May 28, 2007

Fatah Al Islam Threatens all of Lebanon

by Michael J. Totten

Fatah Al Islam Military Commander Shihab Al-Qaddour threatened all of Lebanon in an interview with Al-Hayat.

During the interview, Al-Qaddour told Al-Hayat that the Fath Al-Islam organization “would respond against the Lebanese military if the attacks on it were to continue,” and added that “[our response] will not be limited [solely] to the Palestinian refugee camps or to Beirut, but all fronts will be opened.” Referring to the battles in Tripoli and the bombings in the neighborhoods of Beirut during the past week, he said: “This is only the beginning… We are ready to blow up Beirut and every other place in Lebanon.”

Al-Qaddour stated that “in addition to the supporters of the organization, Fath Al-Islam has bases and sleeper cells in all the Palestinian refugee camps in the various regions of Lebanon, and they are on alert [to launch] a harsh response - they await only a sign from us.” He said, “Fath Al-Islam's threat to open the fire of hell against Lebanon is a serious one. As long as we are under attack, we will [defend ourselves] by any and all means. The organization has the full capability to bring the battle to every place in Lebanon. We can easily do this…”

Meanwhile, can we please set aside Seymour Hersh’s story that alleges the United States and Lebanese governments supported these people? I realize, of course, that the both governments have suffered blowback from stupid alliances, but this one makes about as much sense as 9/11 being an inside job.

Here is Michael Young in Beirut’s Daily Star:

There are few pleasures these days as Lebanon descends into the kind of violence that Syria seems to manufacture so effortlessly. However, one of them is discovering how easy it was for a gaggle of pro-Syrian Lebanese operators to manipulate investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, before he wrote a much-discussed article recently implying that the Lebanese government was financing Islamist groups, including Fatah al-Islam.

In his article for The New Yorker, Hersh faithfully channeled what sources in Lebanon told him, lending legitimacy to statements he otherwise failed to prove. Most prominently, for being so specific, he wrote that “representatives of the Lebanese government” had supplied weapons and money to Fatah al-Islam. But Hersh's only evidence for this claim was a quote attributed to one Alistair Crooke, a former MI6 agent who is co-director of Conflicts Forum, an institution advocating dialogue with Islamist movements. Nor did Crooke have direct knowledge of what he was saying. In fact, he “was told” the weapons were offered to the group, “presumably to take on Hizbullah.” The argument is now being picked up by media belonging to senior members of the Syrian regime to affirm that the Lebanese Army is fighting an Islamist group in the Nahr al-Bared camp that is effectively on the payroll of Saad Hariri.

Lately, we've had more ricochets from that story. Writing in The Independent on May 22, journalist Robert Fisk, who we might forget lives in Beirut, picked up on Hersh, citing him uncritically to again make the case that Hariri was financing Islamists. So we have Fisk quoting Hersh quoting Crooke quoting someone nameless in a throwaway comment making a serious charge. Yet not one of these somnolent luminaries has bothered to actually verify if the story is true, even as everything about the fighting in Nahr al-Bared virtually confirms it is not true.
Also see Michael’s earlier debunking in Reason magazine: Does the New Yorker actually edit Seymour Hersh?

David Kenner, guest-blogging at From Beirut to the Beltway, adds the following:

Hersh (who was a great journalist, though you are excused for not noticing) credits Syria with more rationality than the United States. When the confused CNN anchor asked why — if neither country was ideologically aligned with Fatah al-Islam — it makes sense for America to be funding the terrorists but not Syria, Hersh answered, “You're assuming logic by the United States government.” And that is about as far as the opposition's ridiculous explanations for the recent violence extends: forget the regional situation, forget who benefits from chaos in Lebanon. Dick Cheney sure is sketchy, isn't he?
Posted by Michael J. Totten at May 28, 2007 12:51 AM
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