Hezbol­lah ‘re­draw­ing’ Mideast map, start­ing in Le­banon

The Washington Times Weekly - - World - By Joshua Mit­nick

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Hezbol­lah’s dra­matic gains in Le­banon two weeks ago are just part of a re­gional process that be­gan last year in the Gaza Strip and will con­tinue in Jor­dan and Egypt, a Ha­mas of­fi­cial in the West Bank told The Wash­ing­ton Times.

Sheik Yazeeb Khader, a Ramallah-based Ha­mas po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist and ed­i­tor, said mil­i­tant groups across the Mid­dle East are gain­ing power at the ex­pense of U.S.backed regimes, just as Ha­mas seized con­trol of the Gaza Strip from forces loyal to U.S.-backed Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas.

“What hap­pened in Gaza in 2007 is an achieve­ment; now it is hap­pen­ing in 2008 in Le­banon. It’s go­ing to hap­pen in 2009 in Jor­dan and it’s go­ing to hap­pen in 2010 in Egypt,” Sheik Khader said in an in­ter­view.

“We are see­ing a re­draw­ing of the map of the Mid­dle East where the forces of re­sis­tance and stead­fast­ness are the ones mov­ing the things on the ground.”

His re­marks high­light how a grow­ing al­liance link­ing Ha­mas, Iran and Hezbol­lah strad­dles the Shi’ite-Sunni rift.

The no­tion of new coun­tries fall­ing un­der Is­lamist in­flu­ence re­flects a goal of Ha­mas’ par­ent group, the Mus­lim Brother­hood, of re­plac­ing sec­u­lar Arab regimes with Is­lamist govern­ments.

In the same way that Ha­mas’ vic­tory over the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity se­cu­rity forces in Gaza fight­ing last June pro­foundly dis­turbed neigh­bor­ing Arab states, fight­ing in Le­banon this month has sent shock waves through­out the Mid­dle East and spurred an emer­gency meet­ing of the Arab League.

The Arab League is send­ing Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Amr Moussa to me­di­ate among the Lebanese govern­ment, Hezbol­lah and Sunni sup­port­ers of the govern­ment.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for the Ha­mas govern­ment in Gaza, took a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to the stand­off in Le­banon by say­ing that the fight­ing pri­mar­ily served Is­rael.

Mr. Abu Zuhri called on each side to en­gage in di­a­logue in­stead of fight­ing.

But sev­eral

sup­port­ers

of Ha­mas in Gaza were com­par­ing Hezbol­lah’s ad­vances into Sunni neigh­bor­hoods of Beirut to Ha­mas’ over­run­ning of se­cu­rity forces loyal to Mr. Ab­bas.

The fight­ing of the past few days has brought Le­banon closer to armed in­ter­nal con­flict than at any other time since the end of its 15year civil war in 1990.

In Is­rael, mil­i­tary and po­lit­i­cal lead­ers ex­pressed con­cern that the Lebanese govern­ment, led by U.S.-backed Prime Min­is­ter Fuad Sin­iora, yielded to Hezbol­lah’s show of force.

“What is go­ing on in Le­banon at this hour is ac­tu­ally the over­throw of Le­banon by Hezbol­lah. The demo­cratic Lebanese govern­ment will be­come a pup­pet govern­ment — an Ira­nian dream,” said Ze’ev Boim, a law­maker from Is­rael’s gov­ern­ing Kadima party.

“It is par­tic­u­larly aw­ful to see an Ira­nian bat­tal­ion on the north­ern bor­der of Is­rael.”

Giora Ei­land, Is­rael’s for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, said the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity failed to in­sist that the govern­ment of Mr. Sin­iora con­front Hezbol­lah, and is now pay­ing the price.

Hezbol­lah’s as­cen­dance in Le­banon is likely to prompt a new round of fight­ing with Is­rael, he said.

“If, for the last two years, Hezbol­lah didn’t move against us be­cause it was more in­ter­ested in ground­ing its po­si­tion do­mes­ti­cally in Le­banon, now Hezbol­lah will feel more at ease to op­er­ate against us,” he said. “I think the good years are be­hind us.”

Hezbol­lah fought Is­rael to a stand­off in a 2006 war. The mil­i­tant Shi’ite group bat­tered Is­raeli cities with rock­ets, and an in­cur­sion by Is­raeli troops into south­ern Le­banon failed to stop the rocket at­tacks.

As­so­ci­ated Press

A Hezbol­lah ac­tivist gets a ride dur­ing the fight­ing. An al­liance of Hezbol­lah, Ha­mas and Iran is in­creas­ingly tak­ing ad­van­tage of the Shi’ite-Sunni eth­nic di­vide, and some fear Jor­dan and Egypt will be the next tar­gets.

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