Lebanon is another country which has benefited from
imperialism. Not. The French bequeathed to it a sectarian
structure whereby the positions of office from President down are held by
particular confessionalist groups. This
was the root cause of the Lebanese civil war from 1977-1990 when the left tried
to get rid of this.
It was the invasion of Lebanon by the Syrian military,
with the blessing of the United States and Israel which led to the defeat of
the Lebanese National Movement. The
Syrian army came in on the side of the Phalangists, who represented most of the
Christian community. One consequence of
this was the massacre at Tel al Zatar refugee camp when up to 3,000 Palestinians
Within a year or so, as imperialism shifted in its
attitude to the Syrian presence and as Israel chafed under having Assad’s troops
in Lebanon the Syrian military shifted towards the Muslim fighters but it did nothing
to eradicate the sectarian nature of the state.
In 1982 Israel invaded and it was that which led directly to the
creation of Hezbollah, which in 2000 forced the evacuation of the Israeli forces
from Southern Lebanon and the collapse of
their quisling South Lebanese Army under first Major Saad Haddad and
then General Antoine Lahad.
Syrian and Hezbollah forces assault rebel positions in Syria, along the Lebanon border. (MrPenguin20)
stability is hanging on by a thread. There is war raging on its border; Syria,
the economy has all but collapsed, the central government is extremely weak,
and there are over 2 million Syrian and Iraqi refugees. So when ISIS attacked
the Bourj al-Barajneh district in southern Beirut recently, it is just one more
problem that the Lebanese have to deal with.
fighters repelled an attack by Islamic State (Isis) jihadists on the
spoke with Andre Vltchek about the present and the future of Lebanon. Andre
Vltchek is a writer and a journalist who has written extensively about the
Middle East, and who was actually present in Lebanon during the recent ISIS
attack. – Souad Sharabani
Sharabani: until recently, relatively to the rest of the Middle East, Lebanon
has been calm Do you agree with that?
Vltchek: No, Lebanon was tremendously affected by the wars in Iraq and Syria.
It has over two million Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Not to mention the
Palestinian refugees. Two million new refugees is an enormous toll for such a
small country. European Union is claiming they cannot coop with a million
refugees in the entire continent.
Lebanon: Tripoli keeps its distance from ISIS
know those terrorist cells were dormant for months and years, in the capital of
Beirut. Although Hezbollah was fighting ISIS in the northern border, the
northern front. But the rest of those terrorists like ISIS were sitting dormant
all over the country and in particular in Beirut, and they were waiting for the
opportune moment to strike. ISIS did strike Lebanon in 2012 and 2013 but
nothing as horrific as we have witnessed recently.
gunmen attend the funeral procession of Sgt. Ali Sayid, who was beheaded
by Islamic militants last month. With all eyes on the Islamic State
Sharabani: Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, sent troops into Syria to fight on
the side of Assad’s Army. Why did he do that?
Vltchek: Hezbollah fighting ISIS is something very ideological, since
Hezbollah’s followers see the destabilization of Syria as yet another
imperialist act of the West. As you know Hezbollah was fighting the Israeli
invasion into Lebanon in 2006. Furthermore, Hezbollah is very much opposed to
the hegemony of Saud Arabia in the region. So it is logical to see Hezbollah
fighting against the Wahhabi movement that is supported both by the Gulf and
Lebanese soldiers help an
elderly Syrian refugee near the town of Arsal, Lebanon, where Sunni
extremists spilling over the Syrian border have clashed with the
Sharabani: Who is supporting ISIS in Lebanon?
Vltchek: You have a sector of the population who believe that the radical
approach is the only future for Lebanon. Furthermore, the destabilizing of
Syria and destabilizing of the Middle East from Iraq, to Libya, to Syria, is
sending millions of refugees all over the region. Among the displaced Syrian
and Iraqi refugees there is a very small percentage of Jihadists, that hide
among the refugees and they join the dormant Lebanese cells. These cells stay
dormant for a long time. They wait for the moment that they can perform a
spectacular action from their point of view meaning inflict as many casualties
ISIL plans to invade Lebanon, declare emirate, report says
this situation did not come out of the blue. It was expected that Western
support of Syrian oppositions against Assad, and also supporting many Jihadist
groups. Arguably they were making life of ISIS very easy by supplying them
directly or in directly in Turkey and also in Jordan.
Sharabani: We know about the wars in Iraq, in Syria, in Libya and now possibly
in Lebanon. What are the benefits for Israel, and the West in destabilizing the
ISIS Controls Area Five Times That Of Lebanon In Syria
Vltchek: at best it is a perpetual conflict because it feeds its military
complex and its desire to control. The never-ending conflicts in the Middle
East are benefiting its military production and its military complex.
