Moscow welcomes Hizballah delegation, cites Israeli talks with Hamas
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 19, 2011, 10:41 PM (GMT+02:00)
Russia used Israel's negotiations with the Hamas for the release of Gilad Shalit to justify its continuing support for Syrian President Bashar Assad and opening the door to pro-Iranian and pro-Syrian terrorist groups. Wednesday, Oct. 19, Moscow welcomed a Lebanese Hizballah delegation, the first European capital to formally receive Iran's terrorist surrogate.
Russian officials justified this action by arguing that since Israel decided it was acceptable to deal directly with Hamas, there was no reason why Moscow shouldn't set up direct links with Hizballah, especially when the Shiite group has ministers serving in the Lebanese government in Beirut.
They charged that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was directly involved in the interaction with Hamas through Gershon Baskin, head of the Israeli-Palestinian Institute of Research and Science and his backdoor channel to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's former adviser, Ghazi Hamad.
It was Hamad's job, they say, to carry Netanyahu's messages to the Hamas military commander Muhammad Jabary, who controlled the conditions of Gilead Shalit's confinement.
The Hizballah delegation, on a three-day visit to the Russian capital as the official guests of the Russian Lower House, is composed of three high-ranking officials, Mohamed Raad, director of Hizballah's Organization Department, Hassan Fadlallah, who runs the Information and Propaganda Department, and Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah's deputy, Nawar As-Sakhili.
Before flying home Saturday, Oct. 22, the delegation will also be received by the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Council of Muslims in European Russia. Its members will deliver lectures at some of Moscow's universities.
debkafile's sources stress that for Hizballah, the official Russian communiqué announcing its visit, was tantamount to international recognition as a force with a say in the region, as well as boosting the prestige of its masters in Tehran. The Russians stressed that they would discuss with their Lebanese visitors "the situation in the Middle East including the recent events in Libya, Palestine, Syria and Yemen" – a singular honor for a group banned as terrorists by the United States, Israel and most Western countries.
In this way, our Moscow sources report, the Kremlin is demonstrating that it has its own take on the deal struck between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas and strongly suspects it is designed to set in motion a two-stage process:
1. The Israel prime minister wanted to show US President Barack Obama how far he was willing to go for the sake of an accommodation with the Palestinians – even to the extent of talking to Hamas.
The Israeli mediator Gershon Baskin told interviewers this week that he was sure it was Netanyahu's destiny to forge peace with the Palestinians. If true, this claim would explode Mahmoud Abbas' charge that the prime minister is deliberately stalling on peace talks with the Palestinians.
2. By concluding the prisoner exchange deal with Hamas, Israel sought to draw the United States into dumping the Palestinian Authority chairman and his Fatah party which governs the West Bank in favor of ties with the fundamentalist Hamas. This would enable the transfer of Hamas' political bureau from Damascus to Cairo, thereby diluting or even severing its close bonds with Damascus and Tehran.
It is suspected in some Russian ruling circles that the Israeli prime minister may even have won support for his deal from certain factions in Washington for the dual purpose of pulling the rug from under Abbas and also undermining Assad. This Moscow is determined to prevent.
The Russians are therefore using Hizballah and its close ties with Hamas as a vehicle for cautioning the Palestinian organization not to desert Damascus and Bashar Assad. Hamas maintains military command centers in Beirut which operate under the aegis and protection of Hizballah, whereas Hizballah maintains military advisers in the Gaza Strip.
debkafile's Russian sources would not be surprised to hear about a Hamas delegation or its leader Khaled Meshaal arriving without warning in Moscow on the heels of their Lebanese allies.