May 8, 2008

Hezbollah's Endgame? Pt. 2

by Lee Smith

David Wurmser, formerly Vice President Cheney's Middle East adviser, writes in to comment on Iran's role in the Beirut crisis.

"Iran has suffered some pretty serious defeats in Iraq, foremost is that the Shiites there kind of turned on Iran. May they not need to pull back and focus on their role as the champion of the Shiites right now, even at the cost of compromising their efforts to jump the Sunni-Shiite divide? They may actually be in no better a shape among Lebanon's Shiites as they are among Iraq's. Second, there were these really odd nasty exchanges between Zawahiri and Iran, which may have been born of Iran's desire right now to solidify its own role as Shiite champion.

"Ahmadinejad himself has presided over a fairly turbulent few weeks, as the principalist faction, of which he and the speaker of the Majlis are both part. That faction has descended into caustic bickering – probably as a result of the traditional clergy of Qom's resisting his increasing militarization of government – over a number of matters from ministerial resignations to constitutional wrangling to banking and fiscal independence, while his own mentor had one of his papers unusually slam him for meeting with former nationalists associated with Mossadeq. He may even face a no confidence move if the Majlis maneuvers to force another cabinet resignation. And all this while faces a chorus of response from the traditional clergy of Qom, who are horrified about his claims to be informed by the 12th imam.

"And there's something else, too: In that press conference Walid Jumblatt held about the airport security, he also called for the expulsion of Iran's ambassador. That could be a redline for Iran. And if it happened, it would deal a heavy blow to the Iranians."

I asked David if Jumblatt's request might signal that Washington is fully aware of, and behind, March 14's actions at this point.

"It may be part of our effort to push back on Iran right now. As far afield as Afghanistan you find the Afghani government saying that Iran is sending weapons. So, across the board, we are pushing back against Iran. But the thing with the Iranians is, if you push you had better be ready to take it to the next level with them, because they will push back hard."

While countless US, European and Israeli policymakers, analysts and journalists counseled that diplomacy would manage to "wedge" Syria away from Iran, there was really only wedge issue between them: Iran wanted to avoid sectarian warfare while the Syrians were willing, eager, to set fire to Lebanon – again. If this crisis is different, as David Wurmser says, different from the rest of the various crises that have plagued Lebanon the last three years, ever since the April 2005 withdrawal of Syrian troops, it is because there no longer is any difference between Tehran and Damascus' Beirut strategy.

Posted by Tony Badran at May 8, 2008 2:09 PM
Comments

Tony, can you explain to us who all these government supporting gunmen that have materialised on our TV screens actually are...? And can you explain who these armed Future movement supporters are? And where and how they got their weaponry? And where and how they were "trained"?

Because as a faithful reader of this blog, I was led to believe that Hezbollah was the only illegally armed militia in Lebanon.... but now it seems obvious that every side in this ugly game has secretly had it's own private armed force hidden away after all...

Posted by: Microraptor Author Profile Page at May 9, 2008 3:18 AM

Media Round Up....

Naharnet

- Hizbullah Fighters advance in some Beirut districts, occupy MP Ammar Houry's residence in Shahadeh district of the Tallet al-Khayat neighborhood, which was overran by Hizbullah fighters, his cars were smashed and set ablaze as terrorized residents tried to escape the area, witnesses told Naharnet. Houry, according to a family source, is safe and was not at home when the attack started.

- Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt declared support for the Hariri initiative and proposed a concept of "coexistence with the resistance if the present balance of powers does not permit absorbing it in the army."

- At least three people were killed and eight wounded by sniper fire in Beirut's district of Ras al-Nabaa where hand-to-hand fighting raged between Hizbullah and Mustaqbal partisans.

Saudi Calls For Urgent FMs Meeting on Lebanon
Saudi Arabia has called for an urgent meeting of Arab foreign ministers to try to halt the violence in Lebanon, whose capital was rocked by a third day of sectarian fighting on Friday.
"In light of the dangerous escalation of the situation on the Lebanese scene, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia supports holding an urgent and extraordinary meeting of the Arab League ministerial council in Cairo to discuss the Lebanese crisis and its fallout," a foreign ministry official was quoted by the state SPA news agency as saying.

LBC TV:

- The 14 March secretariat has through LBC called on all majority MP to head to the residence of Samir Geagea for an emergency meeting.
- Beirut port suspended all activity until further notice.
- Machine gun fire and RPGs heard around Hariri's mansion in Qoreitem.
- Kefraya-Mashghara and Qaroun-Sohmor roads were reopened while Dahr el-Baidar road remained closed with earth mounds.
- Hizbullah gunmen take control of Hamra and Verdun districts as gun battles take place at Sadat Street which leads to Qoreitem, Hariri's residence.
- Security measures were reinforced around Walid Jumblat's Clemenceau mansion, Dar el-Fatwa and Mufti Mohammed Qabbani's residence in Talet el-Khayat.
- rocket propelled grenade was fired at the residence of Hariri earlier this morning.

Al Arabiya TV:

- Hizbullah militants besiege PM Seniora’s and Saad Hariri’s headquarters.
- Egyptian source said “We are not going to allow Iranian backed force to control Lebanon.

Manar TV:

- Army heading to Qoreitem to ensure protection to Hariri’s residence after it was agreed that the opposition would not approach it.

New TV:

- Yemeni president proposed that Army Commander runs dialogue between parties to the dialogue

- News Director at Future TV said that they stopped transmission upon a request by the Lebanese army. He added that they received a threat carried to them by the LA to cut their transmission and they chose to do so peacefully and evacuate all staff from the building.

Al Mustaqbal newspaper did not print today and stopped functioning after it was stormed last night. During the clashes, a fire broke out in the newspaper offices.

Radio Orient also stopped its transmission this morning.
Following this step, the armed element left the area and handed over the Hariri media offices to the Lebanese Army.

Jumblatt: We will hand over all facilities of Progressive Socialist Party to the Lebanese army

As-Safir: The head of the Progressive Socialist Party MP Walid Jumblatt called on Hizbullah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah to accept the proposal of Hariri, promising to respect of the prudence of the Lebanese army on any issue.
Jumblatt said he will hand over his parties centres to the Lebanese army and called on his supporter to avoid the streets. The Druze leader called on Hizbullah to respect the dignity of Beirut’s residence, withdraw its militants from the city and allow the Lebanese army to bring back security and stability to the country.
“If they refuse [this proposal], we are staying in Beirut,” Jumblatt said. He declined to reply to accusations made by Nasrallah, asking “does removing an officer from his post deserve to burn Beirut.
He said it is possible to discuss the telecommunications network, rejecting accusations that he was the person who opened fire on the resistance by reviving the telecommunications network and revealing the airport security issue.
“Is it not our right to enquire about the state’s finances and security?” Jumblatt asked. He called for all Lebanese to support the Lebanese army despite all that the is happening.

Posted by: Microraptor Author Profile Page at May 9, 2008 3:32 AM

Media Round Up -2:

Hizbullah fighters impose control on Beirut
Compiled from media outlets and agencies:

Hizbullah took control of the Muslim part of Beirut on Friday, tightening its grip on the city in a major blow to the US-backed government.

The Lebanese National Opposition announced western Beirut under its control, according to AFP.

Calm has prevailed in most areas in the Lebanese capital Beirut, after the latest incidents saw the mercenaries of the Mustaqbal militia flee from most neighbourhoods. Residents as well as National Opposition loyalists forced Mustaqbal gunmen to lay down their arms and surrender. Mustaqbal and Progressive Socialist Party militiamen also surrendered in the regions of Khaldeh, Aramoun and Bchamoun.

