Is Bashar al-Assad being too nice?

Saturday, 17 December 2016 06:26

By evacuating and pardoning terrorists, is Bashar al-Assad being too nice?

Contrary to Western fake news, Assad’s approach towards terrorists is deeply humane, some would say overly humane. Here is what we know and what must be answered.

Images of green bus convoys leaving Aleppo have provoked mixed reactions across the world. The coaches are filled with the surrendered terrorists who had occupied parts of East Aleppo prior to its liberation by the Syrian Arab Army.

Far from the fake massacres reported in the Western mainstream media, President Assad and his Russian partners are handling the situation in an utterly humane fashion, perhaps too humane. Assad’s rationale is that in order for Syria to once again be a peaceful and united country, as it was prior to 2011 when Western provocations triggered the current crisis, there needn’t be any Nuremberg style trials for the terrorists who continue to plague the country.

Assad has offered amnesty to any Syrians participating in terrorist activities in return for their pledge to lay down arms and permanently return to civilian life or join the fight against terrorism. He is also happy for the larger bulk of foreign fighters to peacefully leave the country, with many suggesting that  Turkey, knowing that her plans for regime change in Damascus have failed, will cooperate in this.

It is a safe assumption that many of the terrorists formerly operating in Aleppo will flee to Turkey, where they will no longer be Syria’s problem. Others may flee into ISIS controlled regions of northern Iraq and others yet may seek safe passage further abroad, to the terrorist paradise that is the failed state of Libya. But the danger for Syrians are the terrorists who stay in Syria.

The buses from Aleppo are heading for Idlib. There is a high probability that many terrorists from Aleppo will refuse to disarm and simply join the battle that other terrorist groups are currently waging in Idlib. This strikes one as a consequence of short-term thinking on the part of the Syrian government.

In a recent interview, Assad has stated that because of the finite resources of the Syrian Arab Army, one must understand occupied regions of the country as a set of descending priorities.

According to the Syrian President, Aleppo was the priority for obvious reasons. Its size, its location within Syria, its historical importance and its importance as a large urban centre for the region, all meant that Aleppo’s freedom was essential to secure first and foremost.

Assad’s second priority are regions on the outskirts of Damascus which continue to be occupied by terrorists. It is only after this that regions around Idlib, Palmyra and ultimately Raqqa will be dealt with.

All of this is totally logical, except for the idea that terrorist fighters should live to fight another day. The move is clearly one born of humanitarian concerns, but the question which necessarily follows is, why should anyone show mercy to terrorists who showed no mercy to their victims, and, furthermore, why should they simply be transferred to another region of Syria to do in Idlib or beyond, what they did to Aleppo?

These are questions which Syria and her allies will ultimately have to address, either in a diplomatic forum or perhaps directly on the battle field as part of Assad’s long term solution to gradually eliminate all terrorism from Syria. With Obama on his last legs and a seemingly cooperate Donald Trump on his way to the White House, the idea of meeting Obama’s America half-way in terms of sheltering Al-Nura/Al-Qaeda is becoming a non-issue.

The matter as British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson of all people said, is now in the hands of Syria, Russia and their allies. Terrorism cannot be tolerated in any form. This must be the long term and lasting message.

Adam Garrie

http://theduran.com/evacuating-pardoning-terrorists-bashar-al-assad-nice/

 

Dr. Mohammad Abdo Al-Ibrahim

alibrahim56@hotmail.com

 

They Said About The President

US Aid to Israel Aids Who and Toward What End?

September 22, 2016 (Tony Cartalucci – NEO) – Recently, the United States just renewed military aid to Israel in a decade-long, $38 billion deal – the largest of its kind in American history. It represents a significant increase in aid, roughly $3.8 billion a year – expected to be supplemented by additional assistance through US Congress – up from $3 billion per year previously.

