Hezbollah, Lebanon, Syria

On Syria, What Separates Assir From Hizbullah & Hariri?

All that separates a salafist from a hipster is a pair of sunglasses and a hoodie.

Apparently, all that separates a salafist from a hipster is a pair of sunglasses and a hoodie.

Everyone is wringing their hands over Lebanese Salafist leader Shaykh Ahmad al-Assir’s call to send jihadists to help Syria’s rebels. On Monday, he announced the formation of resistance battalions that were prepared to join the side of the uprising, saying: “There is a religious duty on every Muslim who is able to do so… to enter into Syria in order to defend its people, its mosques and religious shrines, especially in Qusayr and Homs.”

The Lebanese President has rejected al-Assir’s demands, along with Walid Jumblatt and the Future Movement.

Apparently, even the Free Syrian Army isn’t interested in his offer, stating: “Our official position as the Supreme Military Command of the Free Syrian Army… is that we thank them but we reject any calls for jihad in Syria…We reject any presence of foreign fighters, regardless of where they are from. We have said that what we are missing in Syria is weapons, not men.”

My friend Mustapha over at Beirut Spring, on the other hand, is begging the salafists to “please, please, please go die in Syria…”

Let us once and for all get rid of your idiotic backwardness and medieval worldview. The sooner you die, the better. It’s a win win situation: You get your virgins in the sky, and we get to live without people who are fighting a pointless religious war that is thousands of years old.

I agree that the idea of jihadists going into Syria from Lebanon is an unsettling notion. But who are we kidding, really? Does anyone believe that there aren’t already Lebanese fighting in Syria, on both sides of the conflict? It has been established by many respected observers and reporters that both the Future Movement and Hizbullah are involved in the conflict in direct and indirect ways.

A few months ago, someone caught `Uqab Saqr on tape coordinating what appeared to be weapons transfers, effectively confirming what everyone knew already, namely that Saad Hariri is a major player in the logistical supply chain of weapons to the FSA. And the press of late has been full of reports about Hizbullah’s direct involvement in the fighting in Syria.

What is the difference between Ahmad al-Assir sending a few dozen Lebanese jihadists to die in Syria and Hariri or Hizbullah playing the roles they are playing? Are they not equally as destabilizing to Lebanon?

I’m knocking on every piece of wood in my office as I type this, but I’m a little amazed that we haven’t seen more significant spillover of violence into Lebanon already, because of the extensive involvement of its parties in Syria.

Your thoughts?

Discussion

32 thoughts on “On Syria, What Separates Assir From Hizbullah & Hariri?

  1. My gut feeling is that Hariri and Hezbollah’s involvement is seen as more pragmatic, whereas Assir’s motivations are ostensibly more ideological/religious. For many, this makes the former more defensible than than the latter. In practical terms, though, I agree that the actions of Hariri and Hezbollah seem much more consequential than those of Assir, whose intervention is more symbolic than anything else.

    How this hasn’t bled over much, much more into Lebanon is kind of a mystery to me. Although if I were in Jabal Mohsen, I’d probably have a very different take on how much Syria has bled into Lebanon.

    Posted by sean | April 24, 2013, 12:06 pm
  2. What difference do threats and condemnations make anymore? Both Hizbullah and their counterparts in the Sunni community (Future Movement, etc.) are heavy invested in Syria. Neither of them is going to end or scale back their involvement. Al-Nusra has just warned it will bring the fight to Beirut if Hizbullah continues to involve itself in the conflict. Will Hizbullah pull out its fighters? Doubtful. To me it seems like we are on course for confrontation in Lebanon.

    Posted by Patrick | April 24, 2013, 12:12 pm
  3. It is rather ironic that Lebanese parties are now taking their battles across the border. Although Assir seems to be waiting for Hizballah just around the corner, there seems to be a current invisible understanding to stop these two forces from confronting each other right now in Lebanon, or so it seems. Then again, any Hizballah escalation in Lebanon, given the slow death of its Syrian ally, would not play as it has in the past and therefore, I think it is thinking twice about any possible confrontation here in Lebanon.

    I thought I heard Nasrallah would be speaking sometime soon, to talk about his Iran visit, fighters in Syria or rather martyrs in Syria, etc… and the topics of discussion keep on growing! That’s going to be quite an engaging speech…

    Posted by Eye on the East | April 24, 2013, 12:28 pm
  4. Whats the difference? One question. If the Salafists win in Syria to where and to whom do you think they will be taking their jihad?

    Posted by mo | April 24, 2013, 12:55 pm
  5. FIrst attempt at adapting the skills of proxy wars. A skill they have learned first hand, by being at the receiving end of it for eons. Neither one wants to loose whatever margin of popularity they have left on the scene. It remains to see how well they have learned the skill of containment.

    Posted by Paola | April 24, 2013, 1:10 pm
  6. At least Assir has no pretenses!

