Thursday, August 31, 2006

Hezbollah: Does Its Funding Include Extortion?

The intent of this post is to air out a thought I had today about Hezbollah and its funding. But, before I get to that thought, I want to make it clear that there should be no doubt in anyone's mind that the major source of Hezbollah's income comes from the following:

--Iran $100-200 million/year
--Syria $?
--Business/properties in Lebanon $?
--Contributions from international supporters $?
--Illegal international trafficking (cigarette tax evasion, pirated CDs, etc) $?
--Drug trade $?
--Extortion $?

It is also probably true that many of its arms, rockets, munitions and other military supplies have been "gifted" as "in-kind" contributions from Iran and Syria.

Having said this I would like to return to the item above labelled "Extortion."

I have read nothing and can find nothing anywhere that gives me any information about how Hezbollah "operates" its self-styled, non-governmental control over southern Lebanon.

The Lebanese government obviously has little or anything to do with providing "basic services" to any of the Christians, Muslims (Shi'ite & Sunni), Druze or other ethnic or religious citizens of Lebanon in the Hezbollah-controlled areas.

Who then is providing services such as school teachers, police/security, ambulance and medical services, water, sewage, garbage collection, electricity, banking and fuel for these people? Unless folks travel into Beiruit it would appear that people are dependent on Hezbollah for all of these things.

What about the people who are employed in what would normally be called "public utilities," "civil service" or "public health" professions in "Hezbo-land?" Who do they work for? And, the most important question of all, "Who pays them? "

Again, the answer must be, Hezbollah.

Where does the money come from to pay all these "public employees?" I'm not so sure that Iran is overly interested in investing in such matters. Nor is Syria. Hezbollah, I believe, has to make its own way in this area.

And how, pray tell, can they do this?

At this point I am simply guessing (or, if you like a more sophisticated term, speculating).

My guess is that Hezbollah gets much of its funding for such local matters the same way that normal governments get their funding: taxes.

Do the people of southern, Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon pay taxes to the central government in Beiruit? I don't know. Do you? I do know, from the exposees regarding the faux-attack on the pre-damaged Lebanese Red Cross ambulances, that the Lebanese central government still issues moving vehicle licenses and plates so I guess people are paying for these.

I wonder, however, if Hezbollah is taxing its people for the services that, according to the world's media, they seem to provide so freely and generously?

My guess is that they are.

I am pondering the idea that Hezbollah is either collecting money from its "citizens" in addtion to or in place of the taxes that would otherwise be expected to be collected by the Lebanese government, etc.

I am pondering the idea that Hezbollah collects the fees for electricity, fuel, water, sewage and garbage collection.

I am pondering the idea that this income is used to pay the men who work in these "economic sectors" and that these same people double on the side as Hizbollah's trained militia members...with a guaranteed job and a guaranteed income!

I am pondering the idea that this income is collected not only under the umbrella of "taxes" and "fees for services" but also through simple, straight-forward extortion.

A hint of this tactic can be found in a short but concise article on Hezbollah's funding at entitled, "Hezbollah's Hoard," written by Nathan Vardi.

All of the above list of income sources are discussed and then comes this curious and telling bon mot at the article's conclusion:
One lucky nab: Assad Barakat, a Hezbollah treasurer known for extracting protection money from Lebanese shopkeepers in South America hoping to keep their relatives back home safe from harm. Barakat was sentenced to six and a half years in a Paraguay jail.
Why, I ponder, should Hezbollah go half-way around the world to take "protection money" when they can get that very same "protection money" from the very people in Lebanon that they are purporting to protect?

My guess is that they are doing both.

So much for the free and philanthropic and caring generosity of Hezbollah for which they have been so loudly praised by the world media! '

Even when they're not giving away counterfeit money they are still nothing more than a "scam."

Which is a word that is spelled almost exactly the same as the word, "scum."

As always, can someone please give me the facts on these ponderings and correct me if I have mis-speculated? Thank you very much.