Hezbollah, Lebanon

Hizbullah: Special Forces of the Lebanese Safavid Zoroastrian Persian Army?

300px-Sueleymanname_nahcevanThe talking point de jour among the more Gandalfy fringe of the Sunni commentariat is to refer to the Lebanese Army as a “Safavid“, “Majusi“, “Batini” fighting force under the sway of Hizbullah and its Iranian patron. Medieval mud-slinging is in, big time. Dust off your Shahrastani if you want to have any chance of sorting out who’s who.

More seriously, though: Nick Blanford and Mitch Prothero — two reporters who have a thing for reverse-commuting into conflict zones — have published a couple stories today confirming the presence of Hizbullah fighters in close coordination with the Lebanese Army in Saida. Recall that this was one of the main accusations leveled at the army yesterday by the supporters of Ahmad al-Assir, and even by political figures who applauded the army’s response while condemning the role being played by Hizbullah. Here’s a snippet from Nick’s piece:

Although the Lebanese Army’s special forces units spearheaded the assault on a mosque and compound belonging to Sheikh Ahmad Assir, a Salafist cleric who had holed up there with 200 to 300 of his followers, it became evident today that they received some assistance from Hezbollah’s battle-hardened fighters.

“Today we are doing surgery,” says Haj, a local commander of Hezbollah forces in an area on the eastern edge of Abra, the hilltop Sidon neighborhood where Sheikh Assir’s mosque is located. “We are removing a cancerous gland in a quick clean operation to cure the city.” […]

Ah yes, a quick and clean surgical operation: this is how Hizbullah described its May 7 2008 incursion into Beirut, which led to the Doha Accord. Removing cancers, restoring security, etc. All very selfless of them, don’t you think? Positively Hippocratic…

The trouble is, there is no such thing as a quick and clean surgery to remove a cancerous gland, not if the cancer has already metastasized all over the body. And even if the cancer were confined to a specific area, the use of a carcinogenic implement to remove it would doom the patient anyway.

In 2008, the Lebanese Army stood by as Hizbullah scrubbed up and went into surgery. Today, they’re performing operations together. I find the sectarian garbage slung at the Army by Tripoli shaykhs to be as offensive as the next guy, but can anyone deny that Hizbullah is an equal partner in this latest effort to take Lebanon back to a scene of flashing swords, whinnying horses, and medieval heresiographies?

Discussion

54 thoughts on “Hizbullah: Special Forces of the Lebanese Safavid Zoroastrian Persian Army?

  1. The credibility of both journalists you quote, however, is not very high – it has been pointed out that both Blanford and Prothero are suspiciously prone to runing into ‘high-level Hizbullah operatives’ everywhere who just happen to confide in them (both writers with a an obviously pro-US and pro-Hariri slant) all the things the US and Hariri want to believe – whether while playing paintball or involved in ‘sectarian battle’… Notice that no Lebanese reporters, for example, who presumably have far better contacts and – for one thing – speak Arabic and know the local dialects and what not – have ‘run into’ Hizbullah’s fighters in Saida…

    Posted by BartBart | June 25, 2013, 10:53 am
  2. What the hell does Hezballah have to do with any of this? Assir’s men attacked an army position and murdered three soldiers. Are you saying this was a political statement he was making?

    Going after a murderer and his cohorts is not taking ‘Lebanon back to a scene of flashing swords, whinnying horses’, its implementing the law. It happens rarely enough here, so when it does, let’s applaud it at least.

    I can’t believe the claim Hizballah was involved. TV crews from half a dozen stations were down on the scene reporting minute by minute. This includes Future TV, MTV, and LBCI, not particular fans of the hizb. And only Prothero and Blanford saw the fighters? I call bullshit. They are either helplessly befuddled journalists out of their depth or simply fabricating news.

    It’s bordering on a psychic disorder, whereby people shoot up innocents and say ‘Hizballah made me do it.’ Lets not support that insanity.

    Posted by RedLeb | June 25, 2013, 11:09 am
  3. RedLeb, I am 100% with the army. If Assir is not killed while on the run, he should be tried for murder along with Fadl al-Shakir and the rest of his gang.

    The army is not “taking Lebanon back to a scene of flashing swords and whinnying horses”; Hizbullah is along with these Salafist nincompoops. Whether or not Hizbullah was directly involved in this operation, how long are we going to put our heads in the sand and act like the presence of a huge, well-armed and funded Shiite militia that takes major military decisions without asking anyone’s permission is not having major repercussions on Sunni-Shiite relations in Lebanon and Syria? We can’t blame everything on Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 25, 2013, 11:24 am
  4. how long are we going to put our heads in the sand

    30 years?

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 25, 2013, 11:48 am
  5. RedLeb said: “It’s bordering on a psychic disorder, whereby people shoot up innocents and say ‘Hizballah made me do it.’ Lets not support that insanity.”

    Hizbullah has been in the “X made me do it” game for a long time. Don’t push us into a corner, or we’ll be forced to act. Don’t think we will just sit on our hands while our enemies are conspiring against us. Don’t try to arrest one of our members or sack one of our officials or touch our weapons, or else we won’t be responsible for what happens to you. Consider this a warning.

    And then, after the fact: We told you not to pressure us. We would have preferred not to do what we did, but it was necessary. Our hand was forced. We were pushed into a corner, and any rational person would have acted the way we did.

    Assir’s thugs attacked the army post because one of their members had been arrested. Would Hizbullah have acted in the same manner? Probably not; but then again, the army would have known better not to arrest one of their members.

