Thursday 23 November 2017

Lebanon's Hezbollah wants U.S. envoy questioned on spies

Lebanon's Hezbollah wants the government to question the American ambassador in Beirut after the militant group revealed what it said were the names of CIA operatives operating under diplomatic cover.

Lebanon's Hezbollah wants U.S. envoy questioned on spies

A parliamentarian representing the Shi'ite political party and guerrilla movement told Reuters on Wednesday that placing spies in a diplomatic mission violated international law.

"Hezbollah calls on the government to question the U.S. ambassador in Beirut over this aggression and to put a stop to American diplomats' constant violations of Lebanese sovereignty," said Hassan Fadlallah, head of communications for Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc.

"The law should apply ... to American diplomats just as it does to any other embassy in Lebanon."

Hezbollah, which sits in the Lebanese government, named alleged U.S. undercover operatives on its television channel, al-Manar, in a series of animated videos aired on Friday that recreated supposed meetings between CIA officers and informants.

The U.S. embassy has declined to comment on the allegations but if true they would highlight the capabilities of Hezbollah in its espionage battle with the Central Intelligence Agency.

The group, backed by Iran and Syria, said in June it had uncovered and captured three spies among its members, two of whom had been recruited by the CIA. U.S. officials later acknowledged that the loss of such informants was damaging to U.S. intelligence gathering.

Washington considers Hezbollah a terrorist group, and accuses Iran of developing a nuclear weapon and sponsoring attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq.

In a report released on its website, Hezbollah said it had uncovered more than 10 operatives and the station chief, adding that "a den of spies has penetrated all diplomatic relations" at the U.S. embassy.

It said the spies used false names and met informants at American chain restaurants.

"Does the information the CIA was trying to obtain about the resistance, its officials, weapons and structures concern U.S. national security?" Fadlallah asked. "Or is it only for Israeli interests? This spying does not serve the American people's interests."

In 1985, the Islamic Jihad group, allied with Hezbollah, kidnapped, tortured and killed the CIA's Beirut station chief, William Buckley.