New TV commenced its afternoon news bulletin by saying that Beirutis in the grip of the Lebanese Army. It added that for the first time, a city would fall with the least damages. It went on saying that Hizbullah now should free Beirut's downtown from the "chronic" sit-in that has not achieved its objectives.

New TV learned that there was a possibility that the Lebanese Army could re-open the airport road, but until now the sand piles are still there.

Security sources said at least 11 people had been killed and 30 wounded in three days of battles between pro-government gunmen and fighters loyal to Hizbullah.

In scenes reminiscent of the darkest days of the civil war, young men armed with assault rifles roamed the streets amid smashed cars and smouldering buildings.

The sound of exploding grenades and automatic gunfire echoed across a city still rebuilding from the 1975-90 conflict.

The dead included a woman and her 30-year-old son, who were killed when trying to flee Ras al-Nabae -- a mixed Sunni-Shi'ite Beirut district and scene of some of the heaviest clashes.

Saudi Arabia called for an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers over the crisis, Al Arabiya television reported.
"The party, regardless of its military strength, cannot annul the other," Walid Jumblatt, leader of the Druze minority, told LBC television station from his home in Beirut. "Dialogue alone brings results. Running away from dialogue is not useful."

He added that he won’t flee from Beirut and that Hizbullah can not impose its will on the Lebanese.

Armed elements took control of all media outlets owned Saad Hariri. Future TV and Radio Orient went off the air while Al Mustaqbal newspaper did not print today.

LBC TV said that at 11:50a.m. Dahr el-Baidar highway was opened in both directions. The Beirut-Saida road was reopened as well at Awali Bridge and Remayleh but is still close at Barjah point.

Army troops reopened the port road which was briefly blocked at the Phoenicia Hotel area with burning tires.

MEA announced it was suspending all outgoing and incoming flights to Beirut until midday Saturday.

ANB reported that Saudi Arabia is evacuating its nationals from Lebanon because of the deteriorating security situation but in another report on Al Arabiya, Saudi sources denied these reports.

ANB said Italy is preparing a plan to evacuate its national from Lebanon.

National news Agency quoted sources of the French Embassy that the idea of evacuating French nationalist from Lebanon is not under discussion currently.

LBC reported that the opposition managed to enter Mufti Sayyed Mohammed Ali Amin’s office in Tyre.

Amin asserted that Amal militants were the ones who broke into the Shiite Ifta’ headquarters.

Reuters: A security source said Hizbullah and its allies were in control the entire mainly Muslim half of Beirut after pro-government gunmen laid down their weapons in their last bastion.

The gunmen in Tarek al-Jadeedi, a Sunni area whose residents are loyal to Hariri, had been in contact with Hizbullah to surrender, handing their posts to the Lebanese army.

"It certainly leaves the government weaker and the Future movement weaker," said Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Centre in Beirut.

"Hizbullah is dominating most of west Beirut." But the group did not want to be seen as "occupiers of Beirut" by keeping its fighters in areas whose residents' political loyalties lie with Hariri or his allies, he said. Handing control to the army appeared the most likely exit.

LBC TV cited a source close to the Future Movement as saying that a rocket was fired at the outside wall of Al-Hariri's compound and that there were no losses. The station says the source denied an earlier DPA report that there were clashes between the Future Movement and opposition gunmen outside the compound.

El Nashra website quoted a senior source as saying that the opposition is heading to give out an important announcement today. It is possible that the opposition would assert that it will not give up its demands except after the resignation of Fouad Seniora’s government and the hand-over to a transitional government that would be headed by an impartial Sunni figure. The latter would seek to ensure parliamentary elections as per the 1960 law as soon as possible and elect a president.

El Nashra reported that France confirmed that evacuating its nationals from Lebanon is not being considered currently.

Meanwhile, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini expressed his concern towards the deteriorating situation in Lebanon. He pointed out that he is heading to ensure “an Italian bridge” to carry the Italian nationals who would like to depart Beirut.