    Again, I am for the disarmament of all these takfiri groups, from Saida to Tripoli to Akkar to Arsal. And I’m for the arrest of any preacher who calls for jihad against the Lebanese army or Shiites or anyone else. But I don’t think this is going to solve the problem in the long-term.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 25, 2013, 11:58 am
  6. So, were Mitch & Nick sheltering with Bahiya al-Hariri before venturing out? It is odd that only the 2 gringo amigos managed to scoop the locals.

    Was the late Wissam al_Hassan’s stealing arms from GOL caches to supply the “opposition” prior to the onset of the Syrian “revolution” acting with or without official permission?

    “Gen. Hassan had used his post as head of intelligence to organize weapons shipments to Syrian rebels from Lebanese territory in the two years before he was killed, according to several key associates familiar with the network.

    Several times he funneled weapons from Lebanon’s own government stocks, replacing them soon afterward, according to rebel groups his network helped arm. Lebanese government officials declined to comment on his activities…”
    https://qifanabki.com/2013/04/12/lebanon-fair-weather/

    Let the howls of umbrage over official(?) Lebanon providing lethal military support to those who are involved in efforts to bring down a neighboring government begin……

    Somebody made a decision to loot Lebanon”s military stocks in order to foment the bloody civil war next door. Was it “official,” Okab Sakr?

    That said, Hezbollah has been in cahoots with the LAF in southern Lebanon and collaborated with official Lebanon in rounding up the Israeli spy cells. Once those situations became bleeding obvious to anyone who cared to look, the campaign to purge & remake the LAF began.

    Posted by lally | June 25, 2013, 12:12 pm
  7. “Probably not; but then again, the army would have known better not to arrest one of their members”.

    Let’s see: They killed Hisham al -Salman and beat up the rest of the peaceful protestors. Any arrests? Noooooo. Wallaw? Let’s hear it from the resistance crowd on why it has not been done yet?

    Here’s the thing…where are the HA’s militia forces now? Guess what no one is asking any more.

    Posted by danny | June 25, 2013, 12:14 pm
  8. https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/nownews/resistance-brigade-officers-abra-death-honored-online

    The Facebook page “Cocktail Ekher Model” which supports Hezbollah and the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, posted the picture with the caption: “Martyr Mohammad Saleh from Haret Sidon, killed in the Abra battle against Takfiris with the heroic Lebanese army… the blood of the army and Resistance fighters have [paid off] in Sidon.”

    The “Janoub Loubnan” website also mourned Saleh saying: “It is with great pride that the Islamic resistance of Hezbollah buries a new knight of its heroic knights, the leader martyr Mohammad Saleh.”

    Posted by RM | June 25, 2013, 12:17 pm
  9. Lally and RedLeb:

    Mitch and Nick have responded, and I’ve published their comment here:

    https://qifanabki.com/2013/06/25/nick-blanford-and-mitch-prothero-respond-to-queries-about-hizbullah-involvement-in-sidon/

    Thanks

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 25, 2013, 12:29 pm
  10. How long are we going to put our heads in the sand and act like the grievances against Hizballah’s policies are a legitimate reason for lawlessness, terrorizing people, attacking the police, and murdering soldiers? The problem with having a huge, well-armed militia is that they tend to do these things. But the reality is that Hizballah is NOT doing any of these things, but the ones complaining about Hizballah are the ones who do.

    I understand that Hizballah’s military might makes people nervous. I do not understand or accept that this legitimizes the criminal and repressive behavior of Assir, the gunmen in Tripoli, or the FSA in Arsal. They fabricate a narrative of Hizballah oppressing Lebanon to excuse their oppressive actions. It doesn’t. There is no logic to this argument, even if the premise were true, which I don’t believe it is.

    Posted by RedLeb | June 25, 2013, 12:42 pm
  11. red leb, explanation is not justification. i think hezballa’s eaction explains (in a social scientific way) the rise of people such as Asyr. His acts are despicable, few mainstream Lebanese would deny that. so that argument on justification is a straw man that confuses attempts at explanation with justification.

    Posted by RM | June 25, 2013, 12:49 pm
  12. What makes people nervous is not the might! It is how HA uses it. Why are you going in circles. Read QN’s next post. What makes people nervous is when HA takes it upon itself to “eradicate” a cancer! What makes people nervous is when HA uses its illegall militia invading other countries! What makes people nervous is when HA’s thugs beat up and kill peaceful protestors in full view of the LAF and get away with it! Enough already!They are a cancer too. Read Nick’s response and let’s see you create a web conspiracy….

    BTW Assir is a punk and a terrorist; so is Hassan Nassrallah!

    Posted by danny | June 25, 2013, 12:54 pm
  13. Well said. You beautifully summerized the whole situation of the whole country.

    The trouble is, there is no such thing as a quick and clean surgery to remove a cancerous gland, not if the cancer has already metastasized all over the body. And even if the cancer were confined to a specific area, the use of a carcinogenic implement to remove it would doom the patient anyway.

    Posted by Lebnaneh | June 25, 2013, 12:57 pm
  14. RM,
    I am saying there is no logic to the explanation, even as just an explanation. It makes no sense.

    Hizballah’s actions cause other people to attack the state? What sort of explanation is that? I can understand if they attack Hizballah itself. That is a natural reaction to being against Hizballah’s actions. Attacking the state is not. It’s just taking advantage of a weak state.

    Posted by RedLeb | June 25, 2013, 1:08 pm
  15. redleb, it was a strategic mistake by asyr. it was, in other words, not a rational move . but the explanation as to why he, asyr, exists at all, still makes sense to me.

    Posted by RM | June 25, 2013, 1:19 pm
  16. RedLeb said: “Hizballah’s actions cause other people to attack the state? What sort of explanation is that? I can understand if they attack Hizballah itself. That is a natural reaction to being against Hizballah’s actions. Attacking the state is not.”

