Will Lebanon Survive in 2014?
by FRANKLIN LAMB
Another week, another terrorist bombing. It's beginning to look a lot like that here in Lebanon these days. Another apparent suicide bomber detonated a car rigged with explosives in the southern suburbs yesterday killing at least five people and injuring at least 77. The health ministry released a statement just a short while ago reporting that an additional 67 people were treated in hospitals for wounds and released, while 10 people remained hospitalized with more severe injuries.
Many who thought their team and its local and international supporters were invincible appear to be rethinking recent events. More are realizing that their enemies are also skilled and fearless fighters and not at all afraid to die for their religion, or related causes, and may well be growing in number as they view the results of their handiwork.
Yesterday's explosion is the fourth bombing since last July in Beirut's southern suburbs known as Dahiyeh. It targeted al-Arid Street two blocks almost directly behind the office of the Sabra-Shatila Scholarship Program (SSSP) near the old Al Manar building which re-located after being repeatedly bombed by US funded Israel forces in 2006. Some preliminary reports indicate that a 20 kilogram bomb was used in the explosion hidden and then detonated inside an olive green Jeep Grand Cherokee.
The latest information this morning comes from Hezbollah security guys who guard our building (and my motorcycle--bless them for both favors!) and who have been visibly present throughout Dahiyeh for the past six months, ever since the spate of neighborhood bombings began. People in South Beirut tend to believe that al-Qaeda-linked groups are responsible for this latest in a series of attacks and some point to the recent reports from UPI and other media that Al-Nusra leader Abu Mohammad al-Golani and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi have ordered their fighters specifically into Lebanon for the sole purpose of fighting and destroying Hezbollah.
There are reports, whose accuracy is difficult to verify that scores of jihadists are arriving here from Syria, Iraq and other countries. The last half of 2013 has seen a dramatic rise in the number of young male fighters from North Africa and the Levant. Many are joining Al Nusra and ISIS rather than choosing more "moderate" groups. The six-week training camps are attracting a majority of the wannabe jihadists who come for a number of religious and non-religious reasons and who want to join the better established and most widely admired "winning teams.' Additionally, the Golani and Baghdadi groups reportedly offer the best food, the most "inspiring" jihadist ideology, newer and more powerful weapons, heavy winter clothing including gloves, and salaries of up to $ 450-500 per month depending on potential exhibited during the 45 days training camp with credit given to applicants with vetted previous experience.
Reports suggest that the current "slow war" will intensely in Lebanon following the assassination of a rumored candidate for Lebanese Prime Minister, when and if a new government is formed around here, the former Lebanese Finance Minister Mohammad Chatah. That murder came at a very critical time in Lebanon. It is difficult to identify a period during the past three decades during which divisions and tensions among the Lebanese have previously reached such dangerous levels.
Verbal attacks and thinly veiled threats from the pro-Western alliance known as March 14against the National Lebanese Resistance lead by Hezbollah (March 8) have intensified. Common now are open calls to confront Hezbollah "by all means in order to save Lebanon." The anti-Assad groups blame the pro-Assad March 8coalition for last month's assassination of Mohammad Chatah which occurred near the spot in central Beirut where Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 25 others were killed by a massive car bomb on Valentine's Day 2005. The Hague based Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) is due to start trying that case last this month.
People in the street, from the depressed expressions on the faces of even apparently well to do women these days trudging along fashionable Hamra street--to the young from across the confessions who seek to depart Lebanon and the sooner the better, often cite a laundry list or reasons they think Lebanon never has been a real country, is not and likely never will be.
Indeed, to some foreigners living in Lebanon, it often seems that locals habitually blame outsiders for most, if not all, of their current problems. The Sykes-Picot secret process of creating nations, the French, the USA, Saudi Arabia, "the West", Iran, Syria, the Gulf countries are among others being identified as the main culprits.
Others are quite sure, for a long list of commonly elaborated reasons that it's the Lebanese themselves who created the current mess of this claimed "non-country.' The reasons are many but a short list would include that there is no functioning government, no Armed Forces worthy of the name, corrupt politicians who regularly sell out their constituents who for some unfathomable reason keep voting them back into power.