Thursday, January 25, 2007

1958 + 1973 = 2007... hopefully not.

It was reported today that a Palestinian faction, the Jund el Sham, was involved in a ten minute skirmish of sorts with the Army in Saida, near the entrance to the Ain el Helweh camp in the Taamir district. There has been some of this before, but not to this extent yet as the residents of Taamir have been calling for a government presence in the area which was previously a no go zone for both Palestinian factions of the nearby camp and the Army.

And I was thinking, the days we live in Lebanon are certainly dark by all accounts. But how similar or different they are to the events of the late 50's and the period between the late 60's to early 70's is open to debate. In 1958 there was a period of civil unrest (and burning of tires?) for a period (I'll gladly accept help on the details since I have no time to look it up now). The Army, under the command of general Fouad Chehab took a stance that was neither in favor nor against the civil unrest. Gen. Chehab refused to suppress the unrest on the one hand but also prevented it from spreading to other areas. It suffices to say that the next president after these incidents was none other, than Fouad Chehab... could we say that today the Army has done something that is similar? And just as American troops landed then to help shore up support the government, today this might be a concern (or wanted blessing to some) too? Its true that their are huge factors that are completely different than both of the times... but today clearly we see that as the then President Chamoun was angry at Gen. Chehab's 'inaction' we also see today that PM Sanioura is angry at the Army, under the command of Gen. Suleiman... (Defense Minster, Lias el Murr is also reported to have instructed the Army to refrain from violence totally... Blacksmith Jade's suggestions on how the Army could/should have handled the situation are noteworthy and I recommend you reading them two posts below). Can we compare the government's displeasure with the Army today with the displeasure expressed by March 14 forces???

So, what about the clashes with Jund el Sham then? Well, I posted that because that reminded me of another facet that preceded the Lebanese 'civil' war that initatially began with the fighting of Palestinian factions against the Kataeb, a group that was being trained and armed with the tacit approval of the regime at the time; today some say the same is happening today in respect to the approval of the regime of re-arming civil war era militias and arming new ones. On the other hand, the Palestinian camps have so far remained largely uninvolved in our disputes with eachother. But its not so hard to see how that can change with some armed Palestinians being used by either side...

Finally, the displeasure of the March 14 forces (and government) with the Army, combined with their threats to send down their supporters to unravel the road blockades yesterday are dangerous declarations that risk damaging the internal integrity of the Army. I would also like to point out that, by most accounts including pro-government media, the FPMers did not carry weapons (and Hizbullah). Now, here's the other deja vu; all the debates that phrase I put up 'the FPMers did not carry weapons' will cause. 'Who killed who and who fired on who?'... did the truth really matter then in the 70's?

In my opinion, the government has been going about this issue very dangerously. Hizbullah's weapons have never been used against the Lebanese Army or civilians. But we hear always that Hizbullah is undermining the state institutions (and is a serious threat to the Lebanese entity) in keeping their weapons and certainly by all accounts they must give up their weapons sooner or later. However, according to internal sources the government has been faciliating, if not directly than indirectly, weapon deliveries to various pro-government factions; along with their public rebuke of the Army, this amounts to a great erosion of the State and push towards militia-style governance.

Now what will happen will happen; I'm not trying to say 'more disasters are at our door step'. Nor do I wish to say we are close to yet another civil war (all this is a very really concern to many, if not most, Lebanese today). I am, however, intersted in hearing your comments on whether (and how) you relate today's situations with the 1958 crisis and the pre-civil years.

Allah ma3koun.

PS. The picture: Mou3arada throwing stones (back?) at Mouwalet; Jan. 23.


  1. Allah ma3koun ento,

    Stay safe.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. If there is a weapons build-up by 'pro-government' forces then it is simply a response to the perceived imbalance in weaponry to the favor of Hizballah (heavily armed - of course), the SSNP (weapons caches along with assassination-type explosives uncovered), Amal (assualt rifles, explosives and mortars), and the Baathist (same as Amal - 'light weaponry'): these are Lebanon's pro-Syrian militants (along with some Syrian-controlled Palestinian factions).

    That, along with Hizballah's complete undermining of Lebanon's foreign and defence policies (which are supposed to be decided by the government and only the government - in consultation with all executive and legislative branches of government) with these weapons, is why Hizballah is "undermining the state institutions."

    So worst case scenario, there is arming among various parties in Lebanon - a sort of arms races - provoked by Hizballah and their pro-Syrian allies' arsenal. Best case scenario, no significant weapons build up by the anti-Syrian factions and a disarming of Hizballah (along strategic defense lines if you like), and the rest of the pro-Syrians (complete, debilitating disarmament).

  4. I am hearing first-hand reports of Amal supporters making some trouble in Da7ye. They are throwing stones at people and smashing cars in parkings. The army is trying to control them, but they are a bit outnumbered at the moment. Reports of up to 5 people dead?!

    On a more positive note, I also heard that Hezbollah was not letting the Shia in the uni leave so they wouldn't cause any trouble.

    Can anyone confirm?

  5. I hear you BM Jade. But take things a step back; why Hizbullah exists in the first place (or correction: why it is supported by so many). You and I both agree on the need of a strong (under State authority) and effective defense force of an Army we need along with the 'donation' of all weapons (at least the heavy stuff, namely, that HA has) to the Army. We disagree on how to go about that and all we have now are proposals so far off it seems, all in the air; but as you say, 'As always, you're way off'... ;) lol.

  6. Anyways, we have a bigger (potential) crisis to deal with now.

  7. For the record that was Arabic Coffee Pot...but I'll take it :D

  8. Hizbullah's weapons have never been used against the Lebanese Army or civilians.

    Michael Totten begs to differ:

    Did anyone here try to stop Hezbollah?” I said.
    “How?” Alan said. “We have no weapons. Some people told Hezbollah to leave, but they pointed guns in our faces. Shut up, go back in your house, we were told.”

  9. For everyone's sake, I really hope the Palestinians do not get involved in Lebanon's internal affairs.

    Thank you for your updates, keep 'em coming.


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