Lebanon News

Army, security close in on terrorists as country becomes center of regional struggle

File - Lebanese Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi inspects troops in Tripoli, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. (The Daily Star/Lebanese Army Website)

The Lebanese Army Intelligence and security agencies are closing in on terrorist networks plotting to undermine Lebanese stability with a series of bombings targeting all regions and sects, a high-ranking security source told The Daily Star.

The source said authorities have already collected evidence of significant financial contributions to fundamentalist and jihadist groups active in the country. The source went on to say that what Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi has already revealed about the existence of such groups, which seek to destabilize Lebanon by inciting sectarian violence, is only the tip of the iceberg.

These plots have been pitting the Lebanese Army and security forces against extremist groups that include both Lebanese and foreign Arab fighters. With the help of Western intelligence reports and diligent investigation by the Army, ISF and General Security, many members of these networks have been identified and some have even been arrested.

The source called for creating a national consensus to confront these threats, stressing the importance of unity among the Lebanese despite their political differences, even over such controversial issues as the presence of arms outside state control. The source also backed calls by the Interior and Defense ministers in the caretaker government, as well as the head of the Army, for the announcement of a “political and security state of emergency.”

Security sources talked openly about the anxiety felt among Lebanese security officials who fear Lebanon could be dragged into Syrian and regional conflicts. Despite these fears, however, they appeared confident that the security bodies were vigilant in the pursuit of terrorist networks plotting attacks in Lebanon and would soon get to the root of these organizations.

For their part, Western diplomatic sources told The Daily Star that the presence of foreign powers vying for influence in Lebanon, as well as the country’s close ties to Syria, have made it impossible to make progress on any one of the accumulating internal crises, including the formation of a new government.

This will further paralyze the country, they warned, rendering it helpless to foreign and domestic parties to use the country as an arena for their proxy wars. The current political environment characterized by petty divisiveness cannot continue, they emphasized, urging the Lebanese to come together before the country is pushed into a state of lawlessness beyond the control of any government or Parliament.

Separately, Lebanese officials returning from Western capitals told The Daily Star they were not encouraged with what officials there had to say regarding Lebanon, noting that while foreign powers are keen to prevent the country from sliding into open warfare, they otherwise do not consider Lebanon a priority.

The Lebanese visitors quoted the Western officials saying that Lebanon is in need of a “positive shock” to push it toward a settlement and force all parties to cooperate and work together toward improving the situation on the ground.

The Western officials reportedly called for all Lebanese parties to come to the negotiating table immediately, although this could be seen by some as a shift in the balance of power between regional and international powers.

According to the Lebanese sources, the Western officials understood the dramatic deterioration of the security situation in Lebanon as part of a broader regional struggle between international forces seeking to redraw the spheres of influence in the region, warning that any number of foreign intelligence agencies could exploit Lebanon’s instability to carry out bombings that serve certain external interests.

Regarding Syria, the Western sources reportedly hinted at an upcoming meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin aimed at resolving the crisis, as well as a possible meeting between Obama and newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

The sources also said that a delegation may even head to Iran on behalf of Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz in the coming days to discuss ways to defuse tensions in the region. This potential groundbreaking visit will reportedly be determined on the sidelines of the United Nations’ General Assembly in New York, they added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 26, 2013, on page 3.




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