Fath al Islam: a quick update

Itani has a little update on the state of affairs regarding the bad guys in the north and their friends in the south, in the Palestinian camp of Ain el Helweh. I just want to point out one or two things that I think we can conclude from everything that happened pre and post the Nahr el Bared debacle.

1- Syria, Saudi Arabia, and the US voluntarily and involuntarily had a hand in making circumstances ripe for Fath al Islam and other darker versions of “Islamists” militants to emerge. Syria, by kicking “al Qaeda” elements out of its country in order to clean its landscape and throwing it back on us. the US through the Mustaqbal movement, and actually the Mustaqbal movement on its own by trying to co-opt these wild creature and try to tame their zealousness with a bit of cash and status promises, and Saudi Arabia by simply sending official delegations to Lebanon for some conference who never went back. It seems also that the international “Rafic Hariri” airport of Beirut has unfolded red carpets for many of these dudes.

2- When something happens, like a crisis or something, the stupidest thing to say is “he’s the guy responsible for it”. Even in the case of an assassination or the start of a war. What’s important is why in the first place such an event is possible and in this case political circumstances are many, are multi-faceted and at the end of the day, what counts is who gets to gain from it, and who gets to lose.

Fath al Islam

Do read Fida’ Itani in Le Monde Diplomatique on Fath al Islam who has been writing dozens of articles in Arabic on the subject in Al-Akhbar. You need to get the newspaper by print as the internet edition is available only for subscribers. GPC has some extracts on his blog.

The power of women

“If the army enters and tries to capture me, my wife asked me to martyr myself rather than surrender“.

Did Fatfat meet with Al Absi in Tripoli one week before the events?

Well, I will tell you a really nice story this morning. But first and although unconventional the morale of the story: Without ‘security officials’ leaks where would we be?

Mustaqbal sponsored Lebanese Minister of “Youth and Sports” Ahmad Fatfat, Fath al Islam leader Shaker Al Absi, and a bunch of other ‘high profile’ guys supposedly met in an apartment in the Abboud Center in Tripoli on the 5th of May 2007. This was leaked by a Lebanese security 3amid “Mahmoud al J…” to the Jordanian Al Watan newspaper.

This 3amid who still works with the Lebanese Interior Ministry assures that the meeting was organized by Jordanian officer Zaher Abr Abu Jandal (a Salafist and one of the ‘Al Dinyeh Islamists’ that were released by Saad Al Hariri along with LF leader Geagea) and who was killed by the Mustaqbal party militia-like structures (the Lebanese Internal Security Forces) one week ago as he was the only witness to the meeting and that ended up with a big disagreement.

Just to go back a bit, according to the security source, Fatfat was invited to a meeting in Washington in “the winter of 2006” in order to assess the potential use of Salafist movements in Lebanon. This meeting was allegedly held by Saudi, Jordanian, American, and Israeli intelligence, as well as the Lebanese 3amid Othman, and the Lieutenant Colonel Wissam al Hassan. It was decided during the meeting that Wissam al Hassan, Ahmad Fatfat, and the now-killed Jordanian officer (and who supposedly lived 10 meters away from the Abboud building in Tripoli, where the other meeting took place), to coordinate and prepare the ‘terrorists’ for when they could be useful.

The 3amid Mahmoud al J… insists on the fact that there is a very intimate relation between Fatfat and Salafist movements in Lebanon because of their concentration in the region of Al Diniyeh from where Fatfat is. The latter was supposed to coordinate and get closer to their leadership and try to win them to the Mustaqbal cause. Some Salafists are already aligned with Hariri according to the source, and these include: Sheikh Issam al Rifai, Al Islam Al Shahal, and Hassan al Shahal.

