He Is Arming Myriad Militias of Every Stripe for Civil War
Syria’s first broad daylight delivery of smuggled arms to Hizballah in Lebanon was disclosed by debkafile‘s military and intelligence sources on Oct. 4.
It came in a convoy packed with Iranian arms from stocks piled up for weeks on the Syrian side of the Lebanese border. Two more convoys at least stand ready to follow the first trial shipment into Lebanon.
(See summarized article: Hizballah Shuts Reoccupied S. Lebanese Bases to Lebanese and UN forces in HOT POINTS below)
The arms embargo ordered by UN Security Council 1701 has therefore been consigned to the same junkyard as the earlier Resolution 1559 which purported to disarm Hizballah.
But DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence and military sources reveal that Syria has much bigger plans now than just recouping the war losses of Iran’s Shiite surrogate in Lebanon. Since mid-September, Damascus has been pumping quantities of war materiel to a variety of militias – such as only Lebanon can offer – which are tagged willing to fight to restore Syrian influence in Lebanon – even at the cost of plunging the country into a fresh civil war.
However this turns out, the favored militias are celebrating the hardware bonanza lavished on them
The diversity of Lebanese clan, family, religious, communal and sectarian militias on whose support the Allawite Asad regime is counting is amazing.
1. The largest portions of weaponry are assigned to Syria’s veteran tried-and-true allies, led by the clandestine Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP). Made up mostly of Greek Orthodox Christians, the sinister SSNP has served since the 1980s as one of the most important operational arms of Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon. It is closely allied with Hizballah and various other terrorist organizations.
Sunnis, Christians, Druzes are all grist for Asad’s mill
The SSNP has now been supplied with a generous quantity of anti-tank rockets, mortars, heavy machine guns, explosives, automatic rifles and crates full of shells and other ammo.
Other recipients of large stocks are the Sunni Muslim militias of the northern Lebanese Tripoli district and the Sunni and Christian militias of the al Hakur region northwest of Tripoli. The Christian Faranjieh clan of Zgharta, whose lands lie southeast of Tripoli, have also come in for a generous share.
2. Then there are the communities who oppose the anti-Syrian factions of Lebanon. The most prominent is the following of the Druze chief Majid Arslan, rival of the extreme anti-Syrian Druze chieftain Walid Jumblatt, who not only resists Syrian influence in Lebanon but is daggers drawn against the Asad regime in Damascus.
3. Syria is also rapidly arming the Maronite Christians of Michel Aoun’s Patriotic Movement. Aoun has become the most powerful Lebanese ally of Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah and the leading Maronite opponent of Fouad Siniora and his pro-American, pro-French government.
The irony is that in May 2005, the United States and France brought Aoun back from his long Paris exile as their candidate for the Lebanese presidency. Quite soon, they withdrew their patronage and left him with the choice of quitting politics and Lebanon or transferring his allegiance to the opposite pro-Syrian camp and Hizballah.
He opted for the latter.
4. The Shiite Amal militia headed by the Speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, which in recent years was overshadowed by Hizballah, is now on the receiving end of weapons and training by Syrian and Iranian instructors disguised as civilians.
5. The beneficiaries of Syrian weapons largesse in the south are the Sunni and Christian family militias, the enormously wealthy and powerful Saad and Bizari clans of Sidon, who are adversaries of the Hariri clan and its head Saad, son of Rafiq Hariri, the Lebanese politician whose assassination in February 2005 has been laid at Damascus’ door.
A senior Western intelligence source posted in Lebanon told DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources: “There is no escaping the conclusion – even from a cursory survey of the recipients of the influx of fresh Syrian arms supplies – that Bashar Asad is priming his supporters in Lebanon for a new civil war. He is arming even the smallest splinter willing to rally to the pro-Syrian flag.”
Toppling Siniora could save Lebanon from civil war. Or could it?
Asad is clearly in a hurry to capitalize on the setbacks his enemies suffered in the Lebanon war to turn the clock back and restore his stranglehold on his small neighbor by one means or another.
The only event that might forestall a civil flare-up is ironically the success of Nasrallah’s scheme to topple the Siniora government and replace it with a pro-Syrian administration dominated by his own Hizballah and fellow pro-Syrian factions including General Aoun.
Damascus would profit from this reversal in a number of ways:
A: Syria would be invited to come riding back into Lebanon for a deeper and broader role than ever before.
B: The United States and France would be humiliated and the Syrian ruler would get his revenge for being booted out of Lebanon two years ago and having his mark on the country eradicated.
C: Hizballah – and therefore Iran – would be crowned the victors of the Lebanon war and have the last word in this episode.
D. Israel’s standing and reputation would take another knock.
E. A pro-Syrian government would send the European contingents policing South Lebanon on the mandate of a UN Security Council resolution packing forthwith.
The financial profit motive cannot be ignored in any political equation in Lebanon – any more than in Iraq.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources, on Monday, Oct. 2, Saudi king Abdullah voiced his concern to visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about the end-use of the moneys he allocated to prop up the Siniora government.
At the conference of donors for Lebanon’s post-war reconstruction, which took place in Stockholm on Sept. 5, Saudi Arabia deposited $1 bn and Kuwait $500 m with the Lebanese central bank to stabilize the economy. The Saudi and Kuwait governments additionally offered $500 m and $300 m respectively in grants for building projects.
On the quiet, these sums were designated for prime minister Siniora’s use to buy the loyalty of Lebanon’s disparate political communal, sectarian and tribal factions in order to bank up his tottering government.
The Saudis now learn that Bashar Asad has bought over a far larger section of Lebanon’s power brokers than the prime minister – and it cost him as little as one-fifth of the half a billion dollars that the Saudis laid out to help Siniora.