Crossfire War – Beirut – Fifth Day of Demonstrations – Fights – Riots Day Before

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Crossfire War – TEHRAN WATCH – West Asia Theatre: Tehran – Beirut – Damascus/Paris – Washington – Berlin; Fractured State – Street Demonstrations Enter Fifth Day – Siniora Government Barricaded in Offices – Impotent West Watches – Complains About Damascus – Ignores Tehran

Night Watch: BEIRUT – Xinhua reports that according to the Lebanese Daily Star, Shi’ite Amal Movement members rioted and attacked Sunnis with sticks, when the coffin of Amal member Ahmed Ali Mahmud, 20, was carried through the streets of Beirut. During the fighting, the first serious disturbance since the sit-in- tent city, protest began Friday, supporters of the assassinated Premier Rafik al-Hariri and his son Saad Hariri, came out of their homes and fought with opposition political groups in the street. Rioters set cars on fire and damaged shops. Mahmud’s funeral I believe is scheduled to be held at noon today. [XINHUA]

Aljazeera reports that several skirmishes between rival groups forced the intervention of Lebanon’s army and since then more troops have been dispatched to the center of the city. Opposition groups, as the fifth day of demonstrations begin, have hung a banner in memory of their slain member, “Martyred by the militias of the authorities.” That statement could be an indication that some of the Amal movement may be willing to engage some of Lebanon’s police and army units. If that happens then the third civil war in Lebanon’s history will be underway. [ALJAZEERA]

I suspect there will be no peaceful demonstrations or removal of the tent city until Prime Minister Fouad Siniora either resigns or forms a new cabinet with the opposition holding the major portfolios like President, Foreign and Interior Minister. A new ruling coalition is probably the only way he can remain as Prime Minister. Conditions are ripe for violence and street fighting to escalate, especially since there are now reports of tensions between Christians in rival groups. During Lebanon’s second civil war, from 1975-90, articles would admit there were 16 different political-religious groups fighting for control. Alliances would shift with the wind. One day some groups would ally with each other, then the next day, attack each other.

Serious, heavy combat, including urban warfare, is exactly what Tehran has prepared-armed Hezbollah for, to make certain they will emerge victorious in any street battle or civil war in case negotiations break down or if a negotiated agreement is violently opposed by one of the many political-armed factions, some fanatical splinter group, religiously inspired. It was one such group, in the name of their Christian political – militia, which began the fifteen year civil war in 1975 and possibly did so under directives from Paris. When the second civil war was nearing its end, during the late 1980s, a reporter asked some group why they were firing mortars at French ships in Beirut’s harbor. The reporter was told the ships had a “military nature.” Paris may have been arming virtually anyone, giving preference to groups they support, but Paris enjoys wars in the region because it usually makes it easier to manipulate.

In the meantime impotent governments in the West like Paris – Berlin- Washington complain about Damascus and ignore Tehran. They just issued again, for the countless time, another joint-joke statement warning Damascus about its influence in Lebanon. Iran began to supplant Syria’s influence 20 years ago with the establishment of Hezbollah. Ever since Saddam’s removal in 2003 the West has been pursuing a ridiculous “pick on Syria” policy as if Western governments had any real influence left as its contacts like Premier Rafik al-Hariri and Pierre Gemayel are assassinated by Iran and pro-West Egypt President Hosni Mubarak is increasingly isolated even from his own population. In the meantime the European led UNIFIL force is sitting on the sidelines as spectators instead of attacking or intercepting Hezbollah’s rearmament by Syria-Iran.

As of this writing the Lebanese Army is deployed in the city with soldiers atop armored vehicles at road junctions around Beirut. They have placed coils of barbed wire to block streets leading to government headquarters where Siniora and his Ministers are camped out. Perhaps the most astute observation of this situation in this fractured nation was made by Sateh Noureddin in the newspaper As-Safir, “The worst thing about the current crisis is there is no Arab or international mediator who can intervene…after the potential mediators abandoned their roles and took sides.” [ASHARQALAWSAT]

There are now very real fears Lebanon is on the verge of another civil war, the third one in 50 years. The first one began in May 1958. U. S. President Gen. Dwight Eisenhower sent 10,000 troops in a show of support for Lebanon President Camille Sham’un (Chamoun) but they had virtually no impact on the fighting. Sham’un had been accused by Arab nationalist opinion of being too pro-Western and the government was confronted by widespread armed insurrection. There was also a conflict of political personalities, ideologies with undertones of religious hostilities, an extension and result of Lebanon’s history, even before its independence in 1943. The country had for centuries, at least, been a crossroads of conflict between cultures and empires in and beyond the region. The constant historical character was, as always, the conflicts invited the participation of external forces. The 1958 war was ended as the result of the election of a new President, General Fuad Shihab, commander of the army. He assumed office in September as head of a new coalition.

But what made it easier in 1958 was that there had not been nearly the weapon sales in the region as there were after the June 1967 Six Day war between Israel/Egypt-Syria. Massive weapons sales after that made the next civil war from 1975-90 not only longer but more devastating. And of course a new external force entered the conflict-Tehran as a result of the Khomeini revolution in 1979. Tehran had not lost is Persian character of being expert users of availability employing political forces from the targeted country being targeted for control. Neither was Tehran operating only with spiritual currency. Everyone knew that if supported by Tehran, your financing increased, therefore also your weaponry and therefore your political currency-influence. The U. S. Marines and French troops sent to the country during that conflict suffered heavy losses when the Marine base outside Beirut International Airport was hit by a suicide truck bomber on October 23, 1983 killing 241. 58 French troops were killed in a series of suicide attacks. All of these attacks were conducted by this new Iranian sponsored group-Hezbollah. More than 50 people were killed when the U. S. Embassy in Beirut was bombed on April 18.

And now 2006, the current situation, is ominously developing into the possible conflict Jordan King Abdullah has just warned the world about, three civil wars going on simultaneously, Iraq-Palestine-Lebanon. All the conflict-control roads lead to Tehran, the conflict-control establishment.

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Willard Payne is an international affairs analyst who specializes in International Relations. A graduate of Western Illinois University with a concentration in East-West Trade and East-West Industrial Cooperation, he has been providing incisive analysis to NewsBlaze. He is the author of Imagery: The Day Before.