Hezbollah, Lebanon, March 14, Syria

A Levantine Dystopia


Yesterday, following the suicide bombing in Haret Hreik, Hizbullah’s deputy secretary-general Naim Qassem warned that Lebanon was on “the road to ruin”. Such statements have become just as routine as the security incidents that prompt them. Political figures and newspaper columnists tell us daily that Lebanon risks opening the gates of hell, that it teeters on the brink of the abyss, that the worst-case scenario will soon be upon us. Grave euphemisms and portents of doom pretend to invite a sober accounting of the situation, but they actually function as palliatives to keep the grittiest realities at bay.

A member of my family has the habit of asking me to predict Lebanon’s future. “Is it safe to go out in the streets today?” she asks me. “Is this neighborhood secure?” “What’s going to happen next?” Much to her annoyance, I am allergic to prognostication, but in light of the recent events at Starco and in al-Dahiya, and in the vain hope that such an exercise might have some apotropaic value, I’ve broken custom and written the following essay. Whether it is of any relevance to Lebanon’s future or just a reflection of my dark mood is for you to decide.


What is the worst-case scenario? Let’s dispense with the PG-rated version and be adults, shall we? In 2014, Lebanon’s worst-case scenario begins with a sequence of car bombs targeting various mosques, embassies, and party headquarters in al-Dahiya, Tripoli, Sidon, and downtown Beirut. The tit-for-tat bombings rapidly become more brazen and spectacular, going after busy residential and commercial areas, major hotels, and even that long-discussed assassination attempt of a Shiite leader that Nabih Berri has been warning us about for years. (The Esteez escapes unharmed, natch.)

By early March, the civilian death toll is in the several hundreds. Hospitals are filled to capacity; calls for blood donations are announced daily; the economy totters; the banks eye their softening credit ratings; foreign nationals are recalled; sales of alcohol, weapons, and drugs skyrocket; schools are closed two days out of five.

Strained to capacity, the Lebanese Army stands by as Hizbullah re-establishes its security cordon in South Beirut and various Sunni “neighborhood watches” take control of large swaths of Tripoli. Salafist suspects are arrested and a prison riot at Roumieh results in the deaths of a dozen security guards and a near jail break. Ahmad al-Assir releases a fire-and-brimstone videotape (from somewhere in northern Syria, it is said) vowing revenge and calling for jihad against the Lebanese Army.

Hizbullah’s mood remains defiant as the party doubles down on its commitment in Syria, cycling hundreds of fighters in and out each month.  Nasrallah continue to speak of an existential struggle in Syria, while hinting darkly at the consequences of forming a government without his party’s involvement. Roads to ruin, gates of hell, you get the idea…

Meanwhile, the UN prosecutors for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon begin presenting their case against Hizbullah. Each day, the M14 press reports on a new batch of evidence linking Mr. Ayyash and co. to the Hariri assassination. The M8 media yawns and dismisses the spectacle as an Israeli pantomime for external consumption, even as they blame the deteriorating security situation at home on a foreign conspiracy. Coincidentally, open season is declared again on March 14th-allied politicians, military officials, and media figures. Many of them leave the country. When they return, they are surveilled by nameless assassins and liquidated in their decoy cars.

With the arrival of spring, Syria’s masses stumble out of their beleaguered winter fastnesses, only to find the skies full of barrel bombs, hurtling down at them from Syrian Army helicopters. The death tolls are sickening. Tens of thousands of civilians flee across Syria’s borders each week. The refugees in Lebanon now amount to a third of the country’s population. There are more destitute Aleppan Sunnis living in refugee camps than there are Lebanese Druzes, Alawites, Evangelicals, Protestants, and Roman Catholics combined. People mutter sourly about adding “refugee” to Lebanon’s list of official communities and granting them seats in Parliament.

Militias begin to form in the camps despite the siege-like efforts of the LAF to contain them and the constant surveillance of Hizbullah intelligence and Syrian mukhabarat. When an ISIS-linked group tries to declare one of the camps an Islamic state and impose sharia law, Lebanon’s Christians and Druzes decide they’ve seen enough. The LF, Kata’ib, and PSP quietly resuscitate their wartime paramilitary units and begin covert training programs to transition their truant children from Call of Duty to real mountain combat.

By early autumn, clashes between Syrian refugee militias in Lebanon, Tripolitan platoons led by the umara al-aziqqa, SSNP fighters, and Hizbullah black-shirts are routine. There’s a security incident every other day. A suicide bomber attacks the funeral of a major Hizbullah commander killed in Syria, killing dozens of mourners. Two days later a high-ranking intelligence official from a Gulf Arab state is assassinated in his hotel room in a Central European country.

As the year draws to a close, Lebanon exists in a state of low-intensity civil war. The Army has begun to fracture along sectarian lines. Saudi-bought French weaponry begins to arrive, but the army’s arsenals are raided by militia groups, and sophisticated bomb jamming devices begin appearing on the tops of warlord convoys in the refugee camps. Hizbullah fears it is over-committed in Syria so Iran sends IRGC special-ops groups to man command stations in case of an Israeli attack, which looks increasingly likely as Abdullah Azzam Brigade rocket attacks into northern Israel become a weekly occurrence. The refugee crisis grows worse by the day. The borders are un-policeable. The economy is in free fall. Even Skybar has to initiate an evening happy hour to attract weekend revelers.

The struggle grows more “existential” despite the reality that, as in Syria, there is less and less to fight over with each passing day. This is the worst-case scenario.

Happy New Year.


