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Iran Fueling Hamas And Hizballah Toward Conflict

As the United Nations makes an about-face, launching “the third-largest fundraising campaign in the world” in order to provide aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian government, Hamas’ PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh is in Tehran meeting with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The recognition of Israel’s right to exist has been the principle demand of international donors - presumably including the United Nations - who have cut off funds since the terrorist group was freely elected into power.

Just as Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas appears ready to plan for early elections in order to oust the Hamas terrorist organization from power through a Palestinian vote, the effect of the United Nations’ massive fund-raising effort may prove to be the economic relief that assures Hamas’ continued grip on power in the Palestinian territories.

From Iran, which has provided Hamas with a reported $120 million since their January election into power, Hamas’ Haniyeh vowed before an approving audience to continue its violent jihad and maintain its steadfast refusal to recognize “the Zionist entity.” After reiterating that the United States and Israel demand the renunciation of terrorism and the recognition of Israel, the Hamas leader said, “I’m insisting from this podium that these issues won’t materialize. We will never recognize the usurper Zionist government and will continue our jihad-like movement until the liberation of Jerusalem.”

Iran has exerted increasing influence in the Palestinian territories, principally in Gaza through Hamas, with the acquiescence gained by ignoring international calls and becoming the principal source of funds for the Hamas-led government. Iran has also aided in arming the Hamas terrorists with tons of explosives, small arms, millions of rounds of ammunition and advanced anti-tank rockets, such as those used in the Popular Resistance Committees’ raid that resulted in the abduction of still-captive IDF corporal Gilad Shalit.

Iran has also spent hundreds of millions arming (and re-arming) Hizballah terrorists and building their infrastructure in Lebanon. Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah vowed to continue the terrorist group’s street protests in Beirut, which seeks to collapse the current Lebanese government in order to reform it under a Syria-friendly Hizballah banner. Of the protest still ongoing since last week, Nasrallah said, “We will not be dragged into any kind of strife even if you kill a thousand of us. We will not raise weapons in the face of anyone.” But many Lebanese dismiss the peaceful façade presented by Nasrallah and Hizballah, fearing that what the group seeks is to incite attacks and a civil war in which Hizballah – the strongest military/terrorist force in Lebanon - would have a decided upper hand.

But while Nasrallah continues to foment unrest and rally Shi’a protesters in Beirut, reportedly from a command center inside the Iranian embassy, Hizballah’s original secretary general now rejected by Hizballah leadership, Sheik Sobhi Tufeili, lashed out at Hizballah’s role as a subservient pawn to Iranian desires. While saying that the Shi’a of Lebanon, Afghanistan and elsewhere are looked down upon by Tehran and used as their pawns, Tufeili said, “The relationship of Hezbollah with Iran is [one of] complete, loyal submission,” and added that non-Iranian Shi’a – including most of all his former group, Lebanon’s Hizballah – are expendable to their Iranian masters “if they need 1,000 Shiites to be killed here, or 1,000 Shiites to be killed there.”

Tufeili was expelled from Hizballah for his strong objections to its entering the Lebanese political process and the group’s increased drift toward the Iranian mullahs and Syria – which he saw as too moderate. But while Hizballah’s first secretary general is even more radical than the current leadership and wanted by both Lebanon and the United States, his observations of the state of Hizballah are accurate and important.

The radical Shi’a sheikh said, “They [Iran] use the Shiites all over the world for their purposes, just as the USSR used to do with communist parties all over the world. Today, Iran sacrifices these Islamic parties for their benefit.” In the interview which produced these quotes, Sheikh Tufeili defended the Siniora government and was described by Amal Saad Ghorayeb of the Carnegie Middle East Center as “a March 14 man now,” referring to the pro-democracy Cedar Revolution movement that Hizballah seeks to topple with its current protests.

Tufeili concluded, “I beg [Iran] to leave us. Don’t take us into civil war. If you can’t leave us, don’t harm us. We’re fed up with wars and destruction.” His are words falling on deaf Persian ears.

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The situation may be even more dire. Intelligence indicates that Israel is headed toward at least two major military conflicts in 2007 - one against the Hamas army being built up despite the cease-fire in the Gaza Strip. The other against Hizballah, which, as you acknowledge, is also rebuilding its military wing and has begun receiving shipments of long-range, Iranian-made missiles smuggled into Lebanon via Syria.

Hizballah’s "nature reserves" - camouflaged underground systems of tunnels and bunkers - are still operating in southern Lebanon, despite the beefed-up presence of UNIFIL. These areas are designated as "closed military zones" for UNIFIL and are used as training centers for Hizballah and storehouses for its weapons caches.

In addition it is probable that Hizballah will resume attacks against Israel in the coming weeks. The group won't necessarily launch Katyushas, but at least will fire anti-aircraft missiles at IAF aircraft flying over Lebanon. This will not be condemned by the international community, since countries like France, Germany and Italy - members of UNIFIL - have repeatedly slammed Israel for not stopping the overflights.

It is believed that the cease-fire in Gaza will not last more than a few months as the continued daily smuggling of high-grade explosives and weaponry into Gaza from the Sinai will force Israel to deal with the Palestinian terror factions.

It is estimated that Hamas has set up a 10,000-strong military force consisting of four brigades corresponding to four sections of the Gaza Strip. This army is believed to be armed with advanced anti-tank missiles, Grad-type Katyusha rockets and anti-aircraft missiles, possibly shoulder-fired, Soviet-made SA-7s. The major problem is that unlike the cease-fire before the unilateral disengagement, this time the Palestinians do not have an incentive to enforce it.

Turki al-Faisal's departure, Iran, Lebanon, and those Cheney Visits:
Royal Intrigue, Unpaid Bills Preceded Saudi Ambassador's Exit

The cutoff of funds appears to be one manifestation of a royal rift over, among other things, the way to handle the rising influence of Iran in the Middle East.

In his secret visits, Bandar increasingly pressed the Bush administration not to deal with Iran -- and, instead, to organize joint efforts to counter Iran's growing influence in the Middle East, such as in Lebanon, said sources close to the royal family. The new model would be based roughly on the kind of joint U.S.-Saudi cooperation that assisted anti-Soviet forces during Moscow's 1979-1989 occupation of Afghanistan, the sources said.

Washington and Riyadh are already planning a major aid and military training package for the beleaguered Lebanese government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, whose government is besieged by thousands of supporters of Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

The Sunni kingdom sees Iran as a threat because of Tehran's alleged nuclear weapons program. The kingdom also fears the shifting balance of power -- under Iran's tutelage -- between minority Shiites and majority Sunnis, who have dominated Middle East politics for almost 14 centuries. The monarchy faces its own restive Shiite minority in the main oil-producing province.

The kingdom grew particularly alarmed as the report of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group began to leak out last month, with recommendations that the administration talk to both Iran and Syria, say U.S. officials and sources close to the royal family. Even before the report was released, Abdullah summoned Cheney to again warn about Iran and the regional implications of its growing influence -- and offer Saudi assistance and discuss joint U.S.-Saudi efforts.

The al-Faisal brothers, in contrast, have consistently urged dialogue with Tehran and are wary of joint U.S.-Saudi efforts against Iran and its surrogates. Turki often urged the United States to deal with its enemies. In one of his final public speeches, at the Philadelphia World Affairs Council last month, Turki said: "We speak directly with Iran on all issues. We find that talking with them is better than not talking with them."
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After a year of internal tensions and failure to pay bills, Turki was not invited to Riyadh for Cheney's visit, Saudi sources confirmed. And Bandar returned to Washington again right after the meeting to discuss the specifics of the joint efforts. Two weeks later, Turki quit.