Lebanon’s Revolt: Potential Spread of Violence and Bloodshed

Growing signs that the ongoing revolt in Lebanon, now in its third week, might turn violent following politicization attempts that aim to change the course of the popular uprising against corruption, austerity measures, deteriorating living standards and traditional political hierarchies. Suspicious local and foreign fingers have been spotted inside the demonstrations encouraging violence against the state. One well-known Lebanese actor, Rafiq Ali Ahmad, went as far as saying ” there’s no revolution without bloodshed, they want blood?  They are most welcome”! His remarks drew much criticism and mockery on social media platforms, reminding people of similar provocations made by some Syrian actors at the outset of the Syrian conflict that have ravaged the country.

Alarm bells as road-blockage paralyzes business

Apart from unfamiliar and sometimes shocking scenes of belly dancers, hubble-bubble make-shift cafes for demonstrators, public kissing footage in some conservative neighborhoods, mounting evidence has emerged of certain political factions and traditional figureheads, whose practices since the end of Lebanon’s 15-year civil war have instigated much of the popular revolution in the first place, trying to ride the uprising and diverge it in a manner that serves their own political agenda.

More alarm bells have been sounded in response to the emergence of foreign personalities and organizations at Lebanon’s sit-ins in recent days, including footage of an American former US embassy staff member in Beirut 2007, Robert Gallagher, giving instructions to demonstrators on how to make their revolt more effective and widespread and form a ‘parallel government in Lebanon, as well as the  large ‘grip’ statue of the infamous originally Serbian- now turned international- Otpor movement believed to have been catalyst to almost ALL regional uprisings of the ‘Arab Spring’ which have brought down regimes and wrecked many nations in recent years. All this and much more is threatening to overturn the popular movement that have paralyzed much of Lebanon’s everyday life and crippled business in the country already suffering huge debt and corruption scandals.

Images of war-torn Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Syria and the civil war in Lebanon itself are still vivid in the minds of many, amid growing  fears of a political vacuum that could completely paralyze the country and provide fertile grounds for a new episode of the ‘ creative chaos’ once preached by former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice following the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al Hariri in 2005. The conflicting agendas of Lebanon’s political dynasties and power houses, many of whom are trying hard to manipulate the current popular uprising, pose a serious threat to the country’s fragile civil peace and security.

Main suspects of evil planning

Most notable of such efforts are those of Samir Geagea, leader of the hardline Maronite Lebanese Forces – Geagea is a convicted war criminal accused of many assassinations and 21 documented crimes including killing Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rashid Karami, the son of former president Suleiman Frangieh, the son of former president Kamil Chamoun, the Secretary General of Lebanese Maronite Patriarchate Monsignor Albert Khreish , several senior  Lebanese Army officers and 23 civilians at the ‘River of Death’ bridge during the civil war. Geagea, who was served 11 years of a life sentence in solitary confinement below the Ministry of Defense building in Beirut, was granted amnesty by the newly elected Lebanese Parliament in 2005, following the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon.

A circulation appeared yesterday in Beirut claiming that Geagea’s man in Zouk suburb, Bashir Yousef Matar, was distributing dirty money among local demonstrators in return for slogans against President Michel Aoun and Hezbollah, as well as deploying some armed groups in the neighborhood waiting for the agreed zero hour to fire at both army soldiers and demonstrators alike, blame the regime and Hezbollah for the attacks and instigate an armed deployment of party forces on the pretext of protecting the popular movement.

Although those claims could not be independently verified, they must have sent strong shivers down the spine of many Lebanese who are still paying the price of the country’s civil war and its political, economic and social ramifications. All four Lebanese Forces ministers in Hariri’s cabinet were instructed to hand in their resignations 19 October, as a reaction to popular uprising that broke out 17 days ago and have swept the country ever since. Geagea, once a supporter of General Aoun, now turned an opponent of the president, has been outspoken about his strong ties with Israel since the 1970 s, particularly during the reign of former Lebanese Phalanges leader and later President Bashir al Gemayel, assassinated in a booby-trapped car on 14 September 1984.

Other prominent political figures trying to ride the popular wave of protests in Lebanon include Former Justice Minister General Ashraf Rifi, in the Sunni stronghold of Tripoli, who masterminds and controls much of what goes on there, finance, arms and commands a hardline militia called “City Guards”. They also include Walid Jumblatt, the controversial fickle- nicknamed ‘ Chameleon’ for frequently changing his political colors and alliances – Druze warlord and leader of the Progressive Socialist Party who is most influential in the Chouf mountain region of Lebanon, close to the Syrian borders. Once a main ally of Syria during its 30-year presence in Lebanon, now one of Damascus’ arch enemy and, along with a number of Hariri’s hardline Sunni MP s, has been a main instigator and supporter of the Syrian, regional as well as international effort to topple the regime of President Bashar al Assad.

Lebanon is now at a crucial crossroad between a new start or going back to the era of insecurity and unrest. However, on the other bank of the country’s political river, joint forces of allied Christian, Shiite and chunks of minor ethnic and religious factions are keeping their guard, ready for an unwanted worst-case scenario, yet determined to prevent another civil war in which everyone, including tentative winners, is an eventual loser.