The Journey Outside the State
By: Ibrahim al-Amin
Published Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Halba - Akkar, May 2008:
The district’s capital and various villages began receiving their sons who had fled from Beirut. They heard stories of Hezbollah’s occupation of the country’s capital.
A pack of young men, politicians, and religious figures decided on revenge. They committed a massacre against members of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) and shot at any March 8 supporter they encountered.
Silence fell on the area while supporters of the Future Movement in Tripoli burned down the homes and headquarters of March 8 supporters.
Halba - Akkar, May 2012:
The capital of the district and the villages fail to stop the SSNP from organizing a commemoration of the victims of the massacre. The Future Movement fails to attract enough people to attend a counter-protest by MP Khaled Daher.
Then, activist Sheikh Ahmad Abdel Wahed and his bodyguards are killed at an army checkpoint. The day ends with a strike but no further tensions.
But the supporters of the Future Movement in Beirut and the Bekaa decide on revenge. In the Bekaa, the night ends on a good note and there are no further confrontations on that front.
Meanwhile in Beirut, Hariri supporters in Tariq al-Jdideh, accompanied by Palestinians and Syrians, decide to attack the offices of Shaker al-Berjawi, one of the most prominent March 8 figures in the area. They kill two of his men, set his offices on fire, and banish him from the neighborhood.
In the course of these events, the state is the primary victim. The Lebanese army is broken and unable to handle the situation, while the Internal Security Forces (ISF) are limited to playing the role of middlemen.
Political leaders have a different agenda. The affairs and priorities of the Syrian dossier are more important than anything else. The battle today is for control of Tripoli.
The end of the first chapter is a major setback for the state. The directives against state institutions are clear: no heavy army presence, no military roadblocks, no military police raids, and no arrests of wanted persons. The judiciary should accept the story of the “people” on the ground.
One of the indirect results is that the armed Syrian opposition was given popular legitimacy. The Lebanese army becomes an undesired adversary and Syrian fighters are welcomed as allies. This is how March 14 intends to reinforce the powers of the state!
The politics of the Future Movement and its satellite groups are now about how to dispose of the state. Work is underway in earnest in Akkar.
There were clear calls to pull back certain army units. Then there was the story about how soldiers from Akkar villages apologized to their families for failing to stop the shooting of Sheikh Abdel Wahed.
This was followed by an atmosphere based on speculation about “Sunni officers” feeling resentment about the situation. Later, it appeared that the military police reminded some officers about the prohibition of political discussion in accordance with orders given by the military command.
The picture was complete by midnight Monday. The army was warned that entering Tariq al-Jdideh by force of arms would lead to a vicious battle.
The army commanders decided to avoid confrontation. The orders to soldiers spread around the area were to wait until the end of the ceasefire to enter the neighborhoods and not to clash with the civilian population.
The political leadership does not want to hear any news about a resident of Tariq al-Jdideh being injured by army fire.
The upshot was that this gave Future Movement fighters enough time to finish off Berjawi’s partisans. Then, key players start hearing about intentions to release Shaker al-Mawlawi on bail and ban him from travelling.
In the hope of alleviating the “people’s” anger, the investigation of the Akkar incident (the shooting of Sheikh Abdel Wahed) is widened by the authorities. Officials call for the punishing of a number of officers and soldiers, at least as a formality.
But the outcome for the soldiers is the same: if we are about to be punished as a result of our actions, then we will not go after any armed fighters from now on.
Borrowing from the local political dictionary, Future MPs repeat the same words: the “people” expressed their anger and decided to kick out Berjawi from Tariq al-Jdideh.
In the past, those same leaders used to complain that the “people” of the South engaged in confrontations with international peacekeepers. But anger in the South did not turn into weapons and gunfire.
But the rage of March 14’s “people” can only be expressed as it has been in Akkar and Tariq al-Jdideh. This anger threatens the army everywhere in Lebanon. Therefore, the same conclusion is reached: down with the state!
In the meantime, something tied the tongues of sections of the March 14 coalition, especially the Christians. We do not know if Samir Geagea still wants to talk about the path towards a stronger state.
We do not know if the Gemayels want to expand their dynasty into the northern borders with Syria. What about Fares Souaid and his companions — aren’t they supposed to hold a meeting in the burned down office of Berjawi in Tariq al-Jdideh?
Tumbling on the shores of March 14, Walid Jumblatt saw the situation as a consequence of Syria’s decision to export the crisis into Lebanon. God only knows if he will accuse Iran of being involved in order to defend its nuclear program.
Then there's the joke that became popular yesterday. The American negotiator will go into the meeting room with the Iranians tomorrow with a strong card in his hands. His allies in Beirut just kicked Berjawi out of Tariq al-Jdideh.
Ibrahim al-Amin is editor-in-chief of Al-Akhbar.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.