Mitch Prothero has a must-read piece in The National about the fascinating intersections of drug trafficking, organized crime, and age-old tribal revenge politics in Lebanon’s Beqaa valley. Here’s a selection:
To illustrate the far-reaching influence of the families, the officer recounted a story that started 10 years ago when a member of the Internal Security Forces (ISF) working in Baalbak killed a member of the Jafaar family during a demonstration.
Fearing the Jafaar’s vengeance, the ISF immediately ordered the officer transferred to the Lebanese Embassy in Paris. A year later, Lebanese intelligence received a warning from their French counterparts that the Jafaar family had found the officer and the French were tracking a team of assassins who had arrived in Paris to kill him.
After recalling the man to Lebanon, changing his name and posting him to the police headquarters in the mostly Sunni city of Tripoli, where the Shiite Jafaar would have the least capability for revenge, people forgot about the case for a few years.
“The family later found out the man was working in the Serail in Tripoli and called in perhaps the only Jafaar family member with a job in the ISF,” the intelligence officer recalled. “The boy was ordered to demand a transfer to Tripoli or to find a way to visit the building. Once inside, he went to the office, calmly shot the officer to death and walked downstairs to be put in jail. I interrogated the boy, he didn’t want to do it. But his family and tribal pressure to avenge this death from years before was too much. He had no choice as a member of the Jafaar clan.”
I remember asking my eighty-two year old grandfather about all of the violence between the Beqaa clans and the army last spring. He thought for a moment and then replied: “When I was a boy growing up in Deir al-Ahmar, the Jaafar and Zoaiter clans were always at each others throats. Somebody would get caught stealing sheep or there would be some kind of scandal, and they would immediately start shooting each other up. Nobody from the government ever dared to interfere.”
He paused, got a wistful look in his eyes, and then said: “Except, sometimes, someone would call for the men of our village to come down and break up the fighting. And so our men would walk down to the valley, with only rifles on their shoulders, in a single file straight into the village where the feud was taking place. They would walk right into the line of fire, and suddenly, the fight would end.”
Somebody needs to give the LAF a call and tell them to stop bothering with RPG’s, counter-intelligence, and body armor. Just give the boys from Deir al-Ahmar a call, and we could have all of this cleared up by dinnertime.