Al Qusayr, a village in Syria’s Homs district, is a traditional transit point for personnel and goods traveling across the Lebanon/Syria border. Located in the southern half of the Orontes valley known as the al Assi basin, its proximity to northern Lebanon has made this region an important logistical area for the rebel forces of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), in what has become known as the Homs front. A typical border region, the al Assi basin’s inhabitants are multinational as well as multi-ethnic with a complex makeup of Sunni, Shia, Alawi, and Christian religions that claim both Lebanese and Syrian Citizenship. Due to the proximity to the border region, and the main north and south highway from Homs to Damascus, al Qusayr is a pivotal point in the Syrian conflict for both the FSA and the pro-regime SAA.
The Armored Corps Association hosted its inaugural conference on November 13–14, 2007, as a forum for discussion of Israeli operations during the July–August 2006 Second Lebanon War. Attendees sought to identify both challenges meriting particular attention due to their implications for the country’s future security and solutions to those challenges. The event drew some 200 active and retired members of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), in addition to representatives from the commercial sector, the United States, and the United Kingdom. A list of speakers and brief biographical sketches appear in Appendixes A and B, respectively. Note, however, that selected materials do not appear herein due to some speakers’ requests that they not be included in either the Hebrew or English version of these proceedings.
As authorities have clamped down on traditional financing pipelines, such as charitable front groups, and as terrorist networks have grown increasingly decentralized, terrorists have turned to criminal activities to finance their operations locally. Throughout the world, Al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah operatives have involved themselves in an array of criminal enterprises, including counterfeiting, drug dealing, cigarette smuggling, credit card fraud, auto theft, kidnapping, extortion, and artifact trafficking. Although criminality is outlawed under Islamic law, the Al Qaeda manual advises that “necessity permits the forbidden.” Reflecting this theory, when Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) operatives questioned whether hacking into foreigners’ bank accounts was acceptable in Islam, JI leader Abu Bakr Bashir reportedly responded, “[if] you can take their blood; then why not take their property?” “Terrorist groups are particularly interested in raising funds through crime because as Lieutenant Colonel David LaRivee, Associate Professor of Economics at the United States Air Force Academy, stated, “many of the agencies responsible for enforcement in these areas do not traditionally focus on counterterrorism nor do they have strong ties with counterterrorist agencies. This means that many indictable criminal activities that support terrorism are overlooked because they seem insignificant when evaluated locally, but are in fact very significant when considered from a broader perspective.” In order to disrupt these financing efforts, “local law enforcement officials will be key,” as the FBI assessed in a May 25, 2005 Intelligence Bulletin.
Literally meaning “Party of God”, Hezbollah began as a militia in 1982 in response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The Shi’a Islamist organization has since grown into a worldwide political and paramilitary network with seats in the Lebanese government, numerous social services programs, long-standing ties with the Syrian and Iranian governments, and an annual income estimated to be anywhere between $200-$400 million. Hezbollah’s main goal is to cast out any form of Israeli rule and/or occupation. Due to the U.S.’ political and financial support of Israel, Hezbollah regards our nation as a viable target. While there is no immediate or confirmed threat to the Tucson area, recent events and the current middleeastern political arena merit a renewed awareness of the group’s capabilities and presence throughout the Western Hemisphere.
Israel Defense Forces Presentation on Six Day War Commemoration: Renewed Possibility of Violence Against Israel.
Lebanon’s Hezbollah is a Shiite Islamist militia, political party, social welfare organization, and U.S. State Department-designated terrorist organization. Its armed element receives support from Iran and Syria and possesses significant paramilitary and unconventional warfare capabilities. In the wake of the summer 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah and an armed domestic confrontation between Hezbollah and rival Lebanese groups in May 2008, Lebanon’s political process is now intensely focused on Hezbollah’s future role in the country. Lebanese factions are working to define Hezbollah’s role through a series of “National Dialogue” discussions.