    Natural reaction or not, it’s a reaction that we’ve seen in this region for a long time. Why does it make perfect sense to say that the fact of the US invasion of Iraq is somehow indirectly responsible for every suicide bomber who kills Iraqi soldiers, but not to point out that the anger and frustration engendered by Hizbullah’s actions and state of existence should have some consequences as the ones we’re seeing in Lebanon today?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 25, 2013, 1:37 pm
  17. QN,

    I’m sorry I don’t see how your analogy relates. The US created, in a very literal way, post-invasion Iraq. So you can blame them for all the consequences. And the suicide bombers are against the Shia dominated Iraqi state, so they attack it’s soldiers.

    What does anger and frustration against Hizbullah have to do with attacking the army in Saida? Or the Alawites in Jabal Mohsen? Or the army in Arsal? There is no natural connection. The anger and frustration is simply being used by militants to justify creating state-lets for themselves. It is a power grab justified by empty explanations of being ‘entrapped by Hizballah’. (I don’t even know how that works).

    What is happening in Lebanon is not due to Hizballah’s presence. It is due to a weak state and a power vacuum in the Lebanese Sunni community. This vacuum is being filled with the most extremist elements and the weak state is unable to stop them. If Hizballah didn’t exist, they would have picked another bogeyman to scare people with and justify their actions. This is evident in the fantastical exaggerations Hizballah’s enemies resort to in building up fear of the party.

    Posted by RedLeb | June 25, 2013, 2:31 pm
  18. RedLeb,

    Not sure where you have been living all this time, but the Lebanese state was intentionally kept weak by the Assad regime since as long as I can remember and certainly Hezbollah had every interest in keeping it so since well before February 14th, 2005.

    According to Aoun’s latest speech, the fault foes not lie within a weak state, but with March 14.

    Posted by Whatever | June 25, 2013, 2:51 pm
  19. Redleb,

    Religious fundamentalism does not arise out of thin air. These movements often harbor resentment and frustration in reaction to a particular organization. Hezbollah’s actions as of late, particularly in May 2008 and its open support to the Syrian regime that has slaughtered many Sunnis, cannot happen without consequences or reactions. Hezbollah itself was created in reaction to the Israeli occupation of South Lebanon. It was able to organize a strong movement fundamentally because its followers shared a common resentment towards an entity it views as robbing its rights.

    Assir and his followers view Hezbollah in the same way. While by no means am I justifying their cruel actions, their frustration is clearly a result of Hezbollah’s actions. When Hezbollah militarily responded to the M14-led government’s decision to repeal the Party’s telecom network, leading to the death of Sunni militants and civilians, do you not believe that this will frustrate the Sunni community? When Hezbollah openly supports the Syrian regime while clips showing indiscriminate firing by Assad’s forces on Sunni communities, leading to thousands of dead Sunni civilians, do you not think this will frustrate the Sunni community?

    In the end, the question comes down to this: can you confidently say that Hezbollah is playing a positive role in reducing the sectarian tensions in Lebanon?

    Posted by gbeaino | June 25, 2013, 2:55 pm
  20. REDLEB “What is happening in Lebanon is not due to Hizballah’s presence. It is due to a weak state and a power vacuum in the Lebanese Sunni community.”

    The weak state and the vacuum in the Lebanese Sunni community are due to Hizballah’s actions. They toppled Saad Hariri and threatened his life (with a Zionist plot) if he returns. they declare wars, acting as a de facto state.

    Posted by Vulcan | June 25, 2013, 2:56 pm
  21. The conflict with Jabal Mohsen is an old one that has roots spanning a couple generations, and the violence is coming from both sides.

    The conflict with the army has arisen because the army is trying to crack down on these groups, who have themselves arisen because there is a feeling among Sunnis that Hizbullah has taken the country hostage for its own foreign agenda.

    “If Hizballah didn’t exist, they would have picked another bogeyman to scare people with and justify their actions. This is evident in the fantastical exaggerations Hizballah’s enemies resort to in building up fear of the party.”

    This is like saying that if Israel didn’t exist, Hizbullah would have picked another bogeyman to scare people with and justify their arms, which is obviously nonsense. It’s very odd to me that you refuse to recognize the larger context and history here. A lot of Lebanese don’t like Hizbullah and it’s not because they just haven’t yet gotten to know them yet. It’s not because of the Saudi-Qatari-Zionist public relations campaign to tarnish the image of the resistance. It’s because they feel that Hizbullah operates with impunity in Lebanon, and that the state is too weak to do anything about it, so people take matters into their own hands.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 25, 2013, 3:02 pm
  22. Let’s hear the rebuttal about HA not being involved! This is just great. Let’s hear it people.

    Posted by danny | June 25, 2013, 3:48 pm
  23. Impunity?

    I thought impunity was the across-the-board SOP default situation for all actors in Lebanon, regardless of sect.

    Posted by lally | June 25, 2013, 4:25 pm
  24. Yet another episode of “Head in the sand syndrome” with some commenters around here.

    I mean, it’s one thing to understand where these events come from, while not necessarily justifying them or excusing them. But it’s another altogether to stick one’s head in the sand and refuse to acknowledge that HA’s existence has anything to do with any of this.

    And the kicker is that the same people who insist on having their heads in the sand start coming up with comparisons that make no sense or refuting analogies. Good job calling them on it, QN.

    The “It’s as if you claim that if Israel didn’t exist, HA would find another bogeyman to blame.” line is priceless. Specially since, for years now, we have been hearing about how everything is a Zionist/American conspiracy and that were it not for HA, defending our rights and sovereignty, Lebanon would have long been dead and buried.

