Thursday, January 25, 2007

Al-Akhbar focuses on the threat of violence from within the Christian factions

Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, which supports the opposition, said the main follow-up actions by the Lebanese army, following the general strike on Tuesday, consisted in searches and arrests relating to alleged arming and mobiliation of groups connected to the militia of the right-wing Christian group called "Lebanese Forces", led by Samir Geagea. The Al-Akhbar piece says there were indications during the confrontations on Tuesday that the LF was planning to attack the other, rival, Christian group, led by Michel Aoun, the "Free Patriotic Movement", which is allied with Hizbullah.

In other words, it appears immediate threat of armed escalation was seen to be in a confrontation between the right-wing Christians of the LF, and those of the Aoun group that support the opposition, and not in confrontation either between the government and the opposition, or even between opposition-groups and government-supporting groups. This could be seen as an illustration of the point made yesterday by the Al-Akhbar columnist Joseph Samaha, to the effect that the patchwork nature of the alliances, rather than any coherent government approach, that accounts for the current danger (the first of the three points listed there).

Al-Akhbar offers little detail beyond what has been in the fragmentary Reuters reports, on the unexpected Saudi-Iranian talks, reportedly aimed at finding a solution to the Lebanese crisis. The Al-Akhbar piece starts off like this:
On the day following the general strike, called by the opposition and accompanied by protests, which forces within government-factions turned into a bloody day, the political picture appeared exceptionally complicated, with the continuation of Saudi-Iranian communications, about which little is know, except that Arab diplomatic sources said this could result in an agreement that would be announced by Saudi foreign minister Saud al-Faisal at the end of the "Paris 3" conference in the form of an initiative destined to find a solution, and meanwhile tension continued in statements by government-factions which are intent on mobiling their masses in order to take action soon. ["Tension" is involved because it is] known that security and political follow-up yesterday showed that the "Lebanese Forces" had recruited over 800 members with all their arms, intending various types of activity, and that persons in the government factions were involved in transporting them from place to place along with quantities of arms, which prompted government security officers to step up searches in various districts, which resulted in the arrest of a32 people, most of them from the "Lebanese Forces".
And among the details, we read things like this:
And there appears to be information about the involvement of other government-faction people, including members of parliament, who tried to use their vehicles, which enjoy immunity, to transport armed members of the "Lebanese Forces" intent on wiping out people they said belonged to the "Free Patriotic Movement" [and other factions]...
In other words, although nothing seems to be known with certainty, there does seem to have been a sense of urgency, at least on the part of the Saudis (who initiated the contacts with Iran), and that the immediate trigger may well have been the threat of seeing this turned into armed confrontations, starting with intra-Christian settling of accounts.

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