Lebanon compiles list of spy cases against Israel

‘Espionage accusations being used for diplomatic leverage.’

Lebanon 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Lebanon 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Lebanon has put together a list of 150 cases of espionage, intended to be filed as a complaint against Israel to the UN Security Council, Arab media sources have reported.
Lebanese Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar has announced that the file was submitted to the Foreign Ministry and would be presented to the Security Council following its discussion in the government.
“The list cites some 150 cases which the law has managed to put its hand on, [including people] of all communities and denominations,” Najjar told the London- based Arab daily Al- Hayat, adding that it included findings that were “hardly believable.”
Lebanon has previously filed an official complaint to the UN regarding Israel’s alleged attempts to recruit spies in the country. President Michel Suleiman raised the issue in his meeting with US Vice President Joseph Biden in May.
“Wherever you dig in Lebanon you find a spy,” said Hilal Khashan, a professor of political science at the American University of Beirut. He said espionage had reached endemic proportions in Lebanon over the past few years, which had embarrassed the country.
“Spying is recognized practice in international relations.
The case of a country appealing to the UN on the matter is unprecedented,” he said.
Khashan viewed the appeal to the UN as mainly a political tactic.
“Israel just launched a complaint against Lebanon because of the border issue, and the Lebanese want to retaliate,” he said.
Khashan also attributed the current espionage frenzy to competition between two security agencies with overlapping jurisdiction over spying cases in Lebanon: the Hizbullah-sympathetic Military Intelligence and the Sunni-dominated Information Section of the Internal Security Forces, loyal to Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
Nadim Shehadi, an associate fellow of the Middle East program at Chatham House in London, said Hizbullah was playing the spy card in order to garner political gains.
“Hizbullah always stands to gain with anything to do with Israel,” he said. “Any mass infiltration of spies [into Lebanon] indicates the weakness of the state which Hizbullah uses to claim it is needed.”
Shehadi added that Hizbullah was likely to use the espionage claims to discredit allegations it will face by the UN International Tribunal on Lebanon, charged with investigating the assassination of former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri.
He added that Hizbullah claimed that many of the spies worked for Lebanese telecommunication companies, and could therefore fabricate calls implicating activists in the assassination, to the benefit of Israel.
On Saturday, a Lebanese prosecuting judge accused Milad Eid, a former employee of state telecom firm Ogero, of “dealing with the Israeli enemy... giving them technical information in his position as head of international communications at the Telecommunications Ministry,” Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper reported on Monday.
Last week, Lebanon arrested Fayez Karam, a member of Michel Aoun’s Christian Free Patriotic Movement and an ex-general, on accusations of spying for Israel. Karam was the first senior political figure in Lebanon to be arrested on such charges.
Dr. Omri Nir, an expert on Lebanon from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said the spying accusations were a way to release internal pressure in Lebanon and direct it at Israel.
“Nabih Berri, the Shi’ite speaker of parliament, has been leading a line of direct confrontation with Israel,” Nir said. “He recently met with Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah, and I imagine the two coordinated how to direct the fire at Israel.”
The Lebanese Army issued a warning to media outlets in Lebanon on Monday, cautioning them against making rash accusations against military personnel following Karam’s arrest.