Weekend long read

1) At the INSS Tomer Fadlon, Sason Hadad and Elisheva Simon discuss ‘Lebanon’s Political-Economic Crisis’.

“The two deep problems weighing on Lebanon’s economy are inter-linked. The first is endemic corruption: the organization Transparency International ranks Lebanon 138 among 175 countries assessed. Corruption in Lebanon is manifested especially in nepotism and budget-inflation to line the pockets of those close to power. Thus, for example, in July 2017 public sector salaries rose by dozens of percentage points, while private sector salaries did not enjoy any increase. The only way to fund the higher salaries and inflated budgets is through taxes on the population, which have ballooned in recent years and burdened the private sector.

The second problem is political instability, which is linked to Lebanon’s community structure and greatly limits the Lebanese government’s freedom of action and ability to implement reforms. The instability makes it hard for the government to meet the public’s basic demands, including sanitation services and electricity supply. As a result, there is a burgeoning market in private generators, though even this phenomenon is arguably linked to corruption: politicians are aligned with the generator suppliers, and thus, in fact, profit from government inaction.”

2) At the JCPA Yoni Ben Menachem takes a look at ‘New Tensions between Egypt and Hamas’.

“In recent days, signs of new tensions between Egypt with Hamas in the Gaza Strip have intensified in light of the recent assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani by the United States.

This new rift was created following a surprise move by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who decided to take a senior Hamas delegation to Tehran to attend Qasem Soleimani’s funeral. He met and comforted the Iranian leadership and Soleimani’s family.

Qasem Soleimani’s assassination caught Ismail Haniyeh during his visit to Qatar. Haniyeh left the Gaza Strip two weeks ago with special permission from Egyptian authorities. The Egyptian authorities had prevented him from going abroad for the past three years in an attempt to prevent Iranian and Turkish influence that would endanger Egypt’s efforts to calm the Gaza Strip and move towards national reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.

Egyptian authorities had put conditions on Ismail Haniyeh before his trip, and he pledged to comply. They included a ban on travel to Iran or Lebanon and meetings with Iranian and senior Hizbullah officials.”

3) The ITIC presents an overview of Palestinian terrorism in 2019.

“Two main trends in attacks characterized Palestinian organized and popular terrorism in 2019: in Judea and Samaria, the annual decline in the scope of popular terrorism and its lethality continued; in the Gaza Strip there was a significant rise in the scope and intensity of terrorism and violence, especially rocket fire. In 2019 1,403 rockets and mortar shells were fired at Israel, an almost unprecedented number (with the exception of Operation Protective Edge, 2014).

The reduction in the scope of terrorism and the level of its lethality during the past year again illustrated Hamas’ failure to export terrorism to Judea and Samaria, while at the same time prompting a lull arrangement with Israel through Egyptian mediation. The main reason for Hamas’ failure was the great effectiveness of the counterterrorism activities of the Israeli security forces (with the contribution of the counterterrorism activities of the PA security services). In November 2019 Nadav Argaman, head of the Israel Security Agency, said that in 2019 the Agency had prevented more than 450 significant terrorist attacks, among them showcase attacks which were liable to have had many victims. Thus it can be determined that the relative quiet in Judea and Samaria in 2019 was to a great extent misleading, while beneath the surface attempts to carry out terrorist attacks continued.”

4) The ITIC also provides a profile of the Iraqi militia headed by Qais Ghazali who was featured in a BBC World Service radio programme three days after his designation by the United States.

“On December 6, 2019, the US Department of State announced the imposition of sanctions on Qais al-Khazali, the leader of the militia of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (“League of the Righteous”), and on two other senior militia operatives. According to the American statement, members of the militia headed by Qais al-Khazali opened fire at Iraqi demonstrators which resulted in the killing of civilians. Furthermore, it was stated that Qais al-Khazali was handled by the Iranian Qods Force and authorized the use of deadly weapons against demonstrators in order to sow terror among Iraqi civilians.

Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (“League of the Righteous”) is an Iraqi Shiite militia handled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Qods Force. It is one of the three most important Shiite militias which are prioritized by the Qods Force in terms of military and financial support. […] In recent years, these militias were handled by Iran in various missions promoting Iranian interests, including support of the Syrian regime, fighting against ISIS, and the suppression of protesters against the Iraqi regime. The US has imposed sanctions on all three militias.”

