Friday, December 3, 2010

Wikileaks: U2 spy flights targetting Hizbullah fuels tensions

Leaked US cables come as members of Shia organisation due to be indicted in murder of former prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri

Ian Black, Thursday 2 December 2010

"Lebanese politicians and the media have already reacted nervously to the leaked US state department cables, so the further revelation of U2 spy flights targeting Hizbullah will fuel mounting domestic tension.

Beirut has been for weeks expecting trouble over members of the Shia organisation due to be indicted in the 2005 murder of the former prime minister, Rafiq al-Hariri, above. Al-Akhbar, a pro-Hizbullah paper, today openly accused western-aligned politicians of being "informers" and collaborators in their dealings with US diplomats, as reported in the Wikileaks cables.

Nadim Shehadi, at London's Chatham House thinktank, called the Guardian's revelations of the secret US Cedar Wind flights from UK bases on Cyprus "sensational", since the cables suggest that they were authorised by the Lebanese ministry of defence alone and not the entire government. Britain's reservations about the spy flights were based in part on this aspect.

Furthermore, most Lebanese would assume that any intelligence gathered by the US on Hizbullah would be passed on to Israel, he added. "In the Lebanese context, that assumption is a certainty. People are already talking about preparations for the next war between Israel and Hizbullah."

Saad al-Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister, has already had to deny reports based on the leaked cables that he urged the United States to "go all the way" in stopping Iran's nuclear programme in August 2006."

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