Bilal Saab on Jihadis in Lebanon

Bilal Saab, an analyst who specilaizes in Middle East security and terrorism at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, has recently published :Expanding the "Jihad": Hizb'allah's Sunni Islamist Network" with Bruce Riedel, a Senior Fellow at the Saban Center. Saab has provided the following comments of Hersh's New Yorker article copied in the last post.

Bilal Saab writes:

I will only tackle the section on Jihadis in Lebanon in Seymour Hersh's article. 
“We are in a program to enhance the Sunni capability to resist Shiite influence, and we’re spreading the money around as much as we can,” the former senior intelligence official said. The problem was that such money “always gets in more pockets than you think it will,” he said. “In this process, we’re financing a lot of bad guys with some serious potential unintended consequences. We don’t have the ability to determine and get pay vouchers signed by the people we like and avoid the people we don’t like. It’s a very high-risk venture.”

That's a key policy statement and I don't think anyone has problems with or doubts its revelations. In other words, it is no secret.

Now, let me dissect the following statement and place it in the Lebanese context.

"American, European, and Arab officials I spoke to told me that the Siniora government and its allies had allowed some aid to end up in the hands of emerging Sunni radical groups in northern Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, and around Palestinian refugee camps in the south. These groups, though small, are seen as a buffer to Hezbollah; at the same time, their ideological ties are with Al Qaeda."

Sunni radical groups… First of all, Sy assumes that Sunni radical groups and Salafist jihadist groups in Lebanon are pretty much the same thing. Whether by default or design, this is a flawed perception and interpretation.

Who are these Sunni radical groups? The established fundamentalist (rather than radical) groups in Lebanon are Harakat al Tawhid al Islami, Al Jama'a al Islamiyyah, and Al Ahbash. The first two are the relevant actors in the Lebanese political scene as the latter has ideologically shown a disinterest in politics and has refuted militancy throughout its existence. In terms of worldview and political positioning, I can assure you that the leaders and core cadres of Harakat al Tawhid al Islami and Al Jama'a al Islamiyyah have today allied themselves with Hizb'allah under the Fathi Yakan-formed umbrella of Jabhat al Amal al Islami. Bottom line, Hizb'allah ahs outmanoeuvered and preempted any major attempts by the government to win over the core Sunni voices in the country. For a detailed description and analysis of the relationship between Hizb'allah and the Sunni fundamentalist groups in Lebanon, you can post my article with Bruce Riedel which will appear on the Brookings homepage tomorrow morning (your readers will see it on your website first). So, in terms of financing by the Siniora government, I obviously am unable to disprove that but can seriously doubt its efficiency in terms of winning them over. It is money down the drain as I see it.
Who are the Salafist Jiadist factions? These are Osbat al Ansar, Jund al Sham, the dismantled (but now regrouped in Ein el Helweh under the leadership of Ahmad Miqati) al Dinniyeh Group, the Majdal Anjar group, the Qarun group, rogue (turned salafist jihadist) elements inside Harakat al Tawhid al Islami and al Jama'a al Islamiyya, and finally alienated and unemployed Lebanese Sunni Muslim youth who belong to the lower and middle classes of the Sunni community, who mostly center around the coastal areas of Lebanon and the capital (Tariq al Jdideh, also in the town of Aramoun) and who are all, without any exxageration, potential al-Qaeda recruits.
Here again, I am in no position to disprove that elements inside the Siniora government (the article refers to the Internal Security Forces who pretty much operate under Siniora's leaderhsip and the command of the pro-government ISF Director Ashraf Rifi) may be attempting to finance such salafist jihadist factions. In fact, I find such assumption resonably believable. What I doubt is the success of such efforts. While the ISF may succeed in financing and arming alienated and unemployed Sunni youth and rogue Islamist elements here and there, I have enough empirical evidence (mostly based on field work, which I will reveal in a journal article I will soon be running with Magnus Ranstorp entitled "Securing Lebanon and UNIFIL from the threat of Salafist Militancy") to support the argument that any virtual attempts by the government at reaching out to the core salafist jihadist groups in Lebanon, mentioned above, will not only fail but backfire and have grave consequences.
Three main reasons why the salafist jihadist groups won't be "bought" (at least not all) by evildoers inside the Siniora government are:
1- these groups are very serious about their salafist jihadist ideology: the pro-American Lebanese government is an agent of the US-Zionist alliance and must be fought, period.
2- The history of terrorism and political violence perpetrated by these groups against Lebanese interests and the Lebanese political establishment is a testament to the seriousness of their fundamental disagreements with the makeup of the Lebanese secular and confessional order.
3- the salafist jihadist current in Lebanon is disunited and divided along political lines (the most notable example is the serious rift between Osbat al Ansar and Jund al Sham). So even assuming that some factions might be lured by the government, the majority will categorically refuse any "reaching out attempts".
Best, Bilal

Comments (39)

Gibran said:

Do we understand from this posting of Dr. Landis as well as all these reports/interviews of the previous posting (Mr. Hersh) that the US may soon allow the Syrian people to overthrow Bashar who represents a minority Syrian clan and allow Syria to have a real representative government with a Syrian Sunni at the top? This may fit perfectly with all these clandestine, and at the same time sensational, revelations.

February 26th, 2007, 12:48 am


Gibran said:

Major Sunni States meet in Islamabad to discuss stabilization of Middle East. Syria and Iran are excluded because they are perceived as part of the problem according to Pakistani official. Meeting calls for collective support of Lebanon and its government, Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories (including Golan) and the reaffirmation of Beirut 2002 Arab initiative as well as the peaceful resolution of Iranian nuclear standoff. It also calls for unified stand against radical groups:

قلق إسلامي من التصعيد مع إيران
ودعوة إلى “جهود جماعية” لمساعدة لبنان

عشية اجتماع لممثلي الدول الخمس الدائمة العضوية في مجلس الأمن وألمانيا في لندن للبحث في زيادة العقوبات على ايران، حذر وزراء الخارجية لسبع دول إسلامية هي المملكة العربية السعودية ومصر والأردن واندونيسيا وماليزيا وتركيا وباكستان من “التصعيد الخطير للتوتر” في هذا الملف، داعين إلى حل الأزمة من دون اللجوء إلى العنف. وناقشوا قضايا أخرى تثير قلقهم مثل الأوضاع في الأراضي الفلسطينية والعراق ولبنان حيث حضوا الأطراف المعنيين على “ضبط النفس”. ودعا رئيس الوزراء الباكستاني شوكت عزيز إلى “بذل جهود جماعية للحفاظ على سلام لبنان وسيادته”.
وجاء في البيان الختامي للاجتماع في إسلام أباد والذي تلاه وزير الخارجية الباكستاني خورشيد محمود قاسوري ان “الوزراء ناقشوا بقلق عميق التصعيد الخطير للتوتر، وخصوصاً في شأن برنامج ايران النووي”، وشددوا على ضرورة “حل كل المسائل من خلال الديبلوماسية، وعدم اللجوء الى استخدام القوة”. وتحدث البيان عن ضرورة “تخفيف التصعيد بدل تأزيم الوضع والمواجهة في منطقة الخليج”، ورأى ان “على كل الدول العمل من اجل تحقيق هذا الهدف”.
وشارك في الاجتماع، إلى قاسوري، نظراؤه السعودي الأمير سعود الفيصل والمصري أحمد أبو الغيط والأردني عبدالإله الخطيب والأندونيسي حسن ويرايودا والماليزي سيد حامد البار والتركي عبدالله غول، والأمين العام لمنظمة المؤتمر الاسلامي اكمل الدين احسان اوغلو.
وأكد قاسوري ان القضية الفلسطينية تعتبر لب المشكلة في الشرق الاوسط ويجب حلها في اسرع وقت ممكن بما يتناسب وقرارات الامم المتحدة والمبادرة العربية للسلام التى اقرتها قمة بيروت عام 2002، وكذلك المبادرات الاخرى والتي تتمحور كلها على اقامة دولة فلسطينية تكون عاصمتها القدس. وقال ان المجتمعين أبدوا قلقهم العميق من استمرار احتلال الاراضي العربية ومن الحفريات الاسرائيلية في محيط المسجد الاقصى، ورحبوا بإقامة حكومة وحدة وطنية بموجب اتفاق مكة وطالبوا المجتمع الدولي بتقديم المساعدة المالية للشعب الفلسطيني.
واضاف ان الوزراء طالبوا بانسحاب القوات الاسرائيلية من الاراضي السورية ومن لبنان، وابدوا قلقهم من التوتر الحاصل في لبنان حيث حضوا “الاطراف كافة على ضبط النفس”. ودعوا كذلك إلى إنهاء العنف في العراق الذي يسبب “الحزن العميق والقلق لكل المسلمين” مع الحفاظ على وحدة اراضي هذا البلد وتحقيق المصالحة الوطنية فيه. وأكدوا رفض التطرف والارهاب.
وتحدث قاسوري عن ضرورة تقريب موعد قمة منظمة المؤتمر الإسلامي المقررة في مكة، وعقدها الشهر المقبل.
وكان الرئيس الباكستاني الجنرال برويز مشرف زار البلدان الستة وايران وسوريا لمناقشة سبل تسوية النزاعات في الشرق الأوسط. وأوضح قاسوري أنه قام بمبادرته هذه مساهمة في وقف نمو التوتر المذهبي في العراق ووقف “قتل الأخ أخاه” في فلسطين ولبنان. ووصف النزاعات الشيعية-السنية في العراق بأنها “مريعة”، متخوفاً من “انتشارها عبر الحدود (العراقية)”.
وافاد مسؤول باكستاني إلى ان ايران وسوريا لم تدعوا إلى القمة لأنهما “تعتبران متورطتين (مباشرة) في الأزمة” في الشرق الأوسط. واعلن قاسوري انه تحدث مع نظيريه السوري وليد المعلم والإيراني منوشهر متكي، وان رئيس الوزراء الباكستاني شوكت عزيز اتصل بنظيره اللبناني فؤاد السنيورة. وأضاف: “نحن على اتصال بكل الأطراف في الشرق الأوسط”.
كذلك التقى عزيز وزراء الخارجية السبعة، وتحدث أمامهم عن اعتماد السلام في الشرق الأوسط على ايجاد حل عادل للقضية الفلسطينية واتخاذ موقف موحد ضد التيارات الراديكالية. وشدد على ضرورة تمكين الشعب العراقي من تقرير مصيره بنفسه” و”بذل جهود جماعية للحفاظ على سلام لبنان وسيادته”. ودعا إلى استراتيجية إسلامية مشتركة لتسوية أزمة الشرق الاوسط.

(و ص ف، أ ب، أ ش أ، رويترز)

February 26th, 2007, 12:55 am


Abhinav Aima said:

Thank you, Prof. Landis, for posting these important articles and examining what might well be another disastrous short-sighted measure of U.S. foreign policy…

I am also glad to see that Saab and Riedel have drawn the distinction between the Hizbollah-Sunni alliance in Lebanon and demarcated it from the al-Qaeda type Salafist groups – because this is one important facet of anti-Hizbollah misinformation (that they are tied to al-Qaeda) that is carried out by the hawks in Israel and the U.S.