Now the moment we are all waiting for: What happened during the meeting? According to the source, Fath al Islam leader Al Absi was welcoming in his group recruits that somehow were not aligned with the Americans and so he was asked through Fatfat and Al Hassan to hand them in but he refused. So they stopped paying him the monthly sums given to him by bank transfer to an account in the name of Abu Jandal (the now-killed Jordanian) who was the medium between both parties and whose account was at the Mediterranean Bank in Amyun (you guessed it: it is the bank that was robbed by Fath al Islam, and needless to say that the Mediterranean Bank is held in partnership by Hariri).

An interesting revelation is that Baha’ Al Hariri (the brother of Saad today’s leader of the Mustaqbal party) is in a disagreement with his brother, as 3amid Mahmoud al J… is very close to Baha’, and that (and I keep the quote literally translated from Arabic): “Saad the American and Saniora the Israeli is something, and Baha’ the Hariri is something else”.

The 3amid insist that his story is true and invites the opposition groups to form a committee that would investigate on the matter and take fingerprints in this apartment in Tripoli.

For those who want the Arabic original version of the article can just ask me. and for those who know what is ‘3amid’ in English please do tell me.

Annahar and its sources

Today Annahar reported that after interrogating members of Fath al Islam, it seems they were preparing for a ’11th of sept’ style of attack on hotels in Beirut, and that they got arms from Syria. Basically, the perfect ‘terrorist’ group. I wonder is Annahar reporting what it wants to hear (as the ideological construct works on an unconscious level), or are the interrogators really extracting such informations? Who basically is interrogating FI? Because if the interrogators are the Lebanese army, I would doubt that they would reveal stuff like that, at the very least for diplomatic purposes.

Time for a round up

This post has been modified to include the precious insights of the commentators. First, I retract the ‘blame’ language that is quite useless it is true. Second, I try to focus on asking the questions we tend to think are the most relevant.

The recent wave of violence taking place in Lebanon has put into question several issues that I wish to address:

1- The legitimacy of the Lebanese army’s action

Posing the problem in the way it is posed through either nationalist from one side or leftist ‘humanist’ rhetoric from the other fails to address the problem. The Lebanese army was caught off guard whatever one may say. It would be much more judicious to wonder why the Lebanese army was put in this situation in the first place (if there is such a thing as a mover). And why, until now, no significant diplomatic moves have been recorded.

We need a much better understanding of what is going on inside the camps. How are political organizations structured? What are the various competing claims to power? What are the different security structures? And if there is a state of mild anarchy within the camps then to what extent other groups know what is going on but are keeping it to themselves? The way the PLO is behaving for example is just outrageous: It is sanctifying the Lebanese army’s deeds and hope that Fath al Islam can be wiped out the hard way. Where were they all this time? So busy brokering deals with the Americans that they forgot there are camps in Lebanon?

But above all, one needs to understand better how did Fath and even Hamas lost their grasp of political leverage inside the camps. Who are the non-Palestinian actors that played a role in this weakening if any?

Next, one needs to assess the various primary scenarios at hand: whether Fath al Islam before going wild was initially backed by the Lebanese Mustaqbal lead group (with or without US oversight), or whether Syria has supposedly sent Al Absi to play dirty tricks on the Lebanese (i.e. abiding by the “there is a Syrian behind every misdeed in Lebanon”). But in order to do so one needs to demystify Fath al Islam’s “ethos”.

2- The motives of Fath Al Islam (demystifying the ‘ethos’)

That is the trickiest question. What are Fath Al Islam trying to achieve? Are they fighting some ‘imperialist’ or ‘western’ or whatever discursively-defined enemy that poses real exploitative structures on them? Who? The Lebanese government? What was the Lebanese State doing against these people?

See, the problem with the pervasiveness of the ‘terrorist’ concept is that these dudes don’t even need to have a motive in order to create trouble, because it is thus thought under this conceptual framework that because they are ‘terrorist’ (labeled as such) there is something ‘within their being’ that is prone to violence, nothing more nothing less. It is the ideological pervasiveness in the belief of the ‘the essence behind the action’ that bluntly biases our understanding of this movement. We don’t look for motives because the motive is just their ‘being’! (i.e. being terrorist, which is an empty signifier).

