Monday, May 21, 2007

US Ally Hariri's role

From the Lebanese paper Al-Akhbar this morning, following the clashes between the Lebanese army and a group called Islamic Fatah in northern Lebanon, around the Palestinian camp of Nahr al-Bared yesterday:

[Army commander Michel Suleiman] informed the security cabinet headed by president Fouad Siniora that the military does not recommend that the politicians take a decision to expand the scope of the confrontations, or to think of entering the camps, which is something that enjoyed the cover of many political groups including the Future movement, whose leader Saad Hariri persisted that in exchange for that [not entering the camps and so on], that there should be taken all necessary steps to see to the dismantelment of this group.

As video of the events in the last 24 hours showed the scope of the security breakdowns, the attempts of the March 14 group (the governing coalition) to exploit these events politically in connection with the discussion of the international tribunal [i.e., spinning the events as a Syrian plot against the tribunal] didn't have a very long life, once it became clear that the majority of the armed individuals fighting the army outside the camp were people of the north [meaning natives of north Lebanon] and that these individuals were members of extreme Islamist groups, and that among them were people from circles close to the Future movement [of Saad Hariri].

Information and comments are fragmentary, but it is worth noting that there while most Western accounts tend to echo the "Syrian plot" idea, the meaning of the events of Sunday could be the opposite. In the same vein, Robert Fisk includes in his account of the events of yesterday this:
This is the same Saad Hariri whom at least one American reporter - I refer to Seymour Hersh - suggested was indirectly helping to funnel Saudi money to these same gunmen in a recent article in The New Yorker. The Shia Muslim Hizbollah are supposed to be the bad guys in this scenario, not a Sunni group.
And maybe it wouldn't be out of place to refer back to remarks by Lebanese lawyer Issam Naaman who said recent congressional delegations to Lebanon included remarks to the effect that the US is working with extremists to carry out destabilizing acts in Lebanon that will be blamed on AlQaeda.


Anonymous Alamet said...

I was reminded of Naaman's remarks the moment I heard of the incident... But now I see this post from Roads to Iraq, that I can't understand very well. I think it says Fatah Al-Islam is a communist group..?.. The post includes a link ( to an Al-sharq Al-awsat interview with the group's leader that I cannot read...


5:19 PM  
Blogger badger said...

Alamet, I hadn't seen that. In the brief Sharq alAwsat piece, he does claim to have "fought in Nicaragua". The time is left vague, and it doesn't say on which side or anything, but if it was in the 80s, wouldn't that have put him in close proximity to Negroponte and in a position to learn about covert funding for destabilization schemes?

(On the Fatah offshoots, I think the original "Fatah Intifada" or Fatah Uprising might have been what you would call secular left, but theoretically the idea behind "Fatah al-Islam" was (supposedly) Islamic fundamentalism as a precondition for fighting the good fight, so to speak). Fatah al-Islam announced its existence only in November 06, and reports say it was seems to have been funded almost overnight.

6:18 PM  
Anonymous Yohan said...

Saudi and Hariri dollars have been flowing into these kinds of groups for quite some time, since before the last Lebanese election(funding/bribing them was an electoral strategy). The absence of any mention of this in the English language press has been sickening. The coverage is even more cartoonish than normal because the US public has even less background knowledge of this than other conflicts.

And there's no conflict in someone(especially a Lebanese) being a radical leftist in the 80's but turning into a born-again takfiri by today, in the "oughts." Lebanese politician/warlords are famous for their frequent and shameless ideological conversions whenever the wind changes directions. It's called "."

9:22 PM  
Blogger badger said...

Yohan, I'm looking for something readable, in any language, on Hariri/Saudi support for groups like this. The problem seems to be that for Lebanese it's more or less self-evident, and for Western people it is unheard of. There was a piece in Al-Akhbar this morning, but filled with all kinds of allusions and very tough to read.

8:59 AM  
Anonymous Shirin said...

"I think it says Fatah Al-Islam is a communist group..?"

Not too likely, since Communists are by definition atheists, or at the very least about as secular as it is possible to be.

1:17 AM  
Anonymous Shirin said...

Badger, As`ad Abu Khalil of is a very well connected Lebanese political scientist, and he appears to see a Hariri connection as you suggest. You might wander over to his blog if you have not already, and also e-mail him for whatever information he might have to share.

1:21 AM  
Blogger Nell said...

Why are people assuming that this fellow fought for Nicaragua? The contras were a mercenary army, part of whose funding came from Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. It's not at all inconceivable that Shaker al-Absi spent some time with the contras.

What is Shaker's nationality, i.e., where was he born and grew up?

7:30 AM  
Blogger badger said...

Nell is right, there was Saudi funding for the Contras, see the National Security Archives Briefing Book # 210, here where you have to scroll down to the bottom under "documents" and click on document # 11, which is a summary of stipulations in the Ollie North trial. This was back in the ever-present era of Elliot Abrams, John Negroponte, Robt Gates...

Unfortunately there isn't any information I know of on where Abssi is from or anything like that. And I think the only assumption would be that whatever he was fighting for when he went there, he came out of it with some kind of a relationship with these people.

10:35 AM  
Anonymous Alamet said...

My thanks to everyone for the new perspectives and the extra information. I had no idea Contras received funding from the ME!

About Abssi, Sami Moubayed over at Asia Times says,

"The founder of the new group is a Palestinian named Shaker al-Abssi, who declared that it would be a jihadist group modeled after al-Qaeda and inspired by Osama bin Laden. Its stated goal is to establish Islamic law in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and eventually destroy both the United States and Israel.
Born in Jericho in 1955, Abssi joined the resistance of Arafat in the 1970s, leaving behind his medical studies to become a member of the much-praised fedayeen - the commandos of the post-1967 era. Arafat's nationalism was secular, however, and Abssi quickly lost faith in the veteran leader."

More at the link: Lebanon battles a new demon (I hope the hot link works.)

3:21 PM  
Blogger badger said...

Interesting stuff. I wonder where Moubayed got the bio: b. 1955 in Jericho, medical student, joined Arafat fedayeen on the 1970s but quickly lost faith in him. Then there's that big gap until Syria jails him and he turns up in the Foley assassination indictment (2002 to 2004 or something like that). The Contras were in the 80s, as we know...

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