I’m in Beirut for a few weeks this month, seeing family and attending weddings. The mood is eerily pleasant, though now that the Eid has passed everyone seems to be bracing themselves for the return to arms.
I caught up with my friend Abbas yesterday. Some of you may remember him from his appearances in the Conspiracy Chronicles series a few years ago. Abbas is in his forties and lives in Beirut with his wife and kids, where he works as a driver and bodyguard for a Lebanese businessman. He’s an ardent supporter of Hizbullah and grew up in South Lebanon under the boot of the SLA.
One of the last times we saw each other, we’d discussed the Syrian-Israeli peace negotiations, and Abbas had scoffed at the notion that Bashar al-Assad could possibly be serious about cutting a deal. “You’re going to tell me that an Alawite dictator is going to put his eggs in a Zionist basket and abandon the most popular political movement in the Arab world? For what? “Peace?” He won’t last a year,” he laughed.
When we sat down yesterday to chat, I asked Abbas what he thought of the situation in Syria and its reverberation on the Lebanese domestic scene. Here are some paraphrased highlights from our conversation.
So what do you think of the war in Syria?
It’s not going to end anytime soon. Everyone has shown their cards – the regime, the Arabs, the Europeans, the Americans, the Iranians – and they’re in it for the duration. Everybody’s all in. The Americans thought that Bashar would fall in a couple months and they were mistaken. Everywhere else in the region, the Americans were playing on their own playgrounds. In Egypt and Tunisia, they simply asked the army to step aside and the regimes crumbled. They couldn’t do that in Syria because Syria is not their playground. Al-Assad has his own army, and it’s a true army that won’t be pushed around.
They seem to be having trouble putting down the revolt though, don’t you think?
Assad’s mistake was that he didn’t act decisively enough. His father faced similar opposition in the 1980s and he was able to put it down in a few weeks. Bashar should have finished it off when he could have (kan lazim ya7simha). Instead, he gave the Saudis and Qataris an opportunity to pour fighters into Syria, and so now we have a full war.
Which is why Hizbullah got involved in al-Qusayr?
The Syrians don’t have experience with this kind of warfare. And actually, Hizbullah was also surprised by the tactics of the Nusra fighters. The Resistance lost a lot of men in al-Qusayr, but they were mostly killed at the beginning of the battle. The Hizb had taught its methods to Hamas who in turn taught them to the rebels. So for the first phase of the battle, the commanders had to study what was happening on the field and change tactics. They were up against larger numbers and a foe that was entrenched. By all accounts, the rebels should have won the battle, but the Hizb analyzed the situation rationally and figured out how to defeat them. In a fight, you have to use your brain, not just your muscles. Israel’s muscles are much larger than ours. But we’re smarter. This is the reason for the success of the Resistance.
But don’t you feel that the involvement of Hizbullah in Syria has had negative repercussions on Lebanon? The Sunni community is seething after all…
This is a matter of priorities. Our priority is the security of Lebanon. When the survival of our country is at stake, we can’t pay attention to what people on the street say. They don’t like it? That’s fine. We’re not trying to win a popularity contest. We’re defending Lebanon.
If the building next door to you is burning, you can’t wait for it to reach your house before you pull out a fire extinguisher. You have to go outside and put out the flames.
I don’t think that the boys in Tripoli see it that way.
That’s fine. If they have a different reading of the situation, let them pick up their rifles and go to Syria to fight. We’re fighting for what we believe in, and we believe that Lebanon will be in grave danger if it falls into the hands of Jabhat al-Nusra. These people cannot coexist with anyone, not even other Sunnis, let alone Christians, Druzes, and Shi`a. They’re even fighting other extremist Sunni groups in the opposition. If Syria falls to them, then Al-Qaida will have a base on the Mediterranean Sea. For some reason, the Americans and the Europeans are ok with this, but they call Hizbullah a terrorist organization for defending our country.
Jabhat al-Nusra is on the terror list, though. And the Americans have refrained from sending them weapons.
But they’re letting the Qataris and Saudis arm them to the teeth! I don’t understand US policy anymore. Do you? (Abbas became genuinely puzzled at this point) How do you explain their policy in Syria? Why would they be supporting Al-Qaida?
I think the Obama administration is looking for ways to not be involved. They’re doing just enough to cover themselves domestically while washing their hands of the conflict. This has opened space for their Arab allies to pursue Assad with a vengeance. What do you think the long-term scenario is?
There’s been too much blood for a return to the way it was before 2011. I can only see partition as a solution. Syria will have to be divided.
You mean an Alawite state and a Sunni state?
No, I think there will be a statelet for the radical Sunnis and then a state for everyone else. It’s either that, or they come to Lebanon.
