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Bush Plot to Overthrow Hamas Foiled

Jonathan Steele at the Guardian has a scathing commentary on the Bush administration's plot to overthrow the democratically elected Hamas government in the Palestinian territories.

Did they jump or were they pushed? Was Hamas's seizure of Fatah security offices in Gaza unprovoked, or a pre-emptive strike to forestall a coup by Fatah? After last week's turmoil, it becomes increasingly important to uncover its origins.

The fundamental cause is, of course, well known. Israel, aided by the US, was not prepared to accept Hamas's victory in last year's Palestinian elections. Backed by a supine EU, the two governments decided to boycott their new Palestinian counterparts politically and punish Palestinian voters by blocking economic aid. Their policies had a dramatic effect, turning Gaza even more starkly into an open prison and creating human misery on a massive scale. The aim was to turn voters against Hamas - a strategy of stupidity as well as cynicism, since outside pressure usually produces resistance rather than surrender.

The policy shocked even moderate western officials like James Wolfensohn, the former World Bank chief, whom the Americans had appointed to help Gaza's economy before the Hamas election victory. "The result was not to build more economic activity but to build more barriers," he said this week while explaining why he resigned in disagreement with US and Israeli strategy.

Reports have been circulating for months of a more sinister side to the boycott. According to them, the US decided last year on a plan to arm and train Mahmoud Abbas's presidential guard in a deliberate effort to confront and defeat Hamas militarily. Israel has already locked up several dozen Hamas legislators and mayors from the West Bank. The next stage was to do the same in Gaza but have Palestinians, rather than Israelis, run the crackdown.

Arming insurgents against elected governments has a long US pedigree and it is no accident that Elliott Abrams, the deputy national security adviser and apparent architect of the anti-Hamas subversion, was a key player in Ronald Reagan's supply of weapons to the Contras who fought Nicaragua's elected government in the 1980s.

Documents doing the rounds in the Middle East purport to have evidence for Abrams's "hard coup" strategy. One text recounts Washington's objectives as expressed in US officials' conversations with an Arab government. These are, among others, "to maintain President Abbas and Fatah as the centre of gravity on the Palestinian scene", "avoid wasting time in accommodating Hamas's ideological conditions", "undermine Hamas's political status through providing for Palestinian economic needs", and "strengthen the Palestinian president's authority to be able to call and conduct early elections by autumn 2007".

The document is dated March 2, less than a month after Saudi Arabia brokered the Mecca agreement under which Abbas finally agreed with Hamas on a unity government. The deal upset the Israelis and Washington because it left Hamas's prime minister Ismail Haniyeh in charge. The document suggests the US wanted to sabotage it. Certainly, according to Hamas officials whom a depressed Abbas later briefed, Abbas was told to scrap Mecca at every subsequent meeting he has had with Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert or with US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and Abrams.

Most ominously, the document of US objectives outlined a $1.27bn programme that would add seven special battalions, totalling 4,700 men, to the 15,000 Abbas already has in his presidential guard and other security forces, which were also to be given extra training and arms. "The desired outcome will be the transformation of Palestinian security forces and provide for the president of the Palestinian Authority to able to safeguard decisions such as dismissing the cabinet and forming an emergency cabinet," the document says.

Alastair Crooke, a former Middle East adviser to the EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, and current head of a research institute in Beirut, points out that Israel blocked some arms deliveries. It was wary of sending too many into Gaza for fear Fatah might lose them, as indeed has happened. In this sense, only part of the plan went ahead. (Britain has played a small part in helping Abbas's security forces. It has provided about £350,000 of "non-lethal" equipment this year for protecting the Karni freight crossing between Gaza and Israel.)

But Crooke says Hamas was irritated that the Mecca deal was being sabotaged, notably by the refusal of Mohammed Dahlan, Fatah's long-time Gaza strongman and head of the Preventive Security Forces, to accept the authority of the independent interior minister appointed to the unity government. "Dahlan refused to deal with him, and put his troops on the streets in defiance of the interior minister. Hamas felt they had little option but to take control of security away from forces which were in fact creating insecurity," Crooke says.

