peace talks with Syria.

Hezbollah sheikh Hassan Nasrallah told his movement's television station al Manaar that "we face certain issues, including Shebaa Farms, Lebanese detainees in Israeli jails and Israeli threats against Lebanon. The role of the resistance (Hezbollah) is to safeguard Lebanon."

"As long as a compromise is still missing in the region, this means that we are still in a state of war with Israel. Lebanon is in a state of war with Israel, and nobody drops his weapons before the war is over," the Hezbollah chief added.

Israel withdrew its troops from Lebanon in May 2000, thus ending 22 years of occupation.
The story, if true (and I bet it is) underscores how Lebanon's government and military remain firmly under Syrian influence. Given the country's history, it is entirely likely that the arms Hezbollah has received will be used at some time against Lebanese who oppose the terrorist group and Syria.

This news, following by just one day the first anniversary of the assassination of Rafik Hariri, will not play well among the freedom-hungry in Lebanon. Today's Lebanon Daily Star hasn't got the story yet, but its lead editorial saying:
With Tuesday's demonstration, the politicians intent on removing Lahoud have become more impatient. The March 14 allies are now trying anything and everything to oust Lahoud, including sending delegations to visit Maronite Patriarch Butros Sfeir. The accusations against the president have reached a frenzied pitch, with Druze MP Walid Jumblatt calling him a "symbol of betrayal."
The Star saw an opposition alliance with Hezbollah as the only way to get rid of Lahoud. That now seems impossible -- but maybe less needed, as well.

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