(Note: A version of the following appeared as an Op-Ed in The Times of Israel on Aug. 3, 2017)
There's an elephant in the room in a recent Washington Post
Op-Ed Can Lebanon survive Syria, Israeland President Trump that discusses
challenges facing the Lebanese state. That elephant is the open support of the Lebanese government for Hezbollah, the Shi'ite Muslim, U.S.-designated terror group, which has fed off its Beirut host-turned-advocate for decades. The July 25, 2017 Post
commentary by former Post correspondent Nora Boustany and writer Daniel Williams effectively whitewashes the country's current support for Hezbollah.
Boustany, now a journalism professor at the American University of Beirut, and Williams, an author of a recent book on Christians in the Middle East, argue that Lebanon is trying to navigate a summer of tensions with its neighbors and is seemingly always under existential siege from forces inside and out [emphasis added].
Those neighbors, the commentators assert, include a bellicose Israel that is unhappy with archenemy Hezbollah's growing power and is talking about flattening the country if Hariri doesn't do something about it. Lebanon, they say, is a beleaguered country currently led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri who, in a recent visit to the U.S., was seeking to prevent the Trump administration from ending a State Department program of military aid to Lebanon worth about $80 million this year.
Trump, the writers argue, Should not end U.S. support for Lebanon's armed forces. Yetperhaps in order to advance their argumentThe Post Op-Ed omits relevant facts, namely why and how Hezbollah's power is growing and what this portends for Lebanon, Israel and the region writ large.
Indeed, two key words are missing from Boustany and Williams' Op-Ed: Michael Aoun. This is curious given that Aoun is Lebanon's President. He's also a Hezbollah ally.
Amazingly, Aoun's name is not mentioned even once in the 841-word commentarydespite the fact that his electoral victory was announced in an Oct. 31, 2016 Washington Post report entitled Lebanese lawmakers pick Hezbollah ally to end presidential logjam.
Aoun, The Post noted in that October dispatch, had angered many Lebanese by dispatching fighters to aid President Bashar al-Assad's forces in Syria without receiving permission from Lebanon's government. That is, the eighty-one year-old Aoun, as commander-in-chief of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), assisted a U.S.-designated terrorist group in its efforts to prop up a genocidal dictator.
Hezbollah, like other Iranian-backed proxies, has been active in Tehran's efforts to support al-Assad. Aoun's position, Post reporter Hugh Naylor stated, showed that Hezbollah has become the dominant player in Lebanon. In this, it has the active cooperation of the LAF. Indeed, as analyst Tony Badran noted in a July 26, 2017 Tablet commentary entitled Lebanon is Another Name for Hezbollah:
At the same time Hariri is visiting Washington, however, the LAF is taking part in a joint military operation with Hezbollah in northeastern Lebanon, targeting a pocket of Syrian armed groupsincluding the group formerly known as the Nusra Fronton the Syrian border. Hezbollah, of course, controls the Lebanese government and dictates the operations of its armed forces. Indeed, it was Hezbollah that laid out the battle plans for the current operation in northeastern Lebanon, including what role the LAF would play in it. And it was Hezbollah's chief, Hassan Nasrallah, who announced the impending start of the joint operation with the LAF during a televised appearance a couple of weeks ago.
Badran also pointed out that the LAF chaperoned Hezbollah on a media tour of the border with Israelan area in which the terror group used environmental NGOs as cover to conduct surveillance on Israel, as the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) noted in an Aug. 2, 2017 Washington Examiner Op-Ed (Hezbollah's Media Relations Department).
The Washington Post itself, in a July 31, 2017 report made after another tour with the terrorist group, pointed out that nowhere was there any evidence of the Lebanese state on the Israel-Lebanon border; Hezbollah, which de facto runs the country, controlled it all. Hezbollah even has elected members of parliamentnot that they're necessary when a pro-Hezbollah commander-in-chief is able to send forces abroad sans parliamentary support.
Importantly, that July 31 Post dispatch, like Boustany and Williams' Op-Ed, omits that Hezbollah's very existence violates U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701, which called for the group to disband.
Instead, Hezbollah has made war on the Jewish state and turned Lebanon into a Vichy-like state that, similar to France during World War II, is also led by an aging autocrat who has made his peace with and concessions to Jew-hatred and war.
Hezbollah's ally and enabler, the LAF, as journalist and analyst Lee Smith pointed out in The Weekly Standard, is the fifth largest recipient of U.S. military aid. In 2016, the LAF received $220 million (The Lebanese Army is Misusing Aid, Nov. 14, 2016). Yet, Prime Minister Hairiwho Boustany and Williams paint as fighting Hezbollahwants more. This, despite the fact that, according to Smith, pictures of a Hezbollah parade in the Syrian city of Qusayr showed Hezbollah fighters using American-made personnel carriers (ACPS)illustrating the danger that U.S. military aid to the LAF can wind up in the hands of a terrorist group, which, prior to the Sept. 11, 2001 al-Qaeda attack, was responsible for more American deaths than any other Islamist group.
Unsurprisingly, these details were also omitted in the Post commentary. Perhaps it would have ruined the sales pitch.