Lebanon, Political comment

The Hariri Myth 2: Some recent news from Lebanon; the northern and eastern border: ISIS activity and controversy; the Hariri & other myths; lots more piccies

A little Lebanese news: the parliamentary system in a nutshell

The ‘Lebanese Daily Star’ featured several articles of recent, which refer to the political and sectarian differences between Hizb’allah and the Future Movement, as well as their international allegiances. The Future Movement is headed by the Hariri family while the Hizb’allah leader is Hassan Nazrallah. Both are legitimate political movements with a considerable following, the former supported broadly by the Sunni population and the latter the Shia.

The 2009 general election saw the Future Movement win 26 seats, which made it the main political party and contributed to the success of the anti Syrian bloc consolidated by the March 14th Accord. More information about the election result can be found in earlier entries, /2014/12/21/maronite-presidents-dynasties-and-para-militaries-media-representations/ Nevertheless the result was not conclusive, probably thanks to the sectarian divides within the country and the divisions within the different sects as a failure to elect a Maronite president reflects.

One country or two? The battle for Greater Syria

There is much propaganda spread about the Lebanese and their hatred of the Syrians but it is not so simple as much of the election result was in favour of Syria, around a third of the Lebanese population is Syrian and arguably they are the same country. Lebanon’s precarious situation meant that it did not hold elections last year and the government re-appointed itself until 2019. The two main presidential candidates, general Aoun and Mr Geagea are divided about their support for Syria, see.

Every party worth its salt needs an army

The ‘Daily Star’ rhetoric included Mr. Geagea accusing Hizb’allah of scare-mongering about Islamic State and its threat to Lebanon. Of course Mr Geagea did have his own army during the civil war, the Lebanese Forces, now a political party, supported by some Maronites. I can’t help feeling he might be a trifle envious as Mr Nazrallah continues to command his. If that was a flip comment it was meant to be as, though no-one knows how the west is to use the mercenary forces in the future there is little doubt Islamic State is active on the northern and eastern borders of Lebanon.

Zionist propaganda or simply an active imagination?

I just checked the ‘Lebanese Daily Star’ and other Lebanese news for the first time in about a week and the discussion is still raging about Hizb’allah, its role in Syria and its fight with the mercenary force Islamic State. Typically the Israelis are on their hind legs, claiming Hizb’allah is ”undermining the Lebanese army”. It is difficult to see how this manifests as prior to the Lebanese army’s involvement in defending the country’s borders, the north of the country was in turmoil, with nightly battles raging between those, who supported Syria and those who did not.

Akhar, north Lebanon: some wild flowers and countryside, Christian monuments and an Alawai mosque. It was a warm, windy and rainy day, so beautiful

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When Syria withdrew its troops in 2005 the Alawais and the northern population in general were largely unprotected by the state. There is a huge Christian population there and all factions from Tripoli northward feel there is insufficient investment in the area. In the summer of 2013 the situation improved, there and in Beirut, which had also suffered random bomb attacks.

I noticed, that from February 2013 to September 2014 the posters of Dr Bashar al-Assad were removed from the Cola (bus station) area of Beirut. This was almost certainly due to the government asserting itself and agreements made between the political factions. It also showed, that there is support for Syria among the Beiruti population, countering any propaganda to the contrary. Of course there is a rather different argument, that the poorer people in Beirut do not count for anything.

In October 2014, during the Ashura festival, Hizb’allah appealed to the Shia population not to display their paraphernalia publicly if they lived in a Sunni area, such as Sidon. All this suggests cooperation between the pro and anti Syrian factions in government. In addition the Lebanese army has carried out a couple of years of raids on drug dealers and other dodgy indiviuals based in many regions, including Tripoli and Bekka Valley.

Apparently the Israelis believe, that combatting the Islamic mercenaries only encourage them to amass on Lebanon’s eastern border at Arsal but I rather think, they do not need encouragement as their role is to launch a civil war, which would not bode well for the Shia Muslims but provide an excellent result for western governments, including the Israelis, intent on further destabilising the region in the interest of winning the monopoly (capitalist) game.

Besides this the kidnapping of around a dozen Lebanese soldiers last year suggest the mercenaries are serious in their venture.

A sit-in at Parliament square in Beirut: the families of the soldiers kidnapped by Islamic State mercenaries in Arsal

The families of the soldiers kidnapped by Islamic State mercenaries in Arsal

At present the Lebanese army are based in the far north and Hizb’allah in the north east, a suitable arrangement as there is no evidence, that the majority of young Lebanese people are flocking to join the army.

