Sunni extremists accuse army of siding with Hezbollah

hezbollah_flagSunni extremists have stepped up attacks on the Lebanese army, accusing it of siding with the Iranian backed Shiite Hezbollah militant group

The violence is undermining the army’s attempts to assert its authority around the country in the face of growing sectarian violence spilling over from the civil war in neighboring Syria.

The U.S. has spent $1 billion to train and equip Lebanon’s army since 2006, trying to create a bulwark against the more powerful militia of Hezbollah, which Washington has designated a terrorist organization.

It also hoped a stronger Lebanese army could help stabilize the fragile country, which was mired in its own civil war from 1975-1990.

American officials said they were troubled by accusations that the military is under the thumb of Hezbollah.

“It is hard to hear this talk that the Lebanese Armed Forces are Hezbollah agents,” said a former U.S. official who focused on Lebanon.

Lebanon’s Sunnis, who largely support the Sunni-dominated rebels in Syria’s war, are angry with Hezbollah for fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The Syrian regime is dominated by Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, and the war has attracted Islamic extremists from across the region, including Lebanon.

As Lebanese jihadists return from fighting the Syrian regime, their fury is increasingly turning to Hezbollah.

The Iranian-allied group, meanwhile, has consolidated its political power by joining the government and has risen with its allies to become the dominant bloc.

Hezbollah has long maintained its own militia—the strongest armed group in the country with more sophisticated weapons and training than the army. Its political adversaries have pushed for its disarmament, but Hezbollah claims its weapons are necessary to protect the country from neighboring Israel and refuses to relinquish them.

The latest in a spate of assaults on the military since the summer came on Sunday, when Islamists launched two separate attacks on the army in the southern city of Sidon.

The U.S. Embassy in Beirut condemned the attacks and praised the army for “maintaining Lebanon’s security and stability.”

The confrontations against the army threaten to whittle away popular support for the only remaining institution respected by Lebanon’s multiple religious groups. If the army continues to lose that support, it will join the ranks of the country’s many ineffective institutions and add to the view that Lebanon is descending into a failed state.

Part of the problem is the weakening of traditional moderate Sunni leaders—many U.S. allies—and the rise of radical Islamist preachers who denounce the army as controlled by Hezbollah.

That allegation is increasingly being adopted by ordinary Lebanese Sunnis.

“The army is infiltrated by Iran and the Syrian regime and is under Hezbollah domination,” said Sheik Daii al-Islam Chahal, a hard-line Sunni preacher in the northern city of Tripoli with a large following and his own militia.

Lebanon has a history of powerful political factions or individuals maintaining their own militias outside of army control.

“The conflict between the Sunnis and the army isn’t new, but it shows now,” the preacher said. “It grows along with Hezbollah’s domination of Lebanon.”

In the attacks on Sunday, militants threw a grenade at an army checkpoint in Sidon, wounding two soldiers, the military said.

Within the hour, soldiers at a second army checkpoint stopped a jeep with three men inside.

One got out, tackled a soldier and detonated a grenade, killing himself and the serviceman. A local report said one of the attackers had fought in Syria, but it couldn’t be independently confirmed.

As Lebanon falls further into sectarian strife, the army is struggling to gain the trust of the population and to take control of security. A plan last month for the it to secure Tripoli—parts of which have become a battleground for various militias—has failed to quell fierce sectarian tensions there.

Al Qaeda offshoots are gaining ground in the city, Lebanon’s second largest.

Intense clashes between Sunni and Alawite militants in Tripoli have killed some two dozen people since October. Attacks on the army have killed one soldier and wounded nine in recent weeks.

Shadi Mawlawi is one of those leading attacks on the army in Tripoli.

He was jailed last year for being a part of an al Qaeda offshoot and sending arms and money to extremist Syrian rebels. Mr. Mawlawi said he was released after Prime Minister Najib Mikati, a Sunni, intervened on his behalf and paid his bail. But the premier denied the story.

“The army is Hezbollah,” Mr. Mawlawi said in an interview in September. He showed a reporter photos on his phone of army vehicles emblazoned with Hezbollah’s symbol, which appeared to be altered.

He claimed Hezbollah used the army to fight a Lebanese radical preacher from Sidon, where Sunday’s attacks took place. The preacher, Sheikh Ahmed al-Assir, is currently on the run after his supporters attacked the army in June and killed 16 soldiers.

Mr. al-Assir’s fiery, sectarian sermons, denouncing the army as Hezbollah agents, have fed hostility and distrust toward the force. The government’s inability to catch the sheik has infuriated militants, who said the army is targeting Sunnis while turning a blind eye to Hezbollah’s militia.

