World View: Lebanon Bombing Stokes Fears of Wider Mideast War

World View: Lebanon Bombing Stokes Fears of Wider Mideast War

This morning’s key headlines from

  • 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, around3 pm on Friday afternoon. The bombing created a 15-foot-deep crater,killed eight people and wounded about 80 others. One of the dead, andthe apparent target of the bombing, was Wissam al-Hassan, a seniormember of Lebanon’s intelligence services. Al-Hassan had been leadingthe investigation that implicated Syria and Hezbollah in the 2005assassination of former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri. Severalgovernment officials, including Saad al-Hariri, the son of Rafik,accused Syria of perpetrating the bombing. Syrian officials deniedthis, 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 generationpast Lebanon’s last generational crisis war, which began in 1975, andbecame a war with Syria in 1976. Israel was an off-and-onparticipant, and the war reached an explosive climax in 1982 whenChristian Arab forces, allied with Israel, massacred and butcheredhundreds or perhaps thousands of Palestinian refugees in camps in theSabra and Shatila refugee camps. Since that war ended, the Lebanesepeople have been haunted by that episode, and officials have beendetermined 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” from2005). These fears soared with the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbollah,which mostly took place on Lebanese soil. Analysts around the worldwere predicting that Lebanon would return to all-out civil war. Butas I wrote many times, before and since, a new crisis civil war isimpossible in Lebanon during a generational Awakening era, because toomany people remember the horrors of the previous civil war. Duringthe 2006 war, I quoted Lebanese President Émile Geamil Lahoud assaying: 

Believe me, what we get from [Israeli bombers] isnothing compared to [what would happen] if there is an internalconflict [a new civil war] in Lebanon. So our thanks comes when weare united, and we are really united, and the national army isdoing its work according to the government, and the resistance[Hizbollah] is respected in the whole Arab world from thepopulation point of view. And very highly respected in Lebanon aswell.

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

The 2005 murder of Rafik al-Hariri has been almost universally blamed onSyria and Hizbollah, and Friday’s bombing and killing of Wissamal-Hassan has brought back all of these horrors, and Syria is beingalmost universally blamed again. 

Saad al-Hariri, the son of the murderedRafik, said today: “The message from Damascus today is anywhere you are,if you are against the regime from Lebanon, we will come and getyou. No matter what you try to do, we will keep on assassinatingthe 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 inLebanon, because of his investigations to uncover plots againstLebanon itself. As the head of the Information Branch of the InternalSecurity Forces, he played a central role in cooperating with theSpecial Tribunal for Lebanon, which was charged with getting all thefacts surrounding the 2005 assassination of Rafik al-Hariri. It’sthought that he would prove that the culprits were Syria or Hizbollahor both, and many people therefore conclude that Syria and Hizbollahwere responsible for Friday’s bombing. However, al-Hassan’sinvestigations went well beyond the al-Hariri killing. He was highlylauded by everyone in Lebanon for overseeing the discovery anddismantling 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 tointervene militarily to try to end Syria’s conflict is based on thefear that military intervention would trigger a widespread Mideastwar. However, Friday’s bombing in Beirut is bringing many people tothe conclusion that it’s the reluctance to intervene that’s allowingthe Syrian conflict to spill over into neighboring countries,threatening to trigger exactly that widespread Mideast war. Lebanonis particularly vulnerable to the spillover, since the country isalmost completely split in two between Shia/Hizbollah supporters ofthe regime of Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad, and the Sunnis whoare supporting the opposition. There have already been low-levelclashes between Sunnis and Shia in the north Lebanon town of Tripoli,near the Syrian border. The shocking assassination of Sunni Muslimal-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 theborders out of Syria, straining resources in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraqand Turkey. The Syrian conflict has allowed the Kurds in eastern Syriato become self-government, and the separatist PKK terrorists are stagingan increasing number of terrorist attacks into Turkey, causing Turkeyto consider invading Syria to bring the Kurds under control. There arealready forces massed on the Turkish border with Syria, and there areAmerican troops on Jordan’s border with Syria, nominally to make surethat Syria’s chemic weapons remain secure.

In 2003 I wrote that there would be a huge new Mideast war betweenJews and Arabs, refighting the genocidal 1948 war that followed thepartitioning 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’ssoil in 2006; the war between Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah inGaza in 2008, that led to Hamas control of Gaza; and Operation CastLead, 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-outMideast war? Something has to be the trigger, and this might be it,but there are still reasons to believe that the Syrian conflict willfizzle out before it spreads to the whole region. Syria is also in agenerational Awakening era, and so a crisis civil war is impossiblethere, just as it is in Lebanon. The main difference between a crisiswar 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 doubtthat the Syria conflict is NOT coming from the people, but is comingfrom the regime of Bashar al-Assad. If al-Assad stepped down, thenthe civil war could fizzle very quickly. The conflict in Syria willnot, on its own, turn into a crisis civil war, but if Turkey, Qatar,Saudi Arabia, Iran, Hizbollah and Nato get involved, then it couldspread 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 defendingagainst a clash with Japanese coast guard forces near theSenkaku/Diaoyu islands, which are claimed by both countries, as wellas by Taiwan. A total of 11 vessels, eight aircraft and more than1,000 people from the East Sea Fleet of the People’s Liberation Army(PLA) navy and regional bureaus of fishery management and oceanicadministrations took part in the exercise. The exercise simulated ascenario in which Chinese marine surveillance and fishery managementpatrol vessels were obstructed by and clashed with foreign patrolships during law enforcement missions in Chinese waters. The “clash”led to damage to Chinese vessels, and some of the crew members aboardthe ships were injured and fell into the sea. The East Sea Fleet thensent frigates, hospital ships, tugboats, fighters as well ashelicopters to back up and shield the vessels and provide emergencyaid. According to a People’s Liberation Army general, “We havegradually gained the initiative in the waters off the islets, shiftingfrom passively defending to active law enforcement in the area. Suchexercises could effectively deter those who dare infringe upon ourmaritime rights.” Global Times (Beijing)

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