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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

Thursday
Oct 29th
Home arrow News Content arrow Blog arrow Blog Items arrow Analysis arrow Shooting on the Syrian/Lebanese Border
Shooting on the Syrian/Lebanese Border PDF Print E-mail
Written by W. Thomas Smith Jr.   
Wednesday, 30 July 2008

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A number of armed clashes have been reported (between Sunni Muslims and Alawites, a Shiia sect allied with Shiia Hezbollah) in-and-around Tripoli since Friday, but “all is [temporarily] quiet on the northern front.” Not so in the east where today the Associated Press is reporting:

“Gunmen attacked a Lebanese military post near the Syrian border at dawn Wednesday, killing a soldier and wounding another, a security official said. …

“The post is one of several set up by the Lebanese army on the border with Syria two years ago after the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war. They are designed to curb the smuggling of arms and contraband goods.

“The attack came two days after a military court began the trial of the leader of an al-Qaida-inspired group and more than 30 other extremists who battled Lebanese troops in a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon last year.

“Shaker Youssef al-Absi, the head of the Fatah Islam group, is being tried in absentia.”

 

Not surprising. But for perspective — having spent much time along the remote, porous, and marginally defined Syrian/Lebanese border in the fall of 2007 – I can say unequivocally that most of the border is not properly defended. Smuggling is rampant and unchecked: Arms, ammunition, and cash (U.S. dollars) are regularly trucked or simply walked across the border from Syria into Lebanon.  And the weapons and money are bound for un-policed Hezbollah-controlled zones inside Lebanon. We’ve gleaned much intelligence on this over the past nine-plus months (Hezbollah sympathizers and apologists may deny this. The counterterrorism experts will confirm it.).

The smuggling is impossible to control. Again, the border is isolated and marginally defined, so small Syrian Army outposts are positioned on Lebanese territory.

While in Lebanon, my security detail and I literally drove out to one of these posts near the village of Al Qaa, and I subsequently filed two reports at NRO based on what I witnessed, learned from my diverse and unconnected group of sources, and gathered from open sources.

REPORT 1 (Oct. 12): I previously had doubts, or perhaps I believed it to be a miscalculation. But now I am seeing it with my own eyes: Syrian troops here are manning positions inside Lebanese territory. And they’re flying the Syrian colors on top of those positions.

This is in clear violation of at least two UN Security Council Resolutions that I can pull off the top of my head (1559 and 1701): There may be more.

I spent most of today tooling around the fringes of the border in a battered old Range Rover with my security man, Henry, and a couple of trusted, armed, former combat-soldiers in the Lebanese Army who, not only took me to the Syrian outposts; but drove me to the smuggling lines where large containers of weapons – rifles, rockets, stinger missiles, you name it — are regularly crossing the border. One of the men tells me he knows for a fact a huge shipment of weapons has passed through here over the past few weeks. Frankly looking at this place, I can’t imagine they wouldn’t be. This is simply too easy.

Smuggling of people, arms, etc. here is constant. This was confirmed by one of the many shepherds we’ve seen here today [and reported through all manner of open sources]. Bedouins and their camps are everywhere, and most of them are Syrian. We drove most of the day, but covered some ground on foot. We spoke to a Syrian soldier at one of the outposts so close I could have physically grabbed him. He was a young man, looked to be about 15 or 16, and appeared a bit nervous. He was wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt because, as he says, his officer, who only checks on him once a month, doesn’t care. And his sergeant is asleep.

We gave the young soldier some candy before leaving.

REPORT 2 (following day): As I mentioned yesterday, this is one of the many hot weapons-smuggling transit points here in Lebanon. Syrian troops are here manning outposts on Lebanese territory. Men and weapons are crossing in huge numbers, and virtually no one is stopping the crossings or demanding that the Syrians return to their side of the frontier. Worse, there are several Hezbollah and Amal cells just a few short miles behind us (and all around us). I saw hundreds of their yellow and green flags (as well as the black flag of Islam) flying in almost every one of these remote villages traveling east in the Bekaa on the way to the border.One huge Hezbollah banner we drove beneath — it was stretched above the road and tied to two poles on either side — read (translated from Arabic):
‘We have proved that surrender does not exist in our dictionary, knowledge, and philosophy.’ As we drove from Al Qaa to the Syrian border – the closest village to the border and just over four miles between the two points — we did not pass a single Lebanese army or police checkpoint. In fact, the closest Lebanese checkpoint I saw was 14 miles away from the border.

What I did see were a lot of Bedouin camps and shepherds with their sheep and goats. And, at the border — and still inside Lebanon — we came upon the first Syrian outpost, one of many I saw, all with Syrian flags fluttering atop.

The first one was a single-room, stone and cement block house in the middle of an arid field. The flag and several radio antennas were sticking straight up from the roof. The defenders inside were a few men led by a sleeping sergeant. The boy soldier who left the outpost building to see who we were did not even carry his weapon. And instead of his asking us who we were, we asked the questions and he answered (see yesterday’s entry). He told us among other things that his water supply was limited. They don’t have enough to wash their uniforms, barely enough to drink or cook with.

This is a scary place: The gun-running smugglers have the upper hand. The Syrians, who are not supposed to be here, are here. I don’t see any Lebanese troops. And Hezbollah is everywhere.

Visit W. Thomas Smith Jr. online at uswriter.com.



 
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