After peaceful and successful election, violence returned to the streets of Lebanon. In the area of Aisha Bakkar fighting between supporters of Amal and Mustaqbal (or future) left a 30 year old woman dead and several injured. The violence was sparked reportedly over celebrations for the election of Hariri and Berri. Harri the leader of al-Mustaqbul and Berri the head of Amal clashed firing RPGs and machine guns, scenes Beirut has not seen in over a year.
The reason for this sudden spark of violence is unclear. Was it because the negotiations between the two main coalitions of March 14 and the opposition did not agree smoothly over the election of Berri and Hariri? There does not seem to be a need to resort to the street fighting.
This was unregulated violence that occurred without the direction of the big men of Lebanon in this case Berri or Hariri. “Reconciliation” is still in the air but it is very much at the top and not at the level of the street. This may also articulate how shallow the reconcillation is. The general peace in Lebanon is occurring mainly because of a détente between Syria and Saudi the extent to how much reconciliation that is going on internally away from power plays is little to nothing.
With Hezbollah expected to win the elections in Lebanon has been no end of talk of what will happen to military assistance by the US to Lebanon. David Schekner has given extensive commentary on how the LAF (Lebanese Armed Forces) is under Hezbollah control. Not too surprising given that Hezbollah are a Lebanese entity, with Iranian support, Shekner appears to believe that only those groups with US support should have any say it what the LAF does or does not do. Andrew Exum states that he believes the LAF should be continued to be supported by the US whatever happens in the elecitons arguing that Hezbollah does not need the LAF and the US weapons that it is given and the examples of what happened to Pakistan whith the US losing its relationship with the Pakistian army. It is important for the US to remain ties, according to Exum, with the LAF becuase: “In the future, I am guessing the ungoverned spaces in Lebanon — the Palestinian refugee camps, specifically — will continue to harbor violent transnational groups. We will badly need a local partner — even an imperfect one — to combat these threats. We should be trying to nurture relationships with the next generation of the Lebanese officer corps and security services if we’re serious about the threat these transnational groups pose.”
Oren Barakh has written an extensive history of the Lebanese army in his new book The Lebanese Army: A National Institution in a Divided Society. The Book has three aims:
“The first is to call attention to the significant developments that have taken place in Lebanon in recent decades, and especially to the strengthening of the state’s institutions not only in the coercive sense but also in terms of their legitimacy. In my view, this process has considerable implications for Lebanon’s close neighbors, and especially for Israel, where many still treat Lebanon as a “non-state state.” A second goal is to encourage additional studies on military institutions—and on the realm of security generally—in divided societies, including most Middle Eastern countries. Finally, the book challenges scholars to rethink existing explanations for the “weakness” and “strength” of states in our times, as well as these concepts themselves. Lebanon, for one, is certainly not “dead” and there are many lessons to be learned from its experience.”