(Gilbert Achcar is an antiwar activist and an academic who grew up in Lebanon. His recent books include "Perilous Power: The Middle East and US Foreign Policy", co-authored with Noam Chomsky, and "The 33 Day War: Israel's War on Hezbollah in Lebanon and its aftermath", with Michel Warshawski)
Interviewed by Piers Mostyn
".......PM: Turning to Lebanon, has the siege and bombardment of the Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp been a relative sideshow simply involving a small Sunni fundamentalist group or does it have deeper connections? The American journalist Seymour Hersh has suggested that "Fatah al Ansar" was originally backed by the Lebanese government and that this is a sort of "blowback".
GA: There are two kinds of "conspiracy theory" on this issue in Lebanon: on the one hand, the pro-US or "governmental majority" forces claim that "Fatah al-Islam" are manipulated by the Syrian services......On the other hand, you have those, many of whom refer to the article by Hersh, who claim that "Fatah al-Islam" has been manipulated by the governmental majority itself, and behind them the Saudis and the United States......
are manipulating this group is also quite baseless.
I think that whatever ignited the confrontation, one thing is obvious: it has been immediately exploited for a very definite agenda. This was (1) to test the ability of the Lebanese army to confront other forces, starting with the easiest -- Palestinians, against whom Lebanese Shiite and Sunni soldiers alike can be united with no major risk of split along sectarian lines; and (2) to get the army to enter this Palestinian refugee camp in Northern Lebanon and take control of it under the pretext of fighting this group.
This is why at some point Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, came out saying that he considered the penetration by the Lebanese army of the camp to be a "red line." Why did he say so, despite Hezbollah initially expressing its solidarity with the Lebanese army? Because he realised that this Palestinian camp has become a testing ground for the ability of the Lebanese army to implement a task that is part of UNSC Resolution 1559 (sponsored by Washington, London and Paris in 2004) calling for the disarming of both the Palestinian camps and Hezbollah.
Nasrallah became aware that the battle of Nahr el-Bared is but a first step on a path that leads ultimately to the fight against his own forces. You can see that in the broad display of active solidarity with the Lebanese army in the ongoing confrontation: Washington is sending weapons and inciting all its allies to send whatever hardware the Lebanese army needs......"