    Guess what folks, you can’t spend years talking about Zionist conspiracies and blaming the Israeli bogeyman for everything (From political assassinations, to stirring sectarian strife) and then claim that HA exists in a vaccum and that its existence has zero impact on phenomenons like Assir and others like him. Just like you folks believe that there is an Israeli conspiracy dictating every move in Lebanon, well, some people believe there is an Iranian (Safavid or whatever) conspiracy dictating every move in Lebanon. What right do you have denying those people their conspiracy theories when you’ve been brandishing yours for years?

    The fact of the matter is, all these phenomenons are interrelated. All these things have consequences. Just like the early 70s PLO empowerment in Lebanon brought about a reactionary mentality from the Christians (and resulted in the civil war) so does HA’s empowerment in this age bring about the reactionary mentality among other sects vs. the Shia. It’s really simple math. Choosing to deny that is pretty ridiculous.

    Mind you, as Danny already stated, there is a difference between analyzing and understanding the cause-effect relationship here and condoning or justifying any of the current events. As far as I’m concerned (and I have already stated this yesterday), Assir is a terrorist thug who should be hung by his balls for what he’s done. But let’s not pretend there isn’t a double standard here. I’d like to see Nassrallah hung just as much.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 25, 2013, 4:27 pm
  25. Any suggestions on what should be done about Der General and his Apaches, while you’re all in the process?

    Posted by Whatever | June 25, 2013, 4:40 pm
  26. Whatever happened to the enquiry into his convoy being shot at in Sidon?

    Posted by Whatever | June 25, 2013, 4:59 pm
  27. One thing that the Assir saga has brought about or rather pushed to the limelight according to the arguments and sentiments in the media, the social media, the blogosphere and in private circles is the impinging legitimacy of the Party’s weapons. It can no longer be ignored and those in power need to address it above all things. This does not mean going on a hyperbole attack a la M14 or empty recycled rhetoric which further exacerbate the situation.
    There needs to be a comprehensive road map like all peace processes, not unlike the Irish experience with the IRA.
    This will involve all parties: The Lebanese Government has to provide guarantees and even restructure to allow for the new dynamic. The Lebanese army have to regain control of all areas within it’s borders. M14 need to absorb the changes and lend a hand instead of sulking in a corner and isolating the ‘other’. The traditional heavyweights like Berri and Joumblatt among others need to be the mediators and facilitate the process and most of all, the constituency of HA need to submit to the realities facing them and acquiesce to the changes.

    Posted by Maverick | June 25, 2013, 5:14 pm
  28. While that is a great idea, Maverick, we both know that the reality on the ground, and the lack of will from those in power (both regionally and locally) means nothing of the sort is possible.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 25, 2013, 5:17 pm
  29. Whatever,

    Not sure where you have been living all this time, but the Lebanese state was kept weak by the za’ims ever since Fouad Chehab was out of power. And certainly Hezballah ignored the Lebanese state entirely until 2000, or 2005.

    The weak state is why we had a civil war, why Syria managed to occupy Lebanon, why Israel was able to occupy Lebanon, and indeed why Hezballah was created. The weak state is a creation of exactly the sort of leaders that make up March 14.

    Posted by RedLeb | June 25, 2013, 5:54 pm
  30. Gbeanio,

    Please re-read carefully my previous post. I did not say that the Sunni community was not frustrated. I did not say that Hezballah’s actions do not cause resentment within the Sunni community. I said that the anger and frustration is being used to justify actions (attacking the state) completely unrelated to the original grievance (Hizballah’s actions).

    I said earlier it would be more natural if they attacked Hizballah, because then their justifications (anger at Hizballah) would have been related to their action.

    Attacking the state, is NOT a consequence of the anger at Hizballah. It is a consequence of a power play by certain political actors using the anger and frustration of the Sunni community to rally people to their agenda. That is my point.

    Hezballah’s actions in Syria deepen sectarian divisions. I accept that. But it is nonsensical that these divisions result in bombarding Alawites (who did not fight in Qusayr) and murdering Lebanese soldiers (who did not fight in Qusayr). The actions by Sunnie extremists are transparent and cynical manipulations of people’s resentment.

    Posted by RedLeb | June 25, 2013, 6:05 pm
  31. Vulcan,

    The weak state is due to deliberate policy by the Lebanese za’ims who dislike having a local boss lording it over them and prefer their foreign patrons. Hizballah is a result, and not a cause, of the weak state.

    The vacuum in the Sunni community is because of Rafik Hariri’s assassination (you can blame Hizballah for that, but so far it is not a fact) and Saad Hariri’s inept leadership. I recall he was toppled by cabinet resignation, not by lobbing missiles at Center House.

    Posted by RedLeb | June 25, 2013, 6:09 pm
  32. QN,

    Your analogies don’t fit. They really don’t. Just because extremists fabricate a bogeyman does not mean every time someone identifies an enemy, they are fabricating it.

    Hezballah actually went to war with the party they had a grievance against. They called Israel evil and an occupier and fought with Israel.

    Assir called Hezballah evil and an occupier and went to war with the Lebanese state. I know a lot of Lebanese don’t like Hezballah. I know a lot of people have personal and deep seated feelings against the party. I do not know that it follows that these people ought then attack the Lebanese army or Alawites. The link between the grievance and the action is missing. It is not a natural consequence. The grievance is being used to justify an unrelated agenda.

    Take Bal El Tabaneh for example: it is a very poor neighborhood. The residents are resentful and angry for being abandoned by the state and left in such poverty. The za’ims harness this resentment, pay them a pittance, and direct their anger at Jabal Mohsen. Does fighting Jabal Mohsen bring them prosperity? No. Is Jabal Mohsen creating their poverty? No. They are being manipulated, and their frustration and situation is being subverted for another agenda.