Frattini requested not to talk about the necessity of changing UNIFIL’s rules of engagement in southern Lebanon.

Iranian FARS Agency mentioned that there are clashes between supporters of the Progressive Socialist Party and Future Movement elements in Naemeh.

FARS said that the clashes among the ruling authority’s group are because the Future Movement elements considered that they were betrayed by MP Walid Jumblatt, who gave up on them at this crucial time.

Ha’aretz: In some cases Hezbollah handed over newly won positions to Lebanese troops, presumably after having made clear to everyone its strength ahead of the next round of negotiations with opponents over the country's political future.

Hizbullah's power was demonstrated dramatically Friday morning when it forced the TV station affiliated to the party of Lebanon's top Sunni lawmaker, Saad Hariri, off the air.

Israeli president hopes Lebanese people won’t sunk into civil war
Ha’aretz: President Shimon Peres played down Israeli concerns at Hizbullah's move to expand its control, but said he hoped the Lebanese people would step back from the brink of civil war.
Peres called the latest round of violence a "tragedy," but classified it as an "internal split" having nothing to do with Israel.
"It's not a total surprise. We knew that Hezbollah is going to divide the country and lead it to the verge of a civil war," Peres told reporters.
"It has nothing to do with Israel. It's an internal split," Peres said. "It's a tragedy for them. It's a tragedy for all of us. And I hope that at the last moment they will save themselves from a bloody civil war."

Posted by: Microraptor Author Profile Page at May 9, 2008 6:25 AM

Microraptor, despite the disingenuous nature of your comment, it was rather clear to anyone watching the events unfold that in fact, there is/was no Hariri militia. What we saw was a militia, Hezbollah, attacking residential neighborhoods, where the citizens (armed with personal light weapons which proliferate in the country) tried to defend their homes. So you were "led to believe" right.

Posted by: Tony Badran Author Profile Page at May 9, 2008 6:59 AM

It was hard to even get past the first paragraph in this.

These people live in some alternative reality. I sometimes wonder if they are talking about the same countries?

Iran is the only net winner in Iraq. The parties it backs RUN Iraq. How are they then the loosers?

This is EXACTLY why our country is going to continue messing up everything it touches in the region. Our leaders and those who shape our policy just do not know a thing about what is going on and are too busy putting their spin on things to accept reality!

He bangs on about Jumblatt, but Jumblatt will talk two different (sometimes more) stories to different people. One minute he demands Hizb'Allah shut down their tele-comm works,next minute he is busy praising Hizb'Allah as the only real resistance to Israel, and that they MUST be protected!

The Sunni militias pretty much bottled out the last few days are refused to put up much of a fight, if at all. They have already pretty much surrendered. But why not? What are they fighting for? A corrupt sectarian form of government? In the memory of Saudi/Syrian tool in the name of Hariri?

It is almost beggers belief how STUPID our leaders are when it comes to these issues.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at May 9, 2008 9:53 AM

Tony,

There is NO Hariri militia? There is no Sunni militia in Lebanon? Are you serious?

The TRUTH is that there is a rather large Sunni militia that is backing the March 14th movement and it has been funded by the Saudis and the Americans. Elements of it were attacked by the Lebanese Army recently in a Palestinian camp.

Sometimes all of that money and arms goes to groups and people who do not share the same exact ideas. I guess the "enemy of my enemy" has made the March 14th movement lay down in some pretty dirty beds with these Sunni extremists.

Some of the members of this militia are out right Sunni/Salafiya extremists who would love nothing more than to give the fight to the "kuffar" Shi'ites.

As the past few days have shown, the Sunni militias lost their nerve and refused to fight, even with the massive amounts of arms and cash supplied by Saudi Arabia and the USA.

This is exactly the time where the Sunni extremists might step up and actually fight where the rest of them have not. At least the AQ elements of the Hariri militia believe in heaven for those killed fighting the Shi'ites.

We can differ on the motivations of the groups involved and who arms and funds them but to deny there are Sunni militia in Lebanon is a lie.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at May 9, 2008 10:00 AM

There are more guns than people in Lebanon, and Hezbollah doesn't have all of them. I know "latte-sipping liberal" types in Beirut who own M-16s. That does not mean that everyone with a gun is part of a formal militia.

If Hezbollah tried to take over Dallas, Texas, and the police and army did nothing (which of course would never happen), Dallas residents would shoot at them. That does not mean there is a militia in Dallas.

Anyway, I expect what I just wrote to change very quickly if it hasn't already. It doesn't take long to turn a political party whose members are armed into a militia.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 9, 2008 12:16 PM

Mike,

You know, and Tony knows, and anyone who is a serious student of the Lebanese situation knows that every Levantine political player worth their salt has an shadow armed structure, be that Amal, Hezbollah, the PSP, the Lebanese Forces, the Future Movement, the SSNP or whoever. Tony's attempts at denying this are simply laughable.

Now, it may be fair to point out that the Future Movement's fighters are not actually very good at fighting, indeed the events of the past 3 days have shown this to be the case.

But to try and write, for example, Mostaqbal or the PSP forces off as a bunch of guys who just happen to have a bunch of guns is ridiculous.

All the parties in Lebanon have a clandestine armed wing and you know it. Or if you don't know it -- I am telling you now.

I cannot find the quote right now, but even officials from the Future Movement itself were referring to their "militia" a day ago. So I am sorry, it simply doesn't wash. In fact it damages your own credibility. As a journalist you should step above the emotion: Badran at least has the excuse he is Lebanese, but you are not.

I know you are all very scared of Hezbollah and of Iran's regime -- perhaps rightly so: in my own experiences they are not at all nice people to do business with, but to paint the likes of Harriri, Geagea and Walid Jumblatt as nice decent, family guy democrats is a nonsense.

Sa'ad Harriri's fortune is based on bankrupting his own country: lending Lebanon money from Rafiq Harriri run banks to spend it on a Rafiq Harriri run construction extravaganza (Solidere) -- and there is a credible argument that his shortsightedness allowed A;l Qaeda a foothold in Lebnanon last year, while Geagea and Jumblatt are old school warlords from typical large dynastic Lebanese super-clans.... and the blood of many hundreds if not thousands of Lebanese civilians is on their hands -- that they have learned the lexicon of tolerance should fool no-one. They probably both belong in prison -- and in any other country that's where they would be.

Not every Latte Sipping M-16 wielding Leb is in a militia.... but a lot of them are.... I repeat, all the major players in Lebanon have an illegal armed wing, and have done for years. The problem for March 14th is that Hezbollah's armed wing is currently more effective than the others...

whew!

Anyways.... How's Prishtina treating you? Is it still full of trash? We used to call the plastic bags that blow round on the Field of the blackbirds "Kosava Flowers"

Posted by: Microraptor Author Profile Page at May 9, 2008 4:30 PM

Microraptor: All the parties in Lebanon have a clandestine armed wing and you know it.

We've all heard that, but I don't know it as a fact the way I know as a fact that Hezbollah has an armed wing. Certainly none of the others have miltias that control territory (etc) as Hezbollah does.

Frankly, though, I'd be surprised if the LF and PSP don't have clandestine armed wings, but it doesn't look like FM has much of one. Where are they?

In any case, if this keeps much much longer at all, everyone will have an armed wing, and the armed wings will be in the open. Lebanon will certainly stop being "boring," alas.

What a disaster.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 9, 2008 5:00 PM

Microraptor: How's Prishtina treating you? Is it still full of trash?

Nope. Today Vetevendosje sent thousands of people to the UN headquarters where they threw truckloads of garbage inside the gate while UN officials stood by stone-faced and mortified.

I am not kidding. I have 300 pictures.

