Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Lebanon battles a new demon

Militants from the recently formed Fatah al-Islam have emerged with guns blazing; they are now in their third day of fighting against the Lebanese Army. The al-Qaeda-inspired group has dramatically raised the stakes in Lebanon's parlous political landscape, threatening a complete breakdown of the country. And the Lebanese government's blaming Syria will not help matters.

By Sami Moubayed
Asia Times

"......Clearly a radical group like Fatah al-Islam makes the situation more complicated in the overall political situation in Lebanon, which is already on the verge of explosion. It will strain security for the Siniora cabinet and give it an additional thing to blame on the Syrians.

Yet it makes no sense for Syria to support a radical political and military Islamic group in Lebanon. Abssi's record in Syrian jails is enough proof of how illogical it would be to accuse him of being on the payroll of the Syrians. Radical political Islam has been a threat to Syria ever since the republic was created in 1932. It always has been a secular regime in Damascus - at times without the Syrians even knowing it.

The Syrians will not and cannot ally themselves with political Islam. Simply put, such an alliance would backfire and result in violence within Syria, something that President Bashar al-Assad will not tolerate. That explains why the Syrians have closed their border with Lebanon over the fighting, fearing the worst.

Some want to use Fatah al-Islam's outburst as further ammunition against Damascus. Some equally want to use the incident to justify a clampdown on Islamic groups in Lebanon, either Sunni or Shi'ite.

It is always easy for the Lebanese to blame Syria. But the Lebanese government and, particularly, its army and security forces are too weak to crack down on a bunch of terrorists on their own territory.

If anybody is to blame for Fatah al-Islam, it is the Siniora government, which has tolerated it for six months, knowing perfectly well that it has existed since last November. "

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