67 thoughts on “A Levantine Dystopia

  1. Always beautifully written w down to earth predictions. Low grade civil war better than falling apart and all the other populist dramatic predictions but still tremendous suffering for people. Our thoughts are w you.

    Posted by moises venancio | January 3, 2014, 12:20 pm
  2. The frightening thing is that it is utterly plausible.

    Posted by Jim Reilly | January 3, 2014, 12:27 pm
  3. I’m not sure why this is a worst-case scenario, rather than a base-case.

    Posted by OH | January 3, 2014, 1:25 pm
  4. And maybe a Sabra and Chatila style massacre of the Syrians in the camps?

    Posted by melmakko | January 3, 2014, 2:08 pm
  5. With the civil war in Syria, the “mini” civil war in Iraq and the tit for tat fighting in Lebanon, it’s time for the world powers to rethink the geographical map of the region. The people of different faiths and tribes in the region can not function together in their respective countries. Time for a new map to be drawn in the middle east along confessional and tribal lines. Enough fighting, there will never be peace otherwise, not to say that partition is the going to guarantee peace, but it’s really the only chance these people have some form of a civilized life.

    Posted by MEM | January 3, 2014, 2:38 pm
  6. I’m just a little more optimistic about Lebanon because the civil war is still living memory and the leaders understand the futility of a civil war. In addition, it is not in anybody that matter’s interest. Neither M14 nor M8 will benefit from a civil war and neither will the Saudis or Iranians. Lebanon is only valuable to all sides as a functioning entity. Like a good parasite, Hezbollah knows that if it kills Lebanon, it dies too or at the very least will be severely weakened (I am not talking about Lebanese Shia, but about Hezbollah as an organization). Hezbollah cannot take outright control of Lebanon either because then the Lebanese economy will crumble under Saudi and Western sanctions, let alone the security mess they will inherit. The bottom line is that there is no one who wants a civil war in Lebanon or does not understand its dire consequences, and maybe that would be enough to halt further escalation.

    What I am less optimistic about now are the chances for an Israeli-Hezbollah war. I think that the chances for such a war have gone up. My assessment is that Israeli decision makers feel that Hezbollah is isolated enough and too busy with Syria and internal Lebanese issues, that a strike against its weapon caches may not lead to a long war but to a limited one. The Israeli Air force has undergone a major change and technological advance and at some point in time, Israeli politicians may be tempted to employ it: http://www.defensenews.com/article/20131027/DEFREG04/310270010/Israel-Air-Force-Plan-Shoots-10-Fold-Boost-Bombs-Target

    Posted by AIG | January 3, 2014, 2:56 pm
  7. AIG, ineresting analysis. I don’t quite see the validity of the reasoning you attribute to Israeli decision makers. The reality is that if Israel does strike Hezbollah assets, they will be doing them a favor because they will create conditions for a whole bunch of entities/countries/etc. to rally behind Hezbollah. This will not be good. Even if things escalate in the end and cause an obliteration of Hezbollah assets (and with it, as collateral damage, taking Lebanon back to the stone age), the conditions Israel will find itself in at the end, in terms of the International Community positions and even U.S. positions, will be detrimental to future economic and political prospects of Israel.
    I rather see Israeli decision makers content with watching the various parties weaken each other, sometimes destroy each other, all the while improving the advantage for Israel. No?

    Posted by honestpatriot | January 3, 2014, 4:54 pm
  8. QN, why so optimistic?

    Posted by honestpatriot | January 3, 2014, 4:56 pm
  9. HP,

    1) Who is going to rally behind Hezbollah except those who already support it? In fact, I think many in the Arab world would be happy to see Hezbollah hit.
    2) Israel is only going to attack Hezbollah if they continue to transfer advanced weapons from Syria. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/03/world/middleeast/hezbollah-is-said-to-transfer-missiles.html
    3) The idea is to have a short air campaign that targets Hezbollah weapon caches under the assumption that Hezbollah might not want to escalate it into a full fledged war in which both they and Lebanon would be greatly harmed. Of course it is a risk, but perhaps it is a risk worth taking. Hezbollah would not be going to all this effort to get advanced missiles if they don’t plan to use them one day and Israel does not want those missiles endangering its gas and oil facilities which are starting production offshore and are also being further developed.

    Israel needs to make sure the gas and oil can be developed without external threats.

    Posted by AIG | January 3, 2014, 5:28 pm
  10. One should never make predictions, especially about the future 🙂

    Posted by Epok | January 3, 2014, 5:31 pm
  11. Militias in the camps? People barely have a blanket in those camps and the numbers are soaring everyday. Quite different than the Palestinian camps of the 1950s and even then it took over a decade for significant militias to emerge.

    Posted by habib | January 3, 2014, 6:33 pm
  12. The funny (sad) thing is that with different actors, this reads exactly like 1969-1975 or thereabouts.
    I recall writing something on this blog, several years ago (this is around the time of the May 2008 events, and the then-nascent argument about HA’s weapons) that Lebanon of 2010 was almost exactly like Lebanon of 1975. Different actors, but the exact same dynamics. And my prediction at the time was not too different than what QN just described here.

    Granted, it may not come to this exact scenario, but I think it quite plausible.

    My point here being that, to all those who have argued about how “things are different now” or “never again the civil war” or “Lebanon may have its faults, but it’s come a long way since the civil war years”…Well, Lebanon has not progressed ONE IOTA since 1975. Despite the pain and suffering, despite the supposed “lessons learned”, despite the progress of the world around us, etc. Not a thing has changed.


