It's HezbAllah, not just al Qaeda
We Americans tend to fixate on names of organizations, "official" membership in such movements, and legalities over a person's affiliation with them. Thus pundits and intelligence analysts alike take pains about fretting over a particular individual or group that may have been involved in a terrorist attack. And supposedly telling points are argued over whether Saddam Hussein actually supported al Qaeda or was he simply giving aid to other terrorist groups. As if it makes a difference to America's enemies.
Listening to debates about guilt over the 9/11 attacks is a case in point. Some principals - especially those with a legalistic mindset - are consumed over the possibility that Usama bin Laden himself has not been "brought to justice," and that al Qaeda is not eliminated. The idea that terrorism is a law enforcement issue, not a military one, contributes to this world view. Thus the perpetrator of the act - and no one else - must be held accountable or else any counter-actions are by definition failures. True, defining an act as a crime rather than an act of war greatly simplifies the act. But it also induces artificial blinders as to the nature of the actors, the enemy, who committed it.
The 1993 World Trade Center attack demonstrates the outcome of a legal mindset. It was treated as a Federal crime from the onset. Thus leads, such as Ramsi Youseff's international connections to al Qaeda and Blind Sheik Rafman's background with Wahabbist Islam, while noted, were nonetheless treated as background noise for the most part. Attention was focused on investigation, criminal prosecution, and imprisonment. Case solved, on to the next one.
Other terrorist acts of the decade and years following - till 9/11 - were given similar treatment, with the FBI taking the lead investigatory role and CIA and Defense secondary players at best. Any symbolic retaliatory actions - typically tossing million dollar Tomahawk missiles at empty desert camps - were intended to assuage domestic anger, not to inflict permanent damage on terrorist movements.
At one point, Secretary Albright at State was learned to have been giving warning to Pakistani authorities of pending attacks on al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan in order not to "jeopardize the Middle East peace process." [link to peace process that isn't] Having been forewarned by sympathetic Pakistani officials, it is no surprise that the camps were evacuated prior to missile strikes, thereby resulting in expensive holes in the Afghan desert.
Another issue with the "crime" approach to terrorism is that Americans focus on the event and not the movement associated with the event. It is as if, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, efforts were directed to bring Admiral Yamamoto to trial while ignoring the Japanese authorities who gave him the mission.
The terrorist movements - and their necessary state sponsors - must be held accountable for actions. For crime fans, it would be like using a Mafia soldier to walk up the chain and ultimately nail the Godfather. Too often we have focused our attention on the actor and ignored the ideology that drives him. Nailing bin Laden would certainly be satisfying and just, but we would be remiss in thinking that the problem ended there, just as we are if we put all our attention on al Qaeda and ignore even more deadly terrorist movements.
While chasing al Qaeda - and thoroughly decimating that organization along the way - we have been remiss in ignoring a growing, greater threat, HezbAllah, or Party of Allah. HezbAllah, which has killed more U.S. citizens than any other radical Islamist group, is the Shiite arm or terrorism, contrasted with al Qaeda, who are Sunnis. Hence in the Iraq insurgency, al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) attempted to entrench itself with disaffected Sunnis, recipients of all the bennies during Saddam's long tenure. HezbAllah receives its support from the fountainhead of Shia fanaticism, Ahmadinejad's Iran.
In a plausible display of the timeless rule that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," Iran crafted an alliance with Syria, designed to increase the heat on Israel and the West and ameliorate any friction points between Bashar Assad, who still lusts for Lebanon which he considers a Syrian province, and HezbAllah, that is increasingly running that tragic country.
Like bin Laden, Ahmadinejad has global aspirations that exceed a primal desire to rid the world of Israel. He has his sights set on destruction of America, the Great Satan and source of all the world's evil. Unlike bin Laden who laughs while he dispatches subordinates to martyrdom, Ahmadinejad welcomes global chaos, even if it means his demise. Only an Armageddon, he thinks, again in consonance with fanatical Shia beliefs, will the 12th Imam be reincarnated or brought back to life from his tomb in Samarra, hence to lead the world into a glorious Caliphate that will bring Islam (the Shia version, to be sure) to all non-believers.
His vehicle to bring about global destruction is HezbAllah. To achieve this end Iran has dispatched HezbAllah on a world-wide mission of death. Forces are concentrated in Lebanon and western Syria, along with advisors from Iran's Special Units (the Quds Force) in order to press the assault by means of terrorism and conventional attack on Israel. Similarly, Quds Force and HezbAllah operatives have long infiltrated into Iraq to assist militia like Moqtadr al Sadr's Mahdi Army (Jays al Mahdi or JAM) in the fight against Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces. Most of the rockets and mortars, the special explosive devices, and much training originates in Quds Force camps in Iran. Operatives have been captured and killed inside Iraq and the Iranian presence has actually been a motivator for some Shia politicians like Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki to move finally against the Shia militia in Basra, New Baghdad, Sadr City, and elsewhere.
Nor is Ahmadinejad content with regional conflict. HezbAllah has successfully established a base of operations in the Western Hemisphere. Operating under protection of Venezuela's dictator Hugo Chavez, HezbAllah runs camps for terrorists on Margarita Island off the coast. Indications are that the operators are learning how to pass as Hispanic for eventual infiltration into the United States.
These actions mark HezbAllah as a dire, immediate threat to the U.S. and our allies. Yet we continue to act as if al Qaeda is the single most dangerous actor, and in some cases, as if it the sole purveyor of terrorism. This is a potentially fatal mindset and must be corrected before another disastrous terrorist acts strikes America. It will only happen when our leaders wake up to the presence of the HezbAllah enemy, probably too late.
— Gordon Cucullu
October 12, 2008
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