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Are al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region the primary threats to the U.S.? Even before winning the presidency, this has been the contention of Obama and his administration. Fareed Zakaria argues, however, that “al-Qaeda isn’t the threat anymore.” Zakaria’s assessment notwithstanding, I would venture to say that the Shiite terrorist organization, Hezbollah, is a far greater threat to the U.S., Israel, and the West, than al-Qaeda. Yet, this threat has been virtually ignored by the Obama administration. Consequently, Hezbollah has been allowed to take over Lebanon and create a base there for its Iranian patron. In fact, during a recent visit to Lebanon, Ahmadinejad vowed before thousands of Hezbollah supporters that “U.S. and Israeli power in the Middle East will soon be eclipsed.”
Syria, forced to withdraw its troops from Lebanon in 2005, has been reasserting its control over Lebanon. The visit by Syrian President Bashar Assad to Beirut this past July was one such example. Another, the recent pilgrimage of Saad Hariri to Damascus, where the Lebanonese Prime Minister asked for reconciliation and for Assad to be absolved from the murder of Hariri’s father, Rafic. Moreover, in 2008 Hezbollah defeated pro-Western factions in Beirut, which increased Hezbollah’s power, and therefore, the influence of Iran and Syria.
Al-Qaeda, according to Zakaria:
“has been whittled down to about 400 fighters. It has been unable to execute large-scale attacks of the kind that were at the core of its strategy—to hit high-value American targets that held military or political symbolism. Instead, the terrorist attacks that have taken place after 9/11 have been launched by smaller local groups, self-identified as affiliates of Al Qaeda, against much easier sites….The fatal problem with these kinds of attacks is that they kill ordinary civilians—not U.S. soldiers or diplomats—and turn the local population against Islamic radicals.”
The opposite, however, is true of Hezbollah, which has become stronger since the 2006 war with Israel. It is now the dominant force in Lebanon and, according to a October 25, 2010 special report from the Paris-based Le Figaro, Hezbollah has been able to construct an elaborate infrastructure used for smuggling an array of sophisticated weapons, including 40,000 missiles into Lebanon.
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has been mandated to assisting the Lebanese Armed Forces create an area between the border with Israel and the Litani River that is free of any armed personnel, assets or weapons, other than those of the Lebanese army. But it has been incapable of stopping Hezbollah from smuggling missiles and other lethal weapons from Syria to Lebanon. Recent clashes between southern Lebanese villagers and UNIFIL peacekeepers have reduced UNIFIL’s ability to enforce Security Council Resolution 170; enacted at the end of the Hezbollah-Israel war in the summer of 2006.
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