World View: Lebanon Bombing Stokes Fears of Wider Mideast War

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com:
  • Huge car bomb in Beirut Lebanon kills eight
  • Car bombing renews fears of renewed civil war in Lebanon
  • Murder of Lebanese hero Wissam al-Hassan considered a blow to all of Lebanon
  • Lebanon and the region are braced for a violent backlash
  • China's navy prepares for war with Japan

Huge car bomb in Beirut Lebanon kills eight

A massive car bomb exploded in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, around 3 pm on Friday afternoon. The bombing created a 15-foot-deep crater, killed eight people and wounded about 80 others. One of the dead, and the apparent target of the bombing, was Wissam al-Hassan, a senior member of Lebanon's intelligence services. Al-Hassan had been leading the investigation that implicated Syria and Hezbollah in the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri. Several government officials, including Saad al-Hariri, the son of Rafik, accused Syria of perpetrating the bombing. Syrian officials denied this, but no one believes anything that they say any more. Gulf Times

Car bombing renews fears of renewed civil war in Lebanon

Lebanon today is in a generational Awakening era, just one generation past Lebanon's last generational crisis war, which began in 1975, and became a war with Syria in 1976. Israel was an off-and-on participant, and the war reached an explosive climax in 1982 when Christian Arab forces, allied with Israel, massacred and butchered hundreds or perhaps thousands of Palestinian refugees in camps in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. Since that war ended, the Lebanese people have been haunted by that episode, and officials have been determined not to allow anything like it to happen again. 

The killing of Rafik al-Hariri in 2005, frightened all of Lebanon, haunted by the fear that the brutal civil war would be revived. (See "Massive Beirut explosion killing Rafiq al-Hariri puts Lebanon into state of shock" from 2005). These fears soared with the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbollah, which mostly took place on Lebanese soil. Analysts around the world were predicting that Lebanon would return to all-out civil war. But as I wrote many times, before and since, a new crisis civil war is impossible in Lebanon during a generational Awakening era, because too many people remember the horrors of the previous civil war. During the 2006 war, I quoted Lebanese President Émile Geamil Lahoud as saying: 

Believe me, what we get from [Israeli bombers] is nothing compared to [what would happen] if there is an internal conflict [a new civil war] in Lebanon. So our thanks comes when we are united, and we are really united, and the national army is doing its work according to the government, and the resistance [Hizbollah] is respected in the whole Arab world from the population point of view. And very highly respected in Lebanon as well.

This is a really haunting remark, saying that Israel can't do anything worse to Lebanon than the Lebanese could do to themselves.

The 2005 murder of Rafik al-Hariri has been almost universally blamed on Syria and Hizbollah, and Friday's bombing and killing of Wissam al-Hassan has brought back all of these horrors, and Syria is being almost universally blamed again. 

Saad al-Hariri, the son of the murdered Rafik, said today: "The message from Damascus today is anywhere you are, if you are against the regime from Lebanon, we will come and get you. No matter what you try to do, we will keep on assassinating the Lebanese."

BBC (2005) and CNN

Murder of Lebanese hero Wissam al-Hassan considered a blow to all of Lebanon

Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan was considered a hero by many people in Lebanon, because of his investigations to uncover plots against Lebanon itself. As the head of the Information Branch of the Internal Security Forces, he played a central role in cooperating with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which was charged with getting all the facts surrounding the 2005 assassination of Rafik al-Hariri. It's thought that he would prove that the culprits were Syria or Hizbollah or both, and many people therefore conclude that Syria and Hizbollah were responsible for Friday's bombing. However, al-Hassan's investigations went well beyond the al-Hariri killing. He was highly lauded by everyone in Lebanon for overseeing the discovery and dismantling of Israeli espionage rings in the country. Daily Star (Beirut)

Lebanon and the region are braced for a violent backlash

The reluctance of the West in general and Turkey in particular to intervene militarily to try to end Syria's conflict is based on the fear that military intervention would trigger a widespread Mideast war. However, Friday's bombing in Beirut is bringing many people to the conclusion that it's the reluctance to intervene that's allowing the Syrian conflict to spill over into neighboring countries, threatening to trigger exactly that widespread Mideast war. Lebanon is particularly vulnerable to the spillover, since the country is almost completely split in two between Shia/Hizbollah supporters of the regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad, and the Sunnis who are supporting the opposition. There have already been low-level clashes between Sunnis and Shia in the north Lebanon town of Tripoli, near the Syrian border. The shocking assassination of Sunni Muslim al-Hassan is almost certain to trigger new and heightened clashes. 

But the Syrian conflict is spilling over into other countries as well. There are hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees crossing all the borders out of Syria, straining resources in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. The Syrian conflict has allowed the Kurds in eastern Syria to become self-government, and the separatist PKK terrorists are staging an increasing number of terrorist attacks into Turkey, causing Turkey to consider invading Syria to bring the Kurds under control. There are already forces massed on the Turkish border with Syria, and there are American troops on Jordan's border with Syria, nominally to make sure that Syria's chemic weapons remain secure.

In 2003 I wrote that there would be a huge new Mideast war between Jews and Arabs, refighting the genocidal 1948 war that followed the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. (See "Mideast Roadmap - Will it bring peace?" from 2003.) There have been three wars since then -- the war between Israelis and Hizbollah, fought largely on Lebanon's soil in 2006; the war between Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah in Gaza in 2008, that led to Hamas control of Gaza; and Operation Cast Lead, the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza early in 2009. 

So, will the conflict in Syria be the trigger that leads to an all-out Mideast war? Something has to be the trigger, and this might be it, but there are still reasons to believe that the Syrian conflict will fizzle out before it spreads to the whole region. Syria is also in a generational Awakening era, and so a crisis civil war is impossible there, just as it is in Lebanon. The main difference between a crisis war and a non-crisis war is that a crisis war comes from the people, while a non-crisis war comes from the politicians. There is no doubt that the Syria conflict is NOT coming from the people, but is coming from the regime of Bashar al-Assad. If al-Assad stepped down, then the civil war could fizzle very quickly. The conflict in Syria will not, on its own, turn into a crisis civil war, but if Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Hizbollah and Nato get involved, then it could spread into a regional war among those belligerents. Washington Post

China's navy prepares for war with Japan

China's naval forces on Friday held exercises to simulate defending against a clash with Japanese coast guard forces near the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, which are claimed by both countries, as well as by Taiwan. A total of 11 vessels, eight aircraft and more than 1,000 people from the East Sea Fleet of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) navy and regional bureaus of fishery management and oceanic administrations took part in the exercise. The exercise simulated a scenario in which Chinese marine surveillance and fishery management patrol vessels were obstructed by and clashed with foreign patrol ships during law enforcement missions in Chinese waters. The "clash" led to damage to Chinese vessels, and some of the crew members aboard the ships were injured and fell into the sea. The East Sea Fleet then sent frigates, hospital ships, tugboats, fighters as well as helicopters to back up and shield the vessels and provide emergency aid. According to a People's Liberation Army general, "We have gradually gained the initiative in the waters off the islets, shifting from passively defending to active law enforcement in the area. Such exercises could effectively deter those who dare infringe upon our maritime rights." Global Times (Beijing)

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