1) Implicating Hezbollah
The New York Times reports Bulgaria Implicates Hezbollah in July Attack on Israelis. (more via memeorandum)
The announcement could force the European Union to reconsider designating the Lebanon-based group as a terrorist organization and cracking down on its fund-raising. That would upend Europe’s policy of quiet tolerance of the group, which, in addition to operating schools and social services, is an influential force in Middle East politics, considers Israel an enemy and has extensive links with Iran. ... The United States, too, urged the European Union to condemn Hezbollah. John O. Brennan, President Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser and his nominee to run the C.I.A., responded in a statement Tuesday: “We call on our European partners as well as other members of the international community to take proactive action to uncover Hezbollah’s infrastructure and disrupt the group’s financing schemes and operational networks in order to prevent future attacks.” But countries including France and Germany have been wary of taking that step, which could force confrontations with large numbers of Hezbollah supporters living within their borders.Last August the New York Times reported Despite Alarm by U.S., Europe Lets Hezbollah Operate Openly:
While the group is believed to operate all over the Continent, Germany is a center of activity, with 950 members and supporters last year, up from 900 in 2010, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency said in its annual threat report. On Saturday, Hezbollah supporters and others will march here for the annual Jerusalem Day event, a protest against Israeli control of that city. Organizers told the Berlin police that the event would attract 1,000 marchers, and that two counterdemonstrations were also likely. Hezbollah has maintained a low profile in Europe since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, quietly holding meetings and raising money that goes to Lebanon, where officials use it for an array of activities — building schools and clinics, delivering social services and, Western intelligence agencies say, carrying out terrorist attacks. European security services keep tabs on the group’s political supporters, but experts say they are ineffective when it comes to tracking the sleeper cells that pose the most danger. “They have real, trained operatives in Europe that have not been used in a long time, but if they wanted them to become active, they could,” said Alexander Ritzmann, a policy adviser at the European Foundation for Democracy in Brussels, who has testified before Congress on Hezbollah.Benjamin Weinthal reports in the Jerusalem Post, Bulgaria: Hezbollah behind Burgas attack:
Hezbollah’s number 2 leader Naim Qassem rejected the British separation of his organization into political and military wings. He told the LA Times in 2009, “The same leadership that directs the parliamentary and government work also leads jihad actions in the struggle against Israel.”This is an important admission because a lot of commentary will attempt to differentiate between Hezbollah's "military" and "political" wings.
The Washington Post calls for the European Union to respond to Hezbollah’s attack in Bulgaria:
Since then the Quds Force has, among other things, plotted to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States in Washington and the U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan, and it has attacked an Israeli diplomat’s wife in India. Hezbollah has attempted attacks on Israeli tourists in Cyprus, Greece and Thailand as well as in Bulgaria. Mr. Levitt says that more than 20 terror attacks by Hezbollah or the Iranian force were detected between May 2011 and July 2012; fortunately, almost all failed or were disrupted.Unfortunately, the editorial implies that Israel has been killing Iranian scientists, a supposition that's disputed by Michael Ledeen. On the positive side, the editorial cites Matthew Levitt'sHIZBALLAH and the QODS FORCE in IRAN’S SHADOW WAR with the WEST. (.pdf)
The United States, which long ago designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, has been pressing European leaders to do the same so that the group’s funds in European banks and other financial assets can be targeted. Several governments, led by France, have resisted; they worry that sanctions could further destabilize Lebanon or subject European peacekeepers in the south of that country to reprisals. Bulgaria’s findings should end the debate. Inaction would mean accepting that Europe can be a free-fire zone for Iran and its proxies.
IN JANUARY 2010, the Qods Force—the elite unit of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)— decided that it and Hizballah, its primary terrorist proxy, would embark on a new campaign of violence targeting not only Israel but U.S. and other Western targets as well. Since then, the two organizations have been cooperating but also competing to launch attacks across the globe. What is particularly striking is how amateurish the actions of both organizations have been: targets were poorly chosen and assaults carried out with gross incompetence. But as the groups brush off the cobwebs and professionalize their operations, this sloppy tradecraft could quickly be replaced by operational success. Indeed, one particularly odd effort might have succeeded were it not for the fortuitous placement of an undercover U.S. government informant: the case of an Iranian-American used-car salesman who pleaded guilty in October 2012 to conspiring with Iranian agents to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States.Related commentary and details from Honest Reporting, This Ongoing War, Israel Matzav, Elder of Ziyon, Eugene Kontorovich and The Lid.