The Atlantic in an article titled, “Why Does the United States Give So Much Money to Israel?,” attempted to explain the reasoning behind the otherwise unreasonable and unprecedented assistance by claiming:

Defenders of the deal would say it’s necessary. Dalton described the uptick in spending as a natural extension of the long-standing relationship between the United States and Israel, “as well as close ties between those countries and their peoples.” She described the “fraught neighborhood” surrounding Israel: war-torn Syria to the northeast, Hezbollah-influenced Lebanon to the north, and an Islamist insurgency in Egypt’s Sinai to the south, all of which help explain the historically high promise of $5 billion in missile funding over the next 10 years.

However, experienced geopolitical analysts will point out that the United States does not have “friends,” “allies,” or “relationships” – only interests and those who serve them. And while the Atlantic attempts to explain the deal as a means of maintaining a “relationship,” it and other publications admit that there are “strings attached.” If examined carefully, these strings reveals just what interests this supposed “relationship” serves.

CNBC would say just that in its article, “Big US military aid package to Israel has strings attached,” claiming:

…it’s structured so that more Israeli defense spending goes to U.S. companies. Israel’s long-standing special arrangement for funds from the United States previously allowed Israel to spend 26 percent of the money in Israel — on Israeli-made defense products. But that provision is being phased out over the first five years of the deal.

In other words, the ten year, $38 billion aid package is first and foremost welfare for US defense contractors, not Israel whose own defense spending adds up to $16 billion per year – dwarfing annual US “aid.” The deal is to encourage further Israeli dependency on America – dependency that lends Washington further leverage over both Israel and the region.

The purpose of aid and those who have arranged it on both the Israeli and American sides of the negotiating table is to continue directing Israel’s domestic and foreign policy to suit America’s interests, not the Israeli people’s. An Israel at peace with its neighbors in a stable Middle East and North Africa is an Israel that negates the supposed need of a US presence in the region. It also negates the need for such extravagant defense spending in both Israel and the United States.

CNBC would also reveal that the new assistance package would include provisions making it difficult for Israel to lobby for additional spending unless war broke out. Considering the track record of various Israeli regimes, does one suppose this is an incentive for Israel to avoid conflict, or actively seek it out?

In every way the aid deal is meant to perpetuate unpopular regimes, unpopular and inhumane policies, as well as perpetuate conflict and human misery. The role the US plays in “stabilizing” the Middle East is revealed instead as a constant conspiracy to overturn it.

US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia – Trifecta of Conflict and Instability 

The only other nation in the Middle East sowing as much conflict and instability as Israel’s current regime is Saudi Arabia. It has flooded Iraq and Syria with militant groups triggering years of devastating war as well as directly launched an extensive air and ground war against neighboring Yemen.

Saudi Arabia – like Israel – is the recipient of extensive US backing. While the US made history by granting Israel unprecedented foreign aid, it sealed with Saudi Arabia recently an equally historic and unprecedented weapons deal amounting to some $60 billion – a single deal significantly larger than the 10 year aid package the US is providing Israel.

Israel’s Haaretz would report in its article, “U.S. Announces $60b Arms Sale to Saudi Arabia, Says ‘Israel Doesn’t Object’,” that:

The United States plans to sell up to $60 billion worth of military aircraft to Saudi Arabia, the U.S. State Department announced on Wednesday in a move designed to shore up a region overshadowed by Iran. 

Andrew Shapiro, the assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, told a news conference the U.S. administration did not anticipate any objections to the sale from Israel, traditionally wary of arms sales to nearby Arab countries. 

Indeed, Israel does not object to US weapon deals with Saudi Arabia. Despite feigned adversity between the two regimes, the governments of Israel and Saudi Arabia work in tandem toward a singular regional vision with very few points of contention and with the common denominator being the way each nation’s role enhances their joint sponsor – the United States – and its hegemony over the region.

It is then not surprising to see US-funded Israeli forces defending Saudi subsidized terrorists on the Golan Heights coordinating violence against Syrian forces throughout the destructive, ongoing Syrian conflict.

Unlike Saudi Arabia, which does not exist as a functioning legitimate nation-state beyond its petrodollars and its US-backed military power, Israel does possess the economic infrastructure and human capital to transition into a functioning, independent nation-state – if only its population can overcome the engineered strategy of tension that has ensnared it for decades and the regime behind it.