Ahmed Yousef, a Hamas spokesman, confirms the movement thought it had to move fast. In his words, last week's events were "precipitated by the American and Israeli policy of arming elements of the Fatah opposition who want to attack Hamas and force us from office".

While Hamas has successfully blocked the US-Fatah plans for Gaza, Abbas is trying to implement them in the West Bank by forming an emergency government. The policy is doomed since the constitution says such a government can only last 30 days. Parliament has to renew it by a two-thirds majority, and parliament is controlled by Hamas. The only sensible policy for Abbas must be to end the effort to marginalise Hamas. He should go back to the Mecca agreement and support a unity government. Even now, Hamas says it is willing to do so.

Where does all this leave the White House idea to involve Tony Blair as a Middle Eastern envoy? It creates a "coalition of the discredited" - Bush, Olmert and Blair - and sounds like something from a satire since Blair has no credibility with Hamas or most other Palestinians. Better to leave it to the Saudis to revive the Mecca deal, or wait until Abbas realises he has fallen into a trap. Neither common sense nor democratic principles, let alone time, are on Fatah's side.

Needless to say, the monumental stupidity of the Bush administration's meddling in the internal affairs of the Palestinian Authority is breathtaking. Hamas has emerged from this aborted coup attempt stronger than ever after humiliating and crushing some of Fatah's best forces in Gaza. They control all of Gaza, still control the Parliament and, once the 30 day period for the emergency government expires, they will be back in control of the central Palestinian government as well. In Gaza, they will have the opportunity to clean up the streets and restore law and order now that the organized criminal gangs of Fatah have been vanquished.

The Bush plan to overthrow Hamas has backfired ingloriously right in his face. The coming weeks could see a splintering of Fatah as its foot soldiers come to realize the cowardice of their leadership who fled the battleground in Gaza. Bush administration efforts to sabotage the democratically elected government of the Palestinian Authority now hang on the slenderest of threads: Mahmoud Abbas' popularity among his people. But Abbas is one man, while Hamas is a movement and an ideology. Fatah is neither.


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Comments (6)

Paul Hamilton:

I find it very difficult to defend Hamas for any reason. That being said, the only reason Hamas has gained traction politically is because of the ongoing abuses of the US and Israel against the occupied territories.

Steve Crickmore:

Excellent post, Larkin..To let someone like Abrams described as the last neocon standing" --in charge of US policy in the mid-east, is and will be an unmitigated diasaster..Read Elliot Abrams' uncivil war`

Michael Pugliese:

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,490160,00.html
INTERVIEW WITH HAMAS CO-FOUNDER MAHMOUD ZAHAR
>...SPIEGEL ONLINE: What will improve for people in Gaza now that Hamas is in control?

Zahar: The good thing is that we can now collect information about our enemies and informants from foreign powers. We will look for Israel's spies.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Last week there were street battles in the West Bank between Fatah and Hamas militias. Fatah maintained the upper hand. How will Hamas loyalists defend themselves in the event of any new fighting?

Zahar: Let me ask you: How have we defended ourselves so far against the Israeli occupation?

SPIEGEL ONLINE: With bombs and attacks?

Zahar: Exactly. But you said that, not me. ...

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The militant wings of Fatah and Hamas have been fully armed over the last few months. Are these weapons still in circulation?

Zahar: There are naturally very many weapons around now. Two years ago, one bullet in Gaza cost around €3.50 -- now it would cost 35 cents. The American aid money has been translated into weapons. Thank you, America!

Michael Pugliese:

Re: "Elliot Abrams' uncivil war, " Sy Hersh and A. Crooke.
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=872872&contrassID=2&subContrassID=4
>...I was reminded of this story after The New Yorker published an article three months ago dealing with the Bush administration's attitude toward Sunnis and Shi'ites, written by investigative reporter and Pulitzer Prize-winner Seymour Hersh. In the article, Hersh wrote that the U.S. administration, embracing realpolitik, was siding with the Sunnis in their conflict with the Shi'ites. This led the administration to cooperate even with those who are hostile toward the United States, including groups linked to Al-Qaida. To back up his claim, Hersh wrote that the United States was transferring funds to the government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, even though it knew some of the money was going to the Palestinian group Fatah al-Islam in the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon. (The article was published about two months before fighting broke out between Fatah al-Islam and the Lebanese army.)

