Lebanon Besieged by Iran-Syria Axis

Shocking information has come to light about the al Qaeda-inspired terrorist group Fatah al-Islam, which has been battling the Lebanese army inside the Palestinian refugee camp Nahr al-Bared for nearly 2 months. Ahmed Merie, a Lebanese citizen, testified before a military magistrate that he was a "liaison" between the terrorist group's leader Shaker Abssi and Syria's head of intelligence, General Asef Shawkat. Shawkat, a primary suspect in the murder of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, is President Bashar Assad's brother-in-law and considered the second most powerful man in Syria.

The report appeared in the Lebanese daily Al-Nahar.

Merie was arrested in a a Beirut hotel along with his brother Mohammad several weeks ago. His testimony also included some other eye openers:

  • Shawkat supplied a bomb maker to the terrorist group who taught them how to make explosive devices. Plans were afoot to bomb several targets including booby-trapped car attacks against several targets in Lebanon: two Beirut hotels frequented by personnel of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) as well as some embassies and U.N. offices. Merie also testified that he got the bomb maker out of Lebanon and back to Syria.
  • Merie played a role in smuggling Iraqi, Tunisian and Saudi "jihadists" to Lebanon via Syria. One of the Saudis, Abdul Rahman al-Yahya, who goes by the code name of Abu Talha, was the chief financial backer of Fatah al-Islam, keeping Merie supplied with plenty of cash as he moved around Lebanon.
  • Merie gave up the names of four Fatah al-Islam terrorists responsible for gunning down Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel last November. This is the first solid connection between the killing of Gemayel and the Syrians.
  • Shawkat also supplied the group "significant support," the nature of which was not disclosed. There has been some evidence - the Lebanese navy interception of fighters trying to make their way into Nahr al-Bared via the sea in small boats - that Syria has been attempting to re-supply Fatah al-Islam during their battle with the Lebanese army.
The connection betwen Syria and Fatah al-Islam has been suspected from the beginning. Their leader, Shaker Abssi, spent three years in Syrian prison, serving time for planning terrorist attacks in that country. He was suddenly released in late 2006 and made his way immediately to northern Lebanon, where he set up shop in Nahr al-Bared. Seemingly out of nowhere, in a matter of months he had recruited more than 300 fighters - many of them from foreign countries - and was training them at a compound in the refugee camp.

Merie's testimony fills in some of the gaps about how the terrorist group got organized and supplied so quickly. Fatah al-Islam was deliberately planted in Lebanon to stir up trouble for the government of Prime Minister Siniora. But to what end?

American Thinker contributor and noted Middle East expert Dr. Walid Phares had the answer last May. His dire predictions about this summer's trouble in Lebanon are starting to come true:

Today's clashes between the al Qaeda-linked terror network and the Lebanese Army are a prelude to terror preparations aimed at crumbling the Cedar Revolution, both Government and civil society, this summer. It is a move by the Assad regime to weaken the cabinet and the army in preparation for a greater offensive later on by Hezb'allah on another front. In short the Damascus-Tehran strategic planners have unleashed this "local" al Qaeda group in Tripoli to drag the Lebanese cabinet into side battles, deflecting its attention from two main events highly threatening to Assad: One is the forthcoming UN formed Tribunal in the assassination case of Rafiq Hariri. The second is the pending deployment of UN units on the Lebanese-Syrian border. Both developments would isolate the Syrian regime. Thus, the Fatah al Islam attacks can be perceived as part of a preemptive strategy by the Tehran-Damascus axis.
The al-Qaeda connection with Fatah al-Islam goes beyond Abssi being inspired by Osama Bin Laden's idea of jihad. Abssi was condemned to death in absentia for his role in carrying out the murder of US envoy in Jordan Laurence Foley. He worked closely with the mastermind of that assassination, the now decased Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, former leader of al-Qadea in Iraq.

And Phares' analysis proved extremely prescient in his pointing to the deployment of UNIFIL on the border between Syria and Lebanon as a red line for Assad. In the United Nations Wednesday, the US told the Security Council that there was "clear evidence" of Syrian arms transfers across the border. The UN-appointed team that assessed border security between Syria and Lebanon stated flatly that security was too lax to prevent arms smuggling.

In order to intimidate UNIFIL, there have been two attacks on the peacekeepers now - including the detonation of a roadside bomb yesterday in which no one was hurt - that are also designed to set up a "second front" against the Siniora government in southern Lebanon in an attempt to further destabilize the country. (Six peacekeepers were killed last month in car bomb attack.) The recipients of these arms are not only Hezb'allah but also the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFFLP-GC). Their Commander, Ahmad Jabril, is closely allied with Syria and has operated from Syrian territory for years. Jabril's group is being reinforced in order to possibly start trouble in some of the Palestinian refugee camps on the border between Syria and Lebanon as well as in the eastern Bekaa valley where the PFFLP-GC has made common cause with other extremist groups.

North, south, and east - Lebanon is being squeezed by Assad and his Iranian backers. Given that the political standoff between the Hezb'allah-led opposition and the majority shows no signs of easing, it could very well be that the pressure being exerted by Assad on his tiny neighbor is reaching some kind of crescendo that has the potential to explode at any time.