The UN is very unpopular here. I did not expect this.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 9, 2008 5:10 PM

I know you are all very scared of Hezbollah and of Iran's regime — perhaps rightly so: in my own experiences they are not at all nice people to do business with..

Yes, the country that couldn't defeat Saddam even though they threw everything they had at him is so scary. And, just like Saddam and the clownish Kaddafi, Iran's gonna develop WMDs! We've got to do something! Gee, where have we heard that before?

Hezbo is about as terrifying as any other gang, although I think our Crips and Bloods are probably better shots. Compared to genuine military organizations compared to any western army, even Belgium's, Hezbollah is a joke. They have no airpower, they have no tanks, and they can't shoot straight. Their leader lives in hiding. The only reason they 'win' is because no one really wants to fight them.

The thing that's terrifying is that we're allying with our enemies, the Saudis, in an effort to fight Iranian terrorism - despite the fact that Saudi Arabia sponsored 9/11, ignoring the fact that the KSA is the hub of world terrorism, knowing that they don't have as much oil as we thought they did. We know they're profiting from our mistakes, we know they're responsible for thousands of American deaths, but we still trust them. We keep making the same mistake over and over again, hoping that somehow the outcome will change. That kind of insanity, displayed by the world's most powerful government, is kind of scary. But the Russians and the Chinese are just as crazy, so we're not alone.

When people and governments get tired of tolerating the tactic of using terror gangs to fight over diplomatic and trade issues, Nasrallah and his ilk will be toast. But until then, little countries like Lebanon and Israel will continue to suffer from these terror gang wars.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at May 9, 2008 8:49 PM

Maryatexitzero,

I was speaking from personal experiences: I am a journalist as well and have been detained in Iran for filming in the streets and in South Lebanon by Hezbollah.

I agree with you that the "threat" from both is overplayed in the Western media, but I think you are seriously underestimating Hezbollah's military capabilities in your comments.

From what I can gather, West Beirut was largely taken with forces from Amal and some Hezbollah reservists. I have met some of the people who were probably tasked with this sort of operation when I was in Beirut in 2007.

Hezbollah's main fighters - the ones who held off the IDF for a month in 2006 - the ones who are trained in Iran with the latest Russian made anti-tank systems, are considered some of the best fighters in the region. The best of Hezbollah's troops are full time "soldiers" and are probably trained to a skill level equivalent to Special Forces from a country like Turkey or Pakistan.

Comparing them to crack peddling African-American street gangs is to seriously underestimate their power... even if the threat posed to global peace and stability by them and by Iran is exaggerated in the Mainstream Media in the West and in some blogs too (like this one)...

Posted by: Microraptor Author Profile Page at May 10, 2008 6:24 AM

the ones who are trained in Iran with the latest Russian made anti-tank systems, are considered some of the best fighters in the region.

Yes, where would Hezbollah be without Iran and the Russians. If the Crips and the Bloods got that kind of training, they'd be tougher too.

Which was kind of my point. These gangs are powerful because various nations are building them up, using them as weapons of war. As long as nations keep using tools like Nasrallah, the little countries in the bad neighborhoods, like Lebanon and Israel, will suffer the worst consequences. The only way we can really help these countries is to stop using these tools.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at May 10, 2008 7:16 AM

I agree that Hezbollah's military wing shouldn't be underestimated. Looking at photos of them they look like they could be with the American army equipment wise. Where are they getting all these M-16s from?

Posted by: Daniel E. Author Profile Page at May 10, 2008 8:47 AM

Microraptor is right about Hezbollah's military capabilities. Do not underestimate them.

If you don't believe us, ask an Israeli who has faced them in battle.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 10, 2008 2:46 PM

"Looking at photos of them they look like they could be with the American army equipment wise. Where are they getting all these M-16s from?"

