ISIS’ victories revive fears of Islamic emirate in north Lebanon

An image uploaded on June 14, 2014 on the jihadist website Welayat Salahuddin allegedly shows a militant of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) standing next to a captured vehicle left behind by Iraqi security forces at an unknown location in the Salaheddin province. (Photo: AFP-Welayat Salahuddin)
Published Saturday, June 21, 2014
Informed Islamist sources told Al-Akhbar about a discussion that took place between Islamist groups and cells in Lebanon after the recent developments in Iraq. They pointed out that some of them proposed again the idea of establishing an Islamic emirate in northern Lebanon, along the lines of northern Iraq.
According to these sources, the proposal is based on two pillars. One, north Lebanon, and specifically Tripoli, constitute a suitable nurturing environment for declaring an emirate. Two, what happened in northern Iraq has given these Islamist groups the impression that circumstances are just right to carry out such a plan. Some of them do not believe that their small numbers could impede their plan since 10 percent of those who invaded an area 10 times the size of Lebanon in Iraq, can easily seize control of Tripoli and half of north Lebanon, if conditions are favorable.
The sources named Islamist groups, Salafi in nature, that can in a nurturing Sunni environment – available in Tripoli and the north – prepare the ground for such an action. They referred specifically to groups similar to the one led by Shadi Mawlawi and Osama Mansour, in addition to other smaller and less influential Islamist groups, as well as Syrian and Arab nationals.
This warning about the intention to establish an Islamic emirate is not the first of its kind. Its roots date back to the events that took place in the Dinniyeh region in early 2000 and in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp, which were provoked by Fatah al-Islam in the summer of 2007. The ultimate warning came from former Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati who said in late 2012 that, “If it weren’t for the intervention of the army in Tripoli, an emirate would have been declared.”
Their ambitions, however, suffered a setback after the latest military developments in Syria. These recent developments, which favored the Syrian regime, led to the retreat of Islamist cells and groups. But the events in northern Iraq have brought them back to the forefront, leading them to believe that their moment has come.

“The next war is not going to be a sectarian one, rather it is going to be a war on terrorism and these groups are going to be its most prominent victims.” – sources

However, Islamist sources believe it is unlikely that we will see a repeat of the northern Iraqi scenario in north Lebanon because “the circumstances and the surrounding environment are totally different.” Nevertheless, they do not deny that “the latest Iraqi crisis is not limited to Iraq but extends beyond it.”
According to the sources, these groups and cells “do not operate on their own and are not the ones that make decisions. They are linked to and interact with external forces.” Therefore, they rule out the possibility that “these groups would be able to exercise control on the ground in north Lebanon, similar to what happened in Iraq, for structural and logistical reasons.” They also point out that “the next war is not going to be a sectarian one, rather it is going to be a war on terrorism and these groups are going to be its most prominent victims.”
This war on terrorism will officially be spearheaded in Lebanon by the Future Movement. The latter had played a role in preparing a nurturing environment for these Islamist groups, which eventually turned into a burden for the Future Movement after the groups got out of the movement’s control. Both the ministers of interior and justice, Nouhad al-Machnouk and Ashraf Rifi, have made statements against these groups.
The decision taken by the security forces, and the Information Branch specifically, to carry out preemptive strikes against these groups and cells in parallel to what is going on in northern Iraq confirms this information. They arrested three men from the same family in the town of al-Qalamoun, considered a key stronghold for the Future Movement, on charges of links to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and they found arms and ammunition with them.
This coincided with security information that armed groups affiliated with MP Khaled al-Daher are organizing “parades in some of the villages in Akkar carrying the ISIS flag.”
There was another signal yesterday in Tripoli. Supporters of Sheikh Tarek Merhi, imam of the Amira Mosque in Bab al-Raml who has been detained for years on charges of terrorism, called for a march in solidarity with him. They had planned to organize a sit-in in front of Rifi’s home but the march did not materialize because of the explosion in Dahr al-Baydar. The sit-in was ultimately cancelled after calls were made and pressure was exerted on its organizers.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.
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