    Posted by RedLeb | June 25, 2013, 6:23 pm
  33. One more time so everyone gets it: Yes, people who litter piss me off. No, it does not mean I will attack Sukleen.

    Posted by RedLeb | June 25, 2013, 6:30 pm
  34. BV,

    True, it is quite idealistic, however HA will not remain powerful and unchecked forever and soon will be faced with a crossroad. Perhaps the civil war experience, and the rise and fall of the right wing Christian groups could lend a disturbing memory.
    At least if parties had the ‘intention’, lets start with a serious intention, maybe HA will be more accommodating. The army can have a special unit/Guerilla ops section under its command, the Government can pledge greater investment in the south, Bekaa and Akkar. Parliamentary laws to favor a more secular make etc etc.
    There are countless ideas for development and improvement, it’s just a matter of bringing it all together and offering a road map, something tangible for HA to work with.
    I believe the whole raison d’etre of HA is to better the lot of the Shiaa community of Lebanon, not to liberate Palestine. Put an offer on the table, agree to a road map, market it across the board…….at least a genuine push in this direction is better than the status quo that we have right now.

    Posted by Maverick | June 25, 2013, 6:39 pm
  35. Redleb,

    Lebanon would not exist if it was not a weak state. It was not designed that way so za’ims could have foreign patrons, but so that one sect could not use the power of the state to dominate the other. Za’ims aren’t keeping the state weak. There is no way the state could ever be “strong” as the nation is currently constructed.

    Posted by Eddie | June 25, 2013, 6:45 pm
  36. RedLeb,

    You are either intentionally, or conveniently overlooking one thing in your explanation and logic.

    I get what you’re saying. You agree/understand that some of the Sunni community is frustrated/marginalized/etc. And you ask why not take it out on HA, why the army?

    Here’s the thing you seem to be missing: Ever since the end of the civil war and the Syrian “tutelage” era, HA was allowed to operate with impunity, but in many ways, it was also considered by some (these same frustrated people) to be in cahoots with the army. There are many in that community who do not view HA and the army as two separate entities, where one is to be feared and hated, and the other respected.
    Whether you or I agree with that assessment is irrelevant here. But to some, the army is being considered as complicit with HA (for example, the army sitting on the sidelines in May 2008, or watching helplessly last week when the HA thugs murdered the protester by the Iranian embassy, or a number of other anecdotal stories that may be circulating in those circles).
    The point is, to those people, the hatred and resentment are not ONLY directed at HA. They are directed at the army as well, and at the Shia community as a whole (not all Shia are HA supporters, in reality) and at the Alawite community, and at the state and government who seems to be (again, in these people’s opinion) complicit in HA’s perceived oppression of their ilk.

    Again, I am by no means excusing any such behavior. I think those people are thugs and idiots (as are most followers and sheeple in Lebanon from all sides, really). I’m just helping clarify the point that yes, there is a reason why these guys attacked the army and not HA. It’s not as simple as you tried to phrase it in your cute littering analogy.

    And yes, the analogy of Iraq or Israel do apply. HA did not JUST fight Israel. It also fought Amal and the Palestinians (neither of which was allied with Israel at the time) because it served an immediate tactical purpose at that given time that had nothing to do with Israel.
    The various terrorists and rebels in Iraq don’t ONLY bomb and fight the American troops. They also terrorize civilians. They also bomb police academies, etc.
    The point is, angry and hateful people tend to take a “Us vs. Them” mentality and tend to blame EVERYONE else for everything (not just the one group that may in reality be responsible).

    Those analogies stand, and while your point is well made, as I said, there actually IS a connection to the LAF (even if only in the minds of those thugs).

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 25, 2013, 6:53 pm
  37. RedLeb

    Let’s leave aside the Alawite issue because as I said, it’s a very old conflict that has roots in a larger history. Some of the guys shooting at each other in Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh had fathers who did the same to each other. So we’re talking about a different phenomenon there.

    With regard to Assir and co: how many attacks have there been on the army over the past few years? Very few. And when the attacks occurred, they did in the context of an attempted arrest or a routine roadblock. The salafists did not declare the army to be their enemy from the beginning. As Assir himself said on Kalam Ennas last year, the army was a “red line” and anyone who attacked it was a criminal. It’s only when the army began rightfully arresting these guys for building up an arms cache that things got ugly between them, and we started hearing calls by some radical shaykhs for jihad against the army.

    No one is arguing that the salafists’ actions are justified by anything, let alone something as nebulous as “frustration” or “resentment.” What I am arguing is that their actions — yes, even their actions against the army — are explained in part by those nebulous things.

    Let me try one more analogy.

    Imagine a crime-ridden city with one large and powerful cartel and several smaller, less powerful ones. The police can’t take down the large cartel because of its political connections and extensive firepower, and so over time a modus vivendi has settled in between them. (This is not unlike the situation that prevailed in various US cities in the mid-20th century).

    The smaller cartels, though, are terrified of the large cartel, constantly worried (maybe paranoid?) about its increasing control over the city’s governance, industries, commerce, etc. And so they start trying to beef up their own firepower, in anticipation of an eventual showdown over one of their interests. The police are alarmed, and try to clamp down on the smaller cartels before they get too powerful. Eventually, there’s a confrontation between the mini-mob families and the police, even though they had no problem with them before. Outgunned, the large cartel helps the police by securing the perimeter around the conflict zone… You get the idea.

