On Tuesday, July 9, at 10:15, a car bomb exploded in the center of Shi’ite-populated Dahiya, Beirut’s southernmost neighborhood, where the headquarters and administrative offices for the hundreds of Hezbollah organizations operating under the umbrella of that Shi’ite terror organization are located. The Shi’ites feel totally secure in Dahiya, because it is a large enclave populated solely by Shi’ites, and it is located on the outskirts of Beirut, the western part of which is Sunni and the Northeastern part of which is Christian. But the reason for the Shi’ites’ sense of security in Dahiya is also their vulnerable point: Hezbollah cannot impose too many long-range limits on its people’s movements, and this enabled the terrorists to bring the car bomb into Dahiya despite the fact that the heads of Hezbollah know that there are many who would like to sow death among its residents and destruction in the streets.
The apparent target of the attack was the Center for Islamist Cooperation, a large commercial center in the neighborhood of Bir al-Abed, which also serves as an operational center for many of Hezbollah’s offshoot organizations. There is speculation that the explosion was meant to eliminate a specific senior Hezbollah figure that might have been passing by in the street, but the timing of the explosion signifies what the correct interpretation is: this was the first day of the month of Ramadan, a festive month characterized by lively crowds of people shopping in the streets, principally in the morning hours when it is not hot yet and people have not yet felt the effects of the fast. The terror attack was meant to destroy the joy of Ramadan for the Shi’ites and turn it into a time of mourning.
The accusing finger reflexively pointed southward, toward Israel. Members of Lebanese parliament from the Hezbollah party broadcast the usual pre-worded declaration stating that “Israel’s fingerprints are soaked with the blood of the victims,” but no one takes this declaration seriously, even those who broadcast it. They know very well that the attacker is one or more of four possibilities: Jabhat al-Nusra – the Sunni Salafi organization fighting in Syria against the Asad regime; the Free Syrian Army, which keeps its distance from the al-Qaeda-inspired Jabhat al-Nusra; supporters of Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir, the Salafi from Sidon; or Sunnis from Tripoli, who burst into the streets of the northern city in a frenzy of joy and firing in the air when they heard of the attack in Dahiya. All of them – as well as Shi’ite Hezbollah – are sunk up to their necks in the battles of the Syrian civil war, and the attack in Dahiya is another element of this battle.
It is interesting that all of the official Lebanese spokesmen, even Hezbollah’s opposition, condemn the attack. Supporters condemn it for understandable reasons, and detractors condemn it because they fear that anyone who does not condemn the attack severely will himself be suspected of being involved in it, thus inviting acts of very painful revenge from Hezbollah, who knows how to do it: the truck bomb that assassinated Rafiq al-Hariri was most likely a product of the “Party of G-d.” Everyone remembers the fourteen years of civil war (1975-1989) quite well, and there are fears that events such as the attack in Dahiya might reignite the civil war because of the hostility between sects and between political groups, which exists in any case in Lebanon, and the charged atmosphere resulting from Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian civil war.
Even Sa’ad al-Hariri, the chief opposition to Hezbollah, condemned the attack and claimed that it was an attack against all the Lebanese people, without distinction of religion or sect. He called on all the Lebanese sides to unite in an effort to keep Lebanon out of any “regional struggles,” though he knows quite well that Hezbollah is involved up to Hasan Nasrallah’s ears in every “regional struggle” between Iran and the Sunni world, as well as the fateful struggle between the Asad regime and its opposition. In Lebanon, politicians’ declarations reflect reality like a distorted mirror, presenting a picture that is the opposite of reality.
There are those who search for the guilty party in slightly more distant regions. In on-line media there is someone who places the responsibility for the attack on the Saudis, who spread the radical, Wahhabi version of Islam all over the Islamic world, and says that they are the ones who cause Sunnis to consider the Shi’ites as infidels, and suitable targets for jihad. Some accuse the Gulf states, especially Qatar, because of the money that they spread all over the region in the war against ever-increasing Iranian hegemony. Nevertheless, there are also those who also ask: “What was Hezbollah’s actual target – which area or which person – when the car bomb blew up prematurely in Hezbollah’s own secure zone?”
