Pan-Mideast War: ISIL and al-Qaeda attack Hizbullah outposts Near Lebanese Border

By Juan Cole

ISIL and al-Qaeda have, according to Hizbullah, launched attacks in Syria’s Qalamoun district (abutting the Lebanese border near Baalbek) on Hizbullah military outposts on the Syrian side.

Hizbullah is acting in Syria as an adjunct to the Syrian Baath Army and helped reduce Qusayr and Homs last spring. The Syrian rebels were exploring for weaknesses in the Shiite party-militia’s positions in the mountainous area.

Al-Qaeda and ISIL are said to have briefly overrun the Hizbullah outpost at the small town of Brital, but then were pushed back out. Villagers and townspeople in the area are said to have formed a militia in anticipation of fighting the Sunni extremists themselves, but Hizbullah asked them to stand down.

Hizbullah spokesmen said that 5 of its members were killed and “dozens” of the enemy were killed, and that several were captured alive. The rebels did not penetrate Lebanon.

qalamoun-map

Lebanese Army units were said to also have shelled the attacking Syrian rebels, using artillery. I presume this means that they fired from inside the Lebanese border into Syria, which seems controversial. The battle could be heard in Baalbek.

I am a little skeptical of Hizbullah’s claim that some of the attackers were ISIL, since ISIL does not usually cooperate with the Succor Front (Jabhat al-Nasr, an al-Qaeda affiliate). I’m wondering if they think they can strengthen their international legitimacy be being seen as among the groups taking on ISIL.

The fight between Sunni extremists and either government forces or Shiite populations is now going on in a significant way in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria, and is threatening to spill over onto Lebanon. There hasn’t been a regional war of this scope since the Gulf War, when Syria, Egypt and other Arab League countries allied with the US and Western allies to push Saddam Hussein’s radical Baath nationalists out of Kuwait. Before that it was probably 1973, when Anwar El Sadat of Egypt orchestrated at least token Arab League participation on the Arab side against Israel.

related video:

Press TV: “Report: Hezbollah counters militant attack on city of Baalbek”

14 Responses

  1. I recall saying at the time that getting involved in Syria was the dumbest thing Hezbollah could do, and now it’s coming back to bit them.

    • Repesentatives of the two leading Maronite clans, the Franjiehs and the Gemayels, had previously met months ago at the Gemayel estate in Bikfaya and agreed their militias would keep out of the civil war in Syria.

      This was despite the fact that the Franjiehs have been traditional allies of the Assad family.

  2. “I am a little skeptical of Hizbullah’s claim that some of the attackers were ISIL, since ISIL does not usually cooperate with the Succor Front (Jabhat al-Nasr, an al-Qaeda affiliate).”>Be skeptical of your skepticism-they are not so centralized-each militia groups cooperates as it is expedient. They even converse with Israelis and have received medical treatment by Israel. Dig deeper. Hizbollah is being cautious in these Machiavellian times.

    • “They even converse with Israelis and have received medical treatment by Israel………”

      Israel has provided medical treatment for wounded Syrians for two primary reasons:

      (1)the patients are debriefed and can provide useful intelligence about what is occurring within Syria;

      (2)Israel is getting positive public relations from the rendition of such injury treatment.

  3. It’s important that Hizbullah and ISIS not be equated in any manner. Hizbullah is deeply integrated into Lebanon’s political, social, and economic establishment. For example, In the June 2009 parliamentary elections, “Hezbollah and its allies…decisively triumphed in the popular vote…”
    And, it is now clear to uninformed westerners that a strong Hizbullah is a crucial element to degrading jihadists like ISIS.
    link to detailedpoliticalquizzes.wordpress.com

    • Hezbollah and its allies……..decisively triumphed in the popular vote….”

      The Amal Party received 13 seats in the 2009 parliamentary elections in Lebanon and Hezbollah received 12 seats and together they formed a coalition.