So let’s look for some sense in this: We know that Al Absi before being arrested in Syria was planning to ‘liberate the Golan‘. Well ok, that may be a militant plan that I can buy. Then, what were they doing in Lebanon? Did post-Hariri (because as pointed out by Jean Aziz for example, Hariri himself was not playing the ‘Sunni fundamentalist’ card) people promised them something specific? What was their political agenda? Why acting today?

3- The impact on the Lebanese political groups

The most interesting aspect of all this is how government, the opposition and even somewhat neutral ‘bystanders’ in the presses, blogs etc. are just working the problem through the ethical dilemma they face: Should we back the Lebanese army? or should we voice our concerns against the Palestinian civilians? Should we accuse the US of fomenting trouble, and wanting to find a pretext in order to either send more aid or just build a military base?

The obvious thing is that both the ruling government and the opposition groups are trying to play on the ‘terrorist’ rhetoric the best way possible. Opposition blames the government of letting ‘extremists’ develop, so they criticize their security mess-ups. And the government is pressing on more rapprochement with the international community in order to corner Hizbullah and other ‘old-regime’ remnants.

4- And now I vent a little (a note on the side):

Today, I pity the Lebanese army that found itself engulfed in this bloody quest, that is refueling anti-Palestinian sentiments, not between the Lebanese army ranks that are mostly Shi’as and are the most pro-Palestinian constituency in Lebanon today, but between the miserable petite bourgeoisie as would call it Al Haqid that have nothing else to do than to say: “ah these Palestinians they don’t want to let the army restore order, then they just get what they deserve!”.

I pity the innocent individual soldiers in the army that are obliged to play the ‘nationalist’ game for no reasons but to kill or get killed. I pity the Palestinians who are blocked in this camp or have difficulty leaving. And I pity the Palestinians to be in a camp in the first place. So I blame Lebanese authorities to have kept Palestinians in such a marginalized state where playing with a rifle was (obviously) a more exciting prospect than sitting and praying for divine liberation. And today, I blame Palestinian groups that have no oversight on these armed men and who on top of it all are hiding behind a completely disarrayed and brainwashed Lebanese government (himself hiding behind Uncle Sam) in order to see stability restored in their shit hole.

Le mythe de la terreur

Personnellement je trouve que l’apparition soudaine de ce phénomène de Fath el Islam au Nord très bizarre, d’un cote c’est l’ennemi parfait. Physiquement on peut l’associer au barbare étranger, la presse insiste sur le caractère étranger de ce groupe, on parle de saoudiens, de pakistanais, qui n’envoient pas leur enfants a l’école!! Bref des véritables monstres qui agressent notre…brave armée… affaire à suivre.

Franklin Lamb reporting

With very intermittent internet access and this ancient pc with one lone wire running from the spaghetti wiring system tied to the ceiling and taped to a single bare light bulb socket, plus 8 toddlers, two babies, crawling over and under this ‘foreigner’ in a 10 x 12 concrete room where 28 or more of us slept on the floor last night, this blurb may never be sent. But if it does get out and for what it’s worthan update on the situation in the Palestinian Nabr al-Bared and Bedawi Camps. Will try to send results shortly of my interviews with 11 Fatah al-Islam fighters regarding who paid them and got them travel documents and weapons and what was their mission. There was no bank robbery by them. That was a fake story put out by the Welch Club. Sorry I misreported it. BBC was suckered. Also, no, repeat no heads cut off. Where are the medical reports from those who claim it? That was black propaganda to smear Fatah el-Islam. Must leave this building nowmay not be until tomorrow or so.

Check his earlier article too.

So Mustaqbal MP Bahya Hariri thought it would be important to call Druze Feudal lord Walid Jumblatt to clarify that Jund al Sham has no connection with Fath al Islam. For those who don’t know, Jund al Sham is yet another Sunni Islamist group based in Ayn el Helweh Palestinian camp. The Mustaqbal party payed Jund al Sham to go play in Tripoli.