Sharabani: Let’s talk about Saudi Arabia; We know they have been arming and
giving financial aid to Jihadist groups in Iraq, Syria, fighting the Shiites
ethnic group in Yemen, but are they also willing to see the destabilization of
Vltchek: Saudi Arabia is very involved in Lebanon financially and in many other
ways. What we do know there is a link between the terrorist organizations and
Wahhabist teachings that comes from Saudi Arabia. There are fractions of the
Lebanese government that are very closely linked to Saudi Arabia, as there are
fractions of the government that are closely linked to Iran.
the recent bombing of the suburb of Beirut did not come directly from Saudi
Arabia. ISIS has been pounded by the Russian air force, and the Syrian
government forces are gaining ground. Russians are intensely trying to get rid
of ISIS. And as a result ISIS feels threatened. So they are panicking that they
will lose in Syria, they would like to have another geographic location where
they will be able to hold power and that is in Lebanon, or at least northern
Sharabani: If ISIS starts getting stronger in Lebanon, do you think Iran would
be drawn into the conflict because of the Shiite population and Hezbollah?
Vltchek: No I don’t think so. But Iran is already very closely allied to
several political factions inside the political establishment in the Lebanese
government and of course it is closely allied to Hezbollah.
we have to remember, in the West, Hezbollah is portrayed as a terrorist
organization mainly because of its decisive stance against Israel. But Hezbollah
is the only inclusive force in Lebanon. By inclusive I mean they do not only
assist their supporters, the Shiites, they extend help to other Muslims and to
know Lebanon is absolutely a destabilized country economically. And Hezbollah
is the only social force in the country that helps the people. Hezbollah is an
extremely respected force even among Christians. When you talk to Ashrafiya or
to most people even if they do not support Hezbollah they respect them
tremendously for the things they are doing. They are a pure socialist movement
that acts by its strict socialist doctrine. It is not the perfect force, but
the only one in Lebanon that works for the good of the people.
West and Israel do not want you to know that about Hezbollah. They want you to
believe that Hezbollah is a fundamentalist terrorist movement. So Hezbollah is
a sore in the eyes of the West and Israel.
Sharabani: So now what is next? What is going to happen in Lebanon?
Vltchek: What is going to happen in Lebanon is not yet certain. Very disturbing
things are happening there and people are fed up. They do not want sectarianism
they want unity. Most Lebanese do not want to be seen as Sunni, or Shiite or
Christians or Druze. They want to be seen as Lebanese. They are fed up with the
present economic system when everything is collapsing in a country that prides
itself as being Paris of the Middle East yet its is sinking socially and
economically. The Country is producing almost nothing. You are talking of a country,
which lives from remittances, that lives from direct and indirect foreign aid,
and from the production of narcotics. We just had a situation, which I wrote an
article about, where one of Saudi Arabia’s Princes tried to smuggle two tons of
narcotics out Rafic Hariri international airport. This was at the end of
October so imagine the entire Bekaa Valley is producing drugs. Everyone talks
about it. It is not a secret.
people are fed up in Lebanon. It is not only the issue of ISIS, or other
terrorist groups like al-Nusra, which is armed, helped and supported by Turkey
and other NATO countries and western alliances. So Lebanon could collapse. It
is a very volatile and dangerous situation.
don’t really know what the future of Lebanon will be. But what I can see
clearly is the more the Russians squeezed ISIS out of Syria, the more panic we
see amongst ISIS, and they will install themselves in Lebanon. The Lebanese
will inherit them from Syria and the devastation we saw in Syria will come to
Lebanon. It would be very easy to destabilize a much smaller country than Syria
with a weaker central government than in Syria.
Sharabani: It feels like wherever you turn in the Middle East there is more
destruction and there is no end in sight to the destruction and suffering.
Vltchek: There is no Middle East any more. We are talking about the oldest and
the greatest cultures of the world with great humanist traditions, not only
religion. There is nothing left, a complete devastation. Totally uprooted. You
have people who are running the Gulf countries and the Middle East who are
basically criminals. Basically, there is nothing left there except confusion.
one of the greatest Turkish writer said to me. In Turkey and in all the Middle
are very smart and they know perfectly well what is going on but they are all
feeling helplessness hopelessness’ and full of cynicism. Because you either
accept the game and try to get ahead, or you will be crushed. And Lebanon is a
great example of this. You go to Beirut and you see the unimaginable contrast
between the rich and poor. If you go to Abu Dhabi after Zaitunay Bay in Beirut,
Abu Dhabi bay would look pathetic. Zaitunay Bay has all these yachts and
speedboats; Ferraris and Maseratis racing in the middle of the night, but there
is no public transportation during the day. You cannot even move because of the
total collapse of public transportation. You see the mansions and skyscrapers
going up everywhere but when you look around there is misery and no one wants
to deal with it. It is all show. This is what the Middle East is. Their leaders
with the encouragement of the West have injected the lowest type of
consumerism, of capitalism.
Sharabani: You left us on a very low note with no hope for the future of the
Middle East and more specifically of Lebanon.
Vltchek: Before we leave it on this hopeless note. I think there are still many
positive elements. People in Lebanon are educated. Lebanon has great artists
great filmmakers, musicians and writers. All are watching the world and they
follow closely what is happening in the world. I believe it has hit rock bottom
and it can only go up from here. It is going to prevail.
Sharabani: I hope so.
Sharabani for 30 years has been a freelance radio journalist based in Toronto
Canada. She has worked for the CBC and BBC, as well as for PEN INTERNATIONAL.