Monday, June 25, 2007

Ah, So That's How It Started

The emergence of the jihadist organization Fatah al-Islam at the Nahr al-Bared camp appears to have resulted from a mix of Syrian plotting and internal factors. Its leader arrived in Lebanon last year, armed with plenty of cash, after being released from a Syrian jail. Most of his several hundred followers came not from the camp but from Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Syria, and elsewhere, often via the jihad-field of Iraq, yet another consequence of the Iraq war. Camp residents resented the intrusion and largely disliked the newcomers' rigid puritanism, but according to many accounts, they also admired the fighters for their zeal and experience fighting in Iraq.

It was a matter of time before the mix of Lebanon's own tense internal situation and such pockets of jihadism would explode. At the time of writing it was not clear if the battle would strengthen or weaken the Siniora government. Initially it united Lebanese, including Hezbollah, which may agree with the Salafists' aim of liberating Palestine but knows they regard Shias as heretics, and prefers itself to "own" the Palestinian issue in Lebanon.

More on Lebanon and Hezbollah here.

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