Sunday, October 18, 2020

"Lebanon spymaster holds ‘positive’ US talks on hostages and sharing intelligence"

 It looks as though France might not be alone in its efforts to rescue Lebanon before it becomes another Somalia.

And with memories of the ammonium nitrate explosion still fresh, feelings toward Hezbollah—the assumed de facto owner of the stuff that goes boom—are as negative as they have been in years.

From the UAE's The National, October 18:

Over four days, Gen Abbas Ibrahim met officials from the White House, State Department and CIA

Lebanon’s head of General Security, Maj Gen Abbas Ibrahim, hoped to boost intelligence sharing with the US and work on releasing more hostages held in Iran and Syria, he told The National.

Gen Ibrahim was in Washington on a four-day visit to meet officials from the White House, State Department and the CIA.

He leads Lebanon’s most powerful security service after the military and has a reputation as a savvy negotiator who has helped to secure the release of US residents and nationals.

He has also brokered deals with extremists such as ISIS and militant Palestinian factions to end bouts of fighting in Lebanon.

Despite having a close relationship with Hezbollah, Gen Ibrahim received a warm welcome from the Trump administration.

On this visit, he met National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, CIA director Gina Haspel and undersecretary of state David Hale, although American officials were cagey about the visit.

The meetings reinforce the gradual change in US-Lebanon relations over the last 15 years.

For decades before Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005, Damascus took the lead in co-ordinating with the US intelligence on matters related to Beirut and on freeing hostages.

But now, Gen Ibrahim is looking to the young but growing relations with the US on sharing intelligence.

“We have a good working relationship with the Americans and I am hopeful,” he said....