    Does that work?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 25, 2013, 7:05 pm
  38. Small problem with your last analogy QN: I would guess even the small cartels are enemies of the Police from day 1, given that they’re criminals. Not like the small cartels ever declared the police to be “red lines”.
    But yeah. I think we all get the idea.
    As I stated in my own comment, I think the army was already viewed with some suspicion by the Asir types out there (they’re not the only ones), because to those guys, the army appears to be somewhat in cahoots or complicit with HA. (And again, I posit that is NOT new, nor is it something that just happened yesterday).
    I think the past 5-10 years (specially after May 2008) to those sitting outside looking, HA appears to dominate the state and its institutions appear somewhat subservient (and therefore complicit) to this so-called Iranian agenda.
    Among those circles (and even in some more mainstream circles), I suspect there is a strong belief that the army is largely infiltrated by HA sympathizers, as are many of the other security agencies.
    Much like in the 1970s and 80s (albeit with different actors), and contrary to what everyone insists on chanting about the army being neutral and impartial and above all, the truth is, the army in Lebanon has almost never been neutral and has always been an instrument for one side or another (it used to be the Christians, back then).

    Lebanese like to bicker and argue and fight, like children. But when certain “national” symbols are concerned, everyone joins ranks, holds hands and clamors at the top of their lungs to be behind said symbol. Right? Again, this isn’t the first. This isn’t new (Nahr El Bared, The army’s deployment to the South, the Samer Hanna incident, etc.) All of a sudden, everyone from every sect is changing their Facebook profile image to the LAF logo or posting some kind of “We are with the army” posts.
    But let’s be honest here. (At the risk of having virtual tomatoes thrown at me). It’s all a bunch of BS. It’s all for show. It’s what the sheeple have been conditioned to do for years. All rah-rah for the army for a week, and then back to business as usual.
    The reality is, the Lebanese have always been suspicious of the army (various different factions, sects, etc, at various different times of our history). Be it the Chehab years, the Chamoun years, the Gemayel years, the Aoun years, the Syrian years or the HA years.
    We like to pretend we’re all proud and behind the army, yet no one seems to be willing to trust it to be neutral or do its job. Everyone wants their own weapons. No one respects the army in reality. How many times have I read a headline, right after the multitudes of incidents in Arsal, Tripoli, the Bekaa, or wherever else, something to the effect of “The army will intervene and deal severely with the troublemakers and gunmen”. Right? We see those headlines every week, it seems, yet the gunmen never get arrested. The army deploys then pulls back or gets shot at. How many times do I have to hear Suleiman or Qahwaji telling me that “The army will not tolerate trouble on Syria Street” (followed almost instantaneously by a “3 more killed on Syria Street” headline?

    So let’s stop all being hypocrites and pretending the army is this kind of savior/holy symbol that everyone respects and stands behind. The army has always been just another “side” in the Lebanese arena, and sometimes it’s on your side and sometimes it’s not (as can be attested by various factions over Lebanon’s history).

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 25, 2013, 7:52 pm
  39. I didn’t read all of the replies, just the post and a few replies and to this one from QIFANABI “…how long are we going to put our heads in the sand and act like the presence of a huge, well-armed and funded Shiite militia that takes major military decisions without asking anyone’s permission is not having major repercussions on Sunni-Shiite relations in Lebanon and Syria?…” I say, in an ideal situation, any armed military force that conquered over an occupying force and liberated its land, has the right to rule over the land. Hizballa did not do that and I think that was it’s mistake back in 2000. They won over Israel and liberated Lebanon. Since then their strategy was to cooperate with the Lebanese Army. Some times they went solo as in 2006. The army should have been merged into Hizballa in 2000 and not vice-versa. Hizb was too generous and since then, the rest of the pro peace right-wing zionists in Lebanon, have been trying to avenge Israel after its defeat in Lebanon both in 2000 and in 2006. So to answer your question, “how long are we going to put our head in the sand….” no more. Just come out and admit that Shiite Hezballa has won in Lebanon, they deserve to rule. Everyone else before them has failed. You don’t like that then go ahead and fight them if you can. I don’t think you will win. Not today at least. They tried to integrate but rest didn’t let them, they refused to allow them government majority, so they turned the whole thing into a sectarian strife. Such hypocrites.

    As for myself, being a secular person, I would rather struggle with the lesser extreme of the two religious currents in the region, Shiites and Sunnis and that would be the Shiites.

    Posted by roger | June 25, 2013, 9:01 pm
  40. Direct question to Qifa Nabki author :
    is LAF coordinating with HA? Does it means it it biased?

    Posted by Karoum | June 25, 2013, 9:32 pm
  41. BV. “There are many in that community who do not view HA and the army as two separate entities, where one is to be feared and hated, and the other respected.”

    How many of those in that community have brothers, fathers, husbands of sons in the army? I guarantee you that those that do have no problem with differentiating between the two.

    “I suspect there is a strong belief that the army is largely infiltrated by HA sympathizers, as are many of the other security agencies.”

    Stop right here.

    “Infiltrated”? The use of that term outlines in neon a perspective of the LAF is that it should rightly be a militia rather than a modern army which is made up of individual citizen warriors who for a myriad of reasons, serve in defense of the homeland and it’s people. HA and their sympathizers would most naturally be among them. Are they not real Lebanese?

    Would a purge be in order?

    Posted by lally | June 25, 2013, 10:31 pm
  42. Lally, you are missing my point. I did not say that I believe those things, nor did I say they are factual and true.
    I said that that belief exists among a fairly decent segment of the Lebanese populace.
    Just like there is a segment of the Lebanese populace that is convinced that Israel is behind every little burp and fart coming out of Abu Abed after he’s had a foul breakfast.
    People in Lebanon believe in all kinds of conspiracy theories (some plausible and some completely ridiculous). We all know that. I am not debating whether this or that conspiracy theory is true. I am telling you that there is, in fact, a segment of Lebanese (how big I don’t know) who believes that the Lebanese state institutions have been “taken over” (or infiltrated or subjugated or whatever you wanna call it) by HA and therefore, these people feel that attacking the army is no different than attacking HA.
    You’ve heard them say it in not so many words in the past few days. These people believe with all their hearts that the LAF is part and privy to what these people call the “Iranian, Safavi project”.
    I am saying this to answer the question RedLeb asked about why these people thought it ok to attack the LAF and not HA.

