Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mideast Media Sampler 4/24/13: Hezbollah On The Prowl For Passports And Funding For Terrorism

by David Gerstman, contributing blogger at Legal Insurrection

2) Getting around with Hezbollah

Last month the National Post reported Hezbollah deliberately seeks Canadians because of internationally accepted passports: senior CSIS official:
The terrorist group Hezbollah has been seeking operatives with Canadian passports, a senior intelligence official told MPs reviewing a bill Thursday that could strip terrorists of their citizenship. Appearing before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service official said Canadian passport holders were being actively sought by terrorist groups. ... The RCMP is also investigating allegations a Lebanese-Canadian Hezbollah member was behind last July’s bombing of a bus full of Israeli tourists at Sarafovo airport on the Black Sea coast. The suspect, who now lives in Lebanon, had used his Canadian passport to travel to Bulgaria.
Now it's been reported that Iran agent monitoring Chabad arrested in Bulgaria:
Bulgarian police officers last summer arrested a Canadian citizen linked to the Iranian government who engaged in surveillance of the local Chabad center in the capital of Sofia, a well-placed and reliable local source told The Jerusalem Post last week, on condition of anonymity due to security reasons. An Iranian-sponsored female agent in her 50s, holding a Canadian passport, traveled from Istanbul to Sofia several weeks after the bombing of the Israeli tour bus in the Black Sea resort town of Burgas in July 2012. She was arrested on her first day in Sofia after the Bulgarian police, on high alert, noticed she was monitoring the Chabad center.
While it isn't certain that this agent was working for Hezbollah, the possibility certainly can't be ruled out since Hezbollah is a proxy of Iran and Syria. And how is Hezbollah funding its international operations? The Jerusalem Post reports:
Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, says exchange houses have been used more frequently in recent years by the Islamic Republic in Iran to fund its nuclear program, as sanctions have increasingly restricted its access to resources. “It’s not insignificant that Europe is identified as a place where Hezbollah is apparently selling drugs,” Schanzer said. ... Experts say that Hezbollah’s asymmetric fund-raising campaign has kicked in to high gear as the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria has lost ground in its war against his fellow countrymen. The Assad regime, and the Ayatollah regime in Iran, are Hezbollah’s primary patrons.
With Iran and Syria limited in the resources it can provide Hezbollah, the terrorist organization is turning to drugs and money laundering to finance its operations.