Sharp-eyed reporters in Beirut read the article in astonishment. Siniora, of the Lebanese Sunni establishment, was assisting allies of Al-Qaida who had split off from a pro-Syrian organization? And the United States was aware of this and might even be planning it, in order to strike at Hezbollah? And all this was in the context of aid to the Sunni forces in the Middle East in their conflict with Shi'ites backed, according to Hersh, by Iran? A world turned on its head. How could it be?

But it was published in The New Yorker, a magazine known for its meticulous fact-checking. The Lebanese reporters began investigating the story on their own.

Hersh said he heard the story from Robert Fisk, the bureau chief of The Independent's Beirut office. But Hersh did not check out the story himself. For his part, Fisk said he heard the unconfirmed report from Alastair Crooke, a former British intelligence agent and the founding director and Middle East representative of the Conflicts Forum, a non-profit organization that aims to build a new relationship between the West and the Muslim world. Crooke, who gained his reputation through his involvement in the conflict in northern Ireland, does not know Arabic. When Lebanese journalists spoke to Crooke about the report, they said he told them only that he had heard it "from all kinds of people."

Thus are reports about the Middle East generated, I thought to myself. And this is a case involving two well-known journalists and an even more well-known magazine.

Michael Pugliese:

Michael Young of the Daily Star in Lebanon on Hersh. Counterpunch isn't exactly a neo-con rag y'know.
http://www.counterpunch.org/young03052007.html
The Dark Side of Spun a Lot?
Seymour Hersh and Iran

By MICHAEL YOUNG


Michael Pugliese:

Lebanese blogger on Sy Hersh and Alestair Crooke.
http://beirut2bayside.blogspot.com/2007/02/sylight-zone.html
>...In order to fully understand the piece, you must read it with Hersh's comments to Wolf Blitzer earlier today, where Hersh offered the "interpretive key" so to speak, as well as an interview with the pro-Syrian as-Safir daily. It also gives you a sense of the unfiltered, wide-eyed lunacy that got edited out in the New Yorker piece, and shows just how ludicrous Hersh's "reporting" is, amounting to little more than wholesale, verbatim regurgitation of Hezbollah and Syrian propaganda.

Hersh immediately presents the underlying, pathetically reductionist and silly premise: who is the "real" enemy and the "real" danger, Iran or the Sunnis? It was succinctly summarized in his as-Safir interview: "we are against Sunni jihadism, for it was responsible for 9/11, not the Shi'a." This was reflected in the article in a quote by Vali Nasr (who along with other Iranian analysts -- Ali Ansari, Kaveh Afrasiabi, Hossein Askari, Ray Takeyh, et al. -- has been pushing this line from that particular trench): "It seems there has been a debate inside the government over what's the biggest danger--Iran or Sunni radicals." It was also "confirmed" by the useless Flynt Leverett in a side-splitting comment dripping with conspiracism and Flynt's usual narrow, shallow nonsense: "The Administration is trying to make a case that Iran is more dangerous and more provocative than the Sunni insurgents to American interests in Iraq ... The idea is that at some point the Iranians will respond and then the Administration will have an open door to strike at them." The latter part is really the part that concerns Hersh the most.

The next step in Hersh's mental construct -- guided by overt hatred of the Bush administration -- is how this is setting the stage for war with Iran. This translates into covert (naturally!) action by the US against Iran and its allies and interests in the region. The basic idea is that the United States (namely the NSC, the OVP, and the DoD) are going after Iran and the axis it leads in cooperation with the Saudis, namely Prince Bandar. How are they going about it? By funding and arming Sunni extremist groups to counter pro-Iranian Shiites and Iran's sidekick, Syria. And the fun begins!

