Two back-to-back suicide bombings on November 19th in the vicinity of the embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Beirut, Lebanon killed at least 23 people and wounded more than 140. Iranian cultural attaché, Ebrahim Ansari, reportedly died from his wounds. An al-Qaida-linked Sunni group known as the Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack. It threatened more attacks unless Iran withdraws its forces from Syria where Iran and its proxy Hezbollah have been providing military support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
The Iranian embassy appears to have been the main target of the attacks. One blast occurred near the main entrance of the Iranian embassy. The other went off in front of the Iranian ambassador’s residence.
The United Nations Security Council issued a press statement strongly condemning the terrorist attacks, reaffirming its view “that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed.”
Iran and Syria were quick to point the finger at Israel as bearing the primary responsibility for the suicide bombings. They both believe that Israel has taken sides with Sunni Arab states against the Shiites in the proxy war raging in Syria and extending into Lebanon. Iran and Hezbollah are Shiite. Assad’s Alawite sect derives from Shiite Islam. The jihadist rebels, along with their state sponsors Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf nations, are Sunnis.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah previewed the theme of Israeli complicity with the Sunnis against the Shiites last week: “It is regrettable that (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu is the spokesman for some Arab countries. These countries reject any political solution that would stop the bloodbath and destruction in Syria. They also strongly oppose any accord between Iran and the countries of the world,” alluding to Israel’s and Saudi Arabia’s strong opposition to a nuclear deal they see as unduly favorable to Iran.
The suicide bombings in the vicinity of the Iranian embassy fit into this same Israeli-Sunni anti-Shiite conspiracy theory. As explained in a November 19, 2013 Foreign Policy article, the Syrian government, Iran and Hezbollah all see Israel’s guiding hand “behind the scenes” while the Gulf petrol-funded Sunni terrorists do the dirty work.
“The terrorist bombing in front of Iranian Embassy in Beirut is inhuman and vicious act perpetrated by Israel and its terror agents,” the spokeswoman of the Iranian Foreign Ministry Marzieh Afkham said. “Tehran will seriously follow up the criminal act with due consideration.”
Iran’s ambassador Ghazanfar Roknabadi said that those who carried out the attacks “were serving the interests of the Zionist entity.” He added a warning: “We will never retreat one fingertip from our positions. We have ideals and principles, and in Syria we are pursuing interests. We are leading the confrontation line for anti-Zionist and anti-arrogance projects in the region.”
Hezbollah, which came from its home base of Lebanon to intervene in Syria to fight the rebel forces, is perfectly innocent of any acts of terrorism as far as Iran is concerned because Hezbollah is part of the anti-Zionist “confrontation line.”
Syria’s UN Ambassador H.E. Bashar Ja’afari claimed to reporters at UN headquarters in New York that Israel has acted in concert with Saudi Arabia and Qatar to support foreign agents in their launch of terrorist attacks inside of Syria. The latest suicide bombings in Beirut were a continuation of this pattern, he claimed, with absolutely no concrete evidence to back up his accusation.
It is true that Israel has contributed to the perception of an Israeli-Sunni alliance with its public display of a meeting of the minds with Saudi Arabia in opposing Iran. For example, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quoted in the French daily Le Figaro on Saturday that there is a “meeting of the minds” between Israel and the “leading states in the Arab world” on the Iran issue – “one of the few cases in memory, if not the first case in modern times.” Syrian UN Ambassador Ja’afari seized on that quote, which was said in the context of combatting Iran’s nuclear ambitions, to support his broad accusation that Israel is in total cahoots with the enemies of Syria and Iran by supporting al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists.
Saudi Arabia has been more circumspect, denying reports of any cooperative contingency planning between Saudi Arabia and Israel. A Saudi foreign ministry spokesman said the kingdom “has no relations or contacts with Israel of any kind or at any level,” according to the state news agency SPA.
Saudi Arabia and Israel do not have formal diplomatic relations. Nevertheless, their interests overlap when it comes to Iran, which both see as an existential threat to their countries if Iran obtains the capacity to build and deliver nuclear weapons. Neither country welcomes the Muslim Brotherhood, al Qaeda or its offshoots within their own territory.
At the same time, however, there is a divergence when it comes to supporting the export of Islamic jihadism to other countries. To keep its own Wahhabists from turning against the Saudi regime, Saudi leaders seek to channel the anger of Islamic jihadists to destinations outside of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government does not much care what damage they do, so long as the Saudi regime remains insulated from the ensuing violence.
Israel, on the other hand, has learned from the mistake it made more than thirty years ago in reportedly helping early on to foster Hamas, which traces its origins to the Muslim Brotherhood. At the time, Israel appeared to view Hamas through the prism of an organization supposedly built on Islamic religious principles, believing Hamas in its early stages to be a strategic counterweight to the more secular, nationalist Arafat-led terrorist PLO that Israel was fighting. Retired Israeli official Avner Cohen, who worked in Gaza for more than twenty years, witnessed this ill-conceived strategy unfold which, he said, turned out to be an “enormous, stupid mistake.”
Israel is anything but suicidal. It was burned once by trying to play off Islamists against secularist enemies and it backfired. Israel is not about to make the same mistake again in Syria. It knows that Al Qaeda is as determined as Hezbollah and Iran to destroy the Jewish state. Thus, Israel has nothing to gain by lending its support to al Qaeda-affiliated groups and helping to install them next door in the hope that such an outcome would be better than Assad staying in power. With Assad replaced by an al Qaeda-supported government while Iran and Hezbollah still remain threats to Israel in their own right, Israel would then have the worst of both worlds – many thousands of rockets under the control of Shiite Hezbollah pointed from Lebanon at Israeli civilians and potentially many more thousands of rockets and other weaponry under the control of Sunni al Qaeda jihadists pointed at Israeli civilians from Syria.
Israel’s overriding concern is to prevent Iran from reaching the nuclear arms finish line. It is willing to team with Saudi Arabia, France or anyone else who sees the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran the same way that Israel does. Israel’s interest in Syria and Lebanon is to prevent Hezbollah from obtaining any game-changing weaponry. Israel has relied on its own air power to conduct surgical strikes inside of Syria against convoys of weapons destined for Hezbollah. It does not need or want to rely on rebels on the ground to accomplish this limited objective.
In sum, the attempt to conflate Israel’s limited cooperation with Saudi Arabia in combatting the Iranian nuclear threat with the charge that Israel is in bed with al Qaeda-affiliated groups and their sponsors in launching terrorist attacks in Syria and Lebanon is both preposterous and slanderous.
Don’t miss Jamie Glazov‘s video interview with Mudar Zahran, the leader of Palestinians in Jordan who now resides in the U.K. as a political refugee. He discusses “The Palestinian Homeland in Jordan.” He also explains his support of Israel, denounces the Islamists and calls out the western media for being Israel haters and not caring about the Palestinians:
Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.