04 December 2006

West helps Lebanon build militia to fight Hezbollah

Sent: domingo, 03 de diciembre de 2006 0:00
To: Paul Reynolds
Subject: Lebanon

Dear Paul,

I was trawling away on the internet this afternoon and came across this intriguing piece from yesterday's Globe & Mail, the Canadian national newspaper:

West helps Lebanon build militia to fight Hezbollah

I was surprised to read this as I had not come across this news in the British media.

"Syria and Iran have long poured money and weapons into Lebanese groups, primarily Hezbollah. But since Mr. Siniora and his allies took office in 2005, the United States, France and several Sunni Arab countries have set about trying to create a counterbalancing force."

"Since the Syrian army's departure from Lebanon in early 2005, the United States and France have been providing money and training to the Internal Security Forces, as the light-blue-uniformed police force is known. With the political situation souring further in recent weeks, the United Arab Emirates stepped in to provide the unit with an emergency "gift" of thousands of rifles and dozens of police vehicles."

"The United States, which sees Mr. Siniora's government as a flagship for its "new Middle East," gave $1.5-million (U.S.) in "rushed" military assistance to the ISF just before the outbreak of the summer war between Israel and Hezbollah, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has provided training. Washington promised millions more, but it's unclear whether it was ever delivered.

The ISF has also set up a separate $30-million intelligence-gathering apparatus -- in a country that already had three other such services -- because the other forces were seen as dominated by Christians and Shiites and infiltrated by Syria. Observers say the ISF's intelligence unit is widely reviled by suspicious Christians and Shiites.

"There is no trust of the police here. The police are seen as a Sunni-dominated sectarian force," said Timur Goksel, a professor of public administration at the American University in Beirut.

According to Amin Hteit, a military analyst and retired Lebanese army general, the ISF was a secondary force of about 12,000 men, compared with 63,000 in the regular army, before the Syrian withdrawal. Reflecting the generally accepted population breakdown, a third of its members were Shiites.

The ISF has since doubled in number, with Sunnis and Christians making up most of the new troops. According to Gen. Hteit, just 1,000 of the 12,000 additions are Shiites."

This is extremely important news. I can't understand why it isn't on every newscast or bulletin. Or on the front page of every newspaper. Or is it it that because its 'us' lighting the fuse of the next civil war, we can just ignore it as if it isn't really happening? Or is the aim really to transform the Middle East into a series of small easily controllable states as suggested by Maj. Peters, formerly assigned to the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence (US), where he was responsible for future warfare, in an article in the US Armed Forces Journal in early August 2006.

"International borders are never completely just. But the degree of injustice they inflict upon those whom frontiers force together or separate makes an enormous difference — often the difference between freedom and oppression, tolerance and atrocity, the rule of law and terrorism, or even peace and war.

The most arbitrary and distorted borders in the world are in Africa and the Middle East. Drawn by self-interested Europeans (who have had sufficient trouble defining their own frontiers), Africa's borders continue to provoke the deaths of millions of local inhabitants. But the unjust borders in the Middle East — to borrow from Churchill — generate more trouble than can be consumed locally."

"As for those who refuse to "think the unthinkable," declaring that boundaries must not change and that's that, it pays to remember that boundaries have never stopped changing through the centuries. Borders have never been static, and many frontiers, from Congo through Kosovo to the Caucasus, are changing even now (as ambassadors and special representatives avert their eyes to study the shine on their wingtips).

Oh, and one other dirty little secret from 5,000 years of history: Ethnic cleansing works."

"Correcting borders to reflect the will of the people may be impossible. For now. But given time — and the inevitable attendant bloodshed — new and natural borders will emerge. Babylon has fallen more than once.

Meanwhile, our men and women in uniform will continue to fight for security from terrorism, for the prospect of democracy and for access to oil supplies in a region that is destined to fight itself."

The article comes accompanied by a before and after map of the area.

When the Lebanon descends into a similar hellish chaos as Iraq, don't say you were never warned.

Best wishes

Update 04 December 2006:

After writing this letter yesterday, I see from reports in today's press that it has already started. In today's Haaretz we see the headline "Lebanon beefs up Beirut forces after Hezbollah man shot dead".

"In the most serious incident, gunmen fired from assault rifles at a group of protesters in the Sunni Qasqas neighbourhood, a stronghold for the anti-Syrian majority coalition, killing a man later identified as a Hezbollah guerrilla." Mind you we don't know who identified him as a a "guerrilla"...

UPDATE: 14 December 2006:

-----Original Message-----
From: Paul Reynolds-INTERNET
Sent: martes, 05 de diciembre de 2006 14:52
To: David Sketchley
Subject: RE: Lebanon

I have passed this on to the Middle East desk

-----Original Message-----
From: David Sketchley
Sent: 05 December 2006 13:42
To: Paul Reynolds-INTERNET
Subject: FW: Lebanon

I'm sorry you a) couldn't find the time or b) couldn't be bothered to reply or even to cover this aspect on the BBC website.

For your information another article backing this up has been published in the LA Times:

"The Lebanese government has nearly doubled the size of its security forces in recent months by adding about 11,000 mostly Sunni Muslim and Christian troops, and has armed them with weapons and vehicles donated by the United Arab Emirates, a Sunni state."

"The quiet, speedy buildup indicates that Lebanon's anti-Syria ruling majority, led by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, has been bracing for armed sectarian conflict since the withdrawal of Syrian forces in the spring of 2005"

Another aspect of the Lebanon problem that you have failed to address is that there is a class aspect to this struggle as well. The fact is that the Shiites are mostly poor and underrepresented by the outdated Taif Agreement.

Megan Stack in another LA Times article:

"Some of the poorest and most marginalized people in the country, Shiite Muslims, have abandoned their homes in suburban slums to camp out on the nation's priciest bit of real estate...Shiites have languished for generations in the impoverished east and south of the country. Even when they poured into the capital to escape poverty and war, they ended up squatting on the fringes of the city. Neglect of their plight provided the fertile ground in which
Hezbollah took root, not only as a band of fighters that stood up to Israel, but also as an efficient welfare network. The group built schools, founded clinics and helped squatters win the right to stay in their homes..."This part of town is for the French, for the Americans, for the rich," said Ali Hamdan, 30, a member of the Shiite Amal party. "It's not for us anymore. It's not really Lebanon. This is only on a map."


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