“Al-Qaeda in Lebanon,” by Nir Rosen

Al Qaeda in Lebanon: The Iraq War Spreads
Nir Rosen in The Boston Review

Just before 4:30 one afternoon last July, calls to prayer echoed from all the mosques in Ayn al Hilweh, a Palestinian refugee camp in the city of Sidon, south of Beirut. First built in 1948 for refugees from northern Palestine, the camp has grown into a ramshackle ghetto. Concrete and cinderblock line tight alleys with cobwebs of low-hung electrical cables. On the walls are layers of faded political posters—some for Hamas, some for Fatah, and still others for Saddam and even Hezbollah leader Seyid Hassan Nasrallah—marking the divisions among Palestinian resistance factions.

At the Shuhada, or martyrs’ mosque, a dozen men stood in paramilitary uniforms with walkie talkies, M4 Carbines, AK-47s, scopes, pistols, combat boots, long beards, and sunglasses. Unlike the hundreds of familiar, unkempt militiamen slinging old weapons in the camp, these men were professionals. They joined about two hundred others on the mosque’s second floor for a special prayer. They were burying Daghagh Rifai, a comrade in Usbat al Ansar, shot that morning by members of their rival faction, Fatah, after a string of attacks and retaliations. The men lined up with the others in orderly rows, placing their weapons on the floor between their legs. Some wore the salwar kameez typical in Pakistan and Afghanistan, a jihadist fashion statement. Following the prayer they gathered to gaze briefly at the corpse, wrapped in the green flag of Islam, not the Palestinian flag.

His comrades carried Daghagh’s body on an olive-colored military gurney; a procession of hundreds followed them around the corner and up an incline as camp residents watched from their doors or windows. When the silent marchers approached Lebanese soldiers at the camp’s gate on the way to the cemetery, the armed men stayed behind. They let relatives carry the body.

The new men in the camps were largely foreign jihadists, with the same weapons, tactics, and sectarian goals of Iraqi resistance fighters.

Ayn al Hilweh, the largest refugee camp in Lebanon, houses up to 75,000 people in 1.5 square kilometers of squalor. The camp is dominated by two main factions, the older, nationalist, and more secular Fatah, and Usbat al Ansar, which emerged in the 1990s. A balance of power keeps large-scale fighting from breaking out. But in the past decade the camps have seen a slow transformation: the waning of Yasser Arafat–style Palestinian nationalism represented by Fatah and other leftist nationalist groups such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the rise of Islamist groups like Usbat al Ansar, mobilized around religious, not national, identity, influenced by global jihad, and, some believe, with direct links to al Qaeda.

The balance of power among these groups is fragile, and in a camp to the north it has tipped. As Daghagh was being buried, another group, Fatah al Islam, joined by members of Jund al Sham, an offshoot of Usbat al Ansar, was fighting the Lebanese army from the refugee camp of Nahr al Barid. Unlike Usbat al Ansar members, though, most of the fighters were not homegrown and not focused on liberating Palestine. They were largely foreign jihadists, with the same weapons, tactics, and sectarian goals of Iraqi resistance fighters, and were perhaps the first sign that the war in Iraq is spilling into the region.

The battle last summer at Narh al Barid lasted for three months and left 163 Lebanese soldiers, 42 civilians, and up to 222 alleged militants dead. When it was over on September 4, the Lebanese army had destroyed a refugee camp housing 40,000 people in the name of the war on terror. How did Lebanon’s refugee camps become the new front?

Lebanon’s twelve Palestinian camps form an archipelago both inside and outside the state. Inside the camps Palestinian identity is shaped and maintained, and the main employers are the United Nations and resistance factions who compete and occasionally clash with one another. Outside the camp Lebanese factions and even neighboring countries have always used Palestinians to further their sectarian or political interests. Approximately 400,000 Palestinians are registered in Lebanon, survivors or descendants of the 800,000 souls forcibly moved from their land to make way for the Jewish state. Most Palestinians are Sunni Muslims, and Lebanese Sunnis used Palestinians as their militia during the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990). During that time Palestinians were victims of massacres by both Christian and Shia militias. In 1976 the Tel al Zaatar camp in Beirut was besieged by several Christian militias, with thousands massacred; the camp itself was eventually wiped out. In 1982 the Christian Falangist militia massacred Palestinians in Sabra and Shatilla. Beginning in 1985 and 1986 the Shia Amal militia besieged Palestinian camps, leaving thousands dead.

