- The Washington Times - Monday, July 17, 2006

U.S. and Israeli officials accused Iran and Syria of providing material support for Hezbollah’s attacks against Israel, with the Jewish state’s No. 2 official accusing Iran of actions that are acts of war under international law.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said extremist groups in the Middle East and the countries that support them, specifying Iran and Syria, have no future.

“Obviously, Iran is involved,” Miss Rice said during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.” “Iran is financing Hezbollah. Iran is providing technology. Syria is harboring Hezbollah and the radical elements of Hamas in Damascus.”

In an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Miss Rice also said there soon would be “no room” for terror-backing regimes in the Middle East.

“When you have a two-state solution with Palestinians and Israelis living side by side, it’s going to be a different kind of Middle East,” Miss Rice told “Fox News Sunday.” “It’s going to be a Middle East, by the way, in which there is no room for the kind of extremism that Syria and Iran represent.”

Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres also accused Iran of providing hundreds of soldiers to fight in Lebanon alongside the Islamist guerrilla group Hezbollah, and of firing an Iranian-made C802 missile on an Israeli warship.

“There are Iranian officers belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard among Hezbollah and they operated the missile” that hit the Israeli ship, Mr. Peres told the New York Post. Mr. Peres reiterated the point in an appearance on CNN’s “Late Edition,” on which he said there are “200 other cells of the Revolutionary Guard in Lebanon helping Hezbollah fight Israel.”

If the Iranians were in Lebanon among Hezbollah as part of an official unit with their government’s blessing, international law makes their presence an act of war against Israel by Iran. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard, unlike Hezbollah, also customarily wears uniforms — a key point under international law.

“We are today fighting Hezbollah because Hezbollah declared and started a war against Israel,” Mr. Peres told CNN. “We are fighting Hamas because they have started to shoot and fire at Israel. The two of them are submitted to Iran. This is the troika.”

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denied that his country had troops in Lebanon fighting with Hezbollah, a claim reiterated yesterday.

Iranian’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters yesterday, “There are no [Revolutionary] Guards there. Shipment of [Iranian] missiles to Hezbollah is also not correct.”

There was a bipartisan consensus among U.S. lawmakers that Israel had a right to defend itself against the attacks, which have killed at least 24 Israelis, including 12 civilians.

“We’re in the early stages of what I would describe as the Third World War,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And frankly, our bureaucracies are not responding fast enough.”

Sen. George Allen defended the Israeli response, telling “Fox News Sunday”: “Any country, particularly Israel, has the right to defend itself and to protect its citizens as we do.”

The Virginia Republican also accused Iran of supporting Hezbollah.

“It is armed by Iran. It is paid for by Iran. And it is directed by Iran,” Mr. Allen said.

Democratic lawmakers were unanimous in their support for Israel’s right to defend itself.

“I think the first thing is the Bush administration is clear. And I agree with it,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California told CNN. “Israel has a right to exist. Israel has a right to defend itself … There is complicity from other countries in this. And it’s got to stop.”

During her ABC appearance, Miss Rice bristled at the claim by moderator George Stephanopoulos that the Iraq war was to blame for the actions of Islamists.

“Well, first of all, though, those hostilities were not very well contained, as we found out on September 11th,” Miss Rice said. “The notion that somehow policies that finally confront extremism are actually causing extremism, I find grotesque.”

This article was based in part on wire-service reports.

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