Friday, July 14, 2006

The Israel Lobby and the Lebanese Chalabi

Just yesterday, the American neocon-owned Jerusalem Post ran a widely-repeated report that Israel possesed intelligence that Iran and Syria not only backed Hizboullah and Hamas (something no-one is disputing)but that officials in those nations had actively planned the terrorist groups latest sets of attacks against Israel. The story quoted the Israeli Foreign Minister who refused to reveal his source for the allegation. Iran immediately denied the allegation.

Even so, as Kevin Drum notes the report has quickly become the established wisdom here in the U.S. - helped along by massive retelling on the part of the neocon noise machine and by an equally adept bipartisan pro-Israeli lobby.

So who was Israel's source? How credible is that source? We've already seen that the Israeli government and its supporters have been willing to swallow incredible tales from dodgy sources when it came to Iraq or to the Iranian nuclear program. We have a right to be sceptical.

Well, one possibility is that the source is pro-Israel Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt. He may have let the cat out of the bag himself in an interview with ABC Radio and the ultra-right World Net Daily website.

He said he saw the fingerprints of Iran and Syria on Hezbollah's actions the past few days.

"They (Iran and Syria) are financially and militarily supporting Hezbollah. It is a known fact that this alliance from Tehran to Beirut is quite a solid strategic alliance."

Jumblatt yesterday released a statement with other political figures in Lebanon raising the question of whether Hezbollah's abduction of two Israeli soldiers Wednesday was carried out to free Lebanese prisoners from Israeli jails or rather for the sake of a person "whose palace was flown over by Israeli planes two weeks ago" - a clear suggestion Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was behind the most recent escalation.
Walid Jumblatt is an extraordinary figure in Lebonese politics. He has been anti-Syrian, pro-Syrian and then anti-Syrian again over his 23 year political career - always depending upon which side he saw as most beneficial to himself. He has always been a man of violence and has been the orchestrator of atrocities - his Druze militia devastated over 60 Christian Lebanese towns in 1983; in the last three months his bodyguards were involved in gunfights with rival Druze groups. He has made millions from political favors. And at all times he has kept self-serving backchannel connections with Israel, its intelligence services and Israel's supporters in the USA. He is, in effect, an aspiring Ahmed Chalabi for Lebanon.

As long ago as last February, not just the neocons but also pro-Israel liberals were speaking highly of Jumblatt. David Ignatius wrote an op-ed which spoke admiringly of his seeming support for Bush's policy of "speading democracy" out from Iraq, while never talking of his sordid past and present - and it was duly picked up by all kinds of Militant Right pundits and bloggers as proof that their picked puppet was the man to support. If Kevin Drum is still wondering why Ignatius is so whole-heartedly repeating the story that Iran and Syria planned the abductions of Israeli soldiers which catalyzed the current crisis, he need look no further than Ignatius' support for anything, no matter how nasty under the surface, that helps Israel.

Jumblatt, with a long history of storytelling in support of his own wish for power and an equally long history of being a source and pawn of Israeli intelligence, is certainly a major contender as "source" for current Isreali claims. That the current Israeli administration, the pro-Israel lobby and the neocons are prepared to support and quote such a buccaneer of political tides - without ever mentioning his true nature - also speaks volumes for their wish to manipulate the narrative to their own ends regardless of possible future consequences.

UpdateSeems the spin about Iranian and Syrian active planning and even of hostages being transferred to Tehran is just that - spin. Here are the money quotes from the L.A.Times:
U.S. officials declined to offer specific evidence of Iranian or Syrian involvement in Wednesday's raid, in which eight Israeli soldiers were killed. But the Bush administration, in a statement afterward, said the two nations "bear responsibility" based on their longtime ties and support.

..."I don't have evidence that there were direct instructions," said one Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. "But they were under the influence of the Iranian government."
No-one is disputing "influence" but "direct instructions" are different - especially when they can be touted as a cause for war by the Militant Right and the Israel Lobby - such allegations need "specific evidence." It seems there is none.

For more on the Israel Lobby see this article by John Mearsheimer, Wendell Harrison Professor of Political Science at Chicago, and Stephen Walt, Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.