    Posted by Bad Vilbel | January 3, 2014, 6:42 pm
  13. Also, how about a best case scenario?

    Posted by Habib Battah (@habib_b) | January 3, 2014, 7:19 pm
  14. As has been already mentioned, it is all the more frightening because it is all plausible, and I believe a bit of a reflection of the darkest of your moods…! But just to say that I don’t believe Syrian refugees will become violent in Lebanon, compared to Palestinians, as this time, the entire population would be against them. This is a little bit of what is happening today, if not “against” them, than not very welcoming towards them, not because they are Syrians, but because of the tensions they are raising in the communities they are living in and the competition they are becoming to the average Lebanese…

    Back to the more sentimental side of things, it’s all the more depressing just because very few of us are able to be hopeful anymore, even the most optimistic among us. You wonder whether, at this point, optimism is a sign of naivety…

    Posted by Eye on the East | January 3, 2014, 7:45 pm
  15. Well I think you should have refrained from breaking your initial custom and nt write this “essay”. You’re actually doing the same thing as the political figures and newspapers you seem to criticize. I don’t know in what world you’reliving, anyway what you’re saying is totally unrealistic.

    Posted by Camille | January 3, 2014, 9:08 pm
  16. The fact that HA hasn’t flipped the Israel card is almost a miracle. Obviously, killing Syrians opposed to Assad has had priority. Who knew?


    I don’t believe this proported new technology. I think another 2006 War will result in very similar results.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | January 3, 2014, 9:42 pm
  17. The ‘no one wants to go back to civil war’ argument doesn’t apply in this scenario, or any other iteration of ‘the slow creep’ to war. What people want just doesn’t matter. And I think few of us would be all that surprised to see something like this come to pass this year.

    Still, as several others have mentioned, as bleak and depressing as QN’s scenario may be, I’d say this vision represents the intersection point of ‘worst case’ and ‘most likely case’, rather than worst (realistically possible) case, full stop. Let’s not tempt the gods by being the hapless character who says “this day can’t possibly get any worse”…

    Posted by c | January 4, 2014, 2:35 am
  18. الله اكبر
    What about a Dahieh Spring?

    Posted by Nadim Shehadi | January 4, 2014, 6:19 am
  19. I have got to say that humans have a very poor ability to predict anything, so I won’t agree or disagree with the points made, simply show how different the current situation is to anything we’ve seen in the past.

    1) Lebanon has never, in its history, had a dominant military power that is Lebanese. Until now. In times past no militia ever had the power that the dominant external power (Syria or Israel usually) did. Today there is no regional power (and certainly no international power) that can counter Hezballah in Lebanon. This has a major implication: when you know you have to live in this country forever, you take care not to make enemies of the the “others” and you take care to keep whatever of value can be conserved (constitution, state structures, army, environment) in good condition. Scorched earth is definitely out of the question.

    2) There are no credible armed organisations outside of Hezballah and the state security apparatus. This in contrast to times past when there were often several well armed and dangerous local factions in addition to foreign players. The more arms and the more players, the higher the likelihood of chaos.

    3) The armed elements of Lebanese society are not run by emotion. In contrast to militias past which behaved unpredictably, both the army and Hezballah have a long track record of non-reactivity. Of course both will use violence when they believe it is necessary (Nahr El Bared, May 2008) but they do not react violently when provoked (much to the chagrin of their enemies). This is why violence has not and will not “spiral” anywhere.

    4) The sunni will not form a militia because they do not feel threatened. There is no sense in which the sunni population is threatened in Lebanon (except by random car-bombings and the like). The last Sunni Militia was formed with Saudi money before May 2008. That type of group could be formed again, being low grade mercenaries, but they will not pose a threat to Lebanon’s stability. In the past they could rely on Palestinian militias, but these are now defanged.

    5) Economically Lebanon can survive anything. Given the diaspora. So whereas Bashar Al Assad needs external financial support, the Lebanese economy will never fall into that type of crisis. [I know this is not different from the past, but I think it is an important point].

    Posted by Epok | January 4, 2014, 11:55 am
  20. Epok,

    I think you made some very good points. However, what if the Syria conflict spills into Lebanon and manages to engulf or weaken Hezbollah. Also there are signs Sunnis are starting to “show” their disgust of HA and vice versa (bombings).

    The longer the conflict in Syria goes on, I think the more likely Sunnis in Lebanon WILL feel threatened. Didn’t t
    he Lebanese army fire at Syrian jets recently?

    Posted by Akbar Palace | January 4, 2014, 8:03 pm
  21. 1: I am cheered by AIG’s analysis! If he has faith in Armageddon not happening…

    2: Refugee camps mentioned in the essay, Palestinian camps from the previous century mentioned a couple of times in the comments, but what about the Palestinian refugee camps of the 21st century QN? Three generations and still not part of the Lebanese future?

    I’m not implying that you think that of course (!), but what world happen to Badawi, al-Bas, and Wavel in this new grim future? Bottom of the pile? Access to agency? Access to self-defence?

    Posted by JH | January 4, 2014, 10:07 pm
  22. What about the best case scenario? Happy new year 🙂

    Posted by Sahar | January 5, 2014, 4:29 am
  23. JH

    You know where I stand on the future of the Palestinians in Lebanon.


    Posted by Qifa Nabki | January 5, 2014, 11:13 am
  24. Akbar Palace,

    Undoubtedly time is not on our side as things stand. If the war in Syria continues, at some point things will degrade further in Lebanon. Hezballah is, I suppose, susceptible to being weakened if the battles continue too long. I don’t claim to know enough about them as a military force to know how much of a beating they can take, but I suspect that until now they are probably, other than losing a few men and gaining experience, more or less unaffected by what has happened so far in that their home base is unscathed. Losing their Syrian ally would, on the other hand, be a huge blow.

    As for the bombings, I don’t believe, based on my obviously incomplete observation of sunni (and other sects) in Lebanon (I am Christian, my partner is sunni, her mom is Shia, my step mom is shia, my business partner is sunni) that many people feel threatened in the immediate present by HA. They often speak about an abstract long-term threat to their community, but no one is afraid to go through Dahiye or take the airport road. As for HA, they may feel threatened by terrorism because it threatens Lebanon and they live here, but I don’t think the party’s leadership and structure are threatened and their popular base, if anything, is strengthened (I think a typical reaction to terror is to search for protection from terrorists and, if you live in places like Dahiye, you turn toward HA and, to a lesser extent the army).

    My fervent hope is that Geneva will result in some kind of realignment inside Syria and amongst the various external backers that will reduce the pressure on Lebanon. I can’t help but remark that the only real backer that the extremist/violent elements of the Syrian insurgency have right now is Saudi Arabia (a non-monolitic entity to be sure, but where a big current is financing and enabling the Qaeda types). The Saudi’s are also putting an enormous amount of pressure on the exceedingly fragile Lebanese domestic situation. Perhaps a clear post-geneva alignment including the previously opposed parties (Turkey/US/Iran/Russia/China etc) would convince the Saudis to put an end to their current policy, deflate the terror balloon, and help end the War on Iraq and Syria.

    btw, kudos to the various commentators for remaining civil and thoughtful…a rarity in ME politics and perhaps a first for an online discussion forum on the subject! Bravo…

    Posted by Epok | January 5, 2014, 11:54 am
  25. Epok,

    Thanks for the reply. Your explanation as well as AIG’s makes me believe HA will “rule the roost” in Lebanon for the foreseable future.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | January 5, 2014, 2:02 pm
  26. You and me both, Aga. You and me both…

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | January 5, 2014, 6:11 pm
  27. Aga! I just couldn’t keep a straight face with the anonymous moniker anymore… Six people have googled me since I posted though – that makes me feel like a winner! At home with Ruby watching the Packers…

    Posted by Alexander Matthew Key | January 5, 2014, 7:13 pm
  28. Happy Hour at Skybar? Man, that is a heavyweight prediction.

    Posted by Indiana Withnail | January 5, 2014, 7:14 pm
  29. Interesting post and comments. From a realpolitik perspective (the favorite although outdated approach of both HA and Iranian political strategists), the decision making about Lebanon will take place in the next two months. Only a rapprochement between Iran and the US, and some kind of offering to the Saudis in Geneva (a future departure date for Assad but keeping the army in charge of a transition government representing FSA and intent on changing the constitution) could move things in the right direction. Locally, HA and Suleiman will strike a deal to form a government based on consolidating the army and protecting Lebanon from further descent into chaos (HA will adjust its priorities based on the creation of some kind of Taef accord for Syria where Sunnis will take on the presidency while minorities are protected constitutionally and by “forgiving and forgetting” the army’s crimes). If the FSA and the Syrian regime will focus on cleaning house and setting up a post Baath government HA can leave Syria.

    Obviously all this is contingent on solving the Syrian crisis by assuaging the Saudis and promising a graceful exit for Assad/Baathists that keeps political control of the territory with a transformed army supplemented by Turkish trained FSA garrisons.

    In less than two months, a government will be formed no matter what. The desire to keep a semblance of political maneuvering may bring a 9-9-6 cabinet with a possible plus 1 for the president, at least until it is determined what will happen to the presidency.

    All this is obviously fiction that may be as plausible as the dystopian essay above that underestimates the need for HA to be realistic about having a government and a stable Lebanon. HA cannot run the country without the army and that is something that can be used to drive them to a negotiated way out of the impasse.

    Posted by Parrhesia | January 5, 2014, 9:51 pm
  30. If HA didn’t see a threat to Assad in Syria, they would have never entered. Now they have entered, they will not be able to leave unless some settlement can be made, but this won’t happen for quite some time. Just like Assad’s hold on Syria, HA’s hold on Lebanon will never be the same. An opportunity exists in Lebanon to set things right, but the will must be there.

    Posted by MEM | January 5, 2014, 10:37 pm
  31. Thank you Parrhesia. Very interesting.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | January 5, 2014, 11:02 pm
  32. Hold on, hold on . . . this has to be the work of just a few Muslims – the “extremist” & “radicalised” ones – ’cause I swear I keep hearing how moderate Muslims are… just a peace-loving people.

    Hmmm… Islam is the religion of peace as evidently portrayed throughout the middle east… I mean would anyone even dare to say otherwise?!

    Posted by George | January 6, 2014, 4:04 am
  33. Haram, haram for all Lebanese people. There is only one God for Christians, Sunni’s, Shiites and Alawites ! ! !

