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Sunday, October 30, 2005

Syria's plan of attack

A few weeks ago, I posted something on Bahjat Suleiman's gates of hell scenario, which he said would open if Syria pulled out of Lebanon. His scenario went as follows:

He spoke of a hellish alliance whereby Palestinian refugees from Jordan and Syria would leave those countries to join the refugees in Lebanon and strike a war alliance with Hizbullah. The south Lebanon front would go up in flames, and the Lebanese would be divided and turn against one another. After that there will be chaos, the return of death, and the entire region will burn...
The following is based on reports in two Lebanese weeklies, al-Shiraa and al-Watan al-Arabi, published last week in Beirut. Some of what they are reporting was confirmed by Roed-Larsen in his report last week, so the information is not that hard to swallow. The Syrian confrontation (or war) plan seems straight out of the Lord of the Rings, with the "dark lords" of Syria, helped by "strategic partner" Iran, preparing to unleash an army of Islamist and radical Palestinian orcs that they have been breeding for a good number of years.

According to al-Watan al-Arabi, the Syrian regime is convinced that the United States and some in the international community will not stop until there is regime change in Syria. On the other hand, the United States and France became certain that Damascus had no intention of pulling its agents out of Lebanon, handing over top officials for a trial and stopping the flow of insurgents into Iraq.

For that, adds the weekly, Syria put in place contingency plans for an inevitable confrontation. To Damascus, such a battle is cheaper than surrendering to the American and international "conditions" which would cost the regime a lot more.

Al-Watan quoted American and western intelligence sources as saying that Damascus has been re-activating the Tehran-Damascus-Beirut axis since before the Hariri assassination. Syria's prime minister, Mohammad Naji al-Otari, flew to Tehran days after the Hariri assassination, where he flaunted a "strategic alliance" with Iran. (Otari had also recently warned that the gates of hell would open on the US if Washington invaded Syria)

The Syrian regime realized that it must first clean its own house. Any possibility of internal unrest, whether it's ethnic, religious or political, would have to be eliminated. The regime embarked on a "security and political cleansing" campaign , which saw the removal of vice president Abdel Halim Khaddam, the "neutralization" of former intelligence chief Bahjat Suleiman and the liquidation of the Ghazi Kanaan. One could add to this the crackdown on Syrian opposition figures in recent months.

As a result of this campaign, power is now concentrated in the hands of Bashar, Maher and Asef. Maher is in full control of the Republican Guard and the army and Asef of all the security services.

At the same time, the regime sought to reactivate its strategic alliance with Iran, which fears that a toppling of Assad's regime could threaten its own interests in the region, especially in Lebanon. Iranian and Syrian military and security officials have been meeting in secret to "put the final touches" on a "strategic and military" cooperation plan to confront what they believe to be a plot to topple the Syrian regime. Shawkat had reportedly visited Tehran shortly after his failed Paris visit, in which he might have offered Ghazale's head. It was followed up by the visit to Syria of a high-level delegation from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, headed by General Baqer zul-Qadr. Iran has reportedly supplied Syria with advanced weapons and Hizbullah has re-deployed and mobilized its members in accordance with this plan.

Al-Watan al-Arabi quotes unnamed sources as saying Hizbullah could be a main partner in this Syrian-Iranian plan of attack. In any case, the Party of God is very far from being disarmed. In fact, al-Watan reports, they have just received a new shipment of weapons and rockets that were stored in the Bekaa and the south.

The Syrian leadership has also been mobilizing pro-Syrian Palestinian factions in Lebanon and Palestine. Large amounts of weapons were smuggled into Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and hundreds of elements from the Yarmouk camp in Syria are on standby for deployment to Beirut, Sidon, Tripoli and Bekaa refugee camps. Ahmad Jibril, head of Iranian-backed PFLP-GC and Abu Moussa, head of Fateh-Intifada were assigned the task of mobilizing thousands of elements and taking over Palestinian decision-making in the camps.

Al-Shiraa confirmed that the PFLP-GC in Deir al-Ghazal has received weapons and ammunition through entry points in the border region of Wadi al-Asha'ir. The smuggling reportedly took place under the supervision of Syrian officer Samih al-Qashmaii who was stationed in Dhour el-Shoueir prior to the withdrawal.

Many of the Palestinian refugee camps have already fallen under the control of these factions and other Islamist groups such as Jund al-Sham.