For young men and women to enlist in the army there has to be an ideology and a serious realisation of the danger posed by the ”Islamic” mercenaries in Syria and their employers in Britain and the west. The Shia population in East Lebanon know, that if the mercenaries enter the Lebanon they will not survive. The Shia population of the world is tiny, only around 13% of the world Muslims, with the vast majority living between Iran and the Indian sub continent; a long way off from Lebanon.

People are genuinely frightened for their lives but It is interesting, that when I told people I was heading for Balbek in Bekka Valley no-one reacted but when I mentioned visiting Akhar in the North, people from all the cultures were advising against, because of the presence of the ISIS. I believe, that the majority of Lebanese people would trust Hizb’allah to protect them over the state army if push came to shove.

Warning the Israelis dislike all Arabs and if Mr Geagea or Mr Hariri believe they can strike up deals with them, perhaps they’d better rethink.

The Hariri myth, Rafiq Hariri’s funeral, mass hysteria or grief

Grief

As I said in the last entry you can discover the ”truth” about the assassination by reading the massive amount of literature out there. The author Phillip Mansel in his book, ‘Levant, Splendour and Catastrophe in the Mediterranean‘, gives an interesting account of Rafiq Hariri’s funeral in 2005. The funeral occurred in February and was attended by foreign dignitaries as well as  thousands of Christians, Sunni and Druzes Muslims (remember the Druzes are a hybrid sect not strictly Shia or Sunni) and the then Maronite patriarch, cardinal Sfeir. Mr. Hariri was buried  near his mosque, see last entry for a photo. His mausoleum is just up the road and people are forbidden to photograph his statue.

The Shia population stuck with their allegiance to Syria and this culminated in a massive demonstration on March 8th, where the crowd thanked Syria for their role in the assassination. This was followed on March 14th by a counter demonstration of anti-Syrian supporters calling for freedom from the oppressive Syria.  It is these two protests, that underpin the election result of 2009, no doubt an effort to prevent more civil strife and no doubt the reason, that no further elections have happened, including the presidential election.

Isn’t it about time Lebanon looked at its own role in the civil war and stop blaming others.

A couple of things of note, firstly the inquiry into the assassination continues as there are several suspects and no easy way of discovering what really happened. Secondly it is doubtful the Syrian regime was as stupid as to carry out the act as the implications were clear. The west was re-tightening its grip on the region, which the invasion of Iraq signified. There was no doubt it would be forced to remove its troops from north Lebanon and leave its Christian and Alawai supporters unprotected. Further the whole debacle coincided with the partition of Gaza to Palestine and its dislocation from Egypt.

Mass hysteria

People’s reaction to the death of Mr Hariri could be cached in terms of effective patronage particularly in relation to the Sunni working class. It is not just Tripoli, that is poverty stricken, I was absolutely aghast at Sidon, a predominantly Sunni working class region, where poverty is rife. On the whole Sur, which is further South and near the Palestine border appears better heeled but is in the process of being rebuilt.

This may be a spurious comparison as it is the Hariri family, which holds itself up as benificent, while Hizb’allah is concerned with protecting its people and saving their souls. Having said that there are wealthy individuals among the Shia population as well as the Sunni and Christian.

The other Lebanese Myth?

Poverty is rife all over Lebanon, though the degree of poverty varies. When pitted against the outstanding amount of wealth owned by individual families and the myth of pre-civil war affluence it is obvious, that some people benefited greatly from the civil war. The distribution of wealth is as poor as is the distribution of sects and their allegiances.

If there is a civil war it is not only the Shias, who’ll suffer, just like last time. Nevertheless the Shia and Christian populations on both the eastern and northern borders will be first hit. The kidnapped soldiers hailed mainly from the Bekka town of Zahle, where the first demonstrations were held last autumn. Though Zahle is Maronite in the main and currys more favour with Britain, roads were closed last year and things got a bit heated. This was prior to the sit-in at Beirut’s parliament square.

No-one likes to see the Maronite population inflamed, too many people learned the hard way during the civil war. Further there’s a sizeable Armenian population in Bekka and it is not at all certain the area will entertain an invasion by mercenaries hired by or sent by Britain and its cohorts. As I’ve pointed out several times the Christian population is far from a homogenous group. There was an article in the ‘Lebanese Daily Star’ in the spring, describing how the different cultures in Arsal are coming together for military training in preparation for an invasion by the mercenaries.

Tripoli, north Lebanon: its a lovely town and quite a contrast to Beirut being really Arabic. Its such a shame people cannot get travel insurance to go there unless they pay an exorbitant price. Thanks British government.

The photos include the beautiful Taynal mosque, its Marmaluke architecture and grounds. The Muezzin was especially friendly as he cut the grass; he later joined in the calling to prayer along with neighbouring Muezzins. On my last visit, two years previous, the Muezzins were arguing profusely, this time it was a harmonious event.

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