Rick Moran is associate editor of American Thinker and proprietor of the website Right Wing Nuthouse.
Shocking information has come to light about the al Qaeda-inspired terrorist group Fatah al-Islam, which has been battling the Lebanese army inside the Palestinian refugee camp Nahr al-Bared for nearly 2 months. Ahmed Merie, a Lebanese citizen, testified before a military magistrate that he was a "liaison" between the terrorist group's leader Shaker Abssi and Syria's head of intelligence, General Asef Shawkat. Shawkat, a primary suspect in the murder of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, is President Bashar Assad's brother-in-law and considered the second most powerful man in Syria.

The report appeared in the Lebanese daily Al-Nahar.

Merie was arrested in a a Beirut hotel along with his brother Mohammad several weeks ago. His testimony also included some other eye openers:

  • Shawkat supplied a bomb maker to the terrorist group who taught them how to make explosive devices. Plans were afoot to bomb several targets including booby-trapped car attacks against several targets in Lebanon: two Beirut hotels frequented by personnel of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) as well as some embassies and U.N. offices. Merie also testified that he got the bomb maker out of Lebanon and back to Syria.
  • Merie played a role in smuggling Iraqi, Tunisian and Saudi "jihadists" to Lebanon via Syria. One of the Saudis, Abdul Rahman al-Yahya, who goes by the code name of Abu Talha, was the chief financial backer of Fatah al-Islam, keeping Merie supplied with plenty of cash as he moved around Lebanon.
  • Merie gave up the names of four Fatah al-Islam terrorists responsible for gunning down Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel last November. This is the first solid connection between the killing of Gemayel and the Syrians.
  • Shawkat also supplied the group "significant support," the nature of which was not disclosed. There has been some evidence - the Lebanese navy interception of fighters trying to make their way into Nahr al-Bared via the sea in small boats - that Syria has been attempting to re-supply Fatah al-Islam during their battle with the Lebanese army.
The connection betwen Syria and Fatah al-Islam has been suspected from the beginning. Their leader, Shaker Abssi, spent three years in Syrian prison, serving time for planning terrorist attacks in that country. He was suddenly released in late 2006 and made his way immediately to northern Lebanon, where he set up shop in Nahr al-Bared. Seemingly out of nowhere, in a matter of months he had recruited more than 300 fighters - many of them from foreign countries - and was training them at a compound in the refugee camp.

Merie's testimony fills in some of the gaps about how the terrorist group got organized and supplied so quickly. Fatah al-Islam was deliberately planted in Lebanon to stir up trouble for the government of Prime Minister Siniora. But to what end?

American Thinker contributor and noted Middle East expert Dr. Walid Phares had the answer last May. His dire predictions about this summer's trouble in Lebanon are starting to come true:

Today's clashes between the al Qaeda-linked terror network and the Lebanese Army are a prelude to terror preparations aimed at crumbling the Cedar Revolution, both Government and civil society, this summer. It is a move by the Assad regime to weaken the cabinet and the army in preparation for a greater offensive later on by Hezb'allah on another front. In short the Damascus-Tehran strategic planners have unleashed this "local" al Qaeda group in Tripoli to drag the Lebanese cabinet into side battles, deflecting its attention from two main events highly threatening to Assad: One is the forthcoming UN formed Tribunal in the assassination case of Rafiq Hariri. The second is the pending deployment of UN units on the Lebanese-Syrian border. Both developments would isolate the Syrian regime. Thus, the Fatah al Islam attacks can be perceived as part of a preemptive strategy by the Tehran-Damascus axis.
The al-Qaeda connection with Fatah al-Islam goes beyond Abssi being inspired by Osama Bin Laden's idea of jihad. Abssi was condemned to death in absentia for his role in carrying out the murder of US envoy in Jordan Laurence Foley. He worked closely with the mastermind of that assassination, the now decased Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, former leader of al-Qadea in Iraq.

And Phares' analysis proved extremely prescient in his pointing to the deployment of UNIFIL on the border between Syria and Lebanon as a red line for Assad. In the United Nations Wednesday, the US told the Security Council that there was "clear evidence" of Syrian arms transfers across the border. The UN-appointed team that assessed border security between Syria and Lebanon stated flatly that security was too lax to prevent arms smuggling.

In order to intimidate UNIFIL, there have been two attacks on the peacekeepers now - including the detonation of a roadside bomb yesterday in which no one was hurt - that are also designed to set up a "second front" against the Siniora government in southern Lebanon in an attempt to further destabilize the country. (Six peacekeepers were killed last month in car bomb attack.) The recipients of these arms are not only Hezb'allah but also the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFFLP-GC). Their Commander, Ahmad Jabril, is closely allied with Syria and has operated from Syrian territory for years. Jabril's group is being reinforced in order to possibly start trouble in some of the Palestinian refugee camps on the border between Syria and Lebanon as well as in the eastern Bekaa valley where the PFFLP-GC has made common cause with other extremist groups.

North, south, and east - Lebanon is being squeezed by Assad and his Iranian backers. Given that the political standoff between the Hezb'allah-led opposition and the majority shows no signs of easing, it could very well be that the pressure being exerted by Assad on his tiny neighbor is reaching some kind of crescendo that has the potential to explode at any time.

Rick Moran is associate editor of American Thinker and proprietor of the website Right Wing Nuthouse.