Jund Al-Sham answers directly to Syrian military intelligence, according to al-Shiraa, which quoted Security sources as saying that Palestinians from the Yarmouk camp have been added to their ranks. The latest outbreak of violence between Jund al-Sham and the Nassirites in Sidon seems to indicate that that the ranks of the once small Ain-el-Helweh-based islamists are swelling with manpower and new weapons.

Jund al-Sham is one of many Islamist organizations that were nurtured by the Syrian regime. According to reports in al-Watan, and a recent French police report, the Iranian revolutionary guard has been training Islamists in camps in Iraq, Syria and the Bekaa in Lebanon.

Another Islamist organization in Syria's arsenal is al-Ahbash, which is practically run by Syrian military intelligence. Al-Shiraa describes al-Ahbash as an armed group that took over several mosques in Beirut by force with the support of the Syrian military intelligence. Syria recognized their potential as a tool to subjugate Lebanon's Sunnis in the 80s, and effectively used them to rein in any Sunni religious leader they deemed too independent. Al-Ahbash was probably behind the assassination of Mufti Hassan Khaled in the 80s.

The Lebanese authorities have found weapon caches in Beirut in warehouses owned by Ahbash members. The latter have infiltrated the Lebanese army and Presidential guard, and despite the arrest of Ahmad and Mahmoud Abdel Al, who were charged with planning the Hariri murder, I don't think we've seen the last of them.

The Lebanese authorities are obviously aware of the above, and this explains the recent confrontation with the PFLP-GC and Fateh-Intifada in the Bekaa, and the arrest of the Abdel- Al brothers.

The Syrian-Iranian plan, if allowed to go into effect, will turn Lebanon into another Iraq. The Syrian regime would much rather opt for brinksmanship than lose power or be weakened.

Kais, you're not so bad for a lefty :)
"The Syrian-Iranian plan, if allowed to go into effect, will turn Lebanon into another Iraq. "

Don't forget that Lebanon is under an 'international protectorate' as Nasrallah puts it (or as I call it, the international shield for Lebanon's democracy).
Kais, great post!
I agree, very compelling and much better informed than some of the so-called "experts" we have seen in the mainstream media (as a temporary honorary Washingtonian, I am sure you can name a few).
A very intersting post!
And where does the Hezbollah stands in this fight? With the enemies of Lebanon.
“Rafik Hariri, the man whom Syria murdered (quit living in denial, they killed him), was one of the few Arab leaders who actually made a useful effort to support the Palestinian cause”

Sure dude, “y como no”? as they say in El Paso and Waco: tell that to the third generation of Palestinian “refugees” born in Lebanese concentration camps who can’t get green card-type permanent residency permits- not to mention running water, electricity and sewages…can’t help mentioning it though as “Wahhabi Saint Rafiq of Sidon” had the Lebanese construction ministry spend millions of dollars in taxpayers’ money to build state of the art private roads, canalizations, and power generation units in and around his vast estates in Faqra, Farayya, Qoreytem, Saïda…etc.

There’s an old proverb in the country of his subsidized friend Jacques Chirac which goes something like this: “well ordered charity always should always start with oneself”

“Palestinian-friendly” Sheikh Rafiq was Lebanon’s Prime Minister for more than 12 years between 1991 and 2004. During that period, he granted Lebanese citizenships to tens of thousands of foreigners (most of them born outside of Lebanon), including:
- 50,000 Kurds
- 110,000 Syrians mostly Sunni blue collar workers and a few ‘Alawites
- 5,000 wealthy Saudi and Kuwaiti “investors” some of whom had vested interests in Hariri’s enterprises
- less than 3,000 Palestinians... Probably because Sheikh Rafiq loved them too much to inflict the terrible curse of a Lebanese citizenship upon them, ... or didn’t want to “legitimate their expulsion by Israel in 1948 by letting them out of the camps and into decent homes in Lebanese cities” [sic], …or because at that time the country was "de facto if not de jure" ruled by General Ghazi Al-Canaan or Colonel Ramon Al-Cazar… Rafiq simply did what he could under those o-so-difficult circumstances… he did his best… he did the best… he was the best… Rafiq we love(d) you… you’re the best moustached millionaire martyr I’ve ever had the honor and privilege to serve… may Allah and Zeus keep you eternally under their wings up there in the skies… I know you’re up there, in Paradise because my Wahhabi Imam told me so during his latest “freedom-loving” sermon in the great liberal kingdom of Saudistan… blablabla….
"Al-Ahbash was probably behind the assassination of Mufti Hassan Khaled in the 80s."

