08 March 2009

* Hezbollah gets $1 Billion in funding

Business research facility asserts that majority of donations from Tehran in bid to shore-up terror organization ahead of elections in Lebanon. But funds also pouring in from other sources – in spite of economic crisis
 
Roee Nahmias
Published:  03.04.09, 00:37 / Israel News
 
Hizbullah's treasury has recently received no less than USD 1 billion. The bulk of the sum, some USD 600 million, was transferred to the Lebanese terror organization from Iran in a bid to strengthen the former's standing prior to the upcoming general elections in Lebanon this June.
 
 The claim was made Info-Prod Research (Middle East) Ltd. The institute, which deals in economic reviews regarding the Middle East and also monitors terror funding, released a report Tuesday evening detailing the massive increase to Hizbullah's finances.
 
According to its sources, Hizbullah is adamant to succeed in the coming elections and expand its power in the Lebanese parliament. All the better for the group if this were to come at the expense of their rivals, the anti-Syrian camp.
 
 
The report authored by IPR, which was founded by industry captain Muzi Wertheim and economics lecturer Dr. Gil Feiler, establishes that highest single contribution was made by Iran to Hizbullah.

Part of the delivery was made via high-ranking Iranian officials, and the details regarding the transfer were kept classified until recently as the Iranian election scene heats up and the opposition revealed the massive transfer of funds to Hizbullah.

The report says that after the Second Lebanon War, Iran sent Hizbullah USD 500 million in urgent monetary aid. News of the transfer drew the ire and criticism of Iranian moderates, who accused the regime of rashly giving away the money while ignoring the economic plight of Iranian citizens.

'Terror groups thriving during financial crisis'
 
But Iran is not alone. According to the Info-Prod report, Hizbullah received another bulk sum from a second Gulf nation – apparently Qatar.
 
Unconfirmed reports in the Gulf say that in recent weeks Qatar bestowed USD 300 million on Hizbullah. Qatar, it should be noted, is actively trying to buy influence in the Arab world using its gas revenue – putting it in direct confrontation with Saudi Arabia, which openly backs the anti-Hizbullah coalition.
 
An additional USD 100 million have been brought in since early 2009 following a fundraising tour conducted by Hizbullah envoys in the Gulf area, aiming mostly at private tycoons.
"It seems that the global financial crisis has been good for the Islamic terror organizations in terms of fund raising," explains Doron Peskin, head of research at Info-Prod.

"With the fall of Wall Street, investors in the Gulf were quick to withdraw their funds. Since local investment opportunities are limited, a lot of liquid wealth had accumulated there.
 
"Groups like Hizbullah, Al-Qaeda and Hamas are well aware of the opportunity at hand – and since 2008 they have stepped-up their fundraising efforts, particularly during the Hajj, after Eid Al-Adha."
 
The report cites Lebanese sources as confirming that Hizbullah is still funding the rehabilitation of southern Lebanon following the 2006 wars.
 
 
(middleeastanalysis)



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Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.