“We lost a lot of good, brave people in Lebanon’s special forces in the battle with Assir. People we trained,” said the former U.S. official.

Alain Aoun, a Christian parliamentarian, blamed a lack of robust American support for the difficulties the military is facing. Israeli concerns, in part, have blocked the provision of heavy weapons to the army, he said.

Consequently, the army is spread thin on multiple fronts. It is struggling to prevent the flow of weapons and militants into Syria, to secure its border with Israel and now to battle radical Islamists at home.

“This isn’t enough support,” said Mr. Aoun. “It isn’t about the amount of money, but qualitative assistance. The aid is good, but we need more to face the dangers.”

WSJ

  • cook

    Its a shame that Hezbollah has decided to cross into Syria and kill innocents

    • Peaceforleb

      Cook, seriously do you really beleive that. So now the terrorist are innocent are they. The very people who have come for Jihad because they are promised 72 virgins. The same people who behead innocent people because in their delusional mind they beleive are infidels. The same animals who rape woman and children by putting their hands on their head and scream out allah akbar because of same bullshit fatwa. Really Cookie, they are innocent. If anything, Hezbollah should praised for assisting the Syrian government to ride the world of these low life rapists murdering scum bags.

    • dateam

      Its a shame that israel invaded lebanon and occupied it for 20 years killing innocent people.

      • Leborigine

        It is also a shame that the assad regime occupied Lebanon for 29 years, raped, kidnapped and robbed most of the countries resources, disrespected and divided our country. By saying that, it does not mean I support the FSA either. I am anti – anything -syrian full stop.
        It also does not mean I support israel . I hate everyone that is not Lebanese or German equally, actually after watching the Italian protester, I think I will include them in my love list!

        • dateam

          True…but one must also question who allowed them in? The same people that are fighting them now? Thats for a different forum to discuss…right now we have a major threat…if suicide bombers become active and our army becomes a target then we are looking at a battle my friend which may be very very ugly.

          • Leborigine

            Totally agree dateam. The army should not be targeted and off limits. Hard to control when you have other militias running around with weapons and the country is a complete mess.

          • hezzies are terrorists

            LMFAO who welcomed the Israelis in 82??
            Amazing how you avoid criticising anything your beloved sect does. Sectarian much?

          • dateam

            Says the one that has a sectarian name? says the one that when he dosent agree blabbers sectarianism….And how have you deduced what my sect is? Ignorance is bliss. To add I think you will find it was the christians and shiites that probably initially welcomed the israelis coming in because of all the hell the palestinians brought.

          • hezzies are terrorists

            So my name is sectarian ay lol.. Glad you admit your heroes the hezzies are sectarian.
            Doesn’t take much to “deduce” where your loyalties lie and what sect you are.
            So why don’t you add why the Sunnis initially welcomed Syria into Lebanon? lol again your sectarianism continues to show.
            And “probably”? So you don’t know but you throw it out there with a qualifier like “probably”?
            Maybe you should “call family and friends” and they can give you “facts”, just like another sectarian on this blog
            🙂

      • Adam Yonatan Ben Yoel

        It’s a shame that Lebanon allowed terrorists to operate from her soil and murder innocent Israelis FIRST

        • FadiAbboud

          Lebanon is a masculine noun so the proper phrase should read ” allowed terrorists to operate from his soil “

          • Adam Yonatan Ben Yoel

            You may be right. I hear a lot of people refer to countries as feminine. I’ll just say ‘it’ from now on.

  • Heraclitus

    Its a shame that Hezbollah has decided to cross into Syria and kill innocents

    • Peaceforleb

      Cook, seriously do you really beleive that. So now the terrorist are innocent are they. The very people who have come for Jihad because they are promised 72 virgins. The same people who behead innocent people because in their delusional mind they beleive are infidels. The same animals who rape woman and children by putting their hands on their head and scream out allah akbar because of same bullshit fatwa. Really Cookie, they are innocent. If anything, Hezbollah should praised for assisting the Syrian government to ride the world of these low life rapists murdering scum bags.

    • dateam

      Its a shame that israel invaded lebanon and occupied it for 20 years killing innocent people.

      • Leborigine

        It is also a shame that the assad regime occupied Lebanon for 29 years, raped, kidnapped and robbed most of the countries resources, disrespected and divided our country. By saying that, it does not mean I support the FSA either. I am anti – anything -syrian full stop.
        It also does not mean I support israel . I hate everyone that is not Lebanese or German equally, actually after watching the Italian protester, I think I will include them in my love list!

        • dateam

          True…but one must also question who allowed them in? The same people that are fighting them now? Thats for a different forum to discuss…right now we have a major threat…if suicide bombers become active and our army becomes a target then we are looking at a battle my friend which may be very very ugly.

