May 22, 2007

Syria Targeting Russia?

Mustapha at Beirut Spring makes an interesting point about the escalation of terrorism in Beirut and its expansion into the posh Sunni neighborhood of Verdun. The target was (possibly) the Russian Cultural Center, which reportedly was right near where the car bomb exploded, in order to pressure the Russian government to veto the pending tribunal against Hariri's assassins in the United Nations Security Council.

It's unclear to me how close the bomb actually was to the Russian Cultural Center so I don't know if Mustapha is right or if this is a bit of a stretch. But he could be right, and if so this is a serious escalation.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese government has orders to "finish off" Fatah Al Islam in the Palestinian camp in Northern Lebanon. Fatah Al Islam exists in other camps, as well, and this fight could go on for a while. The group is small enough, though, that they can be erased from the world if the army doesn't stand down. The fact that they are using Palestinian civilians as human shields means they have no sea to swim in and no place to hide.

For background on the Syrian connection to this group, see Tony Badran and William Harris.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at May 22, 2007 10:31 AM
Comments

I just read that Hezbollah supports the Lebanese army against Fatah Al Islam. Aren't Fatah Al Islam a bunch of Palestinians? Isn't Hezbollah against Isreal? Can someone explain this to me? Don't any of these groups have anything better to do than blow sh*t up and shoot people?

Posted by: Keith at May 22, 2007 01:53 PM

Funny how people seem to care so deeply about Fatah al Islam using Palestinians as human shields in Lebanon when no one really seems to care about Fatah, Hamas, Jihad Islami, PFLP, Al Aqsa, or any of the other Palestinian groups doing exactly the same in Gaza and the West Bank. Thoughts?

Posted by: zellmad at May 22, 2007 01:56 PM

I just read that Hezbollah supports the Lebanese army against Fatah Al Islam. Aren't Fatah Al Islam a bunch of Palestinians? Isn't Hezbollah against Isreal? Can someone explain this to me? Don't any of these groups have anything better to do than blow sh*t up and shoot people?

It seems to me that this Fatah al-Islam group has very little sympathy in Lebanon. Therefore, Hezbullah might be opposing them in order to garner good will among the Lebanese, many of whom don't fully trust Hezbullah. Besides, Fatah al-Islam, by being salafists al-Qaeda'ists (or wannabees), view Shiites as heretics, virtually Jews, if you will.

So no love lost there.

Posted by: Zak at May 22, 2007 02:25 PM

Zellmad, I've been having the exact same thoughts. Or, imagine if instead of the Lebanese army randomly shelling Palestinians it was the Israeli Defense Forces. We'd probably already have a few General Assembley resultions blasting Israel, and feverish attempts by the Muslims and Arabs to pass something in the Security Council.

But, alas, I am so used to the double standards that they barely register with me any longer.

Where's Green Helmet Guy???

Posted by: Zak at May 22, 2007 02:29 PM

Zak,
HonestReporting actually has a small piece to this effect... preaching to the choir I know, but worth sharing.
http://backspin.typepad.com/backspin/2007/05/lebanese_armys_.html

Posted by: zellmad at May 22, 2007 05:09 PM

The target was (possibly) the Russian Cultural Center...

We could not possibly be that lucky.

Surely people in Lebanon still remember what happened when that Russian was kidnapped back in the 80s?

Putin is old-school KGB, I know he remembers how that matter was resolved.

Posted by: rosignol at May 22, 2007 11:51 PM

I don't know that story, Rosignol. I'm not old school KGB, after all, and I can't be in charge of everything.

Do tell.(Though I probably guess.)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 22, 2007 11:56 PM

Well, the short version of the story I heard was that some KGB heavies were sent to kidnap relatives of the group's leader.

The KGB guys mailed body parts back to the family until the Russian was released- which happened within days.

Posted by: rosignol at May 23, 2007 02:25 AM

Found the details-

From Bob Woodwards book 'Veil.' -

"Hezbollah had kidnapped four Soviet diplomats from Beirut during the fall of 1985. One they murdered straightaway. The others they held in captivity.

"In response, the KGB seized the relative of a Hezbollah leader. As part of Moscow's anti-terrorism policy, the KGB "castrated him, stuffed his testicles in his mouth, shot him in the head and sent the body back to Hezbollah. The KGB included a message that other members of the Party of God would die in a similar manner if the three Soviets were not released."