The United States’ $38 billion is to ensure that regime remains in power for another 10 years, the strategy of tension continues to play out, and the Israeli people, as well as their neighbors are denied any opportunity to live in peace and move forward in progress for another decade to come.

Rather than underwriting Israel’s security for the next decade, the US is ensuring Israel struggles under another 10 years of uncertainty, perpetually impending war, all while its regime continues to partner with neighboring regimes – including Saudi Arabia and Turkey – to undermine regional stability and further threaten the future of the Israeli people and the survival of the Israeli nation.

The Israeli regime’s signing of yet another compromising, dependency-inducing aid package with the United States is proof once again that Israel’s own government constitutes the Israeli nation’s worst enemy.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazineNew Eastern Outlook”.

Lebanon Busts Militant Training Cell in North

Local Editor

General SecurityGeneral Security has recently uncovered a militant network which used a religious school in north Lebanon as a front to operate, The Daily Star website quoted As-Safir newspaper as reporting Saturday.

The report said the network, located somewhere in Akkar, was directed by militant Omar Al-Satem who lives in Syria’s Raqqa – ISIL’s stronghold.

The school was used to train militants and recruit teenagers to join ISIL.

Citing unnamed security sources, the report added that five members of the cell were arrested who were accused of sending their recruits to Raqqa to join ISIL.

Other recruits left home to carry out “terrorist operations,” the report added.

It did not specify in what town in the north the school was located, or when it was uncovered.

The report also said General Security separately arrested a Syrian man who admitted to plotting a suicide attack under the direction of Satem.

Lebanese Army Arrests Three Terrorists in Various Areas    

The Directorate of Lebanese Army Guidance has issued on Saturday the following communiqué: In the wake of stringent security measures implemented by the army all over the country, Army Intelligence operatives have arrested in Baalbek Omar Ahmad Awad on suspicion of gun running of weapons and ammunitions to a terrorist group and connecting with a Syrian terrorist nicknamed “Abu Malek” and other dangerous terrorists wanted by the army.

Elsewhere in Baabda, Lebanese Army soldiers have arrested Ibrahim Mohammad Ezzeddine for belonging to a terrorist group and for supplying them with food and fuel.

Also Mohammad Sheikh from Wadi Khaled extraction has been arrested in Tripoli by Lebanese Army soldiers on charges of affiliation to a terrorist group and for gun-running of weapons and ammunitions for the same group.

Source: Websites

09-04-2016 – 19:45 Last updated 09-04-2016 – 19:45

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Saudi Arabia turns on Lebanon for its unfaithfulness and lack of gratitude after decades of largesse

After pouring billions into rebuilding the country following successive Israeli invasions and air raids, the Saudis find that they cannot prevent the Shia from expressing their fury at Riyadh

If you drive from Sunni Muslim Sidon to Shia Muslim southern Lebanon, you can travel from Saudi Arabia to Iran in 10 minutes. Sidon – like Lebanon’s other great Sunni majority city, Tripoli – has always basked in the favour of the Saudi monarchy.

The south, with its mass of Hezbollah fighters – armed and paid for by Tehran, its “martyr” photographs plastered across the walls of every village – has long been a lung through which Saudi Arabia’s Iranian enemies breathe. But now Saudi Arabia, blundering into the civil war in Yemen and threatening to send its overpaid but poorly trained soldiers into Syria, has turned with a vengeance on Lebanon for its unfaithfulness and lack of gratitude after decades of Saudi largesse.

  After repeatedly promising to spend £3.2bn on new French weapons for the well-trained but hopelessly under-armed Lebanese army, Saudi Arabia has suddenly declined to fund the project – which was eagerly supported by the US and, for greedier reasons, by Paris. Along with other Gulf states, Riyadh has told its citizens not to visit Lebanon or – if they are already there – to leave. Saudi Airlines is supposedly going to halt all flights to Beirut. Lebanon, according to the Saudis, is a centre of “terror”.

What prompted all this spite was a ferocious attack on the House of Saud by Hezbollah’s chairman, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, whose battalions are fighting and dying alongside Bashar al-Assad’s soldiers in Syria and killing the Islamist rebels who share a Sunni Wahabi faith with the Saudis.