In recent years Lebanese leadership has consistently blocked Palestinian political integration and has indeed been unwilling to extend any rights at all. (The small minority of Christian Palestinians were granted citizenship long ago.) Lebanon has a Christian minority, but its political system, divided by an unwritten agreement, gives the presidency to a Maronite Catholic. During his three terms (1998-2007), President �mile Lahoud repeatedly invoked the threat of tawtin, or the granting of citizenship to the Palestinians, to frighten Christians into backing the Syrian presence. Tawtin was an existential threat, Lahoud warned, because it would boost the number of Muslims in Lebanon.

Lahoud’s cynical policy impeded all efforts to alleviate poverty in the camps, and Palestinian clerics reacted quickly. They believed that Christians—not Syria—were responsible for Palestinian suffering. And if they were rejected in Lebanon because they were Sunnis, then, they argued, they should fight as Sunnis. Palestinian clerics began to mobilize support around Sunni identity, downplaying the Palestinian nationalism that had for years mobilized support for the PLO, and then Fatah and other leftist groups.

Radical Sunni groups in Lebanon benefited from this weakened Palestinian identity. Chief among the beneficiaries were Salafis, adherents of an anti-hierarchical Sunni movement which allows its members to do away with tradition, establish their own authority, and condemn those with other interpretations. Salafis seek the return to what they believe was Islam’s purest state, during the time of the Prophet Muhammad and the close companions who succeeded him (the salaf). Salafism is a muscular discourse and in its most extreme form sounds like anti-Shia racism. Most Salafis spread their message through theology and preaching, and refrain from political or military action. But a small minority believes that violence is necessary to achieve an Islamic state…. [Read the entire Al Qaeda in Lebanon]

Thousands of non-ID Palestinians to receive legal status
Lebanese government strikes quiet deal with Palestinian leaders
By William Wheeler
Special to The Daily Star
Wednesday, January 16, 2008

BEIRUT: The Lebanese government and Palestinian leaders have struck a quiet deal that would grant a new legal status to at least 3,000 Palestinians living in Lebanon without any identity documents, The Daily Star has learned. The plan was approved at a meeting last Friday that included representatives from the Interior Ministry, General Security, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee (LPDC) and the Palestine Liberation Organization, PLO consul in Lebanon Mahmoud al-Asabi said.

General Security officials are working out the details of the new status, such as the rights and the type of identity documents those affected – known as non-ID Palestinians – will receive, Ambassador Khalil Makkawi, head of the Dialogue Committee, told The Daily Star on Tuesday. Palestinian advocacy groups have pushed for the new legal standing to allow those concerned to work and travel like other Palestinians.

"UNRWA welcomes any initiative to legalize the status of these people and improve their conditions," said UNRWA Lebanon chief Richard Cook.

Those involved with the process have not yet made public the coming change, as the official status of Lebanon's roughly 300,000 Palestinians remains one of the nation's most volatile political issues.

"We are trying to tackle this problem at a low key," said Makkawi, adding that authorities wanted to avoid any potential influx of non-ID Palestinians seeking the new standing. Makkawi's LPDC was established in 2005 during a renewed push by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to establish diplomatic ties with the PLO and to address the glaring lack of rights among Lebanon's Palestinians.

The change in status will affect between 3,000 and 5,000 Palestinians, a number which includes a large percentage of single men who came to Lebanon in the wake of 1970's Black September clashes with the Jordanian Army or to fight for the Palestinian cause during the 1975-90 Civil War. Lebanese officials want to verify the names of the non-ID Palestinians with authorities in Egypt and Jordan, Makkawi said.