However, here it must be noted that even within the Shi’ite sect in Lebanon there are those who oppose Hezbollah and its involvement in the bloody events in Syria. For years, a Shi’ite sage by the name of Muhammad Ali al-Husseini has been operating in Lebanon. He presents himself as the general secretary of an organization named the Arab Islamic Council, the name testifying to its general-Islamic and Arabic orientation, contrary to the divisive Iranian orientation of Hezbollah. Al-Husseini advocates unity among all religious streams and sects in the Arab world under the political umbrella of the modern Arab state, because the state is the only framework that can assure life, tranquility and development to all communities enabling everyone to gain from the stability. Moreover: according to al-Husseini’s approach, every believing Muslim has a religious duty to accept the state framework and to behave according to the laws of the state (as in “dina dimalkuta dina” in Judaism) because this is the only way that Arab citizens can keep themselves – as individuals and as a collective – from being manipulated by foreign states. There is only one way to interpret such discourse in Lebanon: it is a call to oppose Hezbollah’s Iranian orientation and to oppose any action – even educational and philanthropic – whose purpose is to instill Iranian influence into the Lebanese framework.
Al-Husseini strongly objects to the phenomenon of armed militias in Arab states that operate according to a sectarian or organizational agenda, because it is this phenomenon – he claims – which is the source of Arab societies’ chronic distress. Al-Husseini’s approach has won him many friends from Arab states, even from within the ruling family of Sunni, Wahhabi, Saudi Arabia, but it also places him in continual conflict with Hezbollah. However, al-Husseini has been operating for many years in Lebanon, and up until now no one – even Hezbollah – has tried to assassinate him. Furthermore, in his speeches, Hassan Nasrallah notes with great pride the fact that he is a democrat who does not silence his opposition, even those who criticize him within the Shi’ite sect, such as Muhammad Ali al-Husseini. The reason that Hezbollah tolerates al-Husseini is that al-Husseini has no armed militia and therefore does not pose any real danger to Hezbollah. It also allows Hezbollah to appear as a tolerant organization that can tolerate criticism.
Surprisingly, the more severe opposition to Nasrallah and Hezbollah’s military involvement in Syria comes from within Hezbollah itself. Lately, it has been publicized that mothers of Hezbollah soldiers call on Nasrallah to bring their sons out of the Syrian hell because their sons enlisted for the purpose of “resistance,” to fight Israel and Zionism, not to ruin Syria and kill its people. It is widely accepted that these “mothers” (perhaps the Lebanese version of the Israeli “Four Mothers” organization) express the growing public mood among the Shi’ites in Lebanon, for a number of reasons. The first is the high number of Hezbollah casualties – fatalities and wounded – in Lebanon. Several hundred have been sacrificed on the altar of keeping the infidel, Alawite Asad regime in power with no end in sight of the war or the casualties, and without seeing a worthy reason for them to sacrifice their lives and health. The second reason is the Lebanese Shi’ites increasing fear that in the end Asad will fall anyway, and those who will have taken him down – chiefly the Salafi Jihadists – will carry out their threat that “After they succeed in eliminating the mouse of Damascus they will come to eliminate the rat of Beirut.” Many in the Shi’ite community fear that if Asad falls there will be no one to save them from the knives of the jihadists who threaten the Shi’ites in Lebanon with slaughter or decapitation.
Syria and Lebanon – Inextricably Intertwined
The close interweaving between the events in Syria and Lebanon should not surprise anyone. Hafez Asad, the tree from which the present Syrian mass murderer fell, used to say that Syria and Lebanon are one people that was divided into two states, and therefore – for example – they do not require mutual recognition and don’t need to open an embassy in each others’ states. Anyone with eyes in his head understood that this saying is intended to hide a painful truth which is totally different. Hafez Asad never saw Lebanon as a legitimate independent entity, because it was born of an illegal relationship between Catholic France and the Lebanese Christian Maronites, who are also Catholic, and they wanted a state for themselves despite the fact that they are an inseparable part of Greater Syria. He felt that Lebanon – like Jordan and Palestine – belong to Greater Syria, and this is how he related to the citizens of Lebanon. As he felt free to slaughter his citizens without restraint, he also saw no problem in cutting off the lives of the citizens of Lebanon, and also the citizens of Israel, another illegitimate creation of the British-Zionist plot.
