If the United States government under President Trump wants to get serious about countering the rise of Hezbollah, our officials need to accept the fact that there is no longer a way to properly separate the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) from Hezbollah, the jihadi group that controls much of Lebanon.
Hezbollah was founded with the stated goal of countering Israel and the U.S., but with the real objective of establishing a foothold in Lebanon to expand Iran’s revolutionary ideology. Since its founding, the group has committed several major terrorist attacks against Americans, such as the 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut that killed 241 U.S. Marines.
On Tuesday, Trump administration officials discussed measures that were being employed to ramp up efforts to counter the Iran proxy group.
State Department official Nathan Sales announced that “countering Hezbollah is a top priority for the Trump administration.” The State Department added two top Hezbollah terrorists to its Rewards for Justice hit list, offering a combined $12 million for information on Talal Hamiyah and Fu’ad Shukr.
Hezbollah poses not only a threat to the Middle East, but globally as well. It has proven that it can operate inside the United States and across the Western hemisphere as a whole. In June, federal agents busted a Hezbollah sleeper cell, charging two of its alleged operatives with plotting terrorist activities in New York City.
Throughout the 21st century, Iran’s terrorist proxy has pushed further and further west, using Shiite cultural centers as fronts to spread its ideology, and drug trafficking to open up transport routes.
And in the post-Iran deal era, the newly emboldened, cash-flush Iran has quadrupled financial support for the terrorist organization, which continues to assert dominance over internal affairs in Lebanon.
Though the Trump administration has taken notable steps to distance itself from the Iran-friendly policies of Barack Obama, they still have yet to take the most important step when it comes to Hezbollah — slashing aid and military cooperation with the Lebanese Armed Forces.
There is hardly a distinction between Hezbollah and the state of Lebanon. Hezbollah dominates both the country’s internal politics and its foreign engagements, and Lebanon’s leadership structure is in place only after receiving the blessing of Hezbollah. The LAF and the greater Lebanese state is hostage to Hezbollah.
— Jeff Schervone (@JeffSchervone) September 4, 2017
That’s why the Trump administration is making a massive error in continuing to aid the LAF. As Tony Badran of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies notes, Hezbollah “controls the institutions the U.S. is funding” in Lebanon.
U.S. arms that were supposed to be designated for the LAF have all too often ended up in Hezbollah hands. Last November, a Hezbollah parade showcased U.S. armored personnel carriers.
— Tobias Schneider (@tobiaschneider) November 13, 2016
And now, Hezbollah and the LAF are often witnessed fighting alongside each other, in support of the Assad regime in Syria.
If the Trump administration wants to get serious about stopping Hezbollah, they need to cease all arms and funding to the LAF, which has become, at this point, another name for Hezbollah.
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Jordan Schachtel is the national security correspondent for Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @JordanSchachtel.
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