Intelligence wars heat up in Lebanon amid regional instability

Lebanese-Israeli-Syrian borderBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
As the security situation in Syria and Egypt deteriorates, Lebanon is rapidly emerging as a major intelligence hub in the wider geopolitical power-struggle currently unfolding in the Middle East. On Monday, Lebanon’s leading Arabic-language newspaper, An-Nahar, reported the discovery last month of a foreign espionage network allegedly operating in Lebanese capital Beirut. The paper said that the clandestine network was spying on behalf of “a major Western country”, and was unearthed by forces loyal to Hezbollah, the Shiite group that controls large parts of southern Lebanon. The network allegedly consisted of at least three men, all Lebanese citizens, who lived in close proximity to each other in Beirut’s southern suburbs —a traditional Hezbollah stronghold. The three men were not Hezbollah members, said An-Nahar, but one was stoutly religious and all had good relations with local Hezbollah cells operating in their respective neighborhoods. The alleged head of the spy ring was an unnamed Lebanese citizen who had lived in the Ukraine for several years, where he operated a human smuggling network transporting Arab men into Europe. However, he was eventually arrested by French authorities in Paris and spent two years in prison. According to An-Nahar, the man was able to secure a deal with his captors, under which he would be allowed to return to Lebanon in exchange for informing them about the activities of a senior Hezbollah official wanted by Interpol. His ultimate mission was allegedly to lure the Hezbollah official, with whom he was friends, to Europe, where he could be arrested. Hezbollah has refused to comment on the newspaper’s claims. But the militant Shiite group did confirm on Tuesday the reported explosions of three alleged Israeli spy devices found in Southern Lebanon. The Associated Press reported that the devices were detected by Hezbollah in the vicinity of Zrariye, a village north of the Litani River that runs through southern Lebanon. The devices appear to have been remotely destroyed by their operators through a wireless-controlled explosive mechanism soon after they were discovered by an armed Hezbollah patrol unit. It is not the first time that such explosions have occurred in Southern Lebanon. Meanwhile, across the border in Israel, the country’s Defense Forces have released a video on YouTube, which they say shows a Hezbollah intelligence team gathering intelligence along Lebanon’s border with the Jewish state. The video, which was released by the IDF during a press conference on Monday, shows a group of men —some of them wearing heavy hooded jackets in the summer heat— observing across what appears to be a border region, while consulting a map. IDF Brigadier General Hartzi Halevi told journalists during the press conference that Israel “sees the connection between the ongoing events in Syria and the terror activity at the northern border, and is preparing accordingly”.

One Response to Intelligence wars heat up in Lebanon amid regional instability

  1. Pete says:

    The results of the Arab Spring in Eqypt, Lebanon and Syria certainly wouldn’t please the idealists (in the West and Middle East). It may take decades for old authoritarian and Islamic habits to recede.

    An excellent novel reflecting espionage and the Lebanon situation is Agents of Innocence by David Ignatius. He concentrates on the various competing factios – including Sunni Palestinians, Shiites (now represented, in part, by Hezbollah) and Christian groups.

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