Monday, May 28, 2007

Same guys?

A couple of months ago Tom Englehardt, in an article I referenced here, wrote in amazement about the lack of media coverage of the apparent support the Bush administration was giving to Sunni extremists groups in Lebanon, some of whom are known to be sympathetic to Al Qaeda. I repost his remarks here:

Let me see if I've got this straight. Perhaps two years ago, an "informal" meeting of "veterans" of the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal -- holding positions in the Bush administration -- was convened by Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams. Discussed were the "lessons learned" from that labyrinthine, secret, and illegal arms-for-money-for-arms deal involving the Israelis, the Iranians, the Saudis, and the Contras of Nicaragua, among others -- and meant to evade the Boland Amendment, a congressionally passed attempt to outlaw Reagan administration assistance to the anti-communist Contras. In terms of getting around Congress, the Iran-Contra vets concluded, the complex operation had been a success -- and would have worked far better if the CIA and the military had been kept out of the loop and the whole thing had been run out of the Vice President's office.

Subsequently, some of those conspirators, once again with the financial support and help of the Saudis (and probably the Israelis and the Brits), began running a similar operation, aimed at avoiding congressional scrutiny or public accountability of any sort, out of Vice President Cheney's office. They dipped into "black pools of money," possibly stolen from the billions of Iraqi oil dollars that have never been accounted for since the American occupation began. Some of these funds, as well as Saudi ones, were evidently funneled through the embattled, Sunni-dominated Lebanese government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to the sort of Sunni jihadi groups ("some sympathetic to al-Qaeda") whose members might normally fear ending up in Guantanamo and to a group, or groups, associated with the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood.

All of this was being done as part of a "sea change" in the Bush administration's Middle Eastern policies aimed at rallying friendly Sunni regimes against Shiite Iran, as well as Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Syrian government -- and launching secret operations to undermine, roll back, or destroy all of the above. Despite the fact that the Bush administration is officially at war with Sunni extremism in Iraq (and in the more general Global War on Terror), despite its support for the largely Shiite government, allied to Iran, that it has brought to power in Iraq, and despite its dislike for the Sunni-Shiite civil war in that country, some of its top officials may be covertly encouraging a far greater Sunni-Shiite rift in the region.


Yep, that's quite a doozy, isn't it. These claims are supported by Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker. In an article entitled, The Redirection Hersh writes:

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.


The new American policy, in its broad outlines, has been discussed publicly. In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that there is “a new strategic alignment in the Middle East,” separating “reformers” and “extremists”; she pointed to the Sunni states as centers of moderation, and said that Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah were “on the other side of that divide.” (Syria’s Sunni majority is dominated by the Alawi sect.) Iran and Syria, she said, “have made their choice and their choice is to destabilize.”

Some of the core tactics of the redirection are not public, however. The clandestine operations have been kept secret, in some cases, by leaving the execution or the funding to the Saudis, or by finding other ways to work around the normal congressional appropriations process, current and former officials close to the Administration said.

This is of particular interest now (as if it shouldn't have been all along) because of recent news:

TRIPOLI, Lebanon - Lebanon's prime minister vowed Thursday to wipe out an Islamic militant group barricaded in a Palestinian refugee camp, raising the prospect that the army will either storm the camp, in what would likely be a bloody battle, or dig in for a long siege to force its surrender.


Fighters from the al-Qaida-inspired Fatah Islam militant group, estimated in the hundreds, have barricaded themselves in the camp, saying they will fight off any Lebanese attack.

...and here...

US military planes have delivered more equipment to the Lebanese army, as its stand-off with Islamic militants at a Palestinian refugee camp continued.

Lebanese PM Fouad Siniora again called on Sunni militants inside the camp to surrender or face army action.


He was speaking after the leader of Shia militant group Hezbollah, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, said Lebanon should not be part of a US war on al-Qaeda.

The confrontation at the Nahr al-Bared camp is now in its seventh day.

Mr Siniora would not say whether a decision had been taken for the army to go into the camp, but plane-loads of American military supplies continue to arrive, apparently in preparation for just such a battle, says the BBC's Jon Leyne in Beirut.

"We want to end this situation," Mr Siniora told the BBC's Arabic service.

"Either they surrender themselves to Lebanese justice... or else the Lebanese authorities will be forced to take the decision to let the army deal with this matter."

To summize, not only we were supporting Sunni extremists in Lebanon friendly to Al Qaeda, which is ridiculous enough on its own merits, but now, after lending such support, we're sending military aid to Lebanon to fight Sunni extremists there.

Are these the same guys?

It sure is interesting that this small group you've never heard much about before has become such a big deal at this point in time, isn't it? Is it possible that we would support groups diametrically opposed to our "interests" only to choose to fight them by proxy, essentially supporting both sides of the conflict. If so, why?

This administration yells from the highest mountains to complain about "foreign terrorists" crossing borders to fight against our troops in Iraq and "rogue states" that support them. Could it be that the support we lend to these groups also show up in Iraq in the form of insurgent attacks on US servicemen?

Is this yet another case of blowback or is it something even worse?

Someone with a bigger megaphone than I should be asking these questions.