    I will repeat that I am in no way one of those people. If you’ve read my comments over the past several years, you know I have zero sympathy for extremists of any sect and that I find conspiracy theories pretty freaking ridiculous. And this goes just as well for the various other “projects” the Lebanese seem convinced are hatched about them: be it the infamous “Zionist/Salafi project” (I find that one hilarious, simply by the juxtaposition of those 2 words) or be it the “Safavi, Wilayat Al Faqih, The Shia are out to get us all”.

    But just because I don’t believe in such idiocy doesn’t mean there aren’t all kinds of nutjobs who believe exactly that (and who go on arming and attacking accordingly).

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 25, 2013, 11:38 pm
  43. BV,

    Stop right there! there’s holes in your argument so your logic is null. Is that foul breakfast or Foul for Breakfast? 🙂

    Posted by Maverick | June 26, 2013, 12:23 am
  44. “Just come out and admit that Shiite Hezballa has won in Lebanon, they deserve to rule”

    What fantastic logic!

    Let’s all arm up to the teeth, as they say if you can’t beat them join them.

    Meanwhile that Elephant in the room just got humongous and the defence HA sympathizers are putting up is reactionary and short sighted.

    Posted by Maverick | June 26, 2013, 12:29 am
  45. BV.

    I never doubted that the belief system you elaborate is a valid phenomenon. I see it reinforced every day by those who are too sophisticated to believe in it themselves. The paid for play salafi thugees threaten more than just their sectarian “enemies”. Given the perilous times, wouldn’t the perception be that Assir & ilk are a part and portion of the Barbarian hordes howling at the gates? Whatever else, the meta message is that the unknown is coming closer and those whose duty it is to stand against all threats are being killed by those they have sworn to protect and serve. There’s a danger that the shrill rhetoric will isolate those raking fingernails on a chalkboard from the broader swath of the populace. Even more that Hezbollah, the LAF is the immediate target.

    One doesn’t need luminal to know which way the wind blowsback.

    Maverick:

    “At least if parties had the ‘intention’, lets start with a serious intention, maybe HA will be more accommodating. The army can have a special unit/Guerilla ops section under its command,”

    Even better would be many such specialized units trained by Hezbollah to be under their own eventual command. The threat horizon suggests a long-term demand for those skill sets.

    Posted by lally | June 26, 2013, 1:36 am
  46. It’s pretty simple. Lebanon should only have one defence force. Not 100.

    This is the sand QN was talking about that the Lebanese have their heads stuck in.

    Granted, disarming rogue militias will lead to civil war.

    IMHO, with Hezbollah and Assad busy destroying Syria, now would be a good time for the LAF to control the country and disarm rogue militias. The US and the EU should come to the aid of the LAF.

    King Abdullah is sweating, as usual…

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4397231,00.html

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 26, 2013, 7:14 am
  47. Lally

    See Mitch’s response above which I just freed from moderation.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 26, 2013, 7:52 am
  48. QN,

    No, the analogy doesn’t work. As BV said, you’ve posited that the small groups are cartels, so they will be in opposition with the police anyway.

    A better analogy is that (once upon a time) there was a big cartel in command of a large of the city which the police were helpless to do anything about. A vigilante group sprung up and they managed to kick the cartel out of the city. The vigilante group stayed, and soon the citizenry were in intense debate whether the vigilante group was really a vigilante group or a cartel in disguise.

    Then smaller groups started emerging saying they were vigilante groups out to defend people from the large vigilante group that was harassing people and acting like a cartel. Some people believed them, other saw them as mini cartels who are simply unhappy that the large vigilante group foils their plans for crime.

    And then one of the small ‘vigilante’ groups attacked the police.

    Now, to my mind, that means that these small ‘vigilante’ groups were never vigilante groups at all. They are just outlaws, and always were. They were just using people’s misgivings about the large vigilante group to cover their criminal acts. It’s irrelevant if you think the large vigilante group is criminal or not. The small ones attacking the policy definitely are, and their criminality is a product of their own thinking and behavior, and no one else’s.

    Posted by RedLeb | June 27, 2013, 5:59 am
  49. Hi RedLeb

    Thanks for your comment and for sharpening the terms of my thought experiment, but I’m still not sure I understand what the difference is between vigilante groups and cartels.

    To your main point, however. You say:

    “Then smaller groups started emerging saying they were vigilante groups out to defend people from the large vigilante group that was harassing people and acting like a cartel. Some people believed them, other saw them as mini cartels who are simply unhappy that the large vigilante group foils their plans for crime.”

    I think we need to be clear in this analogy that there is a very significant reason to believe that the large vigilante group is in fact harassing people and acting like a cartel. It’s not just in people’s heads. A police investigation, after all, turned up that the large group had assassinated prominent civic officials who were active critics of it. When the mayor tried to remove one of its official from a post and to shut down the group’s telecommunications network, it sent armed men to take over parts of the city in a show of force. Etc. etc.