I would also like to state here that it is important to understand the long-term consequences of short-term U.S. policies… The ‘Orientalists’ among the neo-conservatives are quick to lament the lack of demarcation between religion and state in Arab and Muslim countries, but they gloss over the fact that the U.S. is singularly responsible for destroying the very movements that sought to distance religion from politics in the Arab and Muslim countries…

The ideal of separating religion from politics is, in its essence, a leftist or liberal ideal… Iran, under Mohammad Mossadegh in 1952 was not an “Islamo-Fascist” country, neither was Egypt one under Nasser, nor Syria or Iraq under their first waves of the Ba’ath renaissance… All of these countries were striving for secular nationalism, some desiring a pan-Arab secular state. All these movements were, to varying degrees, subverted and attacked by the U.S. primarily because they were left-leaning and refused to join U.S. accords against the Soviet Union, or U.S. alliances with Israel…

When the United States destroyed the secular left in the Arab and Muslim world, the only medium left available for political outrage was Islam…

Islam is not the message – it is the medium of outrage… Those who point to the religious aspirations of the Salafists are missing the point – the reason why their message has an audience, however small, is not because it is perceived to be the absolute truth, but because it provides for an avenue, however twisted, for channeling outrage…

It is, in the larger strategic sense, as misleading to argue that the problem with Palestinians in the 1970s was Marxism, as it is to argue today that the problem is Islamism…

Having said that, a repeat of pitting Wahabi or Salafist forces against the new enemy, (in the 1980s it was the USSR) the Shiites, may seem to make short-term sense for U.S. interests in Iraq, Lebanon or Syria, but the long-term implications are very disturbing… Ultimately, the Shiite and Sunni elements opposed to Salafists (who are the minority among the Muslims) will find a way out of this trap… And when they do, they will be a formidable force, and their anger will focus back on the U.S.

February 26th, 2007, 2:02 am


Gibran said:

Very good Abhinav Aima and I may add not as sensational as Dr. Landis for obvious reasons (Landis is a Syrian Alawite regime apologist and the only way for him to do it is to be sensational).
To make it brief, your analysis seems to suggest that the US with its policies is in the process of awakening a giant namely the Muslim Sunnis that count over a billion souls that may for one reason or another share some grievances against it (the US). The US may still be able to reverse this trend by allowing the Syrians to have a representative government with a Syrian Sunni at the top. This will absorb most of the grievances Muslims may have against the US. It will also pave the way for a stable and peaceful Middle East. I don’t believe you are espousing a return to the failed era of so-called nationalism and/or liberalism. It is obviously too late for that, and somehow the US should act with the genie out of the bottle – just out of respect for realpolitiks espoused by Landis and his choir on this blog.

February 26th, 2007, 2:14 am


norman said:

Abhinav , thank you and I am glad that there are people in the US who have a forsight to see our Goverment’s missteps.

February 26th, 2007, 2:26 am


Abhinav Aima said:


I am not sure if the U.S. interests really are focused on a democratically elected government in Syria or anywhere else, because, Sunni or Shiite, the majority of Muslims in many crucial countries (according to opinion polls) are opposed to two central tenets of U.S. foreign policy:

1. Support for Israel at the cost of the Palestinians on issues such as rights of refugees, removal of settlements, return of Arab lands, and questions of the status of Jerusalem.

2. Access to natural resources and markets at the cost of lower profits, if elected governments should seek to change their relationship with U.S. companies.

If we understand the U.S. foreign policy apparatus to be monolithic in its attitude toward handling challenges to inherent U.S. interests, then the U.S. attitude toward Bolivia and Venezuela, both democratically elected governments, show that the tendency is still to sulk and destroy, rather than seek a diplomatic resolution of differences with hostile, yet democratic, governments.

Unfortunately, my conclusion in this regard is that the Bush administration wants to use Sunni money and movements to harass and weaken hostile regimes linked to Iran. I do not believe that they envision democracy or freedom in Syria, precisely because they are not convinced that they same will lead to a pro-Neoconservative agenda Syrian government.

February 26th, 2007, 2:30 am


Gibran said:

Of course Abhinav Aima, Muslims perceive US cooperation with a non representative Alawi regime, which took place clandestinely on and off during Hafez rule, as a major grievance. Besides it is well known that the non representative alawi minority Syrian regime is the major impediment to a stable Middle East including Iraq. Therefore, removing this regime will achieve the double advantage of absorbing major Muslim grievance as well as set the stage for a stable Middle East which is now in the interest of the US (at least in Iraq). The new Syrian government may not be pro-Neoconservative as you said; but lacking previous grievances it may well cooperate without being perceived illegitimate in the eyes of its Syrian people. Issues in the Middle East are not perceived as black and white as many in NA would normally look at them!

February 26th, 2007, 2:49 am


norman said:

Gibran , you live in Canada , I do not see any suuni in the Goverment of Canada ,may be that is why Canada is much better than all the sunni states , please stop being a racist ,next you are going to ask only for people with brown eyes to be in goverment , remember all Syrians are eligible and Syria needs all qualified people , then i forgot you are Lebanese,and you guyes onlt think of your religous affiliations by the way if you realy want a sunni goverment then may be you should leave this country of Canada which has an infidle goverment and go live in Saudi heaven.

February 26th, 2007, 3:10 am


Gibran said:

What is really bothering you Norman? And who are you besides being Syrian? Are you Alawi by the way?
May I remind you it is none of your business where I may choose to live? Just as much as I don’t care where you may end up dead?
And do I need to tell you once again to mind your own business?
Don’t you realize that it was Landis who raised the issue of Sunnis, Shias and Alawis? Go back and read what he is posting. Do you only want to hear a one sided story? I thought you have such an open mind. I was wrong after all!

February 26th, 2007, 3:16 am


norman said:

Gibran, You are wrong again , Iam just Syrian.

February 26th, 2007, 3:32 am


Gibran said:

OK Norman. Then be cool and stick to the subject.

February 26th, 2007, 3:36 am


Enlightened said:

And I am a human resident of this planet!

February 26th, 2007, 5:28 am


Mike said:

Interesting. So you’re saying that even for all the anti-Shia sentiment among salafist jihadists types, this sentiment is secondary to their resistance against the “West”? Do you think these radical (Sunni-identified) groups are only allying with Hezbollah to get rid of what they see as a “corrupt” government, but that once they achieved their objectives, would fight against Hezbollah?

February 26th, 2007, 5:55 am


Gibran said:

Saab/Riedel analysis asserts the following in their report/study:
“In Lebanon, Jabhat al-‘Amal al-Islami (or Islamic Action Front), a Sunni Islamist umbrella organization formed and led by Fathi Yakan, is today the most relevant Sunni Islamist actor that enjoys good and working relations with Hizb’allah.”

An irrelevant Fathi Yakan is portrayed as the most relevant Sunni Islamist actor in Lebanon by the celebrated study!

Well, in the last demonstartion in Beirut by Hezbollah in its effort to topple the government, this Mr. Yakan was supposed to be a main speaker. It so happened that he did not even appear once the Grand Mufti of Lebanon issued his famous fatwa of the inadmissibility of toppling the government through street protests.

The study also purports that this obscure Yakan represents a major constituency in the north of Lebanon. Well guess what? Pro government gathering took place in the main Tripoli square (two times the size of Riad el-Solh and Martyr Squares combined where Hezbollah demonstrated its full strength). According to eyewitnesses, they never saw the Tripoli square so full.
The truth of the matter is Hezbollah has reduced itself through its attempted coup started in December to a purely sectarian organization with no appeal whatsoever among the Sunnis of Lebanon not to mention the other major communities that make up Lebanon. Furthermore, the Beirut demonstrations have consumed any popular support Hezbollah may have enjoyed in the Arab world. These demonstrations brought back to the minds of the masses an ugly phase of Islamic history when the third Caliph was besieged by the mob and later on assassinated. In this case the scene of Mr. Seniora besieged by the Hezbollah mob was the catalyst which caused the greatest harm in terms of Arab public opinion – just another miscalculation on the part of Nasrallah after his summer fiasco. Can you guess now why Mr. Nasrallah seemed so depressed in his last appearance?

The following report found in AlArabiya clearly shows the dilemma that Syrian/Iranian/Hezbollah axis is facing with none other than a group of Syrian INTELLECTUALS who recently had several dialogue sessions with an Iranian official (Deputy Iranian Foreign Minister) in Damascus. The intellectuals raised with the official some very bold issues that caused him some real shock. According to these intellectuals these are issues that deeply concern the Syrian street. Among the questions were the attempts of the Iranians to proselytize Sunnis into Shiism (an issue recently denied sarcastically by Nasrallah and you may find a reference to it in a Landis post). They also drilled the Deputy Foreign Minister on the UAE Islands in the Gulf occupied by Iran since the time of the Shah among other issues:

منهم من طالبه بموقف واضح من الجزر الإماراتية
مثقفون سوريون يثيرون مع رسمي إيراني قضايا “التشيع” والعراق
دبي – العربية.نت
في عدة جلسات حوارية جرت قبل يومين في العاصمة السورية دمشق فاجأ مثقفون
ومسؤولون سوريون نائب وزير

الخارجية الايراني بجملة من الاسئلة والاستفسارات
“الجريئة” مطالبين بموقف علني من القيادة الايرانية بشأن قضايا يتداولها الشارع
السوري بدءاً من حملات تشييع
في العالم العربي ومروراً بموضوع الجزر الاماراتية
الثلاث وانتهاء بأسباب عدم اصدار المرجع الشيعي علي

السيستاني فتوى لمقاومة
وأشار النائب الإسلامي في مجلس النواب السوري محمد حبش إلى وجود “اتهامات بأن
ايران معنية بنشر المذهب
الشيعي في سورية”، مع ملاحظته
ان امريكا “تريد مباشرة
إشعال الفتنة الطائفية”، وقال إن التجاهل الرسمي الايراني لهذا الموضوع ليس مفيداً
لأن “المطلوب من ايران موقف يقول انها مهتمة بالشأن السياسي وليس بالخلاف المذهبي”,
وذلك وفقا لتقرير أعده الزميل ابراهيم حميدي ونشرته صحيفة “الحياة” اللندنية.

The full article can be found at:

February 26th, 2007, 7:13 am


Ahmad Nurani said:

Dear Joshua,

Bilal Saab analysis is partly wrong. True, Harakat al-Tawhid and Fathi Yakan’s Jabha Islamiyya are pro-Hizbullah Sunni groups. However, al-Jamaa al-Islamiyya (Yakan’s former movement) is now part of the 14th of March and officially took part in the last February 14t meeting in Beyrouth. Hariri has also obtained the clear support of Da’iyat al-Islam al-Shahhal, a non-Jihadi Salafi leader of Tripoli.



February 26th, 2007, 8:26 am


Alex said:

Assad will attend the Arab summit in Saudi Arabia.

نقل وزير الدولة وعضو مجلس الوزراء السعودي عبدالله زينل لـ «الحياة» امس عن الرئيس بشار الاسد تأكيده حضور القمة العربية المقررة في الرياض يومي 28 و29 الشهر المقبل. وقال الاسد: «ان حضوري القمة أمر محسوم وسأعمل كل جهدي لإنجاح القمة».

وكان زينل سلم الرئيس السوري امس رسالة من خادم الحرمين الشريفين الملك عبدالله بن عبدالعزيز تتضمن دعوة لحضور مؤتمر القمة العربية التاسع عشر الذى سيعقد في الرياض الشهر المقبل. وافاد ناطق رئاسي سوري ان اللقاء الذي جرى في حضور السفير السعودي في دمشق احمد بن علي القحطاني تناول «ضرورة انجاح القمة العربية لما فيه خير الشعب العربي».

وأوضح زينل لـ «الحياة» ان اللقاء مع الاسد كان «مميزاً جداً وان الاسد أعطاني وقتا ثمينا، وانه فور تسليمي الدعوة له قال: ان حضوري القمة أمر محسوم وسأعمل كل جهدي على انجاحها، قبل ان يعرب عن تقديره لخادم الحرمين الشريفين وللعلاقة القديمة بينهما».