That’s what we’re fighting against, habibi. It’s the only way. There can be no co-existence with these types of people. They call anyone who doesn’t think like them a heretic. They go into villages and massacre people because of their religion. They chop off the heads of their enemies and desecrate their graves. And the West embraces these terrorists while attacking Hizbullah, which didn’t raise a finger against its enemies in the South Lebanon Army after the Day of Liberation in 2000. The only way to deal with these terrorists is to kill them.
In the meantime… Lebanon? Government formation? What do you think?
Lebanon’s in the freezer. Nothing will happen here until someone wins in Syria. Our fates are intertwined. Neither side in Lebanon has enough strength to push through what they’d like, so we’re just going to have to wait.
What’s up with the souring relationship between Hizbullah and Aoun?
It’s fine. We disagree on a few domestic issues. Aoun wanted to hold elections and we felt that the time was not right. He felt that he could win a few seats at Geagea’s expense, but he wasn’t paying attention to the big picture. How could anyone secure a ballot box in Saida or Tripoli under the current conditions? Aoun’s problem is that he’s interested in scoring political points against his Christian rivals. But when you’re in politics you have to take the larger picture into consideration.
When the time comes, what kind of electoral law will be passed?
I don’t know. Our big problem in this country is that the political class is happy with the status quo and they depend on the majoritarian law to stay in power. What we need is proportional representation. Only under those circumstances will challengers to the existing leaders come about. Every sect, even the Shi`a, will see new people elected. This is why the politicians don’t want it. And even the Christians couldn’t agree on a law that served their purposes. So how do you expect anything to happen in Lebanon until Syria is settled?
People are saying that Hizbullah acted against al-Assir in Abra, but the Lebanese Army denied it. What do you think?
Of course they acted. And I don’t see anything wrong with that. Why should anyone be ashamed of admitting that they fought alongside the army to protect their country? I think Hizbullah should not be ashamed of stating this openly.
Obviously they felt that it would inflame sectarian tensions.
The sectarian tensions have been stoked by Sunni leaders, not by Hizbullah. Al-Assir was an idiot, but he was only the tip of the spear. All across the country, there are militias being formed and armed by the Saudis. Al-Assir was meant to just be the match that lit the powder keg. Fortunately, the Army – with the help of the Resistance – was able to defeat this plan.
I hear that Hamas is trying to quietly repair its relations with Hizbullah.
That’s probably true. And unfortunately, the Hizb will likely go along with it. I think that we’re too principled when it comes to Palestine. We need to be more tactical.
Why would you make amends with someone who betrays you? They’ll only do it again.
what about the 100,000+ killed civilians?
My Jihadi Friend NewZ
I caught up with my friend Abbas yesterday.
Ewww…Elias, how can you be friends with a Hizb supporter?? This is a sad reflection.
Elias you should listen to Akbar’s uestion and boycott at least half of the Lebanese people. Stick to Geagea supporters please when you visit Lebanon to attend weddings.
I’ll answer the other question above “what about the 100,000 civilians killed?” With another question: “what about the 200,000 Lebanese civilians killed from 1976 to 1989”? … All the parties to that conflict participated in the killing and when they decided to end it, it was back to business as usual with a moderate degree of reforms to the political system … They changed what internal and regional constraints allowed them to change, not more.
And they did not punish any of the warlords … Each one of them was responsible for ending the lives of tens of thousands of Lebanese.
In Syria the numbers (estimates) of the London based SOHR (a biased opposition outlet that is trying recently to be more reliable) says that out of the 100,000 killed at least 42,900 are from the government side: regular army soldiers + NDF (state trained civilians) and random “shabeeha” types.
So what about the 42,900 killed by opposition forces? … All sides are by now guilty of too many “unfortunate mistakes”.
Back to Abbas’ interview. I think the valuable piece if information (assuming he has some degree if access) is the part he reaffirmed what we heard elsewhere that the number if Hezbollah fighters in Qusayr was not large. The BBC documentary you posted on my wall Elias included an interview with one of the HA fighters from Qusayr who also said the same.
The number of foreign fighters and Syrian extremists is in the tens of thousands. Neither type takes orders from anyone … But Saudis and Qataris CAN start the process of ending a significant portion of the supplies to Alqaeda types (Syrians and foreign). Only the US can make that decision, the way it asked the Emir if Qatar to step aside and let Saudi and its Syrian tools take the lead now.
There will be years of car bombs and minor battles with Akqaeda types in Syria and perhaps Iraq and Lebanon. The world will not really object to watching the Syrian army fight them (with occasional help from its friends).
The Middle East has many complex conflicts that state department and White House gave up on trying to come up with that magical formula for a solution to each or any of those… The hope now is that chaos (Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq …) will produce an easier (Random) outcome with a new balance if power that facilitates solutions as previously balanced forces from the two sides of each conflict turn into a winner and a loser which helps put an end to the relevant conflicts.