Again, Nasr provides the hook: "The Saudis have considerable financial means, and have deep relations with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis." We've almost reached the heart of the theory. The next step: How does this relate to Lebanon and Syria?


Bandar and other Saudis have assured the White House that "they will keep a very close eye on the religious fundamentalists. Their message to us was 'We've created this movement, and we can control it.' It's not that we don't want the Salafis to throw bombs; it's who they throw them at--Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran."


Now, you are entitled to wonder here who Hersh's source is on this. Who is the person privy to this sensitive information? Surely, an NSC or OVP official. Perhaps even a DoS official, or perhaps someone from the DoD. What about a Saudi source? No, it's even better than that! It's a "U.S. government consultant." It's air tight!

But why stop there? Hersh insists on dazzling us with his -- and this "consultant's" -- superior knowledge of things relating to Lebanon. The "plan," known in its entirety to the "consultant," has "at least" four points. Might as well jump to the fourth!


Fourth, the Saudi government, with Washington's approval, would provide funds and logistical aid to weaken the government of President Bashir Assad, of Syria. The Israelis believe that putting such pressure on the Assad government will make it more conciliatory and open to negotiations. Syria is a major conduit of arms to Hezbollah. The Saudi government is also at odds with the Syrians over the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese Prime Minister, in Beirut in 2005, for which it believes the Assad government was responsible. Hariri, a billionaire Sunni, was closely associated with the Saudi regime and with Prince Bandar. (A U.N. inquiry strongly suggested that the Syrians were involved, but offered no direct evidence; there are plans for another investigation, by an international tribunal.)


Um, Sy, if you want people to take your theories seriously for more than five seconds, it might help to actually get some basic facts rights, like perhaps Assad's name (Bashar), or that the international tribunal is not "another investigation," but, er, as its name suggests, an "international tribunal" as in "trying" suspects in the murder. If you're picky, you might want to discuss that issue a bit more, but you know, I'm sure it wasn't the topic of choice at Imad Moustapha's dinner table. But certainly tying Hariri to Prince Bandar (based on what information?) might be something Moustapha could pander to people. After all, his boss's internet propaganda tool, Cham Press, has been doing just that with Hariri's son, Saad. We'll get to that later.

Also, perhaps you could've spent more time on the reason for Syrian-Saudi tension. After all, you are suggesting that Saudi Arabia is about to fund Salafis to take down Assad's regime. I'm sure there's more at stake there than Hariri's murder. Details, details... Who has time for that?

But Hersh hasn't yet provided us with the juice. It's just a tease. The rest is coming: "The focus of the U.S.-Saudi relationship, after Iran, is Lebanon, where the Saudis have been deeply involved in efforts by the Administration to support the Lebanese government."

Now, the hundreds of thousands of Lebanese Sunnis, Druze and Christians who took to the streets to support Seniora's government might be surprised to learn that "[m]any in the Arab world" view "Siniora as a weak politician who relies on America's support." And perhaps, King Abdullah (of KSA and of Jordan), Hosni Mubarak, France and a host of Paris III donor countries might also take issue with Hersh's contention that Seniora relies on "America's support" to survive. Furthermore, one could also argue that Nasrallah is also seen by "many in the Arab world" as a Shiite tool of Iran's Khamenei. But this (Nasrallah = supported by the Arab world vs. Seniora = propped by America) is part and parcel of what I described as pathetic reductionism and a penchant for facile dichotomies, which I will explore further below.

But there's more than just the US supporting a democratically elected government. Here comes the heavy stuff, based on what "American, European and Arab officials" told Hersh. The basic idea was summarized in his CNN interview:


My government, which arrests al Qaida every place it can find them and sends -- some of them are in Guantanamo and other places, is sitting back while the Lebanese government we support, the government of Prime Minister Siniora, is providing arms and sustenance to three jihadist groups whose sole function seems to me and to the people that talk to me in our government, to be there in case there is a real shoot-'em-up with Hezbollah and we really get into some sort of serious major conflict between the Sunni government and Hezbollah, which is largely Shia.


