Across the Bay

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Sunni-Alawite Clash in Northern Lebanon

Among the sectarian tensions and clashes spurred by Hezbollah's fiasco yesterday, the most curious was a violent incident in northern Lebanon between (loyalist) Sunnis and (opposition) Alawites, which continued today.

Yesterday's clashes resulted in the death of a supporter of the (Hariri-led) Future Movement. Clashes erupted again today during his funeral.

The area where this took place has a history going back to the war in the 80s. The two adjacent neighborhoods are Bab el-Tibbaneh (Sunni) and Baal Mohsen (Alawite).

During the war, Syria escalated the fighting in Tripoli in 1981 between the pro-Srian Alawite militia led by (Alawite) Ali Eid and the Popular Resistance militia of Bab al-Tibbaneh.

Then fighting broke there in December 1982 between the Syrian-created Alawite militia, the Arab Democratic Party (fronted by Nassib Khatib but actually directed by Ali Eid), and the Sunni militias in Bab al-Tibbaneh. At the time, Rashid Karameh hinted that Assad was behind the conflict. It was, as Marius Deeb put it, "reminiscent of previous occasions when Asad fomented a conflict, and called for numerous cease-fires that would not hold, so that eventually the local political leaders as well as the Lebanese government sought Asad's mediation to stop the conflict, which he had wittingly incited."

I'll quote some more from Deeb's Syria's Terrorist War on Lebanon and the Peace Process:

All groups in Tripoli had called for the "evacuation from the city and its outskirts of the deterrent forces [Syrian troops] and all armed organizations, Lebanese and non-Lebanese, and the handing over of security to the legitimate government, i.e., the army and the internal security forces." This was precisely what Asad meant by conspiracy: "any request from Tripoli for the deterrent forces [Syrian troops] to move out of Tripoli and the north would be viewed by Syria as a 'conspiracy' against it...every time the pressure of the Tripoli request increases groups in Tripoli supportive of Syria [the `Alawis of Ba`l Muhsin] explode the situation."

Some leading politicians like former president Camille Chamoun openly accused Syria of being behind the ongoing conflict in Tripoli. The Sunni deputy, `Abduh `Uwaydat, called for the Lebanese government to save Tripoli, because the Syrian troops of the ADF had become "a force of occupation" and had to be withdrawn back to Syria.

The fighting there continued for three years, serving various purposes for Assad. This report, for example, dates back to 1984.

The scars of this history were again scratched yesterday and today.