A Chemical Attack on Beirut's Airport?

This news item (english) just doesn’t make sense. Why would a Pakistani national want to commit such a horrible act of terrorism in Beirut’s RHI Airport?

Lebanon doesn’t have a significant bilateral relationship with Pakistan. We don’t typically disagree on foreign policy. The Lebanese do not employ pakistanis as domestic workers. The only explanation I can think of is an Alqaeda style act of terrorism for the sake of terrorism.

Now why would a newspaper close to Hezbollah post such a thinly sourced scare-mongering piece about an upcoming Alqaeda attack? I’m sure it’s a coincidence that there’s an effort in the country to smear the Sunnis as Alqaeda hosts and sympathizers.

The American Financial Assault on Hezbollah Continues

That New York Times article about Hezbollah’s finances turned out to be a little amuse-bouche in preparation for the real news: The American government is launching a full on legal war on all parties that have dealt financially with Hezbollah as reported by the Times:

The court action, filed in Manhattan federal court, seeks nearly half a billion dollars in penalties from three Lebanese financial organizations — the now-defunct Lebanese Canadian Bank and two Beirut-based money exchange houses — and 30 auto dealers in the United States. The $480 million in penalties is the sum of the drug proceeds that are alleged to have been laundered; the government is also seeking to freeze and seize assets traceable to those companies.

SGBL, which took in the assets of the Lebanese Canadian Bank (LCB) is safe because it refused to take in suspect accounts. But the court action might involve tracing the assets of the 200 account-holders orphaned by the LCB and who are now probably hosted at other Lebanese Banks. Governor Riad Salameh is in a tough spot as he might find himself forced to cooperate with the legal investigation and shine more light on a publicity-shy Lebanese banking system.

Assocation of Banks in Lebanon

- Not enjoying the attention at all -

A nice side-story to this entire tale is that sources close to the Association of Banks in Lebanon told Annahar that the 36$M paid by Lebanese banks to the International Tribunal are partly meant as a gesture of goodwill towards an international community which has set its eyes on Lebanese banks for allegations of laundring money and dodging sanctions against Syria.

And yet this is the news they wake up to this morning.

Is Governor Riad Salameh Being Warned Through the New York Times?

- Will he keep smiling? -

Considering the length of the New York Time’s exposé on Hezbollah’s finances and the Lebanese Canadian Bank (again, I strongly recommend that you read it) , you will be forgiven if you didn’t reach the very last paragraphs, specifically those that deal with Banque Du Liban’s Governor Riad Salameh’s cooperation with the treasury department and “terorrism financing”.

Long story short, there were two hundred bank accounts in the LCB that were identified as “suspect” and that the SGBL has refused to take in after acquiring the LCB’s assets. This left two hundred millionaires with potential Hezbollah connections as bank orphans who are shopping for a place to put their money in. Many banks would love their business, but the American treasury department would also like to keep its eye on them. For that to work, governor Salameh needs to cooperate with them.

Daniel L. Glaser, assistant Treasury secretary for terrorism financing, issued what seemed like a warning in the Times article:

What the Central Bank hasn’t fully demonstrated, and the jury is still out, is whether they will use [Governor Salameh's cooperation on the Lebanese Canadian Bank] as a launching pad to ensure that these illicit actors aren’t migrating elsewhere

The Times reporter also did his homework and followed up. Notice the skeptical language he’s using:

The signs are not terribly encouraging. The Central Bank governor, Riad Salameh, cut short an interview when asked about the aftermath of the American action, calling it an “old story.” As for those nearly 200 suspect accounts, Mr. Salameh would only say that he does not involve himself in such commercial questions.

Privately, he has played down the findings to the Treasury Department, attributing much of the suspicious activity to peculiarities in the way business is done in Africa. Those accounts he did deem problematic, he told the Americans, have been referred to Lebanon’s general prosecutor. But the prosecutor refused to comment, and his deputy, who handles money-laundering inquiries, said last week that he had received nothing.

In fact, as Treasury officials acknowledge, on Mr. Salameh’s watch, most of the accounts were simply transferred to several other Lebanese banks.

I don’t know about you, but this seems like a big and scary “I am watching you” directed at Governor Salameh.

Also: Governor Riad Salameh Gets An Earful In Washington

Why the Antellias Explosion Was Suspicious

Yesterday’s explosion in Antellias that prematurely went off and killed its two bomb makers is probably not a “financial and personal dispute between several people”, as our Minister of Interior helpfully explained. Here’s why:

  • The bombers are not from Antellias. One is from Jezzine and one is from Tyre, (both in south Lebanon). So Antellias is not exactly their backdoor. They came all the way here to do what they wanted to do
  • There was an uncharacteristic official silence on the nature and circumstances of the explosion and technical details of the explosive device
  • The explosion took place at the same day the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) was summoning high-profile victims of the 2005 bombings to share with them details of their cases and their relatedness to Hariri’s assassination
  • The President rushed to arrange a meeting for Lebanon’s Higher Defense Council on Friday. This could be unrelated, but it didn’t ease the suspicion
  • Politicians are warning us that we’re entering a “dangerous period” as the STL is becoming more and more concrete

Does the government know something we don’t? Could this be a botched assassination attempt? If so, who was the (Christian) target? Was this intended to mark a new period of instability and assassinations? Is it to scare the Lebanese off the Tribunal? Does that mean the Tribunal is on the right track?