Maybe politicians all around the western world should pay attention to this setence regardeless where it comes from: “If Syria falls to them, then Al-Qaida will have a base on the Mediterranean Sea”
As a Sunni, I don’t know what I want any more. I didn’t think a time would come when I would think it better that Assad stayed.
talking of years of car bombs … Beirut’s southern district just experienced one.
As a Sunni, I don’t know what I want any more. I didn’t think a time would come when I would think it better that Assad stayed.
Let me help you out. You probably want peace, basic human rights, freedom, and some opportunity to make a living. That is probably why you used to think better that Assad was gone. I would back those who share your vision of how you would want to live.
Elias you should listen to Akbar’s question and boycott at least half of the Lebanese people.
Wait, we found someone who isn’t in love with Hezbollah! Amazing, but true! He/she must be a Zionist Spy!
Is it so obvious who will provide peace, basic human rights, freedom, and some opportunity to make a living? You are stating the problem as the solution.
I have a hard time believing that Hizb’s aim is to protect Lebanon from radical sunnis. They already are in Lebanon and have been for many a years. Of course it pays off to frame Hizb’s intervention in Syria in those terms. Funny though how radical sunnis are threatening to take the war to Lebanon because of Hizb’s intervention in Syria; today’s bomb is, I fear, just the beginning.
Is it so obvious…
Try Movement of the Future. They seem to be on the right track…
Of course it pays off to frame Hizb’s intervention in Syria…
Basically, you have a group of towel-heads supporting a self-appointed dictator who refused to step down, and subsequently ruined a country. What else do you need to know?
This is a first time comment. Some may not like it. But what the heck?! Considering the tone of Abbas the Shi’a southerner, dahiya resident, Assad-fan, Hassan Abu Nus Lsan worshiper in this comic interview, I decided to make the comment nevertheless.
Here it is.
At the cost of sounding gleeful, I hope Abbas and the rest of the half-tongued Nasrallah fans will find enough fire extinguishers for the Dahiya today. It is about time you guys drink from the same cup you serve to others.
So Abbas thinks Bashar kan lazim ya7simha. Fair enough, it looks like the Aisha Brigades are up in full arms and about to yahsimo tha matter right in the middle of your sewer-residing abu nus lsan den of the scorpion. I doubt Bashar had the means or the will to effect any such wishful thinking of hasm. Let’s see what your terrorist nus lsan and Bashar’s will accomplish in the about-to fall Lattakya not to mention Deraa and Damascus.
Long live the Aisha Brigades and the free people of Syria.
If enough Lebanese and arabs shared your sentiments, Hassan wouldn’t have a job, and he’d have to sell pita and zatar to make a living.
August 14, 2013, Nasrallah, : We will cut off their feet should they try crossing the border and entering Lebanon.
August 15, 2013 Aisha Brigade crosses border and detonates a massive explosive in Nasrallah’s core constituency.
Either they are either related or Nasrallah and the gang have their eyes on the wrong border! RIP to all innocent victims.
Neither here nor there, but in the civilized world, when some kind of terrorist attack happens, proper protocol is for authorities to let the investigation take its course, before making accusatory statements of any kind. It’s part of the culture of due process, etc.
Gotta love how everybody from Jumblatt, to Suleiman to Berri were quick to claim that this was the work of Israel.
How can they possibly know this before the investigation has completed? Of course they don’t.
I guess it’s not the accuracy of those statements that bothers me so much, it’s merely the culture we have in Lebanon of spouting at the mouth and having no respect for judicial or investigative protocols or processes.
I suppose in the real world, officials don’t spout out accusations because there can be serious repercussions to wrongly accusing a party or individual (lawsuits, diplomatic breakdowns, etc.), while in Lebanon, there are no repercussions for spewing hot air. Everytime something happens, everyone screams at the top of their lungs “it’s the Israelis!” or “It’s the Syrians!” or “It’s HA!” and life goes on exactly as it was before.
Passerby and Akbar Palace, you are both repulsive and lack human decency.
I don’ know about Akbar Palace. But I feel it already. I’ll be losing sleep tonight.
Have a sweet – the mabroume looks particularly deicious – and stuff your Vulcan mouth/ears.
What did I say that offended you? Obviously someone is upset with HA. They were the target. Of course, if any innocent people were killed that would be a crime. If only Hezbollah were a target, I’d say good shot.
We need to see what exactly occurred. Obama targets enemies half-way around the world, Israel targets Hamas next door, so I don’t see a big difference unless they missed the HA target.
Passerby: That video is repulsive. Seriously. I am perfectly happy to see scum like Hezollah get smacked around, but you don’t hand out candy when people die. That is sick. Really sick. What the hell is worng with Arab culture? This is not isolated. I have seen it in Gaza, too. I am not sure whether it is demented or pathetic or what, but celebrating deaths, even deaths of your enemy, is depraved.
