If Hezbollah gains power in Lebanon after the upcoming elections, we might be witnessing the beginning of a cauldron. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has already said he would seek greater Iranian assistance in arms and weaponry should his group gain control of Lebanon’s governmental apparatus. His group is likely sheltering Abu Ibrahim, an American enemy who stoked the embers of the Iraqi insurgency. And now there might be evidence that directly links Hezbollah to the death of Rafik Hariri - or, of course, not.
All of these developments guarantee that Lebanon will surely be on President Obama’s national security plate in the immediate months. Should Hezbollah come out the victor in Lebanon’s elections, Lebanon would devolve into a theocratic dictatorship, heavily influenced, if not outright controlled, by the mullahs in Tehran. Terrorists would find safe haven for years on end. This is a scenario that the United States should resist, regardless of who wins the elections this month.
For instance, reports that the infamous terrorist Abu Ibrahim has fled for refuge in Lebanon should raise concerns that Mr. Ibrahim is being granted sanctuary from Hezbollah.
Abu Ibrahim, now reportedly 73-years-old, has a long and violent career. He was indicted in the 1982 bombing of Pan Am Flight 830, among other bombings, and has long been on the FBI’s watch-list. Why is his alleged departure to Lebanon so significant? For starters, Lebanon is scheduled to hold elections this month. Should Hezbollah achieve greater leverage in the new Lebanese cabinet, the possibility exists that the likes of Ibrahim — as well as other mercenary jihadists sheltered by Hezbollah — could become part of the Lebanese “mainstream,” much the way murderers like Yassir Arafat and Khaled Mashal were unwarrantedly legitimized as valid political actors in Palestine and Syria.
In addition, Ibrahim has long been an Iraqi agent. As a born Palestinian Sunni, Ibrahim found safe haven for decades in Baghdad, where Saddam Hussein’s regime used him as an “arm” of the Ba’athist state. With assistance from the Iraqi Intelligence Service, Ibrahim ran the “15 May” terror organization — named for the date Israel was founded — and conducted over two-dozen terrorist attacks on Israeli and American targets, including bombings and assassinations. Duane R. Clarridge, former spymaster in the CIA, has written that Ibrahim had a “talent for constructing ingenious machines of death, such as refrigerator trucks whose cooling pipes were filled with liquid explosives.”
Saddam Hussein also used Ibrahim as a proxy-terrorist against Ba’athist Iraq’s chief regional rivals, Iran and Syria. This makes his move to Lebanon all the more intriguing, and goes against conventional wisdom that holds that terrorists will not work with regimes that hold ideological differences. Abu Ibrahim has gone from an Iraqi agent used against the Islamic Republic of Iran, to a surrogate of Hezbollah and the Iranian regime in Lebanon. Times may have changed, but the old Middle Eastern calculus — “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” — has not.
Hezbollah’s rumored sponsorship of Ibrahim is not the only reason the terror gang has been in the news. As Michael J. Totten reported in Commentary, United Nations investigators are now targeting Hezbollah, rather than Syria, over the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Shouldn’t the Lebanese people know if one of the parliamentary “blocs” in their election carried out an assassination against a former beloved leader of another bloc? Wouldn’t Americans want to know if a prominent Democrat murdered his or her Republican rival, or vice versa?
As Totten explains, there might be some politicking going on in the report:
Someone in Lebanon’s anti-Hezbollah “March 14” coalition may be hoping to use disinformation in Der Spiegal as a political weapon. These things happen it’s also possible that someone inside the U.N. thinks the people of Lebanon have a right to know what Hezbollah has done before they go to the polls next month and place assassins in the saddle in Beirut.
One of my own well-connected sources in Lebanon had this to say over e-mail: “A rumor that the tribunal is going to end up issuing its indictments against Hezbollah, not Syria, has been floating around Beirut for the past month or so, and among highly credible sources. The impression I’ve gotten is that it would be largely a political move, a way to nail Hezbollah — and by association Iran — while largely letting Syria off the hook in the interests of promoting this fantasy-world ‘rapprochement’ with Damascus. Everyone I’ve heard discussing this still believes Syria did it. It’s a no brainer even if Hezbollah did play a role in carrying out the assassination.”
America’s allies in Lebanon, the March 14 alliance, are being extra careful how they handle this news. Saad Hariri, Rafik’s son and party leader of the Future Movement, has been very cautious in his response, stating that he could not comment on newspaper “leaks” until they were fully verified. Walid Jumblatt, perhaps Hezbollah’s strongest opponent in Lebanon, said, “We cannot allow what the [newspaper] released to become another Ani al-Remmaneh incident” — referring to the event that sparked the Lebanese civil war in 1975.