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. 

More articles by:

Rannie Amiri is an independent commentator on Middle East affairs.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

July 27, 2017
Edward Curtin
The Deep State, Now and Then
Melvin Goodman
The Myth of American Exceptionalism
Nozomi Hayase
From Watergate to Russiagate: the Hidden Scandal of American Power
Kenneth Surin
Come Fly the Unfriendly Skies
Andre Vltchek
Philippines: Western Media is Distorting Reality, People and Army Unite to Battle “ISIS”
Robert Fisk
Out of the Ruins of Aleppo: a Syrian Community Begins to Rebuild
Andrew Moss
What is Adelanto?
Thomas Mountain
Free Speech or Terror TV? Al Jazeera’s Support for ISIS and Al Queda
Robert J. - Byers
Jamboree Travesty
Thomas Knapp
Send in the Clown: Scaramucci Versus the Leakers
Rob Seimetz
Because the Night Belonged to Us in St. Petersburg (Florida)
Paul Cantor
Momentum Not Mojo
Patrick Walker
In Defense of Caitlin Johnstone (Part Two)
July 26, 2017
John W. Whitehead
Policing for Profit: Jeff Sessions & Co.’s Thinly Veiled Plot to Rob Us Blind
Pete Dolack
Trump’s Re-Negotiation Proposal Will Make NAFTA Worse
George Capaccio
“Beauty of Our Weapons” in the War on Yemen
Ramzy Baroud
Fear and Trepidation in Tel Aviv: Is Israel Losing the Syrian War?
John McMurtry
Brexit Counter-Revolution Still in Motion
Ted Rall
The Democrats Are A Lost Cause
Tom Gill
Is Macron Already Faltering?
Ed Kemmick
Empty Charges Erode Trust in Montana Elections
Rev. William Alberts
Fake News? Or Fake Faith?
James Heddle
The Ethics and Politics of Nuclear Waste are Being Tested in Southern California
Binoy Kampmark
Slaying in Minneapolis: Justine Damond, Shooting Cultures and Race
Jeff Berg
Jonesing for Real Change
Jesse Jackson
The ‘Voter Fraud’ Commission Itself is Fraudulent
July 25, 2017
Paul Street
A Suggestion for Bernie: On Crimes Detectable and Not
David W. Pear
Venezuela on the Edge of Civil War
John Grant
Uruguay Tells US Drug War to Take a Hike
Charles Pierson
Like Climate Change? You’ll Love the Langevin Amendment
Linda Ford
Feminism Co-opted
Andrew Stewart
Any Regrets About Not Supporting Clinton Last Summer?
Aidan O'Brien
Painting the Irish Titanic Pink
Rob Seimetz
Attitudes Towards Pets vs Attitudes Towards the Natural World
Medea Benjamin
A Global Movement to Confront Drone Warfare
Norman Solomon
When Barbara Lee Doesn’t Speak for Me
William Hawes
What Divides America From the World (and Each Other)
Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
Was the “Russian Hack” an Inside Job?
Chandra Muzaffar
The Bilateral Relationship that Matters
Binoy Kampmark
John McCain: Cancer as Combatant
July 24, 2017
Patrick Cockburn
A Shameful Silence: Where is the Outrage Over the Slaughter of Civilians in Mosul?
Robert Hunziker
Extremely Nasty Climate Wake-Up
Ron Jacobs
Dylan and Woody: Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad
Dan Glazebrook
Quantitative Easing: the Most Opaque Transfer of Wealth in History
Ellen Brown
Saving Illinois: Getting More Bang for the State’s Bucks
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail