Saturday, October 27, 2012

'In Beirut Blast, US Loses a Top Ally'

[WSJ] "...WASHINGTON—The assassination of Lebanon's security chief a week ago robbed the U.S. and Europe of one of its closest allies in monitoring and countering the regional activities of Lebanon's Hezbollah, as well as its backers in Syria and Iran, said U.S. and Arab officials.
Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan headed intelligence-gathering for Lebanon's police force, the Internal Security Forces, which was among Beirut's primary recipients of U.S. financial aid since mass protests forced Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to remove his troops from the country in 2005.
Because of Gen. Hassan's ties to the West, Arab and Western officials said they believed last Friday's car bombing in central Beirut—which killed the security chief and seven others—was a warning from Syria and Iran. Its aim, these people say, was to warn anti-Syrian politicians in Lebanon and the West not to work for the overthrow of Mr. Assad's regime in Damascus.
"This is a big blow for the Americans because of Hassan's role inside Lebanon," said a senior Arab diplomat. "He was the top intelligence chief and interlocutor."...
In late August, according to Arab diplomats, Gen. Hassan visited Washington, where he held extensive discussions with the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, David Petraeus, and other senior Obama administration officials.
The two spy chiefs discussed Syria's efforts to destabilize Lebanon using Hezbollah and pro-Damascus politicians, these officials said. They also discussed Hezbollah's efforts to bolster Mr. Assad's security forces inside Syria, by sending in military advisers and fighters. Hezbollah has denied acting inside Syria.
A senior U.S. official praised Gen. Hassan as "a significant figure" but stressed that U.S. intelligence ties to Lebanon go beyond one person. "It would be wrong to overestimate the damage to the U.S. from this one attack,........ His killing doesn't have to be a trigger for even more violence."
Gen. Hassan also maintained close ties to French intelligence....
The U.S. has specifically worked with the ISF to deploy Lebanese security officials in areas traditionally dominated by Hezbollah in south Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley...."

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