While the U.S.-designated terror group Hezbollah has denied any direct connection to the Lebanese government, if a group of U.S. lawmakers gets its way that flimsy charade is about to end.
Likewise, while the 2006 United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 creates “a buffer zone free of ‘any armed personnel’” in southern Lebanon, Hezbollah now has more than a hundred thousand missiles there, aimed at Israel—a travesty that will also end if Israel and the United States get their way.
In short, it’s time for world powers to increase sanctions on Hezbollah and any entities that do business with the group—starting with the United States and the European Union, both of which financially support the Lebanese government—and thus indirectly fund the terrorists of Hezbollah.
Here are some astonishing facts about the relationship of Shi’ite Hezbollah to Lebanon:
• Hezbollah maintains a huge standing army (a so-called militia) of some 40,000 men in Lebanon.
• Hezbollah has created an arsenal of 130,000 to 150,000 rockets, mostly concentrated near Lebanon’s southern border with Israel.
• Hezbollah forces are extremely active in Syria, especially in trying to establish military installations along Israel’s border with Syria, especially near the Golan Heights.
• Iran is Hezbollah’s largest financial and strategic benefactor by far, qualifying the Lebanese group as a veritable arm of the Islamic Republic.
• Hezbollah controls two major Lebanese governmental ministries, and while Lebanon prohibits a Shi’ite Muslim prime minister, the current Sunni Lebanese premier was nominated by Hezbollah.
• The Lebanese Army has provided thousands of uniforms to Hezbollah forces, and the two groups conduct joint vehicle patrols. Photos on the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) website show Hezbollah fighters driving American-made armored vehicles bearing both Hezbollah and LAF flags.
Bear in mind that the United Nations maintains an international peacekeeping force of about 9,400 ground troops and 850 naval personnel to enforce U.N. strictures—at an annual cost of $474 million.
Since Hezbollah operates freely in southern Lebanon and prevents the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon UNIFIL from accessing broad swaths of Lebanese territory, it’s clear that UNIFIL is not only useless, it’s a huge waste of money.
Indeed, just last year Israel discovered a series of Hezbollah military attack tunnels dug from southern Lebanon into northern Israel—right under the noses of the U.N.’s nearly half-billion-dollar-a-year “peacekeepers.”
No wonder Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, is demanding that UNIFIL stop playing games and do its job—which is to keep the U.N.-designated buffer zone free of weapons and armed forces. For starters, Danon is calling for “full freedom of movement” for the peacekeeping force. His efforts are supported by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Craft.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres issued a report recently stating that the both Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias continue to operate outside of Lebanese governmental control in violation of a 2004 U.N. resolution prohibiting such activity.
Guterres, who obviously has no power in these matters, said he continues to urge the Lebanese government and the LAF “to take all measures necessary to prohibit Hezbollah and other armed groups from acquiring weapons and building paramilitary capacity outside the authority of the state.”
How about ordering UNIFIL to fulfill its responsibilities, Mr. Guterres?
Note also that the United States has dumped more than $1.82 billion in “security assistance” into the LAF in the past decade. The United States currently gives Lebanon about $224 million a year in combined state and defense department grants.
No wonder, too, that a group of four U.S. representatives has sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanding that the United States reevaluate and suspend security assistance to the state of Lebanon.
In their letter, the representatives note that Hezbollah and the LAF “are no longer separate entities.” This fact establishes the logical conclusion that “by continuing to provide this assistance we are contravening U.S. law by funding a terrorist organization.”
Germany delivered a major bit of good news last week, by banning all Hezbollah activity in its territory. Germany’s Supreme Court ruled that Hezbollah is an organization that “disrupted global peace.”
Germany’s move shatters a long-held distinction among European nations, which against all evidence hold that Hezbollah’s military wing is a terrorist group while its political wing is not. Even Hezbollah denies that its two divisions are separate entities, but the European Union so far clings to its excuse to maintain friendly relations with the terrorists.
Clearly it’s time for the U.S. state and defense departments to cut their ties—and funding—to the Lebanese government and the terrorists embedded in it. We should also put pressure on the United Nations to force UNIFIL to fulfill its mission … or disband (or defund) it completely. Obviously, U.S. taxpayer dollars sent to Lebanon are either directly or indirectly aiding Hezbollah.
Hezbollah’s toxic influence in Lebanon—and increasingly in Syria—is only growing. The U.S. administration should show leadership on this issue, as it has in cutting funding to Iran and other Middle East entities that work contrary to U.S. interests.
We can hope that Germany’s lead, followed by additional sanctions enacted by the United States, might even bring European Union nations to their senses, so that they, too, begin isolating Lebanon for its embrace of Iranian proxies.
Every penny of the quarter-billion-dollar U.S. annual contribution to Lebanon supports Hezbollah terrorists, Iranian imperialism and military threats to Israel. The half-billion-dollar annual budget of UNIFIL, funded by U.N. member states, does nothing to stop Hezbollah’s violations of two U.N. resolutions prohibiting its massive military build-up in southern Lebanon. Both expenditures urgently need renewed accountability.
James Sinkinson is president of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.