April 30, 2004
Iraq: a new Lebanon?By Olivier Guitta
The violence in Iraq has gone up one notch in the past two weeks.
Iraqi militias target coalition soldiers and foreign civilians alike. Shias militias, Sunnis, Syria and Iran are among the most active parties trying to defeat us. The mutilation of the US civilian bodies in the streets of Fallujah reminded us of Mogadishu, where American soldiers were killed and mutilated in Somalia's capital. But more than anywhere else, Iraq 2004 more and more resembles Lebanon in 1983.
One of the most remarkable aspects of this similarity is the omnipresence of the Lebanese Shia terrorist group Hizbullah in Iraq —— Hizbullah opened two offices there last April. Hizbullah started its 'career' in 1983 in Beirut, when they organized and accomplished huge terrorist attacks against the US soldiers, the US Embassy and the French soldiers then stationed there, killing in a few months over 400 people. Hizbullah also had a specialty, which was kidnapping foreign citizens. Is it a coincidence that it is happening now on a daily basis in Iraq?
Sadr, the chief of the Shia insurgents attacking our soldiers, defines himself as 'the striking arm for Hizbullah'. The connection does not stop there; Sadr's father, a shia cleric was Nasrallah's tutor in Najaf and Sadr's uncle was the founder of the Lebanese Shia Amal militia, where Nasrallah started his terrorist 'career' before joining Hizbullah.
And who is heavily supporting Hizbullah? Syria and Iran.
As in Beirut in 1983 (coincidence again?), Syria and Iran are active in masterminding attacks against the Coalition in order to make it leave. Regarding Syria, since the end of the war last year the US has uncovered irrefutable proof that it is supporting and fomenting operations against our troops. The very well—informed Ralph Peters of the New York Post affirms that US Marines have recently killed Syrians and that Syrian security services are implicated in murdering Americans.
What is nonetheless the most striking parallel between the two conflicts is that Syria uses exactly the same strategy today as it did in 1983 in Lebanon. In fact, by applying the policy of arsonist/fireman, Syria is replicating the successful plan that kicked out the UN—mandated multinational forces from Beirut in 1984.
Strikingly, Syrian Vice President Khaddam is in charge of Syria's current terror strategy in Iraq, like he was in Lebanon in 1982. He has in the last three months met with more than 400 representatives of different Sunni tribes involved in guerilla actions. In addition, the Syrian Army's intelligence service, controlled by Assef Shawkat (President Bashar Assad's brother—in—law), is coordinating the clandestine operations in Iraq: supplying weapons to terrorists, plotting political assassinations and bombings alike.
Most likely, Syria also helped Imad Maghnie —— one of the Hizbullah leaders wanted by most Western secret services for his role in the multiple kidnappings in Lebanon in 1983 — to get into Iraq. This is more than enough proof of Syria's involvement in Iraq. The world is not fooled.
For instance, after learning about the kidnapping of three of its citizens, Japan's Foreign Minister, remembering the Beirut way to solving kidnappings, called his Syrian counterpart to plead for their release. Coincidence (there are suspicions the Japanese were collaborating with their captors) or not, they were freed, while unfortunately one of the Italian hostages was brutally executed. France also had one of its citizens kidnapped and freed, but at what cost? So, by being the indispensable interlocutor in Iraq, Syria is greatly expanding its zone of influence.
As far as Iran, it is the supporting force behind Sadr's militia. Sadr's personal link to Iran is twofold: first, his inspiration comes from Ayatollah Henri, one of the most extreme Iranian clerics; second his aunt is none other than the first lady of Iran, Mrs. Khatami.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. As reported by the Arab daily Asharq al Awsat, Iran is very actively supporting Sadr's action in Iraq. The article reveals that Iran opened three training camps near the Iraqi border to prepare between 800 and 1200 Iraqis for urban warfare against the Coalition. Furthermore, the Iranian Embassy in Iraq has provided the insurgents with 400 satellite phones, to better coordinate their actions. The daily also affirms that Iran has contributed around 80 million USD to Sadr's cause and that hundreds of elite Iranian troops along with agents are swarming in Iraq right now.
The Iranian man in charge of this whole operation is Hassan Qommi, who had the exact same job... in Beirut in 1982. Coincidence?
He has been actively helping Hizbullah instructors get to Iraq to train Sadr's militia. Ralph Peters from the New York Post recently reported that Iranians agents ambushed an American convoy in Iraq. Two of the attackers were killed by US troops and the others were captured. They were carrying Iranian documents.
As in Lebanon, there is not much publicity about Syria and Iran's involvement in the deaths of Coalition troops and kidnappings of Western citizens. The Bush Doctrine —— we have to go after the terrorists but also and most importantly after the States that harbor them, finance them and protect them —— is the only way to victory in the War on Terror. Iraq is proving that point: Sadr's Shia militia and Hizbullah would be much weaker if it were not for the help of Iran and Syria.
There are too many coincidences in the way Iraq 2004 mirrors Lebanon 1983. The actors are the same; the techniques are the same; and even some of the masterminds are the same. Iraq remains the most crucial stop in this war and that is why so many of our enemies are allying to try to defeat us. The US should deal with the insurgents with a strong military response, but should also recognize the involvement of Iran and Syria in this war. The US cannot afford the same catastrophic outcome as in Beirut, where the current War on Terror really started, twenty—one years ago.