Can Hezbollah Prevent DAASH (IS) From Pulling Lebanon into its Caliphate?
Jihadists in Lebanon
by FRANKLIN LAMB
Bedawi Palestinian camp, North Lebanon
The answer to that question is--perhaps.
But for a number of reasons, some suggested below, it's not a happy picture,
and it won't be a walk in the park.
The recent "victories" by DAASH (IS, or Islamic State) in Syria and Iraq have not taken long to begin reverberating through the ground in Lebanon. A gauntlet of sorts stands before this country, one that it must negotiate successfully if it is to avoid an all-out war, dismemberment or its substantial subjection to elements of extreme Islam.
One ISIS leader, Abu Sayyaf al-Ansari, recently announced the expansion of the IS to include Lebanon, declaring, "Our war will no longer be confined to Syria and Iraq. Soon, Lebanon will ignite." Meanwhile, Lebanon's branch of al-Nusra Front posted on its Twitter feed its fourth official statement to date, entitled "Urgent appeal to Sunnis in Lebanon." The statement reads in part:
Our war will no longer be confined to Syria. Soon, Lebanon will ignite. Iran's party [i.e. Hezbollah] and all its bases and strongholds are a legitimate target for us wherever they may be found.
The sole concern, Al-Nusra went on to proclaim, is for the blood of the Sunnis
and to clear the Umma's "conscience before God," and the organization issued a
call for "Sunnis in Lebanon to refrain from approaching or residing in
[Hezbollah] areas or near its bases, and to avoid its gathering places and
Security sources have reported that the terrorist cells intercepted at the Napoleon and Duroy hotels in Beirut had been dispatched by ISIS as part of its strategy to overwhelm Lebanon with a formidable wave of suicide bombings. The security services apparently base this reading on the previous modus operandi and strategy of the terrorist cells, and also on information relayed by U.S. and European sources, indicating that the many suicide bombers had been dispatched by ISIS/Nusra Front to Lebanon.
It is fairly clear as of 7/11/14 that jihadi factions are racing to declare war on Lebanon, this occurring simultaneous to a Lebanese Army crackdown on individuals suspected of involvement with these groups. Analysts in Washington and Europe suggest that the jihadi expansion into Lebanon will be a developing new phase, ushering in a paradigm shift in terror attacks in the country. Some even suggest that halting this forward progress will require Hezbollah taking a lead role, and that the Lebanese Army and security agencies are not up to the job.
Hezbollah may agree with Washington, at least on the latter point. Loyalty to the Resistance bloc MP Walid Sukkarieh, from the Bekaa Valley, called this week for cooperation between the armies of Lebanon and Syria to control the flow of gunmen through the border--but he pointed out that the presence of Lebanese security forces along the border in the eastern town of Arsal aren't enough to do the job.
"The fanatic groups will try to take control over a big geographical area in Akkar and the Palestinian camps," he said. "I have information from Akkar about ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra training camps. They're trying to move toward Tripoli, and their plan is to get closer to Beirut."
Reports are also mounting of sleeper cells in different Lebanese regions such as Beirut, the Beqaa Valley, and North Lebanon, and according to Sukkarieh, "Thousands are flocking from around the world to join the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq."
Two quick cases in point. The lovely British twin sisters, 16-year-old Salma and Zahra Halane, are bubbly, exceptionally bright, and hold amazing 28 GCSEs (GSCE, or General Certificate of Secondary Education, is an academic qualification awarded in a specified subject in the British education system). Both girls were planning to train as doctors. Now, however, they are in Syria, where they reportedly have joined DAASH, and may soon be headed for Lebanon. Reports suggest the sisters were normal teenagers, doing what teens do everywhere these days--pouting for selfies, shopping, participating in school activities, etc.--and they apparently did not discuss politics much with friends, although they were known to support the Palestinian cause. Their parents believe they followed their older jihadi brother, who left for Syria last year, suspending his higher education, at which he also had excelled. At any rate, the teenagers' parents speculate that Salma and Zahra became radicalized while viewing extremist Islamist material online, though really no one knows for certain.
The other example is the British DAASH recruit, Muthanna, by all reports a sweet, polite, and very considerate young man. Muthanna is now an IS spokesman, urging all people of good will to join him in the new Caliphate in making jihad for the betterment of mankind. The kid is barely out of high school. The family immigrated to Britain from Yemen, and before deciding to join DAASH, Muthanna had been accepted by four medical schools in Britain, according to the UK Daily Mail.