"Shortly afterward, Hezbollah set free the three remaining Soviet hostages. Soviet interests in Lebanon were never similarly menaced again."

Posted by: rosignol at May 23, 2007 02:29 AM

> Aren't Fatah Al Islam a bunch of Palestinians?

No, by all accounts, they appear to be anything but Palestinians, Yemenis, Jordanians, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Saudis, etc.

Sorry, but I don't buy the "Syrian Connection" to this Fatah al-Islam, they were supported until recently by the March 14th gang as a counter to Hezbollah. I have even seen reports that after some of the Fatah al-Islam were taken into custody by Lebanese security forces, some in the March 14th gang obtained their release.

BTW, if this is the best the Lebanese Army can do, then nobody but nobody should expect it to be able to either take on Hezbollah or replace Hezbollah in defending Lebanon against the IOF. Hezbollah's role as "The Resistance" is assured for a long time to come.

Posted by: blowback at May 23, 2007 06:44 AM

Sorry that should have read

> Aren't Fatah Al Islam a bunch of Palestinians?

No, by all accounts, they appear to be anything but Palestinians, they appear to be Yemenis, Jordanians, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Saudis, etc.

Posted by: blowback at May 23, 2007 06:47 AM

Fatah Al Islam are Sunni Wahabbi Jihadists who consider all Shia/Shi'ite Muslims to be heretics worthy of death. The late Mr Zarqawi in Iraq was of the same disposition -- and one can see how this opinion manifests itself in the vicious and relentless targetting of Shia civilians in Iraq (yes, I know Shia run deathsquads are just as bad)... but it helps explain why Hezbollah are backing the amry attack.

I just think it's terrible for the civilians... it's as you say, the Lebanese Army is using Israeli style house clearing tactics and everyone is saying what a good job they're doing!

Posted by: Microraptor at May 23, 2007 10:18 AM

Microraptor,

I agree with you that those tactics are horrible. Do you have any better suggestions that would be as effective?I don't, which is why I absolutely despise people who launch assymetric wars in civilian areas.

The Israelis and now Lebanese use these counter-insurgency tactics because they don't have much choice, and the international community condemns those who use the guerilla tactics as the war criminals for setting up the battlefield in such a manner.

Using civilians and civilian areas as cover is a war crime because it requires the opposing force to either fight inside the civilian areas or surrender. It is totally unacceptable. I will not blame the Lebanese army for the situation for the same reason I won't blame the Israeli army in similar circumstance.

If you can come up with a counterinsurgency strategy that kills no or fewer civilians and effectively neutralizes the insurgents, you will be a military genius. It can probably be done, but probably not by you or me.

Believe it or not, my friend, the Israelis and the Americans spend an incredible amount of time working on this problem. Talk to them about it sometime.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 23, 2007 11:02 AM

MJT:

The Israelis and now Lebanese use these counter-insurgency tactics because they don't have much choice, and the international community condemns those who use the guerilla tactics as the war criminals for setting up the battlefield in such a manner.

Heh. Any day now...

Posted by: MattW at May 23, 2007 03:27 PM
If you can come up with a counterinsurgency strategy that kills no or fewer civilians and effectively neutralizes the insurgents, you will be a military genius. It can probably be done, but probably not by you or me.

Hmm. In the absence of a solution to both those aims (defeating insurgency, not killing large numbers of civilians), is it worth experimenting with our soldiers' lives, especially when the stakes are so high? And ultimately, which of those aims is more important?

Posted by: MattW at May 23, 2007 03:31 PM
Post a comment













Remember personal info?






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

Pajamas Media BlogRoll Member



Testimonials

"I'm flattered such an excellent writer links to my stuff"
Johann Hari
Author of God Save the Queen?

"Terrific"
Andrew Sullivan
Author of Virtually Normal

"Brisk, bracing, sharp and thoughtful"
James Lileks
Author of The Gallery of Regrettable Food

"A hard-headed liberal who thinks and writes superbly"
Roger L. Simon
Author of Director's Cut

"Lively, vivid, and smart"
James Howard Kunstler
Author of The Geography of Nowhere


Contact Me

Send email to michaeltotten001 at gmail dot com


News Feeds




toysforiraq.gif



Link to Michael J. Totten with the logo button

totten_button.jpg


Tip Jar





Essays

Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn