That’s an M-48 tank out on a firing range. The Lebanese Army has these. This is an old tank from before the Vietnam period, but, how new do tanks have to be when used for shelling refugee camps full of civilians? The fighting around the "Nahr al-bared" camp at Tripoli, Lebanon continues.
Lebanon’s political situation remains deadlocked between the US and French supported coalition headed by Siniora and the Iranian supported "opposition" coalition led by Hassan Nasrallah and Hizbullah.
This latter grouping is made up of Hizbullah and Amal Shia, more Sunnis and yet more Christians. The Syrian government tolerates this latter grouping’s logistical efforts in and through Damascus from Iran on behalf of Hizbullah.
On the other hand, Prime Minister Siniora’s grouping is made up of the allies of Saad Hariri (mostly Sunni Muslims), various hard-line Christian parties (Geagea, etc.) a lot of the Druze and some odds and ends.
The essence of the Lebanese political stalemate has to do with the allocation of political power in Lebanon. Of those elements in the population who have the vote (not Palestinians) the Shia are the most numerous and, in the aftermath of their victory over Israel last Summer, they are demanding a larger, perhaps decisive share in political power in the country. There is also the issue of a UN run tribunal to rule as to who killed Rafik Hariri, but, anyone who thinks about it knows that this is really a "side" issue. If the tribunal decided that Bashar Assad killed Hariri, what would they do, drive to Damascus and arrest him?
The United States and France do not want a larger role for Hizbullah. The United States accepts Israel’s definition of Hizbullah as a terrorist group in spite of their toe-to-toe fight against Israel last year and their legitimate status as a political party in Beirut’s parliament. France? Evidently, they are looking for love from the United States. It has been lonely for the French lately.
Standing on the sidelines, there are the 350,000 odd permanent Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. They are not Lebanese citizens. They have no political vote, are overwhelmingly Sunni, are excluded from good jobs, and therefore good housing. They are excluded from many Lebanese schools. They and those who came before them have been living in those camps on a kind of "dole" from the UN for a long time, many of them for 50 years. They have no prospects, zero. People who have no prospects are dangerous.
So, they are susceptible to the takfiri jihadi message and influence drifting on the winds of the internets and in the minds of returned fighters from Iraq. Not surprisingly some of them have accepted the call, the call to drive foreign, kaffir influence out of the Lebanon, the call to vent their rage against a political system that offers them nothing.
The "players" in the Siniora/Hariri coalition do not have clean hands in the matter of the creation and encouragement of Sunni zealotry in Lebanon. Lebanese political leaders have "played" to the Sunni Lebanese of the north for many years, seeking their support in the maze of Lebanese politics. Did they think that the Sunni Palestinians in the camps would not hear the same message?
So, now we have fighting between the Lebanese Army and Palestinian zealots. What a surprise! If it spreads to camps in the south of Lebanon, the Lebanese Army will be hard pressed. Their commander said so yesterday, urging restraint.
The 24/7 news networks were hard at work today trying to make Syria responsible for the Sunni zealots in the camps. The statement was being made today that these groups were connected to AQ. No evidence was offered, but the assertion was repeatedly made based on the "possibility" that had supposedly been voiced by some nameless person in the Lebanese government. Various Lebanese were asked that question – "Is this Al-Qa’ida?" Nobody could be found who was willing to say that there was an organizational link to Al-Qa’ida, but the question was asked over and over again. This question was paired with another – "Is Syria controlling and "behind" this group?" Nobody could be found who would say that either, but the question was asked over and over again.
Now, think about it, folks Al-Qa’ida is a virulently anti-Shia Sunni group. Everyone "knows" that Syria supports Hizbullah, a main target of AQ displeasure. So, which is it? Which side does the Syrian government support? Does the Syrian government support both at the same time? If you believe that, then you really are a sucker for propaganda.
It would be interesting to know who sets the agenda for the content of 24/7 news. Very interesting. pl