After pouring billions into Lebanon for decades – rebuilding the country after successive Israeli invasions and air raids – the Saudis find that they cannot prevent the Shia, whose government representatives include Hezbollah party members, from expressing their fury at Riyadh, especially after the Kingdom chopped the head off the popular and learned Saudi Shia cleric, Nimr al-Nimr. Why, the Saudis say, did Lebanon not even join in the chorus of condemnation against Iran when Saudi diplomats were assaulted in Tehran?

Bahraini Sheikh Jaffer al-Alawi speaks during a protest held in Beirut, against Shiite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr’s execution by Saudi authorities, in January (Getty)

The Saudis will probably regret this assault. Pulling Lebanon’s financial magic carpet away opens the country up to other “friends”, not least Iran which, according to the latest Beirut reports, would be happy to fund the Lebanese army to the tune of £7bn – providing, of course, the newly purchased weapons come from Tehran, and not from Paris.

The Americans and the British, desperate to prop up the secular Lebanese army with enough weapons to protect the country from Isis – which briefly took over the north-eastern Lebanese town of Ersal and still holds nine Lebanese soldiers captive – are pleading with the Saudis to keep their original £3.2bn promise.

But this latest crisis since the last greatest crisis in the drama of Lebanon – which currently has no president and no proper functioning parliament and not even a rubbish collection – is not without its own unique comedy.

 Protests follow execution

Saudis will find no problem in abandoning Saudi Airlines’s lacklustre hospitality en route to Beirut in favour of the infinitely more luxurious aircraft of Emirates Airlines. And warnings of “terror” are not going to stop Saudis desperate for the fleshpots of the Levant from travelling to Beirut once the temperatures boil up in the streets of Riyadh and Jeddah.

The nightclubs and high-class sex workers of Lebanon will not fall victim to the aggressive politics of the Kingdom’s young and newly powerful princes. And then there is the unfortunate case of “Prince Captagon”, the Saudi royal family member still in a Lebanese prison for allegedly trying to smuggle drugs on to his private jet at Beirut airport last year.

The moment he was arrested, the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon called up the Lebanese foreign minister and haughtily announced that his immediate release was a “political” imperative.

 The Sunni Lebanese Future Movement’s leader and former Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, is a Saudi citizen – as was his assassinated ex-prime minister father Rafiq – and is now quite taken aback by the wilful actions of a nation to which he has always given as much allegiance as he has to Lebanon. The Future Movement, it seems, did not try hard enough to ameliorate Lebanon’s official criticism of Saudi Arabia in the Arab League and should have prevented Hezbollah from destabilising Yemen and Bahrain – even though there is no physical proof that either Hezbollah or Iran have actually been involved in the Yemeni war or the Shia revolt against the Bahraini autarchy, where a Sunni king rules over a Shia majority.

Needless to say, the Sunnis of Tripoli are issuing proclamations of their undying gratitude to the Saudi royal family for the ceaseless flow of dollars which has smothered them in years gone by.

Sheikh Mohammed Yazbek, the head of Hezbollah’s Shariah Council, insisted that it was the Saudis who should apologise to Lebanon which “has always been on the side of the Arab nation”. The country, he said – and this was a prim way of alluding to the Saudis’ abiding interest in the sleazier side of Lebanon’s entertainment industry – was “not a farm for the al-Saud family and others”. But the Hezbollah have their own sniffy way of reacting to insults.

 Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri is taken aback by the actions of Saudi Arabia (EPA)

“Spontaneous” Shia protest demonstrations  were held in the southern suburbs of Beirut when a local television station lampooned the unassailable Sayyed Nasrallah. A cartoon had depicted the Hezbollah leader proclaiming his total and absolute denial of all Iranian influence – until a hand marked “Iran” appeared from the left-hand side of the screen, at which point the cartoon Nasrallah slobbered all over it.

 The sad truth is that the Saudis are publicly praised and secretly reviled across the Muslim Middle East because they are very rich and most of their fellow Arabs, comparatively, are very poor. Generous the Saudis have been – propping up their favourite political causes, constantly repairing Lebanon, building hideous new mosques in Bosnia and spending in the casinos of Europe – but open-minded they are not.

