May 29, 2022

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Has this Middle Eastern country reached the brink of civil war again?

  • Jim Muir
  • Visit to London School of Economics, Middle East Center, Senior Partner

Image source, EPA

Destruction seemed to have arrived when my friend and neighbor Richard Beirut was about to start a series of online meetings in his office in the southeast corner. For the next three hours he took refuge in the ground floor of the building as heavy fighting was going on outside the office building.

This came as a shock to anyone associated with Beirut’s past. Beirut had to fight for 15 years in the civil war that began in 1975.

Richard explains, “The horrors of the Civil War came before my eyes, the anger, the fear, the restlessness, the anxiety of the children, all things began to come to my mind. I felt the life we ​​lived here. The days of the Civil War. Well, the same thing is going to happen again.”

His tears could not be stopped when Richard returned home safely. He says, “I do not know why this happened. I can not go to work the next day. It seems like the bitter memories of the war are back. I do not want to go through all this. Children.” “

For Richard and many Lebanese like him, the sudden sectarian violence that erupted in the capital, Beirut, on October 14 was a wake-up call.

Image source, Getty Images

Communal conflict in Beirut

The violence in Beirut on October 14 was significant because the civil war began in April 1975 on the same southeastern edge of the city. After some violence at the time, a bus full of Palestinians was attacked by gunmen of Christian militants, killing more than 20 people.

For the next 15 years, Ain al-Rammane was at the forefront of that civil war. On the other hand there was the Shia area inhabited by Shia Muslims. Ain al-Rammane and Zia are nearby areas. On October 14, a procession of Shia protesters from Zia entered the Ain al-Rammane area.

The protesters chanted “Shia, Shia, Shia!” In Ain al-Rammane, inciting sectarian violence. Slogans were raised. All seven people killed in the ensuing violence were Shia Muslims. Some of those killed were linked to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its affiliated Amal faction.

Video title,

People are taking to the streets and expressing their anger against the government.

In the aftermath of the incident, a series of serious allegations and counter-accusations began between the Hezbollah-led Shia coalition and the Christian Lebanese Force (LF) party. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has accused the LF of sending snipers to shoot from the roof to provoke a civil war.

Hezbollah said it would not back down. He warned that he could order his one million fighters to advance, and they would crush the enemy. Christian Lebanese army chief Samir Kiyaga responded that his party had no militants and did not want a war.

He accused Hezbollah of trying to cover up its involvement in the incident by calling for the dismissal of a judge investigating last year’s Beirut port bombings. A Shia demonstration on October 14 raised the issue.

In 1975, some analysts predicted that a widespread civil war would erupt in Lebanon. Some like us had the idea that in 15 more years the pattern of this struggle would change.

Image source, Reuters

Political conflict and polarization

Barriers begin in Beirut and various parts of the city begin to draw their boundaries, which continue to this day. Therefore, keeping in mind the intentions of the opponents and who the balance of power is in favor of, it can be said that it is not necessary that this will not happen in the future.

Political conflict and polarization are already taking place in Beirut. On the day of the outbreak of violence in Ain al-Rammane, Sunni Muslims and Christians living in nearby areas in the Ashrafie district of East Beirut were terrified. He feared that ‘May 7’ would not come again.

In 2008, Hezbollah militants targeted Sunnis and Truce in West Beirut. “If the Sunnis had been involved in this conflict instead of the Christians, it could have created a stir across the country within an hour,” a reliable Sunni militant group said.

From his words the feeling of hatred towards Hezbollah seemed to be in the minds of the Sunnis. “The limits of the people’s tolerance have been exhausted, and fighting Hezbollah would have been the last resort,” he said.

One senior politician said, “I do not think civil war will break out tomorrow. It will take time. But it will happen in time. Incidents like this will happen again in 1975. How can Aam Aadmi stop it?”

Image source, Getty Images

Image title,

Syrian soldiers in West Beirut during the Lebanese civil war

Alien forces

In 1975, Lebanon’s geopolitical situation provided the bullets for the civil war. It looks like something like that will happen again. At the time, the right-wing Christian faction (later the LF) was campaigning to destroy the strength of the Palestinian Liberation Army (PLO).

