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June 27, 2007


Leila A.

Yes, it's very funny, unless you are a Lebanese-American concerned that the CIA is funding terrorist activity in Lebanese refugee camps. My uncle was caught in the crossfire at Ain-El-Helweh some weeks back. If the Hersh report is indeed double-fact-checked, then we want to know this. The Lebanese blogosphere (and now Ha'aretz) is full of people insisting that Hersh was "duped by Syrian intelligence."

Colonel Patrick Lang doesn't think so.

Is the CIA funding black operations in Lebanon? Is Hariri, Inc. funding Fath-al-Islam? Lang for one does credit these reports.

My Lebanese cousins in the Lebanese military, themselves quite anti-Syrian, confirmed to me that Jund-as=Sham (the Ain-el-Helweh gang) are funded by Bahia Hariri (MP Sidon and sister of the late Rafiq, currently allied with the US). The nickname Jund as-Sitt is indeed common and my cousins confirmed it. (it means Soldiers of the Lady, referring to Bahia Hariri).

My cousins explained that "she only gives them money to keep them quiet." ???

Ah but it all has to be the Syrians' fault. Because we have to bomb Syria. You know, they're part of the axis of evil!

Gregory Gause

It is hard to pick all these things apart, to be sure, but if the CIA was in fact funding Fatah al-Islam as part of an anti-Shi'a effort, as Mr. Hersh wrote, it certainly was not spending its money well. It is the Lebanese government -- headed by our (the US') friend Prime Minister Siniora -- that is fighting against Fatah al-Islam now.

On the fact-checking point, the only thing that a New Yorker fact checker would be checking is that Mr. Crooke in fact said to Hersh what Hersh wrote. The fact-checker would not actually be checking whether Mr. Crooke was correct.


To be clear - I wasn't commenting on the substantive question of whether the CIA had funded Fath al-Islam, or certain members of the Hariri circle had funded them. Neither did Sivan, really - he challenged Hersh's sources for the claim, saying little about the claim itself. My comment was only about the sourcing question, as was Sivan's article. So, on reflection, the post was a meta-comment on Sivan's meta-claim .. man, that's a bit meta even for me.


Dear AA,

I'm gonna have to go with Greg Gause on that one. Sy Hersh's article was not the most convincing - at least not for those of us who are actually living and working in Lebanon.

His "sources" were non-identified (nor -identifyable) Western diplomats and people like Crooke, who (while holding generally admirable views) has a certain bend and interest to see the region.

Hersh simply isn't educated/experienced enough to sift the rumor from the probable from the certain fact and relies on people whose interests in pushing one or the other point of view he cannot gauge.

Thus are "investigative reports" about the Middle East generated ...



John H

AA, Been talking to Crooky have you? How is the old Crookster doing? Heard he is shifting his base of operations to Beruit ... where one can mingle with all kinds of Hezbollah gents and Syrian agents, Bakri is also there for moments of light relief, and its only a hop and a skip to Hamastan. So all things considered its a great place to be unless ones cover as a Mossad agent gets blow.


*posting this from the airport, en route to Lebanon*

Frankly, I think the entire Nahr al-Barid / funding for Intifada al-Islam is far more complex--and much less conspiratorial--than much of discussion of it has been.


From what I recall, Hersh's (poorly argued) article mentioned a bunch of Salafist groups, but quoted Crooke on Fatah al-Islam receiving money from "people presenting themselves as representatives of the Lebanese government’s interests—presumably to take on Hezbollah."

The problem is that for Hersh, as for many journalists, there is a monolithic entity called Salafism. It doesn't occur to them that in Lebanon it is entirely plausible for Bahiya al-Hariri to be funding Jund al-Islam and for Fatah al-Islam to have nothing to do with this, and be itself either be funded/backed by al-Qaeda, Syria, or whoever, or for any Lebanese faction to have tried to buy off Fatah al-Islam and then changed its mind -- perhaps because of Hersh's article, or because too many members of Fatah al-Islam are Saudi rather than Palestinian, and linked to the mujahideen movement in Iraq, indicating a possible al-Qaeda infiltration of the group.

It is one thing if US allies are funding these groups -- and in any case it's common knowledge that Rafiq Hariri, Syria, and many others gave out money to these guys if only to buy themselves some peace. It is quite another if the US government is actively directing funding to them. Hersh highlights the former and hints at the latter, but never makes a convincing point beyond innuendo. It's been said that in Palestine US-Israeli tool Muhammad Dahlan has channeled funding to Salafist groups against Hamas, but that does not necessarily mean the US knew, approved, or encouraged this (although in both Lebanon and Palestine there must be at least some looking in the other direction.)

Anyway, good on Marc for pointing out the joke, or as the case may be inherent flaw, in Sivan's article, which has beenr widely recuperated for various political agendas (American conservative, pro-March 14, anti-Syrian, anti-Islamofascist, you name it.)

Charles Levinson

I was a bit chagrinned to think the Sivan story had been a lark. I sent Emmanuel Sivan an Email to ask him if the story was indeed a joke. This was his response:

"No, the story is true, but what matters is the reality the story obfuscates. Fatah al-Islam is most probably supported by Syrian intelligence services, still active furtively in Lebanon."



Emmanuel said that? Pity - it seemed so perfect, and so clever. Oh well. But the quote you passed on doesn't make clear which part of it he meant when he said "the story is true" - if he meant the opening bit, then I've no doubt that it was true. Maybe the rest of his email gave more context?

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