Many of these Palestinians received support from the PLO during the Civil War and did not need assistance until the PLO's ouster from Lebanon in 1982 and when the state started to reassert itself as the war drew to a close. The category of non-ID Palestinians also consists of the children born to fathers without proper documentation, because Lebanese law mandates that children born here inherit the legal status of their fathers.

The people in this group face obstacles in traveling within and outside Lebanon, owning property, graduating from school, marrying or gaining access to adequate health and social services, said a 2007 report from the Danish Refugee Council.

"In practice, most non-ID children attend UNRWA schools; however, due to their lack of identification, they can not be granted official diplomas," the report said.

The plight of this class gained attention following the 2001 shooting death of a young Palestinian man who fled from soldiers at a military checkpoint near the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in Sidon because he had false identification papers.

Comments (13)

Qifa Nabki said:

If even half of this is true, then people need to start being very afraid. (The extended article is highly worth reading).

Rosen is a bit vague, however, on two counts:

1) Fatah al-Islam’s origins.

2) Their continued source of funding.

He seems to concur with Rougier’s analysis that they may have been created (or promoted) by the Syrians in an effort to curb the financing of Sunni militias by KSA and the Future movement. It was the hope of Syria to distract militants from the Hariri funded militias (which were anti-Hizbullah) into a group that was only interested in combating Israel. But, as he says, they quickly got out of hand, such that the Syrians could not control them anymore, nor could the Future movement co-opt them.

So, then, who was funding them?

January 16th, 2008, 9:33 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

George Bush said;
1 Israel is jewish state.this implies Arab 48 must leave.
2 palastinians refugee should stay where they are,but compensated.
3 Israel promises a land for the palastinians, but the borders
adjusted as to what Israel wants.
4 nothing about Iraq.
5 threaten Iran, promise to attack Iran.
6 wants the arab gulf state,to give money to american banks, and
sell the oil cheap.
the question; was his trip successful?

January 16th, 2008, 9:41 pm


SHAMI said:

There is little doubt that all of these groups in leb are deeply infiltrated by the syrian moukhabarat…and the true qaida attacked all the arab regimes but never attacked the syrian regime,now from time to time the regime kills some of those (jund sham ,ghorabaa…)who were manipulated by its moukhabarat via people like ghul aghasi abu qaaqaa and there must be plenty of others ,as proof that they are also victims of world terrorism.expect more of such attacks in the next days….

January 16th, 2008, 10:22 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

I guess Nir read Rougie’s book.

January 16th, 2008, 10:49 pm


. said:

(Sorry this is T- not- (.), but my keyboard is sticking on the period instead of capitalizing properly.)
Who is Rougie- you mean of the Telegraph?
Some of this info is excellently laid out by Brisard in the Zarqawi book as well, if you are willing to sift. Magnus Ranstorp seems quite adamant that Syria didnt arm or finance Fat Islam.
Has anyone followed the outcome of the Majzoub murders? It seems now the espionage ring has been downgraded from triple AAA spy status to a generic “armed gang”.
Has Brammertz looked into this properly?

January 17th, 2008, 12:52 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Feltman voices admiration for friend and foe alike

Daily Star staff
Thursday, January 17, 2008

BEIRUT: Departing US Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman has expressed a personal commitment to Lebanon in a way that he described as unprecedented, while also expressing his admiration of the Lebanese people. In an interview with An-Nahar newspaper published Wednesday, Feltman said: “During 22 years of diplomatic work, I have never been impressed by people’s hospitality and friendship as I did in Lebanon.”

“I am not referring to those who share with me the same political opinion, I am even impressed by those who do not do so and who have always received me warmly,” he said. “Speaking of the Lebanese hospitality is a cliche but all diplomats who serve in Lebanon fall in love with this country. You have fascinated us all … Lebanon is a beautiful country.”

Asked about the current situation, the ambassador said that Lebanon was facing “very big” challenges on different levels, particularly the political and economic ones.

“However,” he added, “the Lebanon I am about to leave enjoys an international partnership that is much stronger than ever.”

“Never in the history of this country has the entire world focused on Lebanon as Lebanon,” he added. “In a nutshell, we can say that Lebanon has attracted the world’s attention in a very unique way.”

