Massive Bomb Attack in Lebanon Kills Top Anti-Syrian Officer, Risks Regional War Driven by Iran Proxies
Increasingly pitched fears that the Syrian civil war will escalate into a regional conflict were heightened Friday as a deadly car bomb in Beirut's predominantly Christian Ashrafiya district killed eight people, including an intelligence officer who was one of the most popular figures in Lebanon's pro-Western and anti-Syrian March 14th movement.
The officer, Col. Wissam al-Hassan, was head of the Information Branch of Lebanon's Internal Security Forces, one of the country's two state intelligence services and considered to be aligned against the Assad regime and its Iranian-backed Hezbollah allies. At least 78 others were injured in the attack.
Hassan's murder, which took place near the headquarters of the Christian Phalange party, threatens to reignite the sectarian tensions behind Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war and which continue to plague Lebanon. March 14th supporters, quoted in Arabic sources, have linked the murder to Syria and Hezbollah. March 14th Parliamentarian Michel Pharaon speculates that the bombing site was chosen "because it is in the heart of the capital and it is a Christian neighborhood."
Hassan was one of the central figures behind the arrest of former Lebanese Information Minister Michel Samaha on charges of colluding with Assad regime officials to conduct terror attacks and incite sectarian strife inside Lebanon. Hassan was also at the forefront of the investigation into the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, who was killed by a car bomb in February 2005. The terror attack ignited the Cedar Revolution that forced Syrian troops to withdraw from Lebanese territories, and Hassan later presented evidence to a U.N. tribunal investigating the attack which implicated Syrian-directed Hezbollah agents.
March 14th supporters have flooded into the streets in protest, and there are confirmed reports of burning tires in Beirut and unconfirmed reports of gunfire exchanges in northern Lebanon.
Arab media analysts on Al Jazeera English revealed that al-Hassan had just returned to Beirut, and speculated that the precise targeting indicates that Lebanon's intelligence services have been seriously penetrated. A loss of faith in Lebanese state institutions will complicate attempts to stabilize the situation, and will dramatically heighten the risk of an escalatory spiral.
Sectarian tensions in Lebanon had already risen sharply in recent weeks in reaction to Hezbollah's increasingly open cross-border military support for Assad. Backed by Iran, Hezbollah militarily controls southern Lebanon and politically dominates the country. Its support for Assad, perceived to be at the behest of the Syrian leader's Iranian allies, has undermined the analysis of some Western specialists to the effect that Hezbollah had an indigenous Lebanese movement pursuing Lebanese interests.
Hezbollah's behavior instead seems to confirm the recent evaluation of Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor, who blasted Iran for seeking to turn Lebanon into an "outpost for terror” and implied that Hezbollah was an overseas proxy of the Iranian regime.
Jerusalem, April 10 – As the world hopes a ceasefire will come into effect in Syria, Israel fears more weapons will end up in the hands of the Hezbollah terrorist organization. Jerusalem is reportedly concerned arms will flow across the porous Syrian border into Lebanon.
Hezbollah already has in excess of 40,000 rockets and missiles aimed at Israel – more than it possessed on the eve of the 2006 war with Israel.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly called for an end to the transfer of weapons to Iran-funded Hezbollah by Syria. This movement of arms to Hezbollah contravenes U.N. Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1701, which states “there will be no weapons without the consent of the Government of Lebanon.”
Hezbollah’s backing for Syrian President Bashar Assad and his slaughter of his people is punishing Hezbollah’s political wing on the home front.
“In Lebanon, (Hezbollah leader) Hassan Nasrallah is losing a lot of his supporters who are fed up with him and the duplicity of his policies, especially in light of his support for the systematic and atrocious slaughter perpetrated by the Assad regime,” wrote the pan-Arabic daily Al-Hayat. “In Syria, slogans are being chanted against him and his party, calling for him to be fought on par with the regime of Bashar al-Assad that is slaughtering the people. Hezbollah is even being accused of participating in the killing of Syrians alongside the Shabbiha, or the regime’s thugs.”
Hezbollah’s terrorism and financial operations are not restricted to the Middle East. The organization has hundreds of operatives in the United States with thousands of donors, according to the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security.
Additionally the group is active in South America and Africa. “Hezbollah uses West Africa as a transit point for funneling money, arms, and drugs to far-reaching corners of the globe,” said Israel’s Ambassador to the U.N. Ron Prosor during a recent debate in the UNSC.
Washington, Feb. 24 - The U.N. Security Council approved a rare statement condemning last week’s terrorist attack on Israeli diplomats in New Delhi, India and a foiled hit on an Israeli diplomat in Tbilisi, Georgia.
“The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the terrorist attack in New Delhi, India aimed at Israel’s diplomatic personnel which resulted in injuries to diplomatic personnel and civilians, and the recent attempted terrorist attack in Tbilisi, Georgia,” according to the U.N. Security Council’s press statement issued Thursday (Feb. 23).
The reprimand on behalf of Israel – the first of its kind by the Security Council in seven years – drew praise from Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor. Israel blames Iran and its terrorist proxy Hezbollah for the twin attacks Feb. 13.
“…The unanimous voice of the Security Council can be heard around the world – from the halls of every embassy that faces Iranian terror to the hospital room of Israeli diplomat Tal Yehoshua, who is still recovering from her injuries,” said Prosor, referencing the injured wife of a diplomat at the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi.
“After seven years of silence, the Council has finally spoken against the terrorism that the Israeli people face every day,” Prosor added.
In New Delhi, a motorcyclist attached an explosive device to an Israeli embassy car as it was carrying Yehoshua, setting the car aflame and seriously injuring her. The attack also wounded three others. In Tbilisi, an explosive device that had been placed on an Israeli Embassy staff member’s vehicle was detected and defused before it exploded.