Yes, "largely" Shia. But where were we? Ah. The Seniora government is "providing arms and sustenance" to jihadist groups! Evidence? Oh yes, "American, European, and Arab officials." Who exactly? Let's start with the "European" one, Hezbollah-hugger Alastair Crooke!


"The Lebanese government is opening space for these people to come in. It could be very dangerous." Crooke said that one Sunni extremist group, Fatah al-Islam, had splintered from its pro-Syrian parent group, Fatah al-Intifada, in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, in northern Lebanon. Its membership at the time was less than two hundred. "I was told that within twenty-four hours they were being offered weapons and money by people presenting themselves as representatives of the Lebanese government's interests--presumably to take on Hezbollah," Crooke said.

The largest of the groups, Asbat al-Ansar, is situated in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp. Asbat al-Ansar has received arms and supplies from Lebanese internal-security forces and militias associated with the Siniora government.


Come again!? The pro-Hezbollah Crooke "was told"?! OK, how about this. "It was reported" that in fact, members from Fateh al-Islam were arrested by the government and during interrogation, two of them (one of whom was Syrian) confessed to receiving orders from Syria to assassinate Lebanese figures associated with the anti-Syrian coalition, and also to plan operations against UNIFIL, as many a Syrian official, including "Bashir" Assad himself, have threatened (specifically about unleashing such groups in Lebanon). The other members of the group, "it was reported," were smuggled into Lebanon, via Syria, after participating in action (again, via Syria, who in Hersh's facile scheme is on the receiving end of Salafi attacks!) in Iraq.

ّIn fact, about two weeks ago, the government forces clashed with Fateh al-Islam members who managed to capture three policemen (ISF) on patrol near the Nahr el-Bared camp and hold them for two hours. Maybe they thought they were Hezbollah! But wait, I thought the ISF was "the Sunni militia" that the US was arming, as irresponsible reporters like Megan Stack and Michael Slackman propagated in recent months.

Sultan Abul Ainein, the representative of Fateh (the original one) in Lebanon, strongly criticized this new phenomenon of Fateh al-Islam and gave support for the Lebanese Army to take the necessary measures to preserve stability. Maybe he didn't get the memo from Alastair Crooke.

What about Asbat al-Ansar? ّIs Alastair Crooke the source for that claim as well? What is the evidence? Was he "told"!? This is flat out preposterous reporting. We have now gone from Stack's and Slackman's "the ISF -- an official institution -- is a Sunni militia" to "the ISF is arming Asbat al-Ansar and Fateh al-Islam." Simply pathetic.

But Hersh added that not only is the ISF responsible for arming these groups, but also "militias associated with the Siniora government"! Apparently, what Hersh wanted to put here was edited out by the New Yorker. But never fear, he revealed it in all its hilarity to as-Safir. Who is this "militia associated with the Siniora government"? Samir Geagea's Lebanese Forces! Why, of course! They are known to arm and support Salafist groups in Palestinian camps!

Naturally, Hersh's evidence and sources for such a preposterous claim are typically impeccable. Here's what he told as-Safir (emphasis mine):


Samir Geagea was strongly opposed to Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and to his agreement with Michel Aoun. His Lebanese Forces were involved, I was told, in directly or indirectly helping a Sunni jihadi group that snuck in [to Lebanon.] The problem is that when my government distributes money to people in order to "take care of Hezbollah," we don't always know where it ends up. One of the theories of one of my sources, was that the money received by the security services and the Lebanese Forces comes from American aid unappropriated by Congress for this purpose. This is a very important point.

AS: Is this aid simply money or arms also?

SH: Money buys arms. There is a point I didn't write about. Money always flows in Lebanon, mainly from the Gulf states.


Simply impeccable reporting. What utter garbage. "One of the theories" of one of my sources?! Unappropriated funds sent to the Lebanese Forces?! Just what the hell is this nonsense? Oh wait, Hersh has an irrefutable response to such criticism. He conveyed it to Wolf Blitzer:


And a lot of this money, and I can't tell you with absolute assurance how, exactly when and how, but this money has gotten into the hands, among other places, in Lebanon, into the hands of three, at least three jihadist groups.

