Plans by the Al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) to put Lebanon on a fault line that is currently striking the region starting from Iraq have prompted Lebanese authorities to adopt new security arrangements and political steps to shield the country’s internal situation against ISIS threats, security sources said Monday.
ISIS’ plans coincided with the discovery of alleged plots to target the Shiite community’s political, security and popular figures, as evidenced by the reported attempts to assassinate Speaker Nabih Berri and General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, and blow up hospitals in Beirut’s southern suburbs last week, the sources said.
Ibrahim said he narrowly escaped the suicide bomb attack at a police checkpoint in Dahr al-Baidar on the Beirut-Damascus highway in east Lebanon last Friday that killed one police officer and wounded 33 people.
A senior security official said that as a result of efforts and coordination among various security agencies, two men, one Saudi and one French, were arrested during the police raid on a hotel in Hamra last week in connection with an alleged plot to assassinate Berri.
While the Saudi man has been deported to his country in accordance with treaties signed by Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, the Frenchman, still undergoing investigation, has revealed important information about a plan to bomb more than one target with the aim of igniting a Sunni-Shiite conflict in Lebanon, the official said.
He warned of the situation on the northern border with Syria, namely the Wadi Khaled area, where a series of worrisome reports came indicating that ISIS was using this border for its operations after the Bekaa outlets in Arsal had been closed.
Hezbollah’s military operations room, which has been put on alert to cope with the fast-moving developments in Iraq following ISIS’ capture of key Iraqi cities, is keeping mum despite the achievements made to protect the party’s position in Lebanon.
Hezbollah’s political command sees no interest in revealing the results of the work of its security apparatus for the time being. This is as long as the internal situation in Lebanon does not permit further debate over the work of the party’s security and military apparatus, which has extended its activity to Syria and has now entered Iraq on the grounds that aims to protect Shiite holy shrines.
Despite being known for operating in deep secrecy, the sources said Hezbollah’s operations room has kept a close watch on “a key and dangerous figure” from ISIS who was allegedly preparing for a massive bomb attack.
The man has been arrested and investigation with him has led to the discovery of an alleged plot to simultaneously attack the Bahman, Sahel and Al-Rasoul al-Azam hospitals in the southern suburbs, the sources said. They added that the man has been handed over to the relevant security agencies.
In the meantime, authorities are searching for a yellow Volvo truck that entered Lebanon via the Bekaa town of Arsal as well as for suspected terrorist groups and ISIS vehicles that managed to enter Lebanese territory with the aim of carrying out bombings and plunging Lebanon into the region’s turmoil, the sources said.
The Hezbollah command and its security operations room are closely following what is happening in Lebanon, having received reports from abroad indicating that America and Iran are keen on stability in Lebanon.
Everyone knows that Hezbollah has always been apprehensive and suspicious of American intentions and does not trust them.
But the Hezbollah command has read a telegram from the German intelligence to the Lebanese side. The warning of an explosion last Friday and the arrest of a number of terror suspects show that it was more a message of American assurance than a security warning, since the U.S. often resorts to the German or British intelligence agencies to convey messages to parties with whom it does not cooperate, the sources said.
The American assurance message relayed via Germany and Qatar, notwithstanding its significance and symbolism, did not help eliminate Hezbollah’s concerns. The party is anxiously following the situation in Lebanon, while fully realizing that the events in Iraq were the outcome of the U.S. occupation of that country and the U.S. policy in the Middle East aimed at destroying what is in existence now, launching the slogan of “creative chaos.”
Furthermore, Hezbollah blames America for the rise of militant Islamist movements in the region.
“America is responsible for the consequences of religious extremism in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Egypt,” a senior Hezbollah official told The Daily Star. “It [America] has set off these countries and placed them on the firing line, while the threat of new sectarian wars hangs over Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey as a result of America’s wrong and adventurous policy,” he said.
The official added that Washington has supported what it called the “demands of the Syrian revolution” and installed “a failed opposition that did not enjoy real popular support and was unable to overcome the crisis” that has been hitting Syria for more than three years.
“This situation has led to a vacuum that was exploited by Nusra Front and ISIS. America came today to warn of the dangers of extremist groups in Syria despite the knowledge that this was the result of its random policy in the Middle East,” the Hezbollah official said.