I agree with you. NEVER glorify death. I didn’t see the video.
You dongetit ha?
Celebrating death of enemies – Harriri, Tueyni, Gemayel, Hasan and many others – was started by Hasan abu nus-lsan and his pathetic idiotic followers.
So, now it is time drink from the same cup you serve others.
More sweets are yet to come and spare me your repulsive nonesense.
It is a battle till the finish. Only one will survive: the one who can make the hasm and it is neither Bashar nor abu nus-lsan.
It is the Aisha Brigades.
So you want us to imitate the barbarians we are fighting?
My beef with nus-lira and dog-poop athad and their sniffers is real. Is humanistic and it is primarily because they devalued the lives of Syrians and Lebanese with a nod and a cheer from those “progressive” sectarians hiding under secular garbs” blindly serving the grandiose fantasies of a seventh rate power like Iran.
So on my side, anyone bringing baqlawa around me in celebration of death will leave my side wearing “صينيه” as a hat and will have its face indistinguishable from the baqlawa it is trying to serve.
In the meantime, all enjoy Otrakji’s statistication.
Welcome back to QN. I take it you don’t have friends who are pro-nus-lira?? 😉
Glad to see the Syrian opposition is making some gains. Once Syria stops following orders from Iran, the muqawamistas from HA and Iran will be stewing in their own juices.
Your preferences for Hamachi over sweet things are noted. Next time will make special order.
Love the “Arabism” on this blog that is so ingrained that in the last three posts no one has called out the Zionist assigned to this blog for referring to Arabs as “towel heads”. But I guess readership is down as AIG seems to have been reassigned….
Get over the towel head comment. Nus-lira is a “towel head”, or a violent schmuck if you prefer. Moderate imans and islamic clerics who are pro-freedom are NOT towel heads, no matter how large their hat is.
AIG is now full time on my Facebook page full time … I guess “Otrakji’s Statistication” is not too boring.
I love the harmony of feelings and objectives displayed in the comments above … The usual trinity of Right wing Israelis and Americans plus Hariri (Almoustaqbal) or Geagea Lebanese plus Syrians who hate Assad, a coalition that I have been encountering online since I started being active in 2005. This group is so coherent for a decade now … it deserves its own country. Yalla unite and you can all fight more effectively the evil Shia axis. Don’t be embarrassed you are in full agreement with right wing Israel. The new enemy is Iran. Israel is here to promote democracy in the Arab World.
بعد ناقصنا واحد اوتركجي اعجمي٠
روح عبلادك باصقاع ايران اللي نفتك وبلا كل هوا٠
شو ما منعرف شو بعني اوتركجي٠
شي بهوي هوا٠
طيب شو يعني اعجمي؟
ايران؟ … لا والله. جدي من تركيا
على العموم بم انك مثقف وفهمان، رح اقترح عليك هالفيديو يللي طوله ساعة. مشان تحكم أكثر دقةً عن أراء اوتركجي العجمي
…plus Syrians who hate Assad, a coalition that I have been encountering online since I started being active in 2005.
Glad to know AIG is full time on your website, because like the group you so despise here, AIG has already deemed Assad as “Zionist of the Year”. I doubt he’s changed your mind.
The usual trinity of Right wing Israelis and Americans…
I won’t bother finding the “trademark” symbol to place after the “right wing Israel” phrase, but really, EVERYONE in Israel hates Assad: Left/Center/Right. Get real. Even the Druze, Israeli and Palestinian arabs hate him.
Thank you Bashar for uniting Arabs & Jews!
انت مفكر انو بهمني اراء واحد اوتراكجي اعجمي؟
فعلا انك بتهوي هوا
روح عبلادك في اصقاع ايران على حدود تركيا
ما الك فت خبز ببلادنا
وما بهمنا رايك ابدا
Looks like Google Translate goes from Arabic to Gibberish automatically…
You thinker Llano Bahmani views one Aotrakja the outlandish?
Actually you Bthua Hua
Spirit Abladk in parts of Iran on the borders of Turkey
What Çáß fat in our country bread
You want to know the translation? You don’t go to google. This is colloquial Arabic specific to certain parts of the Arab world.
But here it is courtesy of no charge:
Com’n, you think I care less for the opininion of some Otrakji foreigner (i.e. non-Arab)?
Truly you’re full of empty farts!
Get to hell into the far reaches of Iran on the borders with Turkey.
You have no sustenance in our countries.
And we never care about your opinion.
I missed the “towel-head” remark.
Akbar please refrain from such slurs or find yourself banned permanently.
Your unconditional love of assad is touching. It is all rational….. isn’t it.
Syrian Hampster. “your unconditional love for Assad” is your way of escaping the rationality in what I am saying. Where do you see such one-sided assessment of President Assad?
Take a look at 43:00 for example:
And so spoke who?…. LOL.