Jerusalem – Reliable Israeli intelligence sources now report that Hezbollah suffered significant setbacks as a result of the Lebanon War, both in terms of its fighting force – one-tenth of which was reportedly killed – and in terms of its hold on southern Lebanon. Those sources say that Hezbollah’s hold on southern Lebanon has been significantly altered with the loss of the Shiite movement’s entire front-line of outposts along the Israeli border, and by the presence of Lebanese army troops and a substantially larger UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) that is deployed in the area that was once solely under Hezbollah control.

Hezbollah envisions another military round against Israel at any time. This is the working assumption on which Hezbollah has been operating since the end of the war, and it has been trying to restore its military capabilities and political standing.

Meanwhile, rehabilitation is taking place on three levels. On the military level, Hezbollah is currently engaged in deployment along a new line in southern Lebanon. While Hezbollah is still operating south of the Litani River, it is now deploying on a more northern line there. The large center of “nature reserves” in the center of southern Lebanon is still under Hezbollah’s full control, and is defined as a “closed military zone” with the consent of the Lebanese army and the U.N. forces. In the villages located along Hezbollah’s new line, it has purchased or rented civilian buildings, and is turning them into warehouses of military equipment and weaponry.

Rebuilding the strategic layer – the medium-range and long-range rocket array – that was destroyed in the first days of the warfare is advancing more slowly.

Despite the fact that Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah declared a “divine victory,” his popularity is in a sharp decline. In public opinion polls held over the past few days in Beirut and towns in northern and southern Lebanon, 51 percent said that they support disarming Hezbollah. Forty-nine percent believe that Hezbollah suffered defeat in a war that was “completely illegitimate.”

The American perspective on the power of Hezbollah is quite different.

Frank Urbancic Jr., principal deputy coordinator of the U.S. State Department’s Counterterrorism Office, told the House Subcommittee on Middle East and Central Asia on Sept. 28 that Hezbollah could be compared to an “octopus with the head in southern Lebanon and tentacles moving around the world.” He said Iran and Syria were responsible for Hezbollah’s supply and support.

“Hezbollah has assets around the world, and it can mobilize them on a a moment’s notice,” Urbancic said.

Urbancic said Hezbollah has been financing other groups in the Middle East deemed terrorist organizations. Since 2000, he said, Hezbollah, which raises most of its funds in the Middle East, has provided “financial, training and logistical support to Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian terrorist groups.” Hezbollah was also said to have financed Fatah cells in the West Bank.

Hezbollah has maintained a major presence in South America. Officials said Hezbollah, with interests in criminal activities, has raised millions of dollars from such countries as Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.

Urbancic said the United States has been “very, very concerned” regarding a Hezbollah alliance with FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia], the insurgency group in Colombia and a major player in the illegal drug market. He said such an alliance could ensure funding for Hezbollah operations in the United States and the Middle East.

“It’s something that we are very much worried about in the tri-border area [Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil],” Urbancic said.

Officials said Hezbollah has also been financed through the Shi’ite diaspora of West Africa and Central Africa. He said Hezbollah has interests in diamonds and other businesses in the region.

“Contributions there often are in the form of religious donations and paid in cash,” Urbancic said. “They’re difficult to track, and collected by Hezbollah couriers transiting the region.”

©The Bulletin 2006

David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist. In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies. Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.  Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research. A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion. The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education' In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA.Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll. Bedein's work can be found at:www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com.A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.

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