وفيما نقلت مصادر ديبلوماسية عن مسؤولين سوريين قولهم ان القمة العربية «مهمة ولا بد من نجاحها»، اوضحت مصادر سورية ان دمشق «حريصة على قمة ناجحة في الظروف الراهنة وانها تنظر باهتمام الى جدول الاعمال» المطروح.

ومن المقرر ان يشارك وزير الخارجية وليد المعلم في اجتماع وزراء خارجية الدول العربية في بداية الاسبوع المقبل في القاهرة.

وعلم ان ترتيبات سورية – سعودية سبقت زيارة زينل الى دمشق، حيث التقى الوزير السعودي ليل السبت نائب وزير الخارجية فيصل المقداد قبل ان يستقبله الاسد من دون حضور اي مسؤول سوري. واقام السفير القحطاني مأدبة غداء بعد ظهر امس، حضرها سفراء عرب والمقداد، على ان يستكمل جولته لنقل دعوات من الملك عبدالله الى دول عربية اخرى، حيث يزور اليوم كلا من الاردن ولبنان.

February 26th, 2007, 9:37 am


t_desco said:

Some quick comments:

Bilal Saab writes:

“First of all, Sy assumes that Sunni radical groups and Salafist jihadist groups in Lebanon are pretty much the same thing.”

I don’t think that this criticism is justified, at least not on the basis of Hersh’s article. In fact, Bilal seems to have missed this quote from the article:

Asbat al-Ansar has received arms and supplies from Lebanese internal-security forces and militias associated with the Siniora government” (emphasis mine, MSK… 😀 ).

Then, in the Blitzer interview, Hersh spoke of “three Sunni jihadist groups”:

“… this money has gotten into the hands, among other places, in Lebanon, into the hands of three, at least three jihadist groups.

There’s three Sunni jihadist groups whose main claim to fame inside Lebanon right now is that they are very tough. These are people connected to al Qaida who want to take on Hezbollah. So this government, at the minimum, we may not directly be funneling money to them, but we certainly know that these groups exist.”

So Asbat al-Ansar is one of them, but which are the other two?

I agree with Gibran that Saab/Riedel may overestimate the influence of Fathi Yakan, but I will have to read the paper first before commenting on it…

MSK, your “rhetorical” question” is, in fact, very interesting.

The main difference between the Dinniyeh group and Fatah al-Islam is that the first was certainly not controlled or influenced by any government, while in the case of the latter we can’t be so sure.

One should note that the version given by Hersh is diametrically opposed to the earlier version by Al-Mustaqbal.

February 26th, 2007, 12:05 pm


Ammad said:

If there were no foreign interferences (Iran and Syria) in Lebanon. Lebanon would rank number one not only in middle east but in Asian continent as a whole in terms of a business and Tourist destination. Every one loves Lebanon, its a beautiful country. Lebanese talents are recognized worldwide. Lebanon only obstacle, it is facing from a long time is foreign interference.
It seems like Lebanon only fault that it is geographically and strategically important. Lebanon is a victim of syrian terrorism. I believe that there will be one day justice in Lebanon

February 26th, 2007, 12:35 pm


Ammad said:

I am not good in religion but I would like to say
that I am not against sunni, shite, druze, christians, jews and bahai’s. In any religion in the world there are moderate and extremist. It is a duty for the international community to reject extremism

February 26th, 2007, 12:42 pm


Zubaida said:

I might have had a bit more confidence in Hersh’s grasp of these murky affairs if he had managed to get the name of the Syrian president right (“Bashir”) and if he had shown a better grasp of the importance of the Hariri tribunal–he suggested that the tribunal would constitute a second investigation. He does not seem to have considered the possibility that Syria might also be fishing in the waters of Sunni extremism.

February 26th, 2007, 12:49 pm


Bilal Saab said:

The words of Martin Gebhardt and Ahmad Nurani are important and deserve a few comments.

Yes, Ahmad, al Jama’a al Islamiyya has elements that are pro-government, but the group is divided and the relevant cadres (like I say in my article) are pro-Hizb’allah. See what happened to Harmoush after he delivered that speech with the March 14 forces? News of the rift inside the group are no secret and can be easily checked out. Al Shahal is an important preacher, yes, I include him in my forthcoming article, and I never claimed that the Hariri-led March 14 alliance is completely stripped of its Sunni base. But al Shahal is not Yakan.

Martin, I’ve told you previously that your research is first rate, which is why I acknowledge you in my forthcoming article on Salafist Jihadists in Lebanon (the comments you sent me the draft were solid). Now, on this piece, I kindly ask you to put forward your arguments on why you think Fathi Yakan’s influence is overestimated. You seem to agree with previous comments that he is. I have laid out my reasons why he isn’t in my article. If you need more empirical evidence on who Yakan is and what he represents, I’m happy to discuss further.

Thank you Ahmad and Martin, I appreciated your pointed comments.

February 26th, 2007, 2:48 pm


Alex said:

This piece from champress today mentions Hersh’s article while it reminds the “moderate” Arabs that Syria (which accomplished the first 90% of their Mecca agreement, according to champress) is still going to the Arab summit, but is ready for the destabilization tactics mentioned in Hersh’s article.

ماذا تعني اجتماعات السبعة في الباكستان ؟؟؟
وهل يعني تفريغ مضمون اجتماع مكة الذي أنجزت منه سوريا التسعون بالمئة والعشرة بالمئة أنجزته مكة ؟؟
وهل يعني أن عباس أمريكياً يسعى لإنجاز صهر حماس في فتح مكة ؟؟
هل التخطيط من أمريكا وعبر أدواتها في المنطقة لإضعاف الدور السوري؟
للعلم.. إننا منتبهون ونحن لاعب أساسي نستقبل الجميع ونتعاون مع المجموع برؤيتنا وحفاظنا على ثوابت أمتنا فلتعلموا أننا نعلم ما لا تعلمون.
سورية ستعمل كل جهدها لإنجاح القمة العربية القادمة لأنها تؤمن بضرورة انجاح القمة العربية لما فيه خير الشعب العربي وهذا ما أكدته المصادر الرسمية السورية، (إضغط على الرابط، والمحللون السياسيون يدركون تماماً قيمة هذا الكلام وأنه بدون الدعم السوري «لن تخرج القمة بقرارات على ‏مستوى ما هو مطلوب منها في هذا الوضع الدقيق الذي تمر به المنطقة، نظراً للتأثير السوري ‏الاساسي في عدد من الملفات الكبرى بدءاً من الوضع في العراق الى الملفين اللبناني والفلسطيني» إضغط على الرابط‏
لكنه في المقابل يجب على الدول العربية عدم الوقوع في الأفخاخ التي تنصبها لها الإدارة الأمريكية، اللفظية منها كالتسابق على استخدام «الاعتدال والمعتدلة» ليصبح «التوصيف الذي باتت بعض الدول العربية تقبله على نفسها يحمل وبلا أدنى شك توصيفا متناقضا يُطرب له المخطط الغربي المتعامل مع القضايا العربية إنطلاقا من مصالحه ولا شيء غير مصالحه».
فـ «الاعتدال مطلوب كتكتيك سياسي ولكنه حين يلامس الانبطاح كاستراتيجية لكسب رضا ما يسمى المجتمع الدولي أو الادارة الامريكية فإننا بكل تأكيد أمام مشهد تسطيحي ومغامرة غير محسوبة العواقب في ظل الواقع وأفق المستقبل التي نقرأها قراءة لا تصب في مصلحة هؤلاء الذين يرضون عن طيب خاطر أن يصنفوا في معسكر خاسر بكل تأكيد». (اضغط على الرابط
كما يجب على تلك الدول تجنب الأفخاخ الأكبر من ذلك كالتورط في مشاريع أمريكية خطيرة تعمل جميعها في النهاية ضد مصلحة شعوب المنطقة وفي مصلحة الولايات المتحدة وإسرائيل قطعاً كالاستراتيجيات التي زعمت مجلة «نيويوركر» حين أكدت في مقال للصحفي سايمور هيرش بأن «الولايات المتحدة ستقدم مساعدات مالية لتمويل جماعات في لبنان ومن بينها جماعات متطرفة مثل «فتح الإسلام» و«عصبة الأنصار» وسيتم ضخ الأموال أيضاً عن طريق زعيم الأغلبية البرلمانية في لبنان سعد الحريري، كما ستحظى «جبهة الخلاص الوطني» المعارضة بزعامة عبد الحليم خدام المقيم في باريس بتمويل كبير نظراً لوجود الإخوان المسلمين في الجبهة. وكتب هيرش إن «الإستراتيجية التي أطلق عليها بعض مسؤولي البيت الأبيض اسم «إعادة التوجيه» قربت الولايات المتحدة من مواجهة مفتوحة مع إيران وأدخلتها، في بعض أنحاء المنطقة، في نزاع طائفي يزداد اتساعا بين المسلمين». (اضغط على الرابط

February 26th, 2007, 4:44 pm


Alex said:

Hersh spoke to the Lebanese Assafir newspaper:

He says that Prince Bandar convinced the Americans that it is possible to direct the extremist Lebanese groups to take action against Syria and Hizballah and that there will be nothing to worry about for Americans from doing so.

Hersh also mentioned “The Lebanese forces” withot mentioning if they were directly given weapons, instead he said: “money can buy weapons”

وأكد هيرش في لقاء مع «السفير»، على هامش زيارة له إلى مصر أن «الولايات المتحدة تقف الآن ضد أي تسوية أو حل وسط» في لبنان، وأنه لا يرى «شيئا جيدا بالنسبة للبنان» في المرحلة المقبلة.
كما أكد لـ«السفير»، أن هناك أموالا خليجية
تتدفق لدعم حركات أصولية متطرفة. وهو سمى ثلاث حركات في مقاله مشيرا إلى دور مستشار الأمن القومي السعودي الأمير بندر بن سلطان في إقناع الأميركيين بإمكان التحكم بهذه الحركات واستخدامها ضد سوريا وحزب الله، وبأنها لا تشكل أي خطر على الأميركيين.
وسمى هيرش لاعبين أساسيين وراء سياسة «إعادة التوجيه» للسياسة الأميركية، هم نائب الرئيس ديك تشيني، وممثل مستشار الأمن القومي اليوت ابرامز، السفير الأميركي في العراق (ومرشح لمنصب سفير الأمم المتحدة) زلماي خليل زاد، بالاضافة الى الأمير بندر. ورفض مكتب تشيني والبيت الأبيض التعليق على هذه القصة، بحسب المقال، أما البنتاغون فلم يجب عن أسئلة محددة ولكنه قال بأن «الولايات المتحدة لا تخطط لحرب مع إيران».
وذكر التقرير أن الولايات المتحدة قدمت «دعماً سرياً لحكومة السنيورة… في خضم برنامج من أجل تعزيز القدرة السنية على مقاومة النفوذ الشيعي»، بحسب مسؤول استخبارات كبير سابق ومستشار حكومي أميركي.
ونقل هيرش عن المسؤولين الأميركيين والأوروبيين والعرب الذين تحدث معهم أن حكومة السنيورة وحلفاءها سمحوا لبعض هذه المساعدات أن تصل إلى أيادي مجموعات سنية راديكالية صاعدة في شمال لبنان والبقاع وحول المخيمات الفلسطينية في الجنوب، وأكبر هذه المجموعات، عصبة الأنصار، التي تتمركز في مخيم عين الحلوة، وقد تلقّت الأسلحة والعتاد من أجهزة أمنية داخلية وميليشيات مرتبطة بحكومة السنيورة.
وسمّى هيرش في حديثه لـ«السفير» القوات اللبنانية، لكنه لم يؤكد ما إذا كانت هذه المساعدات تتضمن سلاحا مشيرا إلى «أن المال يشتري السلاح».