Kais, The prime suspect in the assassination of Mufti Khalid was Gen. Aoun and his military junta.

The target was the PM El-Hoss who was slightly injured along with another legislator in an identical black armoured car following behind the Mufti's car. The assassin had no way of telling the cars apart and who was in which car.

If you recall there were two PMs. One in East Beirut and one in West Beirut after Aoun's bloodless coup. Gemayal appointed Aoun PM minutes before departing Lebanon and there was a struggle between and Hoss for legitimacy.

This is old history.Here is an article on the history of the Ahbash at http://ddc.aub.edu.lb/projects/pspa/al-ahbash.html

The Syrians, the Iranians and their allies will go down fighting and will probably bet the house in this crisis.

I only hope that someone can find somehow a diplomatic solution before we suffer the scenario you have painted.

A frigtening prospect that is!
And very interesting to consider thank you Kais.
We (the Lebanese people) know first hand how insiduous and murderous the syrian regime can be (Hama alone proves it - no need to mention Damour nor the "first" Sabra and Chatila)
However the key in such a scenario's success is Hezbollah's active participation and I doubt they could take such a non-Lebanese stand and not have all the Lebanese (even the Shiaa) unite against them. Such a thing cannot trigger a civil war it can only mean the end of Hezbollah.
But there is no doubt that the Assad's regime has dark plans for our country let's hope Saniora's governemnt will know how to deal with it. So far thumbs up to Saniora, his performance is quite impressive given the mine field he is forced to navigate into.
Even though this if off topic I feel the need to object to what you state as a truth:

Some would disagree with your version and sustain that mufti Hassan Khaled was killed by the syrians because he was denouncing the Unesco bombing as not coming from Aoun's troops but as coming from the syrians (which he did not explicitely name back then but it was clear enough)

The Ahabash's ideology is completely irrelevant in such a topic. It is as irrelevant as the Baathist ideology is when it comes to decision making in Syria. It is all about controling people and as long as the top decision makers of any organization are syrian made and syrian controled the popular base can be fed any kind of stories. The Ahbash are a syrian secret service creation.

Aoun's nomination was not a coup. Not technicaly nor legaly. Besides everybody in the Lebanese public and institutional life officially recognizes his legitimacy by calling him "dawlat el rakiss", maybe you want to consider them all as rebels and renegades and start up a new official Lebanese government :)
I think discussing who did what in the Lebanese Civil war is useless and irrelevant because people tend to believe what they want to believe instead of thinking logically. But I want to correct you on something you and Tony at across the bay mentioned several times. And that is Khaddam was not pushed out after the Hariri murder, it was common knowledge a couple of years ago even by Khaddam himself that his time is up by the next Party Congress. As for the rest of your highly flawed arguments/assumptions, i am too lazy to dissect them at moment.
Innocent Criminal-

These were not my arguments or assumptions. As I said at the beginning of my post, if you weren't too lazy to read it in its entirety, these are summaries of reports in two Lebanese weeklies. Feel free to present your own version or scenarios.
Try this version:

Alain, Like I said, the Mufti's assassination is old history. It is only relevant because Aoun is making a second try at being President.

I stand by my version because my uncle was in that convoy on that fateful day.

Aoun's nomination as PM was, without a doubt, a coup. There was an existing PM (Hoss)and cabinet that had not offered its resignation. Also, Gemayal promptly left Lebanon within an hour to go into exile.Lebanon was left in a constitutional crisis.

Aoun in case you have forgotten is not a Sunni and therefore could not be a PM. Aoun's preference was for Gemayal to abdicate and appoint him as President of the Republic. Gemayal could not do so since the President must be elected by Parliament. Gemayal did what he was permitted under the Constitution and appointed him as PM. Rumor has it, that this was all done at gunpoint.

The last thing that lebanon needs is another military man as President.

Why do we need to continually blame foreigners for crimes whose perpetrators are undoubtedly Lebanese.


Interesting but quite frightening. Just have one question.How credible do you think AL Shiraa and Al Watan Al Arabi's sources are?

issam hi,

i know it is off subject but maybe u need to know a little bit of history..