    HA is bullshitting and spinning and professing a duty and Jihadi duties.
    Assir is asking for a Jihadi duty as well…
    The difference is choosing between two scums…One has a trimmed beard who threatens to chop off your tongue and limbs…the other would threaten to eat them after cutting them off!

    Hariri is just a little jelly fish.

    Posted by danny | April 24, 2013, 1:15 pm
  7. Mo said: “Whats the difference? One question. If the Salafists win in Syria to where and to whom do you think they will be taking their jihad?”

    Mo, I’m curious: how many salafists do you think there are in Syria? I seem to recall hearing for years and years that the Syrians were so much more enlightened and modern than the Lebanese because they knew how to coexist with each other and were post-sectarian. Now I hear from those same people that if the uprising topples Bashar, Syria is going to be sectarianism central.

    Mickanthrope: I fixed the link, thanks. And, umm, you’re welcome! Please feel free to guest blog anytime.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 24, 2013, 2:52 pm
  8. QN,

    I am more optimistic than you that Lebanon can save itself from a serious spillover at least until the Syrian civil war is settled. First, the Lebanese civil war is still living memory for many Lebanese and they would not want to repeat it. For others Iraq and Syria are stark reminders that there are no winners in civil wars. Second, odd as it may seem, the Syrian conflict provides a pressure valve. The hotheads that are aching to fight can do so in Syria instead of Lebanon. Third, a civil war does not serve the leadership of either Hezbollah or FM. I just can’t see what interest of theirs can be furthered by a civil war. The only way a civil war starts is that some unplanned incident goes out of control.

    The danger for Lebanon in my opinion comes after the Syrian civil war ends. If Syria is partitioned, there may be pressure from different sects in Lebanon to combine with one of the splinters. If the Ikhwan or some other flavor of Islamists takes over, you can expect animosity with Hezbollah and extensive meddling in Lebanese affairs by Syria. A prolonged stalemate in Syria during which the Syrians are busy with each other is probably what is best for Lebanon.

    Posted by AIG | April 24, 2013, 4:36 pm
  9. AIG — logical, as always (hmm, well, most of the time); you are a true personification of Mr. Spock (Star Trek).

    QN / Mickanthrope — off political topic but this seeming adulation of “lean in,” can be useful only to a certain extent. True discrimination, old boys network, glass ceiling, are more true than you can imagine and manifest themselves in real companies that have real products, unlike the vaporware tiny business that Sandberg is proud to have risen in. At some real level, real fights are needed. I know many who have the scars to prove it and continue to be challenged. It’s not that simple! While you lean in, do watch your back!

    Posted by Honest Patriot | April 24, 2013, 4:45 pm
  10. Also, what do we make of Hariri’s silence? Is this the beginning of him giving up or him not wanting to condemn in public what he condones in private?

    Posted by pat | April 24, 2013, 4:55 pm
  11. Qifa,
    How many? No idea. But its not a question of numbers its a question of effectiveness and backing. I think the Salafists are far more effective due to the fact that the majority are men who having been fighting for years in other parts of the world and it is them that seem to have the backing of Sauid and Qatar rather than the FSA; So in a post-Bashar world, I dont think whats left of the FSA would stand a chance at stopping them taking over.

    That also answers your second question. Anyone who has been to Syria knows how secular it was as a nation and a society. I think those pushing the secterian agenda are Salafists from other nations.

    Have you seen anything in the reports to suggest the FSA and non-Salafists rebels are contributing much to the fight now?

    Posted by mo | April 24, 2013, 5:59 pm
  12. This Salafist and Takfiri wave in Syria and Lebanon is the best thing that ever happened to Hizballah.
    you can add to the list of threats Hizballah is “protecting” Lebanon from.

    Posted by Vulcan | April 25, 2013, 3:23 am
  13. That’s true Vulcan, not only for HA but also the Christians. The Aounis will be all over this saying I told you so as the Sunni extremist now becomes the most feared bogeyman at the same time the two bishops in Aleppo go missing.the West have to seriously wake up and bolster the FSA and the secular opposition before its too late.
    PS why is Harriri on the same level as HA in regards to Syria? I don’t see dead bodies belonging to the future movement get sent back to Lebanon.

    Posted by Maverick | April 25, 2013, 4:06 am
  14. Apologies everyone for the non-sequitur about Lean In. I replied to the blog email and later realized (much to my horror!) that my email posted publicly to comments. Apparently this is a new feature…so heads up! I asked QN to delete it, which he graciously did–as well as graciously replying to a somewhat awkward public thank you for being a good colleague. And thanks, HP, for your words of wisdom. Agreed. I often wonder how many global problems could be solved if intellectuals (and others) wasted energies were redirected from petty power-plays, both gendered and otherwise.

    Posted by mickanthrope | April 25, 2013, 8:20 am
  15. I think the reason people were alarmed by Assir’s call is because it is one step closer to the nightmare scenario everyone is dreading: open warfare in Lebanon between Sunnis and Shias.

    While Future and Hizballah are both in Syria, they were not considered to be in open battle with each other. Assir’s declared program isn’t simply to send jihadis to Syria, but to go and fight Hizballah in Syria. From there it’s a small step to have those parties take the fight here and the Sunni – Shia civil war in Lebanon will have begun.

    However, it doesn’t look like this will happen right now. As usual, Assir’s stances are more media stunt than actual action. And he doesn’t have anywhere near the logistical resources that Future has to mount an effective jihadi campaign.

    That’s not to say the civil war in Lebanon is not going to happen. It’s just not going happen this week.

    Posted by RedLeb | April 25, 2013, 9:49 am
  16. “That’s not to say the civil war in Lebanon is not going to happen. It’s just not going happen this week.”

    Thank you RedLeb. You have a future as a Minister of Information.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 25, 2013, 1:02 pm
  17. AIG,

    How do you reconcile

    “Iraq and Syria are stark reminders that there are no winners in civil wars”

    with

    “And when Assad and his lackeys are swept away, the men with the guns on the ground will be
    calling the shots”
    ?

    Posted by Badr | April 25, 2013, 1:46 pm
  18. You assume that the men with the guns are winners, which of course they are not just like thugs who control a neighborhood are not winners. Winning is having a thriving state and that is why there are no winners in modern civil wars. The moment you fight on your own territory for an extended period of time, you have lost. By definition, that is what both sides of the civil war are doing.

    Posted by AIG | April 25, 2013, 4:34 pm
  19. Foreigners meddling in local affairs in civil wars and revolutions is as old as the history of civil wars. this includes the American, Spanish, Angolan, etc wars.
    the question is to know what is at stakes. since the break of the Syrian revolution, Western and Arab analysis have linked the demise of Bashar el Assad to a weakening of Hezbollah. SOme even went as far as to suggest that it was an indirect move to prepare for the next Israeli attack. Their survival might pass by a necessary intervention in Syria.
    Inversly, the Hariris seem to have no future (!) in lebanon as long as Bashr is standing. So they need to help put him down.
    But Assir????

    Posted by rahil | April 26, 2013, 3:30 am
  20. “You assume that the men with the guns are winners”

    AIG,

    No. I assume that the men who will be calling the shots, when the dust settles, are the winners.

    Posted by Badr | April 26, 2013, 1:40 pm
  21. Badr,
    That is a wrong assumption also. The men with the guns are calling the shots in Somalia. They are not winners since Somalia is quite far from being a thriving state.

    Posted by AIG | April 26, 2013, 2:17 pm
  22. Indirectly, everyone is involved in Syria. Russia, America, Saudi Arabia and even Israel, so what. but this dumb Sheikh takes it to a whole new level

    Posted by micho | April 26, 2013, 6:36 pm
  23. “Apparently, all that separates a salafist from a hipster is a pair of sunglasses and a hoodie.”

    …and a snowboard?

    Shreddin’ it salafi style….

    http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2013/01/24/sunni-clerics-skiing-day-out-sparks-lebanons-latest-sectarian-showdown/

    Posted by lally | April 27, 2013, 1:10 am
  24. AIG,

    You’re tackling the meaning of “winners” from the public angle, whereas I’m looking at the personal aspect of it.

    Posted by Badr | April 27, 2013, 2:31 pm
  25. Hariri’s role, not only in supporting the opposition in Syria, but in facilitating the consolidation of an extremist Sunni base in Lebanon, whether wittingly or unwittingly, is something worth exploring. He can lash out against al-Assir and co all he wants, but what is he really doing on the ground to counter their rise? The Syrian regime left Lebanon with Shia extremists in power, and a fledgling Sunni Islamist base hungry for a new enemy after the death of Rafik Hariri. What does Saad do? He ends up empowering both through bad judgment and scandalous absence. This is the same man who apologized to Assad because someone told him to. One thing is for sure: the man is not his father, whose legacy has been destroyed not only by Hizbullah, but by the actions of Saad and his advisors.

    Forgive me QN for the harsh tone in my first comment here. 🙂

    Posted by AK | April 27, 2013, 10:02 pm
  26. Ahlan bi Abi Kays

    What took you so long?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 30, 2013, 8:13 am
  27. Ahlan feek.

    Good to see you built a good fort here. I think I even recognize some names. 🙂

    Posted by AK | April 30, 2013, 5:55 pm
  28. AK!. Long time!

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | April 30, 2013, 6:17 pm
  29. AK good to have you around man. anyone heard from GK lately?

    Posted by Vulcan | May 2, 2013, 3:07 am
  30. Vulcan he’s well and kicking…You can read his latest piece on Ya Libnan.

    Posted by danny | May 2, 2013, 6:43 am
  31. Reblogged this on arifalamsyah81 and commented:
    Tentang suriah

    Posted by arifalamsyah81 | June 16, 2013, 5:25 pm

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