Syrian ruler Bashar Assad is no longer relying on Iranian agents in Lebanon and Hizballah to lead the covert war against his Western and Arab foes. debkafile’s military sources disclose that he is now issuing direct instructions to the Lebanese army (56,000 men) on their roles in operations for suppressing the Syrian uprising.
The immediate result was a flare-up of armed hostilities in the mixed northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. Since Saturday, May 12, the various armed groups and sects have been at each other’s throats: the local Alawites who side with the Syrian ruler and the Lebanese Army on the one side, but separate, and Sunni groups led by former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, his Al-Mustaqbal and Salafite militias, on the other.
The Lebanese army is keeping the numbers of fatalities quiet, admitting to only three, hoping to keep the unrest in the sectarian war-prone country under control. But Monday, one person was killed and 10 injured in early morning fighting.
Our military sources report that the clashes in Tripoli are an offshoot of the six-month bloody contest between Assad’s tanks and rebel forces in the Syrian city of Homs. Lebanese Sunni elements have been pumping fighters, arms, money, medicines and food to beleaguered rebel forces in Homs.
Saad Hariri, a Sunni leader, has sworn to topple Assad whose agents assassinated his father, the former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, in 2005. His Al-Mustaqbal group has established a forward command in Tripoli to provide the Syrian rebels with logistical backing.
Then, there are the Salafist militias commanded by Sheikh Shadi Al-Mawlawi which aid Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda elements in Syria. They distribute the arms, ammunition, money and inside intelligence supplied them by Saudi and Qatari security agencies.
To cut the Syrian rebels’ lifeline at source, the Syrian General Staff in Damascus last week sent the Lebanese Chief of Staff Gen. Jean Kahwagi a crude ultimatum: Take care of the Syrian rebels’ helpers in Tripoli, or else the Syrian army will enter Lebanon and do the job itself.
In response, the Lebanese General Security Department began rounding up key Sunni figures actively supporting Syrian rebels. Saturday, the Salafist sheikh Al-Mawlawi was placed in custody on charges of “terrorist operations.”
The Sunni militias, aware that the Lebanese security officers had acted on orders from Damascus rather than Beirut, then turned on Assad’s Alawite sympathizers in Tripoli force an end to the arrests and the release of detainees.
Sunday, Hariri’s outfit demanded that Prime Minister Nabil Miqati resign for failing to stop the bloodshed in Tripoli – and indirectly implying that he must stop playing ball with Damascus. He rejected Miqati statement that a decision was taken by national government in Beirut “not to provide political cover for any security violator in the northern city of Tripoli.”
To stem the flow of war materiel to the rebels, Assad’s border units are also subjecting Lebanese border villages to frequent cross-border shelling, supported on the other side by Hizballah under joint Syrian command.