No wonder some in Beirut are asking whether, crushed by the collapse of oil prices, the cost of its Yemeni adventure and facing a lake of poverty among its own people, Saudi Arabia isn’t simply running out of money. In which case, a newly desanctioned Iran would be happy to take the monarchy’s place as the financial saviour of Lebanon – as well as play the new policeman of the Middle East, courtesy of the US. Strange, isn’t it, that the name “Israel” hasn’t once popped up in this saga?

Weapons-Loaded Vessel Seized in Greece Belongs to Three Lebanese Nationals

E. al-Rihani

Cookie Boy vessel Turkish media outlets reported three days ago that Greek Coast Guards has confiscated a vessel loaded with weapons, that has departed from the Turkish city of Izmir and was heading to Lebanon.

Al-Manar TV learned that the vessel, raising the flag of Togolese Republic off Rodos island, belongs to three Lebanese nationals who reside in north Lebanon.

Turkish mass media stated that the vessel, named Cookie Boy, has moved from Izmir port on Feb. 4 and stopped for several days in the Mediterranean sea, which raised the concerns of coastal guards in Greece who drive it by force to Crete island.

Upon searching it, weapons and ammunitions were detected, 11-crew member have been arrested, including 6 Syrians, 4 Indians and a Lebanese.

Greek authorities opened investigation to uncover the case.


Original Report in Arabic by Zeinab Naji

 

Source: Al-Manar Website

03-03-2016 – 15:28 Last updated 03-03-2016 – 15:28

 

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Syria: A Turkish-Saudi Countermove In Lebanon Threatens Latakia (Updated)

Updated below

Fabrice Balanche is a French professor and a specialist on Syria’s political geography. He is currently a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute (formerly WINEP) which is part by the U.S. Zionist lobby. So far the writings of Balanche for WINEP have been rather sane, neutral analyses.

In a piece published on February 5 he looked at the situation after the Syrian campaign cut the northern insurgency supply line to Turkey. At the end Balanche muses about possible countermoves by the Turkish and Saudi supporters of the insurgency:

Yet Turkey and Saudi Arabia may not remain passive in the face of major Russian-Iranian progress in Syria. For example, they could set up a new rebel umbrella group similar to Jaish al-Fatah, and/or send antiaircraft missiles to certain brigades. Another option is to open a new front in northern Lebanon, where local Salafist groups and thousands of desperate Syrian refugees could be engaged in the fight. Such a move would directly threaten Assad’s Alawite heartland in Tartus and Homs, as well as the main road to Damascus. Regime forces would be outflanked, and Hezbollah’s lines of communication, reinforcement, and supply between Lebanon and Syria could be cut off. The question is, do Riyadh and Ankara have the means and willingness to conduct such a bold, dangerous action?

Some Turkish, Saudi or CIA strategist may have had the same thought, or may have taken up Balanche’s idea:

Cargo ship from Turkey full of weapons seized by Greek authoritiesAccording to Greek and Turkish sources, a cargo ship containing thousands of weapons, ammunition, and explosives was seized by Greek authorities on February 28th. The ship– sporting a Togo flag– had reportedly left a Turkish port in Izmir and was traveling to Lebanon as well as the southeastern African coast.

The above source is not always reliable, but Elijah J. Magnier, reporting from Syria for the Kuwaiti paper AL RAI, just confirmed the news:

Elijah J. Magnier @EjmAlrai
#BreakingNews: Fuelling Lebanon?
#Greece arrest crew of a ship 6 #Syria/n, 4 #India/n 1 #Lebanese carrying weapons from #Turkey to #Lebanon.The ship was carrying 6 containers of which 2 full of weapons designated to a harbour in #Lebanon, intercepted at #Greece Crete #Island.

Very alarming indeed & shows a possible escalation planned n #Lebanon when the #SaudiArabia / #Hezbollah/#Iran relationship is at its worse.

