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Ben Cohen

The Obama administration has finally taken some action against the Lebanese Islamist terror organization Hizbullah.

The Treasury Department has applied sanctions on four Hizbullah operatives reportedly planning terror attacks, as well as a company, Al-Inmaa Engineering and Contracting LLC, controlled by a senior Hizbullah financier.


Meanwhile, the State Department has sanctioned Hizbullah commander Haytham Ali Tabataba’i, also known as Abu Ali Al-Tabataba’i, under U.S. counterterrorism rules. He has lead Hizbullah special forces, operated in Syria, and reportedly was with Shi’a rebels in Yemen, according to the State Department.

These measures are small but they are, at least, a reminder of destructive forces in the Middle East beyond ISIS. Hizbullah, created by the Iranians as a proxy force to wage war on Israel, is now an integral element of the Russian-Iranian-Syrian regime axis that has successfully exploited the emergence of ISIS to establish itself as the current dominant power bloc in the Middle East.

As the price of his flimsy deal with Iran over its nuclear ambitions, President Obama has allowed this bloc to rise unchallenged, and even downplayed the threat it represents. As Secretary of State Kerry put it at the end of September, the U.S. isn’t going to take the fight to Hizbullah because “Hizbullah is not plotting against us.”

Given that Hizbullah has remained faithful to Islamist ideology since its founding, and carried out shocking acts of global terror, like the 1983 bombing of U.S. Marines in Beirut and the Buenos Aires bombing of the AMIA Jewish Center in 1994, one wonders what “not plotting against us” means exactly.

Hizbullah, after all, only exists to plot against “us:” Israel, the United States, the Sunni Arab countries, Europe, indeed, anyone who stands against the terror organization. Perhaps it’s Kerry’s way of saying Hizbullah isn’t a priority in the way ISIS is – leaving us in the grotesque position of enabling one lot of Islamist barbarians from the Shi’a side, as we confront another lot of Islamist barbarians from the Sunni side.

Make no mistake, Hizbullah is barbaric, and its current alignment with Vladimir Putin’s dictatorship in Russia doesn’t make it acceptable. Since at least February, Hizbullah has played a critical role on the ground in northern Syria, fighting on behalf of the tyrannical Assad regime. As the Wall Street Journal reported at the time, “Hizbullah along with members of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard unit, and thousands of Iran-funded and trained Shiite fighters from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and elsewhere, are leading the current ground assault in…Aleppo.”

The significance of holding Aleppo was underlined in a bloodcurdling speech back in June by Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hasan Nasrallah, broadcast live on the terror group’s Al Manar television station. “The defense of Aleppo is the defense of the rest of Syria, it is the defense of Damascus, it is also the defense of Lebanon, and of Iraq,” Nasrallah asserted. “We will increase our presence in Aleppo. Retreat is not permissible.”

Nasrallah has made good on that pledge. In August, Hizbullah deployed its elite Radwan Forces, a special operations unit, to the Hamdaniyeh quarter of Aleppo. As Russian and Syrian jets have pummeled Aleppo from the air, killing thousands of civilians, Hizbullah has engaged in combat on the ground.

The sobering fact is that Assad and his allies are calling the shots. That’s why Russia has been able to introduce a draft resolution on Aleppo to the UN Security Council. With all the focus on ISIS, there is nary a mention of the war criminals the Moscow regime is supporting.

Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the UN, countered the Russian draft by pointing out that if we don’t explicitly name Russia as the main party behind “the unspeakable horrors we are witnessing,” we thereby “obscure responsibility.” But that assessment is shared half-heartedly, at best, by the administration she serves. If there’s a fresh approach to Islamist designs on the Middle East that will be the task of the next president.

Donald Trump, certainly, is not up to that particular job. (That moment during the third presidential debate when he grunted, with the faux empathy of a reality TV show host, “Aleppooo…soooo saaad,” was one of the most skin-crawling of the current cycle.)

There is reason to have a scintilla more faith in Hillary Clinton, who unlike her opponent, hasn’t tried to obscure Russia’s role in backing some of our worst enemies in the region. Ironically, the latest dump of WikiLeaks email revelations on this score actually does Clinton some favors, revealing that she has a much more cynical view of Iranian strategy than does Obama. That cynicism extends to Russia and Hizbullah as well.

If Hizbullah comes out of the Syrian war with its prestige strengthened and its threat level boosted, there’s every reason to fear the next target will be Israel. A renewed war on this front will be far more costly and destructive than in 2006. That’s why we should prepare ourselves for a visceral propaganda assault on Israel, if it does end up doing what should have been done long ago – cutting Hizbullah to size, and with it, its Russian, Iranian and Syrian allies.


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Ben Cohen writes a weekly column for on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics. His writings have been published in Commentary, the New York Post, Haaretz, The Wall Street Journal and many other publications.