Feltman said he felt surprised by the extent to which the Lebanese rely on the outside to find solutions.

“I understand this now after I examined a history loaded with foreign interference and after I talked to people here,” he said. “But I have never expected that a certain Lebanese party seeks foreign support to help it against another Lebanese party.”

The ambassador also expressed his surprise over the “impudence” of some parties who ignore or surpass constitutional institutions.

“I do not understand how Parliament can be closed for more than a year, neither do I understand the interest of any party in having the legislature deprived of its characteristic as an arena for discussion over serious issues,” Feltman said.

According to him, the Lebanese leaders he had met with were all “national.”

“I am talking about leaders of different political stands and not only the March 14 Forces. They all honestly believe that they are working in favor of their country,” he said.

“Some of my toughest meetings have been with those accused of being the closest to us,” he added. “They were really tough with me when it comes to Lebanese interests and when they find that the US policy did not serve those interests.”

Asked about his best and worst memories during his three-and-a-half years of diplomatic service in Lebanon, Feltman said the worst were the summer 2006 war as well as the assassinations and assassination attempts.

“One of the greatest memories was seeing the Lebanese all together in the March 14, 2005, revolution,” he said.

As for his future mission, Feltman said he would return to the US State Department in Washington after 15 years of work outside the United States to be David Welch’s first assistant in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.

“I am sure this will not please all the Lebanese, but I will continue to work for the US-Lebanese partnership,” the ambassador said.

Tackling his personal life, Feltman said he became a diplomat “coincidentally.”

“I have studied art at first before going into the diplomatic field,” he said. “I felt at the time that I like interacting with others and recognizing their culture. After the end of my art studies, I majored in international relations following my failure in my first admission test to the US State Department.

“Two years later, I sat for the same exam and passed it.”

January 17th, 2008, 2:44 am


norman said:

Israel’s Winemaking Revolution
International consumers used to shun Israeli wines, but Golan Heights Winery managed to create a market for world-class wines — and retool an industry
by Stacy Perman

The Golan Heights Winery vineyards climb from the Sea of Galilee to snow-capped Mount Hermon near Israel’s border with Lebanon and Syria. A picturesque region of rolling hills, waterfalls, and gorges, the Golan Heights is perhaps best known as the contentious area Israel captured from Syria during the Six-Day War in 1967—territory still claimed by Syria today.

However, the Golan Heights Winery has added an unexpected business significance to this 460-square-mile rocky plateau. Established in 1983, the winery is credited with remaking the Israeli wine industry and slowly transforming Israel’s reputation as a maker of unexciting, syrupy kosher brands to a producer of world-class, award-winning wines that appeal to sophisticated international consumers.

The state-of-the-art winery, located in the village of Katzrin, is owned by four kibbutzim (collective farms) and four moshavim (cooperative farms) that also maintain its vineyards. A professional management board of directors runs the winery. Its three labels, Yarden, Gamla, and Golan, produce some 17 different varieties and are the most widely exported Israeli wines in the world. In 2007 the winery’s 1,600 acres of vineyards produced 430,000 cases, up from 420,000 in 2006, and generated sales of $30 million. Today, says the head winemaker, California-born Victor Schoenfeld, “We have wine shortages. Our demand outstrips our supply.”

The success of Golan Heights Winery helped open the floodgates for what is known in Israel as the “quality revolution” in Israeli wine, creating a new market and brand identity for the country’s vintages. That helped spur the creation of new wineries as well as to push existing ones to improve the quality of their products. Michal Neeman, director of the Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute’s food and beverage division, says of the Golan Heights operation: “Their role was crucial. Everyone agrees that they were the first winery to produce excellent wine. Then came the boutique wineries, then the medium-sized, and then the large ones. There were a lot of other factors as well, but when you pinpoint the revolution, it started at Golan Heights.”

Rising Exports
According to the 2008 edition of Rogov’s Guide to Israel Wines, written by Ha’aretz newspaper wine critic Daniel Rogov, the number of wineries in Israel has grown dramatically, particularly since 2001. In a country about the size of New Jersey, there are now about 130 wineries. Sales of Israeli wines reached about $140 million in 2007. According to the Israel Export Institute, wine exports hit $21 million in 2007, up 42% from 2006.

Winemaking in Israel dates back to biblical times. However, following the rise of Islam in the 7th century, it all but ceased when Muslim leaders banned alcohol. Serious winemaking resumed in 1882, when French philanthropist Baron Edmond de Rothschild began underwriting agricultural settlements in the region with an emphasis on wine growing. In 1906, a collective of grape growers set up what would become the wine cooperative Carmel, for decades the country’s dominant player. The reputation of Israeli wine continued to be linked to kosher vintages mostly used for religious observances.

The turning point came in 1972 when Cornelius Ough, a renowned oenologist from the University of California at Davis, visited and surveyed Israel. He concluded that the Golan Heights was an obvious place to produce high-quality wine because of its volcanic soil, cool climate, altitudes, and water available through drip irrigation systems. Four years later, the area’s first vineyards were planted near El Rom, the site of one of the largest tank battles between Israel and Syria during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

In 1983 the Golan Heights Winery was established; it released its first vintages soon after. Almost immediately, Israel proved it was capable of producing world-class labels when the winery’s 1983 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc received the Winarsky Trophy for Best Cabernet Sauvignon Worldwide at the London International Wine & Spirit Competition in 1987. It was the first major prize for an Israeli wine and earned the winery global recognition. A number of awards followed.

High-Tech Vineyards
When Schoenfeld first arrived in 1992, the winery had been employing a rotating crew of experienced winemakers from California. Schoenfeld, a graduate of the viticulture school at UC Davis and a veteran of the Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa and the Chateau St. Jean in France, was offered a three-year contract. “I figured that I would stay as long as it was interesting,” he says. “And it never got boring. It was a great stroke of luck to find myself in a situation … to lead a quality revolution, producing good results in a nonproducing area.”

At the time, the winery had only about 300 to 400 acres of vineyards and was producing 150,000 cases of wine a year. Although it had received several awards and the attention of a New York Times wine critic, the reputation of Israeli wines was still less then stellar. Schoenfeld saw the future in producing premium, high-quality wine. It was a radical break from the past.

Says Schoenfeld: “To make low-priced wine you have to be in a country with cheap land and labor costs or have a big size to amortize costs. In Israel we didn’t have any of these things and there was no advantage in producing low quality. If Israel wines were to exist and flourish we would have to go to the quality side of the market.”

Schoenfeld introduced new techniques to Israeli winemaking, such as using pneumatic membrane pressers and computer-controlled cooling of stainless steel tanks. Today, satellite imagery developed by NASA helps determine optimum planting while a network of meteorological stations placed throughout the vineyards along with a system of microsensors attached to the vines collect temperature and humidity readings on a minute-by-minute basis. The winery spends about $3 million to $4 million annually on research and development.

Slow to Sip
Although it was making top-notch wine, the winery still faced a number of challenges before it could improve its reputation and gain market share. Few Israelis were avid consumers of dry, complex wines like those in Italy or France. Initially, “we were producing a product for a market that didn’t yet exist. There was no demand for it,” Schoenfeld says. Although domestic wine consumption has recently increased to about 4 liters per year, it still lags well behind large wine-consuming countries like France, at 60 liters annually, or even the U.S., at 11.7 liters.

Like many successful Israeli businesses, a significant portion of the winery’s sales comes from exports, with North America and Europe accounting for about 20% of sales. But erasing the longtime stigma of poor quality remains a challenge. Israel Export Institute’s Neeman explains that not long ago, “when we would have the discussion with wine sellers, [they] would say they put [Israeli wine] on the shelves on the way to the toilet in their shops.”

The Golan Heights business began to change that perception. It had already earned a kind of mystique among a small group of connoisseurs who had tasted the wine on visits to Israel. The winery worked to sell itself as a brand of high-quality Mediterranean wine to buyers and critics. As its vintages earned a number of prestigious global wine awards and recognition, it rose in stature.

A major push for Golan Heights Winery and Israeli wines in general arrived in December, 2007, when the world’s most influential wine critic, Robert Parker, reviewed Israeli wines for the first time. Of 100 wines, he gave 14 vintages a score of 90 or higher on his 100 point scale (a score of 90 and above is considered world-class). As it happened, six of the best wines and 11 out of the top 14 also happened to be kosher. Golan Heights Winery earned a 93 for its 2005 Yarden Gewürztraminer Heights Wine and a 91 for its 2003 Yarden Katzrin. Mark Squires, who had participated in the tasting with Parker, wrote about it in the Wine Advocate newsletter, declaring, “Israel has a real wine industry that deserves consumer attention.”

Upper Galilee Venture
Of course, there is the possibility that one day the Golan Heights will be returned to Syria in exchange for a peace treaty with Israel. While the winery itself can be relocated, the vineyards cannot. Schoenfeld says his strategy is to keep going and making wine. In the mid-1990s, when it appeared that a peace deal was on the radar, the winery forged ahead with a $4.7 million expansion of its vineyards, the winery’s warehouse, as well as construction of a visitors’ center and tasting room. “The fact is the owners of our company have no mandate for us to look for alternatives. Who knows, it could happen in 100 years or in five—nobody knows. … We are not politicians and they don’t ask us our opinions,” says Schoenfeld.

In 2000, however, the winery invested in a joint venture with Kibbutz Yiron in the Upper Galilee to launch Galil Mountain Winery. The move was viewed by some as a potential Plan B should Israel hand over the Golan Heights to Syria. Now Galil Mountain produces nine different varieties and also scored high marks from the Wine Advocate. Last year, the young winery generated $5 million in sales.

Micha Vaadia, Galil Mountain’s head winemaker, remembers when the winery found itself on the front lines in the summer of 2006 during the war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Just 200 yards from the southern Lebanese border, Katushya rockets rained down on Galil’s vineyards. Its Syrah crop took a direct hit. Only 12 vines of the 40 hit survived the attack. The area was sealed off by the Israeli Defense Forces and the winery was shut down during the 30 days of fighting that ended just before harvest time. The winery lost about 10% of its production capabilities for the 2006 harvest.

But Vaadia says he found something sadly optimistic about the surviving vines. “It was like they were saying, you do what you want—you fight, you stay, you leave—but I am going to continue living.”

Flip through this slide show for a tour of Golan Heights Winery and Galil Mountain Winery.

Perman is a staff writer for BusinessWeek.com in New York.


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January 17th, 2008, 3:23 am


Nur al-Cubicle said:

Sorry, I meant Bernard RougieR’s book, Everyday Islam.

January 17th, 2008, 7:43 am


why-discuss said:

FACEBOOK Victims in freedom of expression Lebanon

Four University students in Zahle have been arrested by the lebanese mokhabarat because they made fun, in graphic terms, on FACEBOOK of a girl who sang in a party they attended. They are accused of attempt to the public morality.
In Lebanon it seems that the mokhabarat are there to protect public morality not security.

L’orient lejour 17 january 2008
“Une affaire, soulevée ces derniers jours par les associations pour la défense des droits de l’homme, notamment, hier, par l’association Maharat, fait de plus en plus de bruit : quatre étudiants de l’Université Saint-Joseph de Zahlé ont été arrêtés jeudi dernier pour « diffamation ». Motif : ils se sont moqués sur « Facebook », et en des termes franchement vulgaires, d’une jeune fille qui chantait lors d’une soirée à laquelle ils se trouvaient. À la suite d’une demande du père de la jeune fille, un officier des services de renseignements de l’armée, selon les associations qui suivent l’affaire, les quatre jeunes hommes ont été arrêtés et déférés devant le procureur général près la cour d’appel de la Békaa pour « atteinte à la moralité publique ».
Les quatre étudiants ont été maintenus en détention provisoire depuis jeudi dernier, et le juge aurait requis leur incarcération.
L’association Maharat a dénoncé hier le principe de la détention préventive des quatre jeunes hommes, qui est conforme aux lois en vigueur mais constitue une violation flagrante des droits de l’homme et des conventions et pactes internationaux. L’ONG a donc appelé à la libération immédiate des quatre étudiants en vertu de la protection de la liberté d’expression.”

