March 27, 2005

A Rash of Bombings

Irina Prentice sends an e-mail from Beirut:

21:25 and a heavy boom resounds in the city, another car bomb has gone off in the Christian area of Bouchrieh. In a rudimentary apartment housing ten Indian workers from Madras, the back windows looking onto the burning buildings have been shattered. One of the men, a cleaner by profession, has been in the neighborhood for eight years, apparently living in poor conditions. He knows most of the workers around, and to his knowledge he doesn't think there was anyone working in the burning buildings on this Saturday evening in the industrial neighborhood. All the rest of the men in the room are grouped around listening in with alert eyes.

On the street, tension is riding high, there is a scuffle between a civilian youth and the military. After a few punches, the frazzled and angered young man is released. Soldiers are voiciferously telling
people to clear the area. A wide eyed Asian fifty year old man is holding his head lying back in an ambulance while first aid
workers wrap his legs with band aids. He is clearly shell shocked.
The worst is over for tonight with but with the count of three Indian workers killed and five other people wounded.

A middle aged man, Carlos Hede, explains in French in a press gaggle that the Syrians had warned Hariri before his death that daily life would become unstable if opposition to the Syrian presence was pursued. The culprits he had in mind were clear. He reinforced his
accusation by explaining that it was no surprise that the bomb took place in an area strongly run by Christians strongly against the Syrians involvement with Lebanon.

This would be a third bomb exploding in the past ten days in another anti-Syrian area. The attack is both an act of intimidation and provocation. Regardless of who is behind the bombing campaign, it is clear it is paving the way to destabilize the country, and have impact on the economic well being of the Christian community. Hopefully the Lebanese will be able to keep there heads down, and take the brunt of the bullying without picking up weapons.

There are plenty of people who have had enough with war. One young teacher, who will remain unnamed, explained that although she had a good job, she was leaving at the end of her contract. When asked why,
she said: "I have lived through one war, and I can not go through a second. I don't want to do that to my daughter, so we are leaving." And her family: "I am torn, I have to leave, but my family will be here, and that feels terrible". But what will happen to those
who are not able to leave the country? Where will they turn when the attacks begin to take Lebanese lives?

One of the reasons I am somewhat optimistic about Lebanon is precisely the sentiments expressed by the young teacher Irina quotes above. There is massive battle fatigue in Lebanon, not least Beirut, given the traumatic, long years of civil war from 1975-1991. People are still exhausted by the horrific, protracted civil war. I was in Beirut in January of '02, and the city was well in the throes of its rebirth with much new money (much of it from the Gulf), economic reconstruction, new hotels, restaurants, nightclubs. But the wounds of the long civil war were still fresh--and you could very much feel that still. So I think that actors that step over the line in terms of pursuing actions that might destabilize the country will feel the wrath of the vast majority of Lebanese hungering for stability and national dignity. I remain optimistic that Lebanon will get through this difficult period without degenerating into renewed full-blown, civil conflict. Inshallah, as they say.

Posted by Gregory at March 27, 2005 01:00 AM | TrackBack (5)

Inshallah, indeed.

However, one must not underestimate the utter ruthlessness of the Syrian regime and her proxies, for which Lebanon is historically part of Syria and currently serves as Syria's cash cow. It will not be easy to pry Lebanon from Syria's grip, no matter what the latter appears to be claiming. The whole exercise is shaping up as another exercise in extreme brinksmanship, with Lebanon the hostage; a tug of war, with Lebanon the rope being tugged.

Those Lebanese who have placed themselves in the opposition understand this, and understand that there may well be an extreme price to pay. And still they find the courage to persist.

Nor can one underestimate the reluctance of so many countries, including many of the democratic states of Europe, who view this entire exercise as another US-inspired, neocon effort, and therefore must be opposed; or if not opposed, then viewed with utter distaste. The US throwing its weight around again and tossing off words like "freedom"....

The question therefore is, will Lebanon continue to be a sacrificial offering to those who see, and who must convince everyone else to see that behind every enfranchising initiative lies a devious American and Zionist agenda.

Or will they accede the Syrian position that Lebanon is Syria's----or it is nobody's.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at March 27, 2005 07:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bashir is playing a dangerous game that will, i think, result in the fall of the Syrian regime.
The easiest way to give the Lebanese a chance is to give the Syrians a govt more representative of their Sunni selves.
Bush will be encouraged by Bashirs' aggressive strategy in Lebanon ( cause chaos and come in to pacify, just like his daddy did ) to extend democracy to Syria, and will find a population anxious to see the end of Bashi and Alawite domination.
The Saudi regime would also be pleased to see a new Sunni regime, making up for the demise of one in Iraq, and Iran would be pissed, another good reason to make the move.
Oh yes, and the Lebanese factions, without Bashir to stir trouble, will sort things out peacefully.

Posted by: scarf at March 27, 2005 08:11 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm not quite sure Iran would be that pissed. Don't underestimate the Machiavellian nature of the Islamic Republic. Many in Iran think that Tehran is behind the bombings. Why? Well, they think the mullahs are trying to take the attention away from themselves so that they can have time to bring their nuclear projects to completion. If they manage to get the U.S. so pissed off with Syria that it goes after Damascus first, then the mullahs would have at least another year in which to "negotiate" with the Europeans while working on their bomb. Increasingly, the mullahs know that the bomb is the only way to save their ass. If they have the deadly potential of a nuclear warhead, then no one will dare help the opposition to rise. And as it is becoming increasingly clear, the opposition in Iran can't do much without outside help or, at least, strong moral support.

Posted by: An Iranian at March 27, 2005 08:39 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

One of the main points of governments doing things disguised as civilian terrorists is they can deny responsibility. We don't really know who's doing this, it could be syria or it could be anybody who has the resources who wants syria to be blamed.

I hope the syrians at least have the decency to denounce the killing. If they don't that would seem to indicate they at least sympathise, when the results are bound to be very bad for them.

Get the syrians out and who'll have responsibility to occupy lebanon and maintain order? The israelis would be a bad choice. We haven't shown any competence at that job. What other candidates are there?

Posted by: J Thomas at March 27, 2005 02:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The main point in governments doing terrorist acts and pretending it's civilian terrorists is to deny responsibility. This could be syria or it could be anybody who wants syria blamed.

I hope the syrians will at least have the decency to condemn the attacks. Otherwise they're pretty much admitting they sympathise.

Say that syria gets out, who will then have to occupy lebanon to maintain order? The israelis would be a bad choice. We have shown no competence at that job. What other candidate is there?

Posted by: J Thomas at March 27, 2005 03:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


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Posted by: Matthias at March 27, 2005 04:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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