2) Not liking Hagel
Time Magazine features an ugly article Just who do they represent At Hagel Hearing, Concern for Israel Tops U.S. Troops in Combat by Brandon Friedman (via memeorandum):
It’s difficult to interpret this message any other way: the Senate Armed Services Committee—particularly its Republican membership—is more concerned with the apparent American defense secretary’s relationship with Israel than with the future of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the fate of U.S. troops engaged in both locations. We are approaching a host of critical and delicate decisions on how many — and how fast — U.S. troops should be pulled out of Afghanistan. Yet, after more than a decade at war there — and nearly 2,100 U.S. lives lost — the people charged with overseeing the operation seem no longer interested. While Israel is a strategic ally in a precarious situation (the committee also frequently brought up Iran), at best, this sends a disheartening message to the American men and women serving down range, under hostile fire. After 11 years of fighting, committee members seem to have little concern for what the likely incoming defense secretary thinks of the situation.If Hagel had acquitted himself well, maybe there'd be an argument here. And surely how Hagel would deal with Iran is important to know too. Barry Rubin recounts how the question about containing Iran went:
Here’s the primary example — Hagel said: “I support the president’s strong position on containment.” Now, the truth is that there’s nothing wrong with that. He did not say the president’s position advocating containment of Iran. Contrary to the way that many writers are portraying it, what he said wasn’t incorrect, just ambiguous. He could easily have recovered. Then, some of his handlers asked him to clarify. What did he do?
I was just handed a note that I misspoke … that I said I supported the president’s position on containment. If I said that, I meant to say that we don’t have a position on containment.Now this management alone is enough to bar him from handling one of the most important and complex jobs in the world. Let’s count the ways:
– Never admit that you’ve just been told you were wrong! He should have pocketed the note without mentioning it and simply added to his statement (see below). What he did instead is on the level of stupidity of a television host being shown a cue card reading: “Wrap up the show, moron!”, and then reading that aloud to the live audience. — He should have said something like this: “I do not want any ambiguity in my clear statements of support for the president and for a tough policy on Iran. I support the president’s position of asserting that containment is insufficient and that our goal is to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, leaving all options open for doing so.”
He doesn’t just not know the facts, he doesn’t know how to be a high-level official. He doesn’t just not know the details of international affairs, his thought is simply not coherent. And unlike Obama and Kerry, he doesn’t know how to hide his radicalism behind smooth phrases.Dorothy Rabinowitz made similar observations about Senator Hagel in the Wall Street Journal.
While the critics of Hagel's critics claim that the campaign against Hagel is primarily about Israel and often go as far as Friedman in suggesting that there is an unseemly aspect to Hagel's critics on this count. On the other hand Hagel's critics seem to like largely because of his past statements about Israel! It certainly isn't due to his savvy.
But are Hagel's (pre-confirmation coversion) views on Israel correct? Did his views on Israel show that he put American interests first? Michael Doran writes in Hagel’s misreading of how to treat an ally that the answer to both questions is "no."
Realists in the Hagel mold find this episode exhilarating. Eisenhower, they say, pursued the national interest without concern for “sentimental” attachments, to say nothing of domestic lobbies. When applied to the present, the analogy calls for dealing sharply with Israel. The United States, the implication goes, must not allow its client to drag it into conflict with Iran. Instead, Obama must treat Benjamin Netanyahu with the same grit that Ike flashed at Eden. But this analogy omits a key fact: Ike came to regret those policies. “Years later,” Richard Nixon wrote in the 1980s, “I talked to Eisenhower about Suez; he told me it was his major foreign policy mistake.” By 1958, Ike himself had realized his error and reversed course.
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