1-the PM resigns as soon as the president mandate is finished. it is automatic

2-the constitution didn't specify the sect of any of the presidents. it is a pact, a gentleman's agreement done in 1943

3-why don't u ask the son of mufti hassan khaled who killed his father? according to his interview in annahar, it was the syrian

4-as u may know, General michel aoun was offered the presidency but syrian hegemony (a la elias hrawi) but he refused. I think after 15 years, there is no doubt that GMA was right about the syrian government and it was never our friend as many thought and still believe.

just wanted to clarify few points for u...

interesting, well informed analysis, albeit somewhat naive regarding normal gangster criminal elements with close interwoven relations among Lebanon's clans, especially the old Maronite elite (Chamoun, Franjiah, etc. with money laundered across the narrow water in Cyprus.

of course, corruption knows no religious affiliation, Hariri sr. was deeply involved with Saudi financial interests having questionable benefit to Lebanon.

what then is your opinion about the expose via hirsch's sources that Hariri laundered saudi / american money to set up ansar al-islam as a sunni militia to counter hizbollah branches outside of bekka / south, while their initial actions in the conflict resulted from not being paid their usual monthly stipend from a hariri bank, then their elimination becoming necessary to shut them up about the hariri, american, saudi connection ...? sounds like normal lebanese politics to me, as an outside observer for the last 40 years (once married into a rather tough christian lebanese clan) ... then there is the palestinian claim that that particular refugee camp sat on land desired for a nato airbase ... as well as long standing intents to drive them out of lebanon as the plo were driven out before, leaving them without an effective military wing in a nation in which every sect and group has its own armed militia ...
so one more issue here ... syria ... the french created lebanon, under sykes-picot control over greater syria, they carved it off from the ottoman territory they gained as spoils of war to be a protectorate for the maronite population, whom they had protected under ottoman rule in exchange for maronite recognition of the roman pope instead of an independent metropolitan bishop ... etc ... they made a fatal mistake when they expanded the narrow mountain and coastal strip controlled by maronites and an ottoman urban elite that included armenians, greeks, italians, and other quasi-arabs ... that expansion to include the rich agricultural bekka valley - litani watershed and its shia peasant serfs had long been owned by urban elite ottoman clients, a mix of sunni & nominally shia absentee landowners ... lebanon a nation? you gotta be kidding! even this generation of hip urban coimbing out of the bmw cabroilets to demonstrate in classic american financed soft power civil society like ukraine's orange revolution hardly make up a nation .. unless you return lebanon to its original maronite masters as a much smaller territory from which impoverished muslims and palestinians are banished ... maybe then the armenian business community might return from los angeles ...
sorry about sequential posts, but ... divide and rule ... greater syria is reality "shams" northerners may have divisions aplenty, but they are a different breed of arab, and despite the urban miracle / disaster of beirut, damascus is still the long term metropolitan capital of the region .. & given that israel will not disappear, baghdad is trashed for the foreseeable future & all the kings horses & men could not put iraq together again, amman / jordan too small and tenderly filled with refugees (palestinian/ iraqi) that leaves syria in the regional drivers seat, whether yazid or bashir, umayyad or alawi clans in power ... same as it ever was for the past few hundred years ... things do not really change much over time ... read crusader state in jerusalem for israeli state ... christians or jews, both european, what's the difference ... where is salah ud-din al-ayyubi when we need him? probably stuck in ethno - territorial adventures back in kurdish hinterlands ... ironic as hafiz al-asad used syrian kurds & pkk to destabilize turkey over water & obsolete claims to hatay province ..now basher al-asad supports turkey in its right to invade iraq to eliminate the pkk ... which the usa supports as a lever against turkey, and for their confederate movement within iran to guide special ops and destabilize things there ... oh lord why did you throw these three contentious monotheistic religions together in crazy, fractured, arid, and deeply divided tribal landscape ... better had jesus or mohammed been born in china or argentina ...
finally, mufti hasan khaled (may he rest in peace) was a mentor of mine, a great, kind, wise and wonderful man, a peacemaker in a land where damned are the peacemakers and blessed are the peacekillers ... it no longer matters who killed him, only that all lebanon suffered a great loss, and i doubt if even the syrian mukhabarat (to say intelligence services is an oxymoron) would have been stupid enough to assassinate a man as respected in syria, even among alwawi, as in lebanon ... but god knows best
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