Letter: How Hizbollah wins support

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Sir: Nadim Shehadi, the director of the Centre for Lebanese Studies, Oxford, makes two extraordinary omissions in assessing the causes of the current problem in Lebanon (Letters, 30 July).

First, Hizbollah derives its support not only from its resistance to Israeli occupation but, more significantly, from the highly developed health, education and welfare system it has established to benefit the Lebanese Shia community, a service that is funded by an dollars 80m annual grant from Iran to Hizbollah.

It is this vehicle that is enabling Hizbollah to win hearts and minds. Indeed, the technique has been copied by Islamist groups in other African and Middle East states, including Egypt, where President Hosni Mubarak has outlawed the provision of aid by non-

governmental Egyptian agencies following the success of the extremist Gamaat el-Islamiya movement in assisting Cairenes after the earthquake there this year.

Second, Mr Shehadi unaccountably omits any mention of the role played by Syria and the 40,000 Syrian troops who are based in Lebanon. They control the area around Beirut and the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon, where Hizbollah's military bases are located and where Hizbollah's fighting men are trained and armed by about 1,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

It is Syria that knowingly and willingly serves as the conduit for the Hizbollah-bound Iranian military largesse and it is Syria that could halt the Hizbollah attacks on Israel's northern border by simply closing down this channel and ordering its troops to disarm the Hizbollah fighters, just as all the other militias have been disarmed in Lebanon.

Once this is achieved and the Lebanese government assumes control of southern Lebanon, it would be reasonable to expect the Israeli government to put its words into action and withdraw its forces from the security zone. Until then, however, Israel has the right and the duty to defend its northern border and to protect its citizens from the barrage of Hizbollah's Katyusha rockets.

Yours sincerely,


London, NW11

30 July