The PLO established a significant sphere of influence within Lebanon. But the work of overcoming the PLO could not be done by Christian forces alone. He first sought help from Syria (in 1976) and then from Israel.

As a result, Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 and Yasser Arafat and PLO had to be expelled from Lebanon. This time Hezbollah’s challenge lies ahead of the Christian Lebanese army. Like the PLO, Hezbollah’s sphere of influence has increased significantly in Lebanon.

Hezbollah was the only force allowed to carry weapons in Lebanon after the 1989 Taif Treaty. Hezbollah is proud to have stopped the civil war in Lebanon. Some refer to him as ‘Lebanon’s defender against Israel’.

Since then, Hezbollah has been developing an almost invincible force and intelligence military capability in Lebanon. Hezbollah’s fighters are considered more powerful than Lebanon’s own army. Hezbollah has a large network in Lebanon. This includes social services, hospitals and other types of work.

Image source, EPA

Hezbollah’s power in Lebanon

One of the main differences between Hezbollah and the PLO is that Hezbollah is an organization of the Lebanese people. Its contacts are linked to Iran. Many also see this as a proxy for Iran. For all these reasons, if a conflict occurs, it will have a major impact on geopolitics.

A political source says, “Iran and the United States are fighting each other in Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen. You should see the bigger picture.”

On the one hand, where Hezbollah ties are believed to be linked to Iran, on the other hand, it is being discussed that Christian Lebanese military leader Samir Kiaqa is receiving funding from Iran’s enemy, Saudi Arabia.

Since then, Hezbollah has developed an almost invincible force and intelligence military capability in Lebanon. Hezbollah’s fighters are considered more powerful than Lebanon’s own army. Hezbollah has a large network in Lebanon. This includes social services, hospitals and other types of work.

One of the main differences between Hezbollah and the PLO is that Hezbollah is an organization of the Lebanese people. Its contacts are linked to Iran. Many also see this as a proxy for Iran. For all these reasons, if a conflict occurs, it will have a major impact on geopolitics.

Video title,

Beirut bombings: How did the ammonium nitrate reach the Lebanese port?

The cost of the war

A political source says, “Iran and the United States are fighting each other in Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen. You should see the bigger picture.”

On the one hand, where Hezbollah ties are believed to be linked to Iran, on the other hand, it is being discussed that Christian Lebanese military leader Samir Kiaqa is receiving funding from Iran’s enemy, Saudi Arabia.

Hassan Nasrallah’s statement on the imbalance of power in Lebanon can measure the threat that he may order Samir Kia to move his 100,000 fighters forward. Everyone knows that Hezbollah can open a front in every corner of the country in a few days.

But if this happens, these Lebanese forces will be embroiled in an endless civil war. This applies not only to Samir Kia’s Christian Lebanese army, but also to the Sunny and Truce people.

Attacking Christian areas is tantamount to breaking Hezbollah’s alliance with Samir Kiyaga’s anti – Christians. These enemies are President Michael O’Neill’s Freedom Patriotic Movement and his powerful son – in – law, Kabran Basil. This will only increase Hezbollah’s own problems.

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Cover story: A year since the Beirut eruption

Most of those killed in the August 2020 bombing of the port of Beirut were Christians. Hezbollah opposes its investigation, and because of its opposition, Hezbollah’s alliance with the LF opposition is already in jeopardy.

Sources close to the Christian and Sunni fraternity say that the violence that erupted in Ain al-Rammane on October 14 had already increased Samir Kia’s status in the Christian community in Beirut. The corruption of politicians is the main reason for the economic devastation in Lebanon.

There is a sense of disrespect for politicians among ordinary people and Hezbollah is no exception. A former Christian soldier who witnessed the Lebanese civil war says there is no other way to eradicate Hezbollah from Lebanon, but a complete war.

“Hezbollah is here. We must live with it. The best way is to strengthen the Lebanese army and the anti-Hezbollah forces in parliament. They need to find a way out of some political solution.”

But all this will still take time to happen. Meanwhile, the Lebanese people can avoid those predicted future fears and hope that the new government can bring some improvement in their lives.