Saturday 19 May 2012

Syria seen lighting the Lebanon fuse

World Atlas map of the Syria-Lebanon borders

Syria is now depicting Lebanon as a Taliban-infested Afghanistan, its eastern and northern regions as the hills and caves of Tora Bora and its seaport city of Tripoli as Kandahar.
The innuendos, Lebanese political analyst Rosanna Boumounsef writes in her daily column for Beirut’s an-Nahar, portend three menaces:
1.     Cross-border Syrian Army raids on Lebanese regions abutting Syria
2.     Pressure on Beirut to emulate Damascus in pouncing on its own people
3.     Dragging vast swaths of eastern and northern Lebanon into the Syria cauldron.
Boumounsef, among several other analysts, was commenting on Syria’s letter to the United Nations accusing some Lebanese areas of helping al-Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood terrorists set up home along the Syrian border.
"Some Lebanese areas next to the Syrian border are harboring terrorist elements from al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, who are jeopardizing the security of Syria and its citizens and striving to undermine the UN Special Envoy's six-point plan," Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari wrote in a letter marked “Urgent” and dated May 17.
The seven-page letter (six of them in Arabic) was addressed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and copied to the current UN Security Council president, Agshin Mehdiyev of Azerbaijan.
"In some Lebanese areas bordering Syria, several warehouses have been set up to stockpile weapons and ammunition that are reaching Lebanon illegally, either by sea, or at times via the airplanes of specific countries that are used to transport weapons to Lebanon before smuggling them to Syria, under the pretext they (the aircraft) are carrying humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees in Lebanon," Ja'afari said in the letter.
He said, “On March 13, an unidentified warship anchored off (the Lebanese coastal city) Jounieh as small boats went about moving its arms cargo to shore so it could then be moved to Syria. Weapons-laden vessels also docked at the Aquamarina near Jounieh. Their weapons shiploads were moved first to Akkar, then to Wadi Khaled, ahead of their smuggling into Syria.”
Ja’afari said, “Premises of charities run by Salafists and the Future Movement in Lebanese areas bordering Syria are being used to provide safe havens to al-Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood terrorists to launch hit-and-run criminal operations inside Syria. The injured among them are treated under fake names in hospitals and clinics affiliated to those (Salafist and Future Movement) groups and funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar.”
In the Tripoli governorate town of Kalamoun, he said, “there are about 50 terrorists led by Khaled el-Tanak, Khaled Hamza and Zakaria Ghaleb el-Kholi” who carry IDs rubberstamped by the UN allowing them to travel unhindered first to Danniyeh, on to Akkar and then to Wadi Khaled, where they would infiltrate into Syrian territory to mount terrorist operations.
Ja’afari added in his letter that Colonel Riad al-Asaad, head of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), “recently arrived in Lebanon to prepare for creating a Syrian buffer zone commencing in Lebanese territory.”
Lebanese Premier Najib Miqati Friday picked holes in the Ja’afari letter and said his government “is fully performing its duty in combating all terror operations, in monitoring the Lebanese borders, in controlling the security situation and in addressing any security gaps.”
Miqati said, “Violations are also occurring from the Syrian side of the border, as everyone knows the crisscrossing nature of the frontier between the two countries and how difficult it is to control the extensive border area between them.
“Therefore, we consider the remarks voiced by the Syrian envoy as exacerbating the disputes, at a time when we are seeking, through the relevant diplomatic and security channels, to bridge differences and tackle problems calmly, carefully and in such a way as to safeguard the good relations between the two countries and peoples.”
Rosanna Boumounsef
Rosanna Boumounsef, in her news analysis for an-Nahar, says Lebanon is “immensely and deeply troubled” by the Syrian charges. The account by Ja’afari is “extremely dangerous” as it engrosses Lebanon “forcibly and publicly” in the Syrian quagmire.
The likely fallouts, she says, are at least three:
1.   There is the prospect of more frequent thrusts by the Syrian army into Lebanese border area under the pretext of the “hot pursuit” of so-called terrorists. The Ja’afari letter effectively delineates all the targeted Lebanese Christian and Sunnite area, including Jounieh, Danniyeh and Akkar. The letter also came hot on the heels of Lebanese Alawite warlord Rifaat Eid’s remark welcoming the Syrian army’s return to Tripoli to restore law and order in the troubled city. (See my earlier post, “How Syria fire is creeping up on Lebanon”).
2.    The second possibility is to pressure Lebanon’s political and security authorities to emulate the Syrian regime’s crackdown on what its dubs Muslim Brotherhood terrorists.
3.    A third likelihood is to stir up internecine strife in Lebanon. Syria’s Lebanese allies have long been describing Tripoli as an “outlaw city.”
Boumounsef notes the Syrian regime’s modus operandi is to try and take advantage of the situation in Lebanon to pressure its Arab and foreign detractors by threatening to sow chaos in neighboring countries. Only this week, she says, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told a Russian broadcaster, “If you sow chaos in Syria you may be infected by it yourself, and (Syria’s detractors) know this very well.”