January 31, 2018


Lebanon the Magnificent: An Inquiry into Exile and Terror (Marcia Christoff-Kurapovna, 1/31/18, Imaginative Conservative)

To back up a bit, a curious feature of the Lebanese system is the principle of "confessional distribution," as it is called, by which each religious community in the country is allotted a number of deputies in Parliament. Those communities consist of Christian and Muslim: Maronite Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Armenian Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Melkite Catholic and Protestant, along with Sunni Muslims, Shi'a, Alawite and Druze. By law, the Prime Minister is Sunni; the President a Maronite Christian and the Speaker of Parliament a Shi'a. It is a strange kind of organically "politically correct" organization that has been the source of the country's relative (very relative) stability of the last decade even though originally the political outcome of the destructiveness wrought by the competing factions of these groups. Briefly, by the 1960s, Muslims had become dissatisfied with the prior system in view of their higher birthrate and higher emigration rate, yet Christian politicians were unwilling to abolish or alter the system of balanced ratios of power, one of many such related factors that led to the outbreak of the Civil War. The Taif Agreement of 1989, which ended that war, reapportioned the parliament so that there would be equal representation of Christians and Muslims. There are about twenty-two political parties in the Lebanese parliament (chamber of deputies), grouped into three blocks of alliances. It is an uncanny mix to observe from the outside, and one that has led to the most perilous of "enemy of my enemy" geopolitical relationships almost too complex to fathom. [...]

These self-exiling ideas--that our terrorist is someone else's "freedom fighter" and that today's radical organization may be tomorrow's moderate or "mainstream" political party is also what makes Lebanon such an extraordinary study in the dynamics of the Mideast mentality.

Specifically, let us look at the origins of Hezbollah, which grew up in the beautiful world of the Beqaa.

To do so, one must turn to the story of Amal, or "Hope" in Arabic, the peaceful organization of the Shi'a Muslims in Lebanon organized in the late sixties and early seventies, from which Hezbollah broke off in the 1980s.

The ideological origins of Amal can be traced to 1969 when its enigmatic founder, the Imam Musa al- Sadr, who established a pan-sectarian political movement that called for "peace and equality" among all Lebanese confessions and religions. At the same time, he made clear that the Shi'a were the poorest and the most neglected of these groups, and in their impoverishment formed what was known as the "Belt of Misery" in the outskirts of Beirut--a factor that was to become one of many elements in the origins of the Lebanese Civil War. The non-sectarian aspect of this movement was genuine: the Greek Catholic Archbishop of Beirut, Monseigneur Grégoire Haddad, was among one of its founders. Then, when civil war erupted in Lebanon in 1975, al-Sadr held sit-ins and fasts to protest against the violence and the loose association of peace movements led by him coalesced into an organization later political party, still known today as "Amal."

The precursor to what was to become Hezbollah was spun off by disenchanted leaders of Amal to become one of the world's most formidable and best-organized terror groups in history. That organization's precise origins are difficult to pinpoint, but its shadowy emergence dates from around the time of the Israeli invasion of South Lebanon in response to attacks by Palestinian militants in 1982, when Shi'a leaders favoring a militant response ended up breaking away from Amal. That organization, Amal, was itself opposed to the PLO being headquartered in Lebanon and to the Palestinian refugees who had settled there during the war (which lasted from 1975 until 1990). It is further interesting to realize that in addition to being opposed to the PLO, Amal was against the theological radicalization of Iran after the 1979 revolution and, though principally a Shi'a movement, reportedly received no aid from Tehran. Its roots were firmly secular and sought to remain such. [...]

Meanwhile, the new organization spun off from the peace-seeking Amal--called, simply, Islamic Amal--received considerable military and organizational support from Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Tehran's terror-militia now firmly based in the beautiful Beqaa Valley. From this association, the most prominent and effective of the Shi'a militias would emerge, forming what is known today as Hezbollah (or "Party of God"). Despite the original Amal's early call for peaceful coexistence and a non-violent outlook, they ended up waging a bloody battle against Hezbollah for control of Beirut (located about twenty miles from the Beqaa Valley), which then provoked Syrian military intervention. Both groups launched attacks on the Israeli military and its ally, the South Lebanon Army (SLA).

What was to follow sums up the Lebanon the Magnificent in about a line or two: that the country that once gave the Middle East, and therefore the world, Musa al Sadr--the Imam who called for peaceful co-existence among religions and addressed crowds gathered in breathtaking Eastern churches--was the same country that would now spawn a certain Mohammad Muqniyah, later to become the deadliest Mideast terrorist up until Osama bin Laden.

U.S. and Israeli officials accused Mughniyah of association with many bombings, kidnappings, and assassinations, beginning with the Beirut barracks bombing and US embassy bombings, both of which took place in 1983 and killed more than 350, as well as the kidnapping of dozens of foreigners in Lebanon in the 1980s. A former engineering student at the American University of Beirut fluent in German, English, French, and Farsi, he was indicted in Argentina for his alleged role in the 1992 Israeli embassy attack in Buenos Aires. The highest-profile attacks for which it is claimed he is responsible took place in the early 1980s, shortly after the founding of Hezbollah, when Mughniyah was in his early twenties. U.S. officials accused him of killing more U.S. citizens than any other militant prior to 9-11; Michael Chertoff, then secretary of homeland security, said Hezbollah under Mughniyah was a threat to national security. "To be honest, they make al-Qaeda look like a minor league team," he said. It has been said that Mughniyah was probably the most intelligent, most capable operative that the CIA or any agency had ever run across, including the KGB or anybody else. He was killed on the night of 12 February 2008 by a car bomb that detonated as he passed by on foot, in the Damascus, Syria, a U.S.-Israel complot.

Despite this outrageous history of terror, Hezbollah, its mystique intensified by the personality of this one man, took on a kind of local-hero role--here again, in the context of triangular geopolitical relationships that make the "truth" about the Mideast nearly impossible to discern. When Israeli forces finally withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah was credited with pushing them out. That group resisted pressure to disarm and maintained its military presence in the South, claiming as justification the continued Israeli presence in several disputed areas. In 2006, Hezbollah militants launched a cross-border attack in which eight Israeli soldiers were killed and two others kidnapped, triggering a massive Israeli response. To end the sectarian clashes that left dozens dead and brought Lebanon to the brink of a new civil war, the government backed down, and a power-sharing agreement gave Hezbollah and its allies the power to veto any cabinet decision. In the 2009 elections, it won ten seats in parliament. The terror group was now a respectable voice of representation.

Posted by at January 31, 2018 4:40 AM