Lebanon: Armed groups to exploit chaos of US attack on Syria

10th Sep 2013

By Radwan Mortada

The Lebanese are anticipating the fallout from a potential US assault on Syria, particularly with regard to Lebanese internal security. Security reports indicate armed groups are mobilizing in a number of Lebanese regions ahead of the US military operation across the border.

There are signs of impending “organized” security chaos. Syrian diplomatic circles affirm to Al-Akhbar that the “aggression will not be limited,” and maintain that they have information about a US target list meant to cripple the Syrian army, to tip the balance of power in favor of the armed opposition.

Jihadi circles claim that the “US strike on Syria will not be limited to targets of the Syrian regime, but will also include strategic targets controlled by the jihadi groups.” These groups do not believe that the United States would topple the regime this easily, allowing the establishment of an Islamic state. But these groups, at the same time, are seeking to take advantage of all contingencies to tip the balance of power in their favor, or at least, make gains on the battlefield.

Lebanese security services have intercepted some suspicious movements. Both pro- and anti-regime forces are ready to pounce on one another, and have put their rank and file on alert to act in tandem with the US assault in many regions across the country. Coordination between the Lebanese and Syrian interiors is also at its highest levels.

Security information obtained by Al-Akhbar indicates that there is a plan in place to attack border crossings in Abbudiyeh and Arida, in addition to a number of Lebanese army checkpoints. The same information indicates that the commander of the militant group Jund al-Sham, Sheikh Khaled al-Mahmoud aka Abu Suleiman al-Muhajir, has prepared dozens of militants to carry out attacks inside Lebanon.

According to the same security reports, Mahmoud, who was previously fighting out of the Crusader castle of Krak des Chevaliers in Syria, is currently present in the Wadi Khaled village of Mashta Hassan, where he has been able to recruit fighters for his group. Mahmoud is reportedly coordinating extensively with the man identified only as Mohammed K., who in turn receives funding for his operations from financiers in Qatar and Australia.

For these groups, a US attack on Syria has become an absolute certainty. Reports reveal that their activities will not be limited to the two fronts mentioned earlier, but might also aim to bring about a new reality on the ground.

This is already happening, according to the same reports, which indicate that Syrian opposition fighters and the Lebanese militants affiliated with them have been able to obstruct the movement of Hezbollah’s groups in Lebanon, by means of explosive devices targeting their convoys, or by preoccupying them with other internal security incidents. The reports state that armed groups have crossed into Lebanon, which will have a negative impact on security in some Lebanese regions.

The information obtained by Al-Akhbar also suggests that there have been movements of a security nature in some villages of Wadi Khaled and around Akroum, with reports noting that some groups are planning to carry out an assault on the village of Qarha, the only village in the district of Akkar that is predominantly Shia.

The information also reveals that radical militants might be planning to attack the supply routes used by Hezbollah loyalists, particularly in the Western and Central Bekaa, in addition to the Masnaa-Chtaura road and Beirut.

Moreover, the reports state that the Nahmeh road between Beirut and South Lebanon would also be blocked, as usual, to impede the movement of Hezbollah supporters. And in Tripoli, it seems that armed groups in the district of Bab al-Tabbaneh intend to deploy throughout the northern city as soon as the US assault begins, and attack the positions of the groups they accuse of being subservient to the Syrian regime.

Northern sources told Al-Akhbar that there is a plan for a “preemptive attack against forces loyal to the Syrian regime in Tripoli, such as the Islamic Tawhid Group, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, and the group led by Sheikh Abdul-Karim al-Nashar.” The same sources said this attack was preemptive because the pro-Hezbollah groups in Tripoli are planning to take action and carry out assassinations, as the sources claimed, adding that there are also plans for an attack on the district of Jabal Mohsen in the city.

If these reports prove to be correct, then the upcoming battle will not only be fought by pro- and anti-Syrian regime factions, but attacks will also be carried out against Lebanese army positions in the north and the Bekaa. Although the security sources stress that the climate in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp will be calm, they fear that factions based there might carry out attacks, especially since the US strike on Syria is likely to coincide with the Syrian army initiating a joint operation with Hezbollah in Zabadani, Qara, Yabroud, and the Qalamoun Mountains.

According to the same sources, a victory for the Syrian army in these areas would block all possible routes for the armed opposition, pushing the latter to stage attacks in the Lebanese interior to reduce the pressure they face in Syria. Indeed, armed opposition groups believe that preoccupying Hezbollah with internal incidents would undermine its combat operations in Syria.

On a different but related note, concerning the flow of Lebanese militants into Syria to fight in the ranks of the armed opposition, Al-Akhbar has learned that 21-year-old O. Sh., AKA Abu Mahmoud, from Tripoli’s Bab al-Ramel district, left to Syria through Ersal to fight with al-Nusra Front against the Syrian army.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.



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