          • Leborigine

            Totally agree dateam. The army should not be targeted and off limits. Hard to control when you have other militias running around with weapons and the country is a complete mess.

          • hezzies are terrorists

            LMFAO who welcomed the Israelis in 82??
            Amazing how you avoid criticising anything your beloved sect does. Sectarian much?

          • dateam

            Says the one that has a sectarian name? says the one that when he dosent agree blabbers sectarianism….And how have you deduced what my sect is? Ignorance is bliss.

          • hezzies are terrorists

            So my name is sectarian ay lol.. Glad you admit your heroes the hezzies are sectarian.
            Doesn’t take much to “deduce” where your loyalties lie and what sect you are.
            So why don’t you add why the Sunnis initially welcomed Syria into Lebanon? lol again your sectarianism continues to show.
            And “probably”? So you don’t know but you throw it out there with a qualifier like “probably”?
            Maybe you should “call family and friends” and they can give you “facts”, just like another sectarian on this blog
            🙂

      • Adam Yonatan Ben Yoel

        It’s a shame that Lebanon allowed terrorists to operate from her soil and murder innocent Israelis FIRST

        • FadiAbboud

          Lebanon is a masculine noun so the proper phrase should read ” allowed terrorists to operate from his soil “

          • Adam Yonatan Ben Yoel

            You may be right. I hear a lot of people refer to countries as feminine. I’ll just say ‘it’ from now on.

  • 5thDrawer

    In Tripoli, where too little ‘permission’ was given early enough to the army to BE one, BY the self-strangled government, the army has been a target of, and still gets potted at by, both ‘sides’ as it tries to remove the weapons in the hands of ALL sides after Tripoli became a no-man’s land with their idiot insanities visited on a whole population. Drive-by shootings are not only from one GANG, nor is the sniping. None of them including Hezzbolla ever wanted to ‘give up’ their bits of local gang-power to the concept of ‘One Country’ named Lebanon.
    Here I may even agree (heaven forgive me) with Aoun, although he is surely just as much a part of it, YET the fear of Americans to supply can be understood in the same light as in Syria proper – they just can’t figure out which pack of lies and accusations are real, or which fabricated against the LAF or the FSA, or who may end up with the supplies they would be happy to donate if it meant peace.
    With law and order.
    In Lebanon, they couldn’t even set up properly to receive refugees or to bring Aid. Not even the UN could. Citizens LIVE like refugees as it is. Did it say ‘Failed State’ up there? It’s a G-d Da-ned Disaster.
    The biggest ‘propaganda’ lines are always reserved for Israelis, of course, but history – such as it was – doesn’t adjust for new thinking … it stagnates in ‘Lebanon’.
    Why else would 16 million Lebanese live elsewhere?? Why have they vacated as they could, and if they had enough money to do so, go now??
    Tripoli looks like a ghost-town although there’s a Christmas tree … but especially when the shooting goes on … and the poor suffer ALWAYS. It’s a Dark, Cold and Deathly Christmas.
    A Syrian Christmas.

  • 5thDrawer

    In Tripoli, where too little ‘permission’ was given early enough to the army to BE one, BY the self-strangled government, the army has been a target of, and still gets potted at by, both ‘sides’ as it tries to remove the weapons in the hands of all sides after Tripoli became a no-man’s land with their idiot insanities visited on a whole population. Drive-by shootings are not only from one GANG, nor is the sniping. None of them including Hezzbolla ever wanted to ‘give up’ their bits of local gang-power to the concept of ‘One Country’ named Lebanon.
    Here I may even agree (heaven forgive me) with Aoun, although he is surely just as much a part of it, YET the fear of Americans to supply can be understood in the same light as in Syria proper – they just can’t figure out which pack of lies and accusations are real, or which fabricated against the LAF or the FSA, or who may end up with the supplies they would be happy to donate if it meant peace.
    In Lebanon, they couldn’t even set up properly to receive refugees or to bring Aid. Not even the UN could. Citizens LIVE like refugees as it is. Did it say ‘Failed State’ up there? It’s G-d Da-ned Disaster.
    The biggest ‘propaganda’ lines are always reserved for Israelis, of course, but history – such as it was – doesn’t adjust for new thinking … it stagnates in ‘Lebanon’.
    Why else would 16 million Lebanese live elsewhere?? Why have they vacated as they could, and if they had enough money to do so, go now??
    Tripoli looks like a ghost-town although there’s a Christmas tree … but especially when the shooting goes on … and the poor suffer ALWAYS. It’s a Dark, Cold and Deathly Christmas.
    A Syrian Christmas.