This indicates that #Lebanon is no longer outside the circle of the war in #Syria and is supposed to be dragged in

It is unlikely that this is a purely Turkish operation. The Saudis do have enormous influence in Lebanon due to their frequent bribes paid to the various actors there. The general Saudi influence is now somewhat diminished. None of the major Lebanese followed the Saudi’s demand to take its side and to seek conflict with Syria or Hizbullah, the Lebanese Shia party that supports the Syrian government. But there are still groups in Lebanon, especially Salafis, which the Saudis essentially command.

A few weeks ago a Saudi prince was imprisoned in Lebanon after being caught loading two tons of amphetamine Captagon pills onto his private plane. There are also rumors that the Saudis recently found a video which showed Hizbullah operators training Yemeni Houthis in intelligence matters. This was seen as a direct attack on Saudi interests. The Saudis cut $4 billion of Saudi paid French weapon aid they had promised to the Lebanese military. A week ago they warned all their citizens to leave Lebanon.

The now caught ship is likely the result of Saudi and Turkish cooperation. The idea is reckless as it could throw Lebanon back into the terrible years of the Lebanese civil war. But the idea is also very bold which lets me believe that its origin is neither Saudi nor Turkish.

The weapon ship may not have been the only or the first one. It is quite possible that some weapons have already reached the Sunni quarters of Tripoli in north Lebanon. In 2012 some fierce fighting erupted between the Alawite enclave in Tripoli and some Sunni neighborhoods. Then the Lebanese army intervened to calm the fighting down.

With weapons for some 10,000 men and lots of dollars to pay them, a serious threat to the soft underbelly of Syria could be implemented within a few weeks. An attack from the Tripoli area northward into Latakia would open a new dangerous front against the Syrian government. Hopefully the Syrian government and Hizbullah are prepared to squelch such a campaign in its infancy.

Update:

Stratfor, a private U.S. intelligence service, distributed this claim today:

A Sunni politician in Lebanon tells Stratfor that the Saudi government wants to build a Sunni anti-Hizbullah militia by providing for Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon.

bigger

The sourcing is fishy – “According to a Sunni politician …  Saudi Arabia is reportedly …”. Why does Startfor need a politician to tell them that something is “reported” somewhere. Why not source to the original report?

Is this all a “Plan B” head fake to gain some leverage for negotiations? Or is this a real program?

Posted by b on March 1, 2016 at 10:06 AM | Permalink

Syrian Jihadist Groups Take Conflict

 

Lebanese soldiers carry the coffin of Sergeant Ibranim Zahraman during his funeral in the town of Akkar northern Lebanon, Feb. 2, 2013. Soldiers and gunmen were killed in clashes in the country’s Bekaa Valley on Friday after militants attacked a Lebanese army unit, security sources said. (photo by REUTERS)

Read in Arabic
On Friday, Feb. 1, the Lebanese army lost two soldiers, a sergeant and a captain, who were part of a strike force unit that belonged to Lebanese Army Intelligence. The two soldiers died during a clash between the army unit and armed Sunni fundamentalists in ​​Arsal, which is near the Syrian border in the Bekaa Valley. That incident has many political and security dimensions and it confirms, as Al-Monitor has been reporting, that Jabhat al-Nusra is now in Lebanon and that the group’s activities are about to become public.

Lebanese military sources said that two days before the incident, the Intelligence Directorate of the Lebanese Army received information that Khalid Ahmed Hameed, who is wanted by the Lebanese judiciary, came to the town of Arsal from Syria, where a civil war has been raging for about two years. The sources said that Hameed is suspected of kidnapping seven Estonian citizens in the Bekaa on March 23, 2011, as they were riding from Syria to Lebanon on bicycles. There were held at an unknown destination for 111 days, before being released under mysterious circumstances as a result of secret negotiations between French security agencies and the intelligence arm of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces, which is close to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

The Lebanese official sources said that Hameed is suspected of being one of the field assistants of Hussein al-Hujairi, who is believed to be the kidnapping’s mastermind. The Lebanese government also received Western security reports raising the possibility that Hameed is linked to jihadists belonging to al-Qaeda in Iraq and Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria. Hameed is also suspected of being involved in the shooting incident against the Lebanese army in Arsal on Nov. 22, 2011, to prevent an army patrol from arresting a Syrian jihadist named Hamza al-Qarqour.

Based on the above information, an elite strike force unit belonging to army intelligence went to Arsal to ambush the suspect and arrest him. The operation started around noon on Friday but the arrest operation was interrupted by an exchange of gunfire between the soldiers and the suspect, thus revealing the ambush to the jihadist groups residing in Arsal.

Several press reports said that the town’s mosques issued calls for all gunmen to pursue the army unit and block its escape. In a short period of time, the Lebanese army unit found itself surrounded by hundreds of fundamentalists and jihadists. The long gunfight resulted in the killing of the army sergeant and captain and the wounding of eight soldiers. Although the jihadists knew that they were fighting Lebanese army soldiers, they captured the bodies of the two dead soldiers, as well as the wounded and the remaining soldiers and took them to Arsal’s main square in what looked like a jihadist ceremony that involved celebratory gunfire and other practices, according to Lebanese press reports.

Similar jihadist celebrations over the bodies of dead Lebanese army soldiers happened on at least two previous occasions. The first time was on the night of Dec. 31, 1999, in the mountainous region of Dinniyah in northern Lebanon, near the city of Tripoli. Back then, a jihadist group attacked a Lebanese army post in an attempt to start a Sunni fundamentalist insurgency in the region. The second time was on May 21, 2007, when a group of jihadists belonging to the Sunni organization Fatah al-Islam attacked a Lebanese army checkpoint at the entrance of the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp near Tripoli. Seven army soldiers were literally slaughtered in that incident.

Because of several factors, what happened on Friday in Arsal marked a dangerous turn in the confrontations between the Lebanese army and Sunni jihadist forces. First, the jihadist forces today have strategic depth that provides them with support, supplies and sanctuary. That strategic depth is represented by the Sunni jihadist groups that are fighting in the Syrian civil war against Bashar al-Assad. Second, the area where the incident took place is geographically linked to several dangerous areas. It is connected to the Damascus and Homs countryside, which is where an Al-Monitor research report predicted will be the main area of a Lebanese-Syrian war. It is also connected to the tense demarcation line between pro-Hezbollah Shiites in Baalbeck and Hermel and certain Palestinian armed locations. Those factors were not present during the incidents in Dinniyah and Tripoli, because they are not linked to the Syrian depth nor to Lebanese Shiite areas.

Another important factor is that the incident coincided with a series of Lebanese crises that were caused by a Sunni fundamentalist “awakening” in Lebanon, as a result of the Syrian events and Middle Eastern developments over the past two years.

Last week, just before the Arsal incident, the personnel of a Lebanese TV station were threatened with death if they didn’t cancel the planned showing of a comedy skit making fun of Salafist Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir, who is from Sidon, southern Lebanon. The TV station and those responsible for the skit backed down and complied. Near Assir’s headquarters in Sidon, jihadist Palestinian groups are solidifying their presence in Ain al-Hilweh camp, which is adjacent to Sidon and is Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp. Meanwhile, the northern city of Tripoli is still reeling from the recent attempted assassination of Youth and Sports Minister Faisal Karami by Sunni jihadist elements.

According to Lebanese cabinet ministers, those who tried to assassinate Karami have threatened Lebanese security forces about trying to arrest any of their members. Thus, the Lebanese authorities have been unable to arrest suspects involved in an incident that happened in broad daylight and in front of the cameras. In addition, the top mufti of the Sunnis in Lebanon recently issued in Beirut a fatwa, or religious edict, deeming any Muslim who supports the passage of a civil marriage law to be an apostate and outside of Islam.

So it seems that the four dimensions — the South, the Bekaa, the North and Beirut — forming a perfect storm for Sunni jihadism in Lebanon are now set. What will be the result of that development? We are passing through a very dangerous phase, which should be closely monitored by Lebanon, the region and the West.

Jean Aziz is a contributing writer for Al-Monitor’s Lebanon Pulse. He is a columnist at Al-Akhbar Lebanese newspaper and the host of a weekly political talk show on OTV, a Lebanese TV station.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
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