    Posted by Harry van Poppel | January 6, 2014, 5:30 pm
  34. Playing this game, I can foretell that the Syrian Army will have to come back to Lebanon at one point, especially to its Northern geography hosting the al qaeda types ( irrespective of regional nomenclature). March 14 has preemptively shot itself in the foot (well, March 14 is a shot in the Lebanese foot). Lebanese and Syrian armies will liase in this matter. Hezbullah will probably play a role although i see them as being extremely cautious in taking military action on lebanese grounds. Lebanon in Syria and Syria in Lebanon, each helping the other fight its war for mutual benefits. The distinction betweeen the religiously fanatical hawks in March 14 and alQaeda types will and are already collapsing; their secular components will and are being marginalized and corrupted -willingly or not- to suit an extremist palette Iraq will have a very important role in terms of intelligence naturally. Hopefully-and yet unhappily- the GCC is to face great domestic turmoil…which migh mitigate the prowess of terrorism in the levant region. This might take more than a year…
    I completely disagree with comparisons to the civil war and dynamics thereof – we are at a unique regional and global junction and we are arrivbing at a novel elucidation of alignments. Remember, the events take place in a new geopolitical reality that is a unique synthesis of an unfolding of pre-set plans (of the ‘new middle east order’ order) and the opportunistic exploitation of emerging or reemerging global powers and conditions.
    Furthermore, as has been stated previously herein, the role and status of Hezbollah is incompatible with the description of a militia however its opponents wish to portray it. Moreover, Hezbollah has -rightfully- compromised its past agenda of a ‘political islam’ within multifactional Lebanon and has managed to place itself , in relation to colonialism and the zionist enemy, within the space of waning leftist tendencies. It is -love it or not- a very specific and socio-culturally sophisticated entity, endemically lebanese and shiite, determined proportionally in relation to a traditionally incapacitated state, Lebanon. Calling it a militia or equating it to one is misrepresentative and uninspired.

    Posted by Trinkets | January 7, 2014, 1:23 am
  35. For the Arabic impaired, an interesting Creepy twitter account of a British ISIS member.


    Last time I checked Jihadi Brits and Saudis don’t need Visas to enter Lebanon….

    My prediction is a new Islamic country will be declared inside Lebanon. My money is on dawlatul-aarsal

    Posted by tamer k | January 8, 2014, 3:02 am
  36. Epok says:

    Lebanon has never, in its history, had a dominant military power that is Lebanese (HA)


    There are no credible armed organisations outside of Hezballah and the state security apparatus.

    I will remind you that prior to 2011, Syria only had one credible armed organization (The Syrian regime and security apparatus) and a dominant military power that was Syrian.
    Look at Syria now…

    If you think that just because HA is the only force on the ground today, there’s no way things may fall apart, you are mistaken.
    When there is the will and the finances (foreign, as the case often is), militias can spring seemingly out of nothing. And when they do, they can spiral out of control and become very powerful pretty quickly.
    You think Al-Nusra or ISIS or whatever was a strong military presence before the Syrian uprising? Nope. They were created seemingly out of nothing. And yet, they have been powerful enough to bring Syria to near ruin.
    There is no reason that cannot happen in Lebanon too, given the right backers.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | January 8, 2014, 7:53 pm
  37. ISIS and al Nusra benefitted greatly from Afganistan’s soviet era islamicist militants. They’re hardly ‘home grown’. And anyway, we already see the result of their influx into lebanon and the palestinian camps. I would not describe them as militias either – a word thats being used far too liberally semantically and contextually- rather, they have a globalist colonizing perpective. The problem with the word ‘militia’ is that it is such a general term that may well lead to misrepresentation by not conveying determinative information. For instance, the phalangists and Amal did not seek to conquer the levant, happy arabia and beyond – these were veritable militias.
    I would say, however, that within their own breed (extremist sectarian islamicists), they may (de)compose (into) combative militias – in relation to each other. We see them now fighting each other. On that footing, yes they are militias within their fictional shariah empire that was not given a chance to materialize (fat chance- at most, competing self disintegrating ’emirates’; nosson -if not more- are 2ortit traditional zo3ran, corruptible and hardly purist in reality (refer to ISIS claims about the infiltration of multinational intelligence amongst the Islamic Front conglomerate and the ensuing corruption). Lets hope their puritanism is further compromised to allow the clash of interests to background their ideological commonality.

    But still, for everyone else, they are a globalist threat, not a localized militia.

    Posted by Trinkets | January 8, 2014, 8:39 pm
  38. So what’s important now ? how to define these mothafuckers on both sides? Intellectuals have so much $&@) time…>…>…

    Posted by Vulcan | January 9, 2014, 5:28 pm
  39. Both sides? If anything, i belive now is the time to take sides quite clearly and definitively. Being neutral to the defragmentation and decimation of the people of the levant is untenable as is detachedly aesthetizing the antagonism between, in lebanon, march 8 and march 14 . People need to snap out of their insular fiefdom mindset because the threat is universal. Denial – à la mannière de geagea (surely deliberated and cynical) apropos maaloula – and naïveté play into the hands of the pupetteers and their lackeys. Agnosticism, especially amongst the intellectuals and public leaders, in this manner is unethical being that our societies are under threat. Yes, its a pity we don’t have multifactional secularism spearheading resistance but this is where we are at currently…

    Posted by Trinkets | January 9, 2014, 7:25 pm
  40. I agree, being neutral is unethical, both sides are FUBAR. Political and Militant Islamic movements both Sunni and Shiaa are a scourge, a glaring failure and a shame on the Arabs. Our societies are under threat from itself. Resistance against what? The focus should be on resisting ignorance, poverty, corruption, racism, tyranny, oppression, and murder, all so organically prevalent in our society, before resisting the fairy tale Zionist and Western conspiracy the devout dwell on, to hide impotence, incompetence and in many cases duplicity.

    defragmentation? isn’t that suppose to be good for ya? You definitely need rearrangement. Weren’t the Arab academia and intellectuals always against those arbitrary straight line borders? Why the complaints if it’s falling apart now?

