5.28.2007

Lebanon under Regional Totalitarian Attack Anew

Along with three recent explosions, the killers of former Prime Minister Hariri and other cadres of Lebanese Cedar Revolution are trying something new this time, Fatah al-Islam, exploiting apparently their excellent relations with many al-Qaeda personnel. They are obviously terrified of the upcoming International Tribunal for Lebanon, the truth time and justice time.

The Lebanese democratically elected independence government is staying, and the international tribunal is coming.

So, assassins get more terrified, and independent free democratic Lebanon go ahead.

These are some related materials by the Council on Foreign Relations:


Lebanon's Fires Burn Anew

cfr.org
May 22, 2007

Last summer the world watched in shock as Israel fought a month-long campaign against Hezbollah militants in southern Lebanon. With the aftershocks of that conflict still rippling throughout the region, it appears Lebanon could be in for another bloody summer. The latest outbreak of violence features a new cast of combatants, headlined by the recently coalesced terrorist group Fatah al-Islam, an offshoot of a Syrian-backed Palestinian group based in several refugee camps in Lebanon. On May 20, Lebanese security forces met stiff resistance when raiding a Fatah al-Islam building north of Tripoli. The ensuing violence (CNN) represents the worst internal fighting in Lebanon since the end of that country’s civil war in 1990. On May 21 Lebanese forces pounded (IHT) parts of the troublesome Nahr al-Bared refugee camp. Violence soon spread to Beirut as two large bombs detonated (Daily Star) in the city’s center. Fatah al-Islam claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The Lebanese media quickly pointed an accusing finger (BBC) toward Syria. Most experts believe Syria’s hand was behind the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The timing did not go unnoticed, either: The latest outbreak of fighting comes just days after the United States and its allies circulated a UN Security Council resolution calling for a tribunal (Jurist) to try Hariri’s killers. Earlier this month Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote an editorial in an Arabic-language Lebanese paper calling for Lebanon to support such a tribunal. CFR Mideast expert Steven A. Cook says in this podcast that Syria continues to meddle in Lebanon’s affairs, though Syria denies all such charges.

Lebanon’s government could face an existential threat as it wrestles to contain the growing influence of radical Islam in its refugee camps. Beirut’s leadership has barely weathered massive protests by opposition parties clamoring for a stronger voice in the government. That opposition includes Hezbollah, a Syrian client which has developed of late into something of an Iranian proxy. But Fatah al-Islam appears to have ties to other notorious international figures, too. The group’s leader, Shaker al-Abssi (AP), was convicted alongside slain al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi for the 2002 murder of a U.S. diplomat in Jordan. German officials accused Abssi’s group of plotting in 2006 to bomb German commuter trains: One of the suspects in that case was killed in a gun battle (Deutsche Welle) with Lebanese forces Sunday.

Lebanon’s Daily Star declares the country cannot allow onslaught by such a “ marginal” group to destabilize the country. But instability is an end in itself for this type of insurgent group. As New York Times columnist David Brooks writes, “guerrilla insurgencies are increasingly able to take on and defeat nation-states.” Partly as a result, many experts, including CFR President Richard N. Haass, believe Washington’s ability to influence events in the Middle East is waning.

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Fatah al-Islam

cfr.org
May 22, 2007

What is Fatah al-Islam?

Fatah al-Islam is a militant Sunni Islamic group said to have Lebanese, Syrian, and Palestinian members among its ranks. Estimates of its size vary: According to Reuters it began with two hundred members and militants from other Palestinian groups have since joined. It is also suspected to have ties to al-Qaeda. Based in Lebanon, the group quickly gained notoriety in mid-2007 after violent clashes between its members and Lebanese security forces left scores dead.

How was Fatah al-Islam formed?

Fatah al-Islam emerged in November 2006 when it split from Fatah al-Intifada (Fatah Uprising), a Syrian-backed Palestinian group based in Lebanon, which itself was a splinter of Yasir Arafat’s mainstream organization Fatah. Lebanese security officers dispute that it was a real split and allege that Fatah al-Islam is a part of Syrian intelligence security forces. Syria denies any link to Fatah al-Islam.

Which terrorist acts are linked to Fatah al-Islam?

On May 20, 2007, a battle between Fatah al-Islam and Lebanese troops left at least forty-one dead, the country’s worst internal violence since the end of Lebanon’s civil war in 1990. The fighting began when Lebanese security forces investigating a bank robbery raided an apartment north of Tripoli. In response, members of Fatah al-Islam seized control of army posts at the entrance of the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, which Lebanese army tanks then proceeded to shell. The camp’s electricity, phone lines, and water were cut off. At least twenty-two soldiers were killed along with at least seventeen militants and two civilians. There was also fighting in the streets of Tripoli, where more Lebanese soldiers were killed. In the days that followed, multiple bombs exploded in Beirut, for which Fatah al-Islam claimed responsibility.

The Lebanese government has also linked Fatah al-Islam to deadly bus bombings in Ain Alaq, Lebanon, on February 13, 2007, that killed three people. Fatah al-Islam has denied any role in the bombings.

CFR Fellow Steven A. Cook says this group’s “actions could further destabilize the [Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad] Siniora government, lead to broader clashes between different ethnic and sectarian groups, and stir up further trouble within the Palestinian refugee camps, which could all provide a means for Syria to further its own ambition of reestablishing hegemony in Lebanon.”

Who is Fatah al-Islam’s leader?

Fatah al-Islam is led by Shaker Abssi, a notorious Palestinian militant who is said to be linked to the former leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who himself was killed in an American air strike in 2006. Abssi and Zarqawi were both sentenced to death in absentia in Jordan for the 2002 killing of U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley. Abssi was jailed by Syria for three years in 2003, after which he fled to Lebanon. He is based in Nahr al-Bared.

In his first interview with Western reporters, Abssi told the New York Times in March that his group has every right to undertake the violence that it has, given that Americans have come to the Middle East and incurred even more violence and destruction against his people.
What does Fatah al-Islam want?

Abssi has identified two primary goals: reforming the Palestinian refugee community in Lebanon according to Islamic sharia law, and opposing Israel. Further, it aims to expel the United States from the Islamic world.

Fatah al-Islam has accused the Lebanese government of trying to pave the way for an offensive against Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. The camps are widely seen as a breeding ground for radical Islam, but Beirut continues to adhere to a 1969 UN agreement allowing the camps to remain autonomous, provided they disarm their militias.

Is Fatah al-Islam connected to al-Qaeda?

The affiliation is unclear. Syria claims that Fatah al-Islam is affiliated with al-Qaeda, while Lebanon says the group was sent by Damascus to destabilize Lebanon and has no ties to al-Qaeda. For his part, Abssi has said that his group has no organizational or logistical links to al-Qaeda but subscribes to al-Qaeda’s ideology of war against non-Muslims—specifically the West—and its goal of replacing the governments of Muslim countries with fundamentalist Islamic regimes.


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Some related articles by Nassim Yaziji:

- Lebanon's Independence and Democracy

- The Struggle for the New Middle East

- The Neo-Internationalism After 9/11 and Middle East Democratization


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