Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Iran’s Militia Mayhem

From New York Daily News, August 14, 2006, by David Makovsky ...

...by funneling its oil money to Hezbollah, arming a fierce band of fanatical fighters, Iran has honed a strategy that, if seen to succeed, could replicate itself all across the Arab world.

Today in the Mideast, there are three places where militias operate freely within states: Iraq, Gaza and Lebanon. In all three cases, the militias receive political, economic and military backing from Iran. Iran gives at least $100 million annually, plus an estimated 11,000 missiles, to Hezbollah. It provides Iraq’s Mahdi militia and others with Iranian explosives. It even aids Hamas, which is Sunni and does not share Iran’s Shiism.

If Hezbollah emerges from this conflict emboldened, it is a safe bet that Iran will set out to make still more militia mayhem—strengthening homegrown radical Arab groups with the potential to destabilize governments from Egypt to Saudi Arabia.

For these future militias, Hezbollah would be the prototype—because of three key ways in which it has created what, for Iran, is an ideal 21st century militia:
First, it has no return address—freeing it of the burdens of traditional warfare. Its fighters are embedded in the civilian population.....
Second, by importing military hardware from Iran and Syria, Hezbollah has the advantages of an army without any of its responsibilities.
Third and critically, Hezbollah has enmeshed itself within the Lebanese political system..... . After Israel left [in 2000], Hezbollah used its political clout—including two cabinet seats in Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora’s political coalition—to thwart any adherence to UN Security Council resolutions that called for the group’s disarmament....

A perceived victory for Hezbollah today will spawn clones tomorrow. That’s why it is time for the international community to make it crystal-clear.... Radical militias are criminal organizations that aid and abet terrorism—no more and no less.

David Makovsky is a senior fellow and director of The Washington Institute’s Project on the Middle East Peace Process.

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