    FYI, secular leftist nationalist “resistance” proved even a bigger failure. I wonder why 😉

    Posted by Vulcan | January 10, 2014, 6:05 pm
  41. Vulcan and Trinkets

    Academic studies are necessary to understand and comprehend the present–and not to prescribe a course of action (unless one is a “social scientist”).

    The main academic question today about ME politics is the question of identity (see previous two posts by QN and comments). With the decay of 19 and 20th centuries forms of communal belonging (for example those based on secular nationalism and political ideologies) analyses flourished on whether religious nationalism (e.g. India) or geocultural ideologies (pan-Arabism, Africanism, Europeanism, etc.) would flourish in opposition to global forces of consumer capitalism and the defragmentation of collective and individual identities. Contemporary scholarship is building on a “Return of the tribes” thesis (Maffesoli 1988 and 2010) or on liquid or postmodern identities (Bauman, Sloterdijk, Stiegler, etc.). But these analyses build on the global forces of neoliberalism and on the homo aeconomicus theses (about the production of individuated subjectivities instead of a cohesive identities) and apply to industrial societies where cultural resistance seems to produce neo-national identities built on othering minorities). What kind of dynamic processes actually take place in non-indutrailized spaces where consumer identities still struggle with so-called traditional cultural markers to resist the global capitalist culture (of economic success and material well being as the meaning of life) is an important factor in studying what is happening in the ME. While political goals necssitate teleology, academic studies need to decipher needs and desire and the affective order that has replaced rational orders in governing social relations. Just wanted to respond to your queries. I hope that this helps!

    Posted by Parrhesia | January 10, 2014, 6:57 pm
  42. Parrhesia, how pretentious! Add the positing of an affective order in competition with a rational one to your list of things that need analyzing.

    Posted by melmakko | January 10, 2014, 7:04 pm
  43. Parrhesia, I am not sure where your response to my post is but i dont see the relevance. For us in the region, its a matter of life and death with clear agents of destabilization. Yours is the pathway to an intellectual aesthetization, an intellectual distancing, if not then colonization. The answers to all questions lie within the region itself and not in a hipster’s choice of western intellectuals and not to a mythical universal generalization and consequently flawed theorisation (eg. the word tradition itself signifies distinction, specificity – it is, in fact, neoliberalism that is monological, dogmatic and forms, per your post, a biased colonial viewing platform). In reality, the best solution, in my mind, is a greater regional levantine integration, based on social, economic and security realities. This naturally excludes Israel, the last remaining colonial outpost (if we accept that the anglo saxon world – outside Britain- is no longer colonial simply apowing to it successful decimation of native people in the Americas and Oceania).
    Aside, personally I believe that neoliberalism has proven to be nothing but the anaesthetization and paralysis of society (in fact, its disintegration) for the sake of opening its resources up for the consumption and enrichment of a very tiny elite. I don’t buy the BS about it being the rational end, the hegelian disclosure, at the end of history. Protestant nonsense.

    Posted by Trinkets | January 10, 2014, 9:59 pm
  44. Looks to me you should all heed Vulcan’s words. BS and pretentious vocabulary aside, Vulcan is “spot on”:

    “Political and Militant Islamic movements both Sunni and Shiaa are a scourge, a glaring failure and a shame on the Arabs. Our societies are under threat from itself. Resistance against what? The focus should be on resisting ignorance, poverty, corruption, racism, tyranny, oppression, and murder, all so organically prevalent in our society, before resisting the fairy tale Zionist and Western conspiracy…”

    Thank you Vulcan.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | January 11, 2014, 8:40 am
  45. So where were you in 1982, Vulcan?

    Here’s an update for you; it’s no longer a “fairy tale Zionist and Western conspiracy”, it now a “fairy tale , Wahhabi, Zionist and French conspiracy” (with a soupcon of American R2Per idiocy thrown in). All hail the new jefe! :


    “FYI, secular leftist nationalist “resistance” proved even a bigger failure. I wonder why”.

    Because it’s primarily composed of expats?

    Posted by lally | January 11, 2014, 3:43 pm
  46. Ahhhh the good’ol days, back in the summer of 82, I was young, surrounded in west Beirut, under heavy bombardment, plotting my great escape to Miami. And now, I find myself in Beirut again, except this time, it feels so much more god awful hellish and painful to be here.
    I will tell you all about it over drinks and cigars in Key Biscayne, while you whisper sweet conspiracy in my Vulcan ears 🙂

    Posted by Vulcan | January 11, 2014, 7:50 pm
  47. Kudos to you, Vulcan, for plugging away despite your despair. I truly can not imagine. Respect, my brother.

    In Key Biscayne, there is no need to “whisper” about “sweet conspiracy” theories. Haven’t you noticed that they (CTs) are ubiquitous and as American as apple pie, baseball and Old Glory? Besides, with your specialized aural apparatus, I ‘m sure you could just grok my thoughts.

    ’til then:

    “Report: Israel provides evidence of Hezbollah link to Hariri murder
    Published: 01.10.14, 09:30 / Israel News

    Kuwaiti paper Al-Jarida reported that “according to a senior source in
    Jerusalem”, the Israeli intelligence provided the International Court
    information proving Hezbollah’s involvement in the assassination of
    former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri in 2005. (Roi Kais)”

    So what else is new? some will sniff. We would have to ask Yedioth Aharnoth’s Arab Affairs journo of long standing, Roi Kas. Could it be related to the STL prosecutorial opening feint?:

    “Special Tribunal for Lebanon Prosecutor Norman Farrell has hinted that new sorts of evidence will appear during the trial of four Hizbullah members in ex-Premier Rafik Hariri’s assassination case next week.

