Sunni-Shia conflict in Lebanon: deterrence, stalemate and escalation


The Sunnis of Tariq el Jdideh did not go out last night to shoot randomly at Amal Movement and Hezbollah offices because they were angry about Wissam al Hassan’s assassination.

It’s pure theory:

There is deterrence. An armed force so strong that the state barely dares to bother its leaders with a question, let alone ask it to disarm, the rest of the communities will also arm, organize and get ready to fight it, although there is no open conflict. In ancient Greece, there was Athens rising as a great power, so Sparta got ready for war. In Lebanon in 2012, there is Hezbollah with a well organized army built over three decades and the Sunnis, who are mobilizing around the threat rather than a political entity.

The last part I find especially interesting. The Sunnis are the only Lebanese community with no history of violence. They had no real militia during the civil war -except for the short lived and weak Mourabitoun. They believed Rafik  Hariri might become the Sunni political leader to match the father figure that other communities had. But he was killed, leaving Lebanon’s Sunnis at a crossroad. The moderate political force that Future Movement tried to be was dismantled by Hezbollah’s and Syria’s tight grip over Lebanon. The Sunni community became nobody’s child in 2011, when Saad Hariri’s government collapsed. The Future Movement strongholds in Beirut and Tripoli were no longer visited by the Future Movement politicians and aid stopped coming once Saad Hariri was in exile and funds were scarce. Some of the supporters turned to Salafism. Some were left without anything to believe in. Some, as I saw in Tripoli, grow Salafist beards, while keeping the tattoos. It must have to do with aid.

In this context of complete disorganization, no political leader and living right next to a Hezbollah stronghold in Beirut, while the Party of God keeps buying the loyalty of some factions in Tripoli and arms these groups in the midst of the Sunnis, the community responded. The youth mobilized and found the guns, which are not difficult to find in Beirut.

So they reach a stalemate. The two groups are ready to clash but avoid it at any cost, because they know fighting serves no one. But once a car with a Sunni general blows up, the enraged gangs take to the streets to fight the common enemy. That’s the escalation.

I have heard many of my friends trying to put the blame on someone: Hezbollah, the Sunnis, Syria, the Unites States, Israel, Al Qaeda, the Palestinians, the Salafists etc. Very few people think that it’s time to stop blaming and start rebuilding.

By the way, maybe they should start with the police force. In most countries there is a police academy, a military high school and a military academy where officers go to school for three-four years.When they come out they are experts in criminal law and good investigators. A police force is not made of young men who go for a three-month training and are paid peanuts.


About View over Beirut

For all the stories left unwritten.
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