Hafez’s son, Bashar, was forced to recognize Lebanon and open a Syrian embassy as a result of the murder of Rafiq al-Hariri in February 2005, but he also considers Lebanon as part of Syria in every way. Today, the Gordian knot between the two states is clearer than ever: on one hand Hezbollah soldiers are becoming the main assault force of the tired, worn out Syrian army, and on the other hand – by the end of the present year, a fifth of the residents of Lebanon will be Syrian refugees, and the Syrian anarchy flows unrestricted into the Lebanese public experience in the form of a cruel sectarian war and ruthless elimination of opposition.
The condition of the Asad regime continues to deteriorate, despite tactical successes that he occasionally achieves such as the one in al-Qusayr two months ago. In Homs there is all-out war and large sections of the third largest city in Syria have become ruins. A few days ago, a rear base of the Syrian army near the port city of Latakia was attacked, and the explosions of ammunition caused reverberations that shook the entire area. There are rumors that the base was the main ammunition supply of Asad’s army and that important weapons systems like the s-300 anti-aircraft missiles and shore-to-sea Yakhont type missiles were hit. There are also many rumors about the identity of the operatives who managed to blow up the base: the Free Syrian Army, jabahat al-Nusra, a neighboring state such as Turkey or Israel, jets that took off from aircraft carriers sailing in the Mediterranean Sea – namely, American, and there were even those who said that the attack was caused by Cruise missiles that reached the Syrian base after having traveled thousands of kilometers.
Whatever the reason for the explosion in Syria , it proves that someone is watching Syria with a magnifying glass, and hears everything that goes on there despite the stupid fool Edward Snowden’s traitorous actions. Whoever is watching, draws the correct conclusions and takes the necessary steps to prevent the bloody regime in Syria from becoming too strong, and from giving weapons that are too dangerous to terror organizations like Hezbollah, to repay them for the support that Hezbollah is giving to their friends in Damascus.
The world is not overjoyed to support the rebels in Syria, because they seem to us – and to a great extent correctly – like al-Qaeda. The al-Qaeda jihadi organization was supplied with Western weapons and in the beginning they used the weapons against the Soviets. But after the Soviets left Afghanistan, bin Laden turned the organization’s operation against the West in general and the United States in particular. No doubt this is a bad precedent, and there are many who caution the West against supporting the rebels in Syria because they also have the potential to become enemies of the West. They claim that “the devil you know,” meaning a weakened Asad, is better than to open the door to the “devil you don’t know,” meaning the jihadis.
But there is another negative consideration: the Asad regime is the backbone of the Arabic tentacle of the Iranian octopus, and the elimination of Asad would necessarily bring about a significant weakening of Iranian influence on the Arab world in general and on Hezbollah in particular. This is the real reason for Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria. If we must decide today whom to support – the Sunni jihadis or the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah coalition – it seems to this writer that it is more important to strike the Iranian coalition than the jihadis, because Iran is on the threshold of joining the nuclear club and the jihadis are not. True, they could become international terrorists according to the teachings of bin Laden, but they can not sow physical destruction and economic paralysis like a nuclear Iran.
A nuclear Iran would threaten the stability of the regimes in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States in an unprecedented way, since it has already succeeded to tame the “democratic” Iraqi regime and pull it under the Iranian umbrella. Iran intends to take over Afghanistan next year, immediately after the withdrawal of Western forces from there, just as it threatens the stability of the Islamic republics to its north. The fall of Asad would deal a severe blow to Iran’s attempts to create regional hegemony. Therefore, the interest to the West in toppling Asad is stronger than the fear of terrorist acts that might be carried out by the jihadis in the future, because the fear of terrorism would exist even if Asad remains in his seat.
The only conclusion to draw from the events in Lebanon and Syria is that the civilized world must rid itself of the Asad-Hezbollah-Iran coalition even at the expense of supporting jihadis, because they can be dealt with in a later phase.
From this honorable podium we wish a “Ramadan Karim” to the entire Islamic nation and especially to those who love peace.
This article was written in Hebrew by Dr. Mordechai Kedar for the July 12, 2013 issue of Makor Rishon, and translated to English by Sally Zahav.
About the Author: Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Ph.D. Bar-Ilan U.) Served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. A lecturer in Arabic at Bar-Ilan U., he is also an expert on Israeli Arabs.
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