Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Showing posts for "Lebanon"

Hezbollah Fighters in Syria

by Elliott Abrams

While there has been considerable discussion in the United States about jihadis who may be fighting in Syria against the Assad regime, less attention has been paid to the presence of Hezbollah fighters acting on the side of that regime.

Asharq Alawsat, the London Arabic-language newspaper, reports on this issue today in a story entitled “FSA: Hezbollah fighters in Syria, carrying out raids.” According to the FSA, the Free Syrian Army, there are also Iranian elements present. What are they doing? According to the newspaper’s sources, the Iranian are providing technical advice and assistance: “there are also Iranian specialists present in the northern areas [of Syria] close to the Turkish borders who have set-up operation rooms…in order to intercept the telephone calls of activists and FSA members…the Iranian specialists’ tasks include training, communication operations and uncovering activists.” But the Hezbollah men are operational: they are snipers. Read more »

Will Assad Return To Killing Lebanese Leaders?

by Elliott Abrams
Samir Geagea, leader of the Christian Lebanese Forces, speaks during a news conference at his house in Maarab village, north of Beirut, October 12, 2010. (Courtesy REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir). Samir Geagea, leader of the Christian Lebanese Forces, speaks during a news conference at his house in Maarab village, north of Beirut, October 12, 2010. (Courtesy REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir).

Throughout the past decade there have been a series of assassinations and attempted murders of political leaders in Lebanon. Almost all of these plots have one common element: the person whose life was threatened or taken was anti-Assad, and just about everyone in Lebanon believes Syria was behind or involved in the wave of violence. Read more »

Hamas Deserts Iran, and Lebanese Stand Up Against Syria

by Elliott Abrams

“Hamas rules out military support for Iran in any war with Israel,” reads a headline in London’s Guardian newspaper.

The statements by Hamas leaders that they “would not get involved” and are “not part of military alliances in the region” are significant. They show that Hamas wants to be on the winning side and has concluded that the Syria-Iran-Hezbollah axis is no longer on the ascendent. Only two weeks ago, Hamas started backing the Syrian opposition against the Assad regime that has so long been its host in Damascus. Read more »

Lebanon’s Non-Government

by Elliott Abrams

The turmoil in Syria has left Lebanon’s own political situation completely in flux. Months ago, Hezbollah arranged for Najib Mikati to become prime minister. Mikati is a Sunni, as Lebanon’s constitution requires, but he was not the true representative of the country’s Sunni community. That man was Saad Hariri, forced out of the government by Hezbollah and its allies.

But the new arrangement, finally consummated today with a vote of confidence for Mikati in Lebanon’s parliament, is dead before it starts. It reflects the old balance of power, when Hezbollah’s ally Bashar al-Assad was fully in charge in Syria. Today the Assad regime is foundering, and its influence in Lebanon will continue to diminish as players make their own new bets about life in Lebanon after the Assads are gone from Syria.

The best way to understand events in Lebanon is to read the columns of Michael Young, opinion editor of the English-language Daily Star newspaper of Beirut. Young’s most recent column is reprinted below, for as always he provides insight and clarity. Read more »

Russia + Syria + Hezbollah = Hamas

by Elliott Abrams

On April 6, Hamas terrorists fired a Russian Kornet laser-guided missile at a school bus in southern Israel. How did Hamas get such a missile?

It turns out that Russia does not license others to produce this missile; every single Kornet is manufactured in Russia at the KBP factory. The KBP web site helpfully touts all the wonderful qualities of this weapon.

So how did Hamas get its hands on the Kornet it used to try to kill dozens of Israeli schoolchildren? Syria is the obvious guess, as Russia sells Kornets to Syria and Syria maintains close relations with Hamas and Hezbollah. The United States has previously sanctioned the KBP plant for providing missiles to Syria that then reached Hezbollah, as this Israeli news item notes. The only thing we don’t know is whether it was Hezbollah or Syria who turned Kornets over to Hamas.

The ultimate culprit remains Russia, which is selling Syria missiles that it has every reason to know will be given to terrorist groups. Russia is of course a member of the Middle East Quartet, whose goal is supposed to be peace—not arms supplies to terrorists. If the scheduled Quartet meeting takes place this Friday, April 15, Sec. Clinton should lead off by telling Russia Foreign Minister Lavrov that this must stop. A discussion of how Russian arms get to terrorists who murder Israelis would be a great deal more useful than hours of debate over what tactics to use in the United Nations.

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Libya: About that Noose….

by Elliott Abrams

On Saturday the Arab League unanimously called for a no-fly zone over Libya, adding its voice to that of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

The no-fly zone will have to come soon unless it will serve mostly to protect the corpses of Libyan opposition fighters. In the last few days, Gaddafi’s forces have reversed the earlier opposition momentum and are using their superior fire power, including air power, to wipe out opposition gains. Unless stopped, in the coming weeks they will wipe out the opposition.

This situation calls for actions that display American leadership, but the president appears to believe that his words have an almost magical power. He has called for Gaddafi to leave; isn’t that enough?  “We are slowly tightening the noose,” the president said on March 11, despite all evidence to the  contrary. Actual leadership has been avoided and Secretary Clinton has in fact said we wish to avoid it.  “I think it’s very important that this not be a U.S.-led effort,” she explained on March 9th.

What explains this gap between Gaddafi gains on the ground, and the administration’s continuing inaction and claims of progress?

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The “Resistance” in Lebanon

by Elliott Abrams

Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Nasrallah speaks in Beirut suburbs (Jamal Saidi/Courtesy Reuters)

The influence of the United States in the Middle East is declining while that of Iran is rising. That’s the meaning of events in Lebanon, where Hezbollah has in essence thrown Prime Minister Saad Hariri from office and is about to choose his successor. Under Lebanon’s constitution, the prime minister must be a Sunni. But Najib Mikati, the Hezbollah designee, is a Sunni who will owe his office not to support in the Sunni community but to Hezbollah’s decision to make him PM. Hezbollah now has the votes in parliament to put him in, and of course to throw him out should he cross them.

Mikati will be a competent official; he’s a talented man and a hugely successful businessman. That’s not the point. He has close ties to Syria and Hezbollah, and it is clear which side is in power in Lebanon.

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Can Lebanon Escape?

by Elliott Abrams

A supporter waves a Lebanese flag over thousands of anti-Syrian protesters during a rally in Beirut March 14, 2005. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters)

Newspapers today are reporting that Hezbollah-backed members of parliament have withdrawn from the Lebanese government, effectively bringing down  the coalition led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

In 2005 the leading citizen of Lebanon, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was murdered by a gigantic car bomb that killed 22 other people as well. An international commission was established to investigate the murder, and is soon to report its findings. By all accounts it will accuse Hezbollah of being at least partly responsible. Hezbollah is demanding that the Government of Lebanon reject the findings, a particularly poignant demand for the current Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, as it was his father who was assassinated in 2005.

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