There's three Sunni jihadist groups whose main claim to fame inside Lebanon right now is that they are very tough. These are people connected to al Qaida who want to take on Hezbollah. So this government, at the minimum, we may not directly be funneling money to them, but we certainly know that these groups exist.


As Triumph the Insult Comic Dog would put it: "Oh Yes!" You gotta love Hersh. He starts with the assertion that the money "has gotten into the hands" of "at least" three jihadist groups, but he can't tell us with absolute certainty! Then asserts the purpose of these "funds" to these jihadist groups: to take on Hezbollah. And then, the coup de grace: the government, "at the minimum," we may not directly be funneling money to them, "but we certainly know these groups exist"! Oh Yes! That we know for sure! Such compelling Cartesian logic: I exist, therefore I am a jihadist funded by the Americans through the Seniora government! And people respect this guy?!

OK, Hersh, give us another one. Who's the American "official" who told you these things? Oops! No one else is quoted to that effect aside from Crooke. But don't worry, we'll take your word on it. Or rather, we'll take your word on one of the theories of one of your anonymous sources who is not quoted on this issue.

All joking aside, there is something incredibly disturbing about all this. For anyone familiar with the situation in Lebanon, and who follows the political discourse closely, as I do, will immediately realize that Hersh is internalizing and uncritically disseminating the propaganda of Hezbollah and its allies. There are unmistakable key words and claims used by Hersh that are a dead give away. The rest was supplied by Syria's ambassador to the US, Imad Moustapha, I'm sure.

In fact, I bet you that the "Middle East ambassador" quoted in the piece is none other than Moustapha. That too might be discernible for those who follow the Syrian political discourse and official statements. For instance, the ambassador told Hersh:


Bandar's mission--which the ambassador said was endorsed by the White House--also aimed "to create problems between the Iranians and Syria." There had been tensions between the two countries about Syrian talks with Israel, and the Saudis' goal was to encourage a breach. However, the ambassador said, "It did not work. Syria and Iran are not going to betray each other. Bandar's approach is very unlikely to succeed."


Anyone who reads the official Syrian leaks, which usually are put out by the Syrian regime through their man in al-Hayat, Ibrahim Hamidi, would suspect that the speaker is probably Syrian, as the same exact line was put out by Hamidi. Syrian functionaries, like the hapless Moustapha, are hardly the "free thinkers" who make statements on their own. They are people who follow the official line and regurgitate it. This is a perfect example. My money is on Moustpaha.

Therefore, all of Hersh's claims come either directly from Hezbollah, or from Hezbollah sympathizers, or functionaries of Hezbollah's regional allies.

To give you an example of the kind of "information" Hersh got from his meeting with Nasrallah. In December, Walid Jumblat revealed in a press conference that when he met with Hersh, he [Hersh] told him that Nasrallah had told him [Hersh] that when Jumblat and Marwan Hamade went to the US in March (before the summer war, started by Hezbollah), they went there in order to plan the summer war with the Americans!

The "information" put out by Hersh in this piece and in his interviews is of the same caliber, from the same sources, and is equally unprocessed.

Take this other claim for instance, attributed to seemingly two people, who may actually be the same person:


A former high-ranking C.I.A. officer told me, "The Americans have provided both political and financial support. The Saudis are taking the lead with financial support, but there is American involvement." He said that Khaddam, who now lives in Paris, was getting money from Saudi Arabia, with the knowledge of the White House. (In 2005, a delegation of the Front's members met with officials from the National Security Council, according to press reports.) A former White House official told me that the Saudis had provided members of the Front with travel documents.


Let's start with the basics. The delegation of the NSF met with members of the NSC in 2006, not 2005 (it wasn't yet formed in 2005). Now, again, my hunch is that this "former" CIA officer and "former" White House official is none other than the above-mentioned Bashar cheerleader, Flynt Leverett. As for the information, Hersh needn't have talked to Leverett (oops, I meant the "former CIA officer" and the "former White House official") about it. He could've asked me, and I would've told him that Bashar's internet propaganda tool had put out the same exact "information" months ago! My feeling is that once again the source of this "information" is probably the same.