When I was in Beirut in Jan - March 2007 I was shown a brand new M-4 rifle which was owned by a member of Amal. It was stamped "Property of the US Govt" and the Amal man said it had been taken from dead US soldier in Iraq and trafficked to the Levant. He said that because the M-4 was such a good weapon the street price in Beirut was USD 10,000 and that this had led to some Iraqi insurgent groups targetting US soldiers specifically for their kit.

Now, I called Centcom Baghdad with the serial number and they would not tell me the weapon's history, so I called Colt who make the M-4 system and they said that ONLY guns used by the US military itself have that stamp on them (so even Private Security Contractors in Iraq don't have that type)...

But I also visited an pro-Hezbollah illegal arms dealer in Dahiyeh (south Beirut suburbs) and he had a range of light weapons for private sale including AR-15 "Super Commando" rifles.... now this man and his unit took part in the storming of West Beirut 3 days ago and they had access to a variety of NATO and East Bloc kit....

I would say that when it comes to small arms the global market is saturated. Hezbollah's M-16s could have come from just about anywhere: another Mid East state, a private dealer, the international Black Market.

The AR-15 (official version) is made by a number of firms in the US: Armalite, Bushmaster, Colt, FN Manufacturing, Hesse, Les Baer, Olympic, Wilson Combat.... 15 NATO countries use it (or M-16 variants) and God knows how many non-NATO countries.... according to Wikipedia more than 8 million have been made.... so it's not hard to see a few hundred slipping into Hezbollah control....

International small arms dealers are not usually idealists, they are usually greedy, amoral bastards.

Posted by: Microraptor Author Profile Page at May 10, 2008 3:21 PM

Microaptor and Marc,

I am very familiar with your Aounist's argument. Under your definition, Michel Aoun has a militia too and therefore is a legitimate target for annihlation by the biggest of all militia- Hizbolla.

The Future Movement has no militia and Hizbolla knew this very well and he planned his attacks on the Movement accordingly. What FM has is guards, and lightly armed supporters who were recruited to protect FM buildings from thuggery and vigilanty.

In the North, it is safe to say that FM is a completely different movement. The movement has more 'supporters' than actual 'members'. The fights in the North that happened over the two last days were led primairly by vigilante groups who hate both the Syrians and the shiites. The North is the closest thing Lebanon has to militant Sunni areas in other parts of the Sunni world. To say that Fatah Al-Islam is an FM supported group stands no chance of verification under any logic or investigation. If this was the case, the Northerners will have solve it the problem without escalations.

Anyway, I think FM is hugely undermined now in the Sunni community and people are looking for radical tough Islamist groups to protect them. They are turning for guns and training after the incidents of Beirut. The day when Michel Aoun and Hasan Nasralla will be yearning for someone like Saad Hariri to talk to are not far.

Finally, Marc's comments on Hariri's wealth lack any substantial evidence? A bankrupt country like Lebanon that was run by heavil armed militias in 1989 will hardly let a businessman returning from Saudi Arabia get more money from the system than he puts in. In any case, even Hizbolla does not make such claims. We all know that Lebanese go to Saudi to make money, not the way around.

Posted by: Hitchhiker71 Author Profile Page at May 11, 2008 3:44 PM

tyhsdtyhdfhdfghfghdfgh

Posted by: zdracks Author Profile Page at May 11, 2008 8:44 PM

Hitchhiker,

If the FM has no militia then there are going to be some really upset members of the US government who are going to want to know where their hundreds of millions of dollars have gone along with a whole lot of weapons!

The Sunnis do not have to look far for radical Sunnis to protect them, some of them have been getting the FM's money and arms. Sometimes it works, other times they jump ship like the recent incident in the Palestinian camp. Those guys were a segment of the FM militia.

Micro is spot on and seems to have a lot of experience in the area. Michael has a tendency to let his own emotions into the situation too much. It hurts the credibility of the reporting, not to mention how the facts are shown and displayed.