February 26th, 2007, 4:55 pm


ausamaa said:

As far as we are concerned, there is nothing new in Seymore Herch article. It seems the intention of the article is to expose some wrongfull doing as he see it by the administration.

It is directed more at the internal political scene in the US, rather than at bothering with the political situation in this area.

As far as Saudi Arabia is concerned, the decison is solidly in the hands of King Abdullah, not any one else. Not Bandar alone for sure. And King Abdullah is not one to accept, allow, or risk burning his bridges to Damascus. He is upset over Harriri and over the “half men” speach, but he knows that these are things to get over, same like the “authorised Saudi source” fiasco in July. In this context, a lot of Saudi telltale signals -towards Damascus, Hamas and Hizbullah- can be understood and appreciated. What the Saudies are doing it seems, is salvaging things from before the stuff hits the fan; wither through an American escalation with Iran, or as a result of a collapse of the US efforts in Iraq.

Also, all talk about decoupling Syria and Iran,or Hamas and Syria, or Hizbullah and Syria is wishfull thinking -in my opinion- known and understood by Saudi. And can not be risked. Talk about Salafies and Jihadies and thier being supported by Saudi and others, is being blown out of proportion. Harriri Jr. may be inclined, and immature enough, to try such an approach. But not Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries.They know how dangerous such a tactic is, and they are also still suffering from the effects of Sep 11. Given a choice between Al Malki and Iran and Hizbullah and between the likes of Bin Laden, the choice seems obvious. That is why the rapproachment with Hizbullah and to a degree Iran and Syria. That is perhaps why the cold soulder to Harriri and Co.

It is a lot of people posturing and saying something but acting in a different manner.More like a slow, face-saving and a hectic salvage operation.

February 26th, 2007, 5:38 pm


Alex said:


I agree with you that “It is a lot of people posturing and saying something but acting in a different manner.More like a slow, face-saving and a hectic salvage operation.”

But I believe that everyone by now realize that they probably do not have enough control or influence to force their favorite solution on any of the conflicts, so they are investing in both conflict and diplomacy … in case they manage to bully their opponents successfully, it would be their favorite choice, otherwise, they continue talking to their opponents in order to reach a compromise.

And there is also the alliance Dynamic where each couple continue to remind their partners that they can switch anytime if they are taken for granted … so Syria And Iran will stay as allies but they both cooperate with Saudi Arabia (directly or privately) … The Saudis will remain America’s allies but they remind the Americans that if they do not stop strangling the Mecca agreement, the Saudis might act very friendly to Damascus at the Arab summit …

But there is something disturbing that Hersh outlined in this article … frustrations of the Bush administration are leading them to try to adopt more and more desperate tactics … they realized that their opponents in the Middle East are better armed (Hizbollah and Hamas) than their loca allies (Seniora and Abbas). To the Americans (and Prince Bandar) it is about bullies and the bullies who should bully them back.

February 26th, 2007, 6:14 pm


Gibran said:

A relevant question that comes to mind is who Mr. Seymor Hersh works for? and who is paying him? Is it possible that some group financed his production of such misinformation! It seems he spent quite sometime in Cairo just to produce half truths!
The same questions can also be asked about Mr. Saab and his associate. Obviously Mr. Saab is a Middle Easterner and he should know better than making such cheap misrepresentations.

February 26th, 2007, 7:17 pm


ausamaa said:

You are right Alex, but the strength of Hizbullah and Hamas does not come from being “better armed” or “less armed” than the Siniora and Abbas, and here I would rather make a clear distinction between those two in Abass’s favour. Money can buy you a lot of things, but not everything. So I do not think that Siniora’s arming of Salafies is any more serious than Israel arming notorious Shieat anti-Hamas. Did you notice also Junblat running like hel to the States!! And what would Harriri’s partner Ja’ja say about Al Harriri arming Jihadi Salafies?? Would not be exactly happy, would he? What if those Jihadies remember Palestine and Jews and Christians and stuff, and decide to re-direct their own actions? No,I just do not see it as a serious matter. Propaganda, little theatrics, but not that serious.

Herch has also been somewhat on Syria and Hizbullah, by mentioning that while Syria is accused by some, yet no evidence has been produced. I also detected a somewhat resigned note on Herch’s part accepting living with Hizbullah if not opening a dialouge with the Hizb.

Anyway, again, I think everyone has reached the edg of the cliff and decided to back out and is now busy trying to put the best window dressing availlable.

February 26th, 2007, 7:24 pm


ausamaa said:

As to the “relevant” question above of Who Finance Seymour Herch? Beats me. But he certainly does not work at something that resembles Al Seyassah, or Al Sharq Al Awsat or Al Hiyat. And if he venture to visit Nassralah in Lebanon, I do not think a lot of people are financing him, or are happy with him. But if we insist on finding an answer to that question, we can just say that he is on the payroll of Syria and Iran. Like usual.

February 26th, 2007, 7:33 pm


Gibran said:

You actually forgot to mention Champress, Tichreen and Thawra Aussama. You may be right after all. The Syrians may have realized their media is so ineffective so they hired someone like Mr. Hersh and Mr. Saab to do the job. After all Landis has been doing it for them for quite sometime. May be he’s become so exposed they need some seemingly neutral mouthpiece(s).
I think I mentioned to you previously that I admire your optimism. But an unguarded optimism (I mean optimism from a Syrian perspective) is a folly especially when it comes to predicting what may relate to Jonblat, Seniora, Harriri and Jeajea. Even the ‘all-knowing’ Nasrallah was expecting Seniora to be out of office by the end of last year! It was quite a surprise for his summer “divine promise”, I may say. Did you see how foolish the ‘Sayyid’ looked in his last speech? I’m sure he would like to switch places with Seniora.

February 26th, 2007, 8:29 pm


Alex said:


What would we do here without you!

I think Bashar should fire Hersh … did you notice how he keeps calling him “Bashir”.

But wait … before you say it, I think I also realize what it is: he is PRETENDING he does not know Bashar .. how clever to call him Bashir.

