- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 26, 2006

For a considerable period, the State Department has claimed the far-flung terrorist cells across the globe operate independently without a clear coordinated strategy other, of course, than anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism.

Based on events as they are now unfolding in the Middle East, it is time to evaluate that assumption. Evidence suggests the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers and killing of others at checkpoints was part of a well planned and coordinated attack against Israel organized months ago by Hezbollah and Hamas with the endorsement of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the probable complicity of the Syrian government.

The recent meetings in Damascus and Tehran with representation from all of the terrorist groups was a clear sign of careful planning. Osama Hamdane, a Hamas leader in Lebanon, confirmed the coordinated tactics between Hezbollah and Hamas. And Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, declared weeks ago “the enemy is stuck between Gaza and Lebanon and we are preparing unexpected surprises for him.” He noted Lebanese politicians had better not offer “cover for the enemy.”

It is also not coincidental that Christian Gen. Michel Aoun, recognizing the growth of Hezbollah influence and the stockpiling of missiles at Lebanon’s southern border, decided months ago to side with Hezbollah.

So despite a truce agreed to by all parties inside and outside of Lebanon’s government, including Hezbollah, “the gates of hell have been opened.” Hezbollah leadership lied to the Lebanese and lied to the world, indicating peaceful overtures on the one hand and planning for war with the other.

Dissimulation also characterized the new Hamas government in the Palestinian territory. While its hostility to Israel never abated, there was the soothing talk of hudna, a period of peace before war. Yet all along Hamas was conspiring with Hezbollah to attack Israel — armed, financed and fortified by Iran and Syria.

If there was ever any doubt, it is now patently obvious that terrorists can never be trusted. They regard words as weapons. Their instinct and basic motivation is violence, whatever they may say for diplomatic reasons.

It is also increasingly obvious that Iran is terror central. The C802 missile that hit an Israeli warship, Ahi Hanit, off the Lebanese coast was an Iranian-built radar guided shore-to-ship missile with a range of 80 miles. This sophisticated weapon was either sold or given to Hezbollah by the Iranian government. In fact, as one military source noted, “Hezbollah has everything Iran has.”

Although the immediate Israeli military objective is to create a cordon sanitaire in southern Lebanon with sufficient strategic depth to offset missile attacks, it is clear Syria and Iran cannot be left off the hook if there is to be some kind of peaceful settlement. After all, Mr. Ahmadinejad has called for elimination of Israel and these recent attacks are fomented in the palaces of Tehran and Damascus.

To his credit, President Bush seems to recognize what the State Department has not. He has made it clear Israel has the right to defend itself. And while he has called for “restraint” — an ambiguous word considering the circumstances — he has not told the Israeli government what the U.S. would consider tactical limits to be.

There is no doubt the extremists have showed their hand. Their attack has been carefully coordinated and we should not suffer from illusions about that. Terrorist cells may operate independently, but all too often they work together; in fact, all too often their sponsors reside in Tehran and Damascus.

Herbert London is president of Hudson Institute and professor emeritus of New York University. He is the author of “Decade of Denial” (Lanham, Md., Lexington Books, 2001). Mr. London’s website is www.herblondon.org.

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