As for the "travel documents," Khaddam doesn't need them. He holds Saudi citizenship. Did Hersh even try to confirm any of this "information," if not with someone from the NSF (Ammar Abdulhamid lives in the DC area), at least with a "current" official or CIA officer (they could even be two different people!)? Details, details...

Speaking of Cham Press, that bit of unchecked "information" fed to Hersh by (who else) Narallah's aides about how "they believe he is a prime target of fellow-Arabs, primarily Jordanian intelligence operatives" was also available on Cham Press in the summer! Wouldn't you know it, Cham Press also claimed that Jordan was training Hariri and Geagea militias and had set up offices in Lebanon for such purposes! What a surprise! Hell, I believe I could've written Hersh's entire article myself -- including the Leverett and Moustapha quotes -- based on Cham Press and Hezbollah "reports" and official Syrian leaks!

Although, I must admit, I can never make up the kind of stuff given to Hersh by Robert Baer. I mean who else could've provided this gem: "we've got Sunni Arabs preparing for cataclysmic conflict, and we will need somebody to protect the Christians in Lebanon. It used to be the French and the United States who would do it, and now it's going to be Nasrallah and the Shiites."

Yeah, let the militant Khomeinist Islamist group -- who burned tires and blocked roads and attacked Christian neighborhoods after a program on a Christian TV station satirized their leader -- be the "protector" of the Christians! Why didn't I think of that one!? Hell, let's also make Moqtada Sadr's Mehdi Army the "protector" of Christians in Iraq too! Sometimes I wonder if Hersh's articles, and this type of quotes, isn't just dark humor, or The Onion-style writing. Yet it's not a joke. This too is part of the Syrian and Hezbollah propaganda. That the "crazies" are the Sunnis, who are the real threat to the Christians. Hezbollah, on the other hand, is disciplined, pure, not seeking an Islamic state, etc. This is how Michel Aoun is trying to sell his unnatural alliance with Hezbollah to the Christians as well.

Moreover, this is the result of the facile dichotomies that I mentioned earlier and which underline the entire piece. The entire premise predicates that Iran and Syria are not themselves active supporters of Sunni Islamists and jihadists. That it's the exclusive realm of Saudi Arabia and the Lebanese Sunni Hariri! This approach is dangerously silly.

For one, a recent report (and earlier ones) noted how Iran is in fact actively supporting both Shiite militias and Sunni jihadists in Iraq. As for Syria, well, its alliance with Sunni jihadists and Islamists needs no introduction. Just ask the Syrian regime's US-based flack. I quote: "The al-Qaeda type jihadist groups are not emerging in Syria because Syria encourages them in other countries." That they do, especially in Iraq, where Bashar actively aided jihadists, and his regime worked openly with recruiters. Also don't forget the above-mentioned Fateh al-Islam and other Palestinian Islamists, pace Mr. Alastair Crooke. This is not to mention Hamas, because we don't want to upset Mr. Crooke, who is also a Hamas cheerleader.

There's also one other interesting Salafi Islamist allied with Hezbollah in Lebanon and who was received like royalty by Bashar Assad himself. He is one of the very few Sunnis in Lebanon who are openly allied with Hezbollah. He is also an open supporter of Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama Bin Laden. His name is Fathi Yakan. Check him out sometime, Sy.

So you see, it's hardly the clear-cut scheme that Hersh and his one-sided sources want to make it out to be. But then again, without that neat configuration, how would we get the stellar conspiracism and all the "supportive" florilegium of priceless quotes!? I should also note though that some other quotes in there, like those by Patrick Clawson and the one by Leslie Gelb are rather interesting.

I could go on and demolish other parts of this ridiculous piece, especially the section on Nasrallah, but I don't want to ruin the fun for you. Just make sure you can find your way back out of the Sylight Zone.

posted by Anton Efendi at 8:06 PM Comments (12) |


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Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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