      That said, Amal is a secular Shi’ite political party whose philosophies differ substantially from the jihadist Hezbollah, who follow the Shi’ite form of political Islam modeled after Iran and seek imposition of Sharia law where it rules.

      • Question: True or False: Hezbollah campaigns for votes primarily by promoting religious issues.

        Answer: False.
        -“[M]ost striking about Hezbollah’s political campaigns is the extent to which nonreligious themes [such as economic and security issues] are habitually emphasized. Hezbollah’s electoral strategy does not dwell explicitly on religious themes at all, in stark contrast to, for example, Christian fundamentalist groups in the United States.”
        -The Shia in southern Lebanon “were known as an easygoing and hospitable lot, who liked their food…tobacco…liquor… Once in the 1980s Hezbollah tried to preach austerity, in the manner of the Iranian ayatollahs, and popular support plummeted. They retreated quickly, and never again tried to enforce any moral code on the general public.”
        link to detailedpoliticalquizzes.wordpress.com

        • The Bekaa Valley is a key area for Hezbollah control and has historically played a significant role in the international drug trade:

          link to csmonitor.com
          link to nytimes.com

          Hezbollah has not been known to seriously enforce any “moral code” when it has come to the drug trade that flourishes where it rules.

  4. There is really little differentiation in Hezbollah’s eyes when ISIL or Al Qaeda’s Nusra or Saudi Islamic Front, are all Sunni Islamist militants and hence ‘takfiris’ (those who declare others heretics/non-believers and liable to be killed, like the Shias). They even extended the labels to the FSA types as being terrorists since those Islamist groups were embedded with them.

    Hezbollah knew there were Sunni moderates but distrusted them as the Sunni moderates unfortunately were willing to overlook the Sunni extremists (like Al Qaeda’s Nusra, as other ‘moderate’ Sunni FSA militants took issue of them being recently targeted by US airstrikes, but don’t take issue with ISIL being targeted-because ISIL had harmed them and the Syrian revolution) in their ranks in the desperate overthrow of Assad.

    Hezbollah knew he was a monster (who many Shias have flipped and are now in denial of, out of their rationalization of their fear of the Sunni militants and extremists and Israel and the US), but a rare ally who’d give them protection (due to some sectarian affinity rather than subtle hostility like Turkey or Jordan) from Israel and by extension the US, unlike the Sunni backers of the rebel opposition with a sectarian tinge who’d rather see Shia Hezbollah crushed, dealing a blow to Shia Iran.

    Naming ISIL and Al Qaeda in conjunction was probably an international buzz word appeal and statement about the common threat they face with the global community apart from stressing how they work and allied with the official Lebanese state army.

    The artillery fire is not new or controversial considering Turkey and Iraq (besides Gulf Arab strikes) have already done it…Lebanon was dragged in a long time ago simply by Hezbollah’s decision to intervene, either dumb or with no choice, and will unfortunately face an onslaught, if not Lebanon overall, like the villages already fighting in militias and earlier bombings vowed by Al Nusra, Islamic Front and other Salafist groups.

  5. Ser_u_dar

    Dear @rezaaslan , at this moment People in Kobane, Kurds are getting killed by ISIS are you also watcing this? #WholeWorldWatching

  6. Maybe Hizbullah is exaggerating as Juan Cole wonders about but on the other hand, there is a lot of movement due to the existential Western threat of outside forces engaging ISIS/ISIL. But, given the obvious political reluctance of the US and Europe populations to engage, it is in IS*’s interest to expand at least the appearance of the scope of the war–making it more costly for others to engage such that it is politically less feasible for those threatening to do so. So I would not be surprised if IS* has a few folks waving black flags around here and there trying to change the dynamics and earn reciprocal debts.

    Or maybe it is not as complicated as that or as Dr. Cole suggests….maybe its source is just a Hizbullah commander who was about to get his —handed to him hoping for a little help as in an air strike?

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