May 23, 2007

The Ice is Cracking

by Michael J. Totten

Here is a terrific article by Mario Loyola about the unfolding crisis in Lebanon:

Perhaps the single most surprising, and enchanting, thing about Lebanon is the stillness of the place. High above Beirut on Mount Lebanon, signs at the Monastery of Saint Maron-Anaya admonish visitors to respect the quiet: “You can hear God in the silence.” At night even Beirut sleeps peacefully. When I was there two months ago, I stayed in the heart of Christian east Beirut; I slept with the sliding glass door to my balcony wide open, the curtains waving in the soft breeze, and I think I’ve never slept so soundly in my life.

A few blocks away from that place, just after midnight last Sunday night, a massive car bomb blew the façade off the main shopping mall in east Beirut, killing an elderly woman and demolishing dozens of cars. Monday night, with all Lebanon glued to the television, another car bomb destroyed another quiet corner of the city — this time in Sunni west Beirut. Yesterday, suicide bombers struck army targets for the first time. The heralds of terror and civil war have come to remind the people of Lebanon that their tranquility is on thin ice — and the ice is cracking.

Needless to say, after 15 years of civil war, and 15 more years of Syrian occupation, the people of Lebanon need little reminding how precious and fragile are their peace and their freedom. Monday night on the phone, one friend of mine in Beirut cried softly as we spoke, not because of what’s happened in recent days — Lebanon has seen much worse — but because of the inevitability of whatever is going to happen next.

Next has already happened. Another bomb exploded, this time in the mountain resort town of Aley:
The blast which went off at around 9:00 pm damaged several buildings and shops along the street, which was immediately cordoned off by police.

It sheared off walls of apartments, tore down electrical cables and wrecked parked vehicles. It also blew off shutters on the many shops in the street.

UPDATE: Trying to read the logic behind the last three car bombs is a little bit like reading tea leaves. But as someone named Triok pointed out in the comments, it may not be an accident that the first bomb was in a Christian area, the second bomb was in a Sunni area, and the third bomb was in a Druze area.

The overwhelming majority of Christians, Sunnis, and Druze are in the anti-Syrian coalition. And until this week, no bombs have exploded in Sunni or Druze areas since Syria's withdrawal. Perhaps this is enough to discern a deliberate pattern, especially since the UN is gearing up to impose a tribunal against Syrian regime suspects for assassinating Rafik Hariri.

As Triok pointed out, no placement of bombs in Lebanon is ever random. Of course this will not stop a certain kind of person from thinking Christians, Sunnis, and Druze bombed themselves, or that Jews did it.

UPDATE: See also Mustapha at Beirut Spring.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at May 23, 2007 1:19 PM
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Winner, The 2008 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

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