The FM has a large militia and the USA and Saudi have spent hundreds of millions on it. Just because they refused to fight doesnt mean they dont exist, it just means either their leaders ordered them not to or that they lacked the minerals to take on Hizb'Allah.

Mary is forgetting recent history. Hizb'Allah tore up everything that the Israelis sent against then, and certainly the Israelis have the best trained and equipped troops in the region. If Hizb'Allah could handle F-16s and tanks, they certainly can handle the idiots in the FM militia.

The guys the FM faced this last week were part timers, the lowest of what Hizb'Allah has to offer. Why engage the best front line troops when your second rate can easily contain and destroy the FM band?

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at May 12, 2008 8:11 AM

Micro,

BTW, interesting to note your story about the M-4. I saw weapons taken in IRA busts in Ireland that said the same, only they were taken in a different manner.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at May 12, 2008 8:12 AM

Microraptor is right about Hezbollah's military capabilities. Do not underestimate them.
If you don't believe us, ask an Israeli who has faced them in battle.

Should I ask the Israelis who dropped the bombs on Haret Hreik?

You described Hezbollah's "strength" here:

The city was a ghost town during the summer, almost completely emptied of people. I didn’t dare spend much time there. It was a perilous place for human beings. Katyusha shrapnel will tear you apart. But the physical damage was limited. It would take years for Hezbollah to physically destroy that city with the arsenal they currently have. And Katyushas are useless against armies. They can’t slow the Israeli Defense Forces for even a second. In the modern era they only work well as terrorist weapons.

Meanwhile, the Israelis dropped tower-busting bombs on Haret Hreik.

They could have flattened all of Haret Hreik in a day if that’s what they wanted to do. There is nothing Hezbollah can do to stop that kind of assault.

Hezbollah’s supposed “victory” is a Pyrrhic one, if even that. And it should serve as a warning. Military historian Michael Oren explained it to me this way at the end of the war: “If [Nasrallah] has enough victories like this one, he’s dead.”

If Hezbollah ever acquires the ability to do to Israel what the Israelis did to Haret Hreik, Hezbollah and the strongholds they control could very well cease to exist. Hezbollah can’t win a total war. They can only “win” if the Israelis don’t feel like they have to fight to the finish.

Yes, Hezbollah is a threat to lightly armed, untrained civilians who live close to the areas they control, but when when Microraptor said: "I know you are all very scared of Hezbollah and of Iran's regime — perhaps rightly so" he was implying that Hezbollah was a genuine threat to genuine military forces who may decide, at some yet-unknown point, to fight to the finish.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at May 12, 2008 8:33 AM

"The FM has a large militia and the USA and Saudi have spent hundreds of millions on it"

Marc I think you are either spreading propaganda or you are truly trying to convince yourself of something you want to believe in.

I am a Sunni Moslem from Tripoli and Beiru, and all the talk in my community both in Lebanon and abroad is how idiotic was it from Saad Hariri and FM not to arm!!! We just wish what you were saying is right!

If FM and the Americans are spending hundreds of millions on Sunni militias, we would have noticed!

The millions of dollars spent by the Americans went to the army which stood there either watching or covering Hizbolla's takeover West Beirut.

Now, many in the Sunni community are talking about the need to arm, and yes the fundementalist groups are offering their sympathy, support and willingess to help. This is a sad, but yet expected, development after Hizbolla and Aounists attack on the possibly on moderate Sunni dominant political group in the Middle East.

One day you will be wishing the Americans indeed spend some money arming FM to counter the militant Sunni insurgents! I hope that day won't come there. Hizbolla has just put us all (moderates) on defence within our community.

You can go ahead believing what you want, this won't change anything in reality.

Posted by: Hitchhiker71 Author Profile Page at May 15, 2008 4:27 PM

Hitchhiker71,

Yep, you nailed it. That's exactly how it is.

Marc likes to think every group in Lebanon is equally bad. He's wrong.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 15, 2008 4:47 PM
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