BEIRUT: Lebanon will witness a new phase of cooperation between the security forces and the Army to make the country safer in the wake of bombings and other incidents over the last two years, security sources say.
Sources noted the unprecedented visit of Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk to the Defense Ministry and his meetings with Minister Samir Moqbel and senior security and military officials in March.
They told The Daily Star that such appointments indicated a coming phase of better ties between the Internal Security Forces and those Army officers in key security positions, regardless of their sect, religion or political background.
It is a sign that Machnouk has managed to enhance cooperation between the ISF and the Lebanese Army, a relationship usually marked by rivalry.
The sources called for the establishment of institutions in Lebanon that would train security and military forces in intelligence gathering and combating spying, rather than using funds to send officers to be trained in America and Europe.
They also urged officials to take advantage of previous successful cases of cooperation between security forces, specifically the Internal Security Forces’ Information Branch and the General Directorate of Army Intelligence.
The sources said that Lebanon needed a security “renaissance” as well as a plan to fortify the country’s development, economy and education sectors.
According to recent reports, Lebanon is due to enter a dangerous new phase following the beginning of the vacancy in the presidency, which is expected to have serious implications for the security situation.
President Michel Sleiman left Baabda Palace Saturday, marking the end of his six-year term.
Reliable information reveals increasing activity among extremists around Beirut, the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh in southern Lebanon and areas in the north of the country.
Some of these individuals are believed to be forming an extremist group in preparation for a terrorist act targeting an unnamed embassy in Beirut in response to that country’s stance on the crisis in Syria and other conflicts that have emerged as a result of the Arab Spring.
Areas where Hezbollah enjoys broad support were subject to a number of car bombs and suicide attacks at the end of last year and the beginning of this year.
Extremist groups claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying they came in response to the party’s military involvement in the Syrian war alongside President Bashar Assad.
The Iranian Embassy in Bir Hasan was one of those targeted.
Heading this emerging group is a non-Lebanese national, identified by the initials Kh. A., who formerly led a Palestinian faction.
The suspect is believed to be cooperating with a large number of other extremists of different nationalities.
Security reports also point to the infiltration into Beirut of foreign elements with instructions from a non-Lebanese national to carry out “special” operations, and there is a fear that such operations may include the assassination of important figures.
Sources also revealed that a “fifth column” was readying itself to take advantage of the presidential vacuum, the various social movements on the street calling for their demands to be met and the vast political divides seen in the legislation and the work of the government.
This so-called fifth column is looking to sporadically threaten Lebanon’s security, specifically in areas already plagued by instability that are subject to what is commonly referred to as “de facto forces” i.e. a large number of thugs, fundamentalist and takfiri groups, and extremist Palestinian factions.
These criminals continue to enjoy political cover even though a Cabinet has been formed and an agreement was made earlier this year between the Future Movement and Hezbollah to end security incidents in the northern city of Tripoli, the Bekaa Valley and Beirut.
The sources revealed that this fifth column had so far been “dormant” and was awaiting orders from local and internationally forces while the Lebanese file was agreed upon by regional powers.
A group of active extremists from the Nusra Front is controlling the entrance of recruits to Lebanon, the sources revealed.
Members of this group were identified as Lebanese nationals Ibrahim Mahmoud A. and Ibrahim A.R., and Syrians J.S. and Mohammad Z, according to the Security Forces monitoring their movement.
Additionally, one of the security reports, titled “A New Nusra in Lebanon,” referring to the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, indicated that a significant number of the organization’s members have arrived to Lebanon.
Most have settled in Ain al-Hilweh with the help of the Islamist group Jund al-Sham’s emir, Palestinian Sheikh Osama Shehabi, and are mostly centered in the camp’s neighborhoods of Safouri, Taamir and Sofsaf.
Extremists have been flocking to the camp, which has recently been plagued by violence.
Security forces are especially worried about the camp after Islamist factions blocked the recent efforts of Palestinian factions to quell unrest in the area.