    In an interview with An Nahar daily published on Saturday, Farrell said the details of the evidence will be made public during the opening of the trial next Thursday.

    “You will hear more details and you will know that the evidence of telecommunications is not circumstantial,” he said.”


    “The 2011 indictment against them said the case is built in large part on circumstantial evidence.

    It identified five networks of telephones used in the buildup to Hariri’s assassination, and set out a detailed account of the days and hours leading to the detonation of 2.5 tons of explosives by a suicide bomber in a Mitsubishi van.

    Farrell rejected doubts raised on the evidence, saying there were repeated moves and monitoring by the same people for 50 days.”


    “repeated moves and monitoring by the same people for 50 days”……….”repeated moves” is suggestive of dry runs.

    The watchers were not tempted to warn the target?

    Oh, my.

    Posted by lally | January 11, 2014, 10:55 pm
  48. On the issue of levelling the accusation of being conspiracy theorists willy nilly: “Pay attention, and you’ll notice that criticism of “conspiracy theories” is usually aimed at attempting to protect the state and key government players. The power of the state is seldom used to crush conspiracy theories regarding people who are not powerful . . . at least to the extent that they are not important to the government.”
    In short, this constitutes a substanceless non-criticism by itself. Simply regurgitating it without actually dealing with the subject at hand says more about the character (acquiescent, non critical, led by style rather than substance) resorting to such means.
    Solely accusing lebanese and their neighbours for the plight they’re in is unfair and unrealistic and blind to a wider geopolitical perspective. Poverty, crime…and the paralysis of the lebanese state to confront these factors are all symptoms of a bigger complex malaise. Haters, hurling ridiculous accusations against sunnis, shias or others factions, and throwing irrational tantrums do not contribute much. I also grew up in the civil war and we all suffered. But still, that gives me zero right to start lashing out irrationally simply because the others don’t resemble me and incurred by my own ‘desperation’. Man up, its not an egyptian soap opera.
    Its really quite simple; who is an existential threat to the country and to the region and why?
    Personally, i will never allow, for my very unimportant person, to forget that ideologies such as zionism and wahabism (not sunnism) constitute definite and deeply rooted threats. Secondary actors are secondary actors.

    Posted by Trinkets | January 12, 2014, 12:44 am
  49. And the Khomeinist ideology is a light unto humanity,
    refusing to see it as a “definite and deep rooted threat” is not being “acquiescent, non critical, led by style rather than substance” right?… For the love of Hussein rid yourself of this rotten tribal mentality.

    Posted by Vulcan | January 12, 2014, 5:38 am
  50. Who exactly are you calling a khomeinist? If myself, well I happen to be a wishy washy greek catholic, not that it matters apropos the topic. You certainly have a chip on your shoulder there. More histrionics than logic. And no, i do not see hezbollah as a threat. I might under different circumstances, if they resist secularism (assuming that its on the table – which is not the case sadly)…but then, i would see the churches just as much a threat or the mufti.

    Posted by Trinkets | January 12, 2014, 6:08 am
  51. I didn’t call you or anyone here a Khomeinist, read again. I would have more respect for your point of view if you were a Khomeinist.
    Quit being so naive, you cannot pick and chose. this illusion that Hizballa can be viewed and judged seperately from the regional stone age Khomeinist ideology behind it, is so typical of the parasitic, drunk muqawamistas a la Ziad in Hamra street. Come on down to the gutters in Dahieh or the towns in the South and then lecture us about what HA is.

    Posted by Vulcan | January 12, 2014, 7:00 am
  52. A friend of mine, one of the ministers in the current (caretaker government) was called in by the US Ambassador about a year ago and asked how he, a Christian (in fact a secular non-militant atheist, but Christian in the sense that it matters in Lebanon) could be allied with Hezballah, a group she described as islamist, sectarian, religiously driven and she may even have called them terrorists.

    His answer was that theory aside, his desire was to remain in Lebanon, for Lebanon to remain safe for him, his friends and all the sects that call it home and that having and a look at the last 30 years of events in the middle east, he felt a lot more confident that Hezballah would have an alignment of interests with him than “the west”. He proceeded to say that while he himself felt at home in the west, especially France, and had lived in Paris and been educated in the French system, and that he felt an affinity with western ideals, western culture and so forth, that he did not see the west implementing any of their ideals in his region. That it was clear that anywhere the US intervened was promptly “cleansed” of its Christians and so, he really saw no choice other than to stick with Hezballah who, despite their vast power, had shown nothing but goodwill and comfort in coexistence both in the SOuth and nationally and who were, after all his countrymen and allies against the hated zionists.

    Needless to say his advisor, also a friend of mine, was kicking him fiercely under he table to get him to shut up.

    It seems though, that she may have listened…the US has pulled a 180.

    In any case, away from complicated theories and ideological arguments, I think a clear minded Christian in the Levant can only see Hezballah as an ally and can only disdain an equivalence made between them and the Qaeda or other, less despicable, sunni regimes and movements.

    Posted by Epok | January 12, 2014, 1:07 pm
  53. And no, i do not see hezbollah as a threat.

    Neither does Bashar Assad.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | January 12, 2014, 2:26 pm
  54. Frankly, those most likely to express the greatest horror of HA’s Khomeinist ideology somehow on the brink of suffocating the region are American neocons and their co-conspirators.