Terrorists were also planning a series of bomb attacks in Bangkok, Thailand but the devices exploded prematurely, injuring one of the plotters . The assailant, an Iranian national identified as Saied Moradi, lost his leg in the explosion.
Thai police found and defused two magnetic bombs that could be attached to vehicles, much like those used in recent attacks against Israeli embassy targets, said the Israeli ambassador, Itzhak Shoham.
"They are similar to the ones used in Delhi and in Tbilisi," Shoham told Associated Press. "From that we can assume that there is the same network of terror."
Washington, Jan. 24 – U.S. President Obama said Tuesday he would take no options off the table to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons but added that a peaceful resolution of the crisis was still possible.
In his State of the Union Address to Congress, Obama took credit for uniting the international community in opposition to the Iranian nuclear program.
“The regime is more isolated than ever before; its leaders are faced with crippling sanctions, and as long as they shirk their responsibilities, this pressure will not relent.
“Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal. But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better, and if Iran changes course and meets its obligations, it can rejoin the community of nations.”
Last month, Obama signed into law new sanctions that target foreign entities that do business with the Central Bank of Iran, which the Islamic Republic uses to process payments for its oil exports. And this week, the European Union approved a ban on oil purchases from Iran due to take effect in July.
Obama only briefly mentioned Israel in his address and did not talk about the Palestinians.
“Our iron-clad commitment, and I mean iron clad, to Israel’s security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history,” he said.
Focusing largely on domestic policy in a speech that looks ahead to November’s presidential election, Obama briefly discussed the uprisings that have swept the Arab world in the past year but broke no new ground.
“How this incredible transformation will end remains uncertain. But we have a huge stake in the outcome. And while it is ultimately up to the people of the region to decide their fate, we will advocate for those values that have served our own country so well. We will stand against violence and intimidation. We will stand for the rights and dignity of all human beings – men and women; Christians, Muslims, and Jews,” Obama said.
Reinforcing Obama’s words on Iran, Israel’s United Nations Ambassador Ron Prosor told the Security Council on Tuesday that the sanctions recently approved by the EU and the United States should be judged by their results.
“Each and every member of the United Nations, and particularly of this Council, should lie awake at night thinking about what would happen if the regime in Iran gets hold of the most dangerous weapon on earth,” Prosor said.
“Only the pressure of a united international community can stop Iran from continuing its march toward nuclear weapons,” he added.
Washington, Dec. 5 - Israel won a rare victory in the United Nations Friday when 133 member states supported its proposal to widen the availability of farming technology to developing nations.
"The Israeli proposal aims to empower women in rural areas, promote food security and farmer education, and slow down the effects of climate change,” according to the Israeli news outlet YNET.
"There is a broad spectrum of co-sponsors and supporters of this resolution," Israel's Deputy Ambassador to the UN Haim Waxman said Thursday of the resolution. "It is a testament to the central importance of this issue and the vast potential of agricultural technology. Today this Committee is saying loud and clear that agricultural technology can build more resilient communities, stronger nations and a more prosperous planet."
The vote marks a rare win for the Jewish state, which has often seen Arab and Muslim nations use the General Assembly as a political platform to denounce Israel. Indeed, Arab states, led by the Iraq delegation which called the bill a cover for Israel’s “illegal and destructive” policies, made up most of the 35 nations which abstained.
The Palestinian Authority is in the midst of a campaign at the UN to gain statehood through a Security Council or General Assembly vote rather than through peace talks with Israel.
Israel has long been a pioneer in agricultural technologies, and has forged bonds with developing nations in Africa and elsewhere by sharing its experts and innovative technologies.
Israeli ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor thanked the members who voted to support Israel’s proposal, but chided the Arab states for bringing politics into the vote on the proposal, which could likely aid developing Arab nations as well.
In December 2007, Israel won a similar vote on “Agricultural Technology for Development” at the UNGA's Second Committee (Economic and Financial).
Jerusalem, July 27 - "Palestinian attempts to create a state by bypassing negotiations are akin to picking out a chimney pot for one's house before laying its foundation," Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor told the Security Council on Tuesday.
Prosor urged the Palestinians to return to the direct peace talks they walked out on last September. He told a U.N. debate on the Middle East that several leading Palestinians, including Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, have spoken out against plans to declare statehood this September.
American leaders have urged negotiations as the preferred avenue for statehood. Congressional leaders held hearings on the Palestinian plan. They debated withholding aid from the Palestinians if they choose to go ahead with the diplomatic move at the U.N. - particularly if the new Palestinian government contains Iran-backed Hamas, a terror group committed to Israel's destruction.
Prosor, like other Israeli and Quartet representatives, pointed out that face-to-face talks will bring the greatest benefits to the Palestinians. He spoke of a recent example where talks between bitter enemies led to the creation of the world's newest state.
"Both South and North Sudan harbored serious frustrations. Major problems arose. Yet, the parties did not seek quick fixes or instant solutions. They sat together and negotiated, reaching a mutual agreement. This is why South Sudan was accepted by such a broad consensus in the international community," said Prosor.
The ambassador warned that any debate on the Middle East cannot solely focus on the Israeli-Palestinian arena but must look at the wider picture. Many of the region's problems originate in Iran, he suggested.
"Iran remains the center of terrorism in our region, transferring arms to Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist groups in serial violation of numerous Security Council resolutions," he said.
Iran must not be allowed to fall off the international radar, Prosor added.
The ambassador concluded with a plea to the Palestinians:
"Take Israel's outstretched hand. Seize the opportunities before us to advance down the real road toward peace - a road of solutions not resolutions; dialogue not monologue; and direct negotiations not unilateral declarations."