January 17th, 2008, 9:41 am


t_desco said:

Very good article. He included a lot of information without forcing it into a single narrative. As a result there are some contradictions. One major omission, the al-Zarqawi – al-Absi link and the alleged involvement in the assassination of Laurence Foley in Amman. I feel tempted to add a comment to every paragraph… 😀

January 17th, 2008, 9:55 am


Habib said:

Please do, Desco, I’d read it all!

January 17th, 2008, 10:25 am


Qifa Nabki said:


My questions above about the contradictions/ambiguities were indeed directed at none other than YOU. 🙂

Please do explain, if you are so inclined.

January 17th, 2008, 11:52 am


t_desco said:

Qifa Nabki,

it will require some time to identify the sources of the article and do some fact checking. Rougier and the Saab/Ranstorp article “Fatah al Islam, How an Ambitious Jihadist Project Went Awry” seem to be major sources. However, that article was probably based on “documents obtained from … interrogations of Fatah al Islam members” and it seems that Rosen also had access to the same documents:

“The origins of Fatah al Islam are nebulous, but based on meetings with Palestinian-faction leaders and security officials, as well as documents obtained from their interrogations of Fatah al Islam members, it is now possible to piece together the group’s history.”

Even Rougier does not claim that Fatah al-Islam was “created” by the Syrians and I don’t think that Rosen fully endorses his analysis because he immediately points out the major contradiction in it (without further comment).

Here is the paragraph in question:

“Bernard Rougier suggests that the Syrians wanted to impede the Hariri strategy of controlling and enlarging an Islamist coalition that could be used to fight Hezbollah. To create division in the Hariri ranks, they inserted a Salafi jihadist group who wanted to fight Israel because it would divert Sunni support from Hariri. “Then it took on its own life. It had a magnetic effect on Islamists in the country,” said Rougier. He distinguishes the local agenda, which views the real enemy as Shias, from the jihadist agenda, which “views the real enemy as the West, and Shias are third or lower on the list.” However, Syria’s strategic ally is Hezbollah, and Syria would not introduce anti-Shia and anti-Hezbollah elements into Lebanon.”

(my emphasis)

One could add that the Syrians are probably doing what Rougier describes by putting their support behind Sheikh Fathi Yakan who (in contrast the takfiris in Fatah al-Islam) is acceptable to Hizbullah.

As I said, there are many contradictions in the text, but the following is by far the most important, in my view. It is probably based on the interrogation documents (and also happens to be the main flaw in the Saab/Ranstorp article), the idea that Fatah al-Islam became more radicalized in Nahr al-Bared:

“While Fatah al Islam’s original goals may have been to liberate Palestine, more radical jihadists influenced its leaders, shifting their focus toward global jihad.”

This is in direct contradiction to the following paragraphs:

On November 23 an armed patrol of different faction members was sent to the apartment (in Bedawi; t_d). … The men escaped to the Nahr al Barid camp. The security committee raided the other apartments, but the suspects had already communicated by radio and the others escaped. One Saudi was shot in the leg. When an armed Syrian comrade on a motorcycle attempted to rescue him, he too was shot and both were taken to a camp hospital. The Syrian had documents signed by Shaker al Absi. During interrogations by Palestinian security officials, the two admitted to being members of al Qaeda in Iraq who had come to Lebanon during the July war for training, recruitment, and jihad. Up to eighty men like them had entered Lebanon via Fatah al Intifada. They claimed to have come not to fight Israel but to assassinate seventeen Lebanese officials, including members of parliament, sheikhs, and members of the security forces.

A Fatah al Intifada commander handed the two men to the Lebanese army. Camp officials also found cameras, four computers, and scanners used to make fake identification documents. They found CDs with footage of training and members swearing oaths of loyalty to Osama bin Laden.”

(my emphasis)

You don’t get more radical than this. And it was only three days later, on November 26, that Fatah al-Islam was founded, so this nice story that the group somehow became more radicalized is totally bogus.

January 18th, 2008, 12:48 pm


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