 

BBC WS radio gives uncritical amplification to Iranian ally’s Israel comments

On January 9th the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The Inquiry’ aired an edition titled “Why was Qasem Soleimani killed?” which was presented as follows in the synopsis:

“President Trump’s decision to assassinate Qasem Soleimani came as a shock to America’s foes and allies alike. He was Iran’s top general and has been described as one of the country’s most powerful figures, second only to the Supreme Leader Ayotollah [sic] Ali Khamenei. He was, effectively, head of Iran’s foreign policy. He’s been credited as being instrumental in the fight against ISIS but has also been accused of arming and supporting terror groups. But why did Donald Trump order his death?”

Presented by Tanya Beckett and produced by John Murphy, that programme – which the webpage states will be “available for over a year” – includes a section (from 11:51) featuring a “witness” described to BBC audiences as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Beckett: “Our third witness, like our American military leaders, also encountered Qasem Soleimani in Iraq but he was on the same side in a militia working to bolster the position of Iraq’s Shia population. […] Qais Ghazali sees himself as a resistance fighter but to the Americans he was a terrorist. He was the leader of one of the most hard-line Shia groups in Iraq…”

Later on listeners hear that Ghazali (also spelt Khazali) “was part of a group that was attacking coalition soldiers” and that “in 2007 he was captured in a raid by British forces in southern Iraq”. Beckett goes on (from 14:19):

Beckett: “Qais Ghazali was released from prison in early 2010 in exchange for the British hostage Peter Moore, a computer consultant who’d been captured by Shia militiamen…”

As documented at ‘The Long War Journal’:

“In exchange for Qayis and his men, the U.S. government secured the release of a British hostage, Peter Moore, and the bodies of three of the four men who were kidnapped with him in the spring of 2007. Moore’s compatriots had been murdered by Khazali’s men; three of the bodies that were returned were riddled with bullet holes; the fourth was never recovered.”

Beckett goes on to tell BBC audiences that:

Beckett: “…Shia groups like Ghazali’s had been instrumental in increasing Iranian influence over the Middle East and making the reality of Soleimani’s master plan to build a continuous link or a Shia crescent stretching from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, to Hizballah in Lebanon. This put the Iranians and Soleimani into direct conflict with America’s allies in the region such as Israel. Qais Ghazali himself travelled to the Israeli border, declaring his support for the Lebanese people and the Palestinian cause against what he calls the unjust Israeli occupation that is hostile to Islam. So, should Israel fear his group and Iran?”

Listeners then hear a voice-over translation of a statement from Ghazali:

Ghazali: “If Israel doesn’t want to cause harm and expand its ambitions over the countries in the region, then it shouldn’t be afraid. But if what it really wants to be is an occupying force, expanding its reach over the Arab countries, then it should be afraid.”

The programme then moves on to another topic with listeners hearing no challenge to that propaganda from Ghazali and left unaware of the fact that when he and his Hizballah colleagues refer to “the unjust Israeli occupation” they are in fact referring to the very existence of Israel.

When Ghazali made that trip to southern Lebanon in late 2017 he was filmed describing himself as standing “on the border between southern Lebanon and occupied Palestine”.

As the veteran analyst Jonathan Spyer noted at the time:

“…a recording emerged of an Iraqi Shi’a militia leader called Qais al-Khazali visiting the Lebanon-Israel border area. The short video shows him in the company of two other uniformed men. They are in the village of Kafr Kila, which is adjacent to Metulla.

At a certain point in the recording, Khazali addresses the camera. ‘“I’m at the Fatima Gate in Kafr Kila, at the border that divides south Lebanon from occupied Palestine,” he tells his listeners. “I’m here with my brothers from Hezbollah, the Islamic resistance. We announce our full readiness to stand as one with the Lebanese people, with the Palestinian cause, in the face of the unjust Israeli occupation, [an occupation] that is anti-Islam, anti-Arab, and anti-humanity, in the decisive Arab Muslim cause. And, inshallah, all goodness and blessings to the mujahideen all over the world. And blessings and goodness to the Islamic resistance, which is ready to heed the call of Islam to pave the way to the State of Allah’s Justice, the State of the Possessor of Time [the Mehdi], peace and prayers be upon him.” […]

Khazali’s appearance at the border is the latest and most graphic demonstration that Israel can no longer consider its long standoff with Hezbollah as a closed conflict system between a state and a small, albeit well-armed militia. Iran has now breached the boundaries of this system.”

Obviously the BBC’s editorial decision to provide amplification to the unchallenged and unexplained “occupation” propaganda of the leader of an Iran-backed Iraqi Shia militia group not only contributes absolutely nothing to answering the BBC’s question “should Israel fear his group and Iran?” but actually hinders audience understanding of a complex topic the BBC generally prefers to avoid.