2) Friedman resurrects "Fayyadism" Some time ago, Thomas Friedman coined the term "Fayyadism," a concept that, according to Nathan Brown, never had a chance.
Why Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad never had a chance to meet the high expectations placed on him
— Foreign Policy (@ForeignPolicy) April 18, 2013
(No I don't agree with everything Brown argues, but the fourth and fifth paragraphs are good observations.) In his most recent column, Goodbye to Fayyad Thomas Friedman boasts about his neologism:
Who is Salam Fayyad? A former economist at the International Monetary Fund, he first came to prominence when he was named finance minister of the Palestinian Authority in 2002, after donors got fed up seeing their contributions diverted for corruption. Shortly after he became prime minister in 2007, I coined the term “Fayyadism” — the all-too-rare notion that an Arab leader’s legitimacy should be based not on slogans or resistance to Israel and the West or on personality cults or security services, but on delivering decent, transparent, accountable governance.
Whether he used the term "Fayyadism" in other fora, I don't know, but the earliest mention of it in a column was in a 2009 column, Greet Shoots in Palestine.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to the wider Middle East what off-Broadway is to Broadway. It is where all good and bad ideas get tested out first. Well, the Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, a former I.M.F. economist, is testing out the most exciting new idea in Arab governance ever. I call it “Fayyadism.” Fayyadism is based on the simple but all-too-rare notion that an Arab leader’s legitimacy should be based not on slogans or rejectionism or personality cults or security services, but on delivering transparent, accountable administration and services. ... Things are truly getting better in the West Bank, thanks to a combination of Fayyadism, improved Palestinian security and a lifting of checkpoints by Israel. In all of 2008, about 1,200 new companies registered for licenses here. In the first six months of this year, almost 900 have registered. According to the I.M.F., the West Bank economy should grow by 7 percent this year.
While it's possible that Friedman came up with "Fayyadism" in 2007, the context of the 2009 mention suggests that the term was based on the results of Fayyad's governance, so I believe that Friedman is mistaken about his own record. But what's worse than this possible lapse is that Friedman demonstrated his absolute ignorance of Palestinian politics. Over the time that he sporadically advertised "Fayyadism" as the path to peace, Freidman wrote in a 2011 column, Bibi and Barack:
And it is equally silly for the Palestinians to be going to the United Nations for a state when they need to be persuading Israelis why a Hamas-Fatah rapprochement is in their security interest.
Hamas made it absolutely clear that it wanted Fayyad sidelined and yet Friedman told us that a Fatah-Hamas agreement would be to Israel's benefit. This suggests that "Fayyadism" is one more empty Friedman phrase. "Fayyadism" was a handy rhetorical stick with which to beat Israel. Sure Fayyad is more honest and transparent that any other Palestinian leader, but he is also a leader without an internal constituency. If Friedman could tout a peace killing alliance between Fatah and Hamas the same time he promoted "Fayyadism" as the only way to peace, it demonstrates that he is disingenuous, if not illogical and ignorant. In today's column, Friedman also asserts:
Fayyad also played the leading role in rebuilding the Palestinian security services in the West Bank, which even the Israeli military grew to respect, and in trying to build Palestinian institutions, on the argument that the more Palestinians built their institutions — finance, police, social services — the more Israel’s denial of them of a state will be unsustainable.
Lately there's been a rise in attempts to kidnap Israeli soldiers and rock attacks against Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria, suggesting that the Palestinian security forces are helpful, when they want to be, but can hardly be relied upon. Furthermore, even with the built up institutions, the PA is still way too dependent on foreign aid. (This is something that Friedman implicitly acknowledges later in the column, but he, of course, blames the shortfall on Israel for holding back tax monies, ignoring the ineffectiveness of Palestinian governance.)
Hamas hated Fayyad, and many Palestinian Authority officials were jealous of him, but success protected him until 2011. President Mahmoud Abbas, frustrated by the right-wing Israeli government’s refusal to strike a land-for-peace deal, decided to seek recognition of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations. The United States retaliated by cutting off aid, and Israel did so by withholding Palestinian tax receipts. I thought it foolish for Abbas to go to the U.N., but I thought it irresponsible for America’s Congress to cut off aid to the Palestinians for doing so — when we’ve never retaliated for the even more obstructionist building of settlements by Israel.
"Hamas hated Fayyad," and yet Friedman wanted Fatah to join with Hamas for Israel's "security!" Going to the UN wasn't foolish, it was a violation of the premises of the peace process Friedman claims to support. Friedman and the PA may not like settlements but they were allowed by the Oslo Accords, even if Israel has largely restricted any building in them to existing communities. (Though Israel gets precious little credit for this.) At the end of his column, Friedman presents 4 "takeways." The second and third are ludicrous, but the first one makes a lot of sense:
For Palestinians, particularly Abbas and Fatah, who so easily turned their most effective executive into a scapegoat, if there is no place for a Salam Fayyad-type in your leadership, an independent state will forever elude you.
Fayyad's failure isn't a failure of Israel or of Israel's settlers. It is a failure of Palestinian culture. (Though he'd be loath to admit it, Friedman's making a similar argument to the one Mitt Romney made last year!) The problem is that most of the rest of the column is at odds with this observation as Friedman blamed everyone else but the Palesitnians for Fayyad's failure! Friedman's fourth "takeaway" is:
“There is nothing inevitable about a liberal order emerging from any of these Arab awakenings,” argues the pollster Craig Charney. Indeed, to produce that outcome takes someone like a Fayyad with the consistent help of external parties as well as a loyal base at home ready to see it through. In the end, Fayyad had neither. Add another nail in the coffin of the two-state solution.
Note that first Friedman suggested that the Palestinians bear the blame for their failure to achieve statehood, then he writes that he despairs of a two state solution. The evidence is before him but he is blind to what it means. The occupation (his obsession) is mostly over. What is left is for the Palestinians to achieve independence. That's not something that is dependent on Israel, but on the Palestinians changing their political culture. Had Fayyad managed to win political support - either in the Palestinian leadership or in the street - maybe he'd be more than a footnote right now. Jonathan Schanzer laments the slow death of Palestinian democracy:
Abbas's visit to Kuwait came two days after Abbas pushed out his reformist prime minister, Salaam Fayyad. Fayyad's departure came as no surprise to anyone familiar with the dysfunction inside the Palestinian Authority (PA): His reform agenda had been a constant irritant to Abbas. 
The two Palestinian leaders have barely been on speaking terms for more than a year, according to a former advisor to the Palestinian Authority. (Fayyad, for instance, opposed Abbas's push at the United Nations last year for non-member observer state status, insisting that Palestinians would be better served by continuing to build viable institutions.) The tension between the two was arguably the closest thing one could get to a system of checks and balances in the PA. With Fayyad's departure, Abbas seems to have overcome any institutional restraints on his power: He heads both the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Fatah, the dominant faction within it, and is also now four years past the end of his term as president of the PA, with no new elections in sight. After a two-decade experiment in Palestinian democracy and state building that began just after the U.S. liberation of Kuwait, it's now hard to deny that Abbas looks an awful lot like the autocratic Arafat -- minus the signature keffiyeh and fatigues, of course. Abbas wasn't always an autocrat, however. When he was elected in 2005, he positioned himself as the counterweight to Arafat's corrupt and manipulative leadership style. 
But things went south after Hamas's violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007. The United States and Israel sought to bolster the wobbly Abbas in the West Bank, plying him with weapons, training, intelligence and cash to insulate him from Hamas encroachment. Over time, the Palestinian leader not only found his footing, he tightened his grip on the West Bank.
All of this happened independent of anything Israel did or does. Is this so hard for Friedman to comprehend? Now with Abbas in sole control of the Palestinian Authority, the danger exists that if he is incapicitated leadership would devolve to Aziz Dweik of Hamas who is currently speaker of the Palestinian legislature. Fighting this possibility some in Congress are seeking to pressure Abbas to draft a new succession law.
Hamas’ anticipated rise to power in the PA could lead to a cut off in critical U.S. aid dollars and foster an even more fraught relationship with Israel and America, according to the Rep. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.), the House’s chief deputy whip. “It’s one of the things Congress will have to monitor closely,” Roskam said in an interview. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, he said, are poised to “encourage the PA to deal with their succession plan. The notion of a default position of a Hamas official being the head of the PA is complete unacceptable and if the PA were to make that decision to have that leadership, the consequences are quite significant.”
The failure of Friedman's fabled "Fayyadism" is unconnected to Israel. Until the Palestinian culture is about openness and opportunity rather than despotism and grievance, reform and self-governance will elude the Palestinians. As long as Thomas Friedman continues blaming his ill-informed and mendacious arguments he is covering for, not fighting Palestinian malfeasance and misrule.

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