FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Lebanon, Car Bombs and a New Era of Violence

by RANNIE AMIRI

Car bombs have always been the preferred method of political assassination in Lebanon. The most recent was the October 2012 killing of intelligence chief Wisam al-Hasan, a harsh reminder that covert funding of Syria’s militant groups by government officials would not go unchecked.

In less than two months, four car bombs struck Beirut and the northern city of Tripoli. The devastation wrought was different from those in years past however, for no specific leader was targeted. The victims were not only ordinary civilians, but the chief constituents of Lebanon’s two main rival political factions, the March 8 and March 14 coalitions.

On July 8, a car bomb hit the Bir al-Abed neighborhood of Beirut’s southern suburbs, collectively known as the Dahiyeh, which is largely (though no exclusively) inhabited by Shia Muslims. More than 50 were wounded but no deaths recorded. Then, on August 15, a massive car bomb detonated in the Dahiyeh’s al-Ruweiss district, killing nearly 30 and injuring 300.

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hasan Nasrallah placed the blame squarely on takfiris; extremists who exclude anyone not adhering to their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam as outside its fold. They are now the best-equipped and most numerous of the armed opposition batting Bashar al-Assad‘s regime in Syria.

Only a week passed after the Ruweiss attack before two car bombs ripped through the al-Taqwa and al-Salaam mosques during Friday prayers in the Sunni-majority city of Tripoli, one in which the firebrand, anti-Assad, Salafist cleric Salem al-Rafei had been preaching. At last count, 47 were killed and 500 injured. Again, all were civilians.

The Bir al-Abed blast was allegedly in retaliation for Hezbollah’s “meddling” in Syria, specifically in the town of Qusair, from where rebels had increasingly been harassing and making forays into nearby Shia villages on both sides of the Syrian-Lebanese border before Hezbollah fighters helped wrest it from their control.

In condemning this bombing, March 14 officials implicitly held Hezbollah responsible due to their involvement in Qusair. This so-called pro-Western coalition however, had been funding and arming al-Qaeda-inspired jihadist rebels in Syria via Sidon and Tripoli long before a single Hezbollah fighter had ever set foot there.

The August carnage in Ruweiss led Nasrallah to say that if necessary, he would go to Syria himself to fight the takfiris. The devastation in Tripoli soon followed. Was it in retaliation for the Dahiyeh bombings? Two pro-Assad Sunni clerics were quickly detained, but the real architects remain unknown.

The conventional wisdom has been that these events are merely “spillover” from the Syrian conflict. It is a convenient yet superficial analysis.

Assad’s forces now appear to have the upper hand as the Syrian people continue to suffer inside and outside their ravaged country. Trying to cut their losses (and recognizing that the United States and other Western powers are loathe to arm an opposition where al-Qaeda’s flag competes with that of the Free Syrian Army), the “spillover” effect has really been for takfiris to revive the sectarian war in Iraq—in which 1,000 civilians were killed from car bombings and suicide attacks in July alone—and to kindle one in Lebanon.

Sectarian tensions are at an all-time high in Lebanon, and its radical foot soldiers, like al-Rafei and Sidon’s fugitive Salafist cleric Ahmad al-Asir, have done their utmost to stoke these sentiments. Members of the March 14 coalition have been complicit at best, or are active participants at worst, in fueling this engulfing fire.

Behind the scenes are the machinations of the Saudi, Israeli, and American intelligence services. Recognizing the gains that can be made by creating an unstable, volatile political climate, entire communities are now in the crosshairs, sowing the seeds of hate between them.

After the first Dahiyeh bombing, sweets were handed out in celebration in the restive Sunni neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh in Tripoli and Tariq al-Jedidah in West Beirut.

Lebanon has entered a new era. And the worst may be yet to come.

Rannie Amiri is an independent commentator on Middle East affairs. 

Rannie Amiri is an independent commentator on Middle East affairs.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Lorenzo Raymond
Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Doesn’t Work (Unless You Have Lots of Bombs)
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail