These groups don't have the popular support in Lebanon that Hezbollah boasts. But that also means they have no "red lines" of violence they will not cross. And, while Hezbollah wants to play an expanded political role in the Lebanese state, the Sunni extremist groups would like nothing more than to see the collapse of the state into anarchy and civil war -- truly a worst-case scenario both for Lebanon's fragile democracy and for regional security.
Earlier this year, one such group, Fatah al-Islam, incited three months of clashes with Lebanese security forces around the Palestinian refugee camp Nahr el-Bared. During a recent congressional hearing, the assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, David Welch, characterized the fighting as "extraordinary, unexpected." He also emphasized that the threat had been dealt with. "Today, the only armed militia in Lebanon is Hezbollah," he said.
In fact, many analysts had predicted violence involving emerging Sunni radical groups "in northern Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, and around Palestinian refugee camps in the south." While promoting their own interests in the power vacuum created by the Syrian military withdrawal in 2005, some of America's closest allies in the Lebanese government and nearby Saudi Arabia and Jordan are believed to have supported the growth of the Sunni extremist groups. Moreover, thanks to a steady stream of Sunni militants from Iraq -- the types responsible for the most horrific attacks there -- continued growth is expected for the foreseeable future. At least, as long as the U.S. continues to look the other way, and as long as U.S. efforts to help the Lebanese military confront such groups are viewed with suspicion.For the lighter side of the Lebanon crisis, meanwhile, read this article. (Thanks, Seth.)
Inside the few homes that escaped the fires, racist graffiti covered the walls, many signed by a group calling themselves Sons of the Army or by particular commando groups.
One read: "It's a sin for a Palestinian to live in a home, they should live in hovels with the other animals."Classy. The Arab Nation at its finest. Angry Arab has posted pictures of this graffiti on his website if anyone's interested in the untranslated text.
Suleiman told the Naharnet Web site Thursday that the purported request for basing rights "has not been discussed with the Lebanese Army."
US Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman described the As-Safir article as a fabrication and an insult to the Lebanese Army.
"The purpose of the visit was very clear ... What he discussed was our commitment to help Lebanon to build a strong state and a strong army, especially after the great sacrifices this army has made in Nahr al-Bared," Feltman told reporters after visiting Beirut Maronite Bishop Boulos Matar Thursday.
"We are working hand in hand with the army commander and the minister of defense to strengthen Lebanon's defensive capabilities," Feltman said. "The Lebanese people, at all levels, expressed a desire to establish a strong state and a strong army capable of defending Lebanon as happened in Nahr al-Bared." (more)