    The criminality of the small groups is not at issue, at least for me. I am an agreement with you that they are outlaws, whether or not they attack the police. What I am saying, however, is that city officials don’t have the luxury of saying: “Well, people should just get over their misgivings about the large cartel and stop fearing it, and come to terms with the fact that it’s here to stay. People simply need to trust that it won’t use its weapons in a criminal manner, despite the existence of evidence to the contrary. People simply need to get over their silly emotional categories like “honor” and “dignity” and “rights”, despite the fact that the large cartel uses these very categories to justify its own actions. People need to forget about the fact that the large cartel is now sending its fighters to a neighboring city to get involved in a bloody urban war between the police and yet another group of vigilante groups, despite the potentially disastrous repercussions this could have on our city, if those groups decide to take revenge on our large cartel.”

    The situation is untenable as it stands. Something has to give. And I believe that Hizbullah needs to be part of the solution.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 27, 2013, 8:31 am
  50. QN,

    When you mention ” A police investigation, after all, turned up that the large group had assassinated prominent civic officials who were active critics of it”, are you referring to the STL tribunal on the assassination of Rafiq Hariri?

    I’m not sure if I would label Rafiq Hariri as an “active critic” of Hezbollah. After all, Nicholas Blanford, one of the journalist you quoted, mentions in both of his recent books that Hariri would meet Nasrallah quite often (I believe weekly if my memory is correct), and viewed him as one of the few Lebanese politicians he trusted the most. Hariri and Nasrallah actually had quite a closer relationship than people realize, and Hariri also bought into the resistance mantra that Hezbollah likes to presents itself.

    I still can’t see why Hezbollah would want Hariri dead, especially given that Nasrallah and Hariri had a close relationship. I nonetheless do agree that the arms situation right now is not sustainable, and that any lasting solution must involve the question of Hezbollah’s weapons.

    Posted by gbeaino | June 27, 2013, 9:17 am
  51. QN,

    I’m not arguing Hezballah is here to stay and you should get over it. Like a vigilante group, Hezballah has a legitimate reason for being (a 20 year occupation) but not the legitimacy of a state institution.

    Yes they have made mistakes and they can be heavy handed, but your unease at having a militia outside state control is not what animates people like Assir. That is my point. People who have a grievance with Hezballah’s actions, those who fear a spread of lawlessness because a militia is allowed to operate independently, do not set up their own militias and attack the state.

    Militias existed in Lebanon before Hezballah. The problem, as I said, is the weak state, which allows this phenomena to happen. Every party is armed, and the army doesn’t stop it. The army never stopped Assir from arming, but they retaliated when Assir attacked them. Hezballah doesn’t go around encircling army positions and accusing the army of being a Sunni Saudi Army.

    You have issues with arms outside the state. I have issues with arms outside the state. Assir and the groups in Tripoli have NO issue with arms outside the state. They have an issue with Hezballah’s arms. If they have arms outside the state, they’re more than happy with that. The media opposed to Hezballah is now having a field day with this ‘Hezballah fighting Assir under the cover of the army.’

    You might have an issue with a militia backing up the army, they couldn’t care less. If Assir backed up the army against Hezballah, they would call him the Hero of Heroes. Look at how Kotiech spends all his time spinning the narrative of Hezballah attacking the Sunnis with the cover of the LAF. He does not stop once to look at how someone the Sunni community looked up to fell off the deep end. He does not think it matters to question the rise of extremism and murder in the name of fighting Hezballah. He does not stop to learn from the lesson of supporting and nursing groups like Assir. (It is amazing how he sulks when condemning the murders like its an annoying obligation). March 14 does not see 18 soldiers dead at the whim of a madman, but a ‘plot’ and a ‘trap’ and an ‘Iranian invisible hand’.

    Posted by RedLeb | June 27, 2013, 9:31 am
  52. RedLeb said: “Yes they have made mistakes and they can be heavy handed, but your unease at having a militia outside state control is not what animates people like Assir. That is my point. People who have a grievance with Hezballah’s actions, those who fear a spread of lawlessness because a militia is allowed to operate independently, do not set up their own militias and attack the state.”

    Again, I am in agreement with you about what animates people like Assir. Since he and his ilk are a very small minority in the country, I am less concerned with what animates him than what animates the average Sunni who is afraid of Hizbullah and increasingly starts to believe that people like Assir can/should protect him. You might say that he’s being deceived by Assir, but my point is that Assir emerged as a consequence of people’s fears. He’s not the root cause of them.

    ” If Assir backed up the army against Hezballah, they would call him the Hero of Heroes.”

    Sure, but why does this matter to our discussion? I am not arguing that Assir’s group are a bunch of law-abiding democrats and that Hizbullah is an undisciplined gang of thugs. I am saying that any sectarian militia fighting alongside or in coordination with the army against another sectarian militia undermines the institution of the army and makes it vulnerable.

    “Look at how Kotiech spends all his time spinning the narrative of Hezballah attacking the Sunnis with the cover of the LAF. He does not stop once to look at how someone the Sunni community looked up to fell off the deep end. He does not think it matters to question the rise of extremism and murder in the name of fighting Hezballah. He does not stop to learn from the lesson of supporting and nursing groups like Assir.”

    Hold on a second. “Someone the Sunni community looked up to”? Let’s be serious. Assir was widely regarded as a freak phenomenon, including within the Sunni community. The Future Movement went out of its way to ridicule him, as the clip of Okab Sakr in the main post shows. He had his corner of radical followers, but in the world of Sunni politics, he was considered to be a dangerous individual. Even the most ferocious critics of Hizbullah — people like Saleh el Machnouk — found Assir to be abominable.

    I read Koteich very differently. He is precisely committed to “questioning the rise of extremism and murder in the name of fighting Hizbullah” but the answer he comes to is not that the “Sunni community” should stop “supporting and nursing groups like Assir,” (because it’s not the Sunni community writ large that is supporting and nursing them).The answer he comes to is that the real lesson we need to learn from Lebanese history is that the country will not hold together when one sect is massively armed.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 27, 2013, 10:45 am

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