    Why are so many Lebanese unconvinced by their fearsome protestations?

    Reality strikes again?

    Posted by lally | January 12, 2014, 4:25 pm
  55. Epok:

    “It seems though, that she may have listened…the US has pulled a 180.”

    Could you please elaborate on why you think that US policy re Lebanon has done a 180?

    Posted by lally | January 12, 2014, 5:23 pm
  56. I could care less about what futile vitriolic hyperbole get churned up; should one pay more heed to virulent prejudice or to time tested realities – whether you liked them or not, hezbollah are part of the lebanese setup – and the internal lebanese animosity towards them is equally a byproduct of the lebanese system (traditional jealousies between the figureheads of different factional groups in lebanon is historically endemic – a conflict not so much confessional in nature as it is feudalistic preying on confessionalism).

    While Iran played and plays an incredibly vital logistical role, the nature of the group itself can’t be more lebanese. I could care less about their belief system that may well be, for an external observor, a contingent factor. On a more sophisticated level, there is ethnically, theologically and theocratically a substantial overlap between the south of lebanon and the persian centres of theological education and proselytisation – it is, in fact, clerics from south lebanon who helped convert iran to shiitism – overlooking the tangible two-way traffic by claiming Hezbollah -or other lebanese shia for that matter- are Iran’s footmen is misrepresntational of all parties involved . The astigmatism focusing on the vileyit-e-faqih, khomeinism- and -in contradistinction- nationalism (itself for the maronites mainly, historically a convenient host-formula for confessional distinction and supremacy unto itself) does not take into consideration the natural organicity between lebanon and the larger region, including everyone but israel. To villify or ridicule this link is tantamount to ridiculing the functional and theological connection of our churches to Rome, Greece, Constantinople and so on…Again, hezbollah is not outstanding in this matter within the lebanese setup.

    Actually, I find this multilocational virtuality a feature of the lebanese -and regional- esprit. The dogmatic social science view on ‘identity’, primarily drably anglosaxonic, is inherently blind to this mosaic facet.

    The remark (“gutters in dahyé”) is dehumanizing and disparaging aside from irrelevant. Im not sure if this expresses a proclivity within this blog (recently stumbled on it) or limited to its author. I have (gay and quite flamboyant) friends in Dahyé whom I visit. Its not all hezbollah; can you help it if hezbollah have attracted a large audience – you’d be deceived to think its by deceipt? Also, there are historical reasons for the haphazard growth of the area having to do with the deficiencies beyond the liability of any one particular faction or group. If anyone is going to blame Hezbollah for this as well, im going to barf. The divorce rate in the country is also increasing owing to Hezbollah. Again, hating on someone is not equal to criticizing.

    Posted by Trinkets | January 13, 2014, 3:10 am
  57. Trinkets

    Your writing style and tempo are undermining the clarity (and depth) of any points you try to make (that is if you are actually trying to make a point).

    Your use of a flowery style, compounded by a semi-aggressive tone building on urgency and exigency, undermine any serious point you may be trying to make. This is a forum to debate issues in an informed and respectful manner. Disagreement about supported positions matter more than apocalyptic visions and/or ideological certainties. Playfulness in thought and open and insightful discussion accommodate divergent views that are genuinely interested in exploring creative alternatives to the usual party lines (whether feodal, ethnic, colonial or otherwise).

    Posted by Parrhesia | January 13, 2014, 4:18 am
  58. Parrhesia, you could choose to ignore. Your response is clearly in response to my having pointing out that your distancing aesthetization – and ahistorical acontextual intellectual fantasma- is futile. You might not have a share in whats happening and for you, it constitues nothing more than material for vapid intellectual onanism. This does not however give you the right to define a space of discourse. Had you bothered, you would have opened up to the points in my post…you choose not to and this is not my isdue. Move on. Qifa nagging. I do not see the issue with delivering a note of urgency. We all feel it in the region, if your clammy peace has been disturbed by it, i could care less. And i do not see where i failed to respect.
    If i don’t talk like an ironed out permutation of bland academic memes (anything but playful – within or without its expanse), mind your IP.

    Posted by Trinkets | January 13, 2014, 5:10 am
  59. Halt!! With Trinkets on Parrhesia. This is a Qifanabki forum, that’s why we and I are here, because we can explode the sense of urgency and cry for the state of our neighborhood.
    After crying we get sarcastic, analytic and whiplashing, then, tongue tied and twisted, busy making Pizza.. Is all good mon,

    Ministers dilemmas and French croissant aside, speaking with a Turban on my head 🙂 the point of view looking at the effect of HA on the beloved poor community in South Lebanon and NOT it’s respected and admirable position towards other minorities in Lebanon.. That position towards the Christians is minimal in its impact on the bigger scheme of things, like the relationship with their Jewish cousins and Sunni brothers…it doesn’t look good. methinks!,,

    Posted by Vulcan | January 13, 2014, 7:05 am
  60. Lally, I suppose the US position on Lebanon has not exactly (yet) done a 180, I was lazy. It’s the regional position I meant.

    Posted by Epok | January 13, 2014, 12:30 pm
  61. The Americans are doing 360s for now and the next 2 years

    Posted by Vulcan | January 13, 2014, 12:35 pm
  62. I didn’t notice US policy in Lebanon changed.

    If anything, Obama’s policies are to retreat and negotiate with Iran, all while allowing arabs and muslims to kill themselves to their hearys content. Sort of like Reagen during the Iran-Iraq war.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | January 13, 2014, 7:58 pm


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