By the way, here is some background on Hersh. The Syrians must be paying him a hefty amount of money

February 26th, 2007, 8:55 pm


Innocent_Criminal said:

Oh Alex, dont you know those “self-hating Jews” like Hersh are just mentaliy unstable and pose a bigger threat than the worst terrorists 😉

For a guy that seems to think of himself so distant from brainwashed conspiracy theories. Gibran does a good job of contradicting himself. I wonder what type of hallucinogens he’s on, could be fun.

February 26th, 2007, 9:10 pm


Alex said:

Actually IC, I want to encourage Gibran to remain a creative conspiracy theorist. We all enjoy reading his explanations don’t we?

Look at Hersh’s picture .. having dinner at??

hint: look at the back of his chair .. do you recognize the crest?

February 26th, 2007, 9:30 pm


Innocent_Criminal said:

How the hell did you manage this pic? and btw, white wine is being served…shocking 😉

February 26th, 2007, 9:55 pm


Alex said:

Gibran knows how I got the picture … remember? I work for them too. We are all propagandists for the Baathists …

وحدة حرية إشتراكية


February 26th, 2007, 10:43 pm


Gibran said:

IC, Alex,
O yeah. Well Hersh will definitely not get any prizes for his latest piece of …
But if he is paid by a criminal seeking to save his neck, he surely doesn’t need any trophies. Money in the bank is sometimes more valuable than an icon on the wall.
I mean look at Landis. Does he really care about his Phd?

February 26th, 2007, 10:48 pm


Alex said:

Here is something related:

Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood (which is very different from Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood) is upset because the American Ambassador to Jordan supposedly met with with Jordanian tribal leaders asking them to not vote for he brotherhood because they are infiltrated by Iran and are not doing enough to fight Iranian attempts to spread Shia Islam in Jordan

If true … wow!

أثارت لقاءات أجراها السفير الأميركي في الأردن ديفد هيل مع أطراف شعبية مؤخرا جدلا واسعا دفع الحركة الإسلامية لاعتبارها تعديا على السيادة وتجاوزا للأعراف الدبلوماسية.

وكانت صحيفة “الديار” اليومية قد نشرت الأحد الماضي خبرا عن لقاء عقده السفير هيل مع شيوخ عشائر أردنية حرضهم خلاله على الحركة الإسلامية، وهو ما دفع بمراقب الإخوان في الأردن سالم الفلاحات لمطالبة الحكومة بالتحقيق فيما نشر.

الفلاحات قال للجزيرة نت إن الخبر إن صح فإنه يعني أن السفير الأميركي يسعى لتخريب المجتمع الأردني وأنه تجاوز الأعراف الدبلوماسية، وأضاف “هذا تدخل مباشر وسافر من السفير الأميركي في السيادة الأردنية واعتداء صارخ عليها”.

ووفقا للخبر الذي أثار الجدل فإن السفير طالب وجهاء العشائر بعدم التحالف مع الإسلاميين في الانتخابات البلدية والبرلمانية المقبلة في هذه المرحلة التي تشهد “موجة تشيع لا يقوم الإسلاميون بمواجهتها نظرا لعلاقتهم بإيران”.

مراقب الإخوان تساءل عن الرد الحكومي فيما لو قام سفير دولة عربية بما قام به السفير الأميركي، معتبرا أن تحركات السفير هيل تشكل “اختراقات غير مقبولة للسيادة الأردنية”، واعتبر ما حدث إهانة لشيوخ العشائر الذين قال إنهم لا يقبلون التحريض على وطنهم.

السفارة الأميركية نفت حدوث أي لقاء بين السفير وشيوخ العشائر. وقال الناطق باسمها فيليب فرين للجزيرة نت إن اللقاء الذي تحدثت عنه الصحيفة المذكورة لم يتم أصلا.

February 26th, 2007, 11:11 pm


Enlightened said:

Ausamma said;

“No,I just do not see it as a serious matter. Propaganda, little theatrics, but not that serious.”

Spot on, couldnt agree more!

Alex you will remember in the last thread, I told you the crux time will be the Riyadh Summit. Syrias partciipation and Bashars attendence now, might get get everyone to step back from going over the cliff as Ausaama suggested here.

Personally I dont believe that America, or Saudi Arabia would be that stupid to arm the Salafists, it doesnt make sense to me no matter which way you look at it! ( Unless your conspiracy theory would be to tackle HIzbollah , then use it as a launching point against ousting the Syrian regime).

Diplomacy will win the day at the Summitt boys, there will be a lot of fake hugs, cheek and arse kisssing, back slapping and displays of that fake arab brotherhood to reach a compromise. Yes this is the Arab reality, is it a wonder that we have morons ruling us after taking everything to the edge?

Pure melodramatic Drama

February 26th, 2007, 11:39 pm


Alex said:


When it comes to predicting what will take place in the future of the Middle East, I refuse to play
: )

As for analyzing what is happening today, I do believe that Seymour Hersh’s piece is both reliable and well researched. When I talk about “Saudi Arabia” or “America” i am referring to “Prince Bandar and his types” and “the Bush Administration and neocons”

While I agree that Bashar and King Abdullah are not suicidal, others are very arrogant and very self confident. I do not trust their judgment so far. Especially that they are on the “losers” side for now.

Of course it is possible that by the Arab summit everything will be fine (or at least for a while), and I am aware that Bashar and Lebanese ally president Lahhoud are both going to attend. But the situation on the ground is too complex… if America attacks Iran, if you get fighting i Lebanon between Sunnis and Shia … things could explode.

As for my “conspiracy theory” … is it mine? and is it only “theory” by now?

did you read how the American ambassador to Jordan is supposedly meetig with the tribal leaders to scare them about the Shia?

February 26th, 2007, 11:56 pm


Enlightened said:

Alex ( Conspiracy theory not directed at you ) , but I hold for those that believe in them!

Your right no one has a crystal ball!

February 27th, 2007, 1:12 am


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