One thing is for sure: Anxiousness is running high in Beirut today..

Update: More salient points from Shiwa7ad’s comment:

  • The two people who died lived in the Madi neighborhood in Dahieh
  • *According to the minister* the explosive device consisted of a hand grenade, surrounded by explosives with metal balls, with a mechanism to cause the device to explode when a door is opened or some other movement takes place
  • According to some witnesses one of the victims was kneeling behind a car, and the minister confirmed that the wounds of one of the two victims were the most important at the torso level, while the wounds of the other victim were at the hand and leg
  • Future TV, MTV, and New TV mentioned that the brother of one of the victims alleged that his brother was a Hezbollah member, and Hezbollah, while deploring that that some media were throwing the name of the Hezb left and right, did not deny explicitly deny that those two people were Hezbollah members.
  • Al Manar was the first news source to allege that the explosion was the result of a financial dispute.
  • The identity of the alleged target of the assassination attempt was not disclosed.

❊ The Jihad of Bruce Bawer

Bruce Bawer is alarmed. The author of books with titles like “Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom” and “While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within” was shocked, shocked! to learn that he was one of the people who inspired Anders Behring, the Norwegian terrorist who kills Christian teenagers to ward off Muslim immigrants.

In a series of articles in the Wall Street Journal and Pajamas media, he was trying to do two thing: Dissociate himself from the “lunatic” (“It is chilling to read my own name in postings by this mass murderer.”), and at the same time convince us that the lunatic was fighting the good fight:

it is deeply depressing to see this evil, twisted creature become the face of Islam criticism in Norway […] I fear that legitimate criticism of Islam, which remains a very real threat to freedom in Norway and the West, has been profoundly discredited, in the eyes of many Norwegians, by association with this murderous lunatic.

Whether Mr. Bawer likes it or not, he is at least partly responsible for the blood spilled in Oslo and Utøya. The lesson we learned from history’s most egregious massacres is that violent words lead to violent action. If an intellectual writes that Muslims are “destroying the west”, there are bound to be lunatics who will take action in response to that.

There is a reason why western mainstream publications would never, ever publish the sentence “legitimate criticism of Judaism” and “Judaism is destroying the west from within” (exact phrases that Mr. Bawer used with the word “Islam” instead of “Judaism”). It’s not because Jews control the world as our own conspiracists like to claim, it’s because one day a crazy lunatic took words such as these seriously and decided to wipe that whole race off the face of the planet.

So Guess Who's Justifying Terrorism?

Jerusalem Post editorial:

While there is absolutely no justification for the sort of heinous act perpetrated this weekend in Norway, discontent with multiculturalism’s failure must not be delegitimatized or mistakenly portrayed as an opinion held by only the most extremist elements of the Right.

Fair enough. Here’s a paragraph the paper’s editorial will never write though:

While there is absolutely no justification for the sort of heinous act perpetrated by Hamas suicide bombers, discontent with the Israeli occupation must not be delegitimatized or mistakenly portrayed as an opinion held by only the most extremist elements of Palestine.

❊ Rushing to Conclusions

Juan Cole:

That the horrible terrorist attacks in Oslo on Friday that left some 90 persons or more dead– a bombing of the prime minister’s office and shootings at a Labor Party youth camp– were allegedly committed by a blonde, far right wing Norwegian fundamentalist Christian rather than by a radical Muslim group is being treated as a matter of surprise in some quarters.

Even I, an Arab Muslim, was surprised and had been completely convinced that it was the work of Alqaeda or other fundamentalist Muslims. Does that mean that I am a self hater?

The lesson from Norway is that one shouldn’t rush to conclusions. But that can work both ways. If an observer assumed that the killer was a Muslim extremist, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the observer is a Muslim hater (or self-hater in my case).

Norway was an ideal target for Alqaeda. It was ill prepared for terrorist attacks. It has soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and planes bombing Libya. The terrorism style itself (coordinated attacks in multiple locations) was typical of Alqaeda. The assumption that it was the work of Alqaeda was a completely safe one.

Why am I bringing this up? Because I’m expecting a backlash in the Arab world. Many commentators are going to use this incident to “prove” that Muslims are widely hated in the west. I’m not saying that this is necessarily wrong, I’m just saying that the Norway incident is not a good proof of that.